How To Tank At The Interactive Fiction Competition

by Robb Sherwin


There exists several guides and FAQs on doing "it" right. "It," of course, being the successful integration of an author's dream and vision into a fully completed text adventure that is submitted for the entire populace of the internet to appraise.

I'd like to present you with one Trotting Krip's vision on doing everything completely wrong. But first, my thoughts on this year's competition:

I suspect that the Interactive Fiction Competition will continue to closely resemble the National Basketball Association's Slam Dunk Competition. Those familiar with this made-for-teevee event during All-Star weekend understand that once you win the Slam Dunk competition you are expected not to enter in subsequent years. At least, you are not expected to enter and completely dominate more than one year in a row. This allows for a variety of young, upcoming stars to flash spectacularly their wares and claim all the notoriety, accolades and whores that go with it.

(Of course, there is always Michael Jordan who won it in 1987 and 1988 and neatly sticks his wagging tongue all over my metaphor, disrupting it in a gooey, sweaty way. And yes, I know that Harold Miner -- the Miami Heat veteran referred to by the mass media as "Baby Jordan" won it in 1993 and 1995. As for Miner, well, he eventually got his. No one knows if he's even on an NBA roster anymore. The next big playoff game he shows up for will be his first. But. Anyway.)

This is only the fifth competition, so it remains to be seen if one of our previous winners will attempt to completely dominate it for several years in a row. There is good and bad in this. On one hand, if the same man or woman won it for four straight years there would eventually be a "why-bother" backlash. Back to my NBA comparison: Karl Malone atleast got several million dollars in the proce ss of getting his ass handed to him by Michael Jordan for two straight seasons. All Authors would hope to garner is a jar of Ass-Kicking Peanuts. However, nobody wants to win a "tainted" or "watered-down" championship of anything. I woul d say that if my New Orleans Saints won a Super Bowl in a league where the other 30 team buses were struck with rocketlaunchers it wouldn't be the same thing.

Some would also say that the point of the competition is simply to encourage new games. Not worry about winners or losers. RTK says, collectively, to that: Lick 'em. Anything that can be done can be overdone. It's all about the groupies.

With that in mind, I present to you my process aged one year.

Mid-June: I get my first taste of competition atmosphere by entering the Chicken-Comp. The games are ultimately rated by only a handful of netizens. Mine gets awful reviews. Which is cool --  it was done in a day. Holding any of them   to the same standard as Once and Future was missing the point.

End-June: I finally have something personal to drone about. "It will be a grandiose ware, the likes of which society has never seen! Yes... my friends, you will be a graverobber that goes on a date! A date... with the Devil! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

Early-July: Damn. This becomes slightly more complicated when you deal with moving NPCs and, like, exits and shite.

Mid-July: Hey! Someone wrote a review of my chicken-comp game in SPAG. Aces! The reviewer thought it was rushed but awaits my 1998 IF Comp game. This is why we write the code. Well, that and all the chix, of course.

Late-July: Dammit, Rochester sucks. I'm moving to Colorado.

Early-August: Yes, there are a ton of things to do in the mountains but I shan't neglect my game!

Mid-August: Hey... when the hell is that deadline coming up?

Late-August: Hastily scribe a note to Mr. Dyte informing him of my intention to enter. I briefly decide on a title which makes absolutely no sense but slap myself and go with one that does.

Early-September: Hm. I've got about three thousand objectsleft to code if I want this to reach my original vision. OK. That scene, this scene, that scene and that other scene are out. Damn. Someone uploads their take on the game's based on their title. Mines goes: A Date With The Devil: "The good news is, you have a date! Yay! The bad news is it's with the devil who always makes you pay and takes you to lousy restaurants." Ha ha, I'm in the loop, baybee!

Mid-September: I'll never finish! This sucks! Where did the time go? Why are Colorado chicks so damn hot?

Late-September: The mad rush to finish it is on. Inevitably, I run it through a spellchecker and mess up a bunch of routine names and the like. Decide I hate video games and take up checkers and fishing.

Late-October: Hm. Yes, I can safely say I wouldn't have placed in the top thirty. I liked that bit about freaking out with vending machines. Iliked that bit about multiple choice questions. I wonder who got the Ass-Kicking Peanuts?

So there you are. If there is any moral to this story it's "don't do this." And -- for God's sake -- choose a damn title that means something.



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