For the past few weeks (well, it WAS a few weeks when I initially wrote this. I've come back to it a year or two later to fix it up and publish it), I've been thinking about Art Battle and RRU Tower, specifically thinking about why those threads fell apart/flopped.
I know both AB and RT are dead, and most members involved in either threads are barely active on this forum, but still I'd like to provide my thoughts about why both of them might've failed and what would need to be changed/fixed if somebody were to reboot this kind of open collaborative/competitive art topic in future.
If you have any thoughts about where Art Battle/RRU Tower failed or want to discuss any of the points brought up in this blog post, feel free to reply.
1. THROW OUT ANY STORY/LORE
I think one of the biggest reasons Art Battle fell apart and RRU Tower fell before it even started was the fact they were both established around a plot (or, as was the case with Art Battle, they evolved into a story with too much unnecessary lore).
I feel like Art Battle was ruined by the narrative and lore being built around it, as the developing story about ThunderCorp (or whatever it was called) started to make AB more focused on the narrative, rather than focusing on the silly antics that kick-started the entire event (I will not deny the fact I was one of the people involved in mutating AB Round 2 into the mess it became before the thread died).
The introduction of a serious story also clashed with the fact that most people still wanted to do silly things for the sake of fun (as was the case when boss battles were brought in, only to be obliterated in a single image) which, considering Art Battle's roots, is perfectly fine, but it annoyed the people who were invested in AB's developing story.
As for RRU Tower, it failed for being too plot-focused right off the bat, mainly due to two issues: The first one being that it didn’t really have a fun or interesting starting point for people to play off of.
May I remind you, Art Battle started out as a joke (Fush had an art request thread, then I started an art request thread so Fush sent a drawing of me literally stealing her thunder), so there was immediately a simple and fun starting point for people to work from and no story/plot-boundaries for people to stay within. With RRU Tower, we started with character bios, a description of the titular “RRU Tower”, and that was it, people were just expected to come up with some strips where they talk to other users (at least, for the time being) which is a rather boring set-up, both for the people making the strips, and for the people who would've read them.
I mean, I guess this kind of set-up could’ve worked, but it's just that there was nothing interesting happening at the start for people to get hooked/willing to join in, people were expected to make strips of characters blabbering at each other until the host of the thread decided to start the war part of the thread.
Speaking of which, the second issue with RRU Tower's plot was the constant threat of a battle later on in the story. I'll probably come back to this statement later and either edit it or delete it, because I can't quite put into words why I think that was a major problem.
In short, if anyone wants to make a reboot of this type of thread, start with a small, silly premise that people can freely expand upon, and leave it at that, no lore, no previous narrative, nothing but a simple event to get the ball rolling. As for discouraging people from creating their own narratives/plot-lines, hopefully the next section "Less is More" will resolve that issue.
2. LESS IS MORE
I think one thing that helped Art Battle to get off the ground was the fact that, in the beginning, there were no comic strips. To continue the battle, you had to convey everything you wanted to do/achieve in a single drawing.
Not only do single-panel drawings discourage people from making long stories/deep lore (as it’s hard to add/expand on a story within the confines of a single image), the use of single-panel drawings also lowered the bar to entry so that people who aren’t artistically talented/didn't have the time to produce more than one piece of artwork could still participate.
The thing is, a comic takes FAR more time and dedication to make compared to a single one-off drawing (admittedly, that depends on how much effort gets put into it), which is one of the reasons I think RRU Tower never really took off: it was structured as a comic series that people would be expected to work full time to put together a highly polished six-panel strip every month or so (voluntarily, with no payment).
Hell, I put together a 12-panel strip for RRU Tower, and I had to really push myself to complete it, as I quickly lost the mood to continue working on it.
Contributing a single panel to advance the battle/situation is more fun and quicker to make than a 6 panel comic that's a boring/frustrating slog to work on (and, again, it allows more people to participate without dedicating too much of their free time to it). You can establish rules to force users to make 1 panel strips at a time (maybe 2 at a stretch).
I'm not saying limiting what people can post down to a single panel will stop people from developing stories/plot-lines altogether, but it will definitely make it harder to do so.
3. EITHER USE A BETTER SCORING SYSTEM, OR NO SCORING SYSTEM AT ALL
This one I’m a bit iffy about, and I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this matter.
Art Battle had a weird scoring system where people who drew a panel had to nominate somebody to continue the “battle”. The nominee would get a point if they submitted a piece of art as requested, but somebody else could get the point if they submitted a drawing before the nominee.
Despite sounding good on paper, the nomination system was pretty dumb.
If the nomination system were to work properly, then everyone who got nominated would need to be free at the time they get nominated. The thing is, everybody has a life outside of RRU/participating in “art battles”, so some people who get nominated will be too busy to contribute, allowing people to easily submit a drawing before the nominated person.
Speaking of which, the rule about people being able to submit drawings/panels before nominees made the point of nominating people completely redundant, as the topic would devolve into a posting free-for-all since anyone could post at any time (I was largely responsible for abusing this in AB Round 2).
While I would say the solution would be to sacrifice the nomination system (and turn any future art battles into a free-for-all), I think the nomination system might've helped to bring a few other members on-board, adding to Art Battle's initial attention/popularity (I could be completely wrong though). It's just that the nomination system was somewhat pointless.