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Topic Subject: Pretty Town Contest 2022 - Results Posted!
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posted 02-08-22 07:38 AM CT (US)   

This year marks the 20th anniversary of AOKH's most popular contest: The Pretty Town Contest (PTC). Over the last two decades the PTC has provided us with some of the greatest accomplishments in map design and storytelling, from the original themed designs of the early competitions - the Jungle themed Guri Kuta by Tonto_Dave and the winter themed Bargravia by Julius999; to the eerie storytelling of Lord Basse's Sagropireia; and the phenomenal technical achievement that was Mr. Wednesday's Light of Kurishima. The Pretty Town Contest has always seemed miles ahead of the map design game for the last two decades and we hope to see that continue into the future. What better way to celebrate this anniversary than with another contest!

For those of you who don't know, the premise is simple: design the most outstanding town or city map you can! Combat and gameplay are absent, in favour of allowing the player (and the judges) to leisurely tour your map and explore all the attractions your busy (or deserted) towns have to offer. If you are interested and considering entering, please be sure to read all of the rules below before committing your name in a reply. Last time this contest was run in 2019 proved to be the most competitive and exciting contest in AoKH's history, with Lord Basse, Julius999 and Mr. Wednesday all tying for 1st place with some of greatest showcase scenarios ever seen. Four other excellent entries would all also score above average.

This year we are reintroducing the Pretty Town Contest with two big changes. Firstly, we are making the competition exclusive to the Definitive Edition. This is a way to engage new players and also make the competition fair, as DE has far superior editor assets to the previous game versions. Secondly, we are also revamping the judging criteria based on feedback after the last contest in 2019. This promises to be a great contest so go ahead and get creating!

Submit all entries to the Showcase Scenarios category in the Blacksmith, with the initials "PTC22" typed in the submission title. All entries must be submitted by 11:59 PM EST, May 31st. It must meet the requirements listed below to be eligible for judging. Otherwise, you will face disqualification. As an added note, we will not be approving the files in the Blacksmith until the judging phase has passed, so don't worry if your submission doesn't appear.

In addition, please keep in mind that outside of some noted minor changes this contest generally follows the guidelines of how the PTC was previously run and judged to keep with the tradition and intended nature of the contest.


1. No cut-scenes are allowed, except for a brief opening or ending to set up/complete the scenario. Additional triggered events are encouraged but the player should not lose control of their unit(s) and be able to move as they please. The total starting and ending cut-scene time should not exceed one combined minute of in-game time.
2. No combat allowed. Player 1 must win the scenario without having to kill or attack anything.
3. One entry per person or per team only.
4. ALL entries must be playable in Age of Empires II: Defintive Edition
5. Scenarios requiring The CD version, Userpatch, and the HD edition are NOT allowed.
6. The use of Graphical or Data Modification are NOT allowed.
7. Any mapsize up to 255x255 is allowed.
8. There is no trigger limit. However, the use of extra triggers will not necessarily warrant a higher score. Be warned however, that everything which is allowed can be used to increase your score.
9. The use of custom soundtracks and sound effects is permitted and encouraged. Everything which is allowed can be used to increase your score. If using custom sound files, please specify somewhere on which speed the scenario is to be played, as otherwise the soundtracks might overlap if the scenario is played on a speed other than what the designer intended, which will cause points to be deducted.
10. You must supply at least 1 unit that the judge can scout with. Any unit may be used, though the judges may deduct points for unnecessarily slow units which decrease the enjoyment of the scenario.
11. A story is encouraged to add further interest, however large bodies of text are not for everyone and long in-depth stories may alienate some players and potentially the judges. Alternatively, you can have a short narrative, a journal from a traveller or a history of the land to get us, the tourist, into it all! Use whatever you like, but make sure to remember that this is a design-oriented contest. That said, everything which is allowed can be used to increase your score.
12. Please submit your scenario in campaign format.

To reiterate. While this is primarily a map design contest, everything which is allowed can be used to increase your score. As story, soundtracks, and triggers are allowed, it stands to reason that they will matter. Judges experience everything as a whole.

This year sees the introduction of a new scoring system to try to avoid a tie in the top entries as in previous contests. All entries will be judged on how they look, however only what is seen will be judged. The categories are simple and are as follows:

Scenery and Visual Interest (30 points). This is the single most important category, as it is the heart of what the Pretty Town Contest is about: making a nice-looking map in AoK. This category will be judged from the perspective of viewing the entry in-game, but should be focused exclusively on how the design looks, as if you were judging it as a collection of screenshots. Judges will take into account both the particular high-points and the general level of quality throughout the scenario.

Atmosphere and Sense of Place (20 points). This category aims to reward those entries which are most successful in taking the concept for the entry and portraying it convincingly in AoK. What this means will depend on what the entry was aiming to achieve: a historical city will score highly if it authentically and realistically (within the limitations of AoK) depicts that city, while other entries may seek to create an atmosphere of wonder, melancholy, intrigue, grandeur, horror or something else. It is when judging this criterion that such things as text, dialogue, music, sound effects, life and movement (or a deliberate lack of them), and so on will be taken into account and rewarded if done well.

Coherence and Layout (15 points). This category concerns how the map works as a whole. It can be judged by imagining a zoomed-out picture of the whole map and considering whether it makes sense. Believable geography and smooth transitions between different parts of the map will be the signs of a high-scoring entry.

Ingenuity, Novelty and Technical Skill (15 points). This category concerns map design, rather than other elements. Well-executed but unoriginal map design will be enough to score fairly highly, but to achieve more than 12 points an entry should bring something new to the table or take an established trick or technique further. The technical skill of an entry will be reflected in the map as a whole, but in most cases examples of really ingenious or novel pieces of design are likely to be just some particular highlights rather than being present throughout (especially with a large map).

Ambition (10 points). An entry which seeks to take on something inherently hard to do in AoK, or which embraces the challenge of filling a large map, or which otherwise pushes the boundaries will score highly in this category. Even if the ambition is not successfully realised, leading to lower scores elsewhere, it should be recognised here.

Attention to Detail and Polish (10 points). In this category, small specific mistakes or misplacements or typographical errors that may not affect the judgment in other categories should be taken into account. On the other hand, small touches such as renaming units appropriately can influence the score positively. An entry does not need to be completely unblemished in order to get full marks in this category, but it should be nearly so. Observations that depend primarily on personal taste or which are due to the inherent limitations of AoK should not result in a lower score.

  • Eternal Glory
  • An Official Review
  • A Custom Title

  • Judges
    1. Julius
    2. Lord Basse

    - duyhung2h
    - Mr. Wednesday
    - Andanu Trisatya
    - Zetnus
    - seanbyrno23
    - Fisk
    - HawkPVK
    - Talon Karrde
    - TheRealGuardian

    Past Pretty Town Contest Entries for Inspiration:

    [This message has been edited by Sebastien (edited 08-14-2022 @ 02:17 AM).]

    posted 10-27-22 09:25 AM CT (US)     106 / 111  
    And I do take that personally, Mr.Wednesday
    I didn't mean anything negative by that. On the contrary, I think your style is very similar to mine, pushing the envelope of creativity.

    Back in 2017 I remember one judge commenting on how effective this one trick I did was (turtle ship head as gargoyles) while a different judge commented on how unconvincing it was. Sometimes those sorts of things fall flat for one player and work great for another.

    "And Matt is a prolific lurker, watching over the forum from afar in silence, like Batman. He's the president TC needs, and possibly also the one it deserves." - trebuchet king
    posted 10-27-22 07:49 PM CT (US)     107 / 111  
    I think there might be some crossed wires about what 'taking it personally' means. I don't think a negative meaning was intended by duyhung2h.

    It is fair to observe, as Hellknight does, the difference between the judges' views. This kind of thing is why it is preferable to have three judges, to smooth out the differences somewhat. Before we posted the scores, Lord Basse and I did consider whether to postpone until a third judge was available, though we were keen to avoid further delay. There would have been a stronger case for postponing if a dramatic difference of opinion between us would have determined the winner. But the common ground was that we both rated Matt's entry very highly and as in close contention to win, while the two of us had much more mixed opinions about which entry was the best rival.

    [ All_That_Glitters | Pretty_Town_Contest | Other_AoK_Designs | AoE_Designs ]
    Member of Stormwind Studios
    posted 10-28-22 10:25 AM CT (US)     108 / 111  
    Yeah, I just want to confirm that there wasn't any negativity intended in my tone. Probably the meaning was lost in translation but I could not find a better term. Regardless as I did play through your work before Matty, it was phenomenal and designed well according to the scope of the contest. My entry wasn't really dedicated to that aspect, as it was design for my upcoming RPG map, but I did give it a fair try regardless.

    ✰~Make your dreams come true by finishing whatever you hold dear most~✰
    YOU ._________________________________________________________________________.DO
    CAN/北北北盶__/北北北盶__/FROM VIETNAM WITH LOVE\__/北北北盶__/北北北盶IT
    VERY useful tool for map designers
    Check out my Youtube channel for AoE2 Editor, modding tips and tricks!
    Gensokyo: Season of Calamity | El Nath (Winner of ZeroEmpires designer contest) | Rebirth of the Colosseum (Winner of 2020 Minigame Competition) | And more...
    posted 11-01-22 11:07 AM CT (US)     109 / 111  
    Congrats to the winners! Glad to see there's still interest here in these contests!
    posted 11-04-22 04:44 AM CT (US)     110 / 111  
    Congratulations to all of the contestants, especially Matt for the win.

    Sorry about my lack of communication. I haven't had access to the game for months so was rely on Seb to finish his judging. Thanks to Julius & Basse for stepping in to round if all off. I'm afraid I haven't had any contact from Seb for a while but I hope he's OK.

    When I get some free time I'll check out all of the entries and provide some reviews for all of them.
    posted 11-09-22 09:26 PM CT (US)     111 / 111  
    Ah cool to see you haven't abandoned your judging progress there, Possidon! I think the more reviews the better, especially reviews directly in the blacksmith page since those are where the traffics are the most (seriously, I don't know why latest contests there's no blacksmith review anymore, especially it was promised in the contest's rules, and past contests entries had those review as well.)

    Regardless, for this contest I really do appreciate Julius's comprehensive review, not wanting to bash on Basse but his review could not hold to the same degree, and made me a little disappointed (it feels like there's less credibility in his concise judging)

    As I see you were a frequent reviewer of mine and others works in Blacksmith before, Possidon, I think your review style would be more mediate between the two. (More honest, but straight to the point and no bias)

    ✰~Make your dreams come true by finishing whatever you hold dear most~✰
    YOU ._________________________________________________________________________.DO
    CAN/北北北盶__/北北北盶__/FROM VIETNAM WITH LOVE\__/北北北盶__/北北北盶IT
    VERY useful tool for map designers
    Check out my Youtube channel for AoE2 Editor, modding tips and tricks!
    Gensokyo: Season of Calamity | El Nath (Winner of ZeroEmpires designer contest) | Rebirth of the Colosseum (Winner of 2020 Minigame Competition) | And more...

    [This message has been edited by duyhung2h (edited 11-09-2022 @ 09:28 PM).]

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