Second editions?

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Cedric Knight

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Jul 11, 2004, 5:34:50 AM7/11/04
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What happens when a labour of love becomes a labour of hate at the
post-release stage? IF seems to be divided into
(a) a few well-executed stories that get very good reviews, and then get
even more polish with two to four bug-fixing releases;
(b) a few stories where the underlying concept is not too original or
playable however good the realisation;
(c) a large number of pieces which may be noticeably buggy, or have problems
in construction, pacing or writing, probably don't get the positive comments
or attention the author hoped for, yet potentially could move into category
(a) with some more work. To do justice to the theme and puzzle ideas
usually requires bug-fixing, but may also involve adding more depth,
explanation or atmosphere, rearranging puzzles and so on. Any releases that
even fix a few bugs are very welcome, but still rarely happen. Sometimes if
authors could bring themselves to do something more radical with their old
work, and bring out a 'second edition' that does more than fix bugs, it
could be completely reassessed.

I admit my concern partly stems from feelings after submitting bug reports
to authors on IFs that I fundamentally enjoy or like, and yet being
disappointed by never seeing a new release uploaded to the Archive, which I
imagine would do justice to the concept and to the author's inspiration and
hard work so far.

Does anyone have ideas about how to encourage authors to do post-release
editing and polishing (and so improve the quality of released IF overall)?
Would collaboration help? A competition for 'most-improved game'? Many
authors' writing or programming skills mature over time, but getting back
into an abandonded project can be particularly difficult when you have
trouble reading your own source code.

CK


Vivienne Dunstan

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Jul 11, 2004, 7:27:33 AM7/11/04
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Cedric Knight <ckn...@gn.babpbc.removeallBstosend.org> wrote:

> Does anyone have ideas about how to encourage authors to do post-release
> editing and polishing (and so improve the quality of released IF overall)?
> Would collaboration help? A competition for 'most-improved game'? Many
> authors' writing or programming skills mature over time, but getting back
> into an abandonded project can be particularly difficult when you have
> trouble reading your own source code.

Perhaps part of the problem is that the annual IF comp places such an
emphasis on newer games, so how many people go back to try older ones
(apart from standards like Infocom, Curses, etc.)? And how many people
send post-release comments to authors? I'm afraid that I haven't,
although it sounds like a very good idea. Isn't it largely a case of
'the next best thing' with IF authors (like other creative people)
moving on to the next project? That can also apply to players too.

Maybe 'most-improved' isn't the ideal criterion to use, but a
competition for revised versions of older games sounds intriguing. The
revisions would have to be significant enough to warrant a difference,
but games entered in such a competition (similar to the IF comp but
having been released before ... :) could then be reassessed afresh, and
it might make them more known to newer players, and considered afresh.

But would IF authors go for it? I'm currently porting/revamping 2 old
games that I wrote 10 years ago. Part of the challenge was converting
them from the original language (LPC for an LPMUD) into a newer IF
language (I'm using Inform: good practise for my 2 proper Inform WIPs)
but a more serious problem is the need to completely revise the old
games to make them work better as single-player IF games, improve the
plot, interaction, etc. Porting these old games to another language has
prompted me to rewrite them completely but I can't imagine that being an
appealing option for most other IF authors. Revisions of existing code
(in the same language) may be much easier, if the will is there anyway.

Viv Dunstan

samwyse

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Jul 11, 2004, 8:03:06 AM7/11/04
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On or about 7/11/2004 4:34 AM, Cedric Knight did proclaim:

> Does anyone have ideas about how to encourage authors to do post-release
> editing and polishing (and so improve the quality of released IF overall)?

The only thing that I can think of would entail a determined effort to
discover their RL address, tracking them down, and holding a gun to
their head. And I'm not joking. I have owned copies of exactly two
self-published books, one by one of my college professors, the other by
my first wife. Both would have been improved by some editing and
polishing, but the authors saw absolutely no need to seek out any
feedback or other assistance before publishing. And based on my
experiences in this group, not everyone takes kindly to feedback that
extends beyond the "it crashes when I do this" variety.

ems...@mindspring.com

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Jul 11, 2004, 11:11:50 AM7/11/04
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"Cedric Knight" <ckn...@gn.babpbc.removeallBstosend.org> wrote in message news:<40f10d7c$0$519$ed26...@ptn-nntp-reader03.plus.net>...

> Any releases that
> even fix a few bugs are very welcome, but still rarely happen. Sometimes if
> authors could bring themselves to do something more radical with their old
> work, and bring out a 'second edition' that does more than fix bugs, it
> could be completely reassessed.

It can be fairly hard to motivate yourself to work over a game that
didn't get a very favorable reception in the first place. It's hard
to know whether the new version will be any better received than the
old one, and there may also be a feeling that anyone who was going to
play the game the first time already has done so. Sometimes it may
seem like a better bet to concentrate one's efforts on something
entirely new. Historically speaking, feedback on new versions of
games is even worse than feedback on new releases, and I have heard
several authors remark sadly that they put a lot of effort into
revising a game and never heard much back about it.

After the first couple of comments on version 1 of CoS, I made a lot
of changes for version 2 -- not just bug fixes but alternative
solutions and quite a lot of new dialogue variations to give
individual minor NPCs more personality. Doing that seemed worthwhile
at the time given the amount of effort that had already gone into the
game, *and* the fact that I hadn't actually released it to the archive
yet -- so there were new people who hadn't played it before. Then I
added a bunch of additional features for version 3 based on other
feedback about the way that the dialogue options were handled. The
exhausting thing is that there are still some bugs that would need to
be cleaned up in a version 4, and the ending needs an overhaul. And
my stamina has more or less run out. The thought of putting any more
work into it is simply depressing.

It's frustrating, given that I do like a lot of specific pieces of
that game, I put a lot of work into it, and I think it does some
interesting stuff in terms of player control over the plot. But I'm
not satisfied with a couple of the major characters or with the ending
-- some of which has to do with my handling badly the material I
didn't invent myself and some of which is because character writing
per se (as opposed to the mechanics of implementing IF dialogue) is a
weakness of mine. I'm not sure I'll ever really get it all the way
fixed: certain important flaws of writing and design entered the
project at a fairly early stage, and to eradicate them now is probably
impossible. I put years of work into trying to get it right; there's
no reason to think another month or two would help. Now the best
investment of my time is doing something else entirely, like possibly
my dissertation.

This isn't to discourage people from releasing new versions of things:
I was glad to see that J. J. Guest had converted "To Hell in a Hamper"
to TADS and expanded its range of dialogue options, though I haven't
had time to play with the new version yet. I am also still hoping
that there will one day be an expanded version of "Gourmet", a game I
enjoyed hugely and which would benefit from the addition of a final
act. (I know I'm not alone on this.) Likewise, the latest release of
"Fine Tuned" is considerably better than the one in the competition,
and I would like to see a release that added the missing final chapter
of the game. But I can understand why people might not want to
bother.


> I admit my concern partly stems from feelings after submitting bug reports
> to authors on IFs that I fundamentally enjoy or like, and yet being
> disappointed by never seeing a new release uploaded to the Archive, which I
> imagine would do justice to the concept and to the author's inspiration and
> hard work so far.

Hmm. Yes, this is too bad, but I can't always blame them. When I get
a bug report on a low-priority game, I try to let the reporter know
that it may be some time before anything happens. I still appreciate
the feedback, but the sense of urgency to spend a day digging through
code to change one thing in an otherwise mostly-stable game released
in 2000 is, well, comparatively low. That kind of thing I tuck away
in a folder of bugs, and when I accumulate enough bug reports on an
older game, I consider doing another release, but it's not something
that keeps me awake nights.


> Does anyone have ideas about how to encourage authors to do post-release
> editing and polishing (and so improve the quality of released IF overall)?

I know I say this kind of thing a lot, but in my opinion the single
most effective way to get an author to put more effort into a game is
to review it -- or, if you don't want to write a full-blown review, to
discuss the game's flaws and merits on rgif in some detail. Sending
someone a few comments on their game design is terrific, but it may
leave them with the impression that you're the only player who cares.
(Bug reports as such, I agree, are better sent by private email, but
you are also talking about larger-scale plot revamping. That kind of
thing is probably more likely to happen if the author sees that there
are several people who a) agree this would be useful and b) would be
interested in playing the finished result. I think it's not
surprising that most of the games that I know of that *have* gotten
this kind of major overhaul were competition entries, where the
authors could see what a large number of people liked and disliked
about their game, and gauge the popular interest in a revision.)

Bribery in the form of prizes and competitions is only so-so as a
motivator in this community; consider the low rate at which IntroComp
games have been finished.


[Samwyse wrote:]


>I have owned copies of exactly two
>self-published books, one by one of my college professors, the other
by
>my first wife. Both would have been improved by some editing and
>polishing, but the authors saw absolutely no need to seek out any
>feedback or other assistance before publishing.

Most authors releasing a serious game around here have it beta-tested;
what would you call that?

>And based on my
>experiences in this group, not everyone takes kindly to feedback that
>extends beyond the "it crashes when I do this" variety.

Hm. Are you drawing on any experience other than one specific author
complaining because his beta-tester sent him more than a mere bug
list? In my experience, that was an exceptional case; most authors
I've talked to prefer testers and commenters to be more wide-ranging
in their responses.

-- Emily

Daniel Freas

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Jul 11, 2004, 12:10:41 PM7/11/04
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Cedric Knight wrote:
> I admit my concern partly stems from feelings after submitting bug reports
> to authors on IFs that I fundamentally enjoy or like, and yet being
> disappointed by never seeing a new release uploaded to the Archive, which I
> imagine would do justice to the concept and to the author's inspiration and
> hard work so far.

There is another aspect of bug reporting to consider. I've written a
handfull of games and received plenty of feedback on them - and some of
that has been bug reports and suggestions for game changes.

I thank everyone who sends me these suggestions (and I truly am
thankful) but I have never released a new version. Nor do I plan to.
However I still ask that everyone that plays one of my games send me bug
reports and suggestions for changes on anything from spelling to wide
scale plot modifications. Why? Because I use those suggestions in my
next game.

I keep a file of every single piece of feedback I receive on my games
and I am constantly going through it as I write my next piece of IF so
that each new work will be better than the last.

To those players who feel like they aren't being listened to when they
send in these reports I apologise profusely. Players are an IF author's
life blood. I appreciate every piece of feedback more than I can
possibly describe. I can only point to my next game and say "You see how
much better this one is? That is because of you. It is your bug reports,
your plot suggestions, your comments. It is the feedback that you took
the time to send that I have read and reread and reread again until I
knew it word for word."

--Daniel

J. D. Berry

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Jul 11, 2004, 1:09:55 PM7/11/04
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"Cedric Knight" <ckn...@gn.babpbc.removeallBstosend.org> wrote in message
news:40f10d7c$0$519$ed26...@ptn-nntp-reader03.plus.net...

> I admit my concern partly stems from feelings after submitting bug reports


> to authors on IFs that I fundamentally enjoy or like, and yet being
> disappointed by never seeing a new release uploaded to the Archive, which
I
> imagine would do justice to the concept and to the author's inspiration
and
> hard work so far.

I hope you weren't thinking of me on this one, Ced. I incorporated
your suggestions and released a version 2 of WHC. In fact, it was only
your extraordinary interest in the work that motivated me to do so. I
wouldn't have done so, otherwise.

Why? The people who liked it did so despite the flaws. The people who
hated it wouldn't have liked it even if implementation were tighter.


JDB


samwyse

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Jul 11, 2004, 2:07:32 PM7/11/04
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On or about 7/11/2004 10:11 AM, ems...@mindspring.com did proclaim:

> [Samwyse wrote:]
>>I have owned copies of exactly two
>>self-published books, one by one of my college professors, the other
>>by my first wife. Both would have been improved by some editing and
>>polishing, but the authors saw absolutely no need to seek out any
>>feedback or other assistance before publishing.

Some more background before I get to your upcoming question.

The book by my professor was written in the "dark ages" almost thirty
years ago, when a revision meant retyping entire pages of text in a
typewriter and publishing meant sending the manuscript and a boat-load
of money to someone who would, IIRC, only print in lots of several
hundred copies. So once it got published, revisions would be difficult.
Plus, criticism of your professor can be hazardous to your degree. So
I can understand sort-of forgive the novel's lack of anything like
beta-testing.

The other book was an autobiography of sorts, co-written by the ex and
her sister in the past few years. Living in different state, they took
turns writing and sent email feedback to each other, but AFAIK didn't
show it to anyone other than another sister before publishing. Still,
it's miles better than the other book.

In between, I got to read a manuscript by a friend who wrote a Stephen
King pastiche. It was printed on a brand new HP LaserJet II and was
better than either of the books I've mentioned, but died an honorable
death when it couldn't get published.

> Most authors releasing a serious game around here have it beta-tested;
> what would you call that?

I'd call it the i-f version of a writer's circle. That's where serious
writers join groups of like-minded people who pass around manuscripts
and ruthlessly criticize each other. Everyone I know who has actually
been paid to put words on a page (that's three people altogether) have
been members of some group or another. I haven't looked around, but I
suspect that Usenet would be an excellent home for such groups.

>>And based on my
>>experiences in this group, not everyone takes kindly to feedback that
>>extends beyond the "it crashes when I do this" variety.
>
> Hm. Are you drawing on any experience other than one specific author
> complaining because his beta-tester sent him more than a mere bug
> list? In my experience, that was an exceptional case; most authors
> I've talked to prefer testers and commenters to be more wide-ranging
> in their responses.

Well, I sent one specific author a bit more than a bug list for his
labour of love and got roasted for it, despite trying really hard to be
more polite than many of the people who then posted in my defense.
OTOH, there is at least one other author who churns out one "magnum
opus" after another and promotes each faithfully, despite the flame wars
that inevitably result. (Hint: he codes in Basic.) And it's not just
"writing", I've downloaded code from the archive that just doesn't
compile, or automates the production of code that no-one likes to see in
a game.

There are probably lots and lots of people who get a copy of Zork or
something and try to write their own without ever hearing about r.a.i-f;
I did just that in 1980 or so after playing Adventure. I suspect that
most of those games, like my own attempt, are better off being lost.
Then there are those who find this newsgroup or a forum somewhere and
lurk while writing something, then launch it on an unsuspecting world.
(These are the people from the previous paragraph.) They put a lot of
time into their work and are therefore convinced that it must be great.
(They remind me of some friends of mine who sank ~$20,000 into some
home improvements and then couldn't understand why it didn't increase
the value of their house by $20,000.)

And then there's the third group, the authors who have a clue. The
people you've talked to seem to all fall into this group; the question
is how big of a subset are they? Maybe I'me just getting cynical in my
old age, but I suspect that they aren't as big a group as you think.
Most of the people with whom I regularly converse have college degrees,
but that doesn't mean that most of the population at large does.

Do I have a point to all this? I've forgotten. But I'm starting to
think that I need to change my handle to "Eeyore".

Cedric Knight

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Jul 11, 2004, 3:29:48 PM7/11/04
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ems...@mindspring.com wrote:
> It can be fairly hard to motivate yourself to work over a game that
> didn't get a very favorable reception in the first place. It's hard
> to know whether the new version will be any better received than the
> old one, and there may also be a feeling that anyone who was going to
> play the game the first time already has done so. Sometimes it may
> seem like a better bet to concentrate one's efforts on something
> entirely new. Historically speaking, feedback on new versions of
> games is even worse than feedback on new releases,

All true. But the (occasional) announcement of a revision on rgif will
attract new players who missed it first time, particularly if it's after six
months or more. And it certainly wouldn't hurt the chance of a good review.

> and I have heard
> several authors remark sadly that they put a lot of effort into
> revising a game and never heard much back about it.

Yes, it probably reduces the chance of getting comments prompted by bug
reports, but people who download from the Archive many years later will be
grateful. And is the amount of work that much compared to what they've
already done? Significant, yes, but overwhelming, surely not. There can be
a law of diminishing returns with bug-squashing, as you show. That's why
I'd be more interested in second and third releases than fifteenths.

[snip]


> no reason to think another month or two would help. Now the best
> investment of my time is doing something else entirely, like possibly
> my dissertation.

Very possibly :)

>> I admit my concern partly stems from feelings after submitting bug
>> reports
>> to authors on IFs that I fundamentally enjoy or like, and yet being
>> disappointed by never seeing a new release uploaded to the Archive,
>> which I
>> imagine would do justice to the concept and to the author's
>> inspiration and
>> hard work so far.
>
> Hmm. Yes, this is too bad, but I can't always blame them.

I'm not blaming anyone. I'm just hoping they can ignore, say, a poor Comp
showing sufficiently to still believe what they were trying to achieve was
worthwhile.

>> Does anyone have ideas about how to encourage authors to do
>> post-release
>> editing and polishing (and so improve the quality of released IF
>> overall)?
>
> I know I say this kind of thing a lot, but in my opinion the single
> most effective way to get an author to put more effort into a game is
> to review it -- or, if you don't want to write a full-blown review, to
> discuss the game's flaws and merits on rgif in some detail. Sending
> someone a few comments on their game design is terrific, but it may
> leave them with the impression that you're the only player who cares.
> (Bug reports as such, I agree, are better sent by private email, but
> you are also talking about larger-scale plot revamping. That kind of
> thing is probably more likely to happen if the author sees that there
> are several people who a) agree this would be useful and b) would be
> interested in playing the finished result. I think it's not
> surprising that most of the games that I know of that *have* gotten
> this kind of major overhaul were competition entries, where the
> authors could see what a large number of people liked and disliked
> about their game, and gauge the popular interest in a revision.)

There should then be a lot more game discussion on rgif. I note that
posting reviews to rgif does not exclude also submitting them to SPAG etc.

>
> Bribery in the form of prizes and competitions is only so-so as a
> motivator in this community; consider the low rate at which IntroComp
> games have been finished.

This seems to be part of the same phenomenon. I was wondering how big a
bribe I would have to donate myself. Following Viv's comments, I guess a
comp would probably take the form of the organiser asking to see two sets of
source code (and/or other criteria) to check eligibility, then a public
voting page and guaranteed reviews.

> [Samwyse wrote:]
[...]


>> And based on my
>> experiences in this group, not everyone takes kindly to feedback that
>> extends beyond the "it crashes when I do this" variety.
>
> Hm. Are you drawing on any experience other than one specific author
> complaining because his beta-tester sent him more than a mere bug
> list? In my experience, that was an exceptional case; most authors
> I've talked to prefer testers and commenters to be more wide-ranging
> in their responses.

That's the only time I've heard of such a thing. In my experience,
surprisingly enough, authors have even seemed irritated or hurt by some of
my more pedantic comments, although on one occasion someone did withdraw
something from a comp since there wasn't time for a major rethink, hopefully
to submit a modified one later. I'm even feeling free to make subjective
observations about game concepts, confident that authors will decide to keep
what they've got if they want.

CK


Cedric Knight

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Jul 11, 2004, 3:30:37 PM7/11/04
to
Daniel Freas wrote:
> I thank everyone who sends me these suggestions (and I truly am
> thankful) but I have never released a new version. Nor do I plan to.
> However I still ask that everyone that plays one of my games send me
> bug reports and suggestions for changes on anything from spelling to
> wide
> scale plot modifications. Why? Because I use those suggestions in my
> next game.

That's really good to know. But I'm curious about why you don't do new
versions, when many of the comments would be more relevant to them.

The big differences between commercial IF and modern IF, besides modern IF
usually being shorter, seem to be the amount of polish, QA testing, and
number of revisions.

CK

Cedric Knight

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Jul 11, 2004, 3:31:33 PM7/11/04
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J. D. Berry wrote:
> "Cedric Knight" <ckn...@gn.babpbc.removeallBstosend.org> wrote in

>> I admit my concern partly stems from feelings after submitting bug


>> reports to authors on IFs that I fundamentally enjoy or like, and
>> yet being disappointed by never seeing a new release uploaded to the
>> Archive, which I imagine would do justice to the concept and to the
>> author's inspiration and hard work so far.
>
> I hope you weren't thinking of me on this one, Ced. I incorporated
> your suggestions and released a version 2 of WHC. In fact, it was only
> your extraordinary interest in the work that motivated me to do so. I
> wouldn't have done so, otherwise.

No, I wasn't thinking of WHC at all, which really falls into my category (a)
except that it didn't do well in the Comp. Get on with the next one... :)

If I had to give an example from that Comp of a category (c) game, one I've
used before was 'The Case of Samuel Gregor'. Again, many people didn't
'get' it, but that's partly because they were a bit discouraged by
presentation or bugs, or didn't get to the end. If might also be in a fluid
enough state to add a few more general hints earlier on which would make all
the difference.

>
> Why? The people who liked it did so despite the flaws. The people who
> hated it wouldn't have liked it even if implementation were tighter.

I'm not sure this is true. There were a couple of early bugs in the Comp
version (including one interpreter-specific one) that seemed to bias people
against it. Plus those of us who really liked it can now point and say
'here's a really well implemented game', and anyone who dislikes it would
have a hard time denying it.

CK

Daniel Freas

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Jul 11, 2004, 4:58:57 PM7/11/04
to
Cedric Knight wrote:
[snip]

> That's really good to know. But I'm curious about why you don't do new
> versions, when many of the comments would be more relevant to them.
[snip]

Because I write for the reviews and the comments and the discussion and
far more of that is generated by a new game than by a new release of an
old game.

I have only so much time that I can spend writing IF and I would like to
get the most return for my time possible. So I consider what will
generate the most discussion. I want people to email me telling me how
much they loved or hated my game and what they would like to see done
differently. I want to see people discussing my games in public forums.

The "IF doesn't pay" discussion has popped up time and time again on
this newsgroup. The truth is that IF pays in the appreciation of the
players and that appreciation is manifested in reviews and discussions.
When people do work they consider what way then can do the work that
will get the most return for the energy expended. I do the same when I
write IF, I write what will produce the most returns.

If some day in the future I write a game that is sufficiently good so as
to keep people talking about it long after it is released then I will
probably release updates for that game. At that point the return on
investment will make writing new versions worth the effort.

I can't speak for all authors but if people want me to release a new
version of a game the easiest way to do it is to start discussing the
game on r*if. If I ever see discussion on a game rise to the point that
it is obvious people are interested in playing an updated version then I
will release an updated version - but not before.

-Daniel

ems...@mindspring.com

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Jul 11, 2004, 8:20:53 PM7/11/04
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samwyse <deja...@email.com> wrote in message news:<ElfIc.14518$uE1....@newssvr24.news.prodigy.com>...

> On or about 7/11/2004 10:11 AM, ems...@mindspring.com did proclaim:
> > [Samwyse wrote:]
> >>I have owned copies of exactly two
> >>self-published books, one by one of my college professors, the other
> >>by my first wife. Both would have been improved by some editing and
> >>polishing, but the authors saw absolutely no need to seek out any
> >>feedback or other assistance before publishing.
>
> Some more background before I get to your upcoming question.
>

[Snip various interesting background about these books]


> > Most authors releasing a serious game around here have it beta-tested;
> > what would you call that?
>
> I'd call it the i-f version of a writer's circle. That's where serious
> writers join groups of like-minded people who pass around manuscripts
> and ruthlessly criticize each other. Everyone I know who has actually
> been paid to put words on a page (that's three people altogether) have
> been members of some group or another. I haven't looked around, but I
> suspect that Usenet would be an excellent home for such groups.

I'm not quite sure I get where you're going with this. There's no
real equivalent of a publishing house for IF; everything has to be
self-published. Self-publication doesn't guarantee that the results
will be garbage, and it seems like beta-testing is about the best one
can do in the circumstances.


> Well, I sent one specific author a bit more than a bug list for his
> labour of love and got roasted for it, despite trying really hard to be
> more polite than many of the people who then posted in my defense.

Oh, well.


> Then there are those who find this newsgroup or a forum somewhere and
> lurk while writing something, then launch it on an unsuspecting world.
> (These are the people from the previous paragraph.) They put a lot of
> time into their work and are therefore convinced that it must be great.
> (They remind me of some friends of mine who sank ~$20,000 into some
> home improvements and then couldn't understand why it didn't increase
> the value of their house by $20,000.)

There are some things like that, but remember the context of Cedric's
original question: he wasn't talking about games that were
irredeemably bad. He was talking about the ones that had promise but
hadn't lived up to their potential yet, which is a different thing.


> And then there's the third group, the authors who have a clue. The
> people you've talked to seem to all fall into this group; the question
> is how big of a subset are they? Maybe I'me just getting cynical in my
> old age, but I suspect that they aren't as big a group as you think.
> Most of the people with whom I regularly converse have college degrees,
> but that doesn't mean that most of the population at large does.

It's true that I am more likely to be personally acquainted with
people who have successfully published at least one piece of IF than
with those who are just thinking about doing so and haven't emerged
into the community yet.

On the other hand, I have over the years beta-tested, reviewed, or
emailed comments to the authors of quite a lot of games. Some of the
authors were people I know well, some complete strangers whom I've
never seen here before. I can recall no case where the author
responded unpleasantly. Sometimes they've written back to explain why
they did what they did, or why they thought I was wrong, which is fine
-- some of those conversations have been very interesting and, I hope,
mutually enlightening; I've gotten something out of them. But, as far
as I can recall, I've never gotten blasted by an author for sending a
critique or writing a review, and certainly never had anyone complain
about my offering comments on structure or design during the
beta-testing phase. Though I suppose my experience with beta-testing
may be somewhat idiosyncratic. I have mostly worked with people I
already know. The dynamic might be a little different if I were
working with people randomly chosen out of the ether rather than with
people I already know, but I've generally found the relationship to be
a very positive and enjoyable one, with both parties interested in
producing the best possible game.

Now, it's true that I don't usually send random authors unsolicited
email telling them I think their game is irredeemably bad. I imagine
that might provoke somewhat less than positive feedback. Usually if I
think a game is horrible and shows no potential to be better, I see no
particular point in saying so. There may be someone else who liked
the game better who could give the author more balanced and
constructive criticism.

ems...@mindspring.com

unread,
Jul 12, 2004, 1:38:59 PM7/12/04
to
"Cedric Knight" <ckn...@gn.babpbc.removeallBstosend.org> wrote in message news:<40f1961c$0$524$ed26...@ptn-nntp-reader03.plus.net>...

> There should then be a lot more game discussion on rgif. I note that
> posting reviews to rgif does not exclude also submitting them to SPAG etc.

That would be nice, yeah. The nice thing about reviews posted here is
that people are more likely to reply to them; the less-nice thing is
that then they tend to get lost or forgotten about, rather than being
filed away neatly in the SPAG index (or IF-Review index, or whatever).
But I guess one could also post here in response to reviews that have
been put up elsewhere.

-- Emily

Quintin Stone

unread,
Jul 13, 2004, 9:21:07 AM7/13/04
to
On Sun, 11 Jul 2004, Cedric Knight wrote:

> Does anyone have ideas about how to encourage authors to do post-release
> editing and polishing (and so improve the quality of released IF
> overall)? Would collaboration help? A competition for 'most-improved
> game'?

Maybe a XYZZY award for most-improved game?

/====================================================================\
|| Quintin Stone O- > "You speak of necessary evil? One ||
|| Code Monkey < of those necessities is that if ||
|| Rebel Programmers Society > innocents must suffer, the guilty must ||
|| st...@rps.net < suffer more." -- Mackenzie Calhoun ||
|| http://www.rps.net/QS/ > "Once Burned" by Peter David ||
\====================================================================/

Knight37

unread,
Jul 13, 2004, 10:42:39 AM7/13/04
to
Quintin Stone <st...@rps.net> wrote in
news:Pine.LNX.4.58.04...@yes.rps.net:

> On Sun, 11 Jul 2004, Cedric Knight wrote:
>
>> Does anyone have ideas about how to encourage authors to do
>> post-release editing and polishing (and so improve the quality of
>> released IF overall)? Would collaboration help? A competition for
>> 'most-improved game'?
>
> Maybe a XYZZY award for most-improved game?

Actually it sounds like a good idea for a new comp in the late winter /
early spring. Entries must have been previously released. Authors should
provide the original released version and the updated one. Judges should
spend up to 2 hours playing the original if they didn't already play it
from a previous release, then at least 1 hour on the new version. Rate
them based on how well they think the game improved, NOT how well they
liked the game (in other words, a game that was great to begin with and
only had minor changes shouldn't score very well in this comp). I'm not
sure source code should be provided, I don't think it's relevant.
Ideally this would be a comp for all those games that scored in the 3-6
range in the main comp to get a rewrite and get some more attention with
a better version.

I will note that I'm not against the idea of an XYZZY category. I think
that would be a good idea too, but I'm not sure it's enough of an
"incentive" for many authors to do a rewrite.

Knight37

Valjean

unread,
Jul 14, 2004, 4:01:03 AM7/14/04
to
Ahh - suddenly it all becomes clear. Its a conspiracy, to get a
"most-improved" game its easiest to start off with a piece of utter **** and
just make it reasonable. So all we need to do is look for someone who is
produ...

hang on, that means that "He who must not be named for fear of fanning the
flames" would be part of the conspiracy which is obviously being developed
by the Cabal that doesn't exist. I'm going to lie down and hide.

Val


"Quintin Stone" <st...@rps.net> wrote in message
news:Pine.LNX.4.58.04...@yes.rps.net...

John Hill

unread,
Jul 14, 2004, 5:00:23 PM7/14/04
to
Knight37 wrote:

Cool, very cool.

To kill some mischief right off, here's a proposal for an
explicit rule: "Improvements to the game must be authorized
by the original version's author."

Nobody, for example, should presume to "improve" a Rybread
game. (Without the permission of the Master, that is.)

--
John Hill

ems...@mindspring.com

unread,
Jul 14, 2004, 7:15:18 PM7/14/04
to
Knight37 <knig...@email.com> wrote in message news:

> Actually it sounds like a good idea for a new comp in the late winter /
> early spring. Entries must have been previously released. Authors should
> provide the original released version and the updated one. Judges should
> spend up to 2 hours playing the original if they didn't already play it
> from a previous release, then at least 1 hour on the new version. Rate
> them based on how well they think the game improved, NOT how well they
> liked the game (in other words, a game that was great to begin with and
> only had minor changes shouldn't score very well in this comp). I'm not
> sure source code should be provided, I don't think it's relevant.
> Ideally this would be a comp for all those games that scored in the 3-6
> range in the main comp to get a rewrite and get some more attention with
> a better version.

I've been thinking about this since you posted, and it seems like such
a comp might be a drag to judge. Not to mention that it's hard to
compare amount of improvement -- even harder, I think, than figuring
out something as subjective as relative quality, where at least you
can say things like "I liked it" and "I didn't like it". Comps other
than the IF Comp sometimes lack adequate judge response, and this one
seems like it might be tough.

I had a different idea, which is probably bad for one or more reasons.
(Actually, I can think of a couple of reasons myself.) But here it
is anyway: instead of having a competition along these lines, make an
anthology every year (or if this is too hard, every two years).
Authors submit games (previously released or not); they get an
additional month or two of focused beta-testing by the judges, who may
or may not be the community at large (I haven't quite figured out how
this phase would work); authors go away, polish, resubmit; the games
are inspected and voted on for aspects including buglessness and
professionalism, and those attaining a certain quality level go in the
anthology.

Then the anthology is released in some format designed to garner
attention from outside R*IF -- maybe by being submitted to
download.com and having the $75 listing fee paid (or whatever it is
now); maybe having the package sent off to reviewers at adventure
'zines; maybe being assembled onto a nice CD. Obviously there's
nothing to stop people from doing these things with their own games at
any time, but there's something unappealing about spending money to
advertise freeware, especially if the game itself is a short one.

Downsides include the inevitable bitter complaints about unfairness
(since no matter how you framed the rules I'm sure someone wouldn't
like them) and the fact that it would require some unpaid QA work on
the part of the judges. Also, someone would probably need to
contribute money to cover the expenses, get everyone to sign an
appropriate licensing agreement, and pack the thing up with a variety
of terps and a good intro-to-playing-IF guide. If there were going to
be a CD-type release, one would also need a cover artist or designer.
This is a lot of stuff to get people to do.

And I'm sure some people who object on general principle to including
their games in such a package. Maybe there wouldn't be enough entries
to generate anything worthwhile. Or there might be the opposite
problem, where everyone and his cousin submitted something and there
wasn't enough judging energy out there to subject all the submitted
games to the kind of rigorous testing desired.

Might it be worthwhile anyway? I don't know. On the positive side,
there's no theoretical maximum number of "winners" in this sort of
system -- if fifty people all submitted clean, well-tested games, they
could all go in the download package or disc or whatever it was. In
the best-case scenario, we'd get a bunch of highly-polished,
commercial-quality pieces out of it, and possibly bring them to the
attention of new players.

Graham Holden

unread,
Jul 15, 2004, 4:59:10 AM7/15/04
to
On Wed, 14 Jul 2004 17:00:23 -0400, John Hill <john...@fuse.net> wrote:

>Knight37 wrote:
>
>> Quintin Stone <st...@rps.net> wrote in
>> news:Pine.LNX.4.58.04...@yes.rps.net:
>>
>>> On Sun, 11 Jul 2004, Cedric Knight wrote:
>>>
>>>> Does anyone have ideas about how to encourage authors to do
>>>> post-release editing and polishing (and so improve the quality of
>>>> released IF overall)? Would collaboration help? A competition for
>>>> 'most-improved game'?
>>>
>>> Maybe a XYZZY award for most-improved game?
>>
>> Actually it sounds like a good idea for a new comp in the late winter /
>> early spring. Entries must have been previously released. Authors should

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
That rule will guarantee at least six candidate entries....

>> provide the original released version and the updated one. Judges should
>> spend up to 2 hours playing the original if they didn't already play it
>> from a previous release, then at least 1 hour on the new version. Rate
>> them based on how well they think the game improved, NOT how well they
>> liked the game (in other words, a game that was great to begin with and
>> only had minor changes shouldn't score very well in this comp). I'm not
>> sure source code should be provided, I don't think it's relevant.
>> Ideally this would be a comp for all those games that scored in the 3-6
>> range in the main comp to get a rewrite and get some more attention with
>> a better version.
>>
>> I will note that I'm not against the idea of an XYZZY category. I think
>> that would be a good idea too, but I'm not sure it's enough of an
>> "incentive" for many authors to do a rewrite.
>
>Cool, very cool.
>
>To kill some mischief right off, here's a proposal for an
>explicit rule: "Improvements to the game must be authorized
>by the original version's author."
>
>Nobody, for example, should presume to "improve" a Rybread
>game. (Without the permission of the Master, that is.)


Regards,
Graham Holden (g-holden AT dircon DOT co DOT uk)
--
There are 10 types of people in the world;
those that understand binary and those that don't.

Tommy Herbert

unread,
Jul 15, 2004, 9:25:16 AM7/15/04
to
ems...@mindspring.com (ems...@mindspring.com) wrote in message news:<a69830de.0407...@posting.google.com>...

> Might it be worthwhile anyway?

Yes! I'd donate £10 and cartoonish cover art if it was wanted.

Cedric Knight

unread,
Jul 15, 2004, 12:23:31 PM7/15/04
to
I wrote (without reading through properly):
> > [Samwyse wrote:]

> >> And based on my
> >> experiences in this group, not everyone takes kindly to feedback that
> >> extends beyond the "it crashes when I do this" variety.

> That's the only time I've heard of such a thing. In my experience,


> surprisingly enough, authors have even seemed irritated or hurt by some of
> my more pedantic comments, although on one occasion someone did withdraw

should have read "authors have /never/ even seemed irritated or hurt by" my
harshest beta-testing comments.

CK


Cirk R. Bejnar

unread,
Jul 15, 2004, 3:47:01 PM7/15/04
to
ems...@mindspring.com (ems...@mindspring.com) wrote: >

> I had a different idea, which is probably bad for one or more reasons.
> (Actually, I can think of a couple of reasons myself.) But here it
> is anyway: instead of having a competition along these lines, make an
> anthology every year (or if this is too hard, every two years).
> Authors submit games (previously released or not); they get an
> additional month or two of focused beta-testing by the judges, who may
> or may not be the community at large (I haven't quite figured out how
> this phase would work); authors go away, polish, resubmit; the games
> are inspected and voted on for aspects including buglessness and
> professionalism, and those attaining a certain quality level go in the
> anthology.
>
> Then the anthology is released in some format designed to garner
> attention from outside R*IF -- maybe by being submitted to
> download.com and having the $75 listing fee paid (or whatever it is
> now); maybe having the package sent off to reviewers at adventure
> 'zines; maybe being assembled onto a nice CD. Obviously there's
> nothing to stop people from doing these things with their own games at
> any time, but there's something unappealing about spending money to
> advertise freeware, especially if the game itself is a short one.

I've been thinking about this for a while, actually. Though what got
me thinking was commercial possibilities rather than improvement per
se. People produce alot of great games every year and with some
testing and editing they can clearly be considered comercial quality.
I think that if people are willing to donate time to set it up an
anthology CD could easily sell well enough to provide slight cost
recovery-Not profits but say $5 for each author who submits a game.

The primary goal being to widen the audience for IF, the biggest
hurdle I see is packaging the interpreters nicely enough to appeal to
a broad-and not highly computer literate audience.

Are people interesting in this? My own thought had been to invite the
Comp top 10 and the XYZZY nominees to submit a cleaned-up,
easter-egged version,but perhaps Emily is on the right track looking
at games where a second edition would be a big help. Though those
groups are not necessarily incontiguous. People complained of bugs in
Gourmet, Cerulean Stowaway, The Atomic Heart, and To Hell in a Hamper
last year.

Unfortunately I don'thave time at the moment to quardinate anything
but am more than willing to help out in any way I can, like sending
moneyfor CD's.

Cirk R. Bejnar

Adam Thornton

unread,
Jul 15, 2004, 9:01:26 PM7/15/04
to
In article <pan.2004.07.14....@fuse.net>,

John Hill <john...@fuse.net> wrote:
>To kill some mischief right off, here's a proposal for an
>explicit rule: "Improvements to the game must be authorized
>by the original version's author."

Oh, just destroy my entire _oeuvre_, why don't you?

Adam

ems...@mindspring.com

unread,
Jul 16, 2004, 4:52:21 AM7/16/04
to
eluch...@yahoo.com (Cirk R. Bejnar) wrote in message news:<dd75c795.04071...@posting.google.com>...

<snip theory about freeware anthology I wrote>


>
> I've been thinking about this for a while, actually. Though what got
> me thinking was commercial possibilities rather than improvement per
> se. People produce alot of great games every year and with some
> testing and editing they can clearly be considered comercial quality.
> I think that if people are willing to donate time to set it up an
> anthology CD could easily sell well enough to provide slight cost
> recovery-Not profits but say $5 for each author who submits a game.

Yeah, I see the appeal of this. (Though $5? That seems high if it's
per-CD, silly if it's total.) The reason I didn't suggest it is
because the idea in the first place requires a lot of effort by a
bunch of people who possibly aren't the authors -- testers, artists,
assemblers of CDs, etc. Once you introduce profit into the scenario,
there're suddenly a bunch of heinous details to work out about the
fair distribution thereof -- it doesn't make sense (to me) to ask
someone to make free art to help promote something from which *I* hope
to make money, for instance. *Someone* would have to do the job of
managing the promotion, tracking the sales, and continuing to
distribute revenues for as long as the thing remained available;
possibly even mailing the stuff out themselves. Kind of a tiresome
job.

There are ways to circumvent parts of this, but it just seemed to me
to be a less contentious and less difficult undertaking to start out,
at least, with a volunteer effort. If the results were sold, they
could be sold just at a price designed to recoup the costs of
production and advertising.

But I don't know. I'm not seeing hordes of people saying "yes, let's
do that!!" to either of these ideas anyway, so maybe neither is
timely.

Uli Kusterer

unread,
Jul 16, 2004, 8:45:06 AM7/16/04
to
In article <dd75c795.04071...@posting.google.com>,

eluch...@yahoo.com (Cirk R. Bejnar) wrote:

> Are people interesting in this? My own thought had been to invite the
> Comp top 10 and the XYZZY nominees to submit a cleaned-up,
> easter-egged version,but perhaps Emily is on the right track looking
> at games where a second edition would be a big help. Though those
> groups are not necessarily incontiguous. People complained of bugs in
> Gourmet, Cerulean Stowaway, The Atomic Heart, and To Hell in a Hamper
> last year.

Personally,

I think the ones who have already actually *won* a competition
shouldn't be in this second edition vote, or at least shouldn't be our
target audience. I mean, their games are already fairly good.

Maybe there could be a list of "runners up" who get a chance to have
their game re-evaluated after a certain while, if they release a
bug-fixed version? Kind of like the "honorable mention": Great game iun
need of some debugging.

The opportunity to get a second chance after having failed might be
encouragement enough. OTOH, this might also lead to more people
releasing half-finished games to see whether they get an honorable
mention, and only then they might actually put the work into making it
decent ...

Cheers,
-- Uli
http://www.zathras.de

Jess Knoch

unread,
Jul 16, 2004, 1:27:56 PM7/16/04
to
ems...@mindspring.com wrote:
> eluch...@yahoo.com (Cirk R. Bejnar) wrote in message
> news:<dd75c795.04071...@posting.google.com>...
>
> <snip theory about freeware anthology I wrote>
>>
>> I've been thinking about this for a while, actually. Though what got
>> me thinking was commercial possibilities rather than improvement per
>> se. People produce alot of great games every year and with some
>> testing and editing they can clearly be considered comercial quality.
>> I think that if people are willing to donate time to set it up an
>> anthology CD could easily sell well enough to provide slight cost
>> recovery-Not profits but say $5 for each author who submits a game.
>
> Yeah, I see the appeal of this.

I like this idea, too. I'd help, if someone could remind me what I was
supposed to be doing. (I always seem to have enthusiasm without true
determination.)

> (Though $5? That seems high if it's
> per-CD, silly if it's total.)

Well, it's *something.* It keeps it from being free, so people could say
they got paid for it :-). We could always think of it as percentages if that
makes it easier.

> The reason I didn't suggest it is
> because the idea in the first place requires a lot of effort by a
> bunch of people who possibly aren't the authors -- testers, artists,
> assemblers of CDs, etc.

Ye-es... there's that "effort" problem again. :-) I will start keeping a
list, just for fun's sake, of what people might contribute if they had
someone to remind them of what to do. Cirk mentioned sending money for CDs.
Tommy Herbert said he would donate 10 pounds and maybe cartoonish cover art
(hey, I'll take anything). I can contribute intensive beta-testing and
possibly CD replicating and printing -- we have a machine that does it but
someone would still need to buy the CDs themselves. Aw heck, I can help out
financially a bit too if I get to keep one of the anthologie.

Who else has something to contribute? Timeframe: Jan - April 2005. Any
thoughts, ideas, promises to send money?

(For the moment, I'm looking at this as a volunteer effort, and any leftover
money at the end from donations [ha! - leftover money. I kill me.] would go
to the 2006 anthology or whatever.)

-- Jess


John Hill

unread,
Jul 16, 2004, 4:27:04 PM7/16/04
to

Um, my bad.

What can we do, then, to encourage the improvement of Stiffy?

--
John Hill
A: Whatever it takes.

Adam Thornton

unread,
Jul 16, 2004, 5:57:28 PM7/16/04
to
In article <pan.2004.07.16...@fuse.net>,

John Hill <john...@fuse.net> wrote:
>What can we do, then, to encourage the improvement of Stiffy?

My Inbox, sadly, is full of suggestions.

Adam

Rob Steggles

unread,
Jul 16, 2004, 6:42:55 PM7/16/04
to

<snip>

My own thought had been to invite the
> > Comp top 10 and the XYZZY nominees to submit a cleaned-up,
> > easter-egged version,but perhaps Emily is on the right track looking
> > at games where a second edition would be a big help.

<snip>

Just taking this thought for a walk: would it be a good idea to to have a
"best of the last ten years of IF?" compilation, seeing as the IF Comp is
ten years old this year?. Could act as a great intro for new players as
well as a nice memento for all those that have been contributing over the
past decade. Add in interviews, some feelies and author notes: I'm sure it
would be attractive to the community. Such a CD may even persuade people
to do a few bug fixes / director's cut versions of their games in answer to
the original question of this thread..

The CD could contain top 5 from each year plus some honorable,
groundbreaking mentions judged by the r.*.i.f + SPAG + Xyzzy crowd, plus an
intro to If, an intro to IF programming, something that tells you what game
to play based on a psychometric test you undertake etc etc Add your own
thoughts, you know where I'm going..

Rob Steggles


Gregory Weir

unread,
Jul 16, 2004, 8:02:25 PM7/16/04
to
> I've been thinking about this for a while, actually. Though what got
> me thinking was commercial possibilities rather than improvement per
> se. People produce alot of great games every year and with some
> testing and editing they can clearly be considered comercial quality.
> I think that if people are willing to donate time to set it up an
> anthology CD could easily sell well enough to provide slight cost
> recovery-Not profits but say $5 for each author who submits a game.

*snip*

For this to be even moderately successful, it'd need one of two
things, I think: either a real honest-to-goodness game publisher
behind it, even if it was one of those bargain-bin CD mills (so that
it would get into stores) or a whole lot of publicity on the internet
and in the media: PC Gamer, Slashdot, NY Times, the works.

Otherwise it'd fall into the "vanity press" problem, where people
would spend quite a bit on publishing for something that would only be
bought by mothers and cousins and fellow newsgroup denizens.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Gregory Weir

Aaron Reed

unread,
Jul 18, 2004, 8:54:34 PM7/18/04
to
Maybe an alternative to paying authors would be to take any profits
from the sale and donate them to one or several IF community resources
to pay for bandwidth, hosting, and so on. Alternatively proceeds could
be donated to a real-life charity.

Regardless, I think this is a great idea. I can think of several
friends who've never taken the time to download interpreters, hunt
through the archives for good games, and so on, but would enjoy
playing IF if I could just hand them a CD. It would definitely provide
encouragement to authors to polish released games. Add me to the list
of those willing to donate time and resources to such a project.

--Aaron A. Reed

eluch...@yahoo.com (Cirk R. Bejnar) wrote in message news:<dd75c795.04071...@posting.google.com>...

Cedric Knight

unread,
Aug 9, 2004, 4:24:30 PM8/9/04
to
J. D. Berry wrote:
> "Cedric Knight" <ckn...@gn.babpbc.removeallBstosend.org> wrote
>> I admit my concern partly stems from feelings after submitting bug
>> reports to authors on IFs that I fundamentally enjoy or like, and
>> yet being disappointed by never seeing a new release uploaded to the
>> Archive, which I imagine would do justice to the concept and to the
>> author's inspiration and hard work so far.
>
> I hope you weren't thinking of me on this one, Ced. I incorporated
> your suggestions and released a version 2 of WHC.

Oh, in case my previous reply to this three weeks ago wasn't clear:

Play "When Help Collides!"

It's fun, ground-breaking IF which is not at all on rails (there are at
least nine different endings), and is available from
http://mirror.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/Help.z8

End of disinterested plug.

Cedric


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