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IFCOMP 2006 Reviews - Introduction

Introduction to Mike Snyder’s IF-COMP 2006 Review Journal
Written on 10/07/2006. Scoring sections revised on 10/10/2006.

     This year, I started late. Here it is a full week after the games were released, and I have only played the first from my randomized “comp06.z5” list. One game was retracted and another is mine, so I have forty-one games remaining.

     I always try to find something good – something I enjoy – even in the bad games. My unofficial rankings are often higher than those of the real judges. I may categorize a game as “very good” where others consider it below average. I may score a game as “outstanding” where others find it merely passable. I can enjoy a game that’s technically bad, and even recommend an entry with bugs (especially if the author releases a post-comp update). I don’t know how true that will be this year, since my tastes change the more I write and play IF, but it has been true in the past.

     [RANT] I play interactive fiction because it’s fun. Playing and reviewing this many games may seem like a chore at times, but it really shouldn’t. These are the creations of real people, not emotionless robots. The feedback (especially when it’s brutally negative and lacks tact) can be a major slam to hopeful entrants. Let the score we assign be our stamp of approval (or disapproval). In reviews of amateur, hobbyist games, we need not be so callous and cavalier. Perhaps a review can be honest and critical without merely slapping the faces of these authors. This is the philosophy I try to use when I review interactive fiction. [/RANT]

     These reviews will form a kind of player's journal, since I'll write each one immediately (if possible) after playing the game. My reviews may contain spoilers. I’ll try not to do it, and I’ll try to explain things without giving away a puzzle or the story, but if I can’t, I can’t. Just keep this in mind when reading my reviews. Also, the number beside each review is the order in which it was played, not its order by rankings (although they will be re-listed in rankings order on the review list page.

     I will use a variation of the same ranking system that has keep me on track when reviewing prior competitions. In those prior competitions, I would assign a base score that could sometimes fall a half-point between two rankings (when I couldn’t decide whether it was “good” enough to bump up or “bad” enough to bump down). This year, I will be more decisive. All games will be scored a flat 1 through 10, without this half-point confusion.

     For previous competitions I also added “skew” points to some scores. These were a half or full point (sometimes more) up or down from the base score. This was always noted and explained, but it may have been confusing that a game with a 7.5 (base) + 1.0 (skew) was technically between 7 and 8 on my scale, but in getting an 8.5 by my personal bias, it wasn’t actually between an 8 and a 9 on my scale. See? Confusing. Since my preferences are inherent to the scoring system, I’m also dropping skew points this year. As a replacement to the flexibility I intended to achieve with skews, I’ll use plus and minus this year. This is where I’ll put any additional bias, so that it won’t wreck the correlation between score and definition.

     Some reviews may list specific problems (bugs, typos, uncategorized quirks) in the competition version of the game, which may not be true in versions updated and released after the competition. I do this partly as feedback to the authors (not all of whom I can/should contact directly), partly as points for other IF authors on the kinds of things that can go wrong, and partly as an explanation or justification for the score.

     As I'm not strictly bound by the 2-hour rule (I can’t submit votes), I may play longer, and I may revise my scores after giving more thought to the game later. However, I hope to keep such activity under control, since in future years I may be a judge instead of an author. This could be good practice for that.

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