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Submitted on
December 28, 2012


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OCTS: The eternal struggle

Journal Entry: Fri Dec 28, 2012, 4:36 AM

-Mixed Media thoughts revised
- Fairness thoughts updated and added to
- full revision, spell check, and addition of thoughts


As we enter another year of OCTS and adventures here on deviantart, let's take a time to read and review!

Disclaimer: this is not a personal attack against any OCT's, oct admins, or conduct of oct admin teams in general. These are observations, thoughts, and tips that I felt should be taken into consideration when one decides they want to run an OCT in hopes that it makes things a little easier for people.

:new: Like I said above, this is not a personal attack against any OCT admin team or OCT in general. Every oct is different, someone doing things differently from the norm is not bad. These are all merely tools and guidelines meant to help. I've heard about personal attacks being made using both my posts about OCT's as a way of bullying and pushing around the admins of other Tournament groups, and I do not condone it in the slightest. I'd like to apologize for anyone that has had that done to them.

I'm actually a little floored by how old I am in terms of OCTs here on DA. Technically speaking, I've been around art tournaments of the DeviantART for a good while, observing, competing and administrating ever since July '07. While not a veteran in the traditional sense, I've seen my fair share of tournament craziness and whatnot.. So! With that said, and the memory that this journal was last made in 2008, I figure it's high time it gets edited and re-posted for the newer generations of OCT mods and competitors. I'm not going to point out follies in specific tournaments, or successes in others, leaving this as the most objective piece of writing I have done in relation to tournaments, and hope I don't completely bore you to death. This is mainly to do with Tournament establishment and administration; have a gander if you like.

You can find the 2008 edition Here

For more information, check out OCT 101

This was streamlined from Deathdog3000's list, and then taken and edited from Mul, who was the last person to post this journal, so credit to them both. I'm just an oldie and figured that with the changing of the times, there should be some amendments and face lifting done.

Overriding Concepts:

Be as Fair as Possible.

This should be self-evident.

Obviously, your judges in particular should be totally free from bias. As fun as it would be to have your friends as our judges, make sure that you can trust them to not pick and choose winners just based on if they're friends or not. If your judge is clearly very close friends with an intended competitor, you probably aren't going to want them to judge, or feel they've made a fair choice.

If you've chosen to have an entire team of mods and judges with no prior judging experience, keep the following in mind while selecting your team.

    ability to provide solid, well thought out critique

    have a solid knowledge of storytelling techniques in comics, as well as technical basics in art.

    people skills. They don't need to be friendly, but they should be able to comfortably communicate with other people and know when to hold their tongue.

    Maturity. Please, act like a rational human being. They're being trusted with a lot of power. Don't abuse it.

Make sure you do the obvious thing and have an odd number of judges. One, Three, Five, whatever so long as you can never tie on votes.

In addition, you may wish to consider talking over a code of conduct with your judges, in order to avoid accusations of favouritism or unprofessionalism further on down the line. Talk over how you will handle troublemakers, figure out appropriate responses.

Whether you do adopt a code of conduct or not, here are a few pointers that every judge's panel should observe:

Never comment on entries which will be judged. Some prefer to ask their judges not  to comment on any competitor's OCT related works at all, but certainly judges should not post comments on entries that are for the main competition or a related contest, nor add them to their favourites or otherwise feature them.

Never draw art of a competitor's character unless you are drawing art of ALL competitors' characters, with each image drawn to the same standard. This rule can be frustrating at times, but it's the only way to avoid accusations of favouritism. It can also be extended to doing features of competitors' art and otherwise celebrating one character or competitor above the others.

Another thing to note is you should always be prepared to call out anyone on your judging team if they're being troublesome. If they're going to continue to be disagreeable, don't hesitate to remove them from the team entirely. You want your tournament to run smoothly, and if they're going to be a problem, it's best to prevent that immediately as opposed to having it become a growing problem over time. Judges are replaceable, your tournament is not something that can be salvaged easily if one of your admins are the one causing the problem.

NOTE: Judges most certainly should not compete. Ever. You're judging, you have no business deciding you want to compete too. I know it sounds like common sense, but the fact that this has made it into the journal is indication enough that it HAS occurred in the past.

Other stuff: If you have an audition process, don't promise slots to anybody. Judge everything on its own merits.

This leads into...


This is a big one. Never, ever, ever, hide anything  from your competitors.


You should be as transparent as glass. You should almost never hide anything from your contestants. Your judging process should be obvious to all explain it clearly and in precise terms. Basically everybody, spectator, competitor, judge, random off the street they should be able to find out exactly why any given decision was made. Anytime that you hide something, you are creating suspicions.

There are a few obvious exceptions which judge voted for who, votes by contestants if you have more exotic forms of judging or wildcard selections but on the whole it is important that everybody knows what you are doing, and why you are doing it. If you're late for judging, you should tell everybody why. Any explanation (if true) is much better than no explanation.

If you're going to rig match-ups, at least have the common courtesy of telling everyone you did it. Don't go into damage control and deny everything like crazy it just makes you look like an ass. Don't hide 'damaging' comments unless they're just inane spam respond in a reasonable and fair manner.

This also means you should leave crits, or at the very least offer criticisms of pieces if asked. And make clear that you offer them.

Similarly, remember to tell all of the people helping you judge and administrate what precisely the hell is going on. Constant communication between judges and administrators will mean, obviously, that everyone will have a good idea of what to do even in the absence of direct orders from you. This is important. Do not forget.

NOTE: If you and your judges are having problems with each other, telling your community that on the main journal is not a good idea. not only is it demoralizing to see that your admins can't agree or get along, it also hurts your image as a whole If you have one specific judge that's late, tell the community that there is a judge that is late, but do NOT release the name of the judge. The resulting witch hunt will not help anyone, and your judge really won't appreciate you pointing fingers at them like that.

Be Consistent.

For gods' sakes, follow your own goddamn rules.

If you expect your contestants to follow them , you have to follow them, too. I can't believe I have to explain this one but I have seen a few tournaments where 'automatic disqualifications' were applied inconsistently across the board or things to that effect. It's ridiculous, it makes you look stupid, it erodes trust in administrative capabilities just do the decent thing and be consistent.

Be Committed.

If you remain committed, it's more likely that your community will remain committed. And the more committed your community is, the more successful your tournament is going to be. And if you're not committed, why are you setting up a tournament in the first place? These things are huge amounts of effort to plan and create!

Be Able To Take Crits...

If a multitude of people point out things that are wrong, at the very least give some serious thought to changing stuff around.

There might just be something horribly horribly wrong with your tournament mechanics that you're completely blind to.

...But Not to the Point of Absurdity

On the flip-side, not everybody knows what they're talking about. Trust your judgement to differentiate the two, and don't fold to every single person's demands. If you do, nothing will ever get done.


Stick to one type of media (Unless you trust yourself)

Seriously. Not shitting you here.

Prose ('written') entries and comic entries are the biggest problems here, because of the large difference in skill sets required. While they can go toe-to-toe with one another, it takes a rather exceptional judging panel to make a fair assessment of which one is better, comprised of people familiar with both mediums who are able to take account of the benefits and weaknesses of both (or at least with a balanced amount of artists and writers on the team). Unless you have such a judging team and are sure that your judges can tackle the issue of different media fairly, a mixed tournament is best avoided.

What it all comes down to is not 'worthiness as art', but 'fairness'. Because that's what a tournament should really be about judging two entries against each other in the fairest and most balanced manner. Even if you attempt to match prose versus prose and comics versus comics, there will come a time that you'll have to judge a prose entry versus a comic one (even if that moment is at the point of the very final matchup) - so do not start a mixed media tournament unless you have absolute confidence in yourself and your team.

In regards to Flash entries, they are often more easy to judge alongside comics than writing is, given the visual nature of both. The spectacular impact that a well-done Flash entry can have is also balanced out by the sheer amount of effort involved in creating it. However, again, use your discretion. If you and your judges don't think you'll be able to offer unbiased judgements for a matchup involving a Flash and a comic entry, it's probably a good idea not to allow them.


And by "Sparkle", what I mean is, "have correct grammar and spelling, and make sure everything looks nice". It is surprising how many tournaments overlook this seemingly obvious fact, so here it is. It is a fact that your opinion will get more respect if it is presented nicely, everything is spelled correctly, and there are no glaring grammar mistakes. It is exactly the same for tournaments. People will judge you based on your spelling and grammar, and they are right to do so.

Similarly, do your best to make your page look spiffy. Host it on an account separate to your own (please do this) and buy that page a subscription.

Grab a free CSS journal layout and modify it to your heart's content, crediting the original coder of course. Make everything look nice and easy on the eyes. Choose a complimentary colour scheme, or find someone who can. Keep it simple, keep it clean, if you're going to use a group account instead of a normal account (you don't need to, btw. there are plenty of OCTs that ran fine on their own normal account) don't use every widget you can possibly think of.

You're trying to draw in competitors, and to make sure your contestants stick around, so aesthetics are actually quite important.

Know Your Competition.

Remember that in Artist Tournaments you are competing for competitors with other artist tournaments.

Artists and writers only have certain amounts of time on their hand, which limits their ability to pursue multiple tournaments or competitions at once. A particularly organized artist or writer might be able to juggle three or more tournaments with no decrease in quality, but the vast majority of artists will greatly prefer to stick to one or two tournaments at a time.

What this effectively means is that you should keep an eye on other tournaments, specifically deadlines for auditions or submissions. You absolutely do not want to have your submission deadline on the same day as that of another tournament, or even really within the general vicinity. You also do not want to have, say, the exact same theme as another tournament. What you do want then is to find a niche you can happily exploit for artists, either by tailoring your contest for a specific group (group of friends, artist circle etc) or by covering a theme that hasn't yet been done, or by doing a theme that has been done yet but better.

NOTE: just because they're your competition is no reason to be a dick to them. They're just trying to succeed, same as you. Good vibes between tournaments make for good vibes all around. Be nice, be courteous, and please, for the love of all that is holy, don't go bashing one another.

Make a Schedule and Do Your Best to Stick to it.

Swear to god, as I sit here now I can remember several tournaments that failed to do this.

People like to know what to expect. This is perfectly normal and should not be taken as some form of surly rebellion on the parts of competitors. People like to have goals and times so they can plan their normal lives around having to work on their tournament entries, or so they know when to start stressing and freaking out over the impossibility of doing something. And people like to do this in advance.

One of the best things you can possibly do for your tournaments is to set a basic skeleton of a timeline. Hosts are recommended to post a 'tentative schedule' around five months or so before the tournament even begins, to give competitors an idea for what to expect. Track record indicates that tournaments who have actually pulled this off have been more successful, partially because of an influx of talent but also because of its rigid schedule.

While problems may crop up with your schedule judges may be hospitalized, family tragedy may strike, etc do your best to stick with your schedule. Have contingency backup plans. Be ready to call in extra judges if necessary. Minimize time requirements by collecting auditions or submissions or by making judgments before deadline, if both entries are already in. A good tournament will stick as much as possible to a given schedule because that way everybody knows what to expect judges, competitors, and spectators alike. Otherwise it is possible to end up stringing along your contestants with a series of broken deadlines "it'll be done in two days!" "It'll be done by Sunday!" "Just one more day, we promise" and there is almost nothing that will piss people off more. And pissed off people do not a happy tournament make.

NOTE: Extensions and round lengths should be fair (3-4 weeks is more than enough time), but don't be lenient. If you find yourself needing to extend a round for whatever reason, don't exceed a week. You're trying to challenge competitors, not give them all the time in the world. Giving them more time could cause your tournament to drag on for far longer than anyone was counting on.

Be Prepared

Maybe you're doing a basic ladder tournament. Perhaps you're trying something entirely new, something the likes of which DeviantART has never seen before. Either way, be like Batman: lay your plans, and lay them early. See if there's a market for the audience you're aiming to attract. Convince your friends to join or to judge your prospective future tournament. Write out your schedule. Check if the account name you want is open, and register it if it is.

Pre-planning is key to running a successful competition. You cannot rely on Indy Ploys to keep your tournament running smoothly making it up on the spot will only get you so far, and eventually all your hastily-made-up mechanics will end up falling and crushing your tournament dead. Instead, learn to be Crazy Prepared. Make plans. Be ready to adapt them, but always have plans.

And find beta testers talk to people who are tournament veterans, see if they can spot any flaws in your plans before you launch them out into the big wide internet. And take their advice. Everything is better solved before it's put out to work you do not want to be running Indy Ploy after Indy Ploy to patch everything up. Do not introduce new rules after people have already begun drawing for a round. New rules should be introduced at the beginning of new rounds i.e. when a minimum of people have already made or planned something out.

In the same vein, you should probably only start advertising after you've got at the very least the basics down.

NOTE: I recommend that if you are very new to OCTs, you probably should first run a basic ladder tournament so you know what you're doing before you even consider the more complicated structures or new ideas.

Create a Community

Ideally what you want to do is tap into a pre-existing community, but if you can't, do your best to bring people together. A chat room and a lot of advertising for that chat room is a good bet, because nothing brings together people (over the internet, anyway) like instant messaging on a grand scale. Just remember to appoint a chat room moderator who will actually be there most of the time. Spammers and trolls infest DeviantART like everywhere else. Similarly, encouraging the growth of a community through spectator entry competitions or simply by showcasing that kind of thing is a good thing.

If you're going to make a skype chat for the tournament, you best hope everyone is in there. Keep in mind you can't moderate a skype chat, though, and by making one you open yourself up to a group that you can no longer keep moderated in any shape or form. They will split off into friend groups, they will exclude people from their group, and you will have to be prepared for any and all backlash involving it.

Be welcoming, be kind, be all inclusive. You want to be approachable and friendly- if they're afraid of you it's not going to end well for anyone. Try to keep yourself from getting too friendly with them, however, especially if they take to Tumblr, as many seems to have done recently. RPing is all fun and games until an admin starts getting way too close to the people they're supposed to be judging.

Do your best to try and keep it open to everyone. If you can't do that then your community will fall apart and, as the community is what keeps your OCT together, it will take down your entire tournament with it.


The Community is Not Your Enemy

If you've reached the point where your player-base is actively rebelling against you it's a fair sign that you've failed. There's only so much you can do for damage control but among the first steps would be to not treat your contestants as the enemy. Grow some extremely thick skin, in case you have experienced trollers among your player-base, and sit and be reasonable. Don't give in to your anger, resist the temptation to be a huge jerk. And for fuck's sake don't lash out against the community. The mentality is often that an attack on one is an attack on all, and you do not want to attack your entire player-base.

That's all, I think! I hope it's all very clear, helpful and understandable.

Should you feel offended, personally victimized, traumatized, vandalized, criticized, circumcised or otherwise sufficiently bothered for any particular reason, I'm sorry, and want you to know that was not my aim at all.

Many thanks to AriadneArca and Tofubeast for being my sounding boards and source of additional information and ideas. I really wouldn't have been able to make this journal thorough without you.

CSS Coded and Images by Trapiki
  • Mood: Tired
  • Listening to: Just A Dream - Nelly
  • Reading: Life of Pi
  • Watching: Pitch Perfect
  • Playing: Elite Beat Agents
  • Eating: nothing
  • Drinking: water
Add a Comment:
balrogon Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013
I dream of a day that I could consider these journals no longer necessary. >:I
Colatechi Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013  Student General Artist
We're going to be dead before that happens, balls.
balrogon Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013
That, ma'am, is why it is but a dream.
Colatechi Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013  Student General Artist
Naoru Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
I've never heard of OCTs before, but they sound really fun! Do you know where to look for them on DA/have any links to some?? I kinda want to enter one sometime =3
amymist Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2013  Student General Artist
:iconoctfollowers: is the best. I mean that 100%.
Naoru Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
hey cool, thanks for the helpful link :D
Sage-Wren Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013
I love how informative and well-worded this is. I'm probably going to refer to this plenty of times during my own first experiences of OCTing, your points are very valid and clearly written even for someone just starting out.
Crimson-Kumiho13 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
FFFFfff-dis is long, Waddles! And I read all of it. A lot of good points and if I was a younger man (y'know, arting it up like we used to in the old days) I'd be sure to spam this page every chance I got. P.S. Does me calling you waddles offend? I can't break the habit. I do the same thing with Lawr and I don't think she's used any variation of that for 4 years.
Crimson-Kumiho13 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Wait, was you in one of dem' violent fetish octs too? I don't remember my dates any more. Pretty sure you've been on DA longer than me though.
deviantART muro drawing Comment Drawing
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