Transcript Jan 10: Comps, Anthologies, Shows, Zines


Emily says, “right! the time of theory is upon us”
Emily says, “today we’re talking about events like comps, jams, anthologies, and shows that encourage IF production or help present it to the larger world”
Emily says, “I made a background post about this on my blog, though if you haven’t seen it already you probably don’t want to start reading now :)”
Emily says, “it gets longish”
Emily says, “in it I asked a lot of different organizers to talk about their experiences, what they were trying to accomplish, etc”
Emily says, “and got back a really rich range of responses, which was great”
Emily says, “and this pointed out that there are a lot of things that determine how an event goes — the intended audience, intended participants, what the organizer is hoping to do with the games after they’re brought together, and so on”

Appealing comp features

Emily says, “so I thought we might start out by talking in kind of general terms about what (if any) comp/event features really stand out to us as cool or desirable, and we can move into more specifics from there”
Emily says, “or wherever people want to take the discussion, really”
maga says, “on one level that’s a ‘what is art for’ kind of question, I think”
Emily says (to maga), “well, I meant more ‘feel free to nominate specific comp/etc features you liked’ than ‘please discuss broadly what the ideal comp would be like'”
Emily says, “(since I think there is no such thing as ‘the ideal’, as proven by the variety that exists)”
DavidW says, “hm, There’s the whole ‘expectations’ of comps that I’d like to hear some discussion about.”
maga says, “I meant more, hmm, that a good comp is one that has a pretty good idea of what it wants to encourage and structures itself around that”
Emily says, “ah, yeah”
Emily says, “well-defined goals are helpful”
Ellison says, “as far as themed comps go, I have very fond memories of the IF ArcadeComp. I always wonder if it worked out so well because of how the subject matter invited people to reimagine things or if it was mainly a product of its time where a bunch of really creative people were invested in the scene”
Nitku says, “I found it interesting how mandatory anonymity affected Shufflecomp
maga says (to Ellison), “see, my perspective on that was that it was something you had to be around for at the time”
DavidW says, “I still remember how TravelComp, for example, not to release all the games that were entered and that really threw everyone for a loop.”
Emily asks (of Ellison), “wasn’t that by-invitation-only?”
DavidW says, “(er, chose not to release)”
Emily says (to DavidW), “I thought it wasn’t clear that the “unreleased” game existed at all”
maga says (to Nitku), “I liked it a lot, even though it made organising fiddly”
DavidW says (to Emily), “true”
DavidW says, “But I like assuming the game existed.”
maga says, “I am not sure it would work in a Srs Comp”
Emily says (to maga), “assuming we’re talking about anonymity, I’m not sure why it wouldn’t”
Emily says, “I mean, it’s true that some people are pretty guessable”
Emily says, “but it would still affect how people perceived the lists of downloadable games”
maga says, “yeah”
maga says, “though that was at least partly because people didn’t make up their own pseudonyms”
zarf says, “the idea of mandatory anonymity always seems to read as ‘here is an easy way to wreck somebody else’s participation’, which might not matter in a casual event but would be a trouble magnet in a Srs one.”
Ellison says (to Emily), “I don’t remember. it probably started here, yeah, and was by-invitation-only in that sense”
maga says, “I also feel that as a system it didn’t have a whole lot of pressure applied to it, if that makes any sense, because Shufflecomp was so easy-going”
Emily says (to Ellison), “my recollection was that Adam went around to a bunch of people and asked if they wanted to do stuff, but it’s also been ages, so I might be misrecalling”
Ellison says, “oh, that sounds totally right”
Ellison says, “and then some other people submitted games after the fact”
Ellison says, “I also want to say that running your own comp can be great motivation for finishing your own game!”
Emily says (to Ellison), “yeah. One of the interesting things I noticed putting this together was just how many comps had a sort of after-effect, where people either released games late that they hadn’t been able to squeeze under the deadline, or actually came up with new ideas after the fact”
Ellison says, “yeah, good point”
DavidW says, “I never thought about that. hm.”
Emily says (to zarf), “I hadn’t really imagined that someone would be auto-disqualified if someone else revealed their ID against their wishes, but I suppose it’s a problematic point”
zarf says, “even without auto-disqualification”
Emily says, “clearly the trick at that point would be to have a bunch of other people immediately “leak” contradictory ID information”
zarf says, “cute”

Reasons not to enter

CressidaHubris says, “I guess I would be interested in hearing from people who have chosen not to participate in comps, and why they’ve chosen not to go that route with their games.”
jmac says, “To the after-effect point, yeah totally. I consider Barbetween as a ShuffleComp game (and label it as such) even if it didn’t quite literally fit that comp.”
maga says (to CressidaHubris), “well, I have never entered the Comp, for basically two reasons”
maga says, “one is that I would want to throw in a pretty substantial game, and those are hard to make (particularly, in my case, when there’s a very open deadline and no writing prompt)”
maga says, “and the other is that I really like to write Comp reviews”
Emily says, “I don’t participate in IF Comp any more because there was a backlash when I won in 2006, to the effect that it was discouraging to newbie authors if I was in competition with them (and also because at this point in my career I’m focusing enough on commercial work that it’s not a sensible venue for that kind of thing)”
maga says, “(and yes, they could go in the private author forum, but enh)”
DavidW asks, “Shame C.E.J. Pacian isn’t here. He doesn’t enter comps, does he?”
Emily asks, “wasn’t Rogue of the Multiverse…?”
DavidW says, “I don’t remember.”
Emily says, “…yeah, second place in IF COmp 16”
jmac says, “Rogue was in the comp. But he does release quite a lot of work outside of comps.”
Nitku says, “You’re thinking of S. John “I’m Not A Comp Guy” Ross
DavidW says (to Nitku), “heh. No, I was thinking of Pacian. But Ross is also a bit of lone wolf.”
Ellison asks, “I don’t think many people have avoided comps altogether. even Andy Phillips released at least one of his games as a comp game, right?”
Emily says, “S. John Ross did participate in Apollo 18+20, so I would conclude from that that his objection has more to do with the competition aspect specifically than with the idea of joining a collective project”
CressidaHubris says, “I haven’t a game, hence why I haven’t entered… but I think it’s interesting to hear why someone who has a game wouldn’t enter.”
Ellison says, “even though entering the main comp is the most surefire way your game will get the most attention, I dunno, just releasing it into the wild has a nice pure feel to it”
Emily says (to CressidaHubris), “well, it’s also possible to have a game that’s just a bad fit for a competition; for instance, Counterfeit Monkey is sufficiently long and complicated that only Spring Thing could take it, and even there it would have been a bad fit, because judges are trying to finish the entries in a limited time”
CressidaHubris says (to Emily), “Good point.”
DavidW says, “I never even considered 69,105 Keys for any comp. I guess I thought of it more as a pencil sketch, proof of concept exercise than an actual game.”
two-star says, “I’ve always wondered what would happen if I wrote the two-player game I’ve been threatening, and submitted it to IFComp.”
maga says (to two-star), “strong Banana competition, I imagine”
Emily says, “a way of flipping this on its head: a competition establishes particular expectations about the games entered into it, and sometimes that’s useful (e.g., entering something into IF Art Show was a way to say ‘don’t expect puzzles, don’t be pissed if it doesn’t have any’), but sometimes it is signalling the wrong things”

Lack of recognition outside comps

maga says, “I suppose it’s worth raising: the major thing about comps is that if you’re not already pretty well-recognised, it’s fairly hard to get a lot of immediate playership or feedback about a game without releasing it in a comp”
Emily says, “I can’t tell whether that issue has gotten better or worse over the years. I feel like it’s gotten better, based on my observation that people sometimes IFDB-review stuff that was just randomly announced there, but I could be wrong”
maga says, “I think that it’s better in some quarters, anyway”
maga says, “like Twine authors have a network that is pretty effective at signal-boosting notable things quickly, even if they don’t have a comp context”
CressidaHubris says, “I was about to say that I find Twine games easily though they’re not comp games. They just get featured on a website, or on the front page of Twine, etc.”
maga says, “(which probably has more to do with the fact that Twine games tend to be more easily consumed, rather than something you put on your to-play list for when you have a spare afternoon)”
Emily says, “there’s an active curation community, it’s true”
CressidaHubris says, “True. I think Twine games tend to be played immediately, in the same way that blog posts tend to be read immediately vs. books that are set in a pile and read when a person has time.”
Emily says, “and sites like Forest Ambassador turn up things that I’d never otherwise heard of”
Emily says, “(or just following the Twine twitter account and some of the surrounding accounts)”
CressidaHubris says, “And some of that is that people don’t need to download anything to play, so it’s simple to convince someone to give it a try.”
maga says, “well, that’s been the case for the majority of parser IF for a while”
Emily says, “a lot of parser IF is playable online too, but I realized through the process of doing this that I could be doing a better curation job when I write posts — I tend to throw in an IFDB link and assume people can take it from there, where I should really be making sure I have a PLAY NOW button front and center”
CressidaHubris says, “A big reason why I’ll pass along Zork to students as a starting point for parser IF is that they can play it online without downloading anything.”
Emily says, “loads of parser IF is playable through Parchment without downloading anything”
Ghogg says (to CressidaHubris), “that’s true of most parser IF these days”
maga says, “one of the things I think is valuable about comp voting is that it gives everyone an incentive to be playing the same games at the same time”
Emily says, “it’s mostly the trick of showing people where to go to look for it”
CressidaHubris says, “Yes, the playing online feature is key when we’re talking about getting someone new involved in IF.”
maga says, “so it functions as a sort of book-club effect”
DavidW says (to maga), “good point”
Ellison says, “I personally have a harder time starting Twine games than parser games. to each their own.”
Emily says, “(though this is a bad time to be trying to demo this point because is currently not working right)”
CressidaHubris says, “I like that idea, Maga. It’s true, When I hear about how Adventure spread through colleges in the late 70s/early 80s, it has that feel to it: all playing the same game at the same time.”

Recognition for games that need hints

Ghogg says (to maga), “that used to happen a lot with hint requests for games”
Ghogg says, “like, when Curses came out, the boards were flooded for many weeks”
maga says, “yeah, I remember that with Heroine’s Mantle and Savoir Faire”
Emily says, “you still get that occasionally (see Hadean Lands), but it’s usually with big stuff”
maga says, “and it also happened with Monkey and HL, yeah”
Emily says, “there are also plenty of large games that get released and don’t get that — I’m pretty sure Adam has given up on doing more IF again on the basis of the non-discussion of Endless, Nameless”
Ghogg says, “it’s pretty rare now. It’s just it used to happen almost all the time.”
DavidW says, “I don’t remember any big discussion about Finding Martin either.”
jmac says, “The first thing I think of about that is that many modern IF works don’t require hints.”
K-Y says, “the same is true of all video games”
K-Y says, “there are so many now that the vast majority of them receive no discussion”
Emily says, “Monkey partly lacks hints because the thought of writing a good hint system that accounted for the diverse inventory possibilities terrified me, but also because Graham really discouraged me from putting them in, on the grounds that the hint threads would be a good thing”
jmac says, “Interesting to think of hint-needingness as a vector of discussion (and hence discoverability) for text games.”
Ghogg says, “anyway. I just remember maybe once every month it would be like an impromptu book club because everyone would be asking how to solve New Release X”
Ghogg says, “this was also true back when I was on Prodigy but not Usenet”

Structuring a comp to encourage discussion

maga asks, “okay, so: let’s say discussion is your objective. How do you structure a comp around that?”
maga says, “I feel pretty strongly that voting is a major driver there, but there must be other aspects”
Emily asks (of maga), “have a pre-committed jury who have promised to write up all the entrants?”
Ghogg says, “if nothing else, maybe next to the ‘play’ button you have a ‘discuss’ button where you go to a premade thread”
Ghogg says (to Emily), “I don’t feel like the jury is the same as discussion”
Emily says, “encourage people to write contentious games? (may lead to side effects)”
Emily says (to Ghogg), “perhaps not”
Ghogg says, “I remember a few jury-comment comps where the jury comments dropped but there wasn’t any public interaction after that”
jmac says (to maga), “I guess I’d wanna ask what that would offer that that IFComp doesn’t already? I mean, insofar as the Comp demonstrably gets smart people voluntarily writing excellent reviews about nearly all its works, year after year (hi everyone)”
maga says (to jmac), “well, yeah, obviously the Comp is doing a lot right there”
Ghogg says (to Emily), “there is a controversy jam coming up next month I believe”
Emily says, “technically annoying, somewhat bizarre idea: download-dispenser where you are dispensed one game at a time, and you have to put comments in concerning that game before you can download another”
zarf says, “‘dfhsfjsdfksd next'”
Ghogg says, “there’s a list of controversial topics and you get randomly assigned one”
Emily says (to zarf), “you kill all the fun”
DavidW says (to zarf), “heh”
Emily says (to zarf), “by which I mean, you are depressingly good at pointing out the flaws in my plans”
Emily says (to Ghogg), “wow”
Emily says, “that sounds amazingly like the opposite of what I would enjoy entering”
jmac says, “debateteamjam”
Ghogg says, “
maga says, “TerribleComp”
Roger says, “Maybe not comp-related, but maybe if games supported something more like the Detective MSTing in-game, where you could read/comment on something within the game itself. That sounds nightmarish but hrm.”
zarf says, “I’m participiating in a buzzkill-only way here, I’m sorry”
Emily says, “I wouldn’t be surprised if produces some contentious results also, but I suspect that will be in a more organic way”
Ghogg says, “also, I could see something more like what Steam does which is insistently pop up a “write a review” box at you as you are looking at a particular game”
Roger says, “compgate the gatening”
papillon says, “(testing to see if this works) I intentionally wrote the rules for my thing NOT to have a specific, clear guideline for what counted as ‘enough’ discussion to qualify, to try and undercut anyone down who would try to game the system. game developers love breaking loopholes after all”
Emily says (to Roger), “there once was this site, which is long since dead, where you could annotate games as you played them and then the marginalia would be exposed to other players when they reached the same text”
Ghogg says, “so while not REQUIRING feedback make it super-easy. there was one author i wanted to write during the comp, couldn’t find info, gave up”
Roger says, “hunh interesting”
Ghogg says, “most had email links but a little box right there would be easier”
zarf says, “I do like the idea of low-friction commenting tools”
Ghogg exclaims (at papillon), “it works!”
DavidW says, “I think being able to annotate a game would be really interesting, but I don’t know how that would work in practice.”
Ghogg says (to DavidW), “I vaguely recall an attempt in the late 90s at an Annotated Adventure”
zarf says, “iplayif could add that as a feature pretty easily I bet”
jmac says (to Emily), “That makes me think of articles on today, with per-paragraph comments harrumphing in the margins.”
Nitku says, “IFComp’s online links record the transcripts so people could add comments if they wanted”
Nitku says, “like when you’re betatesting”
Ghogg asks (of papillon), “do you have a link?”
maga says, “yeah, if it existed I’d want a giant TURN THIS THE HELL OFF button”
Emily says, “I guess my thing about this is that a) I think annotated IF where you can see the annotations of other people is fairly interesting as a possible way to do really close readings of texts and puzzles, but b) to make a good set of notes would be serious, near-scholarly work, so most of what you got would be people riffing randomly”
zarf says, “I am rather imagining having iplayif float a “see reviews and discussion” button in one corner of the window”
maga says, “(various Kindle iterations had a highlight thing for sections that lots of readers had highlighted, and my reaction is always GET THE HELL OUT OF MY EXPERIENCE, INTERNET RANDOMS)”
Emily says, “and it would be like getting a random used textbook that had already passed through three hilighter-happy users”
Roger says, “After bringing it up, I now vote for parking this noncomp-tangent for another day; sorry, etc.”
Emily says, “it’s interesting!”
jmac says (to zarf), “That idea is intriguing.”
CressidaHubris says, “I was going to point out that Kindle feature. I really dislike it because it affects the way I’m reading the book. Especially when the underlined section didn’t stand out for me.”
Ghogg asks, “anyway, if you want to get back on topic, anything in particular?”
Emily says, “I suppose it would be possible to have a comp-specific board with auto-generated discussion threads for each game”
Emily says, “this might make more sense, actually, than having threads that consisted of one particular person’s reviews”
maga says, “certainly it’d be nice to have a better way of organising Comp reviews than we currently have”
Emily says, “I wonder also, I guess, whether there’s some hesitation that comes from people feeling like they have to do a full considered multi-paragraph REVIEW ESSAY and they don’t have time so they don’t say anything”
maga says, “and one-thread-per-game would be a low-setup way to do that”
zarf says, “makes sense to me”
Emily says (to papillon), “I thought it was pretty interesting how in your comp thread you seemed to be actively trying to encourage people to dig in thoughtfully to particular issues”
maga says, “(we set up channels on the MUD every year that get relatively little use)”
zarf says, “have link to the threads”
DavidW says (to maga), “I was wondering about that, if the channels get more use than I see.”
Ellison asks, “does the automatic-transcripting online feature have a function to automatically delete transcripts with 0 moves (or fewer than a certain amount)? is that possible?”
maga says, “(also, hey Georgina, awesome work on LLTQ)”
papillon says, “I don’t think that would be possible or appropriate in a larger competition though, but I was in a good position to be pushy with directing the discussion.”

Comps for commercial IF

dfabulich says, “Hi! I’m here for five minutes before the SF IF Meetup starts. (Usually we’re the first weekend of the month, but that was new year’s and our location was closed/repainting)”
Emily says, “I guess another approach is the IntroComp/New Year Speed/Seltani Age Jam approach of actually having a set time for people to play on Floyd or something”
Emily says, “so you get people’s discussion and reactions as they’re playing”
maga says, “yeah, that works very well for things that work on Floyd and for people who dig the ClubFloyd style of play”
dfabulich says, “I just wanted to toss in that I’d love to see a discussion at some point today about how to have a competition that’s compatible with commercial games. I tried pretty hard to put something together on intfiction last year and interest was quite low”
maga says, “(and is really great for authors watching along)”
Ghogg says, “we maybe should work on making a twitch/whateverotherservice channel for trying twine/etc stuff collaberatively”
Emily asks (of dfabulich), “what we’ve got so far is partly “know what you want your comp to accomplish!” so the question is, what do you want such a comp to do?”
Ellison says (to Ghogg), “nice idea”
dfabulich says (to Emily), “Promote commercial IF.”
Emily asks (of dfabulich), “do you mean promote in the sense of encouraging more people to write commercial IF, or produce awards that are meaningful enough that you can hang them proudly on your game, or that it’s enough of an event to draw indie games blogs to talk about it?”
Ghogg asks (of dfabulich), “I’m kind of hoping there’s some CoG stuff in the Spring Thing back door part of the contest. Have you heard of that?”
Ellison says (to dfabulich), “I can’t really think of much besides doing a teaser bundle like the Textfyre hoax”
dfabulich says (to Ghogg), “Yes, and I’m optimistic about that too”
Ghogg says (to Ellison), “I think the problem is — people can’t release commerical-intended stuff in comps as normally made”
dfabulich says (to Emily), “All of those seem compatible to me; they don’t seem like they would contradict each other in terms of goals. Commercial IF should be better known, better rewarded, better discussed by the community, and more people should try to make commercial IF.”
Ellison says, “yeah, that’s why I figure they should be in a standalone bundle. with the right hype, that’s appealing.”
papillon says, “(re: commercial IF) Discussions about the problems with judging slow, story-heavy games in the IGF often lead to wishing someone would run a competition that serves them better”
Ghogg says, “textfyre just gunned for steam greenlight with its stuff. I think text authors are getting braver on commercial things and encouraging more would be a good idea”
Ghogg says, “(the greenlight pages are here)”
Emily says (to dfabulich), “I feel like getting people to make commercial IF involves some very different problems from getting people to discuss commercial IF, though”
papillon says, “however trying to properly judge lengthy commercial narrative works, including RPGs, tends to run into the problem that it’s a big commitment and that most of the people really interested in the subject have a vested interest and therefore are not well placed to actually organise it”
Emily says, “like, the barriers to making commercial IF don’t say “you need a comp”, to me; they say “you need more publishers””
Emily says, “I mean, if that’s our aim”
Emily says (to papillon), “yeah, that too”
dfabulich says, “argh, I have to run now”
maga says, “part of the thing is that comps exist in large part to shape output, and I don’t see many commercial authors being willing to change much about their games for the sake of comps”

Relationship between publishers and competitions

Ghogg asks (of Emily), “what do you think of the windhammer ‘tin man games publishes the winners’ thing?”
maga says, “perhaps I’d be wrong about this if it’s specifically for entry-level commercial authors”
Emily says (to Ghogg), “I don’t know enough about the practical effects of that to say, reallly”
Emily says, “but it seems like an interesting approach”
Emily says, “I would not mind seeing a body — whether we call it a publisher or not — that provides editing services, helps with art and polish that might be outside an author’s skillset, and offered some route to getting your work into appropriate stores (whether that’s mobile or Steam or whatever)”
Emily says, “because I would guess that people who might be considering selling some IF but hold off are holding off because some aspect of the hassle of it seems prohibitive”
Ghogg says, “it certainly seems like you mean a ‘publisher'”
zarf says, “let me tell you about windows installers
DavidW says, “hm. This kinda reminds me of”
zarf says, “(whee)”
Emily says, “well, that’s certainly the model I’ve been thinking of, yeah”
Ghogg says, “like papillon and dfabulich are doing”
Emily says (to DavidW), “AIE”
maga says, “well, part of that hassle is finding a market, as much as a publisher”
Emily says, “yes”
DavidW says, “sorry, i misspelled it”
Emily says (to DavidW), “no no, you just caused a traumatized flashback”
DavidW says, “sorry about that too”
Ghogg says (to maga), “well, dfabulich’s case, they did a bunch of ‘in house’ before they started really being a publisher for random folks”
Emily says, “but I observe that CoG, inkle, Failbetter all have found markets, and I think there may be more — as long as there’s a certain consistent quality level offered by the brand”
papillon says, “how much of a publisher i am is very limited though, i definitely would not want to tie myself to be forced to publish someone just because they won a competition. and being myself pushed into a publishing situation once because I won a competition was also a huge, huge hassle.”
Emily asks (of papillon), “oh?”
CressidaHubris says, “Inkle had Time’s Game of the Year this year; the market is definitely there.”
Emily says, “yeah, 80 Days has scampered off the known map of ways for IF to be successful, frankly”
Ghogg says, “given failbetter had so much sales they had to hire someone just to keep up with the flood of customers I think they’re close”
Dave says, “hey – only an hour late”
papillon says, “months of drawn-out dealing with people i never met in a country whose language i didn’t speak, thinking they would give me support that never materialised, eventually having to challenge them publicly to get the money i was owed, and the result being a product that has been basically buried never to be mentioned again. it’s a long messy story”
Emily says (to papillon), “ugh :(”
maga says (to Cressida), “right, I’m not saying that markets don’t exist, I’m saying they take years and years of work to locate”
papillon says, “there are probably plenty of reasons on their end, i don’t want to badmouth them, they probably were expecting to be dealing with a company that knew what they were doing and not with me.”
papillon says, “but basically, a publishing arrangement is much better entered into when both sides can agree on what they’re doing first and not because of a competition”
papillon says, “imo”
Emily says, “that makes sense”
zarf says, “agreed”
Ghogg says, “I think the tin man arrragment might be ok because the entrants were providing pure test”
Ghogg says, “text”
Roger says, “this does bring us around to some degree to the question of comp prizes, particularly huge cash prizes”
Ghogg says, “and it’s just everyone on the tin man end adapting it”
zarf says, “if a publisher wanted to run a comp, that would be worth discussing, but maybe not a good way to approach comp discussion”
Emily says, “there have been a couple of publisher-run comps — Future Voices came about that way — but it was run in a very specific way”
Emily says, “(in that you had to submit a finished inklewriter game, so they knew it would be in their own tech, etc)”
Dave says, “hmm”

Problem of getting discussion for a commercial-IF comp

Emily says, “to get to dfabulich’s other points — wanting a comp in order to increase discussion of commercial IF — I feel like the fact that it is commercial means that you’re basically up against a serious problem of asking your judges to pay for the whole set of games”
Emily says, “so if you were selling it as a bundle maybe that would sort of work but you’re still stuck with probably having quite a small group of participants”
Dave says, “as a publisher, I could see using a comp to “interview” potential author-partners”
maga says, “or you’re back to doing it as a juried thing”
Emily says, “and if you’re giving your game free to the judges, then you need to have a small set of selected judges rather than — yeah”
Emily says, “but either way, you’ve really narrowed the judge pool”
Emily says, “which seems like it goes counter to the discussion desire”
Dave says, “not sure I’d use a comp for PR”
Ellison says, “along with what Emily said, I’ve been thinking about how often I’d like to see finishing touches on already finished games, like making status bars look prettier or cleaning up formatting. even though it’s just another kind of betatesting, it would be nice if we had an outlet to encourage authors to make things as pretty as possible”
Ghogg says (to Emily), “well, it could be like introcomp”
Ghogg asks, “although now that I think of it, does introcomp have a commercial restriction?”
Emily says (to Ellison), “yeah. this is something I like to fantasize my imaginary publisher would help with”
Ellison says (to Ghogg), “I don’t think so”
Roger says, “Some sort of… iterative-comp might be interesting”

Anthologies and publishers

Emily says, “there’s another model here entirely that I think could be interesting, which would be not a publisher-run open-ended comp, but a publisher-run anthology — one with a very specific audience and style in mind, which would solicit content directly from likely authors and then also possibly hold an open call, and then cull the submissions and polish for a curated, shiny release”
Emily says, “more like how SF short story volumes are done”
maga says (to Ghogg), “Introcomp is specifically non-commercial, sort of”
Ghogg asks (of Emily), “wasn’t that the failbetter thing?”
Dave says (to emily), “or middle-school directed educational IF”
zarf says, “nm always wanted to do a PRIF anthology, but we never had quite enough games going on at the same time”
Dave says, “except I don’t recommend anyone chase anything educational ever”
maga says, “(you can decide later on to release things commercially, but you can’t go into it as ‘this is a demo for a commercial game’)”
Emily says (to Ghogg), “the World of the Season comp wasn’t themed and I don’t think they did anything specific to gussy up the winners”
Ghogg says, “hmm”
Dave asks, “so a suggestion might be….say I want someone to take on the sequel to Shadow in the Cathedral and I offered $2,000 to the “winner”…and the comp is someone that can come up with the outline and first two chapters….is that something we’re talking about?”
Ghogg says, “that…actually doesn’t sound like that bad an idea”
Emily says, “that sounds like a call for contributors rather than a standard-issue comp or anthology (which doesn’t mean you can’t do it, though I’d be cautious, I think — what happens if you get your outline and pay out your money and then the person doesn’t care to stick around and do more? or does that matter?)”
Ghogg says, “presuming the original authors aren’t interested”
Dave says (to emily), “it would require thought”
Dave says (to ghogg), “they are not”
Ghogg says, “wizards of the coast had that one ‘write a new setting for us’ contest”
two-star says, “Speaking of the anthology thing, I’ve been thinking about a StaticComp, which would be a comp/juried anthology for static fiction set in the worlds of people’s IF games, as a way of enticing people into IF through the static fiction, as well as providing people who already liked the IF with interesting new views of those worlds.”
papillon says, “i remember that setting contest, they were absolutely buried in submissions”
Roger says, “That would be neat”
zarf says (to two-star), “that is really interesting”
Dave says, “the one chained speed-if we did was pretty interesting”
Emily says, “yeah. I actually entered that WotC thing”
Emily says, “eons ago”
Dave says, “those seem to garner a lot of interest”
Dave says, “where people write different portions of a single concept”
Ghogg says (to papillion), “I have no idea how they narrowed to finalists. I theorize there were a lot of hacky ones.”
zarf says, “my friend Keith entered the WotC thing and now he is Keith “Eberron” Baker”
jmac says, “I would be cautious of Dave’s suggestion as written, since the parts of the freelancer community I’m connected to see these sorts of things as ‘Do creative work for us for free! Maybe we’ll pay you! Probably not!'”
Ghogg asks (of zarf), “wrr you are friends with Keith Baker?”
jmac says, “Then again you have Keith Baker so what do i know.”
zarf says, “back in ancient days”
Dave says (to jmac), “agreed”
Emily says, “yeah, what Dave suggests is not an arrangement that would appeal to me to enter, but other people might”
Dave says, “it was just a thought…not something I would consider as stated”
zarf says, “when I see a ‘come create content for us!’ stuff happening in large companies, it’s usually lawyered to death”
zarf says, “big signs saying ‘we own your submission, your cat, and your liver'”
Dave says, “heh”
papillon says, “i entered the WotC thing, like most never heard anything again. I took part in a bioware open writer call once way back too, that one did at least reply nicely. Submissions had to be done in the neverwinter nights toolset which limits the field a bit.”
Ghogg says, “oh, I half-did something for neverwinter”
zarf says, “(that said, I’m totally entering”
Dave says, “I think the only way a comp like this could work (relating to a commercial venture) is if that company had a solid audience”
Dave says, “so if I could guarantee an author their work would see thousands of eyes, it would be much more compelling”
Emily says, “well, or to get back to Roger’s comment, to have whopping quantities of money attachd”
Nitku says, “Inkle did that Inklewriter comp where they published the best 10 or something as an app”
Dave says, “money is not always an incentive either”
Emily says (to Nitku), “yeah, Future Voices”
Dave says, “especially in the IF author world”
papillon says, “even if there’s good money attached, if you have to spend a lot of time working with something that isn’t your IP and you can’t use it if they don’t take it, that’s a downer”
papillon says, “artists also are heavily warned against taking part in ‘contests’ for jobs”
Dave says, “right…the traditional publisher model doesn’t seem to work”
Dave says, “because most IF people view themselves as their own entity and have a great deal of artistic pride”
Emily says (to Dave), “by “whopping” I meant “competitive with what I earn in other client jobs, plus something for the uncertainty””
Dave says, “well right”
Dave says, “there are no IF companies with THAT kind of money”
Dave says, “there has to be a pipeline”
Ghogg says, “inkle’s working on it, we hope. JonIngold drops by with his gold monocle.”
Dave says, “but Jon is not interested in parser IF anymore”
Dave says, “and I’m still sort of stuck in that world”
Emily asks, “do you want to be?”
Ghogg says, “I see attracting people to parser with non-parser as a ‘gateway’, but that’s too tangental for topic”
Dave says, “I like what Inkle has done…but I prefer to look for ways to make parser IF more attractive…”
Dave says, “I should say I love what Inkle has done”
Emily says, “(also, I did actually write a parser IF game for a client last year; it’s just an extremely unusual situation that I don’t especially foresee arising again in the near future)”
Dave says, “I haven’t played 80 Days, but the Frankenstein game was awesome”
Ghogg asks, “ANYHOW comps what else have we not discussed?”
Dave says, “well, the IFComp is still ground zero”
Dave says, “at least in my mind”

Promoting material outside the IF community

Emily says, “one thing we haven’t talked about is how organizers promote comps to an external audience”
Ghogg asks, “is there anything we can do to promote comps –IFComp and otherwise — more than we have?”
Ghogg exclaims (at Emily), “jinx!”
DavidW says, “I have the rough impression that comps are dwindling in number.”
maga says, “yeah, that is a thing I feel I know bugger-all about and should really learn more of”
Dave says, “planet-if is where I would see these announcements”
CressidaHubris says, “You could get larger blogs to write about the Comps. Bring in a new audience for the games.”
jmac says, “I was very impressed at all the press IFComp got last year given that I basically did no PR. (Other than pinging a guy I know at one particular Large Game Website who ended up not writing anything about it.)”
DavidW says (to Ghogg), “We do need to promote comps better, I think. It’s usually not enough to just post an announcement on one forum and hope the games roll in.”
maga says, “yeah, I feel as though IFComp is on the radar of most of the press outlets that would have an interest in it”
maga says, “at least, at the ‘games are out now’ point”
Dave asks, “we have connections to most of the people that would be interested, no?”
Emily says, “I think there’s an inherent challenge if you both a) want to promote your comp widely to the outer world and b) want to encourage many authors of varying skill levels to enter, because then you run into some hand-wringing about whether the novice work is good as an ambassador of your community and so on”
Dave asks, “so by PR, do we mean reaching out to _new_ people?”
Dave says, “I always thought getting classrooms interested in comps would be cool”
Dave says, “so school vs. school”
Ghogg says, “one thing that’s odd is IF has had plenty of ‘jams’, but the only text jam I found in the gamejam community was one apparently disconnected from all the normal IF people and I don’t think any of the entrants had even heard of planet-if etc.”
Dave says, “IF needs its own FlipBook”
JoshuaH says, “Maybe the attraction to the press and blog is that it is inclusive of novice writers as well as the not-so-novice? (I’m going off vague impressions.)”
Ghogg says, “(this is the one I mean:”
Roger says, “Advertisement would be an interesting prize”
Dave says, “but this goes back to making it easier to create and publish material”
jmac says, “Running a regular-repeating comp, I’m more interested in getting wide broadcast out for players, more than authors. I feel that some fraction of the latter will be energized to become authors following year, and then they’ll have played IF for at least a year and won’t be utter rank beginners.”
Dave says, “which has always been a challenge”
jmac says, “erm, some fraction of the former.”
Dave says (to jmac), “that’s an excellent point”
Ghogg asks (of jmac), “do you have any ideas you haven’t tried yet?”
jmac exclaims, “I haven’t tried much at all!”
Ghogg exclaims, “well let’s give you some!”
DavidW asks, “IFComp’s twitter feed helped a bit, did it not?”
Dave says, “anything to do with PR or ambassadorship requires dedication, time, and funds”
JoshuaH says, “I dunno. IFComp is considered THE representative IF event (even though it’s not for various reasons) and it got that way due to it’s inclusive nature.”
jmac says, “I feel that the twitter feed was a big boost and intend to continue focusing on it, yes”
jmac says, “It’s not like I do A/B tests here”
Roger says, “Maybe some sort of mailing list that would send me direct links to X random comp games a day; the big-bang aspect of the game release is a bit daunting, perhaps”
maga says (to Roger), “that seems cart-before-horse to me”
jmac says, “I have been collecting some of the ideas from earlier in this conversation, actually, to make the initial hurdle of discovering and cracking open the games less daunting.”
jmac says, “From a new potential player’s perspective.”
maga says, “the first game you open is automatically from last year’s top 5”
jmac says, “ha ha”
Dave says, “the thing that gets more people is when they “check it out” it’s very fun immediately”
maga says, “(honestly that is a less terrible idea than the off-the-cuff joke I intended it as)”
Dave says, “hmm”
jmac says, “I am thinking more ways to see wow look at all the discussion about these games… huh people are actually playing them, they’re not just a list of weird pictures on this website that my friend keeps pestering me to look at or whatever”
Dave asks, “what if we offered teachers prizes for getting their students to play games in a comp?”
Ghogg says (to Dave), “noooo I tend to ignore emails like that”
Roger says, “It’s commercial IF in the sense that I will pay you $5 to play my game”
Emily says, “I really don’t see that as a good idea at all”
Emily says (to Roger), “hee”
maga says (to jmac), “yes, I am very strongly in favour of review collation”
Ghogg asks, “one random idea not in ifcomp, but speaking of education — could we arrange a package for hour of code?”
Emily asks (of Ghogg), “what does that mean?”
maga says, “if that could be integrated with the Comp website that would also be shiny, though you’d need a balance to avoid prejudicing voters”
Ghogg says, “hour of code is this week event where you get people to code”
Ghogg says, “Obama participated in the last one”
CressidaHubris says, “I taught IF as part of Hour of Code this year. Though I taught Twine.”
Ghogg says, “for example, Lightbot is this teaching-coding-via-game that makes special Hour of Code versions intended for educators to have their students try”
Emily says, “I admit that if Obama wrote some IF, I would be curious to play it, though it would probably turn out to be “[[Sign up for Obamacare!!]]””
Emily asks (of Ghogg), “what would it need?”
Ghogg asks (of CressidaHubris), “could we boost the Twine signal to educators, somehow?”
CressidaHubris says, “It would be difficult to create anything parser-based for Hour of Code. It literally needs to be a lesson that can be taught in an hour.”
maga says (to Emily), “Fundraiser Quest”
Ghogg says (to Emily), “well, you are better off checking the website:”
Ghogg says, “(or change us to uk or whatever)”
CressidaHubris says, “Yes, I’ve been pushing Twine in schools. I think it’s the most user-friendly for kids. We also teach Twine as part of our out-of-school computer club.”
jmac says (to Cressida), “Cool.”
CressidaHubris says, “Though it doesn’t do a lot for parser games. Except for the kids who get deeply into it and then ask for more IF at the end.”
Emily says, “something else I was wondering about — this is a bit of a different topic — is whether there are ways to make comps less daunting to newbies”
Roger asks, “as players?”
Emily says, “as authors”
Dave says, “the “database” style IF programming seems to do well with kids”
maga says (to Dave), “I do not think that encouraging kids to join non-kid-specific comps is a great approach”
maga says, “kid-specific comps might be another matter”
Emily says, “like some people mentioned wanting more mentoring in some way, and others have mentioned that they are scared of needing a very thick skin to enter comps that are heavily reviewed”
JoshuaH says, “Low key and probably well-populated is good. That’s why I entered Ectocomp and was glad I did.”
Emily says, “and I’m wondering whether there are formats that would address this (note: NOT as a change to IF Comp, but as an alternative thing)”
maga says, “mentoring would be a fine thing, except that it is very, very time-intensive”
maga says, “and, well”
CressidaHubris says (to maga), “Yes — you have to curate IF if you’re presenting IF to kids. Both in terms of difficulty. And… uh… content.”
JoshuaH says, “(Well-populated means a decent number of authors and a good chance of yr game getting criticism.)”
maga says, “the thing is that comps are a trade-off: in the ones where you get a lot of attention, the cost is that you get a lot of attention”
Dave says, “no doubt”
jmac says, “Hmm, it may have been at a PRIF in-person meeting, but there was some light discussion about the IFComp maybe having an unjudged Junior Division. Zarf brought out the way that costume contests work at established SF cons as a possible model.”
Emily says, “well, what I was wondering about was a juried comp with a cut-off for public release. so if your game doesn’t do that well, you get feedback about why not, but the rest of the world doesn’t actually see or hear about it”
maga says, “I do not think ‘you get a lot of attention, but no pressure about it’ is an entirely workable model, though it’s probably not zero-sum”
jmac says, “I have had multiple requests for something like that in the IFComp over the last year.”
Dave says, “well that sounds more like an IF version of Codementor”
Emily asks (of jmac), “a set of games that wouldn’t be ranked?”
maga says (to jmac), “that could be a worthwhile experiment”
jmac says, “Well, more generally, a set of games explicitly labeled as ‘These are from kids’, and judged separately from the main comp (or perhaps not judged at all)”
Emily says, “ah”
Emily says, “yeah”
Emily says, “that seems fin”
Emily says, “fine”
jmac says, “My initial reaction was ‘Go make ya own comp, that’s how we do things in IF land, hurray’ and the reaction is usually ‘sigh'”
Emily says, “heh”
Emily says, “well, yeah, IF Comp has the problem that everyone expects it to be their IF Comp”
Emily says, “all things to all people”
maga says, “I want this thing to exist, but I do not want to have to organise or promote it”
Ghogg says, “yeah”
Ghogg says, “one nice thing about ifcomp is we have had ‘kids’ do pretty well”
zarf says, “I want to see how Spring Thing does this year and then build on that”
Ghogg says, “I entered ’95 when I was 16”
zarf says, “(not useful for today’s discussion, I know)”
maga says, “yeah, I will be extremely interested in how Spring Thing 2.0 does”
jmac says, “same”
maga says, “I am very much in favour of things which take the pressure off IFComp to be all things to all people”

Tie-ins with live events

Ghogg says, “one last idea before I take off — I think we could use some more physical-event connection with comp things. Like maybe PRIF does some sort of IF Comp launch bash, but it isn’t mentioned on the ifcomp website”
maga says, “(man, this is reminding me that we really need to get on the Seattle IF group again)”
Emily says (to Ghogg), “what would that help with? (this is meant non-hostile-ly, I’m just curious because it surprises me a bit)”
Ghogg says, “I think part of the reason IGF took off it was surrounded by a conference”
zarf says, “(no, we have no bash)”
jmac says, “Ha ha, Jim Munroe tried to talk me into moving the deadline up a weekend so I could read the winners Academy Awards-style at WordPlay”
Emily asks, “oh, you mean ‘site this project in an event that is already happening that might draw participants’?”
jmac says, “(in Toronto)”
Ghogg says (to Emily), “try to attract some people for reasons ‘hey, this is a cool new local thing’ as a different outlet to finding a way to ifdom”
Ghogg says, “I mean, think about how well the games done quick have done”
maga says, “(and by ‘we’ I probably mean ‘me’)”
Ghogg says (to Emily), “yeah”
Ghogg says, “or just add some physicality excitement via livestreaming”
Ghogg says, “Have people do clubfloyd-ish group plays on twitch”
jmac says, “I was just writing ‘twitch’ in my notebook.”
Dave says, “this reminds me of how much being physically isolated from other IF people is a factor in my ability to collaborate”
Ghogg says, “(I would love to have seen that emily/maga/jacq/graham session on slasher swamp)”
Ghogg says, “and having facial reactions etc. would draw people in”
Emily says, “there’s Clash of the Type-Ins, I suppose”
Emily says, “it’s audio, ofc”
jmac says, “We opened the fire door! Time to play the video clip of Zarf looking archy impressed.”
Ghogg says (to Emily), “I had them in mind too”
Dave says, “I would love to see an in-person IFComp award ceremony”
Dave says, “I would attend every year”
jmac says, “Well, I made a gesture towards that on Twitter this year.”
jmac says, “Nothing like the XYZZYs here, but still something people could tune into.”
jmac says, “And plenty of people did. It was fun.”
jmac says, “Um, I am talking about having @IFComp ‘livetweet’ the special-prize and top 10 IFComp winners, on the comp’s closing day.”
Emily says, “that was fun”
Emily asks, “we’ve run two hours now, and I’m going to need to leave soon: are there other things people wanted to discuss?”
Emily says, “CricketComp”
Emily says, “okay, cool — thanks, everyone!”
jmac says, “I need to run too. Thanks everyone, this was neat.”
Emily says, “next time will be a guided tour of Seltani, followed by discussion (Feb 21)”
Roger says, “Thanks Emily, everyone”
CressidaHubris exclaims, “Thank you!”
zarf says, “woo”
DavidW says, “Thanks to all the comp organizers.”
Emily says, “I have a suggestion on the board that March should be about the parser, but I don’t want to run that myself, so if I get a volunteer it can be about that”
Emily says, “and otherwise I’ll pick a different topic”
maga says, “merci”
Emily says, “(we will, however, just have had parsercomp)”
Roger asks, “Also Feb’s schedule is shifting due to St. Valentine?”
Emily says, “that’s right, yeah — the 21st is not the second Saturday, but I don’t want to run this on the 14th”
zarf says, “(14th is also Indiecade East)”

6 thoughts on “Transcript Jan 10: Comps, Anthologies, Shows, Zines

  1. I must say, that TravelComp thing you linked to is quite the… uh, something. I’m not entirely sure what to think of it myself. Sadly the guy’s website doesn’t seem to be archived, so I can’t read the review that started the whole mess. Do you really think that one game actually existed, by the way? I’m getting flashbacks to that review by Conrad Cook about the (alleged?) “dogwalking” game.

    • It was an odd exchange, yeah. As I recall — it’s been a long time now — the game was supposed to feature among other things a deeply implemented Socrates NPC who could hold thoughtful debates with the player. And it was definitely described as having technical features that sounded well in advance of what most people would have been able to produce with the available engines at the time.

      • I am now imagining a FakeComp which is composed entirely of imaginary entries of the strangest and most fantastical sort imaginable.

        In phase 2, people try to implement the fake games for real.

  2. I think the idea of comps for commercial works doesn’t make a lot of sense. Commercial things are time sensitive. Release too early and you risk putting out something too buggy that would ruin your reputation. Release too late and you could be missing months of income. So you’re not going to get many entries that will coincidentally line up with the competition date. Instead an Award would be better. IF of the year type thing.

    There’s also the question of ethics. I know that in some creative fields competitions are frequently seen as abusive situations that allow companies to commission multiple artists for the price of one – such as architecture competitions. I’ve read articles before (but can’t find them now) that say that all artists entering these competitions should receive at least some award money. This is probably less of an issue for a game competition if the entries can be released independently afterwards, but it’s still something to consider.

      • Yeah. I’d like there to be a way to address Dan’s concerns/wishes, but I’m seriously uncertain about whether a competition format makes sense as a way to go about it. (Maybe I’m not thinking of the right approach, though.)

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