One question that crops up a lot when I talk to students about the Game Design competitions is how will their games be scored. It’s an understandable concern – if you know what the judges are going to be looking for, then you know how to build your game in a way that maximises your chances of getting high scores.
Fortunately, we’ve always published the scoring rubric in the rules and this year is the same, but it can be awkward to find the criteria. This post is how to find the scoring criteria on the official website but I’m also replicating the rubric here so you have easy access to it. If you have any questions about particular criteria, please post them on the forums so that I can respond properly and all competitors can benefit.
So, firstly, the scoring criteria can be found in the official rules. Head over to www.imaginecup.com and head to the Game Design competition you’re interested in by clicking Compete and then in the drop-down menu selecting either Xbox/Windows or Phone. On the resulting page, find the Game Design: Xbox/Windows Rules (or the Game Design: Phone Rules) link and click it to open up a PDF containing all the rules. At the top of the document, you’ll find a table of contents to quickly navigate to different parts of the rules documentation. You want the “HOW WILL ENTRIES BE JUDGED” section, so either click that link or scroll manually down to the bottom half of the document until you find it (it should start around page 10). And there you have it! The scoring criteria in all it’s glory.
Round 1 Judging Criteria
Hmm, what’s that? You can’t see any criteria for Round 1? Well, as it turns out, that’s correct! Yes, Round 1 is effectively a “ticket to entry” type of thing – it makes sure you have your game idea ready to go and submitted into the competition by February 14, and ALL teams who do this are eligible to submit into Round 2, where you will actually be submitting your game, approximately 4 weeks later. We’ve seen that most student teams can build a very good quality game in just a couple of weeks and this first round makes sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time between having your game idea and submitting the first prototype of your game.
Note that while there is no scoring in this round, if you do not submit, you do not get to compete in the future rounds, so make sure you don’t miss that first very important deadline!
Round 2 and 3 Judging Criteria
The bulk of the competition occurs during these two rounds. Firstly, all teams who submitted game ideas into Round 1 are able to submit into Round 2, then we select the top 100 teams from each of the Game Design tracks to move on to Round 3. We then score those teams from the top 100 who continue to compete and end up with a top 10 from each track to go to the worldwide finals in Sydney, Australia.
So, how are the games scored? Take a look at this:
- Innovation – 20 points
- Theme – 15 points
- Fun Factor – 25 points
- Production Quality – 25 points
- Presentation – 15 points
Do those look familiar? They should – they’re the same five broad criteria we used last year and the year before that, but we’ve changed the weighting a little to better suit the direction we’ve been trying to head for Game Design – we want to see great quality games that are fun to play!
But this year for the first time, it goes further than this. These five criteria have been divided into sub-criteria – each worth 5 points, giving a total of 20 different scoring areas. The reason we did this was to give you a better opportunity to tailor your games to the things the judges look for each year, and hopefully you’ll be able to almost guess what kind of score you’ll likely get based on this fine-grained model.
So, how does it all work? Here it is in its entirety:
Innovation – 20 points
- 5 points – Story – Does the game have a unique story or premise that invites the player into the game world/structure?
- 5 points – Unique Game Elements – Does the game have unique and creative technical elements not seen in other games? Does the game implement established game mechanics in creative or new ways?
- 5 points – Genre – Does the game create a new genre, blend genres together to form a new way of playing, innovate on an existing, established genre or it is a direct clone of an existing game in the market?
- 5 points – Graphical Style – Does the game have a creative or innovative graphical style that sets it apart from other games in the same genre or class of games?
Theme – 15 points
- 5 points – Explicit Theme – How well does the game explicitly connect to the theme?
- 5 points – Educational Elements – Does the game have educational elements that are well integrated into the gameplay to reinforce the theme?
- 5 points – Accessible – Are the theme and education aspects easy to access and naturally integrated into the game?
Fun Factor – 25 points
- 5 points – Player Feedback – Does the game provide feedback for the player such as high scores, end of level reports or other components that make the player feel good about their achievements in the game?
- 5 points – Longevity – Does the design allow for repeat play? Does the player want to keep playing? Would the player keep this game and play it daily/weekly/monthly/never?
- 5 points – Level Design – Are the levels creative and attractive? Is there an appropriate ramp up of difficulty? Are there multiple ways to solve challenges?
- 5 points – Excitement – Is the game existing and inviting to the player?
- 5 points – Storyline – Does the game have an obvious storyline or other mechanism to point to the theme or the premise for the game as explained in the game summary? Can cut scenes be skipped?
Production Quality – 25 points
- 5 points – Audio – Is there music? Are there sound effects? How is the sound quality> Does the sound make sense given the game, theme, genre and context of gameplay?
- 5 points – Game Structure – Does the game have additional peripheral elements such as Menus, Credits, Options and/or Pause Screens?
- 5 points – Graphics – Are the graphics complete? Colored? If 3D, is shading implemented? Textures? Are there flaws?
- 5 points – Level Design – If there is more than one level, do they sequence together in a logical or creative way? Does the collision detection work appropriately? Does the player get stuck? Do interactions make sense? Is there an option for in-game tutorials?
- 5 points – Performance – Is screen tearing indicating that the Draw functionality is not keeping up? Are there frame rate issues? Does the game sometimes not load (on Phone)? Are there multi-player network speed issues? Does the music or sound get out of time with graphic or visuals?
Presentation – 15 points
- 5 points – Documentation – Is the How to Play document clear and easy to understand? Does the Game Summary help the player understand the premise of the game and how it aligns to the Imagine Cup theme? Is the documentation creative?
- 5 points – Screenshots – Do the screenshots convey the style and theme of the game? Are they good quality?
- 5 points – Video – Does the Game Video showcase gameplay? Does it include different elements of the game such as menus, loading screens, and different levels? Does the video include additional material like play testing, video interviews and future plans?
Round 4 Judging Criteria
A quick note on Round 4 judging – we haven’t published the scoring criteria yet for this final round, but rest assured it will be very similar to Round 2 and 3 and will be made available to those teams heading to Australia with plenty of time to ensure they have great games to show off in Sydney.
Good luck everyone! And as I said – please post questions you might have about scoring in the forums.