How Are Your Entries Judged?
Most Dream contests are judged by "This Cat You Know" (President) and "Some Kitterwing" (Executive Producer). Sometimes other Creators and Associates will help judge as well, especially when focusing on special areas like storyline, artwork, etc. The list of what is examined sometimes varies for different contests, but in general it stays mostly the same. Usually each category has a 1-5 score and the totals are tallied at the end, with the highest scores winning. Posted below are some details about the contest categories that are always a part of each contest.
This is probably the aspect that "This Cat You Know" looks for the most. Did he enjoy touring the Dream and trying out all the things to do there? Was it interesting and designed with others' enjoyment in mind? Fun also includes whether the activities in the Dream were too difficult to accomplish for most people and if they were too hard to find. You don't want to frustrate those there to have fun.
Stuff To Do
This sounds a lot like the Fun category but it's more about quantity of activities, where Fun is more about quality of activities. If your Dream is just a chat area or only has one game to play, it probably won't get high marks in this area. There needs to be enough to do to occupy a bunch of players for quite sometime. Remember you are going up against players who sometimes make whole carnivals and quests. You will need some major content in your Dream!
Making something original in your Dream entry will give you high marks. This might mean making a kind of Dream no one has seen before, or it might be doing an original twist on an old theme. The originality can also be in the art that you use, or maybe the music or sounds. You can create a new type of game or some other new DS that no one has tried before. Maybe you've written up a new story or continuity that's all yours. Finding at least something original to add to your dream can really help your points. Don't forget to note in your write up about your Dream what those original pieces are though, so judges and dream visitors can see.
This is the area that "Some Kitterwing" judges the most strongly! This category is for examining whether you have viable Dream design and attention to detail. Taking some time before you start Dreamweaving to plan out the layout of your Dream will go a long way in this category. Make sure everything flows well, especially since a lot of players will visit it. To get points in this category, you will need your Dream entry to have a cohesive look and feel like everything matches. A top winner's Dream will even look like players have been inhabiting it for a while; not sterile and unwelcoming.
Some examples include: Edging your paths, having organic shorelines, wooded areas, and grassy plains, keeping colors matching, not repeating the same objects/floors on the same screen without variances or designed patterns. Also, make sure players can't see clipped areas that they shouldn't in the Dream such as the upstairs off in the black. This attention to detail can be time consuming but can really set your Dream apart and help make it a winner.
"This Cat You Know" likes to tell others that thirteen year olds can script with DS and make something interesting. This is true, and usually really complicated DS is not necessary in winning Dream entries. However, you can still make some really cool stuff using DragonSpeak.
The DS needs to do what it's meant to do though, so don't get more complicated than you or someone in your group can handle. DragonSpeak can make things animate, put text on the screen, move players around, and add a lot more interest and life to to your Dream. If combined with custom patching, you can make about anything you can think up. It's recommended that you annotate all your DS and test it very thoroughly, including under stress of multiple players being in your Dream simultaneously. If something is going to go wrong with your entry, it will most likely be DS! If you are one of those players who can do really amazing things with DS, play this up a lot to get those high scores.
Graphite and GraceKitten's Spring 2005 entry had an excellent inventory system made from DragonSpeak.
Using patches in dreams is not required in most dream contests; even using original patchwork is not required. However, your chances of winning do get higher with new, original artwork in the dream.
Patching can mean avatars, portraits, objects, floors, walls, and interface. The quality of the art is also important. Make sure it looks like it matches the other art in the dream. It should have matching perspective, outlines, shadows, and scale and should fit well in the Furcadia palette. You won't get as high of patch score with badly made art, so this is a good place to get help if you aren't used to patching. It is okay to use the art from the patch archive or from someone else if express permission is given. You MUST give credit to the artists either in a readme attached to the Dream entry, or in the entry text of the Dream, or its webpage.
Indigo Nightfall entered "Snow Globe" in the Winter 2004 contest. Almost everything in the dream is beautiful, original patchwork.
Sounds and Music
It's easy to forget about sounds and music when you are creating a Dream. However, they can really enhance the mood and playability!
Scary theme music can give an audio cue to what the player should be feeling. Ambient sounds can also set mood. There are a default set of sounds that you can DragonSpeak to go off randomly in your dream, such as bird calls for meadows, or frogs for swamps. Using sounds to show that someone is on the right track on a quest or that they successfully completed some task gives another dimension to game play.
A few hints: don't repeat the same song or noise over and over as it will just annoy players and judges. Don't give everything sounds, choose carefully to maximize the player's experience. Don't patch in too many large sound or music files that will cause the download to over-inflate. Lastly, some players don't have their sounds and music on, so if you use them in your Dream, make sure there's a visual reminder to turn them on!
Dreams need to tell some kind of story to add interest and depth to them. Although this can be shown a lot with the graphics and layout, many Dreams have an actual storyline that goes with them. These can be a backstory on a webpage, or entry text to help the player "get into" the Dream, or a quest story that develops as the Dream is experienced.
Keeping a story light and humorous will appeal to a wider audience than an overly involved storyline. This might be a good area to get some extra help in from someone you know who is a good writer. Roleplayers often excel in this area and it's a good way for them to contribute to a Dream project. Story also includes any signs or text in the dream. Make sure you have someone double check your spelling as well.
Community friendly is a bit of a catch-all category. One part is whether you have made your Dream friendly for others. For example, do you have an area or DS in the Dream that is obviously only for you and your friends? That would count you off for community because you are not being inclusive.
Also, how well does your Dream work for crowds and multiple players going through? Are pathways wide enough, are doors and rides designed for large numbers of players, and does the Dream manage traffic well? Do you have enough signs and text to let players know what they need to do? Do quests and games handle multiple players using them, and do they reset properly?
You can get high scores in this category if quests and games require cooperation to work well. The other thing you can do to make high scores in this category is hold events in your Dream during the festivals that go with the Dream contests.
You're heavily encouraged to work together with others to come up with even better Dreams than you might on their own. With that in mind, you'll get some extra points if you show that you worked as a team on the project. We don't dock any points though if you did it all yourself, but as mentioned above, even having someone to look over your dream and critique it can really help you out. What we'd really like to see is top artists, writers, weavers, coders, and community people forming teams that go on to make other great things like guild Dreams and their own festivals.
Quality assurance is something you can never do enough of with a contest Dream. Test everything! Test it again! And when you are done, add a bunch of players and test even more. It can be really hard to do this because often you've barely given yourself enough time to finish, and testing can be time consuming.
You really can't test a Dream by yourself. You need someone else with an outside view to look for typos, broken DS, weaving mistakes, etc. Preferably, get a bunch of friends to pore over the Dream trying to break things. In most festival maps over half of the DS is "troll proofing" DS.
It's also important to make sure puzzles and quest stages either reset when a player complete it, or don't need to. Also they should be able to handle more than one person working on the same challenge at the same time, or else seal off areas so that only one player can play at once. In sealed areas especially, you should make sure nothing will be broken if a player unexpectedly leaves or loses connection.
Putting time limits on some Dream elements can be a good way to make sure they'll get reset whether a player finishes or not. You may get counted off for really sloppy mistakes, but otherwise you do get a bit of leeway here since it is difficult to get everything working right.
Extra Credit: Webpage
Since you are not provided with webspace, you aren't required to have a webpage with contest Dreams. However, you'll get extra points if you use the web to improve your entry.
Often entrants will use the webpage to give hints and clues about the game play in the Dream or explain the backstory. They include maps of the Dream to help players find their way around. This can be really helpful for judges who might have a lot of Dreams to judge and it saves them a good deal of time.
The Dream editor has a feature that lets you save out a map of your whole Dream automatically. Sometimes players get very creative, using the web for some or other parts that build right into the Dream. Be clever and creative with this and you will find it makes for a better Dream.
Stevie (fire elf) is known for his wonderful quests and RPG Dream entries. This is part of a webpage made for "Damon's Infection" in the 2004 Wolf Howl.