Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

Re: [Icehouse] Icehouse Game Design Competitions and Icehouse Awards

  • FromDavid Artman <david.artman@xxxxxxxxx>
  • DateThu, 5 Nov 2009 11:17:48 -0500
Jeff, good ideas. I have little objection to most of them, so assume I say, "Hell, yeah!" to whatever I don't directly address.

==IGDC & The General Public==
I am of two minds about your notion of making the IGDC more "closed house." I recognize that there is a chance that someone coming to judge the IGDC, who has never played a pyramid game, might be dissuaded from playing any more (ever) from one bad submission. I do not, however, think it is a very high chance, for the following reasons:
* It would have to be the first game they play out of a set of five to eight entries.
* They would have to never try any other entry -OR- every other entry would have to be equally bad, confusing, whatever.
* They would have to ignore the fact that it is a design and development contest, primarily intended for feedback.

I am not sure just how that "perfect storm" would come about, given that the IGDC primarily seeks judges through things like Board Game Geek, gaming groups, FLGSs, etc. Sure, if we setup a booth in the middle of a mall in Iowa and tried to get folks playing, there would be rough spots. But for all of the IGDC's agenda of promoting pyramids, it doesn't REALLY reach anyone outside of gaming and some educational venues. Any likely "backlash" from such groups should be avoidable with the proper message: "This is a design competition whose main goal is the production of new games, the better to showcase pyramids as a game system."

I am also concerned that the IGDC would only get eyes from Iceheads. Frankly, the grognards at BGG and other sites have a LOT of experience, with a broad range of games and play styles; and as such, it would be a big shame to narrow the audience of the IGDC to exclude them. Further (and going further abroad), there is a LOT of benefit to be had from a "layman" reading rules and asking questions. Many of us make too many assumption in our rules sets (pawns, drone, queens; point-value of pyramids; etc) that would be immediately caught by someone who hasn't played a lot of 'mids asking for clarifications. Finally, I am willing to bet there is a heretofore unimagined (by me, at least) benefit to be had from still-other audiences that we might not reach with a more-closed IGDC: writers, editors, programmers, mathematicians, and so forth. Hell, has anyone contacted MIT or Mensa about the IGDC, before? ;)

==IGDC & Continuous Improvement==
Also of two minds about this, and I guess it comes down to the core conflict of wanting the best possible games and wanting to reward a good designer.

On the one hand, continuous improvement needn't stop because an IGDC First Place has been awarded. Keep hacking at them, keep testing variants; maybe the final game would have trivially beaten the actual IGDC winner. But on the other hand, the whole POINT of competition is to award someone who brings The A Game on The Day. And on the gripping hand, I would not want IGDC to become a popularity contest, which it could if (say) one game got a LOT of feedback and improvement during the comp while another languished in its original format, for lack of eyes to help tune it (viz the past two or three Game Chefs and the Mini Game Chef--cult of personality is a fact of life). The game that is getting a lot of help because it's "grabby" or whatever should not gain an immediate--and sustained--advantage in a comp with continuous improvement during judging.

So I'd have to vote No, if I get a vote. The submission period is a month, these days--that's a LOT of time for playtesting, given most games are authored in days. Do the improvements THEN... and do them AFTER the judging and on into the infinities of time. During the mere six-week judging window, someone who shows up to judge on the last three days should have the SAME experience as one who started judging on Day One. Otherwise, what coherence in scoring can we expect? (And, no, I don't think asking someone to check the History and go back to the day the comp started and try to read it with the diff engine is a good compromise.)

And, recall, that even during the judging window, a designer can use the Talk page to keep track of planned changes and rule re-writes--no one's hands are tied for that period. But without the hard line of a judging window beginning, I don't see any reason for the "C" in "IGDC". Might as well call it the "Icehouse Game Design Symposium" or "Month" or "Cooperative." (And we'll see how well that works for the Game Chef, this year.)

==IGDC & Open v Theme==
I am all-for having themed and open IGDC. I even like the idea of full overlap: a themed game could win the open award, if it just plain dominated.

BUT... how do we explain the judging--hell, how to we STRUCTURE the judging? Give a score from 1 to 10 for what you liked and then 1 to 10 for what use the theme ingredients (mechanics, whatever) the best? This is why I pointed folks to the Game Chef--Graham is trying to award all SORTS of stuff, more like merit badges than actual awards. But in the end, the goal is published games. OUR goal (if it is to remain a "competition") is to ALSO award the best on The Day (as I said above).

Hmmm... so MAYBE the thing to do is a hybrid:
* Rank each game 1 to 10, to determine the IGDC Gold, Silver, and Bronze.
* Nominate ONE game for the "Best Use of This Year's Theme(s)"
* Nominate ONE game for the "Most Innovative Mechanics"
* Nominate ONE game for the "Best Beginner Game"
* Nominate ONE game for the "Deep Thought Beenie" or "Best Brain Buster"
* Nominate ONE game for the "Phylactery of Emergent Complexity"
* Nominate ONE game for the "Most Beautiful During Play Ribbon"
* etc (We could have a whole list, based on what the IGDC should be trying to accomplish post-judging. We need good a icon designer!)

Yeah... I think Ilike that a LOT. Like, enough to fiat that as the IGDC structure going forward, while I am Coordinating. It's the best of both worlds: there's incentive to embrace constraints and push the envelope and come up with games of all difficulty and complexities; but someone can just do whatever they want and still have a shot at the Gold, if the judges like it. No more deciding on themes (except as, perhaps, Looney Labs Icehouse-related product releases warrant)--all the stuff we like to see in a pyramid game can be promoted every IGDC, through the medals and badges element. Meanwhile, the core of IGDC remains: play the games, rate them, give feedback for improvement, and may the best game win.

==Selection, Name, and Timing of Icehouse Awards==
This subject almost warrants splitting the thread, but I'll try to stick to matters as relate to IGDC.

I concur that they could be complimentary. I concur that they should not be simultaneous. I am unsure of the process of nomination and selection... but I am not volunteering to coordinate that, so I'll just wait until the Coordinator asks for a vote. :)

One thing I *do* want to note is that the term "Icehouse" is fast becoming obsolete, especially for the Awards, if we intend them to be the "brightest light in the public eye." The brand is Treehouse, as part of the Icehouse Game System (fine print). It's no great secret what I think of Treehouse as a specific promotional game... so I am inclined to hit the term "Pyramid" and hit it hard:
* Pyramid Awards
* Top of the Pyramid Award
* Best Pyramid Game of 20xx
* (ideas? Be aware of Steve Jackson Games and possible confusions!)

That said, I suspect that the Looneys would have something to say about branding and how to use an Award process, in *particular* if it is to become an Origins event. Regarding that--and given the inherent complexities and time involvement in setting up and planning such an Award--I suggest that the Award be something targetting Origins 2011, for the 20th Anniversary of the original game. That's PLENTY of time to (a) develop a process, (b) schedule a time slot at Origins and make promotional materials like a banner or the actual trophy, and (c) spread the word.

Of course, it wouldn't hurt to have a "dry run" in 2010, if someone is going to step on up. That means that it's very likely that the Awards Coordinator should be someone who routinely attends Origins. Now, Origins is basically a summer thing... which is AWESOME for avoiding an IGDC conflict, because I'm thinking IGDC needs to happen in early spring semester, before Break and exams and the ramp up of the convention season. That means DONE before March, basically (I checked here: http://www.tripsmarter.com/panamacity/springbreak/sbcalendar.htm - a fascinating site, actually). Using our current lead times, then:
* Six weeks to judge -> mid-January = Submission Deadline
* One month to design -> mid-December = Announce RFS and Theme

And the best part: an IGDC game could win the Award, if the award window ran Origins-to-Origins (i.e. not necessarily "during last year"). Hmmm... or maybe it SHOULD just be the previous year, and for an IGDC winner to get to the award would require sustaining interest for about 10 months (I'm guessing at the Award nomination time start).

OK, I'll shut up now... I know I just hit y'all with a wall of text. But, hey--if nothing else, we've got a more-solid time period for an annual IGDC, even if there's some more to bang out about goals, agenda, and prizes.