Z-Machine Matter Box Art
Game Theory Video on Story Telling

The IntroComp Dilemma

At this point, I'm guessing I'm about 25% through the implementation of my game "The Z-Machine Matter."  I've tested it out with about 10 people and it appears to have been well received.  I have the game mapped out, but there's a lot of work still to be done in implementing the outline, characters and plot twists that I've written.  Alas, my time to work on the game is very limited and I expect progress is going to be slow.

In order to keep things going, I am considering entering an unfinished version in IntroComp in June.  I should be able to make more progress in the coming months and then finish the game in the months after IntroComp.  Or at least that's my goal.  

One minor sticking point with IntroComp: most IF competitions don't let you enter a game that has been previously entered into IntroComp.  Although to be fair, this is really more of an issue with the other major competitions, SpringThing and IFComp rather than IntroComp per se.

As stated in the IntroComp FAQ:

No go, my friend. It would run afoul of the spirit of IFComp's "no prior release" rule. You may be allowed to enter it in other minicomps, though - ask your local minicomp dealer. 

In other words, you can enter the introductory scene or scenes of your game into IntroComp as a way to gauge interest and get feedback, but in so doing, you're effectively ruled out of the major comps.

While I have great respect for the organizers of these competitions, their reasoning seems pretty bizarre.  SpringThing has considered making their competition open to games that were previously entered in IntroComp, but IFComp doesn't seem open to this idea at all.  The thinking is that by being strict about not letting any previously released games into IFComp that this will encourage more people to write games.  I don't see how that makes any sense.  It seems to me encouraging IntroComp authors to finish their games by letting them enter IFComp would better accomplish the stated goal.  

But I'm just a newbie in the IF world and I don't think my input or views on this were particularly welcome. Or maybe I wasn't clear enough in my presentation to the IFComp organizers.  But it looks like I'll have to decide whether I should enter IntroComp and give up the ability to enter the completed game elsewhere or not. 

What do you think?  Does the "no prior release" rule of IFComp make sense?  Should there be an exception to allow authors of IntroComp games to enter their completed works?  Should I bother with IntroComp?  Let me know what you think.  I still think the full-blown comps are great and will continue to donate prizes, help fund kickstarter projects in the IF Community etc. But I still can't get my head around this.


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World's shoddiest workaround: if at all possible (which it likely isn't), make your game a "duology" or "trilogy," of which the first, entirely-stand-alone-portion, happens to be your IntroComp entry. The sequel, naturally, will be your IFComP entry the following year. Thank goodness you will happen to have already written much of the setting, many of the characters, and basic machinery unique to your game. Make sure you have no narrative overlap. But ouch, doesn't that prick against the spirit of open community?

To be even more in the spirit of the rules, consider writing a prequel, or an entirely different but complementary story with the same setting, in the same universe. I'm trying to avoid actually addressing your question of whether no prior release makes sense, but I'll just have to admit failure and attempt to summarize.

I would imagine that IFComp and Spring Thing may well be amenable to creating an exception clause for IntroComp, since they are such innately suited destinations for finished works which benefit the greater community. They may well want to place a particular limit on the size of the former IntroComp entries they would accept as having "graduated" to the majors, just to ensure that let's say, 80% of the game material is unique to the completed work.

You raise an excellent question, and I'm of the opinion that should a certain critical mass of respectful voices plead their cases amongst the Competitions Three and others, we may well see the present rules adjusted in favor of encouraging the completion of games we'll all enjoy. Some of the most successful revolutions begin with, "Hey, I like what you're doing; I was thinking. . ."

Everyone who's running these comps are generous people who want to foster an atmosphere of professionalism and respect within their project.

As you say, "bother with "IntroComp," while you also bother the other organizers with reasoned discourse, appreciation, and cheer.

Better yet, don't bother with competitions at all. If you're at the right place and time, fine, otherwise ignore them. Some of the best games ever were released outside any competition.

That said, if you have to choose one, go with the IntroComp. It's small, friendly and very well organized.

I don't think that encouraging more people to write games is the main purpose of the IFComp rule.

The biggest controllable dimension in which you can level the playfield in IFComp is by making sure that none of the entries have been played or promoted before the comp. Given the size of the comp, large number of voters and the need to make the voting meaningful - I understand why this rule needs to stand for all entries.

I say this as someone who's entered the comp once. I read the thread you linked, and I don't think your view was unwelcome, but I see that other folks said what I just said here, and I would stress I'm not actually in cahoots with them :)

I had thought that the Spring Thing organizer was actually planning to allow IntroComp entries, and perhaps just hadn't got round to changing the FAQ. But perhaps I'm misremembering it. Anyway, maybe it'd be worth e-mailing him to see what his plans are.

(I'm guessing that the PAX Demo fair raises the same issues as IntroComp.)

Ah, this is what I remembered from the thread you linked:

"Greg Boettcher said he was going to update the rules to allow this, but he never did. I expect he would if someone emailed him and reminded him, though."

So, if I were you, I'd be the someone to e-mail him.

Thanks for the comments. I have indeed emailed Greg at SpringThing and he said he would make it work. He is quite busy with a new job and so he has not gotten around to updating the rules. Still, I am optimistic on that one. However, since SpringThing is *before* IntroComp it means effectively waiting until 2012 for SpringThing. So while it's good in theory I am not sure in practice the timing will really work for me. (Perhaps others will benefit though.)

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