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Annual IF Comp 2018

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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby David Whyld » Thu May 02, 2019 10:13 pm

But how is that going to affect his game? If anything, if he enters it into the IFComp, it'll do better if he has less competition due to the separated categories.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby The0didactus » Thu May 02, 2019 11:14 pm

Excuse the somewhat lengthy post but this is an important point that directly affects ADRIFT and the 2019 IFCOMP

Broadly, I oppose demarcating the two categories for three reasons:

1: The selfish reason: My own games deliberately blur the two categories as a way of hearkening back to my two favorite IF mediums: old "Adventure" games and the choose your own adventure book series. I am genuinely unsure whether my games count as "parser" or "CYOA" games. They clearly fall on a spectrum

* Six Silver Bullets: is a parser game where players move around by typing "north" etc. They pick up and examine items, solve puzzles, push buttons and switches, and open doors. However, every time players encounter an agent the game "freezes" and players select from a very small number of choices (2-4) in a single moment in time. This is the most important part of the game, what makes it "unique." In a typical game, this happens dozens of times and is the sole reason the game has replay value (as the choices change every time)

* Tingalan: is a perfect mix. Players move around by typing "North" etc. and two commands work in every location ("search" and "hide"). However, there are no real "puzzles". Instead, players pick from a huge list of items at the beginning of the game ("take axe" "take musket") and this inventory affects the options available to the player during CYOA-style encounters that pop up every 2nd or 3rd time players move. There are no objects to look at or interact with. Players usually can move in any direction they want (there is no traditional "navigation). Is Tingalan a parser or a CYOA?

* Skybreak: Seems like a CYOA. Players are presented with a small number of choices to "resolve" encounters based on a list of stats. These results change an enormous galaxy with lots of state, but there are no objects to look at or interact with. Players move around the map quite literally at random. Every interaction with the game is a single key ("1" "2" "3" "s") or a small key command ("gun" "tinker" "sp"). The only pure parser component is character dialog, which has no mechanical effect on the game or its state, and is simply a fun way to learn about the universe ("Ask Skyxxyk About Danishes"). the game is made with an engine CLEARLY designed for parser play (primarily as a way to promote ADRIFT).

If there are two categories, and a large number of people insist the difference is obvious, I stand to annoy a lot of people by entering my games into the "wrong" category, especially if it materially affects the prizes I win or the "place" I earn.

For sentimental reasons, I also want Skybreak, my most ambitious game, to compete with other adrift games. Skybreak is very much "an adrift game" and has, in it's DNA, ten thousand parser-style ADRIFT games that I started, then failed to finish, over the last decade or so. I don't want it relegated out of the category of "traditional IF" just because players pick from a menu of options.

2: The short-term survival reason: The questions I asked were not chosen at random, they were designed to show the advantage of a single category. Let's say we had two categories. Do we split the prize pool perfectly in half? A differential submission count or performance would make that REALLY fishy-looking: 15 parser games take half the money, and 60 CYOA's take the other half? the parser games all get like, 5s and 6s and the CYOA games all get like, 7s and 8s? Okay, so we come up with a solution, we like...uh...have two separate pools that people donate to.

Now what would happen if we do that? You should see it coming a mile away. The CYOA pool would get $8,500 in prize money and the parser pool would get $500. People care more about CYOA's and would donate accordingly. I submit that any splitting method would result in a "big main" competition featuring all the CYOAs and a "sad sideshow" featuring all the parsers. Think about last year: alias the magpie crushed it, the best game by far. If the competition had been split up, Alias would have no longer topped out an impressive list of CYOA finalists...it would have been in a sideshow featuring games, quite frankly, far lower down the list.

At present, we compete in the same prize pool and it's fun to think about how your game will "stack up" with all games. Will I win the golden bandanna of discord, or will that get taken by that other game that half the players seem to like and the other half seem to hate. How does my writing compare to Boogeyman? Isn't it cool how so many games have common themes of learning how to deal with death and loss? Which game clearly inspired by the old "gamebooks" will place highest?

Splitting the categories and saying the two kinds of games are incommensurate just makes everything less fun. now there's not one golden bandanna but two (or is there?). Now there's not one miss congeniality but two (or is there). Now my game isn't 31st overall but...a top fifteen game? I made a top fifteen game that's riddled with bugs? That's not right.

if the answer to my questions is something like "okay, all the prize categories except 'best game' are still available for all games" then this proves the categories are commensurate. If we can talk about a meaningful "widest variance" among all games, we can talk about a meaningful "highest rated" among all games.

3: the long-term survival reason: It seems abundantly clear that at least some people (like myself) are making games that have elements of both a parser game and a CYOA (Master of the land, Basilica De Sangre, and StupidRPG all did as well, Lux essentially came at it the other way, it's a choice-based game clearly inspired by parser games). They are at the very least eschewing the [room][item][character][command] format of a traditional parser (Kiwi is making a game like this right now). It's a good idea to show off the fact that ADRIFT can manage CYOA-like games, or games well beyond a "traditional parser" as a way to take on new players, and we get WAY more visibility if we're in one big list that everybody votes on, with results everybody cares about.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby P/o Prune » Fri May 03, 2019 8:03 am

David Whyld wrote:That's not really the point I was making, though, and you're comparing an actor in one film to an actor in another film. I said that TV shows and films were different and apparently the rest of the world agree with me as I've never known a TV show be nominated at Best Film or a film be nominated as Best TV Show.

That would probably be because they are two different "platforms" just as parser IF and CYOA are. Which is one good reason why to judge them separately.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby David Whyld » Fri May 03, 2019 9:02 am

That's my take on it exactly. Two different platforms so it makes sense to separate them into two categories.

As for the prize pool being divided? That's a pretty minor issue. If your motivation for writing games is financial gain, you're never likely to make much money, especially in the case of ADRIFT with its Windows-only Developer, dodgy online play and lack of updates. Only if you're a big name in the IF world writing in Inform - like Andrew Plotkin with Halcyon Lands - are you ever going to see any kind of profit. For the rest of us mere mortals, a part-time job at minimum wage would probably make more money per working hour than you'd see from winning the IFComp.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby The0didactus » Fri May 03, 2019 12:17 pm

I think you're misunderstanding the point of my questions. This has nothing to do with my own financial gain. As you correctly identified, I'd have netted more last year if these separate categories existed.

Okay so here's how it goes: IFCOMP currently has a large prize pool. This pool substantially differentiates IFCOMP from other competitions. It is, in large part, why it's a "big deal." (If it wasn't, the whole solution to this problem would be the three of us going out and making our own competition for parsers only.)

Currently, this pool forms the basis for all prizes in the game, all awards are calculated on the basis of a single "popularity" score by judges, including the "miss congeniality" awards (a great consolation prize if you didn't get 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, or even a top 10 game) and a "golden bandanna of discord" (which was the main prize I wanted to win last year, and a great consolation prize even if tons of people hated your game).

Because everyone is in the same pool and prizes and "wins" are apportioned by the same system, everyone has to care about everyone else. I have to think about how my game stacks up against Boogeyman and Erstwhile. Legions of COG-ites have to care about Anno 1700 and Stone of Wisdom. Six silver bullets gets more than a few negative reviews from people who prefer more traditional parsers, but plenty of positive reviews from people that prefer CYOA's.

Now let's split the competition apart. What happens? Do we have separate awards for every category? A miss congeniality for parsers and a golden bandanna for parsers, and so on. A separate prize pool for each? If the breakdown worked like last year, the two competitions would work like this: Roughly equal numbers of entrants, but CYOA's universally get higher ratings (and more ratings). A perfect 50/50 split makes no sense in this context, and a lot of people would be steamed. Alias the Magpie would no longer get to call itself "The best IF Game" but rather "The best parser game in the IF contest" and the CYOA's would be able to rightly say "no one cares about the parser category, CYOA games get more and better ratings."

If this split were to happen, say, this summer, I really don't know what category I'd enter Skybreak into. No matter which category I'd piss off somebody, probably a lot of somebodies. How would you feel, for example, if someone entered Lux or Basilica de Sagnre in the parser category? Now that takes one of the top spots despite having non-parser elements.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby David Whyld » Fri May 03, 2019 1:20 pm

All of that is pretty irrelevant. The only relevant point for me is whether I believe IF and CYOA games should be entered in the same category and I don't.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby The0didactus » Fri May 03, 2019 1:25 pm

If the pool and the prizes and the actual structure of IFCOMP are totally irrelevant, the solution is to just make your own contest where parser and CYOA's are in different categories, and only parser games get to call themselves "IF"
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby David Whyld » Fri May 03, 2019 1:43 pm

All of that is pretty irrelevant. The only relevant point for me is whether I believe IF and CYOA games should be entered in the same category and I don't.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby Lumin » Fri May 03, 2019 4:34 pm

I'm kind of conflicted on the whole issue still but I think Theo had a good point that separating the two would only further marginalize traditional IF in its own contest.

Not a great situation but it is the situation now. We're going to continue seeing parser IF gradually getting less votes and attention as it is I believe, but I don't think making it even easier for the average player to ignore them is the solution.

I don't really care about the IF Comp and the prize pool and the like either, but there could never be a category separation without somebody figuring all those details out and making an official ruling that would no doubt piss off everybody.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby The0didactus » Fri May 03, 2019 4:46 pm

As a broader point, I really don't like the idea that Tingalan or Skybreak have the distinct possibility of not "counting" as "interactive fiction" because they lack the broad interpretation/interaction techniques of traditional parser games, and generally present a list of options players "pick" from.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby David Whyld » Fri May 03, 2019 5:43 pm

Picture this scenario:

Parser and CYOA games remain in one category. Parser continues to decline, which is a given, while CYOA continues to ascend, which is also a given. Before too long, maybe in the next few years, we'll have an IFComp with not a single parser game in the top ten (it came close last year when just two of the top ten were parser) or even the top twenty. How does that benefit the parser scene? Most likely it'll have a domino effect in that potential entrants for future comps will see the poor showing of parser and decide the only chance they have to place high in the comp will be to write a CYOA instead. As a result, parser declines still further. If the best placed parser game in a comp comes in at 45 behind 44 CYOA games, will anyone give a damn?

At some point, someone will likely ask "why didn't we just have separate categories for them?"
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby Lumin » Fri May 03, 2019 7:26 pm

Just a random idea as a theoretical compromise (since this whole conversation is theoretical anyway and affects nothing in the actual comp...) but would we all feel the same need for this splitting of categories if CYOA style games had a minimum word count? That would at least remove the issue of 'here's a sad clicky thing about social issues isn't it profound it took me 15 minutes UwU'. *gets 500 more players than any IF game*

(Assuming these kind of games are even an issue in the actual IF Comp anymore, I've been out of the loop awhile and didn't play any twine entries this year, but I've seen plenty like that on the IFDB....)

A CYOA of 60,000 words or so I'd respect as having taken a comparable amount of effort to your average IF game, probably around two months of steady work. More importantly it would mean the comp couldn't just be absolutely flooded with them which I think is the real issue here for many of us.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby The0didactus » Fri May 03, 2019 8:00 pm

This is sort of my point. The real objection here doesn't seem to be between "good old fashioned parser games" and "choose your own adventure games" it's between "games that take a lot of genuine work and playtesting" and "games that you can build AND play in less than half an hour" I think a lot of David's discomfort with calling my stuff CYOA's (at least, he doesn't seem to be willing to commit to that) is that with my stuff there is still a lot of interactivity (north, south, search, inventory, spell, steal the treasure, seduce the dragon, slay the dragon, tell a story) versus very little (Do you A: Do the sad social issue thing or B: do the other sad social issue thing). Also my stuff always has a "game state" that continues from choice to choice, while many CYOA's do not (so skybreak tracks your inventory, your stats, your reputation with 12 galactic powers, your ship's condition, your biography, the amount of various kinds of lore you know, the members of your crew, your relationship status, how close you are to becoming a god, etc.)

But this is not a parser/CYOA distinction, this is a "the way parsers are often built"/"The way CYOA's are often built" distinction. For example the 2018 entry Lux had an absurd amount of gamestate, plus many features that are reminiscent of parsers (an inventory, puzzles based on item/object combinations, rooms you move through freely, cosmetic descriptions of objects that gave clues). It rightly competes with Parsers like Anno 1600 and Six Silver Bullets, and justly deserved to "beat them" even though it's entirely a "clicky" game. Basilica de Sangre and Master of the land are similar.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby David Whyld » Fri May 03, 2019 8:36 pm

The0didactus wrote:The real objection here doesn't seem to be between "good old fashioned parser games" and "choose your own adventure games" it's between "games that take a lot of genuine work and playtesting" and "games that you can build AND play in less than half an hour"


If you've got that from reading my posts, then you've got it completely wrong. Both parser and CYOA can take an age to write or next to no time at all. There are plenty of parser games on the ADRIFT site which probably took an hour to write, weren't tested or even proofread, and they're drivel. At the same time, there are a great deal of CYOA games which have had considerable time and effort put into them and they're of very high quality. You can have games of both types fall into the camps of "cr*p, no effort put into it" and "great, had lots of effort put into it".

What on earth any of that has to do with whether parser and CYOA games should be judged in the same category in the IFComp is beyond me.

The0didactus wrote:I think a lot of David's discomfort with calling my stuff CYOA's


You seem to read a lot into what I haven't said and ignore the things I have. I haven't played any of your games so I've no idea whether they're parser, CYOA or a mix of the two. You even asked me earlier on if I'd class one of your games as parser or CYOA and I said then that I hadn't played it.
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Re: Annual IF Comp 2018

Postby The0didactus » Fri May 03, 2019 8:45 pm

It matters because people need to know what category to submit their games into. Especially if the distinction is "obvious", and especially if the disctinction is "obvious" and has a material effect on who "wins" or "places"

Okay, let's go entirely with hypotheticals because I'm genuinely curious.

I intend to make a game that is largely a 'walking simulator', all you do is walk around. You don't even type "look" you just see descriptions. The allure of the game is that it's massive, thousands of locations, all very different. At each location, you see a description, and move on.

1: Game A is a walking sim that has a clickable compass rose, game B is substantially the same game but requires you to type "north, south, etc". Is Game A a CYOA? Is Game B a parser?

2: I add some stuff. Now there is rudimentary dialog. Every NPC has 20 conversation topics. Game A presents a list of clickable topics. Game B requires you to type each topic but there are still only 20. Is game A still a CYOA? Is game B still a parser?

3: I add some more stuff, but what i add is very different for each game. For game A, I add a huge, entirely cosmetic, parser component. You can now pick up and look at items by typing take X, look at X, etc. These items do nothing, but there are tons of them everywhere and you can carry them around. Is Game A now a parser game?

4: For game B, I add a huge CYOA component. Recall that all other elements of this game are a parser, but now random locations present with huge clickable CYOA story options, none of which are connected to any other part of the walking sim. This amounts to 100,000 words of text or more. Have I turned a parser game into a CYOA?

EDIT: Also it's worth adding that if the answer to any of these questions is "it's neither a CYOA nor a parser" then we have to create THREE categories for IF games submitted to IFCOMP. There were a few games last year that I'm not sure really count as parsers or CYOAs
Last edited by The0didactus on Fri May 03, 2019 8:58 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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