Friday, January 16, 2015

Interview with a Champion Voter: Feros

This time I interviewed one of the few triple Champion Voters, who goes by the name Feros on the Paizo boards. Thanks for the interview, Feros!

1. When you think about it, 5,000 votes means that you put in a minimum of 83 hours and 20 minutes, which is roughly equal to a part time job. What drove you to put in that kind of time? 

My main job is as a Tree and Shrub Nursery Production Manager. We field grow (old school) so winters are an incredibly slow period. I am essentially part-time/casual this time of year and have little to do. This voting round gives a welcome respite to boredom and an interesting hobby for a few weeks. As such, I don't stop voting when I reach Champion. I vote as much as I can right to the end. 

2. What makes an item Superstar for you? What were some of your deal breakers that made you vote against an item rather that for its competitor?

For me, a Superstar item has three main qualities:
  1. It has to be cool: There has to be a vivid and imaginative appearance or visual image of how the item is used (preferably both) to catch my imagination. This should be easily grasped by the writing used.
  2. It has to work well: The mechanics backing up the image should be solid and be balanced in the game, whether they are new or standard. I don't need spectacular and innovative mechanics to be impressed; so long as it isn't broken or useless while enabling the evocative imagery I value above all, even mundane and simple bonuses will do. 
  3. Formatting must be understandable: I don't expect perfection here, and mistakes made in the pursuit of the template are fine. But if I have to go searching for relevant information, some of that information is missing, or no attempt at the template has been included it really detracts from the overall item and makes me think that this designer is not Superstar.
As for deal breakers, I have only a few. First and foremost items which by their function or form are grotesque. I always take that as a sign of weakness as it is the easiest way to produce a visceral response from the reader. Rot, disease, cannibalism, etc. simply make me want to walk away. These things do have their place in fantasy RPGs, but it would be very hard for me to vote for such an item.

Another is plot devices. These are items that do not allow the user to overcome challenges in the game or aid them in combat situations. Instead they allow the advancing of plot, such as a brooch whose sole reason for being is to send a message when a certain task is done. That makes for an interesting story point and may help the plot, but it is not Superstar.

Finally confusing writing is just death to me. If I read an entry and I don't have at least a basic idea what your item is useful for after that initial perusal, I will down-vote it. I might eventually understand after many a read through, but even then you would have to impress me a lot to overcome the confusion I would see such a device presenting a table of gamers. 

3. What did you think of this year's twist? If you voted last year, do you think the quality of the items was better or worse than prior years? 

I loved this year's twist! Keeping people from getting complacent and forcing writers to ditch items that some had built months in advance levelled the playing field and opened up creativity. Keeping people on edge for the future can only help this contest.

Based on my voting over the last three years, I noticed a marked increase in quality. While we still had many template issues, the actual items were much more interesting, mechanically well designed, and better presented. I suspect this had something to do with the huge variety of items that could be made magical.

I know technically a Wondrous Item can be virtually anything, but you could never build weapons. Wondrous Items could be converted into Rod, Rings, Armor, and Shields fairly easily. In my opinion, Staves and Weapons opened up the door to new and innovative concepts. 

4. This year's cull was controversial, what did you think of it? How much did it affect your voting? 

I liked the heavier cull very much, as did a number of the other heavy voters (although by no means all). If someone was hurt by it they shouldn't have been. There were many items that could have been easy cull survivors the last two years that were wiped this year.

Surviving the cull was still an honor, but being culled didn't mean the same as in past years. Then it was a sign that the item was highly flawed. This year it could mean mediocre to well made but not interesting enough. Less insult, more reality.

It changed my voting considerably. Before the cull I would only need to pause roughly every 10 votes or so to really consider the items in question before voting. The rest of the time the pairs were an easy auto-vote as one item was obviously inferior.

After the cull, auto-voting became the exception instead of the rule. The items were so much more closely linked in quality that I really had to ponder the differences before placing my vote. I found it much more engaging and made me look at the design elements with far greater attention than before. 

5. If you could change one thing for next year's competition, what would it be? 

Communication. The cull was not announced in a blog, but as a thread post in one of the threads. It was then up to us to spread the word. When the voting came to an end, no announcement was made and no thanks were given as in years past. I found this disappointing as having that level of communication is important when the people you are involving are doing some work for you. If it was customers speculating on a product, fine. That builds buzz. But when you have people voting en masse they are committing their time to the project. They should be informed of developments clearly and as often as possible.

1 comment :

  1. Feros made an important part about communication within the contest. I hadn't realized it until he pointed it out though.


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