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On Eruption and crap games in general.

October 13, 2009

[I am not jump-cutting this, but a great deal of it can be construed as spoilers for the game Eruption, so ignore if you don’t want any, kaplease]

I have never been upset with anything for wasting my time.  (To be fair, I’m generally never doing anything with it anyway – we are talking about entire days spent watching Mario Paint Composer videos and tweezing leg hairs; I’d be amazed if an outside source were as effective at wasting my time as I am.)  I review comp games because – well, okay, I feel it keeps me from atrophying completely, and there are the critical accolades and the mountains of poontang, but primarily I do it because I enjoy it.  A game might do something to piss me off, sure, all it takes is a fucked-up map or a “What do you want to unlock the door with?” (which is the new “Workin’ hard or hardly workin’?”), but I’ve never been able to work up the level of personal anger that some people express when a crap game is entered in a competition.

That being said, I absolutely cannot fathom why people continue to enter crap games in competitions.  I can understand not having your game beta tested, even though that makes such a huge quality difference, because a hobbyist alone in their bedroom might have difficulty finding beta testers and decide they don’t really need that level of polish; they’ll be fine by themselves. What I can’t understand is why anyone would not bother to play through the thing themselves, just once, to make sure it was finishable, before submitting it to be flippin’ judged by a bunch of strangers.

That is the thing, you are putting something out there, people are going to judge it, and, by extension, they are going to judge you.  Do you not care whether they think you and your thing are swell and nifty?  Is it enough to have your name on a list?  What the hell is the impetus here?  Can anyone explain?

I think what bothers me about the Richard Bos rant – if you don’t know what I’m talking about, the rant is here, in the middle of a different rant, it’s all very meta – is that he’s saying “Let me show you fuckups how it’s done,” but then not bothering to submit an actual good game, merely a technically competent one (which it isn’t, entirely, because of ish with the map).  I feel like if anyone’s going to learn by example, there are plenty of really good IF games they could try to achieve the quality of, games that are not only technically flawless but compelling and innovative and fun, so it seems sort of pointless for a mere technical competence bar to exist.

Also, I don’t get the sense anyone’s meant to get anything out of Eruption.  Its inclusion in the comp is like putting a tiny jockey on the mechanical rabbit, on the grounds that it would at least beat the slower dogs… wait, there are no jockeys in a greyhound race, are there.  It is so past my bedtime.  Do you know what I mean, though?  If you’re just keeping pace, why should we care?

10 comments

  1. This ‘blog is great. The analogy “like putting a tiny jockey on the mechanical rabbit, on the grounds that it would at least beat the slower dogs”, however, is _awesome_.


  2. That is the thing, you are putting something out there, people are going to judge it, and, by extension, they are going to judge you. Do you not care whether they think you and your thing are swell and nifty? Is it enough to have your name on a list? What the hell is the impetus here? Can anyone explain?

    I’m guessing the reason you have problems understanding this is that you’ve never tried writing an IF.

    With the exceptions of troll gams, and games submitted to show contempt of other authors, no author who submits their game thinks it’s bad. Discovering that others think it’s bad comes as a nasty shock.

    It is very difficult to un-learn what you already know about a game, and to un-see solutions you know to be valid. Especially for beginning authors: they don’t yet have the trick of it.

    They have a vivid internal image of the game, interesting and compelling enough to get them through the game’s creation, and when they read their own text, it calls up their internal image.

    Now when you play their game, and their puzzles don’t make sense to you, and their text seems flat, that surprises them, because that’s not their experience. They fully expect you to be able to get into it and figure it out.


    • They have a vivid internal image of the game, interesting and compelling enough to get them through the game’s creation, and when they read their own text, it calls up their internal image.
      I can dig that. It’s the main reason having your game tested improves its quality so dramatically (especially where puzzles are concerned, since you just can’t not know – the dude from Memento would be great at testing his own game, if he managed to get one written). I’m sure the guy who did Star Hunter is amazed that people found his game boring, and even the kid who did The Lighthouse probably thought he’d written a perfectly good game; he just misjudged the expectations other people have for IF games. And maybe it’s just misjudged expectations in every case I’m confused about.

      I can understand forgoing beta testing. I can understand failing to anticipate how people will play your game. I can understand spending the bulk of your design time on something players ultimately fail to find. I can understand not realizing what quality standards those bitch judges are going to hold your game to. I can understand not knowing your game is going to throw a hissy fit on some people’s machines when it’s fine on yours. I can even sort of understand releasing something you know is unfinished with a little excuse note explaining why it’s unfinished, just to get it out there and close the chapter on it. Where I have a bit of a blind spot is understanding why someone would release something without spellchecking it, or playing it through once to make sure it was finishable.

      I dunno, I like to think that I would not submit an IF to a comp (if I’d written one, which I haven’t, because I am incredibly lazy) unless I thought it would average like a seven or higher, but I could see myself having only a certain amount of energy to put into it and going “eh, done enough.” If at that point it was unplayably broken or riddled with spelling errors or contained huge vast areas of “You see nothing special,” I just wouldn’t submit it. I wouldn’t have submitted Eruption, if I were Richard Bos, because it’s clear from his rant that he believes he can do better. Then again, I’m the kind of person who spends four hours writing a single forum post, so it’s probably just a case of Not Everyone Is Like Me and I Should Realize That.

      (Still, though, I dunno about TADS, but don’t ADRIFT and Inform have internal spellcheckers? That is like one click and then a few minutes of sitting there going “oh, oops, I meant ‘south.'” It’s like making the bed when your room is messy and all of a sudden it looks disproportionately tidier.)


      • Weirdly, Inform 7 doesn’t have an internal spellchecker, or at least if it does I haven’t found it. However, “select all” “copy” “paste into Notepad” “run spellcheck” would only take a few extra seconds.


      • It does on some OSes and not others, actually.


  3. Submit a game to the Comp and then we’ll talk.

    C.


    • I did. In 1999. It was called “Pass the Banana”. It came in 33rd out of 38. Its average score was a 3.35.

      I had thought it was decent enough. Silly, but amusing. The judges disagreed. I was disappointed.

      I got over it. I had been wrong about what made a game worth entering in the competition. I learned from the experience. I paid attention to what games other people wrote and which things were well-received. I asked other people for advice about authoring IF games. I practiced writing IF.

      Eventually, I took everything I learned and applied it to writing another game. And I entered that game into the competition in 2007. But if the judges hadn’t been critical of my first (flawed) attempt, then I doubt my second attempt would have been what it was.


    • (But I do agree that Jenni should write a comp game. That’d be awesome.)


  4. I second how awesome it would be for Jenni to write a comp game. Do it, do it!


  5. I third it.



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