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The mistakes of "Art Battle" and "RRU Tower"

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Ben24x7

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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.

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I wonder, if it is possible to combine a random word or title generator with the art battle (with the overall goal to combine it with RRU as a theme for example).
That way you would not have a plot and you could do it several ways:
 

Option 1:
-use random word generator for your own post

Option 2:
-draw something based on the previous random word generator suggestion. After that use a random word generator and nominate someone else for a drawing. Addition: If the user doesn't reply in one or two weeks (just an example) you have to nominate someone else

Those are two ideas, that I just had. Maybe we have to decide on a random word generator. We could also combine it with a translator to translate it a million times to get even crazier results.

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Nicely thought out! You've managed to highlight exactly what the problems are, in a very useful manner.

 

It's insightful to look at the Continue the Story forum game. That devolved into an uninspiring pile of garbage nobody bothered to read - except me. I compiled all of it into the Story of RRU, but it was so absolutely garbage I got tired of fixing the punctuation errors at the start of the second page - and as for a synopsis, I got tired of that too. It's interesting that, to me, this was precisely because what you have said in #1 and #2 to remove was removed - and this is what we got.

 

#1 - Existence of a Plot

It's not the plot, but the characters that were so chaotic in Continue the Story. Forumers could bring in anything from their choosing (I remember a lot of Sonic) - and more importantly, disregard anything of their choosing. You could be discussing Chief on Planet U and somebody would come in and say "Sonic exploded the planet." (Example) (Example 2) (Example 3) Of course, you could retcon it, but they could retcon your retcon, and you quickly lose interest. Thus there was no cohesive narrative and thus no drive to build something lasting - merely the drive was to make a funny post, and another funny post, and another funny post. Which perhaps is what forum games are best for.

 

#2 - Length of Addition

There was a particularly bad time when Continue the Story or some variant was restricted to three words only. This was absolutely chaotic as not only could people bring new things in as per above, they could do so mid-sentence and ruin the logical flow of ideas as well as the overall arc. Picking your three words in a careful manner was an interesting challenge - but somebody could easily come over and steamroll your work by not even continuing the sentence in a grammatical manner in a manner even more demoralizing than beforehand. Also 'full stops' were incredibly rare.

 

That said, you're very right in that the ever-increasing length forces other people to make things of equal length, if not more - and I think negating that is an important rule to make.

 

I don't have much of a comment about #3. The idea of scoring would work better on forums that aren't RRU. RRU is very slow, hardly has enough active members to even get a 6-player game of Mafia going - as such, the reliance on who to 'continue the story' simply should be left to the next person with enough energy and creativity to continue it in a sensible manner.

 

Ultimately, I think it's impossible to construct a cohesive narrative by just using anybody's creations - because it's much easier to destroy than to create. You can build a world, by text or by images, and it can be undone by the next person in a multitude of ways. You could then build on their world, and they could destroy it with Sonic's DASH POWERS; rinse and repeat until you run out of motivation.

 

 

With that in mind, and the idea of a standing narrative deemed impossible, I actually like Arthuriel's idea a lot more: the idea of random, unrelated comics, still about a theme. One example of a format like this that has worked is the Age of Kings Heaven "Community Screenshot Competition." There's absolutely no plot, lore, or anything. No, the winner of each, uh.... fortnightly? round picks a theme for the next. Rinse and repeat. That's been running for.... uh... about 10 years. Every theme usually gets 2-5 screenshots and people vote.

 

I think RRU's take on this could, for instance, be making everything related to Planet U and Rock Raiders. One person posts a picture of Planet U, and the word, say, "Chair." Somebody then comes along with a picture of a mischevious RR putting dynamite on Chief's chair, and the word, say, "Power." The next person posts a crudely-done MSPAINT job with Palpatine shooting Force Lightning, but there's a smiling RR face instead. And so on...

 

One thing that invariably happens is that people don't post a theme - again using the Screenshot Competition example, if the winner doesn't decide a theme, you get a SUPER SPECIAL BONKERS BONUS ROUND where anything goes and you can post a screenshot of whatever you like. RRU's take on this could be anything, but it just has to be related to Rock Raiders - or perhaps other Lego game of choice?

 

I could see the above idea working 🤔

 

 

Lastly, I just don't know if RRU has the userbase to it. Pass the Torch is a good idea, where the previous user posts a problem and the next user posts a solution to the problem and the next problem to deal with - which by itself is self-regulating on length, which is a clever idea, and only needs enough plot in the past message or two for things to make any sense. Yet I'm the only person who ever replied to it, and I don't know why. :(

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