I looked forward to entering IF Comp all of this year, as my reward for finishing an unexpectedly difficult story (due at the end of August). I’d done a bit of research and written the opening. The first week of September I did barely anything. I was utterly exhausted—and besides, I had two months to write this thing. It was gonna be fine.
Then I realised I had the date wrong. The IF Comp deadline is the end of September, not October. And I wrote like a wild thing, often writing 5000 words a day. Then, with 48 hours to go, I went to the web site to do an upload test and… I couldn’t. Because the deadline had passed.
I’d got it wrong twice. It was due 28 September, not 30 September.
The good news is… it doesn’t really matter. It’s going to be a Hosted Game eventually anyway, which will get me more money than the IF Comp anyway. I’m going to take the extra time to write another couple of chapters and of course much more editing. It’s a great game, I think. Here’s the cover:
It’s a prequel to “Choices That Matter: And Their Souls Were Eaten”, which means it’s a prequel to alllll my steampunk tales. It starts in late-1700s France (a rather exciting time) and the player character is a mad scientist who gets off death row by volunteering to be the first person to fly in a hot air balloon. If you want to help edit it (and read it for free), go ahead and email email@example.com.
But the point of this entry isn’t that. It’s the IF Comp, which I can now judge freely (although I can’t rank anything I beta tested).
So here’s my method for selection: I scrolled past the first ten or so entries, on the basis that most people would start from the top (and a strong minority would start from the bottom), so I should start from the middle (this was unnecessary because the comp automatically shuffles entries for you anyway). I went right past everything parser-based (parser makes me cry, possibly because of the same brain damage that made me get the due date wrong twice). I also skipped anything dealing with suicide, death, or horror. Or experimental (again, brain damage – I’m already confused, and don’t want more confusion on top of that), poetry (which is more or less experimental, isn’t it?). Also anything that’s too close to my real life (making money, raising children), because that’s way too stressful. And I skipped most of the super-short ones on the basis that they should get plenty of readers.
I’m gonna try and do five today. Five is the minimum amount for a judge to do, so if I can do five today then I have room to not do any more (assuming the rest of life overwhelms me, as it usually does).
So here is my opening impression of the comp, based on skimming through less than half of the entries:
People definitely put a lot less time into a lot of these than I did into “Flight”. Some don’t have cover images at all, and a lot of others look terrible. (I confess, I have a weakness for beautiful imagery, which isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for a good cover. Still.) I gather a lot of people joined the competition for the same fundamental reason I did—for fun. But I was aiming for a top ten finish, which meant writing a game that was between 1.5 and 2 hours (the rule is “judge on the first two hours of game play” but games with more content tend to do better), and highly polished.
I’m going to try to be a harsh critic, just so I can differentiate good games from brilliant. So if a game is fundamentally perfect, I’ll give it a 4. If I think it might win outright because it’s so incredibly amazing, I’ll give it a 5. Anything else gets less.
Wish me luck. I’m diving in…
Edited to add: So, games are scored out of 10, not 5. I adjusted my official scores accordingly.