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Contest Rules, Staff / Big Players, and Contest Results

an_aspiring_maker

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2
Posting this anonymously with a new account as I'm intimidated about even bringing this up.

I was going to do a city plan entry, I've spent the past week preparing by familiarizing myself with the rules, with SS2, with WRK, by practicing with PlaceAnywhere and TCL commands, etc. Then I decided to look at previous contest selections for inspiration. When I did, I quickly realized something, both in the rules and the past results. There's no rule saying that staff who work on SS, major mod makers, etc can't enter. And I saw such big names in the top 3 selections consistently when I clicked on the different months. Usually in IRL contests there's rules stipulating that staff or associated people cannot enter the contest, usually due to an unfair advantage. If such a rule didn't exist, it would deter people from entering. Like I have been, because when I see consistently big names in the selections that are huge influences in the community and either make mods or work on SS directly, that small sliver of hope that I have a chance is burned up. It's like a kids hockey team facing against the Boston Bruins, you already know the results. At least one or two were big names in all the contests I looked at. That leaves one or two spots for an average joe to maybe make it to... in just the preliminary round of voting.

And that's not touching the issue of the rules for voting.
"Judging is done in two rounds, the first is limited to Sim Settlements team members, Patreon supporters, and long-standing community members".
So the people associated with the big names who've placed in the top three are also in the initial cull voting team. Not only is there the advantage of skill, but now by unconscious voting bias by the initial voters since they're from the same echelon / pool, with the only exception the patreon supporters who aren't in that pool.

It would be nice if there was two contests, one for staff and other pros, and one for the average community members. Or disallow staff/pros from entering and instead directly consider their work for inclusion into the offical SS city plans packs, because their work is pro grade. But if it's open season for the contest, then I don't feel any hope of winning. To the big names, they might say "just try, you might win", but they don't know how how skilled they are and how big/influential their names are to just average joe SS users or aspiring SS makers. There's a reason there's different hockey leagues, because AAA teams would get crushed by NHL, and there's a reason companies almost always have a "staff cannot enter" rule even if the contest results are completely random and not based on skill like the city plans contest is.

One can still tell me there's a small chance of me winning against the big guys / staff / etc. But it doesn't matter, the small hope of winning is gone and so is my drive to try.

I hope this post might cause @kinggath and others to reconsider how the contest system works because I don't feel like I'm the only one that's felt this way and given up or not entered out of these thoughts, just that maybe I'm the first to voice it.
 

VetaPhoenix

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I am also intimidated by the huge amounts of talent here, I must confess. I’ve considered entering one of these, myself, but I’m not at all “there yet” compared to what is submitted by others. I’d also like to make my own mod(s) or add-ons, but that’s a learning curve I’m not yet ready to start tackling.

I just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone ❤️ I don’t have any idea how the criteria could be tweaked to make these contests less intimidating for newcomers, except maybe a tiered approach to it so there is a staff and a non-staff side? I will also (and always) encourage you to step out and try because, if you don’t, your fail rate will always be 100%

Good luck to you!
 

kinggath

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I hear where you're coming from, competing with some of these talented artists feels intimidating.

I can tell you this - none of the SS design team (level editors, settlement designers, art team, plot designers) ever enters the contest. I think the closest we've had is harkness, who has done some writing on the project in the past but is not currently working with us on anything. People like Yagisan, who are now helping to run the contest after participating in the past will not be entering. We didn't feel the need to specify this as a rule, as everyone on the team has enough integrity to know we'd tell them that it was not cool for them to enter.

Our goal with cutting to the top 3 internally is to prevent anyone from gaming the system with fake accounts, and to ensure the best are showcased. It would do us no good to bias our voting towards a name we recognized if it resulted in a less good settlement being presented in the top 3, since we all win when more people are attracted to the mod.

What do you think the rules to determine a pro might look like? As that seems like a tough thing to gauge. From the first season of the contest, its clear there is some colossal talent in the community, even outside of people who have released mods.
 

Karvoc

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Hi, you may know me from some city entries as raiders sanctuary or raiders castle or my own released settlements under the name Karvocs Kollections. I want to thank you for these questions.

I would like to extend an arm to my discord which is for builders to gather, chat and share ideas but most of all have fun. Shoot me a PM if you would like the invite link. This is open to any builders btw.

I strongly recommend you do an entry. Put your ideas into practice and enter. I sat on the fence for years before I entered with my 1st city comp, that being the Airport. I now look back and go man why did I wait I missed out on so much and I have learnt much, much more since then. Not only this I have met some truly fantastic modders along the way who have not only expanded my range and ability to build but, I have been able to give back as well. Do not let people further down the path get in your way, go at a city plan as you want, build what you want, make what you want and enter it but most of all have fun. The comp is a cool way to pool ideas not to show elitism and pew pew people.

Also, my own personal, well this is all my own personal view. But I look at it like this with no entry means you automatically rule yourself out of the comp and I did this for years which I regret. throwing your hand in and saying this is what I came up with is scary and being judged on it more so. But past that worry lies improvement the thrill of doing your best and being the one who wins. Heck even getting to the top 3 is a huge thrill.

I for one cannot wait to see what everyone comes up with. Heck, I can't wait to see what I will build. honestly, I am excited and trepidatious.
 
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Sirlach

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Thanks for taking time to post this question @an_aspiring_maker!

@Karvoc is a great example of someone who started out with no experience and is now one of or super stars!

We really try and focus on the individual merits of each city plan and we really enjoy having new entrants bringing fresh designs and ideas to the competition!
 

altasilvapuer

Well-Known Member
Messages
158
I want to echo Karvoc, here. Before my first contest, I'd poked around in the equivalent of the GECK on some of Bethesda's previous titles, but never really got farther than poking around. I'm brimming with mod ideas, but haven't managed to get any of them off the ground, either. (The contest doesn't even need the GECK at all, but I bring it up mostly because there's at least some overlap between the two processes.)

But I happened to have some free time one month and discovered the contest, and took a shining to building at Kingsport Lighthouse, which was in the contest that month. I had fun just kinda going to town all month, and there are a thousand things I would do differently with hindsight, having done a couple of these now. But I still won that month, and I don't regret a minute of any of the contests I've been able to throw my hat into.

The lack of an explicit "staff cannot enter" clause is a fair argument, but I'm also going to echo Kinggath, somewhat, here: I didn't notice the lack of it at all, because the team stuck to that rule implicitly and I honestly just assumed there was an explicit rule. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to add that explicit rule just to assuage concerns like yours, but I hope you don't bow out over its lack. Honestly, many of the "big names" you recognize from the Sim Settlements community are people who got their start in the contest. Sure, there are a few who were well-known before throwing their hat in the ring, like Yagisan, but there are equally many who were apparent greenhorns like Karvoc and me who stumbled, learned, and won.

So for what it's worth, go for it: Go nuts & build. Even if you ultimately decide not to enter, still build a city plan in parallel to the contest, and start flexing those muscles. Practice makes permanent.

-asp

EDIT: If you feel comfortable with it, I also encourage you to post WIP shots in a thread here on the forum. Back in the SS1 contests, many of us posted teasers of what we were working on to egg each other on and to inspire each other. It was honestly my favourite part of the contest. This is an impressively additive community on these forums, which is increasingly rare on the internet. Let's enjoy it and keep it going.
-asp
 

Blackbelt

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Hey @VetaPhoenix and @an_aspiring_maker , as someone who was nothing more than a lurker in SS1 (I didn't even have a forums account until SS2), the best way to get into all of this is kind of just to jump in! It can be very intimidating going up against names that you have seen since SS1 like the individuals posted above and many more but no one I have interacted with has left any kind of bad feeling. If you have the time there is no reason to not give it a shot! When I finished my Vault 88 plan and posted it, it was such a great feeling I couldn't wait to start a bigger project.

It can be a little concerning seeing people with badges, reputations, and followings enter against people who are new to the community. From my own experience however The City Plan Contest Management Team is made of people who I think will do a great job at holding themselves to unbiased judgment. At least as far as the City Plan Author is concerned. People will always have design choices they favor ya know?

I'll be jumping into the contest as well and will hopefully see you both in the forums from time to time posting any updates you want to share on your build. I'd love to have more people to discuss plan ideas with now and in the future.
:aye:
 

Yagisan

Rebuilding the Commonwealth.
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First off, thank you for posting @an_aspiring_maker

I'd like to take a moment to introduce myself, and do my best to address your concerns, and those of @VetaPhoenix and any lurkers.

I'm Yagisan, and since approximately January 2021, I have been a member of the City Plan Contest Management team. Prior to accepting the invitation to join the City Plan Contest Management team, I had no affiliation with any of the SimSettlements teams. I am not a member of the developer team, I do not participate in their meetings. I do not know their future plans. I do occasionally get beta access to try and break things related to city plans and balance. I set the contest settlement schedule for this season, along with the common theme for each group, and I did that based on my experience as a city plan builder. Fundamentally, I'm rather independent of the team.

I am on their development discord, like many other City Planners. I came to SimSettlements as user that liked using this to help make my settlements feel more "alive", and was delighted when it gained the ability to share my settlement designs. I've made a lot of them. Perhaps too many ... I sometimes wonder if my early proliferation of plans was the catalyst for the idea of a contest.

Posting this anonymously with a new account as I'm intimidated about even bringing this up.

I was going to do a city plan entry, I've spent the past week preparing by familiarizing myself with the rules, with SS2, with WRK, by practicing with PlaceAnywhere and TCL commands, etc. Then I decided to look at previous contest selections for inspiration. When I did, I quickly realized something, both in the rules and the past results. There's no rule saying that staff who work on SS, major mod makers, etc can't enter. And I saw such big names in the top 3 selections consistently when I clicked on the different months. Usually in IRL contests there's rules stipulating that staff or associated people cannot enter the contest, usually due to an unfair advantage. If such a rule didn't exist, it would deter people from entering. Like I have been, because when I see consistently big names in the selections that are huge influences in the community and either make mods or work on SS directly, that small sliver of hope that I have a chance is burned up. It's like a kids hockey team facing against the Boston Bruins, you already know the results. At least one or two were big names in all the contests I looked at. That leaves one or two spots for an average joe to maybe make it to... in just the preliminary round of voting.
There's a written rule that no one on the City Plan Contest Management team may enter. It's over in the rules here. None of the current Sim Settlements development team have entered any of the competitions, and as a member of the City Plan Contest Management team, I consider that rule extended to to include them too. The team has too much integrity to enter though, so I don't think I'll ever need to enforce this.

Regarding the same "big" names. There is a small core group of people that tend to enter every, or almost every month. Inevitably they will produce something the judges liked. I made the top 3 often enough, only to lose the popular vote. The key was consistency. These entrants kept improving their plans because they kept practicing. Have you seen my early plans? They aren't so great. In fact, all the "big" names early plans are not great. However, all the "big" names started small. Nobody knew who they were when the first started, and everyone has to start somewhere. Enter often enough and you'll be a "big" name too.

I don’t have any idea how the criteria could be tweaked to make these contests less intimidating for newcomers, except maybe a tiered approach to it so there is a staff and a non-staff side? I will also (and always) encourage you to step out and try because, if you don’t, your fail rate will always be 100%

Staff can't enter. We either show off our city plans in our own mods like myself, or the design team made the included city plans in Sim Settlements 2.
You're absolutely right that if you don't try, you'll always fail. I hope to see what you, and others, make for the contest.

And that's not touching the issue of the rules for voting.

So the people associated with the big names who've placed in the top three are also in the initial cull voting team. Not only is there the advantage of skill, but now by unconscious voting bias by the initial voters since they're from the same echelon / pool, with the only exception the patreon supporters who aren't in that pool.
I have a rubric that I use for judging. It's used for all plans, regardless of who made it. Is it intentionally biased? No. Does it reflect what I think is good city plan design? Absolutely. I personally care about functionally, and lore friendliness strongly (it might be cool to be Hello Kitty themed, and I might give you high marks for technical skill, but low for lore friendliness). I care that all the parts of a settlement have a logical reason to be there. I also care about how well it's technically made. For example if you have floating boards, or Preston can't path through it, I'll score it lower before I submit my judgements.

Once we have what we think are the best 3 entries for that month, it becomes a public vote. The public however can be fickle, and they have their own preferences.
I will do my best to be as objective as possible when judging.

It would be nice if there was two contests, one for staff and other pros, and one for the average community members. Or disallow staff/pros from entering and instead directly consider their work for inclusion into the offical SS city plans packs, because their work is pro grade. But if it's open season for the contest, then I don't feel any hope of winning. To the big names, they might say "just try, you might win", but they don't know how how skilled they are and how big/influential their names are to just average joe SS users or aspiring SS makers. There's a reason there's different hockey leagues, because AAA teams would get crushed by NHL, and there's a reason companies almost always have a "staff cannot enter" rule even if the contest results are completely random and not based on skill like the city plans contest is.
I'm not American, so my entire familiarly with NHL is that I have seen The Mighty Ducks. However, they do have a much, much larger pool of talent that will participate, so they can run multiple grades. Then we have to decide, what is a "pro", and what isn't? How would you decide? City Plans for Sim Settlements 2 are not the same as for Sim Settlements 1. Anyone that tries to make a plan like for Sim Settlements 1 is going to have a hard time. At this point in time, everyone has the same familiarity with SimSettlements 2.

One can still tell me there's a small chance of me winning against the big guys / staff / etc. But it doesn't matter, the small hope of winning is gone and so is my drive to try.

I hope this post might cause @kinggath and others to reconsider how the contest system works because I don't feel like I'm the only one that's felt this way and given up or not entered out of these thoughts, just that maybe I'm the first to voice it.
I am sorry to hear that. I do hope that you reconsider. I had 2 years of failures before I finally won, but I only won because I kept on entering.

I'd like you to take another look at those past entries. You should hopefully notice that we are all giving each other advice, tips, and constructive critiques on each others work. Is it a competition, yes. Is it meant to also be fun, yes. Obviously I can't provide specific help for your contest entries, but I am happy to offer general advice for contest entries, and more specific for non-contest city plans (based on my availability of course). I would strongly suggest that every plan has a Caravan Plot, because it's really hard to make self-sufficient plans right now. Also save often, and keep backups of those saves.

Regards,
Yagisan
 

GavMan

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74
Another Hockey related tidbit from Wayne Gretzky: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
Can't place if you don't give it a go, if no success take note of the constructive comments to improve for the next months round.
 

an_aspiring_maker

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What do you think the rules to determine a pro might look like? As that seems like a tough thing to gauge. From the first season of the contest, its clear there is some colossal talent in the community, even outside of people who have released mods.
To me it seems fairly easy to determine who is a member of the circle of big guys and who isn't. Hovering over the tags on the forum, seeing their work placing frequently in past competitions, seeing their work included in SS city plan packs, WRK, Nexus, or any other SS work, etc. Having made big mods, etc. Having been here for years with the same amount of time spent making stuff for SS. Versus, having not entered or placed, not having any tags or being part of the core SS community that surrounds the staff etc). Maybe they've released one small mod with just one plot, or a few city plans that didn't place or just placed once despite multiple tries. Maybe its their first try.

If this contest is about encouraging people to get making city plans then it should be focused on how to be inclusive to fresh blood while mitigating the advantage of highly experienced makers. If it's about just getting more content made for SS, more city plans, then it'll work as designed.

Separate contests for 'high tier' and amateurs would be ideal, but if you wanted to balance it out, perhaps 2 open slots and 1-2 for amateur / fresh blood level participants (depending on the amount of entries of course). I'm sure by the time the entries pour in you'll know how to adjust it for the month. Only three entries? Then they all pass. Got a lot and a bunch are from certain long term members and prior winners / core community members? Break it into two tiers or expand the open slots accordingly.

This all being said, I post this anonymously, and I won't be entering. Please direct your encouragement to any and all of the fresh blood you see around, not just city plan makers but new mod makers and such, as having the heart to build a whole city for the first time can be very daunting and difficult. Same with mods and other content. I wish you all a happy and productive contest.
 
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Yagisan

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Thank you for the feedback.
To me it seems fairly easy to determine who is a member of the circle of big guys and who isn't. Hovering over the tags on the forum, seeing their work placing frequently in past competitions, seeing their work included in SS city plan packs, WRK, Nexus, or any other SS work, etc. Having made big mods, etc. Having been here for years with the same amount of time spent making stuff for SS. Versus, having not entered or placed, not having any tags or being part of the core SS community that surrounds the staff etc). Maybe they've released one small mod with just one plot, or a few city plans that didn't place or just placed once despite multiple tries. Maybe its their first try.
I'll be straight to the point. It looks like you consider anyone that has entered a previous contest, or ever submitted a mod to Nexus to be a pro. I don't agree with that assessment. I don't think it is acceptable to disqualify people because they enjoy modding as a hobby, or helped other users on a forum for a mod. You don't join the NHL and then ask for everyone there longer than you to be disqualified.
If it's about just getting more content made for SS, more city plans, then it'll work as designed. After all, what does it matter if there's new blood if there's enough experienced people to make the city plans? But in that case, why have a contest at all and just ask those people to make the plans and skip the contest.
Honestly, if all they wanted was new plans, we wouldn't have the contest. They have a design team, and people like myself have our own projects that will cover all the settlements anyway.
Separate contests for 'high tier' and amateurs would be ideal, but if you wanted to balance it out, perhaps 2 open slots and 1-2 for amateur / fresh blood level participants (depending on the amount of entries of course). I'm sure by the time the entries pour in you'll know how to adjust it for the month. Only three entries? Then they all pass. Got a lot and a bunch are from certain long term members and prior winners / core community members? Break it into two tiers or expand the open slots accordingly.
I'd love to see a bigger more expanded contest. People need to actually enter first. At the time of this reply, there are exactly 4 confirmed entries. Hardly enough to consider expanding yet. I'll keep your suggestions in mind, and bring it up if the contest gets big enough to warrant it. If you are new here, you should know that the final competition is by invite only, and the only way to get the invite is by participating in at least one of the previous competitions.
This all being said, I post this anonymously, and I won't be entering. Please direct your encouragement to any and all of the fresh blood you see around, not just city plan makers but new mod makers and such, as having the heart to build a whole city for the first time can be very daunting and difficult. Same with mods and other content. I wish you all a happy and productive contest.
If it's not for you, that's fine.

If I may suggest, those of you that feel intimidated - why don't you take this opportunity to try making a city plan anyway. Even if you don't enter this month, the worst that can happen is that you learn a new skill.
 

VetaPhoenix

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127
First off, thank you for posting @an_aspiring_maker

I'd like to take a moment to introduce myself, and do my best to address your concerns, and those of @VetaPhoenix and any lurkers.

I'm Yagisan, and since approximately January 2021, I have been a member of the City Plan Contest Management team. Prior to accepting the invitation to join the City Plan Contest Management team, I had no affiliation with any of the SimSettlements teams. I am not a member of the developer team, I do not participate in their meetings. I do not know their future plans. I do occasionally get beta access to try and break things related to city plans and balance. I set the contest settlement schedule for this season, along with the common theme for each group, and I did that based on my experience as a city plan builder. Fundamentally, I'm rather independent of the team.

I am on their development discord, like many other City Planners. I came to SimSettlements as user that liked using this to help make my settlements feel more "alive", and was delighted when it gained the ability to share my settlement designs. I've made a lot of them. Perhaps too many ... I sometimes wonder if my early proliferation of plans was the catalyst for the idea of a contest.


There's a written rule that no one on the City Plan Contest Management team may enter. It's over in the rules here. None of the current Sim Settlements development team have entered any of the competitions, and as a member of the City Plan Contest Management team, I consider that rule extended to to include them too. The team has too much integrity to enter though, so I don't think I'll ever need to enforce this.

Regarding the same "big" names. There is a small core group of people that tend to enter every, or almost every month. Inevitably they will produce something the judges liked. I made the top 3 often enough, only to lose the popular vote. The key was consistency. These entrants kept improving their plans because they kept practicing. Have you seen my early plans? They aren't so great. In fact, all the "big" names early plans are not great. However, all the "big" names started small. Nobody knew who they were when the first started, and everyone has to start somewhere. Enter often enough and you'll be a "big" name too.



Staff can't enter. We either show off our city plans in our own mods like myself, or the design team made the included city plans in Sim Settlements 2.
You're absolutely right that if you don't try, you'll always fail. I hope to see what you, and others, make for the contest.


I have a rubric that I use for judging. It's used for all plans, regardless of who made it. Is it intentionally biased? No. Does it reflect what I think is good city plan design? Absolutely. I personally care about functionally, and lore friendliness strongly (it might be cool to be Hello Kitty themed, and I might give you high marks for technical skill, but low for lore friendliness). I care that all the parts of a settlement have a logical reason to be there. I also care about how well it's technically made. For example if you have floating boards, or Preston can't path through it, I'll score it lower before I submit my judgements.

Once we have what we think are the best 3 entries for that month, it becomes a public vote. The public however can be fickle, and they have their own preferences.
I will do my best to be as objective as possible when judging.


I'm not American, so my entire familiarly with NHL is that I have seen The Mighty Ducks. However, they do have a much, much larger pool of talent that will participate, so they can run multiple grades. Then we have to decide, what is a "pro", and what isn't? How would you decide? City Plans for Sim Settlements 2 are not the same as for Sim Settlements 1. Anyone that tries to make a plan like for Sim Settlements 1 is going to have a hard time. At this point in time, everyone has the same familiarity with SimSettlements 2.


I am sorry to hear that. I do hope that you reconsider. I had 2 years of failures before I finally won, but I only won because I kept on entering.

I'd like you to take another look at those past entries. You should hopefully notice that we are all giving each other advice, tips, and constructive critiques on each others work. Is it a competition, yes. Is it meant to also be fun, yes. Obviously I can't provide specific help for your contest entries, but I am happy to offer general advice for contest entries, and more specific for non-contest city plans (based on my availability of course). I would strongly suggest that every plan has a Caravan Plot, because it's really hard to make self-sufficient plans right now. Also save often, and keep backups of those saves.

Regards,
Yagisan
Good explanation, thanks. I sometimes have a hard time really understanding who is officially staff vs who is not because there are so many pockets around. Like, I'm on the wiki team, so I'm sure somebody likely thinks I'm official staff, too, but I'm not really. I wish I had time to enter, but I'm considering it for one day in the future.
 

afz

Member
City Planner (S3)
Messages
39
Hi, I'm a new member here and also new to the community. Basically, I just joined for the March competition having never released any mods or posted here before. I had been building settlements for myself for some time, but I come after a long period of not even having Fallout 4 installed.

Seeing the same big names consistently make top 3 in the contests doesn't bother me personally. I know I can learn from their styles, get some knowledge and inspiration. But ultimately what drives me is the urge to build and a feeling of competition, if you are confident and think you have what it takes, you'll make it eventually. You learn much more if you do enter the contest, even if you don't win. On your next attempt, you'll be faster, more efficient, more detail oriented. You'll accrue experience as to which corners can be cut vs which things you have to live with or work around.

My advise: don't worry about it, just build, give it your best. If your product is great you'll get the recognition you deserve, otherwise analyze what went wrong and try again, it only gets better the next time!
 
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