The judging period of IF Comp has two weeks remaining; it seems like a good time, before it’s over and we get down to dissecting the results, to remember that the Comp isn’t the only event in the IF calendar, and that this is a Very Good Thing.
No institution can be all things to all people. The Comp’s rules and expectations will work for some authors and be utterly horrible for others. Some authors aren’t ready for the pressure of the Comp, and would do better in gentler events; some can’t abide (or have practical reasons against) the ban on author discussion; some just don’t like the idea of game rankings. Fortunately, we’re well-supplied with alternatives at the moment.
Ectocomp is a light-hearted Halloween game-jam event: all games must be made in three hours. It has 10-point voting, but judges are more likely to go easy. The games are out now!
ParserComp is a brand-new, mid-length event being run by Carolyn VanEseltine this November-February, specifically to encourage the production of parser games. It also features more structured scoring system than the 1-10 scale used in many comps: instead judges will be awarding points across six categories (Writing, Story, Puzzles, Theme, Technical, Overall.)
On Nov 8, the Hand Eye Society is holding WordPlay, a “free one-day festival celebrating the most interesting uses of writing and words in contemporary games”; it’s primarily a Toronto mini-con, but also curates a showcase of texty works. (Submissions are closed at this point, but look out for it next year.)
The XYZZY Awards, running since 1996, aren’t really a comp; they recognise the best interactive fiction of the year. (I’ve been in charge of organising it for the past few years.) The Comp’s average-score voting system tends to reward games with broad popularity – meaning that avoiding detractors is as important as winning fans – the XYZZYs use a two-round first-past-the-post system for a variety of categories, anointing a rather different canon than the comp.
The XYZZY award for the best game of the year goes to an IFComp winner roughly one third of the time, and one third of the time it isn’t even nominated. Only Lost Pig in 2007 hit the jackpot (IFComp winner, highest [IFDB] rated game of the year, XYZZY award).
First-round voting generally begins in February. (If you want to make sure that a 2014 game is eligible for nomination, make sure that it has an entry on IFDB.)
Spring Thing has traditionally been a comp targeted at encouraging larger works of interactive fiction, with games released in early April. In 2015 it is likely to undergo a very substantial change of focus, probably removing the entry fee and aiming at more of a festival/showcase vibe. Stay tuned.
Introcomp, held around the middle of the year, specifically targets the introductions of games. Most IF competitions assume that the work you’re submitting is a complete story, but making games is hard; you might want some feedback before committing to a larger project. Voters score the intros according to how much they want to continue playing, so you still want to make something tested and polished, just a lot smaller. Only the rankings of the top three games are announced.
I came up with Shufflecomp earlier this year as a mid-level comp – less pressure than IF Comp, but a little more time and incentive to make something solid than a game jam/speed-IF event would allow. Participants submitted playlists of songs, which were then shuffled up and handed back out as writing prompts; rather than published rankings, the top 30% of games were declared Commended entries. For added entertainment, all participating authors went under pseudonyms, also drawn from shuffled-up lists. The comp will likely be reprised in late spring of 2015, under the new management of Neil Butters.
And there are always less-planned events over the course of the year – generally game jam / speed-IF type events for quickly-made works.