Automation challenges are now a much more diverse bunch than they used to be, but some things don't change: they're always more satisfying if they are consistent, the rules make sense, the post is well laid out, and we know what we're in for. To help you with that, here's a few things to think about if you want to host your own!
[size=200]How To Make a Well Run Challenge[/size]
[size=50]updated for build B151208[/size]
By and large, we like a challenge to make a car for a particular purpose, or to make an all around car. Therefore, we like you when you host a (good) challenge. However, some of us have been playing longer than others, so naturally, some of us are more familiar with what works and what doesn't. The whole process may look pretty simple, but does require a fairly intimate knowledge of the game and some skills not all of you are used to. This post is an attempt to convey those things to everybody to help the community challenges be as exciting, but also run as smoothly as possible with minimal complaints. Therefore, below are a few sections on crucial things you must consider before you post your tournament:
[size=150]Types of challenges[/size]
The first thing to consider is what kind of challenge you would like to run. There are now a few different kinds that regularly run on the forums. The simplest kind of Challenge is building a car with some restrictions and clocking the time(s) around the track(s). If you do this, you have the option to use Der Bayer's B.R.O.B.O.T race simulation program, which adds randomisation to simulate race conditions (for more information PM Der Bayer). There are others, that judge based on a broader range of criteria including the stats like comfort, reliability, prestige etc. and others still that include subjective factors like appearance. How best to build your challenge depends on what you want to judge. All this is the foundation, so make sure it's sturdy!
]If you wish to attempt to use calculations that the simulator doesn't cover, e.g. stat weightings that differ from the market sector calculator, *show your working. Don't just tell us the general idea, show us your specific formulae./*:m]
]We don't tend to use randomisation that isn't integrated into something else. But if you do, use a credible source like random.org to get your numbers, and again, *show us your model. Picking the numbers yourself is never random, due to bias, and we will complain mightily./*:m]
]For competitions that assign numerical values to car qualities like comfort, sportiness etc., Automation quantifies them too! Since it gives everything a number, we like seeing that number used in a consistent, rigorous fashion. For example, if two cars have a comfort rating of 30 and you gave one a 3/5, and the other a 4/5, we're going to want to know *how exactly you arrived at the difference. I'm not saying that the cars should have gotten the same score. One may have had more seats which carries a comfort penalty, but at the same time it carries a utility bonus, but if you're factoring in utility, you would need to reflect on exactly what your criteria actually was in the first place. Either way, you should explain your thought process, otherwise for all we know you could be thinking "oh, that car looks ok but I don't like that user so I'll give them a 2/5," which, obviously, doesn't seem very fair./*:m]
There's many ways of going about a tournament, but we want to be very clear about how you've chosen to do yours!
[size=150]Writing the rules[/size]
I cannot stress how important this section is. It's the number one reason users will explicitly complain about a particular event and causes drama. Just keep in mind, most of us are mechanics, math nerds or engineers in some way or another. Automation simulates stuff using math. We like math. So we would dislike it If you were to undermine the math by pulling values out of your butt.
]The golden rule is: If the rule is not written, it does not exist, and any entry that doesn't violate a written rule is legal. If you don't like an entry, but it's technically legal, well, you should have thought of the rule in the first place, and the only (sometimes) acceptable way to work around this is to announce that you are adjusting the rules, and allow users that no longer qualify an extended period in which to revise their entries. It's always a pain in the ass, so try not to resort to this./:m]
]Don't make rules that don't actually have any bearing on how the cars are built, especially if they are tricky. For example: It's (barely) okay to ask for headlights and tail lights (only if you're going to post pictures of the cars), but if you try to force people into using a certain kind of light because that's how one country regulates their road cars, you'll confuse people from the rest of the world./:m]
]After you have settled on a rough idea of the rules, make sure you balance them. An enjoyable challenge is one that allows and equally rewards different approaches, making the competition more interesting both in results and in design phase. Avoid having limitations that are too restrictive, perhaps not everyone has the same level of knowledge of cars or the game as you do. Having a lower bar allows more people to join./:m]
[size=150]Running the Tournament[/size]
There is one golden rule above all else here. Break this, and you'll probably disrupt the tournament so badly you'll have to abandon it. Every point in this list is an iteration of that rule, and that is: once you've made a decision, stick with it.
]Do NOT change the rules of the tournament after the deadline has passed and you have closed entries./:m]
]On the same token, if you already had a rule planned but *didn't bother telling us before the deadline, that's tantamount to the same thing. We will be annoyed and pepper you with questions and complaints./*:m]
]Even before the deadline, if you didn't specify a rule and realise you should have, you should make a decision as to whether to require the already qualified entrants to revise their submission. This is always more trouble than simply using the original rules, so once again, post ALL your rules before you accept entries./:m]
]If a car technically passes your rules but you don't want it to, as the host, it IS your sole discretion as to whether to accept the entry. However, if you DO reject it, expect everybody else to boycott your competition, because without sufficient reason, you're just being a dick [size=85]Okay, I trust I've made the principle abundantly clear, so let's move on...[/size]/:m]
]We recommend using a spreadsheet (like in Excel, or Google Sheets, or Open Office etc.) to hold all your results (because spreadsheets also do formulae), so you don't get hopelessly lost and delayed when posting results. /:m]
]You absolutely should decide whether or not to accept revisions on entries in general. On one hand if somebody gets it wrong, you can tell them and they can fix it, but this will make much more work for you. On the other hand, if you don't accept revisions, you'll probably get less entries, but people who do send them in should be much more careful to adhere to the rules. Either way is reasonable as long as you're clear about it./:m]
]Don't bite off more than you can chew. Once you've made the rules and published the tournament, you'll have to check for entries, download the entry, inspect the entry, test it, inform the sender of the outcome, and record the relevant data on your spreadsheet. The more rules you have, the harder this is. The more entries you have, the harder this is. If you're allowing users to send revisions of entries that don't meet the requirements, you'll have to download the file multiple times and make sure you don't duplicate entries. All this takes time, so make sure you've got enough time to go through the entire process! We get really excited when somebody makes a tournament but if we make a car and the tournament gets abandoned, we will all feel very sad /:m]
]Timing is very important, so important it'll have its own section/:m]
A lot of challenges die an untimely death; this is not a unique phenomenon to this forum. The reasons, and how to address them, are as follows:
]Host didn't know what they were doing, but if you've read this entire guide up to this point, you shouldn't have a problem with that [size=85]I hope[/size]/:m]
]Host vastly underestimated the amount of work required to get things done. This is very common. We suggest talking to somebody who has hosted a big tournament to get an actual quote on the time invested before you publish anything. You can either PM somebody, or you can ask the users who hang out on the Automation Chat, because most of them are very well versed with forum challenges. Also, things like reviews and comparison articles are not that easy to write 'on the side', and require a fair bit of inspiration and muse/:m]
]Host forgot that real life happens. The corollary of the previous point. If you want to run a tournament, you should chart it on your calendar with everything else. This is a commitment. We understand that unforseen things happen but as a couple of users have said recently, scheduling results on the same day as your exams is a recipe for double unhappiness/:m]
]The tournament schedule conflicted with a mandatory public release which corrupted a lot of files, or rendered them incompatible, or completely altered the data. It is wise to not have your tournament drag on too long for one, or at least collect all the data and material for presentation ASAP so it is preserved. We also highly recommend checking the various threads on Dev updates to find out the ETA for the next update/:m]
There is an optimum timeframe tailored to the scope of each tournament, as well as a natural ebb and flow in forum activity. To help gauge how timing will affect tournament activity, consider the following:
]More complex tournaments will generate a lot of questions. Allow at least two or three days to answer these before accepting submissions/:m]
]It will generally take at least two or three days for enough users to build a decent submission for even the simplest of tournaments purely because of the global spread of the userbase/:m]
]Unless the premise is particularly unique, waiting several weeks/more than a month for a single set of results will be a deterrent as after the submission, there will be a lot of waiting/:m]
]Once everything is clarified, expect a rush in the closing days before the deadline/:m]
]People travel, particularly during holiday season, so tournament activity may decline over Christmas etc./:m]
[size=150]Layout and Presentation[/size]
Everything up to this point in order? Feel ready to proceed? Great! Now to make it all readable and understandable and appealing so people will join!
]Writing things in order helps keeps things organised. The general recommended order is Premise, Rules and Regulations, Judging Criteria, Scoring, How to Submit and Deadline/:m]
]Having clear headings and sections really helps keep track of things. Don't be *afraid to use the text editor, but don't go overboard!/*:m]
]Not mandatory, but a picture as part of the heading, or even word art helps. In fact, having the rules be presented in a separate image also helps, because that's how you distinguish them from the rest of the post./:m]
]When writing down the rules, remember that the car designer is organised into a flow of platform, engine, trim. It's easiest if your regulations follow the same flow, or are at least organised so we can reference them in a stepwise fashion./:m]
]If you're using custom tracks and expect people to test on those tracks before submitting, make sure you link to the relevant tracks in your post./:m]
]The deadline is very important, if the design phase is too long, people might lose interest or forgot about the challenge. If it is too short, maybe they won’t be able to allocate time to build their car. Most people have a busy schedule during weekdays and they are more relaxed on the weekends, therefore giving people one or two weekends for the design phase is appropriate, more if the challenge is complex, or if there are several classes./:m]
]Very important: Any changes or updates you make SHOULD be edited into your original post as well, as this is the go to for reference./:m]
Okay guys, that seems like a lot, but it boils down to really simple stuff. The TL;DR version is:
]Make it easy to read/:m]
]Don't make up useless rules/:m]
]Don't make up pointless restrictions that make it impossible to follow your rules/:m]
]Show us your working and don't just pull results out from your butt/:m]
]Make up your mind on ALL the rules before you accept entries, because once you accept entries, if you don't like what you're accepting, that's too bad for you/:m]
For those of you who like pictures, I drew up a mock format for you!
I hope you find this useful! Good luck all, and let's have fun