Tuesday, 19 August 2014

AIF Minicomp - Where to now?

Cross-posted from Overanalysing AIF

Fully half of the entries in this year's Minicomp were made with Twine, confirming that CYOA is now a feature of the AIF landscape. That alone would mean that the Minicomp rules have to be revised, since they were written with only traditional text parser systems in mind. However, as the deadline approached this year, there was also discussion on aifarchive around relaxing the size restrictions. It came to naught, as it was obviously too late to change anything for this year's Minicomp, and will now probably be forgotten about until the deadline for next year's Minicomp is fast approaching. Unless, that is, we start having a robust discussion about the rules now, which is what this post is intended to stimulate.

Let's begin by really playing devil's advocate and asking if the Minicomp should be continued at all. That's not a facetious question, as the Minicomp doesn't provide many concrete benefits to the community. For example, if you compare the total number of games released in the years before and after the Minicomp started, it's pretty clear that the Minicomp has not led to an increase in the overall number of games. It's also clear that the Minicomp isn't doing much to nurture new authors, as only one person who's made their debut in the Minicomp has gone on to release a full-length game. By way of contrast, look at the reception Palmer's Emily demo got. Would it have received the same amount of attention (which led to Emily: Sister Attraction being the most anticipated game of 2014) if it had been entered in the Minicomp and been forced to share the spotlight with several other games? I'm inclined to doubt it. The same goes for Karrek's Study Date, which could have been squeezed into the Minicomp restrictions with a little effort. The counter-argument is that the Minicomp's status as an 'event' has the power to motivate people to try to create games, and there is the possibility that its removal would have a demoralising effect, leading to even fewer games.

If you agree that the Minicomp should continue, the question becomes what should its purpose be? Should it be primarily a competition, with honour and glory to the victor? Is it supposed to encourage new authors? Is it primarily for the enjoyment of players? I get the impression that the current Minicomp is trying to be all of those things simultaneously, which might explain why it's not particularly successful at any of them. Either way, the biggest problem that needs to be addressed is probably the severe drop in participation after 2009 (38 entries in 2006-9, compared with 19 entries for 2010-3). The 2014 Minicomp bucked that trend somewhat, but I'm not sure how comparable it is with past years due to the presence of Twine games for the first time, and because the numbers were padded by the inclusion of incomplete games. Interestingly, the decline more or less coincides with the last time the Minicomp rules were modified (to increase the maximum number of rooms and characters, and to allow discussion during the voting period). It's hard to believe that increased discussion could discourage people from making games, but it's a lot easier to imagine that increasing the maximum size of games has made it more difficult for authors (especially new authors) to complete their entries before the deadline. There have certainly been a number of games in recent years that have had to forgo testing in order to meet the deadline. So there's an argument to be made against the restrictions being relaxed even further.

During the pre-Minicomp discussion, both BBBen and Purple Dragon said that the Minicomp needed some restrictions to stop people entering games of the scale of PAC. That seems a little disingenuous to me since no one was suggesting that there should be no restrictions at all, and even raising or removing the room limit (which was suggested) wouldn't have that effect. More pertinently, they also stated that the intention of the restrictions was to encourage small, self-contained games. If that's the case, then you'd have to say that the current rules haven't been very successful. The prototypical Minicomp game (setup -> obstacle -> reward) still gets made, but they're frequently overshadowed by games that have subverted the rules in ways that allow more content. That's true even of the very first Minicomp, where the winning entry included a combat system and limited graphics. The fact that it's experienced authors who are better able to subvert the rules in this way (and thus more likely to end up dominating any discussion) may also discourage new authors from entering.

The problem with imposing size limits is that there isn't a simple way to measure the size of AIF games. Back in the early days of IF, size was equated with the number of rooms (for example, Level 9 boasted that Snowball had 7,000 rooms, even though 6,800 of them were a colour-coded maze with minimal description). However, in a character-oriented genre like AIF, the number of rooms is a bit meaningless. It's even worse for CYOA games, especially since Once Upon A Dream (written by the person organising the Minicomp at the time) established the precedent that CYOA sequences don't count as rooms. The actual size of AIF games is more closely connected with the number of characters, but it's possible to create a large game even with only two sexually interactive characters and a handful of rooms (as GoblinBoy proved with Second Guest and In Darkness).

For those reasons, I think it makes sense to think of game size in terms of scenes. If you accept that, then the most straightforward way to limit the Minicomp to smaller games would be to restrict entries to one sex scene (in one location with two participants), period. For the avoidance of doubt, anything involving physical contact (including masturbation), even if it's non-interactive, would count as a sex scene. While that probably sounds draconian, it's a standard that the vast majority of past entries would meet. Unfortunately, the minority of games that would have failed that test includes many of the most popular entries, meaning that players would lose out (assuming that those games wouldn't have been made otherwise, which is debatable). It's also true that authors would probably find ways to subvert even this restriction. For example by making the 'sex scene' as large as possible (The Snowstorm from this year's Minicomp is an example of how that could be done), or by having a greater proportion of non-sexual content (although I suspect that audiences would react negatively if the imbalance was too great). However, it would still be more of a limit than the current rules, meaning that the playing field would be more level if that's a consideration. It would also be simpler than the current rules, which is desirable given that nearly every Minicomp I can remember has been preceded by people asking what is and isn't allowed. Finally, it's a restriction that could be applied to CYOA games with equal fairness.

But what if your aim is to nurture new authors? This is not something that the Minicomp has done well in the past, which I suspect is due to the limited amount of feedback that new authors get in the Minicomp. Back when there was no discussion during the voting period they would be lucky to get any. But even though discussion is now allowed, it generally focuses on one or two games (which are more likely to have been written by experienced authors), while the weaker games in the competition (which are more likely to have been written by new authors) get ignored. Since feedback is the only reward that authors receive, it stands to reason that less feedback leads to less desire to write another game. It also can't be very encouraging for new authors who have spent months working on their games to be forced out of the spotlight by a game that a more experienced author whipped up in less than a week. The only way to stop that from happening would be to limit the Minicomp to 'new' authors (i.e. excluding anyone who has released a non-Minicomp game or, less restrictively, excluding anyone who has won the Minicomp in the past). After all, if you're capable of making a complete game in a week then presumably you're capable of doing so at any time and don't need to prove yourself in a Minicomp. Unfortunately, that would have the undoubted effect of reducing the number of entries even further. It could also make the Minicomp less attractive to new authors by turning it into a tallest dwarf contest.

A lot of the issues around 'fairness' could be eliminated simply by removing the voting element of the Minicomp, and making it more of a 'game jam' kind of event (perhaps with a different theme every year). However, I suspect that would lead to the Minicomp losing some of its lustre as an event. Saying that everyone's a winner just for taking part is all very well, but it's not the best motivation. It also wouldn't have much effect on the actual prize that authors receive (feedback).

If you are going to have voting, should it be broken up into different categories? Back when no discussion was allowed, it would be useful for authors to know where their games were weakest and/or strongest since they probably wouldn't get any other feedback. These days, authors theoretically get feedback during the voting period, which should give them (again, theoretically) more detailed and useful information. Having multiple categories can also make it difficult to calculate the overall 'winner', as we saw with this year's Minicomp. Another issue to consider is that the growing popularity of CYOA systems means that ranking games is no longer an apples to apples comparison. What makes a Twine game technically more impressive than a TADS game (or vice versa), for example? Having either a single vote or ranking the games in order of preference would simplify matters greatly. Making voting a simpler process could also have the effect of increasing the number of votes, which I would see as a plus since voting is a gateway to participation in the larger community (or at least it was for me).

When I started writing this post I was in favour of relaxing the Minicomp restrictions somewhat. But, as sometimes happens, the act of writing about it has forced me to consider my reasoning more closely, with the result that I've completely reversed my position and now think that the rules should be more restrictive. Admittedly, part of why I've reached that conclusion is the conviction that authors are better off releasing games outside the Minicomp, but limiting games to a single sex scene should have the effect of making them more focused and more in line with what was originally intended. It would also result in smaller games, which should theoretically result in greater participation since more authors would complete their games before the deadline.

Anyhow, my opinions probably shouldn't be given a great deal of weight, since it's highly unlikely that I will ever run or enter the Minicomp. What I hope that this post will do is stimulate discussion. There's a tendency on the part of the community to forget about the Minicomp for eleven months of the year, with the result that any changes are either made unilaterally by the organizer or, more often, not made at all. What should happen (if the community were more engaged) is that any changes should be hashed out well in advance, so that authors can make their plans accordingly.

Over to you.


  1. My mini-comp experience: I released Buffy: Before the Date, my first and only AIF so far. If it wasn't for the mini-comp deadline I never would have finished it (I believe I got it in just a little before the deadline). It was well received, with most of the best/detailed comments coming in personal emails, though it had some really major bugs because of the time constraints (one which completely knocked out one of the games endings and there were some rooms were I forgot to add object descriptions which made for some interesting guesswork).

    I didn't get in the contest for rankings, but to be honest when it got a first place in anything from anyone I felt quite pleased.

    So to me the main benefits of the mini-comp where A) the time limit and B) the challenge.

    they're frequently overshadowed by games that have subverted the rules in ways that allow more content.
    Challenge: Your post sounds to me like it presumes new authors want something 'easy' (sorry if I'm reading you wrong). I don't think that is necessarily true. A big motivator for me was: how do I pack as much content/variety into this under the rules?

    Now a clear limitation helps a new author keep their thoughts and ambitions from spiraling out of control (though that is a problem that maybe all authors have). But I feel that if you limit it to one sex scene between two characters it destroys a lot of creativity.

    The fact that it's experienced authors who are better able to subvert the rules in this way (and thus more likely to end up dominating any discussion) may also discourage new authors from entering.

    Even if we were designing games under very structured guidelines I suspect that 1) established authors would dominate anyway and 2) I think this would do more to discourage than encourage new authors.

    1. Continued because of size limitations:

      But what if your aim is to nurture new authors?

      I don’t know if the mini-comp can, or should, do this.

      I think the assumption (again, sorry if I’m misreading you) here is that the minicomp allows authors to make a game under a limited set of guidelines and workload, thus teaching them the system, thus allowing and encouraging them to get the difficult part out of the way and move on. I don’t think it is understanding the design process that keeps authors from making more games, but the sheer workload involved.

      I think if you wanted to encourage new authors the best idea might be kind of an ‘alpha month’ where new authors (or maybe even established) are encouraged to release their product no matter how incomplete it is and get comments from other authors. There wouldn’t need to be any voting in such a system as it isn’t designed to say ‘what is the best game’, but ‘how is this looking? Anyone have any suggestions?’

      I suppose the major worry is that you might have such a month and then no one shows up.

      I think the mini-comp should be viewed primarily as a challenge open to new and established authors. Here are the rules and limitations, now try and make the best game possible within those guidelines. I’d favor the rules varying from year to year if possible to keep things interesting, but I think this sounds easier than it would actually be.

      Voting: Keep it. Even if you got rid of explicit voting it would still be obvious which games were the favorites based on community discussion.

      Discussion: I wasn’t involved in the community when you weren’t allowed to discuss games during the test period, and that has always struck me as insane.

      Voting Period: I’d allow authors to rerelease their game with bugs fixed. I think it might encourage authors to just go ahead and get their games out, but it also might lead to a lot of garbage. It would help ensure though that games got fixed.

      Limited characters: To me one of the inherent problems with limiting the characters/sex scenes even more is that I think many players are looking to play a fantasy of ‘get the girls’ instead of more realistic ‘get the girl’ (given my personal preference in that direction, that might be bias talking). I think a strict limit of one 1 on 1 sex scene might hurt participation of those who are looking for their adult content to have more of a harem theme.

    2. "Your post sounds to me like it presumes new authors want something 'easy' (sorry if I'm reading you wrong)."

      You're reading me wrong. The main assumption I'm making is that authors (especially new authors) want feedback. My observation of the discussion process is that only a few authors get that.

      I'm also extrapolating from the fact that relaxing the size restrictions hasn't led to greater participation (the opposite in fact). From that I conclude that if the 'canvas' were more limited, more games might be entered.

    3. 1: Have the declines in the minicomp been unique? Or has there been a general decline in all AIF games? (I don't have an idea, but I haven't been in the community for the entire time the minicomp has been around)

      2:I'm not sure how the adjustments to the minicomp will, or even can, elicit more feedback.

    4. 1. You can see the raw numbers at http://overanalysingaif.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-numbers-game-redux.html, but basically:
      a) the number of full-length games being released annually fell off a cliff in 2007 (ie. it dropped by almost 75%)
      b) the number of Minicomp entries didn't start to drop until 2010 (when it suddenly halved)
      c) both numbers have now more or less stabilised, but at a level much lower than the 'peak' period

      2. Sorry, my earlier reply was a little rushed. I don't assume that authors want something 'easy', and I don't think that tightening the size restrictions would make things easier (although it would reduce the amount of work required, which could lead to more entries being completed). However, feedback is one thing I do assume that authors want (although I don't imagine it's the only thing that every author wants), and I think the greater difficulty of obtaining it via the Minicomp is a possible reason why so few Minicomp authors have gone on to write anything larger. That said, I can't think of any change to the Minicomp rules that would produce more feedback, which is why I would agree that creating new authors shouldn't be the Minicomp's purpose.


      The main reasons why I think there need to be rule changes is to address some or all of the following:
      a) the drop in participation
      b) the increase in the number of CYOA games (which the current rules don't accomodate)
      c) lack of clarity in the current rules

      My suggestions are that number of scenes should be used as a measure of a game's size (as that's something that could be applied to both CYOA and traditional games) and/or the size limitations should be returned to something comparable to their original levels (to reduce the workload for authors). Tangentially, I also think it would be an improvement if voting was changed to a single category (ie. best game) preference vote. You might very well have different conclusions and, as you've previously entered the Minicomp (and may do so again in the future), they should probably be given more weight than my opinions.

      Anyhow, I thought that it was important that any potential changes should be discussed now, rather than a month before the Minicomp 2015 deadline when it would be impossible to implement them.

    5. I find that you keep looking for answers inside the AIF community when the answer is likely outside it. The lull in AIF did coincide with the AIF newsletter, the minicomp rule changes, and the dominance of Goblinboy. The lull in AIF also coincided with the growth of Tube porn channels (giving porn-users a quicker, easier, and more visual porn-fix), newsgroups finally completely dying out (including alt.games.xtrek, the earlier home of AIF), a hollowing out of online erotica stories, the rise of online erotic fan-fiction, the death of Adrift (to be revived more recently as Adrift 5), the move from Inform 6 to Inform 7, and the move from Tads2 to Tads3. Any of those changes might have also caused the lull in AIF.

    6. The main reason I look for internal causes is because those are things the AIF community can actually affect.

      Besides, the drop we're talking about is specific to the AIF community. The number of games being produced outside of the community doesn't seem to be affected.

  2. I like the idea of a one sex scene, one location, two participants rule.

    I did actually also almost propose a game jam (themed, with a one week deadline, no other restrictions) in the wake of the mini-comp and separate to it. I thought this would be cool, I just felt that I would probably have to participate myself and I need to keep making progress on my current project rather than getting distracted.

  3. "During the pre-Minicomp discussion, both BBBen and Purple Dragon said that the Minicomp needed some restrictions to stop people entering games of the scale of PAC. That seems a little disingenuous to me since no one was suggesting that there should be no restrictions at all, and even raising or removing the room limit (which was suggested) wouldn't have that effect. More pertinently, they also stated that the intention of the restrictions was to encourage small, self-contained games. If that's the case, then you'd have to say that the current rules haven't been very successful. The prototypical Minicomp game (setup -> obstacle -> reward) still gets made, but they're frequently overshadowed by games that have subverted the rules in ways that allow more content. That's true even of the very first Minicomp, where the winning entry included a combat system and limited graphics."

    Well, I don't think we were being disingenuous (maybe you used the wrong word), but just to engage with that point a bit, I don't think the mini-comp has actually failed to encourage the smaller, self-contained games all that badly. For a start I think that "WWE: Raw's New GM" didn't subvert the size restriction by including a combat system and (very) limited graphics, because that all fits nicely within the scope of what I consider to be a good self-contained mini-comp game. It had a gameplay challenge section and then a single sex scene, and I think it actually is a pretty good template for the approach the rules were designed to foster. Incidentally, that wasn't the first mini-comp winner, I think it was the third. It was just the first to be organised by the newsletter.

    On the more general issue of authors trying to subvert the rules, it's happened a lot and will likely always happen, but this isn't necessarily a huge problem. It's a part of the challenge and creative process of the format that we are supposed to come up with clever ways to fit content in around the restrictions.

    I have always been in favour of subtly tightening the rules to allow less of the gradual bloating that has occurred, but I've always lost those battles. I do like the suggestion of one sex scene per game, and I'd like to see a draft of what the actual rules would look like.

  4. One more thing, I posted this before but blogspot lost my post, so here it is again:

    I'd quite like to see an optional comments box on the mini-comp voting form for each game - that is one optional comments box per game. That way when people are thinking about which games are better and worse, they can submit some comments anonymously and those comments will be easily collected and returned to the authors. It would be a bit like those anonymous teacher evaluations they give out in university.

  5. That is a very difficult question indeed. I don't really think there is a right or wrong answer here, only decisions that can be made.

    As you pointed out, BBBen, the current Minicomp tries to be several things at once and, as a consequence, doesn't fill any pair of shoes properly.

    So, maybe the answer to this conflict of interest might be to divide the current Minicomp into several, more focused competitions, perhaps one that is explicitly directed at new authors (with very strict guidelines and limitations to make them comparable and very detailed reviews and discussions to help new members of the community making their first steps in a controlled environment) and one that really is a "Battle Royale" between the experienced writers here, with a development time limit but maybe otherwise largely unrestricted (or perhaps very restrictive, actually challenging them to subvert the rules in creative ways?). I feel like this would solve several problems.

    At the same time, however, it obviously makes one of the main (perhaps THE main problem) much more severe - The declining number of entries.
    If this trend is indeed connected to the lack of direction of the current Minicomp, the division should absolutely deal with that and potentially even revive the community to some extent. If it is unrelated, however, it may very well end up smothering both of them and (effectively) split the already dwindling participation in half.

    So, again, I don't think there is THE answer. Any kind of solution may very well backfire since there is no telling what exactly causes are behind the effects we're seeing.
    I think AIF is far from dead - Some of the greatest AIF games I've played came out in the last few years; at the same time, however, I also think it is past its (first?) prime. Twine, with its simple UI that requires very little experience to get into, may very well revitalize AIF as a whole. Or maybe the next Coming of GoblinBoy is upon us soon and he (or perhaps she) start a new AIF hype. We simply don't know. And like with any internet thing, it could spread like a wildfire at any given moment or keep us waiting on that explosion for a long, long time.

  6. Has there ever been consideration given to theming the Minicomp? I'm just spitballing here, but doing so might provide a clearer focus (and thus, more incentive) for authors looking to dip their feet into the AIF waters. Of course, it could also have the opposite effect of making the competition more exclusive.

    1. There have been a couple of themed 'secondary' Minicomps: BBBen's 2009 AIF Threesome Comp and the AIF Christmas Micro-comp 2009. Neither were hugely successful (1 and 2 entries respectively), although people may just have had Minicomp fatigue. There was also the CCAB Comp 2005, which was themed in the sense that authors had to include certain elements (objects, opening lines, etc.).

      I think the major problem would be coming up with themes that are concrete enough to provide inspiration without being too restrictive.

  7. I'm a very competitive person, and had originally intended to release ESA as a minicomp entry to see how it would measure up. So in my case, the competition was actually what provided the final push I needed to start writing AIF. The same is probably true for other potential authors out there, so I think we should keep it for that reason alone.

  8. I liked the rules for the mini-comp, even if it did mean a quick rehash but, my biggest motivation was to see my game finally released on the Inside Erin's game list. It would be an honor for me and most authors (I think) to see their game on such a site no matter how bad it is (and it wasn't pretty). This has not happened yet which is a shame because it's probably the most prestigious list out there and would most certainly spur me on to better (I Hope) things.
    As for the comp itself, it seems fairly straight forward to me.
    Best Traditional Game
    Best Browser Game
    Best overall Game
    And lots and lots of feed back, it would also be nice if the more established authors put themselves forward to sponsor (for want of a better word) a first timer, to take them under their wing so to speak.

  9. I have been told "The AIF community cannot support more than one comp per year..." So I vote for eliminating the miniComp and just making it an AIFComp. Any game in any form is eligible, big, small, simple, complicated. A short quality game has just as much chance as a giant game of winning. Make an award category for "Best Mini Game" that follows the 5-rooms/4-characters/1-scene limit, but a "mini" game isn't restricted to winning just that category.

    Don't finalize categories until the turnout is determined. If there are three entries, just have a "Favorite Game" award. If there are ten, extend the categories as desired.

    I also love the idea that votes allow anonymous comments, as in the IntroComp.

    The belief that not limiting the games to a "mini" will discourage participation is (IMHO) misguided. I would consider myself prodigious to produce one or two games a year (including non-AIF mainstream release) so I'm *not* going to write more than one AIF. If the only viable venue for AIF limits me to five rooms, I'm never going to be encouraged to write anything more extensive. Right now there's little motivation to release anything outside of the miniComp. Games released mid-year should also be eligible (if the author wants to submit it) as well as new games.

    1. "The belief that not limiting the games to a "mini" will discourage participation is (IMHO) misguided."

      Just to clarify, I have no problem believing that fewer restrictions encourage more people to try to enter. However, I think the evidence suggests that it decreases the actual number of entries because authors are less likely to complete bigger games on time.

      "So I vote for eliminating the miniComp and just making it an AIFComp. Any game in any form is eligible, big, small, simple, complicated."

      Wouldn't there be a risk that entries would be concentrated into the week before the deadline, leaving the rest of the year empty?

      "Don't finalize categories until the turnout is determined. If there are three entries, just have a "Favorite Game" award. If there are ten, extend the categories as desired."

      For reference, the nine games released in 2013 was the lowest number since 2001. The average over the last five years has been just over a dozen (with slightly more than half being non-Minicomp games), so I don't think that standardising some categories (eg. Best PC, Best NPC, Best Sex Scene) would be a huge risk.

  10. In addition to having a "Best Mini Game" category in a more general AIFComp, I also suggest allowing an author to submit a declared unfinished work which is *only* eligible for "Most Promising Unfinished Game" category and the feedback that entails.

  11. For me, I always loved the 'idea' of the Minicomp and have felt that its main purpose is to encourage more AIF games to be written. All the way back to its inception, the thought was always in the back of my mind that maybe this was the year I'd put something together for it. But invariably, it never came to pass and I'd convince myself that next year's comp would be a better option anyways. A few others I talked with intimated the same problem. That being said, I believe the fault of not submitting anything lay within myself and not in the competition or any of its rules, per se. And I'll be honest, in recent years I haven't been terribly excited to play the entries either because I always felt I got uncooked ground beef when I wanted steak.

    As an unestablished author, I'll admit one of the things that held me back was the inherent nature of the minicomp: the fact that it was a competition. I always thought that anything I submitted would be going up against authors who had already released full length, complete games and be much less likely to receive favorable recognition, something all budding authors need to receive. If you're not a 'winner,' how likely are you to continue with other projects?

    The other issue (at least in seems like in recent years) is that some people try to shoehorn (unfinished?) games that they're already working on into the minicomp, with varied success. I think people do want a place and time to get their games out into the public domain, drum up excitement for them, and get positive, constructive feedback, but the minicomp isn't well setup for it.

    Ultimately, I like the idea of a game jam but I would probably call it an AIF Showcase and make it an opportunity for all authors, experienced and new, to highlight what they've been working on. It could be anything ranging from a rough draft of an idea they had, or the first few scenes, or a fully fledged demo, or whatever they want. No voting involved, but a form that has areas to discuss the perceived strengths and weaknesses of what's been submitted. I think that this format will be able to better accommodate the diverse experience of the authors, as well as the varied media (i.e. Adrift, Tads, Twine, etc.) used without limiting anything. It would also allow those who ARE competitive to still compare their games to others out there.

    I also like Doc Realgood's idea of sponsors or mentors and it wouldn't have to involve much, maybe only an e-mail a week or so. If we could use the showcase (or whatever) to connect new authors with more experienced volunteers--I would do so, although 'experienced' is debatable. I know this already happens on some level, but often only when a new author reaches out to the *cough* older writers. If we had a group that took the games in the showcase and WE reached out to them, saying something along the lines of 'I really enjoyed what you submitted and would like to help you make it the best it can be,' that can be a really powerful motivator to someone just starting out. It would also kind of be a 'pay it forward' attitude, with each new crop of authors doing the same for the next generation.

    Whether or not these are the answers we're looking for to help revive a lagging AIF community, I don't know. But Deus ExLibris is right that now is the time to talk about it and make moves to improve it for everyone involved, not next summer.

  12. Since there is only one Comp to look forward to, and it is limited, that makes me not want to write anything *but* a mini entry. If there are only a few releases per year, why *shouldn't* they be concentrated into one event? The answer to that is to put an unfinished game festival ("Semi-Comp?" Har!) early in the year, and then allow those games to be eligible for a full AIFComp at the end of the year (or next) when completed. ("Uncut-Comp?" Har!)

    I just think that other types of games shouldn't get left out. You can't hope for someone to write School Dreams IX and then say they can't be up for an award or celebration of some kind and expect them to be enthusiastic about it. I know comps motivate me to get something done (Yes, I know, FMB. But you know what I mean.)

    I think the key is flexibility. Either the Comp should encompass new mini games *as well as* releases throughout the year, or there should be Heavyweight and Bantamweight classes as well as Lightweight. Have your "Best Game" "Best Mini Game" "Most Promising Unfinished Game". If you have an Alien Sex category and nobody writes an alien sex game, don't have that award. If you get five lesbian entries, create a "Best Lesbian Sex Scene" award just for that year. It's not the oscars, people. Comps should be fun and encouraging.

    Possibly consider if voters got to submit their own freeform awards in addition to the normal ones. There's no reason not to do fun stuff like "Best Use of Anal", "Most Amusing Unintended Response", "Most Creative Non-Human Creature", "Best Puns", "Most Ironic Description of Genitals", "Grasshoppers? Really?" and adjust the field as necessary. If GoblinBoy steps out of a time machine and drops Gifts of Phallius Ultimate Saga: The Complete Dodecology for whatever reason, give him a lifetime achievement award and feature his game as a gift instead of expecting other people to compete with it.

    The more inflexible the community is, the more difficult it is to encourage new authors and new types of games.

    1. Perhaps the annual Erin awards should be re-instated (with a "Best Mini Game" category as a replacement for the Minicomp, and other categories added as circumstances permit)?

    2. There already was a "best short game" category, but I don't think it should replace the mini-comp. The Erins were good and I'd like to see them come back (so long as I don't have to do the work) but they didn't motivate entries the same way the mini-comp does.

      I personally would prefer a return of the Erins rather than an full AIF comp, but that doesn't mean that there isn't room for changes to the old format. It could definitely be adapted with flexible awards, though I'm not sure who determines the categories, if there was a workable system there it would be good.

    3. "It could definitely be adapted with flexible awards"

      The voting categories in the Erins did tend to vary from year to year, partly as a reaction to supply (the addition of "Best Short Game" for 2006-9 being an example). I guess that was down to whoever was organising the Minicomp each year. Was it always a single person? If the Erins were to be resurrected, I think having an awards committee would be a good idea (in terms of sharing the load).

      "they didn't motivate entries the same way the mini-comp does"

      While that's certainly true, it comes with the caveat that the Minicomp only motivates the creation of *Minicomp* games. The best/worst example is 2008, when Minicomp games accounted for almost 82% of the year's output (which was one of the nails in the coffin for the Erins). If you prefer more substantial games (as I do), that's a drawback.

      A second caveat is that the Minicomp concentrates a lot of games into a short space of time, meaning that there's not much happening during the other 50 weeks of the year. In recent years there's been an average of one non-Minicomp game released every two months, so it's not surprising that the AIF community is quiescent most of the time and barely manages to rouse itself when a game is released. That's one reason why I'd prefer to see the Erins return (minimal motivation though they may be) rather than add another Comp to the calendar. Another reason is that there are a couple of people who richly deserved lifetime achievement awards but never received them.

  13. I have to say i have mixed feelings on this one, both as a player and someone who keeps meaning to try and get a game out. Every year when the comp is announced i start thinking about ideas, either re-visiting old ones or thinking of something new. Based on that i'd suggest having a comp is positive for the community because it seems to be the biggest push for authors to have a go. The problems begin for me
    when i start to get the limits of the rules. This year it was number of rooms and in the end i just gave up on my plans because i didn't want to make a game i wasn't happy with just to make it fit. Annoyingly, half the games in the comp broke the room limit anyway, but that just goes to reinforce the idea that it's probably not the best restriction.

    From a player's point of view i think there are two drawbacks to the minicomp. First, i think some authors save an entry for the comp which means releases are bunched up rather than spread throughout the year. Second is that a lot of games feel unfinished and maybe don't get the positive feedback they deserve because of it. This year we had two games that made no secret of being incomplete from the start. 2013 we had 2 out of 3: Spymaster of Tyria which was set up for a longer game and Nat Dewey which was released as a full version, with extra content afterward. That's fine if the author gets the encouragement to continue the work but, as i said, they tend to lose out compared to more "polished" entries.

    PS. Still chuckling at "tallest dwarf competition"

  14. As a writer, my biggest moments of AIF productivity tends to be in the month leading up to a mini-comp deadline. After that my focus drops dramatically, and even though I often have the intention of just writing a little bit each week until I finally finish the game I had going, often times I end up going weeks without even thinking about AIF as real life and other hobbies take up my attention.

    1. That's the part that I think is important about the mini-comp; the fact that the deadline motivates many authors.

      I'd still maybe like to try a game jam one day, separate to the mini-comp. One week deadline; incorporate a theme as you see fit; if you shoe-horn the theme into an existing project that's cheating; no other rules. Still, I don't know if there'd be enough participants. We could still have a vote, of course.

    2. That might be interesting, but I dunno how many people would participate. As I recall, our non-minicmop competitions have always had low turnout.

      The one I remember the most vividly is the Threesome Comp we had one year. I spent about a month and a half and created what is the most complicated games I ever wrote... and it turns out no one else had submitted an entry to the comp. It was massively disappointing.

    3. Disappointing for me too - I ran that comp. I was happy about your entry, though!