Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Superstar effort

Back in January, I wrote about my concerns about falling participation in Paizo's RPG Superstar contest, noting how comments had dropped by about 40 percent from previous years. I urged everyone to stay involved, even if they didn't make the Top 32, and make sure to give the competitors the feedback they want and need to improve.

Now, with the contest is in its final week for the year, seems like a good time to look back and see how we did, and I'm happy to say that participation (at least based on comments) is back on an upswing.

Items that made the cut from the judges received an average of 32.1 comments this year (with a high of 58 and low of 20), up just over 10 percent from last year's 29. That number gets even better, 33.25 comments, if you take out the four alternates' items, which voters were able to see and comment on unlike in previous years (the harlequin hurlbat, which was elevated into the Top 32 midway through Round 2 because of a disqualification, led the alternates with 28 comments).

Voters stayed engaged as the contest went on, at least initially.

Round 2, which was a map for the first time, averaged 33 comments per entry (high of 62, low of 22), or 33.45 if we exclude one map that got disqualified midway through and its replacement, which was revealed later than the others.

Voters stayed consistent in the monster round, with 29.9 comments per entry (high of 45, low of 22). That's the most since 2012 and a big jump (almost 33 percent) from last year, when they averaged 22.5 comments. I suspect that's due in part to there being half as many monsters, which tend to be crunch-heavy and can take a lot of work to get through and review.

Voters finally started showing some fatigue in the encounter round, as the comments dropped to an average of 19.4 (high 25, low 15). That's lower than the last two years, when they averaged 22 and 22.25 though more consistent from entry to entry. I noted last year how one entry had only six comments beyond the judges and I'm glad that didn't happen again. My impression, and I could be wrong here, was that people were not in love with the Darklands twist and that may have turned off some voters, but that's just a rough feeling.

Also, out of curiosity, I decided to look at a few years of the unofficial critique threads. I'm not sure what sort of measure of participation this is, but thought it could be interesting. Keep in mind that how the thread works has changed a lot. Early on, it tended to be people simply posting their item and then Neil or another judge posting comments that were left on the item, plus a little other discussion and reviews. The last two years, reviews were provided by anyone who was interested, though some people broke them out into separate threads. That happened again this year, though Mark Seifter also left his and other judges' comments as well. Take these numbers for whatever you will...
Unofficial Critique My Item thread comments
2015: 971
2014: 733
2013: 824
2012: 1,111
2011: 1,212
2010: 1,014
As a fan of the Superstar contest, I'm really glad the numbers started to rebound this year. I think there were some neat innovations in the contest and I think Owen K.C. Stephens' talk about further improvements/changes for next year should only help more. That said, there are still comments to be left on the four adventure pitches and votes to be cast as well as the winner to celebrate this year, but then it's time to start thinking about Superstar 2016. It's only about 9 months away!

(This will be my last A Sword For Hire post for a while, but certainly not the last you'll hear of me. Mikko and I have some further collaborations in the works and I think we're both really excited to reveal the details.)

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