tl;dr: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. So this has taken a little bit longer than I had hoped to write, but here it is now! A post-mortem of the 2SS contest. These are my personal views on the contest from the standpoint of a community manager based on observation and conversations that I've had with you guys, privately or in steam chat. They're a little scattered because I kind of rushed this and am pretty scatter brained at the moment, but here we go. (As a disclaimer, this views are in no way representative of the other staff members, or of the community as a whole. These are my personal feedback points on the contest) The format: The format for the 2SS contest was different that what we have had in previous contest. It was basically 2 minor contests combined into 1 major contest. Initially, this seems like an okay thing: people could enter into whatever phase they wanted and play up their strengths. However, after chatting with various community members (and through my own observation) this format was actually more harmful to the development process, than it was helpful. By dividing the contest into a layout only phase (no detailing) and a detailing only phase (not layout changes, and actually punishing people who did), it effectively was dictating how people should be developing their map. This breaks people out of their normal, comfortable routines for map development or restricts them from developing their own process if they are a newer level designer. This is an added stress and limitation that can make things hard, even for an experienced designer. While limitations from contests can make things fun and unique, the limitations shouldn't be on the creative process itself. The other issue that popped up was mapper burn out. In every contest there is the 1 week of pure hysterical mapping/polishing before final submission. If you've been there (and many of us have multiple times), it can really take a lot out of you, sapping your mapping juice for a few weeks. With the format of the 2SS contest, there was going to be two of these crazy mapping weeks for the entrants who entered both phases. Before someone could even catch their breath after the first stage, they have to jump right into the second stage. Tie this in with dictated development process, and it becomes a pretty uncomfortable contest with a lot of un-necessary stress. Deadlines: When setting deadlines for any contests, you want to make sure you don't put it smack dab in the middle of someone's finals week. With the Mercs Vs. Aliens contest being planned at the same time as the 2SS contest, and knowning that MvA would be after 2SS, I wanted to give plenty of time for people to decompress before the MvA contest. You want to give mappers enough time that they can finish their entry, but not so much time that they forget, or get bored. We used the original Valve Artpass Contest as a metric for the Artpass phase. That all being said, if you see a deadline that lies in the middle/near a big national 'thing' (like finals week for university in Europe) say so! It's better to say things earlier, rather than later. The closer the end of the contest is, the less likely the host could be to change the deadline. Conversely, if you see a deadline that is going to conflict with something, plan ahead and don't put things off until the last week! The community: The turn out of the first phase was just about as expected: lots of people. The surprise, however, came in during the artpass phase. Barring the awkward deadline, there was not many entrants into the artpass phases, even after the innumerous requests to have an artpass contest. I quite honestly expected to see a lot more artpass entries (or potential entries) than I did. I haven't been able to figure out entirely why this might have occurred. My initial observations suggest that it was because of the time limit of the second phase being too short. I also thought that it might have something to do with the previously mentioned reason of dictated development process. Perhaps it was just prizes? I'm not 100% sure, but if it came down to “people just don't like to do detailing” I wouldn't be surprised. If you guys have opinions on that, throw 'em out there. Conclusion: The 2SS contest was a nice 1-off contest. I would consider it a fun, successful contest, but only as a one-time thing. Its format (or anything similar to it) is not something I would suggest or recommend in future contests. The seperated deadlines lead to a unique event, but made the overall event feel too forced onto the entrants. As I mentioned before, limitations in contests are fine, but not if they limit the creative process of the individual entrants.