A Proposal for Updating How We Record Scores On the Site (Retrospective)

What is written below is a post I made on the ShmupSystem11 forums about updating how we record scores on the forum. Here is the link to the original post:

Since making this post, I have come to the conclusion that any sort of change on the ShmupSystem11 forum is extremely unlikely. Just read the feedback my post received and you will see why. Disappointing, but what I recommend doing from now on is double posting your scores. First submit your score (and hopefully video) to the French scoreboard:
Then go ahead and submit your score to the Shmup System 11 forum as well.
Even though I have learned a lot and become more familiar with the established shmup community since making this post, I still believe in what I proposed and think these changes could benefit our community greatly. Now, without further adieu, here is the original post:

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Hi everyone,

I would just like to start off this post by saying that it is not my intention to spit in anyone’s eye or spite anyone’s work. I really appreciate all the work everyone has put in over the years, in terms of recording scores and preserving them. Also, I would like to say that I make this post out of genuine care for the shmup community and the shmups forums. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t bother to put all of this work together. Seriously I have put less work into college papers.

So, with that out of the way, what I would like to talk about today is the need for the shmups forum to update how we keep track of scores. I believe that if we do not update our methods soon, there are a number of benefits we will miss out on and leave on the table. To give my full William Shakespeare view on the matter, I have composed this document:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1sBc4ndgfsVv6mz5H3tuujjr2JDd-8pCh

However, if you are not in the mood to do a good deal of reading, I am going to provide a concise breakdown of my thoughts in this post. Again though, if you want the entire picture, please take the time to read the document.

Here is the summary of my thoughts:

Problems with our current record keeping methods

1. It is fragmented. There is no unified database. There is no way to quickly compile statistical data. For example, if I was interested in seeing a player’s entire resume of scores, I would have to manually go through all the different game threads and hope I didn’t miss a score.
2. None of our scores (that I found) have video links attached to them. Our scores are just recorded names and numbers.(Replay links don’t count, I’ll explain why soon).
3. Many of our score threads are too small and intimate. The people in charge of the scores are often high scoring players. This discourages newer players with lower scores from posting out of fear of being judged or other social reasons (I’ll explain the importance of low scores soon). The fact that people have the opportunity to readily comment on your score, since it is posted on a forum thread, adds to this problem.
4. Many of our score threads appear abandoned and haven’t been updated in years. Take this one for example: viewtopic.php?t=36854
Poor Plasticxo at the bottom of the thread never gets his score posted.
5. The majority of our score threads are top-heavy, meaning that the majority of the recorded scores are being submitted by expert players. The number of recorded scores is often extremely small, which further discourages newer players, as a low score would really stand out and look ridiculous.
6. There is no standardized system of deciding what we do with arrangements and variations of games. Sometimes they have their own thread and sometimes they don’t.
7. It is cumbersome and confusing to track how a game’s scores have evolved over time. Dates of when scores were submitted are often not readily available.
8. Aesthetically, forum posts appear outdated, like we are a community stuck in the past.

Why These Problems Matter

• In other gaming communities, their scoreboards, time boards, ladders, and leader boards are the central hub for player interaction and game play content. They are the avenue in which new players are introduced to the community and assimilated into it. If we don’t make a change, our deficiency in this area will be a continual barrier for growth as a community.
• As things are, our current player base has limited interaction with each other, when it comes to sharing our scores and competing. Only a small minority of expert players have their scores visible and actively compete with each other. To the average and beginner players, these high scores might as well be flags on the moon. This disparity decreases overall community participation and engagement. This is similar to trying to learn a fighting game, where your only competition are expert players who will completely destroy you. Beginner and average players need an opportunity to interact with each other.
• Without readily accessible video to accompany our scores, outside visitors of the forum (who might be initially interested) have no content to get them hooked. Names and numbers are meaningless to them. For example, it is not uncommon for casual people to go to a spreedrun.com page and watch a bunch of speed running vods of a particular game. Right now this is impossible with our current system. Casual observers are not going to have the motivation or know-how to upload replay files.
• If our scorekeeping appears outdated or under populated, this gives new people and outsiders the impression that these shmups are no longer being played actively and that the scene is dead. It also decreases the prestige of our top scores.
• And obviously, it sucks if your score doesn’t ever get posted because the thread owner left the scene and the thread has been abandoned.

My Proposed Solution

First off, I would just like to say that, when it comes to the details, I think we as a community can work together to figure out what works for us the best. This is not my pet project or anything, just a change I think needs to happen (though I am fully invested in helping make the change happen, if that is what is needed).

So, to address the problems I’ve listed above, here is what I think our new score-keeping system needs.

1. It needs to be a unified database. It can continue to be managed by a variety of people, but the data needs to be centralized.
2. Video needs to be strongly encouraged. Obviously there are some barriers depending on people’s setups and stuff, but the year is 2018, we can make this happen. There will be scores without video, but we should aim for the majority of scores having video. Also, the video doesn’t have to be direct capture, people can do off-the-screen capture too.
3. We need the scoreboard to feel less personal, and more general. This will encourage a wider range of scores, rather than just a small list of top scores. A healthy spread of scores is good for everyone. It also adds prestige to the top scores.
4. Finally, and most importantly, we need our new method of tracking scores to be connected directly to the forum. As in, a first time visitor opens the site, sees the “hi scores” section, clicks on it, and is immediately directed to the new scoreboard in some fashion or another.

Models we can learn from

While speaking to my discord about this idea, I got a great deal of very helpful feedback. One of them being that there are currently two websites that are close to what I am envisioning. There is the French hi score website:

http://hiscores.shmup.com/

or Restart Syndrome:

http://www.restartsyndrome.com/

Personally of the two, I like the French site better. Really, I’d say it is perfect other than being light on videos.

Again though, as great as these websites are, the problem with them is that they are external to the forums. What we need is an internal solution of some kind, as referring players to these other sites is just fragmenting our already small player base.

So what should we do? (The Action Plan)

Overall, this is the part of the proposal that could go a number of ways, depending on how things shake out. So, what I will do is list some possible outcomes we could work towards, ranked from best to worst. I am sure there are other plans we could put into action as well, but this is what I have come up with so far.

A++ tier Outcome:

That the mods and admin of these great forums decide to take me up on this idea and the hiscore section of the site is reworked and updated to reflect these changes.

B tier Outcome:

That the mods and admin agree to create a permanent and prominent link to either the French website or RS in the “hiscore” section and we work with them on integrating with the shmups forum.

Or

We build a new external website specifically for this purpose and it is integrated into the shmups forum. Here’s an example I’ve put together on my basic WordPress website (this is just for demonstration purposes, the new site would be much more robust and appealing).

https://shmuppodcast.wordpress.com/shmup-scoreboard/

C tier:

We, at the very least, go through and try to start cleaning up the system we have now and adding video links. Though, honestly, I feel like this effort would be better spent working towards an update.

So that’s what I for everyone. Hopefully this post generates constructive conversation about this topic. Also, when you do reply to this post, please try to focus on the larger picture, rather than just focusing in on some super specific minor detail, otherwise this conversation isn’t going to go anywhere.

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Reading this back, it’s funny to see how some of my ideas eventually did come to fruition. For example, for those familiar with this website, you will probably notice that the demonstration scoreboard that I built is a precursor the the Shmup Video Index on this site. After making this post and realizing that the scoreboard update on the forum is probably never going to happen, that’s when I came up with the inspiration for the Video Index in the first place. I found that, of all the ideas I wrote about, the one that my supporters (who were mainly in my discord) and I were the most passionate about was getting an accessible database of shmup replay videos.
So I guess, besides wanting to preserve my post and have it be easily found, I also created this article to demonstrate that, if you have a new idea that you genuinely think will benefit the community, don’t give up on it, even if you do get slammed by a landslide of opposition or ambivalence.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mark MSX

(11/26/18)

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