IFComp 2010: Leadlight

Wade Clarke is apparently something of a fan of the Apple II, as a little googling confirms. And Wade Clarke’s Leadlight is an Apple II game.

Spoilers follow the break.
Read more »

IFComp 2010: Ninja’s Fate

First up, a memorial piece by Hannes Schueller. Spoilers follow the break.
Read more »

IFComp 2007: Overview and promise

So, the comp is well and truly over for the year. The results are up. Lost Pig took first place, followed by An Act of Murder and Lord Bellwater’s Secret, an unusually strong showing for mysteries this year. Last place was taken by Paul Allen Panks, surprising no one, with his sole surviving game: of the three he entered, two were disqualified for violating comp rules. And somewhere in the middle, Deadline Enchanter took the Golden Banana of Discord, the unofficial award for the game whose votes had the largest standard deviation. I take a personal interest in the Banana, because my own 2001 entry, The Gostak, holds the record for highest standard deviation ever. I rated Deadline Enchanter low myself, but it certainly deserves the banana, being hard to understand and breaking convention as it does. I would have been disappointed if the award had gone to its runner-up, Gathered in Darkness, which is relatively normal and seems to have gotten as high a standard deviation as it did simply by only being playable under Windows and thus getting fewer votes than most games.

On the whole, this year’s comp seems substandard to me. Perhaps I’m growing curmudgeonly and difficult to satisfy, but I gave out no tens and an awful lot of threes. I think I lowered my standards as I went along — a few of the earlier games on my list, including Lost Pig, definitely got rated lower than I would have rated them later. This is why it’s important to play the comp games in a random order: to even out effects like that.

If this year’s comp has an overall theme, it’s inadequate testing. Several games were so buggy that I cannot believe that they had been tested at all, and one was acknowledged by the author to be outright impossible to win. This is a shame, and I have to accept part of the blame for it. One of the differences between amateur and professional game development is that professional outfits can be reasonably expected to hire testers. Amateur games have to rely on volunteers, and the sad fact is that finding volunteers with enough IF experience to give your game a meaningful workout is hard, especially as the comp deadline draws near. In the past, there have been some online resources to help authors find testers, but I don’t know if they’re still being maintained.

Writing criticism is always a little arrogant. Creating is hard, finding fault is easy. So it’s particularly shameful that we who criticize fail to do what we can to find fault before release, when it’ll be helpful. So, rather than just gripe, I intend to do something about it. I intend to test some games, and do it thoroughly as I am able. At minimum, I want to be a tester for at least ten of next year’s comp entries, and also as many works not entered in the comp as I can manage. Next summer, I will actively pursue entrants and badger them to give me beta copies of their games. This is my promise, and I make it here in front of everybody so I won’t have any excuse for forgetting it.

IFComp 2007: Adventure XT

And here we are at the third Panks game this year. Spoilers follow the break.
Read more »

IFComp 2007: Vampyre Cross

And next we have another game by Paul Allen Panks. Those of you who aren’t judging the Comp may be surprised that he could enter two games into the same competition. Well, in fact he didn’t. He entered three games. I’ll probably get to the third this weekend. Spoilers follow the break.
Read more »

IFComp 2007: Ghost of the Fireflies

So, now that the rules of the Interactive Fiction Competition allow blogging about comp games during the judging period, let’s get started. Choosing my first game at random, I got Ghost of the Fireflies by Paul Allen Panks. This did not bode well. Spoilers follow the break.
Read more »