The Future of CSR

The Problem

CSR is the largest and most popular recurring challenge on the Automation forums, but of late has metastasised into something it was really never meant to be, with extremely long deadlines, long turnarounds and frequently very long-winded reviews and world-building.

While it is fantastic that we have a community that is very committed to doing the very best job that they can, and are so willing to devote an incredible amount of time and effort into not just their builds, but also into running the challenges themselves, we’re at a point where these extremely long-winded, 2+ month turnarounds on CSR have strayed so far from what the challenge is supposed to be, that it’s actually causing us issues in the community at large. People obviously complain about the time these rounds take, but the knock-on effect is that it has a serious damping effect on forums traffic - with slower turnarounds, people don’t read the forums as much or as long, and quite often other very worthy challenges go un-noticed and underappreciated because there just isn’t the sort of traffic “push” that CSR used to generate.


A Possible Solution

What I am proposing, is that after the conclusion of the current CSR, that we have a wholesale return to the roots of CSR. Namely:

  • Quick turnarounds - Ideally, CSR should turn over completely every two weeks, maybe three if it’s an exceptionally large challenge. This is also a key aspect of why CSR was such a compelling challenge before, is that the quick turnarounds forced entrants to make design choices that they otherwise wouldn’t have to, and learn to work efficiently to create the best possible design in a short amount of time.

  • Re-focus on the cars and reviews, less on the world-building - While a certain amount of world-building is necessary for a good CSR round, we don’t need multiple maximum-length posts of character and world-building to make it happen. This needlessly prolongs the challenge, makes it difficult for hosts to keep up with the workload and (as has happened before) can end up with a host writing themselves into a corner, so to speak. Challenges heavy in world-building are, in my opinion, better off being their own stand-alone entities, rather than part of CSR or any other recurring challenge.

  • Maintaining a balance of challenge versus accessibility - Being the largest recurring challenge on the forums means that CSR needs to maintain a balance of producing interesting and compelling challenges, versus being accessible to as many potential entrants as possible. For example, mandating interior design, while nice in terms of visual appeal, dramatically increases the amount of time and effort that entrants need to put in, and might turn off a lot of potential entrants, particularly those who are still new to Automation.

From my perspective as Community Manager, one of my biggest motivations for doing this is, quite simply, CSR makes for good marketing material, and gives me something that I can bring to the community at large, or to prospective buyers of Automation, and say, “look, we have this exciting and fun competition that our community runs, you should be a part of it!” Having CSR turn around every two to three weeks makes this a much easier sell, from my perspective, than if it’s every two months. And in the end, we all want more people to be drawn into the community; it’s the lifeblood of what makes Automation as good as it is!


The Argument Against

There are also very good arguments against this return to CSR’s roots that deserve to be discussed as well.

  • There is a place for a long-form build challenge - This is probably the biggest and best argument against returning CSR to it’s roots, is that there is clearly a strong desire for a recurring, long-form build challenge series.

  • A long-form build challenge allows for much more detailed builds - More build time allows entrants to take on stuff like detailed interior designs, complex re-shaping of cars with 3D fixture use and creating complex advertisements and Photoshop showcases for their entries. While it made sense for quick turn-arounds before Automation had 3D fixtures, it makes less sense now.


Where You Come In

We’re going to have a poll!

Polling will close in a week, so get your votes in while you can!

23 Likes

I just wanna note here - while I’ve made something in the quicker niche, I’m more than happy to dissolve it if needed. It might be able to coexist though - an easier-to-host challenge with more rapid turnaround, looser requirements and such does have its uses.

3 Likes

The more challenges, the better. And the less about someone’s repressed societal skeletons and more about actual cars being awesome, the better.

1 Like

What I feel like that can improve forum traffic, other than improving and adding challenges, is the use of car shows and stuff.

Its been a while since most of the car shows have been done here and maybe a good one will help the forum to gain more attention.

Just a suggestion.

6 Likes

I do think the QFC & CSR should coexist, but maybe dial back the worldbuilding on CSRs. Don’t write novels, but do give us a bit of meat to go off of. The QFCs, however, should stay relatively close to what they are now, i. e. “I want a competitor to blahblahblah car.” No interior, just the design and engineering aspect of it. Once people get comfortable enough with QFCs, then step up to CSRs and interiors.

16 Likes

From the perspective/opinion of someone whose never really seen the “old” CSR, I’ve always seen CSR as sort of the highest level, most “prestigious” forum challenge; as in, it is to the forums what the Cup Series is to Nascar, or what the FIFA world cup is to football. “Accessibility” to newer players never came across as a part of it for me; Sure, anyone can enter, and can expect to gain some good tips on their engineering; but only the “top-tier,” most experienced forum users realistically stand a chance to win anything.

I definitely agree that some more accessible challenges need to be available to accommodate newer users, and CSR probably is getting a bit carried away. But at the same time, I do sort of like the idea of having a highest-level, more exclusive challenge where players go all out. Perhaps, rather than try to re-structure CSR, I think creating newer entry-level challenges, or expanding/advertising some of the other series we already have, might be a better way to go. Quick-Fire Challenge seems like a perfect one to start with, and Djadania’s BeamNG challenges or my earlier Cool Wall challenges (which I was hoping to revive sometime soon) also help fill the need for more beginner friendly challenges.

15 Likes

Nightwave said it good, I have nothing to add.

the problem i see is this:
those high-profile, “top notch designer” challenges are already plentiful with AGC, TMCC and similar challenges already being ran and passed between at most 10 people

CSR historically has been a more open challenge with a lower barrier-to-entry, which has gone waaaay out the window now that flavor text and elaborate “recommendations” (looking at you, 3D interiors) making them de-facto mandatory.

Having witnessed CSR evolve, starting from the late 60s (in round number), CSR simply isn’t what it started as:
a challenge for a host of people to try their hand at designing more ordinary cars for specific people

12 Likes

CSR literally changed how challenges happened on the forums. We went from individual one-off challenges with quirky ideas, to people stockpiling ideas and making every challenge a “Repeatable format.”

The issue is, CSR has been going on for a looooooong time, every “basic” idea and “buyer” has been done. The reason CSR have become Novels purely is because the basic and simple has been “done” already. You can see it already cropping up in rounds such as 64, where we started getting the more “out there” ideas and themes, but they were constrained, and simplified.

The issue really, imho, is the combination of inflating entrance numbers (which you can’t help, as limits on CSR are rather unfair) and the continued growing expectation that you need to be better than the last to get people interested, which has seen CSR balloon from basically bi-weekly, to over bi-monthly.

And this is coming from someone who entered CSR round 1.

I don’t like what CSR has become, but I’m also not shocked

12 Likes

Is this something that the moderation has to put their hands on? I thought the point was that the winner can make such a round they want, and I don’t think that added regulations by higher authority is really needed or something that should happen with community-hosted challenges like this. I mean, afaik this isn’t anything “official”, after all.

And when it comes to the “marketing appeal”, is this supposed to be a fun thing that the community can enjoy, and not a marketing strategy towards selling more copies of the game?

14 Likes

It seems to me that 3 weeks is ideal timeframe for a CSR.
2 weeks for sending and only 1 for review. If a person is interested in participating, they will be able to meet the deadline. At least for me, that’s normal. Or at least, a participant can keep the appearance in a workpiece, and quickly adapt it to the rules, in case of appear task. However, he will make a serious miss if the organiser is looking for something else. In general, I’m all for interiors, but it’s double work, and from the looks of it, many people don’t like it when minimal effort is spent on creating them.
My verdict is that: you can send slightly unfinished cars and CSR will be met the 3 week deadline. 16 cars a year is a very good bar.
As a deadline for CSRs - one month, beyond that it gets terribly boring.

If you mean one month from rules announcement to final results, you might be right. CSR 145 launched two months ago, but it hasn’t reached the final judging phase yet, so a faster CSR definitely makes sense.

2 Likes

FNG guy looking in but instead of flavor text and all the weird shit about going on a date and staying over at a place or whatever, can we do it more like Wheeler Dealer, where someone comes in with a budget and a goal, and instead of car shopping we present our ads, as if Mike is reviewing them? Simpler, meatier where it counts, etc.

I have been playing Automation since 2018 but only discovered the forums a bit less than a year ago, because around that time I found out people host challenges. I have never participated in CSR, CSC any of these partly because I’m not as interested in the styling as I’m in the actual engineering, partly because interiors are mandatory and I’m not willing to spend hours trying to make them (have tried many times but they were objectively and subjectively bad), but my biggest reason is every time I checked if a new round had begun, the submissions were already closed, then a week, two, three later a new round hadn’t begun yet and so I check again maybe a month later and the submissions were closed again (if they weren’t, I built a car but didn’t bother with the design so I didn’t enter, that’s on me). I’m not exactly sure what I’m trying to say, something about the time frame being too wide. When I’m looking to enter it’s already closed, (bad luck?) or the judging takes so long that I already lose interest in the to-be next round that I forget to check again. I’m just giving my point of view for everyone to consider.

3 Likes

I skipped the last one because I was not confident in even surviving the interior making phase. Now I can at least make one, whether good or bad is another thing. It’s easier now that the undo button is no longer the nuke button.

I like the engineering part as well (which is why I made the thread and database related about stat-tracking, join in if interested) and I especially enjoy competing on the numbers at least partially. Not that it’s the deciding factor but it should be stated that engineers don’t really care about what has or has not been done before, if THEY can do it and are able to prove it works.

Now that I brought up the Wheeler Dealer idea I may host a challenge around that if nothing else comes of it.

One of the thing i have against CSR, is mostly of how long and their very very requirements that take people who aren’t as good away from it, like vehicle interiors required, or certain things, and of course, the stupidly long deadlines, CSR over the years has changed very drastically, from a simpler challenge, to a novel you’d find in a book. 3D interiors is basically what puts me off, and probably many others, considering how the Automation camera is in terms of car interiors. There is a potential turning-point for the challenge to make it easier, by dropping the whole 3D Interior mumbo jumbo out, Novels aside, it still is like a traditional Automation challenge, build a car that appeases your buyer, wait a bit, and then results come in about yours, and the other’s cars. However, people seemed to liked the novel aspect of CSR for years. CSR, what i’d like to call it has became “The Real-life Car production and Government regulations” of challenges.


CSR Should just be a challenge, not a turn-off point for many many people because of an 3D interior requirement, Buyers can be very specific, i understand and respect that, And it sort-of basically is an advisory when it comes to an instabin, when your car is instabinned, they tell you what’s wrong with the car, There is things you can learn off those challenges when you get instabinned.

1 Like

Honestly I’m somewhat surprised that there’s a separate thread with a discussion needed, as the overall CSR rules should deal with the issue quite clearly… if they were actually followed. Let me quote:

This might seem strict, but, as much as I can interpret Strop’s intentions, was made to prevent what we’re having now. I mean, the stuff some hosts do is amazing, but quite often it’s also… too much. Both for themselves (too much work for the typical CSR entry count), and for the participants (or just readers). I personally stopped following CSR partly because it became too bloated - slow, intimidating, full of - fancy and usually high quality, but - additional stuff to read through, too over-the-top for a recurring challenge.

10 Likes

There’s a lot of complaints from entrants saying it’s too long etc, I feel there is a huge disconnect between people with both the ability host a decent round and those who want to enter a car every week after making their pride and joy in an hour. Hosting is time consuming even in the quickest of rounds. And limiting the host’s freedom will also lower the pool of people who both want to host and have time to host. Because why host a challenge where the only benefit is more entries, particularly from people who literally say they don’t care about your writing, when you can host something you can have something appreciated by the entrants, with quality entries to write about? The current CSR may be taking its time, but it does in depth with the strength and flaws of each car.

If all you want is to be told that your car is garbage is less words, we can make that happen. We can do it with CSR, but don’t be surprised when the quality drops down drastically as well.

8 Likes

I thought quality spam got you binned in CSR though?

It’s clear that people hosting really want to write up some detailed backstory, but it’s usually far too much in my opinion.

CSR back when I participated was about learning the game, trying to submit something and seeing what went wrong on how to build for the target, and then seeing what everyone else came up with at the end. Not particularly about how the NPC we were selling to didn’t like the color of the car, had a bad day this morning, and felt the shifter was a bit too touchy.

CSR isnt CSR anymore, mostly for the reasons Hshan just noted in their post here. It would be nice to go back to faster paced rounds under the CSR brand again. It’s not like we dont already have plenty of good RP contests on this forum already (pointing to Shitbox Rally right now at least).

4 Likes

It’s one thing to write a lot about the car, another to write a mini-novel about the characters who are supposed to just buy the damn thing. If it’s done in a reasonable time, fine, it adds to the experience (to a point) but when it makes a round drag on for over a month, not so much.

3 Likes