Transcript March 22: ParserComp Postmortem

MTW says, “hi”
dddaaannn exclaims, “Hello, Theory Club!”
maga says, “OK, folks, welcome to theoryclub.”
DavidW waves ‘yay theoryclub’ flag.
caleb says, “hello”
ASchultz says, “Mic check here. Hello everyone.”
Felix waves.
DavidW says (to ASchultz), “oh hi. I didn’t see you enter.”
Gerynar says, “sits in the only comefortable chair”
Busta exclaims, “Hi!”
Roger says, “Welcome aboard, folks”
dddaaannn gets comfortable.
mossdogmusic exclaims, “Hi everyone!”
maga says, “excellent”
maga says, “OK. Today on theory club, we’re going to be discussing all things ParserComp.”
maga says, “The first thing I’d like to discuss is the comp’s special rules.”
mossdogmusic says, “Helpful link: (since that isn’t topmost on the site now)”
maga asks, “Let’s start with the category-based voting; how did that affect your experience of the comp, whether as an author, voter, or reviewer?”
DavidW says, “Voting took longer than usual.”
DavidW says, “Like, for me to work it all out.”
hzomb says, “As a voter: PRO: I could give a high rating for good writing but a low rating overall instead of compromising on a single rating.”
ASchultz says, “I think it was worth it though. The main thing for me is, 1-5 is harder to rate than 1-10”
maga says, “I definitely had to realign my brain a bit”
hzomb says, “CON: Agree took longer. For four games I was too uncertain about some categories to vote.”
maga says, “and for me, at least, one category tended to bleed over quite a lot into another, to the extent that strongly disparate scores didn’t happen much”
hzomb says, “Aschultz agree not enough grades.”
FloatingInfo says, “voter/reviewer: I found the category-based voting interesting, although I didn’t use it as a prompt in my reviews, but the 1-5 rather than 1-10 made some games I enjoyed look merely average.”
ASchultz says, “given that feedback was also part of it, I didn’t feel so bad wondering which number was best”
mossdogmusic asks, “More insight request. What do you mean by “too uncertain about some categories”, hzomb?”
hzomb says, “maga I didn’t find it hard to distringuish categories.”
caleb says, “as an entrant, it was certainly interesting to see how how the voters who revealed their scores (I think there were only 2?) compared different entries.”
hzomb says, “mossdogmusic: It takes me longer to decide the rating for categories I don’t know too well.”
hzomb says, “mossdogmusic: I was glad to see some scores being published but dissapointed that the competition goal to avoid putting someone last wasn’t observed.”
DavidW says, “I think, personally, I’d be more comfortable with a 1 to 3 score; that is, did I find a work less than average, average, or better than average.”
ASchultz says, “having different categories also helps avoid overgeneralizing e.g. “is this good” prompts “it was ok i guess” or “I guess other people like it, not me””
hzomb says, “I could have voted for four more games if those hard categories were optional.”
hzomb says, “DavidW Disagree. I hate having too few grades -”
mossdogmusic says, “Putting on my organizer hat – I was never concerned about what individual reviewers did. What I wanted was to avoid an official message “This is the worst game of the competition.””
hzomb says, “DavidW Disagree. If you have to rate gold silver bronze 3 3 3 then the comp can put them in any WRONG order eg bronze gold silver.”
ASchultz says, “I didn’t recuse any scores, so I’m wondering if that could be an option next time? If you write 50 words of feedback then I think it’s ok to pass on filling in bubbles if you’re not sure”
hzomb says, “AShultz: I still have problems balancing recommending a game versus is a good game in the overall -”
ASchultz says, “I had more fun writing the feedback, though I think having categories helped me focus and check off on big picture things”
hzomb says, “AShultz: The overall also combined (compromised) categories which weren’t included like access, originallity.”
mossdogmusic says, “To a certain extent, my hands were tied by the choice to use Google Forms as the judging interface. It turns out that Google Forms doesn’t support N/A in the same way that SurveyMonkey does.”
maga says (to ASchultz), “yeah, I enjoyed having some pre-existing structure to write reviews within”
mossdogmusic says, “And I had originally wanted to allow people to choose N/A for puzzle-free games, if any showed up (which I believe didn’t happen, but still.)”
DavidW asks, “Is it too soon to say that ParserComp itself gets a high score Overall?”
ASchultz says, “true, but I don’t have problems using conditionals. eg I recommend this game only if / even if you don’t like genre X”
hzomb says, “I wrote a paragraph for feedback or dumped a long sprawl.”
MTW says, “yes, ParserComp is a helluva comp”
ASchultz says, “I was very happy with it in all stages”
hzomb asks, “Too many awards. Will anybody remember them?”
maga says, “So a conspicuous result of the category-voting was that the Overall winners cleaned up in all the other categories, too”
mossdogmusic says, “Thanks! On the whole, I feel really good about how it went, and I haven’t received any upset emails, so I feel pretty positive.”
DavidW says (to maga), “I’m not sure how that can be avoided.”
ASchultz says, “yeah, I was hoping for more balance, but even getting 1 nice thing is nice for some writers”
maga asks, “Is that a sign of voters having more positive feelings about individual aspects of a game if they like it overall, or is that just a feature of how game design works?”
mossdogmusic says, “I think it’s the nature of IF, maga.”
DavidW says, “I’ve seen similar patterns in ADRIFT and AIF comps that have multiple scored categories.”
hzomb says, “Sometimes to make a vote I just voted how much I liked the game in categories I couldn’t decide.”
ASchultz says, “also, some people are just able to run with an idea and let things spill out, and overall writing quality can show through”
ASchultz says, “For instance, Chlorophyll and Delphina’s House were started very early. And the authors kept adding stuff. If the authors were aware of the categories, then easch build maybe added more stuff contributing to a category that seemed weak”
mossdogmusic says, “It was my intent for the four main categories to cover the key things that make up IF – writing, story, puzzles, and technical execution.”
mossdogmusic says, “If a game does well in those four ways, I would expect it to do well overall.”
maga asks, “well, that’s worth raising – authors, were any of you specifically targeting a category?”
Busta says, “I was targeting puzzles with Opal :)”
caleb says, “yes–I concentrated heavily on writing. The puzzles were kind of there as pacing”
hzomb says, “Unconvincing vampire protagonists seemed like quickfixes for the theme.”
DavidW says (to Busta), “yay puzzles.”
maga says, “every now and then people talk about wanting to revitalise the Art Show format, and this seems like a partial step in that direction”
Busta asks, “Is that similar to Spring Thing’s festival format?”
maga says, “(for those who weren’t there, the Art Show sought entries which specialised in one particular thing, like object implementation or setting or an NPC)”
MTW says, “interesting”
Busta says, “ahh ok”
ASchultz says, “well, wrt vampires, I think the 2 games were different enough, to say the least, that it didn’t feel overdone”
caleb asks (of maga), “you mean like having a puzzlebox- or literary-type entry in the artshow?”
DavidW says, “Art Show entries also tended to be puzzleless or have very light puzzles.”
maga says (to Busta), “possibly! we’ll find out once Spring Thing 2.0 actually happens, which I am greatly looking forwards to”
maga says (to caleb), “right”
FloatingInfo says, “Some of those Art Show games seemed too focused on one idea for me to stand out.”
FloatingInfo says, “In the end the best games for an idea also have other things, IMO.”
mossdogmusic says, “The Art Show concept always felt sort of like a creative tech demo to me.”
mossdogmusic says, “There were some standout games produced – but I’d rather have a solid (setting, implementation, NPC, etc) coupled with all the other solid pieces of a game, instead of standalone.”
mossdogmusic says, “Unless that standalone is interesting enough in and of itself to be a game – in which case, it doesn’t really need the Art Show to showcase it.”
hzomb says, “FloatingInfo Exploration vs challenge”
hzomb says, “sure is quiet”
maga says, “I totally agree that as games, games are a lot stronger when they combine lots of elements”
MTW says, “we are all thoughtful”
mossdogmusic says, “I didn’t expect the categories to cluster as much as they did – but I’m not disappointed by it.”
maga says, “but it’s interesting to see things like Terminator that are almost pure tech-exercise/toybox”
DavidW says, “I think only the Theme category really broke the clustering, if that’s the term.”
mossdogmusic says, “I think people approached ParserComp more competitively than I expected, and that resulted in an overall higher quality of games.”
mossdogmusic says, “Overall quality of games = good thing.”
ASchultz says, “I don’t know about competitively as much as seriously”
ASchultz says, “Having 2 deadlines can help e.g. the beta deadline and the final”
mossdogmusic says, “Seriously might be a better way to put it.”
mossdogmusic says, “Re: clustering (looking sneakily behind the scenes) – if there had been 5 places instead of 3, games would have been more widely represented.”
ASchultz says, “Ooh, now I’m sort of interested, though that’s probably really private.”
hzomb says, “< suspects authors can see results privately."
ASchultz asks, “perhaps there could be an honorable mention if the top-3 sweep a category?”
ASchultz says, “Since the intent was never to rank games (which I think worked well,) or note something particularly good about a game, this might be a safety valve.”
mossdogmusic says, “Hmm. So (for example) puzzles, where Chloro/OO/DH took the category and also took the Overall, you’re suggesting that an Honorable Mention would have been listed, to recognize the top puzzle game that wasn’t an Overall placer.”
ASchultz says, “Yes. I mean, I sort of wonder who missed the cut no matter what, and I think the top 3 were very strong. Which kind of skewed things.”
mossdogmusic says, “Interesting suggestion. I’m not sure if there will be a ParserComp 2016, but I’ll keep it in mind if so.”
maga says, “probably not a thing to do this time around, but worth considering for any future comp with a similar system”
ASchultz says, “Cool! I also think this wouldn’t feel too much like a participation ribbon nobody wants.”
mossdogmusic says, “No, not this time around. Would be inappropriate to retroactively change up.”
maga says, “absolutely”
ASchultz says, “Also if you can’t administer I bet others would be willing to, if you’d like to see it next year (And agreed, looking back is awkward)”
maga says, “personally I think that novelty is an important value in comps”
maga says, “I like having a handful of significant minicomps a year, but I think that sticking with the same format over and over is probably counterproductive”
mossdogmusic says, “I see the value of novelty, but for this specifically, I think there’s value in repeating.”
mossdogmusic says, “…and not just because I ran it.'”
mossdogmusic says, “ParserComp is the only place exclusively for parserIF right now.”
maga exclaims (at Carolyn), “if anything, that’s a reason for you to run far and fast!”
hzomb says, “I wish we could think of way to include more games (not just parser).,.”
caleb says, “and with a new theme (of course) it would feel quite different”
MTW says, “the point is to be only-parser”
mossdogmusic says, “Don’t get me wrong – I will jump up and down all day about how awesome the rise of Twine and choice-based IF is… but….”
MTW says, “including non-parser defeats the purpose”
hzomb says, “there are puzzle-like non-parser games”
mossdogmusic says, “The parser art form, specifically, is near and dear to me. I really want it to thrive, rather than being nostalgiabait.”
mossdogmusic says, “If form divisions existed in one of the major competitions, I would feel differently.”
maga says, “So about that: it seemed as though a lot of the games, and certainly the highest-placed ones, were relatively minor (albeit cool) twists on well-trodden mechanics.”
maga says, “I can see reasons for that – it’s a lot easier to do when you’re on a relatively short deadline, for instance.”
Busta says, “Version 1.0 of a new mechanic tends to be more of a proof of concept than a finished product”
mossdogmusic says, “Possibly also related – there wasn’t a category for Innovation.”
caleb says, “in my case, I really don’t have the design skills to innovate too much mechanically.”
maga says (to Busta), “true, but there have traditionally been plenty of 1.0-ish games in IF Comp, for instance”
mossdogmusic says, “Which is kind of a pity in light of Terminator. Conceptually, that game was pretty impressive.”
ASchultz says, “yeah, that was. I know Matt has post comp releases planned for that”
ASchultz says, “as do many of the authors. Which is cool”
mossdogmusic exclaims, “Yay!”
hzomb says, “The short time limit meant authors depended on libraries and got stuck with them.”
maga says, “well, authors always depend on libraries”
mossdogmusic says, “My thinking may not match everyone else’s, but – if I were going to unleash a Brilliant Mechanical Innovation (1.0) on the IF world, I’d want as many people to see it as possible.”
mossdogmusic says, “That would lead me either to do it in IFComp, Spring Thing, or a noncomp release (and hope that it got picked up by bloggers.).”
maga says, “(unless they’re creating systems from scratch, which, well)”
ASchultz says, “Not totally. I was able to write a hinting library for hinting for Delphina’s House, and that got developed as the author requested features etc.”
mossdogmusic says, “I would be much less likely to pick a small-scale comp. But everyone else’s mileage, etc.”
maga says (to Carolyn), “true enough”
hzomb says, “It was a low pressure comp where you could float your ideas.”
maga says, “and there’s nothing wrong with an event that’s not particularly innovation-focused”
Sequitur says, “Hello everyone. I guess I’m horribly late.”
ASchultz says, “help channels”
mossdogmusic says, “hzomb – yay! That’s exactly what I hoped for.”
hzomb says, “Some authors had ideas knocking around a few years but didn’t find the forum to publish them until Parsercomp”
mossdogmusic says, “I got a couple emails from authors saying that. Made my day.”
ASchultz says, “Aigh, mistype–also welcome Sequitur, you can @recapchannel theoryclub all to see what you missed”
maga says, “(I remember at the PAX meetups one of the recurring themes was that the IF world had a problem with building on existing innovation because of the been-done-before issue)”
hzomb says, “There’s a gap between ideas people and implementors”
FloatingInfo says, “Shrapnel did it already.”
ASchultz says, “Even though I didn’t submit a game, I got a lot of ideas or even said, ok, this doesn’t have to be fancy to be very enjoyable”
caleb asks (of maga), “that seems odd to me. Or at least, it puts the programming aspect at a higher importance than the writing aspect, doesn’t it?”
Sequitur says, “mossdogmusic: It had a lot to do with timing, too. For a long time the only comp for “real” games from new authors was IFComp and if you missed the window to implement something for that, well.”
maga says (to caleb), “I don’t think it was specifically technical innovation, for what that’s worth”
maga says, “(switching into XYZZY mode for a second, Deadline Enchanter didn’t win Best Use of Medium because of Alan DeNiro’s astonishing technical chops)”
mossdogmusic says, “Sequitur, I think you’re right. I hadn’t considered it, but – if you rewind to 200(4, I think?), I missed the deadline for submitting my (really bad) game to IFComp by 1 day. If there had been a competition immediately following, I would’ve entered.”
DavidW says, “Some innovation, imho, has to come from the interpreters that can support margins and tabs and checkboxes and italics and font-sizes and text justification, etc.”
Sequitur says, “Or just, people having more/less time to put into it at different times of the year making IFComp’s schedule work better for some.”
maga says, “(and staying in XYZZY mode for a second, everybody go and vote for *that*)”
Sequitur says, “Especially for new authors, publishing something outside a comp feels like howling at the wind.”
hzomb says, “DavidW, Interpreters are fading away… soon we will only use browsers.”
MTW says, “i hope not”
maga says (to Sequitur), “Jota finished testing Lost Pig about seven months before the Comp deadline, and just sat on it until the comp rolled around”
mossdogmusic says, “I have the impression that Lynnea Glasser is similarly disciplined.”
maga says, “(I suspect that this would drive most authors into conniptions)”
mossdogmusic says, “…I would find that… tricky.”
Sequitur says, “I would probably tear out my own hair after two months”
Felix says, “I believe Bolivia By Night was released outside of any comp, and it’s reasonably famous.”
Sequitur says, “RE: Innovation though, it seems to me there’s a lot of historic resistence against “gameplay genres” forming in IF, beyond wordplay games which are fairly rare anyway.”
mossdogmusic says, “Bolivia By Night was a Spring Thing game.”
DavidW asks, “What’s a gameplay genre?”
hzomb says, “Genres? There are detective/crime stories, horror stories, adventures.”
Roger says, “Anchorhead was out-of-comp, I think”
Sequitur says, “Not that kind of genre.”
ASchultz says, “@statchannel theory”
maga says (to Roger), “sure, but that was very much in the early days of the comp”
hzomb says, “treasure hunt vs maze”
Sequitur says, “I mean genres analogous to what in games you would call an RPG, strategy, action game. Genre as defined by core interaction.”
hzomb says, “KerKerkruip has RPG/combat”
maga says, “broadly speaking there just hasn’t been enough parser IF made for it to have the luxury of splitting up into genres”
caleb asks, “it might be something to do with small sample size, where trends like setting (abandoned science base, etc.) stand out more than they do in something like the field of novels or short stories?”
Sequitur says, “For instance, you can imagine a world where there’s a whole lineage of linking-magic puzzle games spawned by Savoir-Faire – that core mechanic is VERY rich – but that never happened.”
ASchultz says, “sigh, ilac…I think it’s also hard to find real innovation in the parser, since our first reflex is to try for new verbs or something”
Sequitur says, “And I think it’s because IF authors, unlike typical game designers, are really afraid of stealing. It might have something to do with the authorialness of IF.”
maga says, “(insofar as a genre really needs a specially dedicated audience and its own spaces and modes of production and consumption for it to speciate)”
hzomb says, “That game with orphans is kind of a strategy/management sim.”
ASchultz says, “I agree, Sequitur. I really try to take what steps I can not to take something from another author”
maga says, “Olivia’s Orphanorium”
Felix says, “Graphical adventures have the room escape subgenre for example. There have been a few IF examples.”
DavidW says, “I’m surprised to hear that authors might be afraid to steal. The earliest adventures stole from written literature without qualms.”
hzomb says, “Tools shape thought.”
Sequitur says, “Stealing is how genres get going. At one point every FPS was referred to as a “Doom clone””
maga says, “but yeah, it’s not really as though it counts as a genre when it’s basically been OO, that section from Gigantomania, and that section from When Help Collides”
MTW says, “that might be another distinction between a Text Adventure and Interactive Fiction.”
ASchultz says, “well, maybe it’s just because when I imagine a possible solution, it seems like it could be copied, or has been done, from a player’s perspective, maybe with nouns switched”
caleb asks, “that doesn’t really seem like genre to me. maybe almost more medium?”
hzomb says, “It partly comes out in different ways of playing exploration/roleplaying/puzle-solving.”
Busta says, “It helps when the genre has a name. A review of a game saying “X is a new FPS by Y” sounds better than “X is a new doom-clone by Y”.”
Sequitur says, “Hence the phrase “gameplay genre.””
Sequitur says, “Yeah, but cf how rapidly people made up the (meaningless) phrase “MOBA” so they wouldn’t have to keep saying “DoTA clone””
DavidW says, “I’d describe Opal as a ‘puzzlebox’ game.”
hzomb says, “I was trying to name a genre for games without saves.”
Sequitur asks, “But we could name dozens of parser IF that could have been genre-spawning but wasn’t. How many one-move games are there that aren’t Aisle or an explicit parody of Aisle?”
maga says, “all those games in Apollo 18+20”
maga says, “and Rematch, and that’s about it”
caleb says, “there was one in shufflecomp too.”
Felix asks, “Do keyword-driven games count?”
jmac says, “We do have some genre-ish IFDB tags, e.g.;
hzomb says, “there are many choice-based examples (e.g. cog)”
mossdogmusic says, “Another genre possibility that isn’t quite – parser voice as narrative presence. I can think of Violet, Bellclap, and Smoochiepoodle. I suspect there are others.”
Felix says, “+1 for single-room games.”
DavidW says (to mossdogmusic), “There are a few others like that, yes.”
hzomb says, “I would call most single room games a puzzle-box.”
maga asks, “anyway, to bring things back to Parsercomp itself: how did people feel about the required-feedback element?”
hzomb says, “I think I submitted more feedback than I would have otherwise.”
maga says, “other than ‘woo I got a lot of feedback’, which I think we can take as read”
Sequitur says, “Obviously I didn’t judge so I have no idea how it was for people judging, but getting all of the feedback in one big ball at the end was a little harrowing.”
hzomb says, “But I procrastinated longer before voting.”
Busta says, “yeah, from the author side, I liked it:)”
DavidW says, “Mostly that I felt I had to vote not at the last minute, but the day before.”
Sequitur says, “Also someone who sent me feedback was helpful enough to include a gameplay transcript and I feel bad for them because Google Forms stripped all the newlines and it just came out as a blob of unreadable text.”
maga says (to Sequitur), “hunh, like the old-style Post-IF-Comp Explosion, yeah”
mossdogmusic says, “Yeah, that was kind of horrifying on my side (the transcript strip) – I think I would look for a way for people to submit transcripts to authors next time.”
Busta says (to Sequitur), “If it’s the same person who did the same for me, you should really read it. It’s a delight.”
caleb says, “it was interesting, to be sure. I’m not sure how much I like anonymous feedback, I find. Because a big part of feedback is figuring out how much you should listen to it, based on who gave it.”
ASchultz says, “I know it was a bit more to do on top of writing public reviews but it was worth it”
Sequitur says (to maga), “”Here is a dozen opinions with no context all at once,” it’s a bit much to process.”
hzomb says, “The blunt instrument is say 145 letter limit on text in the feedback form.”
Sequitur says (to Busta), “I should write a script to reinsert a newline before every >”
hzomb says, “Agree. Feedback should be a conversation.”
maga says, “I just linked to my reviews, because I am a lazy ass”
DavidW asks, “Would authors prefer to know who said what?”
ASchultz says, “Yes, I also think that I juggled feedback an dtranscripts”
Sequitur says, “I think I would, yeah.”
Busta says (to maga), “Your reviews couldn’t be less lazy”
ASchultz says, “I; With the result some authors didn’t get transcripts”
caleb says (to DavidW), “I would.”
Sequitur says, “One thing about public reviewers – you get to look at their other reviews. So you know whether that person really hated your game or they’re just a hardass, etc”
ASchultz says, “I like the option for identification if both the author and judge agree to it”
DavidW says, “Like, I’m okay with signing the voting form, if that’s what’s wanted.”
mossdogmusic says, “I can understand why authors would rather know who’s saying what, but I think there’s a lot to be said for giving anonymous feedback.”
hzomb says, “Reviews need to be more neutral than feedback (can make bland).”
Busta says (to DavidW), “I’m okay with anonymous. We’re a small community – I’d rather people feel they could provide honest feedback.”
ASchultz says, “also a small rule clarification (ok to put email in the anon form?) might be nice either way. I bet judges wondered if it was wrong or against the rules to do so”
mossdogmusic says, “It means that you can tell someone ‘hey, I didn’t like your game, here’s why’ without risk of it becoming personal.”
hzomb says (to mossdogmusic), “but the risk of abuse…”
Sequitur says, “People wanting their feedback to be anonymous have a valid point, but at the same time it’s hard to figure out how much you should listen to a piece of decontextualised anonymous feedback.”
maga says (to mossdogmusic), “well, it might already be personal”
mossdogmusic says, “It wasn’t abused.”
maga says, “this makes it asymmetric, which solves some problems and creates others”
Sequitur says, “Well, imagine if someone with a big online hate-following had chosen to enter, though.”
mossdogmusic says, “I can say that confidently – I compiled the form data by hand into the emails that went out. If anyone had attacked an author, I would have intervened.”
maga says, “wise”
hzomb says (to mossdogmusic), “the admin can suffer too”
Busta says, “If someone really wanted to attack an author, I doubt being anonymous would hold them back.”
mossdogmusic says, “If someone really wanted to attack an author, they could do it via Twitter.”
mossdogmusic says, “I mean, let’s be reasonable.”
mossdogmusic says, “No way to shield everyone from everything.”
Sequitur says, “Fair statement.”
ASchultz says, “Yeah, people can troll in public or private. It’s important to have defenses for that & I think there are”
mossdogmusic says, “And if anyone had decided to flood ParserComp with hate and ugliness – that would’ve been a pretty lousy experience for me.”
Sequitur says, “I spend a lot of my time observing the effect of the fount of horrors that is the worst corners of the internet and it may colour my perceptions & concerns a tiny bit.”
mossdogmusic says, “But in this particular case – anonymity meant the judges weren’t going to get attacked, and me standing in the way meant authors weren’t going to get attacked (at least via the judging form.)”
mossdogmusic says, “I will note that there was absolutely no abuse of the judging form. The only submission I even side-eyed was the person who wrote ‘this is good and I can’t think of 50 characters of feedback.'”
Busta says (to Sequitur), “It’s definitely important to be conscious of”
maga says, “yeah, if you’re running a comp it’s not something you can afford to not anticipate”
caleb says (to mossdogmusic), “if I had been a judge, I would have liked anonymous feedback. So I’m of two minds.”
Busta asks, “Do you think the feedback requirement prevented some people from voting?”
maga exclaims, “so another rule – which I don’t think was taken advantage of, but correct me if I’m wrong – was that prior release was technically allowed!”
mossdogmusic says, “The disadvantage to anonymity, though – if an author received confusing feedback, there was no way to ask ‘What did you mean?'”
hzomb says, “I think a web form can get more feedback (but the voting form was long)”
mossdogmusic says, “So that wasn’t ideal.”
DavidW says (to maga), “I think so, yes”
caleb says, “I think Mean Streets was previously released”
FloatingInfo says, “Mean Streets was pre-released and Adventurer’s Backyard had an open beta, I believe.”
maga says, “interesting”
DavidW says, “huh. I didn’t know that.”
mossdogmusic says, “Sunburn was also pre-released via Patreon.”
ASchultz says, “The confusing feedback/judging can be ameliorated a bit by sending transcripts. That makes the form less anoymous, but anyone who takes time to fill in a transcript isn’t probably trolling”
Busta says, “Considering you couldn’t start working on it until Nov, that was a very small window to write and then release”
hzomb says, “A transcript is low value without comments”
DavidW says, “I suppose allowing pre-released entries helped contribute to the low-stress nature of the comp.”
Busta says (to hzomb), “I disagree completely :)”
MTW says, “me 2”
hzomb says (to Busta), “ok if you never use testers”
Sequitur says, “Transcripts are invaluable but sometimes you do have to ask the person, “what the hell were you thinking””
mossdogmusic exclaims, “…please use testers!”
Sequitur says, “”Why would you think putting the cheese into the President of the United States was a valid solution to this puzzle,” etc.”
jmac says, “Authors (at least the Inform-using ones) love love love the automatically generated transcripts that IFComp provides. I will admit that I was surprised at the demand-nay-insistence for it.”
ASchultz says, “I also agree even a transcript w/o comments helps. You see where folks get stuck”
Felix says, “For beta-testing? Absolutely.”
mossdogmusic says, “Agree on value of transcripts. If someone’s leaving you comments, they’re thinking like a tester – but if someone’s just playing, they’re thinking like a player.”
caleb says, “and what lovingly detailed areas they fly past”
Busta says, “Transcripts are gold. Comments are definitely helpful for context, but most of the time I can figure out what’s going on without them”
mossdogmusic says, “Don’t need comments to be valuable.”
Felix says, “Or even places where you can do better even if they didn’t exactly get stuck.”
Sequitur says, “Usually just scanning a transcript for standard parser responses is helpful.”
mossdogmusic says, “Looping back to maga’s last question… I am not sure there was actual value in allowing previously released games in ParserComp. But since it wasn’t a prized competition, I don’t see any harm in it.”
Sequitur says, “It will invariably point out some synonym you didn’t think of (Someone invariably thinks of trying “ALIGHT BOAT ON DOCK”) or some point of clunky interaction.”
ASchultz says, “I think it was a good gesture. I hadn’t played any of the games in question”
hzomb says, “There wasn’t a problem with too few entrants.”
jmac says, “‘No previous releases’ is one of the two IFComp rules that generates the most friction with authors. If you can get away with not having that rule, by all means, don’t.”
maga says, “in a low-pressure comp it’s not particularly important, I agree”
DavidW asks (of jmac), “You’ve recently relaxed that rule for remakes, I think?”
ASchultz says, “I was glad IFComp relaxed rules to allow “based on” works like Paper Bag princess”
mossdogmusic says, “I think ‘no previous releases’ matters for IFComp because of IntroComp.”
jmac says (to DavidW), “For translations, specifically.”
DavidW says, “ah, okay”
mossdogmusic says, “IntroComp to IFComp would be a natural flow if it weren’t against the rules.”
maga says (to ASchultz), “Paper Bag Princess got permission, I believe”
maga says, “(it preceded the fanfic-is-OK rule-change)”
ASchultz says, “Yes, I think Adri asked Sargent if it was ok beforehand, and it helped allow this rule.”
ASchultz says, “And as it is, IFComp wasn’t flooded with fanfic, so this looks like a good ‘allow’ — but this is offtopic. Anything that lets you feel comfortable whenever you get a new idea or time to work on it is good”
ASchultz says, “And I wasn’t disappointed to learn 2 games had been previously released”
maga says, “I think the time limit effectively nerfs most of the effects of the pre-release rule, in any case”
Sequitur says, “Pretty much.”
mossdogmusic says, “True.”
maga says, “if someone had already released a game six months before and all the discussion had already happened, it might be a different story”
Sequitur says, “I wouldn’t even count Sunburn as being “previously released,” more like previewed”
Sequitur asks, “Wasn’t it just for Patreon supporters?”
Busta says, “I like that it allows authors to open beta their games too if they wanted”
mossdogmusic says, “Oh, might have been previewed. Wasn’t sure.”
maga asks, “OK, so was there anything else anybody wanted to cover before we wind down?”
Sequitur asks, “Can I plug the fact that Terminator Chaser has an update release?”
maga exclaims, “evidently!”
Busta exclaims, “Hooray for update releases!”
Sequitur says, “It’s not on IFArchive yet, but you can get it (and spend my AWS money) at;
mossdogmusic exclaims, “Hooray for update releases!”
Sequitur says, “(Also I put up my postmortem, which is… long.)”
caleb says (to sequitur), “that was really cool to read”
Busta says, “I enjoyed reading the postmortems that went up. I’m hoping to see more.”
maga says, “oh – not sure if anyone has noted this, but the top three games all had female protagonists.”
Sequitur says (to caleb), “I’m glad someone read it! I’m too lazy to put a comment system on my blog so I have no idea whether someone did.”
mossdogmusic exclaims, “I did notice!”
maga says, “(Dunno that there’s any discussion to be had about that, but still, neat)”
mossdogmusic says, “Also, hooray for postmorts! Really fascinating to get a look in everyone’s heads.”
Sequitur says, “Indeed, though I confess I hardly played any of the Parsercomp games”
ASchultz says, “I also enjoy the postmortems, see what I missed”
Sequitur says, “I think I only played Opal and Rats (Because I playtested it). All my IF time is going into a Spring Thing project right now.”
DavidW says (to maga), “I hadn’t noticed, actually.”
maga says, “I enjoy postmortems also (even if I don’t always have anything intelligent to add to them)”
Busta says (to Sequitur), “All the comping IS really cutting into play time”
Sequitur says, “(Besides the postmortem my blog also has a massive chunk of cut content from Terminator Chaser)”
Sequitur says, “Including all the explicit “this is why Ainsley has to die” exposition that didn’t make it into the game.”
maga says, “All right! Thanks again to Carolyn and all the authors for making the comp happen.”
caleb says (to sequitur), “speaking of female protagonists, I didn’t realize ainsley was gender-neutral until I read your postmortem”
hzomb says, “Thanks to players and voters.”
jmac exclaims, “Hooray!”
mossdogmusic exclaims, “Thank you all for playing and writing and judging, and for coming here to talk about it!”
DavidW says, “yes, thanks to Carolyn and the authors. Also hope to see ParserComp again next year.”
Sequitur asks (of caleb), “But did you assume they were male or female?”
mossdogmusic exclaims, “And, yay parser games!”
ASchultz says, “Me too. Thanks to all. ParserComp felt really cooperative”
caleb says (to sequitur), “female”
Busta exclaims, “Thanks everyone! Parsercomp was awesome! And thanks Carolyn for making the magic happen!”
ASchultz says, “Good to see authors testing each other’s games out, etc, and glad to be a part even w/o a game”
maga says, “This will be the last theoryclub under Emily’s auspices; if you have ideas about what to do in future… discuss.”
Sequitur says (to caleb), “To be honest, I basically wrote Ainsley as female (for what little writing there was) but with the understanding that the text itself would be ambiguous, so people had more leeway to fill in the blanks about how they related to the story.”
ASchultz says, “well too soon for a spring thing postmortem (May?) but we can think of something”
ASchultz says, “something for next month, maybe how to create believable NPCs? I’m saying this as someone who needs/wants to learn”
Sequitur says, “NPCs are hard.”
mossdogmusic says, “…spoken like someone who wants to see me come back next time….”
mossdogmusic says, “<– is full of opinions"
Sequitur says (to mossdogmusic), “As I pointed out in the postmortem, your advice on writing good parser NPCs was mainly “don’t””
maga says, “well, point is that if there’s going to be a next time, someone needs to take it over, one way or another”
maga says, “(and that discussion includes ‘is ifMUD really a good place for this’, etc.)”
Sequitur says, “IFMUD is kind of daunting for a lot of people, I suspect. I spent a lot of my misspent youth on MUDs and even I find it confusing.”
ASchultz says, “I would be sad to see it die, wish I’d attended more often. But I agree, even having some comfort with IFMud, I still feel a bit boxed in”
ASchultz says, “Find myself thinking about the commands a bit instead of the conversation”
DavidW says, “What was the name of the site Dave had me sign onto last night? As an alternate meeting place? S-something.”
hzomb says, “slack”
mossdogmusic says, “In general, the ifMUD interface is aversive for me. But my schedule makes it difficult for me to attend, so that shouldn’t carry weight if there’s enough of a quorum who prefer it.”
DavidW says, “ah, yes, that.”
mossdogmusic says, “Skype or Slack seem like good alternatives.”
mossdogmusic says, “(Skype in chat mode, not voice.)”
DavidW says, “I can’t do Skype. My ISP just isn’t good enough for it.”
Sequitur says, “Skype is kind of a horrible piece of software, especially on non-Windows boxes.”
mossdogmusic says, “Oh, nevermind then.”
maga says (to mossdogmusic), “I do not think you’re alone on this”
Sequitur says, “I have some long-running Skype chats that periodically devolve into “can we find a replacement for SKype yet” “turns out there isn’t one””
mossdogmusic asks, “Is Google chat a viable alternative for non-Windows users?”
Sequitur says, “Google chat doesn’t exist any more, it’s all google hangouts now. And yeah, I think it is.”
ASchultz says, “I just signed up for slack. I might mess with it, but my perception is, it seems workable for a one off to try”
Sequitur says, “There’s also IRC, which is similarly low-tech but easier for people to get into than the MUD.”
ASchultz says, “Well, hope to see everyone around soon (and to make it 2 months in a row) wherever we wind up, but I need to get going”
hzomb says, “ASchultz goodbye”
ASchultz says, “but definitely a post on and/or planet-if is a good idea in a couple weeks”
caleb says, “bye”
hzomb says, “Parting is such sweet sorrow…”
mossdogmusic says, “Sequitur – My original post was “hey, here are ways to avoid writing detailed NPCs” but, partially due to your feedback, I followed up with “but if you want to, here’s my advice.””
Sequitur says (to mossdogmusic), “I was being a bit facetious, I did read both of them (And they were very helpful)”
mossdogmusic exclaims, “Oh okay then. Was like… wait… trying to be helpful!”
mossdogmusic says, “Phew.”
mossdogmusic exclaims, “Anyway, I should get going too. Have a good night/day, everyone!”
hzomb says, “fare well”
caleb says, “me too. bye everyone”
maga says, “thanks, all”
hzomb says, “good talking”
Sequitur says, “Bye everyone”
Ghogg asks, “so is Slack a skype-type thing or something else?”
inky says, “more like irc”
Ghogg says, “huh”

One thought on “Transcript March 22: ParserComp Postmortem

  1. Sorry I had to miss this discussion! Two minor corrections:

    1. There were *three* games where the protagonist was a vampire. In two of them, it was never explicitly stated, so I won’t list the games due to spoilers…
    2. Adri got explicit permission from the author of Paper Bag Princess, not just permission from Sargent.

    I don’t know if anyone will be reading this so maybe I should be posting to the intfiction forum instead, but here are some more of my thoughts that I might have brought up in the conversation:

    As a judge I would definitely have appreciated an option to make my feedback & ratings non-anonymous, or maybe perhaps on a game-by-game basis. I hadn’t realized that the judges would have preferred non-anonymous feedback, which makes sense in retrospect. On the other hand, I chose not to sign my feedback because I thought it might not be fair to those judges who did want their feedback to remain anonymous. Not sure if that is a reasonable thing to think, though.

    In general I am in favor of more transparency in voting, and I was slightly disappointed to not see the full voting results (only top 3 in each category). I like ASchultz’s honorable mention idea. I appreciate the sentiment of not wanting to reveal which game got the lowest ratings, but, as an author of a non-commended ShuffleComp game, I would actually have liked to know exactly where I stood among the runner-ups. On the other hand, I suppose if there had been a feedback-required rule I would have gotten a good sense of what people thought of my game (I think the published-review-counts-as-a-commendation rule in ShuffleComp exacerbated that, since as far as I know nobody bothered to go back and publish negative reviews after voting was over).

    I wonder what the authors thought about the theme prompt? It seemed like all but two of the games had at least some attempt to incorporate the theme, and most seemed to be fully inspired by the theme. As a player, I enjoyed seeing the different angles people took on the theme, but I also was a little disappointed at how many games seemed to take the same angles (even down to two games having Terminator in the title)! I appreciate the idea of a prompt spurring creativity (it’s why I entered ShuffleComp and will again this year), but I wonder whether there were people who chose not to enter the comp because the theme didn’t work for them (e.g. because it didn’t fit their WIP), or whether those who did enter the comp felt more constrained than prompted. (I realize the theme was explicitly optional but I still wonder if it affected the way authors approached the comp, due to something like peer pressure or whatever.)

    I am also curious to see whether the existence of a ParserComp (whether or not it happens again) will affect the number/quality of parser games in IFComp. It could potentially divert parser games away from IFComp, if authors feel like they have a better chance competing against other parser games only; or, it could actually increase the turnout, if it has the effect of renewing interest in parser games (which seems like Caroyln’s intent). It’ll be interesting to see if either of these happens, or if they cancel each other out…

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