Is two hours enough?

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Jon Ripley

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Dec 14, 2005, 10:46:50 PM12/14/05
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Due to recent competitions and discussions of the DOs and DON'Ts for
authors I have been pondering the two hour rule from my own personal
authorship standpoint.

When I sit down and write a game I always aim to include five to seven
hours of gameplay for the reasonably competent player. For a more
involved game I'm looking at making it take a few days to complete.
Maybe it's just because I come from an era where games took several days
to complete but I find myself left disappointed when I pick up a new
game and put it back down finished within a few cups of coffee. There is
so much that can be explored in the game world when it is not
artifically constrained by completion time and I genuinely find it
difficult to write short games.

It is only with my smallest games, by limitations of competition,
machine, etc, that I have managed to achieve two hours or less of
gameplay and each time there are usually several potential chapters of
game that have been left out.

Is two hours the average attention span a player has today, is it just a
force of nature due to the changing realities of the business we are in
or am I just focusing too much on the judging conditions for some of the
competitions?

Jon Ripley
PS There is a series of RPGs I collect and play where the completion
time is always in excess of 50 hours and well over 100 hours is required
to fully complete the game. If these were reduced to even 35 hours or
less I would be disappointed.
--
http://jonripley.com/

ems...@mindspring.com

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Dec 14, 2005, 11:27:48 PM12/14/05
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Jon Ripley wrote:
> Is two hours the average attention span a player has today, is it just a
> force of nature due to the changing realities of the business we are in
> or am I just focusing too much on the judging conditions for some of the
> competitions?

The latter, I think: the IF Comp encourages people to write games that
can be judged (and therefore can be completely played) in two hours or
less. Whether this is a good thing is a topic of long-standing debate
in the community, so I think it is safe to say that quite a few people
do still value and want to see longer games.

The other point here is that the ratio of play-time to game-content has
changed since the 80s. Puzzles tend to be fairer and require less
replaying from the start; this means that the player sees more actual
game for a given time investment. Moreover, people tend to be less
patient with stuckness, and to rely heavily on hints when those are
available. By way of demonstration: when I first released Savoir-Faire,
players reported play-times of 15-25 hours. The average play-time
recorded for the game on the IF ratings site now (after the release of
a walkthrough and hints) is 2-6 hours. Even Christminster (which I got
about a third of the way into after 15 hours of mostly-hintless play)
receives a 6-12 hour average from the site.

I think what this means for you is that you should go ahead and write
larger games if that is where your interests lie; people who want to
play them faster will rely on online helps. Others will relish the
challenge and go through at the intended pace.

Andrew Plotkin

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Dec 14, 2005, 11:28:30 PM12/14/05
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Here, Jon Ripley <ne...@jonripley.com> wrote:
>
> Is two hours the average attention span a player has today, is it just a
> force of nature due to the changing realities of the business we are in
> or am I just focusing too much on the judging conditions for some of the
> competitions?

I'd hate to make assertions about average IF attention spans --
certainly mine has been crushed down to a matter of seconds by general
work and life pressures.

However, it's worth noting that the original IFComp "two hour" rule
was *not* invented because players hated long games. It was invented
to encourage people to *write* IF -- people who might otherwise be
daunted by the prospect of writing a "standard" (Infocom-sized) game.

And also to spur the evolution of the field, by providing a venue for
short, experimental games.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
I'm still thinking about what to put in this space.

Samwyse

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Dec 15, 2005, 12:39:18 AM12/15/05
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Jon Ripley wrote:
> Is two hours the average attention span a player has today, is it just a
> force of nature due to the changing realities of the business we are in
> or am I just focusing too much on the judging conditions for some of the
> competitions?

Two hours is an arbitrary limit for Comp games. It was chosen so that
anyone judging could reasonably expect to complete a large fraction if
not all of the games that are entered. If your game takes more than two
hours, don't expect it to do well in the Comp. Otherwise, there are
lots of games being released than take more than two hours (Dreamhold
comes immediately to mind), they're just released outside of the Comp.

Aaron A. Reed

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Dec 15, 2005, 2:08:09 AM12/15/05
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Jon Ripley wrote:
> PS There is a series of RPGs I collect and play where the completion
> time is always in excess of 50 hours and well over 100 hours is required
> to fully complete the game. If these were reduced to even 35 hours or
> less I would be disappointed.

Presumably, you're referring to console RPGs like "Final Fantasy" and
the like, and if so, I'll point out that the vast majority of those
hours are spent in either combat, which is either a simple strategy
game or button mashing, or in non-interactive cut scenes. Most
interactive fiction is an entirely different animal from either. You
can bet a console RPG wouldn't have 100 hours of gameplay if you
actually had the ability to affect the story every 20 seconds.

For me, at least, it's the incredibly rare work of IF that I even
*feel* like spending more than two hours with. The story has to be
interesting, the world fully realized, and the puzzles challenging and
hinted for me to really get into IF. This has something to do with the
short attention span of modern life, as Andrew mentioned above, but
it's also just a fact of the medium: back when IF was about the only
computer-based form of entertainment, it could get away with a lot that
it can't today when there's hundreds of flashier, bigger-budget
attractions.

All things considered, I'd much rather play a game that fully holds my
interest and attention for two hours, than slog through a 20 hour game
with four hours of interesting content mingled with tedium.

ems...@mindspring.com

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Dec 15, 2005, 3:00:55 AM12/15/05
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Aaron A. Reed wrote:
> For me, at least, it's the incredibly rare work of IF that I even
> *feel* like spending more than two hours with. The story has to be
> interesting, the world fully realized, and the puzzles challenging and
> hinted for me to really get into IF.

Anchorhead comes to mind: it wouldn't have been nearly such an
effective game if it had been stripped down, somehow, to two hours of
play. A two-hour rendition might have been able to capture the major
plot points, but not the gradual discovery and suspense.

But if you're not extending playtime by making the player stuck, you
have to extend it instead by providing a huge amount of content -- and
meaningful content, at that. Not so easy.

Haarfagre

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Dec 15, 2005, 10:30:45 AM12/15/05
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emshort:

> Jon Ripley wrote:
> > Is two hours the average attention span a player has today, is it just a
> > force of nature due to the changing realities of the business we are in
> > or am I just focusing too much on the judging conditions for some of the
> > competitions?

Maybe those that grew up with text adventures in the 80 are used to and
enjoy spending days, months even.. taking their time in solving the
game for as long as it takes without help? We had more time those
days..

> The latter, I think: the IF Comp encourages people to write games that
> can be judged (and therefore can be completely played) in two hours or
> less. Whether this is a good thing is a topic of long-standing debate
> in the community, so I think it is safe to say that quite a few people
> do still value and want to see longer games.

I want to see longer games.

> The other point here is that the ratio of play-time to game-content has
> changed since the 80s. Puzzles tend to be fairer and require less
> replaying from the start; this means that the player sees more actual
> game for a given time investment.

> Moreover, people tend to be less
> patient with stuckness, and to rely heavily on hints when those are
> available. By way of demonstration: when I first released Savoir-Faire,
> players reported play-times of 15-25 hours. The average play-time
> recorded for the game on the IF ratings site now (after the release of
> a walkthrough and hints) is 2-6 hours. Even Christminster (which I got
> about a third of the way into after 15 hours of mostly-hintless play)
> receives a 6-12 hour average from the site.

Patience is a virtue that is not eagerly pursued in our western
society.

> I think what this means for you is that you should go ahead and write
> larger games if that is where your interests lie; people who want to
> play them faster will rely on online helps. Others will relish the
> challenge and go through at the intended pace.

People who want to play a game faster, should not spoil their game by
prematurely looking up hints, but rather do something else entirely.

Adam Thornton

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Dec 15, 2005, 12:15:39 PM12/15/05
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In article <KG5of.53588$Ms6....@fe1.news.blueyonder.co.uk>,

Jon Ripley <ne...@jonripley.com> wrote:
>Is two hours the average attention span a player has today, is it just a
>force of nature due to the changing realities of the business we are in
>or am I just focusing too much on the judging conditions for some of the
>competitions?

You're focussing too much on the IFComp, is what you're doing.

Long games don't belong in the IFComp, but that doesn't mean they don't
belong.

Adam

Adam Thornton

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Dec 15, 2005, 12:17:30 PM12/15/05
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In article <dnqrde$sbl$1...@reader1.panix.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>However, it's worth noting that the original IFComp "two hour" rule
>was *not* invented because players hated long games. It was invented
>to encourage people to *write* IF -- people who might otherwise be
>daunted by the prospect of writing a "standard" (Infocom-sized) game.
>
>And also to spur the evolution of the field, by providing a venue for
>short, experimental games.

With the side note that playing 30 2-hour games in a month and a half is
not prima facie insane. Playing 30 7-hour games in the same stretch
would be.

Adam

Gregory Weir

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Dec 15, 2005, 11:29:47 AM12/15/05
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Haarfagre wrote:
> People who want to play a game faster, should not spoil their game by
> prematurely looking up hints, but rather do something else entirely.

But what if players are not spoiling their game by prematurely looking
up hints? A player could desire a game experience where they poke at a
puzzle a few times, and if they can't figure it out, go to hints so
that they can see what comes next. I think that's a valid gameplay
choice, even if it is different than what the author intends. If the
author really wants to prevent players from doing that, they have the
option of not including hints... although if someone else wants to
release a walkthrough for the game, I think that's okay, too.

Gregory Weir

Andrew Plotkin

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Dec 15, 2005, 11:30:17 AM12/15/05
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Here, Aaron A. Reed <aar...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> All things considered, I'd much rather play a game that fully holds my
> interest and attention for two hours, than slog through a 20 hour game
> with four hours of interesting content mingled with tedium.

Well, there's a balanced comparison. :)

Risujin

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Dec 15, 2005, 12:43:29 PM12/15/05
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Jon Ripley wrote:
> When I sit down and write a game I always aim to include five to seven
> hours of gameplay for the reasonably competent player. For a more
> involved game I'm looking at making it take a few days to complete.
> Maybe it's just because I come from an era where games took several days
> to complete but I find myself left disappointed when I pick up a new
> game and put it back down finished within a few cups of coffee. There is
> so much that can be explored in the game world when it is not
> artifically constrained by completion time and I genuinely find it
> difficult to write short games.

I would say try to boil down your ideas to only the most innovative. You
may be able to rewrite the greatest of the greats and perhaps a new
generation might enjoy it as new, but the rest of us have seen just
about everything. Very few authors can genuinely fill even two hours
with good ideas.

Partly for this reason, and partly because of the limits of our stamina,
movies are rarely longer than two hours (and they're called epics if
they are). Even with this, up to an hour or more is often "wasted" with
car chases and recycled ideas.

The bottom line is you're going to have to be harsh with yourself. You
need to seek some good feedback to find what is genuinely new in your game.

> PS There is a series of RPGs I collect and play where the completion
> time is always in excess of 50 hours and well over 100 hours is required
> to fully complete the game. If these were reduced to even 35 hours or
> less I would be disappointed.

RPGs do not feature 100 hours worth of innovative material. The core
plots of the likes of Final Fantasy can be boiled down to a paragraph,
if even. It has been said here before, but you can't emphasize enough
that RPGs are more games than fiction. I loved it when I was younger but
these days I feel miserable after being forced to slog through hours
worth of "leveling up" before having enough points of some sort or
another to jump through the next burning hoop.

It depends on how much time you have on your hands. IF players tend to
be older than our button-mashing brethren, we have work, school, and the
like sucking up our free time. When your time becomes precious you
object strongly to filler and 100-hour games. For some of us it would
take months to finish such a game.

-- Risujin

Mike Snyder

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Dec 15, 2005, 1:46:01 PM12/15/05
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"Risujin" <ris...@fastmail.fm> wrote in message
news:5Xhof.4716$0e....@tornado.rdc-kc.rr.com...

>> PS There is a series of RPGs I collect and play where the completion time
>> is always in excess of 50 hours and well over 100 hours is required to
>> fully complete the game. If these were reduced to even 35 hours or less I
>> would be disappointed.
>
> RPGs do not feature 100 hours worth of innovative material. The core plots
> of the likes of Final Fantasy can be boiled down to a paragraph, if even.
> It has been said here before, but you can't emphasize enough that RPGs are
> more games than fiction. I loved it when I was younger but these days I
> feel miserable after being forced to slog through hours worth of "leveling
> up" before having enough points of some sort or another to jump through
> the next burning hoop.
>
> It depends on how much time you have on your hands. IF players tend to be
> older than our button-mashing brethren, we have work, school, and the like
> sucking up our free time. When your time becomes precious you object
> strongly to filler and 100-hour games. For some of us it would take months
> to finish such a game.

The longest game I've played in recent memory was "Star Wars: Knights of the
Old Republic" (the first one) on XBox. It took a little over 50 hours, if I
recall correctly. For me, this was a huge investment of time -- not wasted,
but still a lot more time than I would ordinarily hope to spend on a single
game. In real time, these 50 hours were spread out over several months.

The last two games I played to completion were Silent Hill 3 (finishing in
about 10 hours) and Psychonauts (maybe 20 hours -- I don't remember
exactly). Still, this was spread out over several weeks.

For some reason, I don't enjoy spreading Interactive Fiction out over so
much time. I'm not sure why, but now's as good a time as any to speculate.
Maybe I just haven't played much long IF, except at times when the length
came from being stuck. The longest IF game I've played -- ever, I think --
was Return to Ditch Day, and that was only eight hours spread over three
days, with hints. Maybe I start to lose interest after playing too long in
one sitting.

I hope this is just me, though, and not true of most other IF players.
Otherwise, there won't be much incentive to write long games if nobody plays
long games. I'm thinking about working on something of good size, but I may
take a cue from video games. Instead of one or a few really large areas with
really large puzzles, maybe something with more breaks -- like chapters --
would be easier on players. This way, it's easier to play parts at a time,
and always feel like there is a good stopping point to resume later. Plus,
if done right, each section could resolve some minor point from the prior
chapter, while hanging on a new mystery to bring the player back next time.
It's pretty much like chapters in a book, and long works of IF might
(probably?) already do this. I just don't know, having not played many.

---- Mike.


ems...@mindspring.com

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Dec 15, 2005, 1:58:07 PM12/15/05
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Haarfagre wrote:
> > I think what this means for you is that you should go ahead and write
> > larger games if that is where your interests lie; people who want to
> > play them faster will rely on online helps. Others will relish the
> > challenge and go through at the intended pace.
>
> People who want to play a game faster, should not spoil their game by
> prematurely looking up hints, but rather do something else entirely.

My experience suggests that players play in whatever way they think
will provide them with the most entertainment. If this turns out to be
looking up hints because they are eager to go on to the next step, then
maybe the aspect of the game that intrigues them is not puzzle-solving
but exploring or experiencing the story. And if the "intended"
plot/game structure is too buggy or ill-designed, they may spend some
time kicking the furniture legs and typing in obscenities until this
ceases to be entertaining.

The thing is, there's not a lot the author can do to control how
players play, and (in my opinion) not much reason to try. I suspect
that filmmakers don't expect/desire me to watch their movies on an
airplane, or as background noise while I cook, or whatever; and it's
true that I'm probably depriving myself of some of the artistic
experience by dividing my attention that way. But I don't feel this to
be a great moral failing on my part, just a choice about how I spend my
time.

Haarfagre

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Dec 15, 2005, 2:31:14 PM12/15/05
to

emshort:

> Haarfagre wrote:
> > > I think what this means for you is that you should go ahead and write
> > > larger games if that is where your interests lie; people who want to
> > > play them faster will rely on online helps. Others will relish the
> > > challenge and go through at the intended pace.
> >
> > People who want to play a game faster, should not spoil their game by
> > prematurely looking up hints, but rather do something else entirely.
>
> My experience suggests that players play in whatever way they think
> will provide them with the most entertainment. If this turns out to be
> looking up hints because they are eager to go on to the next step, then
> maybe the aspect of the game that intrigues them is not puzzle-solving
> but exploring or experiencing the story.

Well said, I share your point. We need to care for everybody.

> And if the "intended"
> plot/game structure is too buggy or ill-designed, they may spend some
> time kicking the furniture legs and typing in obscenities until this
> ceases to be entertaining.

I was assuming a well-crafted bug-free game which under no circumstance
could put you in an unwinnable state without stating so first.

> The thing is, there's not a lot the author can do to control how
> players play, and (in my opinion) not much reason to try.

I think there are of reasons to try (but not 'control' in your sense of
the word) , ie. by planting enough hints directly through gameplay in
interactive texts. Build a strong enough setting which is coherent and
makes sense.

> I suspect that filmmakers don't expect/desire me to watch their
> movies on an airplane, or as background noise while I cook, or
> whatever; and it's true that I'm probably depriving myself of some
> of the artistic experience by dividing my attention that way.
> But I don't feel this to be a great moral failing on my part, just a
> choice about how I spend my time.

It's not a moral failure at all, it's a question of time.

Haarfagre

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Dec 15, 2005, 2:55:11 PM12/15/05
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Gregory Weir:

> Haarfagre wrote:
> > People who want to play a game faster, should not spoil their game by
> > prematurely looking up hints, but rather do something else entirely.
>
> But what if players are not spoiling their game by prematurely looking
> up hints?

Then it's perfectly ok.

> A player could desire a game experience where they poke at a
> puzzle a few times, and if they can't figure it out, go to hints so
> that they can see what comes next. I think that's a valid gameplay
> choice, even if it is different than what the author intends. If the
> author really wants to prevent players from doing that, they have the
> option of not including hints... although if someone else wants to
> release a walkthrough for the game, I think that's okay, too.

Well said.

James Mitchelhill

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Dec 15, 2005, 3:17:43 PM12/15/05
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Choosing not to include hints is also a valid game design choice. With
_Chancellor_ in this year's IFComp, I thought the lack of hints added to
the game (although I may be in a minority). With that game, if I'd been
able to access hints, I would have done so. The lack of them forced me
to explore deeper and more intensively than I would otherwise have done,
which, aside from a fair amount of frustration, led to a much deeper and
more rewarding game-experience than I'd otherwise have had.

This is probably a tricky line for an author to walk though. Chancellor
seems to have succeeded with a handful of people who absolutely loved
it, but failed with more.

--
James Mitchelhill
ja...@disorderfeed.net
http://disorderfeed.net

Rikard Peterson

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Dec 15, 2005, 3:30:12 PM12/15/05
to

"Risujin" wrote in news:5Xhof.4716$0e....@tornado.rdc-kc.rr.com:

> I would say try to boil down your ideas to only the most
> innovative. You may be able to rewrite the greatest of the greats
> and perhaps a new generation might enjoy it as new, but the rest
> of us have seen just about everything. Very few authors can
> genuinely fill even two hours with good ideas.
>
> Partly for this reason, and partly because of the limits of our
> stamina, movies are rarely longer than two hours (and they're
> called epics if they are). Even with this, up to an hour or more
> is often "wasted" with car chases and recycled ideas.

That's movies. Books, on the other hand, are rarely as short as two
hours. Two hours is a good length for something meant to be experienced
in a single sitting, something that's not neccessarily true for a game.

Rikard

Eric Smith

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Dec 15, 2005, 3:53:09 PM12/15/05
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Aaron A. Reed wrote:
> All things considered, I'd much rather play a game that fully holds my
> interest and attention for two hours, than slog through a 20 hour game
> with four hours of interesting content mingled with tedium.

Ah, so you've played "Bureaucracy".

ems...@mindspring.com

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Dec 15, 2005, 4:14:10 PM12/15/05
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James Mitchelhill wrote:
> Choosing not to include hints is also a valid game design choice. With
> _Chancellor_ in this year's IFComp,...

Yeah, this is true, but the IFComp allows more authorial control over
this sort of thing, because people aren't allowed to discuss the games
during judging. Release a game outside the comp, and stuck players will
post to rgif for hints, and/or create walkthroughs and hint guides of
their own.

ems...@mindspring.com

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Dec 15, 2005, 4:38:41 PM12/15/05
to

Mike Snyder wrote:
> I'm thinking about working on something of good size, but I may
> take a cue from video games. Instead of one or a few really large areas with
> really large puzzles, maybe something with more breaks -- like chapters --
> would be easier on players. This way, it's easier to play parts at a time,
> and always feel like there is a good stopping point to resume later. Plus,
> if done right, each section could resolve some minor point from the prior
> chapter, while hanging on a new mystery to bring the player back next time.
> It's pretty much like chapters in a book, and long works of IF might
> (probably?) already do this.

Several do some sort of chaptering, yes. Anchorhead and Christminster
are divided into sections by time: you get through certain tasks, and
then the time advances and more possibilities open up, though you still
have access (mostly) to the same parts of the map. I haven't finished
Christminster, but in the case of Anchorhead I found this partitioning
pretty effective. It's probably the closest example to what you
describe, because at the end of each "day" segment you usually have
some improved sense of what is going on, but you don't have a chance to
explore more until the next morning rolls around.

Another approach is to segment the map, so that sections are more or
less self-contained challenges and don't affect one another too much.
Jigsaw is quite explicitly -- what, 16 scenes, I think, plus a framing
scene -- and so it is easy to measure progress in terms of how many of
these you've managed to get through. So Far also has distinct worlds
laid out in order, and I believe something similar is true of Losing
Your Grip, though I have not finished it. Heroine's Mantle has a series
of consecutive missions.

And then you have games like Rematch, Varicella, Lock & Key, etc.,
which need to be played a number of times, but each individual playing
need not be too long.

In contrast, I recall First Things First and Spider and Web as less
clearly divided and more continuous. This may be coincidence, but I
played both of those games more or less at a single (very long)
stretch, asking other people for suggestions or turning to hints when
necessary rather than stop playing.

James Mitchelhill

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Dec 15, 2005, 5:32:06 PM12/15/05
to

I suspect it's also a matter of the length of the game. A long game will
generate hint requests and walkthroughs. A shorter game is unlikely to
do so, at least to the same degree. It's also more effort to post a hint
request or go looking for a walkthrough than it is to type "hint".

Generally, I think you're right. Players do what they damn well please.
But authors have a degree of control within that.

aerosp...@hotmail.com

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Dec 15, 2005, 8:01:10 PM12/15/05
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Mike Snyder wrote:
<snip>

> For some reason, I don't enjoy spreading Interactive Fiction out over so
> much time. I'm not sure why, but now's as good a time as any to speculate.
> Maybe I just haven't played much long IF, except at times when the length
> came from being stuck. The longest IF game I've played -- ever, I think --
> was Return to Ditch Day, and that was only eight hours spread over three
> days, with hints. Maybe I start to lose interest after playing too long in
> one sitting.
I too am not interested in overly long games. I'm usually curious
enough to play throug to the end once I get started, but I don't like
having to continually sto and restart plaing. When I play IF, I try to
get into it as much as possible. I try to become the character.
Jumping into the middle of a partially played game tends to be a little
disorienting. Sometimes it is a long while between sessions and I have
to make the choice of going back to the beginning and refreshing myself
on the finer oints, or picking up where I left off and ossible miss
some sort of subtle clue or joke. Idealy I want a story-line to take
whatever free time I have, but not exceed it. Although given the
choice between a good game that is long and a mediocre one that is too
sort and easy, I'll choose the long one every time.

Risujin

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Dec 16, 2005, 11:07:15 AM12/16/05
to
Mike Snyder wrote:
> For some reason, I don't enjoy spreading Interactive Fiction out over so
> much time. I'm not sure why, but now's as good a time as any to speculate.
> Maybe I just haven't played much long IF, except at times when the length
> came from being stuck. The longest IF game I've played -- ever, I think --
> was Return to Ditch Day, and that was only eight hours spread over three
> days, with hints. Maybe I start to lose interest after playing too long in
> one sitting.

I think interactive fiction imposes much greater demands as to how much
you need to remember to play it.

Think about any graphical game you would play in such a time, you don't
really need to remember much of anything to get around and know what to
do. The Star Wars game you mentioned likely is divided into levels where
you essentially hack up the bad guys or complete some relatively simple
objective--the difficulty is in battle with many ways out not searching
for a (often single) solution the creator intended. You don't need to
memorize anything at all really, all of the information you need is
readily available on the screen or a few button-presses away.

Interactive fiction is different to say the least. Especially without
scrollback, you need to memorize level maps (or draw them), memorize
where the key items are, what items you're carrying, and you even need
to figure out what it is you're supposed to do. Thats far too much
information to keep crammed in your head for months at a time.

The solution, already been mentioned here, is to partition the game so
that very little information (maybe theme and overall goal) is preserved
from section to section. That or give players many many reminders.

-- Risujin

Adam Thornton

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Dec 16, 2005, 12:47:39 PM12/16/05
to
In article <TCBof.5155$0e....@tornado.rdc-kc.rr.com>,

Risujin <ris...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
>Think about any graphical game you would play in such a time, you don't
>really need to remember much of anything to get around and know what to
>do. The Star Wars game you mentioned likely is divided into levels where
>you essentially hack up the bad guys or complete some relatively simple
>objective--the difficulty is in battle with many ways out not searching
>for a (often single) solution the creator intended. You don't need to
>memorize anything at all really, all of the information you need is
>readily available on the screen or a few button-presses away.

You clearly have not played Knights of the Old Republic. Suffice it to
say that you are utterly, risibly, wrong.

>Interactive fiction is different to say the least. Especially without
>scrollback, you need to memorize level maps (or draw them), memorize
>where the key items are, what items you're carrying, and you even need
>to figure out what it is you're supposed to do. Thats far too much
>information to keep crammed in your head for months at a time.

I see you've never played Nethack, either.

>The solution, already been mentioned here, is to partition the game so
>that very little information (maybe theme and overall goal) is preserved
>from section to section. That or give players many many reminders.

Or perhaps trust them not to be stupid.

Adam

Risujin

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Dec 16, 2005, 7:01:28 PM12/16/05
to
Adam Thornton wrote:
>>Think about any graphical game you would play in such a time, you don't
>>really need to remember much of anything to get around and know what to
>>do. The Star Wars game you mentioned likely is divided into levels where
>>you essentially hack up the bad guys or complete some relatively simple
>>objective--the difficulty is in battle with many ways out not searching
>>for a (often single) solution the creator intended. You don't need to
>>memorize anything at all really, all of the information you need is
>>readily available on the screen or a few button-presses away.
>
> You clearly have not played Knights of the Old Republic. Suffice it to
> say that you are utterly, risibly, wrong.

And you have clearly not played anything else. How am I wrong if a
single game doesn't fit my generalization?

>>Interactive fiction is different to say the least. Especially without
>>scrollback, you need to memorize level maps (or draw them), memorize
>>where the key items are, what items you're carrying, and you even need
>>to figure out what it is you're supposed to do. Thats far too much
>>information to keep crammed in your head for months at a time.
>
> I see you've never played Nethack, either.

If we are talking about textual games where a lot of memorization is
necessary then interactive fiction belongs to the same category as many
roguelikes (but not all). I can't play Nethack and the like for exactly
the same reason.

>>The solution, already been mentioned here, is to partition the game so
>>that very little information (maybe theme and overall goal) is preserved
>>from section to section. That or give players many many reminders.
>
> Or perhaps trust them not to be stupid.

Don't be so quick to insult the player. Perhaps we have better things to
memorize than your made-up names for made-up things in a made-up world?
If I wanted to do that, I'd do my homework!

-- Risujin

Adam Thornton

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Dec 16, 2005, 8:09:07 PM12/16/05
to
In article <szIof.11299$Dk....@tornado.rdc-kc.rr.com>,
Risujin <ris...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
>Adam Thornton wrote:
(Risujin originally wrote:)

>>>The Star Wars game you mentioned likely is divided into levels where
>>>you essentially hack up the bad guys or complete some relatively simple
>>>objective--the difficulty is in battle with many ways out not searching
>>>for a (often single) solution the creator intended. You don't need to
>>>memorize anything at all really, all of the information you need is
>>>readily available on the screen or a few button-presses away.
>> You clearly have not played Knights of the Old Republic. Suffice it to
>> say that you are utterly, risibly, wrong.
>And you have clearly not played anything else. How am I wrong if a
>single game doesn't fit my generalization?

Because you weren't generalizing. You were making statements about a
particular, specific game, with which you are clearly utterly
unfamiliar.

"Most console RPGS: no knowledge required." Fine. Not what you said.

Adam

ems...@mindspring.com

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Dec 16, 2005, 7:09:44 PM12/16/05
to
Risujin wrote:
> Interactive fiction is different to say the least. Especially without
> scrollback, you need to memorize level maps (or draw them), memorize
> where the key items are, what items you're carrying, and you even need
> to figure out what it is you're supposed to do. Thats far too much
> information to keep crammed in your head for months at a time.

When I get into a long work of IF I usually play it for a few hours a
day for a number of days in a row, so it's usually not too hard to hold
the details over in my head. Like reading a long novel, really. The
prohibitive factor for me is that I can't make that time commitment in
the first place, not that I forget everything between one session and
the next.

Vivienne Dunstan

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Dec 17, 2005, 3:34:26 AM12/17/05
to
ems...@mindspring.com <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:

> When I get into a long work of IF I usually play it for a few hours a
> day for a number of days in a row, so it's usually not too hard to hold
> the details over in my head. Like reading a long novel, really. The
> prohibitive factor for me is that I can't make that time commitment in
> the first place, not that I forget everything between one session and
> the next.

And that's probably why I don't play so much IF any more. My memory is
badly affected due to neurological illness, and I can't easily remember
things day to day, even hour to hour. I don't read many new novels now
for the same reason (used to be a keen reader), though I read more short
stories, and reread books I've read before and can remember the plot.

For this reason I'm more of a fan of shorter IF works now, such as the
IF comp ones, though again I will replay older games that I can partly
remember and love, such as Curses and some of the older Infocom games.

Still hope to finish my IF works in progress though :)

Viv

Risujin

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Dec 17, 2005, 6:52:29 PM12/17/05
to
Adam Thornton wrote:
>>>You clearly have not played Knights of the Old Republic. Suffice it to
>>>say that you are utterly, risibly, wrong.
>>
>>And you have clearly not played anything else. How am I wrong if a
>>single game doesn't fit my generalization?
>
> Because you weren't generalizing. You were making statements about a
> particular, specific game, with which you are clearly utterly
> unfamiliar.

I haven't played it but I wonder just how far off the mark my guess was.
How much memorization do you really need? I'd bet the game keeps track
of all your info a button press away. (And why shouldn't it? It's good
design!)

I've played first-person RPGs (Deus Ex series anyone?), there isn't
really any time when you have to draw maps or think hard to remember
what room leads where. This is largely because our brains have
specialized spacial memory/reasoning that does this for us. It is
different from "brute force" memorization of what line of text leads to
what other line of text.

You can of course use spacial memory for text games, but that requires
you to imagine a room from the text description. But this requires more
effort. It's easier to remember and later recognize an image of a room
than a text description because, essentially, there is less work involved.

> "Most console RPGS: no knowledge required." Fine. Not what you said.

Actually, not only did I say this but it was the more important of what
I said. The first sentence reads:

"Think about any graphical game you would play in such a time, you don't
really need to remember much of anything to get around and know what to do."

When you said "you are utterly, risibly, wrong" I assumed you were going
to disagree with the meat of my argument.

This reminds me of the time I posted here and brought up the King of
England. Every reply I got had completely disregarded the point I was
trying to make and pointed out that, no, in fact there is no King of
England. Human brains are capable of contextual recognition for a reason
people.

-- Risujin

Haarfagre

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Dec 23, 2005, 7:32:08 PM12/23/05
to

Vivienne Dunstan:

> And that's probably why I don't play so much IF any more. My memory is
> badly affected due to neurological illness, and I can't easily remember
> things day to day, even hour to hour. I don't read many new novels now
> for the same reason (used to be a keen reader), though I read more short
> stories, and reread books I've read before and can remember the plot.

Make notes, draw maps. When I play large works of IF I usually restart
from scratch when I've been away from the game for some days.

> For this reason I'm more of a fan of shorter IF works now, such as the
> IF comp ones, though again I will replay older games that I can partly
> remember and love, such as Curses and some of the older Infocom games.

I love Curses too. My all-time favourite is Trinity.

> Still hope to finish my IF works in progress though :)

Wish you good luck with it. I hope I'll be able to finish my own in the
foreseeable future.

Snickerfit

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Dec 24, 2005, 1:43:55 AM12/24/05
to
IMHO, if anyone is writing an IF game for the sole purpose of winning
the IF competition, and thusly keeping it to just 2 hours in length,
they're missing the point. I don't think it *has* to be beatable in 2
hours for the IF comp anyways, but the judges can only base their
assessment on the first 2 hours of gameplay. So, basically, you can
make a wonderful, long-ass game so long as the entire beginning of it
leaves players in awe.

Mike Snyder

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Dec 24, 2005, 9:58:46 AM12/24/05
to
"Snickerfit" <halo...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1135406635.6...@o13g2000cwo.googlegroups.com...

And as long as enough judges don't mark down because it's too long to win in
two hours, which they can do if they're inclined.

--- Mike.


Snickerfit

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Dec 24, 2005, 5:46:33 PM12/24/05
to
Well, according to the rules for judges, at least, there is no required
penalization (or even recommended penalization) for games they haven't
finished playing in two hours. I would hope the majority of judges
wouldn't mark down games just because they can't finish them in that
amount of time.

Mike Snyder

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Dec 24, 2005, 5:58:02 PM12/24/05
to
"Snickerfit" <halo...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1135464393.5...@g47g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

No rule prevents it, either. Judges can mark down for anything -- and they
do. :)

--- Mike.


Snickerfit

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Dec 24, 2005, 6:39:06 PM12/24/05
to
Yeah, I noticed. I think there actually should be something in the
rules for judges mentioning that to promote longer IF games they should
refrain from taking lengths in excess of 2 hours into their
considerations at all. Otherwise, it would seem that the one thing
promoting the authorship of awe-inspiring games is the same thing
cutting those games down to a couple measley hours.

Mike Snyder

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Dec 24, 2005, 7:14:02 PM12/24/05
to
"Snickerfit" <halo...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1135467546.3...@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

Longer games end up in the IFComp, but the idea is that we don't have to
create huge epics to place highly in the comp. IFComp promotes authorship of
awe-inspiring two-hour games, without prohibiting longer ones.

Plus, I don't think the IFComp is the only thing promoting the creation of
awe-inspiring games.

The only rule I'd like to see, in reference to judging criteria, is that
judges should apply a single set of standards to all games in the
competition. That's not to say IFComp should set those standards -- only
that judges should come up with their own standards, and stick to it. I
think most do, even if informally. But I sometimes get the impression that
things waver, depending on the programming language used, or the game
author's reputation, or any of a number of other biases. Things seem to work
out fine, though, year after year. Since the rules leave judging preferences
to the judges, anything goes, and anything's fair.

--- Mike.


Snickerfit

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Dec 24, 2005, 9:37:22 PM12/24/05
to
Not having to create huge epics is great, but I think it should be
stressed to the judges that a game being longer than 2 hours is not in
of itself a reason to give it a bad score. Otherwise they may think
that, just because they're supposed to judge on the first two hours
alone, longer games are somehow looked down on and deserve a lesser
score. It would be a really simple thing for another rule, simply
something like "In the interests of promoting longer games, and in the
absence of any rules preventing them from being more than 2 hours long,
you are asked to refrain from marking-down your score for a game based
solely on its length being in excess of the judging period (2 hours)."

I've e-mailed something like that to ifc...@ifcomp.org. Now, if a game
is longer than it should be (some simple game that the author made too
long, which takes away from it), that wouldn't be covered by this
"solely on its length" clause.

Am I right, or what?

Mike Snyder

unread,
Dec 24, 2005, 11:29:50 PM12/24/05
to
"Snickerfit" <halo...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1135478242.8...@o13g2000cwo.googlegroups.com...

> Not having to create huge epics is great, but I think it should be
> stressed to the judges that a game being longer than 2 hours is not in
> of itself a reason to give it a bad score. Otherwise they may think

There are a number of things most authors would (probably) like to prevent
judges from marking down for. Bad grammar. Poor spelling. Difficult puzzles.

Although I wasn't around until the 5th comp, I've seen its origin discussed
before. It was meant to promote IF creation in general, and the 2-hour rule
was meant to make it do-able for authors who found writing large games too
daunting. In a way, it's still a good intro for new authors, for the same
reason.

Even this year, it's still called "the competition for short text
adventures." -- ifcomp.org main page, first line of text.

> that, just because they're supposed to judge on the first two hours
> alone, longer games are somehow looked down on and deserve a lesser
> score. It would be a really simple thing for another rule, simply

Not all judges post their scores, reviews, or ranking systems, so it's
anyone's guess how most judges score. If I recall correctly, Beyond and A
New Life were both pretty lengthy games, and they tied for 2nd. Maybe nobody
marks down for long games -- but they *can*. I can't see how this would be
in conflict with the comp's theme -- short games.

I'm not saying long games should stay out -- only that nobody can be faulted
for ranking them down. My first two entries were on the long side, for comp
games. Long games seem to fare better than short games, unless I'm mistaken.
I just can't help but think it's discouraging to would-be entrants, who
think that the only way to succeed is to enter a long game in the comp. I'd
like to see comp authors submit two-hour games, and use the extra time
they'd have spent on a five-hour game polishing it up, having it
beta-tested, refining the text and puzzles, etc.

> something like "In the interests of promoting longer games, and in the
> absence of any rules preventing them from being more than 2 hours long,
> you are asked to refrain from marking-down your score for a game based
> solely on its length being in excess of the judging period (2 hours)."

Then judges shouldn't mark down games simply because they include graphics,
or music, or feature elves, or are in a fantasy setting, or are written by
Paul Panks. Marking down long games in a 2-hour comp doesn't seem
unreasonable. Anyway, if this happens at all (and like I said early, it
probably doesn't), I think it would take a *really* long game for it to kick
in. Who's to say a 3-hour game wouldn't be 2 hours to a faster (or luckier)
player? Stopping at 2 hours to cast a vote means you probably won't know how
much longer the game may last, unless you've already figured it out from the
walkthrough. It's probably not hurting anybody.

You should support the Spring Thing. It's the IFComp's polar opposite, in
that its sent half-way around the calendar and is specifically meant to
showcase medium to long-sized games. http://www.springthing.net/ is the
website.

> I've e-mailed something like that to ifc...@ifcomp.org. Now, if a game
> is longer than it should be (some simple game that the author made too
> long, which takes away from it), that wouldn't be covered by this
> "solely on its length" clause.

Should the same thing apply to short games, just to be fair? If so,
FutureGame should have been a high-ranker this year. It was technically
flawless, and the writing was pretty good. Don't penalize short games. :)

> Am I right, or what?

I dunno. I'm just in an arguing mood. :)

---- Mike.


Snickerfit

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Dec 25, 2005, 12:19:13 AM12/25/05
to
All I know is that as long as the authors know only the first 2 hours
are being judged, it should be fine 'n dandy. They should be able to
make it short or long to their own tastes and know what to expect of
the judges, and the judges should conversely know that a game being
longer than 2 hours in length isn't any kind of reason to give it a bad
score (unless the length isn't appropriate for the specific game).

It's good to know that games longer than 2 hours actually do well in
the IFcomp. It just makes me sad thinking about people going to great
lengths to make a nice game, and it happens to be medium- to long in
length and some judges might take that as a bad thing.

We need long games. =)

Besides, you're right, 2 hours to one isn't 2 hours to another. You
might have the longest IF game on your hands and be able to play
through it in 2 hours simply from knowing what to do, and some people
may take a lot longer to figure out the same puzzles (or indeed, less
time, depending on you).

I have absolutely no idea if I'm going to enter The Aldrisang Paradox
in the IFcomp, or any other competition. It'll likely take me several
more months to complete, and it should be a good-sized game when done.
I'm just not sure if I can *wait* to release it, and I know you can't
enter released games in the contest. On the other hand, a top 3 rank
won would guarantee good publicity for a game for like a year (until
the next contest).

Bah. Just bah. I'll figure it all out when I'm done with my game and
forget about it for now. =P

Mike Snyder

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Dec 25, 2005, 9:54:52 AM12/25/05
to
"Snickerfit" <halo...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1135487952.9...@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

> All I know is that as long as the authors know only the first 2 hours
> are being judged, it should be fine 'n dandy. They should be able to
> make it short or long to their own tastes and know what to expect of
> the judges, and the judges should conversely know that a game being
> longer than 2 hours in length isn't any kind of reason to give it a bad
> score (unless the length isn't appropriate for the specific game).

What I'm saying is, judges can use *any* reason to give a game a bad score.
If the main character seems too similar to an ex-girlfriend, for instance,
the game might get marked down. You just never know, and it doesn't seem
right to introduce one stipulation without introducing a thousand more.

> It's good to know that games longer than 2 hours actually do well in
> the IFcomp. It just makes me sad thinking about people going to great
> lengths to make a nice game, and it happens to be medium- to long in
> length and some judges might take that as a bad thing.

Well, as another comp author, I take it as a bad thing. It's not that I
don't want to see longer games, but that my time is limited. When I reviewed
games this year, it was frustrating trying to get through the especially
long ones, even though I probably *liked* them. I can only push my family's
patience so far. The same goes for entering. What's sad to me is that I may
have to compete against games that are meant to take four, five, even six
hours, where all I have time to create is maybe one decent game that pushes
it just to last 2 hours. If judges ever forget that it's a 2-hour comp, or
if it ever becomes something more, my chances diminish.

> We need long games. =)

Certainly! Although just not in the IFComp. :)

> Besides, you're right, 2 hours to one isn't 2 hours to another. You
> might have the longest IF game on your hands and be able to play
> through it in 2 hours simply from knowing what to do, and some people
> may take a lot longer to figure out the same puzzles (or indeed, less
> time, depending on you).
>
> I have absolutely no idea if I'm going to enter The Aldrisang Paradox
> in the IFcomp, or any other competition. It'll likely take me several
> more months to complete, and it should be a good-sized game when done.
> I'm just not sure if I can *wait* to release it, and I know you can't
> enter released games in the contest. On the other hand, a top 3 rank
> won would guarantee good publicity for a game for like a year (until
> the next contest).

Again, think about Spring Thing, which is meant for medium to long sized
games.

> Bah. Just bah. I'll figure it all out when I'm done with my game and
> forget about it for now. =P

Good luck!

--- Mike.


L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Dec 26, 2005, 12:45:47 AM12/26/05
to
On Sun, 25 Dec 2005 08:54:52 -0600, Mike Snyder <wy...@prowler-pro.com> wrote:
>
>Well, as another comp author, I take it as a bad thing. It's not that I
>don't want to see longer games, but that my time is limited. When I reviewed
>games this year, it was frustrating trying to get through the especially
>long ones, even though I probably *liked* them. I can only push my family's
>patience so far. The same goes for entering. What's sad to me is that I may
>have to compete against games that are meant to take four, five, even six
>hours, where all I have time to create is maybe one decent game that pushes
>it just to last 2 hours. If judges ever forget that it's a 2-hour comp, or
>if it ever becomes something more, my chances diminish.

Also, as a comp author, I don't want my game, which I worked very hard
on and is meant to be played in two hours, do poorly because it's
being compared to a gigantic epic.

The two hour limit is *not* to discourage people from writing long
games. It's to discourage them from *entering them in the comp*.
There are still a lot of us who don't subscribe to the belief that the
comp *is* raif, and that "to release a game" and "to enter the ifComp"
are or should be synonymous.

Message has been deleted
Message has been deleted

Snickerfit

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Dec 26, 2005, 3:46:18 AM12/26/05
to
Simply put, there's absolutely nothing on the IFcomp page that mentions
to any aspiring game authors that their game should be of any
particular length at all (the only length rules are for judges, and are
solely meant to stop them from having to continue playing longer games,
since they *must* rate several games in order to be a judge at all),
and thusly their games shouldn't be marked either up or down based
solely on their lengths (and I do mean *solely*; there can be reasons
why games are shorter than or longer than they should be).

If the IFcomp is the reason games are getting shorter, and those who
run it know about it, there can simply be no argument for them not at
least mentioning in some way to judges that the competition isn't meant
to discourage entry of longer games.

I can understand the woes of the judges, and I completely agree that
they should only have to judge the first 2 hours. The important thing,
however, is the end product... the games that will be played by fans of
interactive fiction. If one day all of the sudden every game you
download can be completed in just 2 or 3 hours, there will be something
terribly wrong in the universe that could have been prevented.

At that, I hope I've made my point, and I'm quite finished commenting
on the subject. Just as the puzzles will be in my game, so has this
been a matter for those with an ounce of common sense in their
brainspace(tm).

Snickerfit.

Tommy Herbert

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Dec 26, 2005, 5:54:49 AM12/26/05
to
Snickerfit wrote:
> the judges should conversely know that a game being
> longer than 2 hours in length isn't any kind of reason to give it a bad
> score (unless the length isn't appropriate for the specific game).

It seems to me that one reason for rating a game lower might be that
you haven't been allowed to see the game in its entirety. Because one
of the criteria you might apply when voting is how well the game is put
together as a whole.

L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Dec 28, 2005, 1:37:47 AM12/28/05
to
On 26 Dec 2005 00:11:24 -0800, Snickerfit <halo...@gmail.com> wrote:
>I don't mean in any sense to say that games that are either short or
>long are bad. Just saying, the 2 hour limit is just so that there's not
>such a burden on judges. As long as it isn't meant to (and hopefully
>will be actually *instructed* as not being meant to) discriminate
>against longer games, it's all good.
>
>The length of a game doesn't make it. There can be short games that
>should be longer, and long games that should be shorter, just like you
>can read a book that could say the same amount of stuff in half the
>number of pages but the author just wouldn't shut up. =)
>
>It's just really a very simple point: the IF competition should not
>discourage the authorship of longer games. It would seem, at least from
>my perspective, that the IF competition has not meant, yet has caused,
>games of much shorter length to become prevailant. I am *very* glad to
>hear that there are long games doing *well* in the competition, but
>unless I'm mistaken it's still a fact that since the IF competition
>started, games have become shorter and shorter.
>
>Snick.
>

I think you *are* mistaken, at least in some senses. I won't dispute
that the *average* game length has gone down, but I disagree that
substantially *fewer* long games are being written. Before the comp,
we saw, say, about 10 games a year, all of them long. Now, we see,
say, 50 games a year, about 10 of them long. The comp didn't reduce
the number of long games, it increased the number of *total* games.

*NB: Numbers are not exact, and, in fact, entirely made up.

Adam Thornton

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Dec 31, 2005, 1:27:53 PM12/31/05
to
In article <9kyrf.213078$0l5.150215@dukeread06>,

Mike Snyder <wy...@prowler-pro.com> wrote:
>What I'm saying is, judges can use *any* reason to give a game a bad score.
>If the main character seems too similar to an ex-girlfriend, for instance,
>the game might get marked down.

Was "The Space Under the Window" a Comp game?

Adam

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