How best to estimate my game's playtime?

Hello all,

I’m currently writing a ChoiceScript game for entry into IFComp (https://ifcomp.org/), and it’s at the point where it’s done enough to have beta readers. Now, the thing about IFComp is that judges are supposed to only rate the games on the first two hours of play, which is a problem, since I’ve had at least one beta tester estimate their play time at about 2.5 hours, while I played through it on my test run in about 1 3/4 hours. Clearly, I can’t appropriately yardstick my own game length.

My first thought was to just go look up “average reading speed” and then try to figure out the average playthrough length, but I also don’t have a good idea of how to estimate the minimum, maximum, and average word counts of a playthrough. So I’m unsure how to best handle this.

So, are there any best practices around estimating the average playtime?

I think that when you run a randomtest, it gives you an average play through wordcount. You can then estimate the average playtime by the average reading speed.

This, however would be a crude estimate as reading speed depends on many factors such as font, font size, screen width etc.

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I just ran randomtest to see if that works, and it says Time: 7s for 11k words. God, i didn’t know i was that slow of a reader.

Well jokes aside, no it doesn’t say how long it would take, it just shows how long it was taking to do the test.

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I was talking about the word count it gives, as it gave you 11k words. Hard to read all that in 7 secs :laughing:

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Of course it changes with different settings, but this is all i got…
Screen Shot 2021-07-15 at 7.00.38 PM

Tried again with different settings but it’s pretty much the same…
Screen Shot 2021-07-15 at 7.06.59 PM

Hmm, are you guys running a different version of randomtest than I have? The instructions online here Automatically testing your game | ChoiceScript Wiki | Fandom say to run the randomtest through the randomtest.html file. When I do that, it shows me this:

(nevermind, apparently I can’t embed pictures? I assume because I haven’t posted enough? A picture of the randomtest.html options used to be here)

and when I hit the Start Randomtest it spits out a list of choices, ending with

RANDOMTEST PASSED
Time: 21.474s

It looks different from the output that people are posting.

E: I tried running it from the command line and the command line isn’t telling me the average game length, either. Is that a new feature? I don’t think my choicescript install is that old…

I don’t know if it’s different for mac and windows, but i use mac and it’s called randomtest.command, instead of randomtest.html which you’re talking about.

SEVEN SECONDS?! It takes me about five minutes to plan out the right bloody character build.

The algorithm has too much faith in us.

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Okay, apparently the average human reading speed is around 200-250 words per minute.
so, if your average playthrough length is for example 85000 words per playthrough that’s 340 to 425 minutes, our between 5 hour 40 min and 7 hours and 5 min

Ah! No, my confusion was that you had posted that it told you how many words it went through, whereas in my result I didn’t see that. I figured out why, though - you need to tell it to print the full text to get the word count. I got it - apparently my game is around 39600 words for one playthrough.

…which, if people are reading at 200-250 words per minute, whoof, I’m way over my word budget. Oh no! I’m going to have to cut a lot!

Maybe you’ll find this useful…

Altho i think the average which @MeltingPenguins says sounds much more normal, but still maybe it’s useful.

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Thanks to everybody who responded! It turns out that I’m gonna have to cut my game length down by about a third…which is going to be an extremely painful process.

Okay, wait:
If I understand you correctly the judges will judge their first 2 hours of gameplay. Will you get a minus if the game is not ‘through’ by then or?
cause if you don’t get a minus for the game not being finishable in two hours, I’d say it’s more important that the story up to that point has been so engaging that the player wants to continue

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It’s just a guide. Estimate to the best of your ability. Ask anyone testing, but all people are going to read at different rates, and spend more or less time contemplating decisions. IFComp won’t penalise you if your game is over or under as long as you’re roughly in the ball park. (ie don’t put 15mins for a game you know will probably take most people at least an hour and a half and I suspect you’ll be fine.)

BTW no judgement here, but are you sure a long ifcomp game of 2.5hrs is the way to go here? (Is this your first choicescript project?) Submitting a shorter really well polished game will do far better in ifcomp than a longer one that has bugs and typos that have been missed from lack of time to get it all tested and revised completely at longer lengths. (The standard is pretty high.) What’s the total wordcount expected to be? (By all means write a long game, but don’t feel like you have to do so to enter.)

@MeltingPenguins Edit- Sorry haven’t read the rules for a while. The rule is actually does state rate by the 2hr mark.

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Time a playthrough of your game start to finish and multiply by 1.5.

No less crude than the other methods here lol

Echoing what @Jacic said, you won’t be penalized for a long game, but it’s likely to get lower ratings than a shorter game. If you’re interested in keeping it long, you could enter it in the Spring Thing Festival next April. Spring Thing is explicitly for longer games.

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IFComp’s exact wording is:

Judges must base their judgment of each game on at most the first two hours of play. If a judge is still playing a game at the end of a cumulative two hours of playing time and wishes to continue playing it, the judge must rate the game and not change that rating later before continuing play. Authors may write a game of any length they desire, but should keep this rule in mind when determining the length of their entry.

This is a good rule, because otherwise it’d be a huge pain to judge longer works. On the other hand, it does provide a more-or-less hard limit.

This is especially true if it’s a story game (which mine is) - I don’t want them to only judge 4/5 of a story and have to disregard the ending!

The current wordcount is ~65k. As far as polish, well, it’s going to be significantly shorter when I’m done cutting it down, so less to worry about! (I’m not looking forward to figuring out how to cut it down, though). Less flippantly, it’s not a complex project - there are no stats, it has a very constrained branching structure, and while the rewriting and revising stage will be painful I’ve got until mid-September.

Also I don’t expect to win or anything. I think I’m aiming for “somewhere in the middle third.”

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ahh thanks for asking this question! i’m super new to this community so this was super helpful, and thanks to everyone who answered, as well!

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