EctoComp 2013 – Initial Observations

This morning I’ve played through over half of the EctoComp 2013 entries and I wanted to share some of my initial observations on the competition.  

*** Full Disclosure: I am an author of one of the games in the competition ***

Some observations on the games themselves

Being that this is a speed-IF competition, the games are of course very short.  Some are more of the one or two room varieties with a handful of puzzles or tasks….there are a few with relatively expansive maps, though the interaction and descriptions in each are necessarily small.  

For the most part, despite the small size of the games and the short time to write them,  they are pretty high quality games.  Sure there are some grammar issues and some unimplemented objects and most need more atmospheric text (mine included in all of those statements), but most have decent stories and concepts that I feel if expanded upon outside of the three hour window, could actually become pretty great games.  I myself have already begun work on a second release of my game based on some feedback I’ve received already as well as my own notes of things I just ran out of time to implement.

Out of the 24 entries, there appears to be 16 entries in Inform  and one Hugo….about 71% of the games are parser games….which is interesting as by contrast if you look at the IFComp13 where we had 35 entries, only 13 (37%) appear to be the traditional parser style.  I find this interesting especially given the conversation over on the forums in regards to the slow decline of parser games in favor of the CYOA style games.  

Why the discrepancy? I suppose there are many varied and complex reasons and I don’t necessarily discount that perhaps their is a rush of new authors that are attracted to the apparent ease of creating (not interesting in a debate on the validity of my unscientific observations here, I’ll save that for the forum.)  I suppose that the author’s entering EctoComp perhaps are more plugged into the community since the competition wasn’t as well advertised, thus perhaps they have been around a bit longer and are perhaps a bit more old-school.  All just assumptions on my part, I just found it interesting to think about.

The non-parser games were actually well done as well.  Even though they are not my preferred type of game, I found that those I played were actually well done.  Again, perhaps because they are coming from more entrenched authors which lending their experience to any platform would increase the odds of putting out a decent game.

Judging

As I played them and enjoyed most of them I thought about how I would rate them (and if I even would).  Still undecided on if I send in a score sheet, but my criteria for rating is going something loosely like this with weights of the components of the score in this order:

  1. Did I enjoy it?  Was the story, the game play something I had fun despite any other flaws,  If I had fun, it will score well here.  
  2. Would I like to see more?  In other words, will I be looking for an expanded more complete release down the road.  If I want more, it will score higher.
  3. Was it well implemented?  This is hard to do in just 3 hours.  I know I have some unimplemented areas, verbs and objects in my game.  But I’d not be doing justice to the game that made the effort to squeeze in some better implementation or if they structured their text and hints so as to minimize any confusion on the part of the player.
  4. Grammar.  Yes I will include this as a very small component.  But very minor, I don’t expect in three hours to have well edited text, mine was no where near as good as I would have liked.  But I run into any glaring issues that distract from the game, then perhaps a small deduction may be in order.
  5. Extras.  I’m a sucker for extras.  I like that when a game thinks like I do and makes the extra effort to include some basic atmospheric text or an easter egg or two (if I can find them).  To me that shows the attention to detail that I like.  No deductions here if none are included, but perhaps a bonus boost if I see something extras in there.

Not very scientific, very subjective and of course this is just something I came up with to assist me in rating the games.  For more full games, like those perhaps in the IFComp, these would necessarily change weighting and there may be other criteria in there that I would include.

Anyway, I nice crop of games here in EctoComp 13.  Lots of fun and potential for the future.  This was my first release ever, though I’ve written plenty that just need finished, so I was pretty excited to have a reason to release something.  Hope everyone enjoys the games and if you feel so inclined, please vote!

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