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DonkeyKongGenius
04-30-2015 at 10:59 PM
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Thoughts on the Writing, Interpreting, and Applying of Track Rules

Thoughts on the Writing, Interpreting, and Applying of Track Rules

New Tracks and Rating System

Since writing Thoughts on the Community-Driven Adjudication Process more options and discussions have occurred at TG which I believe requires much more thought and reflection. Subsequently we now have the option to create new tracks and to rate their relevance. This development has raised several new concerns for us to consider. Even though the rules of older tracks will not be substantially changed we look forward to the creation of newer tracks that will create new gaming opportunities which will increase the competitive nature of our hobby. Being able to compete on a well defined track against others on a game in ways that was not previously possible is exciting and opens up many new possibilities for the future. I am personally motivated to find new ways to compete on games I have played so that I may encounter those games from a whole new perspective. I fully support and endorse the new system which is why I have taken the time to put some reasonable amount of thought into this worthy enterprise.

Stylistic Changes to Older Tracks?

The question may have been raised and even addressed by TG but I believe this question holds merit. Certainly I do not believe that any substantial changes should ever be made to the rules of older tracks. Even for newer tracks that have recently been approved to change the substance of these would be incredibly problematic for potential gamers already grinding away for hours in order to submit according to the rules. However, even though the substance of old rules must stay the same it may be questioned whether stylistic or grammatical changes could be made. (As I will mention in the following section I would propose that non-substantive content could even be omitted from tracks both new and old.) For instance, perhaps a new track is created which is a paragraph long which is written with run-on sentences with incredibly poor grammar and usage of words, or even perhaps containing strategy suggestions, etc. Granted the possibility exists with the new rating system to give the track a poor rating but then we run into the duplication issue if someone truly wants a well written rule set which contains the same substance. The first track to be created would have been the one which is poorly written so maybe a process for questioning poor tracks is needed for stylistic changes. Coming up with a common format which is presentable and professional might be one way to address this issue, or at least offer a list of criteria to follow. Ideally new tracks will be discussed on the forum in its proper place prior to its release into the new track marketplace which will give others a chance to assist with the wording and details.


What is Substantial Content in Track Rules?

An argument could be made that substantial content refers to that which has direct impact upon the game play and settings. When considering new track rules it would be proper to consider only that which would alter the playing field. For example, in baseball adjusting the size of the diamond would be substantial not what color the jersey's might be. Or in hockey the rule for goalie interference may change and so no opposing skates are allowed within the crease when a goal occurs as opposed to allowing only one. Whatever would change the way the player interacts with the game such as a foot variation on Marble Madness or whatever would alter the difficulty or the dynamics of the game would be substantial content. What then should be excluded from the newer tracks or even omitted from the older ones? It is my opinion if you want to create and write a rule set that will be respected and rated highly by the community in general you will want to avoid imposing any superfluous 'rules' that do not have direct impact upon game play and settings. Additionally, we would not consider submission criteria as substantial content because it has no bearing upon game play. It would be contrary to the new adjudication process for us to begin adding submission criteria in the rule set. For example, stating that the game must be direct video feed or that you must use the original cartridge instead of an Everdrive has no impact upon the game itself and should be deemed player choice. Submission requirements should have nothing to do with track rules. A person is allowed to present as much or as little evidence as they want, captured in any way they please. Adding explicit directions in the track rules to dictate what the adjudicators have to accept is contrary to the spirit of the new adjudication process. A few recent submissions have raised some good questions along these lines. These examples are only relevant here as they pertain to well written rules that address game play and settings.

The Case of Continue Allowance

A recent submission did not properly follow the dip setting to turn off continue allowance, however, no continues were actually used in the game play. To reject this score on a technicality like this I believe uses policy to violate principle. The whole purpose of the game setting to disallow continues is so that no continues are used. If the purpose of the game setting is fulfilled through the game play then that policy, which has been explicitly violated, was actually achieve in spirit, through another means. This case is all the more relevant since no evidence exists that either allowing or disallowing continues in the settings has any impact upon the game. Unless there is detailed evidence that there is a difference then the assumption should not be made that is does. I would prefer to assume that it makes no difference until it is proven to make a difference. It is more probable than not that if evidence does not exist presently that it makes a difference then it is a fairer assumption to stand with the evidence of silence than to assume that something really exists in the void but yet you have no evidence for it. Although this is more of an adjudication principle, unless substantial evidence exists that a setting has impact upon game play then it should not be considered substantial and should probably not be used when writing a rule set for a new track.

The Case of Donkey Kong 1-1

First, a discussion had developed because a submission did not include the entering of initials at the end of the inp file, since it was achieved on MAME. The present rule set states that initials are to be added. Since the entering of initials has no impact upon game play it would not be categorized as substantial rather it would be categorized as the player's choice to add as much or as little evidence for their score performances. Second, this discussion also included an interesting question about the interpretation of the rule set which I believe is pertinent to this general advice when writing rules for new tracks.

The rules stated: "After achieving a score on level 1-1 the rest of the player's lives must be spent and then initials must be entered as usual." It does not say that one has to IMMEDIATELY spend the rest of their lives. Therefore, it is a fair interpretation of the rules that the point is not that one immediately kill off their men but that the remaining men are killed off so that one can put in their initials. The relevance of this has bearing for several reasons. First, the interpretation of our rules is important so we must be careful how we word the rules. In this case if the track rule writer wanted to limit the possible interpretations of their rules they were free at the time of writing to explicitly state that the player is to kill off their men on the following rivet board. Since limiting language like this was not used it opens the text up for broader interpretations, of which, the fair interpretation which I presented that one does not have to "immediately" kill off their men is perfectly in accordance with the text. If you want a specific rule to be understood in one way you need to use more limiting language which would avoid possible misinterpretation. Second, even if the 'rule' was to be understood as immediately killing off all of one's men then it would not be substantial as being relevant to game play and settings, especially since how and when the men being killed off has no impact upon the score that was achieve on the first barrel board.

Relevance for the Adjudication Process

In my previous blog post I introduced the concepts of absolute, normative, and auxiliary rules and how this impacts our adjudication. I thought it would be relevant to speak more on this subject since it can better assist us in thinking through how we might write our rules for new tracks.

https://www.twingalaxies.com/entry.ph...cation-Process

An earlier submission followed all the rules except that they missed one of the settings which awarded a free man at 15k instead of 20k. This was three man settings. During the game play the third man was not lost prior to 20k. There was no practical reason for the submission to be rejected. Although this stands more as an adjudication principle it also makes us think about how we should write up our rules for new games. How so? Although this would not be a good example to prove a point it reminds us that there are principles that underlie the rules and we want to make sure that our intent is properly communicated through the words. Here we see a principle as it pertains to the application of a rule set to a specific submission. We will want to keep these types of situations in mind when we craft our rules for new tracks.

Not all rules are created equal which was the subject of my previous blog post which it suffices here to link above. Rules are not ends in and of themselves, they are a means to an end. As mentioned above even though the rule set stated that the dip settings must disallow continues the game play proved that none were used. If the purpose of that rule was a blanket address for not allowing continues then although it is violated according to the letter of the rule, it is upheld according to the spirit of it. Remember we are less concerned about the rules themselves and more concerned with the concerns they set out to address.

Concluding Thoughts

Substantial rules pertain to game play and game settings. Anything else that the rules may otherwise state would be preferences to create conveniences for prior referees, present adjudicators, or for some other reason. Even if the rules explicitly stated that one was required to immediately sack off their remaining men, then I would still argue that it can be ignored for determining the legitimacy of a score for adjudication purposes. A rule in my opinion is a rule if it establishes the way that the score is supposed to be played, hence game play and settings. This is substantial content. Sometimes general principles and preferences can work their way into the listed rules for any particular game, but by their very nature is a non-rule, despite the fact it was written together with actual, legitimate, and substantial rules. A rule proper pertains to game play and game settings and this should come into play when we interpret and apply a track rule set to individual submissions, as well as give us general guidance when crafting our own rule set for new tracks.

My proposal, at least on how I am choosing to interpret the rules and apply them to an individual submission, which is my job as an adjudicator, is that perhaps not all the text within a rule set are equal. To use an analogy from theology, which is my actual area of expertise, there are various sources of theology and different degrees of authority behind statements by the Church. Just because something is stated does not mean it has equal weight. One statement might be dogmatic, another is a strongly held doctrine by most of the faithful but no one is obligated to believe it although one is free to maintain it, and another may be a matter of opinion at the time which merits reasonable assent. How then do I apply this principle to the rules? I understand that each statement does not address the same type of issue. Each of these issues have a different weight or relevance to the score achieved. As I have stated before game play is the most important and most relevant aspect of the submission. If this is adequate then no matter what else the rules may otherwise state as regards those lesser items, which are not relevant to game play, is not substantial enough for a score rejection. This is especially true since as adjudicators we are more concerned with actual score performances and their legitimacy. If that game play does not violate any of the text in the rules that pertain to game play and settings then whatever else those rules might otherwise state are not relevant for determining legitimacy and arguably should be omitted from new rule sets and even removed from older ones.
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Comments
  1. DonkeyKongGenius's Avatar
    [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=2]I have amended the following to the end of the section: [B]Concluding Thoughts[/B][/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman]

    My proposal, at least on how I am choosing to interpret the rules and apply them to an individual submission, which is my job as an adjudicator, is that perhaps not all the text within a rule set are equal. To use an analogy from theology, which is my actual area of expertise, there are various sources of theology and different degrees of authority behind statements by the Church. Just because something is stated does not mean it has equal weight. One statement might be dogmatic, another is a strongly held doctrine by most of the faithful but no one is obligated to believe it although one is free to maintain it, and another may be a matter of opinion at the time which merits reasonable assent. How then do I apply this principle to the rules? I understand that each statement does not address the same type of issue. Each of these issues have a different weight or relevance to the score achieved. As I have stated before game play is the most important and most relevant aspect of the submission. If this is adequate then no matter what else the rules may otherwise state as regards those lesser items which are not relevant to game play is not substantial enough for a score rejection. This is especially true since as adjudicators we are more concerned with actual score performances and their [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman]legitimacy[/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman]. If that game play does not violate any of the text in the rules that pertain to game play and settings then whatever else those rules might state are not relevant for determining [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman]legitimacy [/FONT][COLOR=#3E3E3E][FONT=Times New Roman]and arguably should be omitted from new rule sets and even removed from older ones.[/FONT][/COLOR]
    Updated 05-02-2015 at 07:39 PM by DonkeyKongGenius
  2. John73's Avatar
    As you would know, I disagree with you over the having "continues allowed" enabled.

    You say that until it can proven that it makes a difference, it should be allowed. So if and when someone does in fact prove it makes a different, all of a sudden we have to go back and disqualify scores that were previously adjudicated as being world records. Worst case scenario, these scores may have already been reproduced in print form by Guinness and that's something that should be avoided at all costs if TG is to be the official authority on gaming records.

    In MAME, the setting of DIPs is a 5 second job, even on an original PCB it's only probably 1 minute to open the cabinet and set the switches. I just feel it's opening a can of worms that doesn't need to be opened in the first place.
  3. DonkeyKongGenius's Avatar
    [QUOTE=John73;bt565]As you would know, I disagree with you over the having "continues allowed" enabled.

    You say that until it can proven that it makes a difference, it should be allowed. So if and when someone does in fact prove it makes a different, all of a sudden we have to go back and disqualify scores that were previously adjudicated as being world records. Worst case scenario, these scores may have already been reproduced in print form by Guinness and that's something that should be avoided at all costs if TG is to be the official authority on gaming records.

    In MAME, the setting of DIPs is a 5 second job, even on an original PCB it's only probably 1 minute to open the cabinet and set the switches. I just feel it's opening a can of worms that doesn't need to be opened in the first place.[/QUOTE]

    The present article has more to do with the writing of new rules. If someone is composing new rules, and there is no present evidence that having the continue setting on effects actual game play then it should be omitted. Can you offer me one example, one game, where there is a noticeable difference in game play because of this setting? If not then isn't your argument a solution in search of a problem?
  4. John73's Avatar
    No I can't offer you an example, but as stated unless you document every single ROM, you can not guarantee that it doesn't make a different either. Asking me to show proof is as impractical as me asking you to show proof. Maybe the continue DIP is used in the RNG at some point in the code, who knows?

    As I stated, why not have a set of rules and then just stick to them? It's not hard and it means there can be no arguments in the future. Why allow something which while it might be a slim chance, may cause issues in the future. It just doesn't make sense.

    Allowing these seemingly insignificant things now, leads to other issues. Can I play DK on 5 + 1 jumpmen? Can I also set the extra life to 10k? As long as I kill off the game after my fourth life, it shouldn't matter because having it on these settings doesn't change the outcome of the game. Can you imagine if I did this and tried to submit that score to DKF? There would be an immediate outcry and the score would rightfully be rejected. But then I will complain, "oh I had it on 5 + 1 for practice and was too lazy to change it" - how is this any different to someone leaving continues enabled or inserting more than 1 credit prior to starting their attempt.

    As for the initials being entered at the end of a game, I agree with you that it doesn't make any difference if you do this at the end of leave it blank, but why blur things. It's not hard, just do it. If players want to be a part of TG which is in turn a part of Guinness (who take WRs more seriously than any other body), then following some very easy rules should not be a problem.

    Of course, with records now being adjudicated and accepted where players aren't following old rules, you can throw all this stuff out the window, and there is really no going back.
  5. DonkeyKongGenius's Avatar
    [QUOTE=John73;bt567]No I can't offer you an example, but as stated unless you document every single ROM, you can not guarantee that it doesn't make a different either. Asking me to show proof is as impractical as me asking you to show proof. Maybe the continue DIP is used in the RNG at some point in the code, who knows? Why allow something which while it might be a slim chance, may cause issues in the future. It just doesn't make sense.[/QUOTE]

    Until an example can be presented that there is code out there where the RNG is influenced by a continue allowance setting then I see no alarm in this matter. Without a single case being documented it is a non-issue. And any proposals in this matter is still a solution in search of a problem. Asking you to share one example is not asking too much. My evidence is the silence on the subject which speaks much louder. I can't offer positive evidence for something that does not exist, you claim that it can and therefore the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate your case. Since you have no case to work with then the point is mute. This is not impractical. If you have a real concern which is substantiated by evidence then it is worth considering. If you don't have a single example then what "chance" are you proposing? So far there is no chance observed but you would have me assume that there is a chance that RNG could be influenced in this manner.

    [QUOTE=John73;bt567]As I stated, why not have a set of rules and then just stick to them? It's not hard and it means there can be no arguments in the future. Allowing these seemingly insignificant things now, leads to other issues.[/QUOTE]

    Having rules is great. But as I mentioned in the blog above not all text in a rule set have the same function. As far as a rule addresses game play then it would be absolute. To change the substance of a rule set is a different rule set. However, there are other underlying principles at work here. Certainly I could have no thought concerning the rule set and simply apply it in an absolute manner. However, this would not be fair to the text and the different degrees of importance that are placed upon each of the statements. All rule sets are subject to interpretation. No matter what the original author had intended the rule set takes on a life of its own and belongs to the community as a whole. I am not proposing that we simply ignore the rules but to understand at a much deeper level in order that we may apply them responsibly when determining the legitimacy of a score.

    Do you have an example of a "seemingly insignificant thing" that has lead to other issues?

    [QUOTE=John73;bt567]Can I play DK on 5 + 1 jumpmen? Can I also set the extra life to 10k? As long as I kill off the game after my fourth life, it shouldn't matter because having it on these settings doesn't change the outcome of the game. Can you imagine if I did this and tried to submit that score to DKF? There would be an immediate outcry and the score would rightfully be rejected. But then I will complain, "oh I had it on 5 + 1 for practice and was too lazy to change it" - how is this any different to someone leaving continues enabled or inserting more than 1 credit prior to starting their attempt.[/QUOTE]

    The rules that you read at the Donkey Kong Forum were primarily composed by me, with minor additions by others after I stepped down as the High Score Moderator for the Donkey Kong list. When I created the list I used a normative/auxiliary model which contained no absolute rules and your scenarios are more than acceptable to me. The two moderators that took over the list after I resigned would agree with you but not everyone involved at the Donkey Kong Forum agree with their position. My intent was to keep the list according to the normative/auxiliary model in order that submissions which you have proposed, which have legitimate game play could be addressed on a case by case bases. However, my article is addressed to the audience at TG in general where we are primarily concerned with game play.
    Updated 05-10-2015 at 08:37 PM by DonkeyKongGenius
  6. pacmantab's Avatar
    Interesting concept, despite that it runs the risk of diluting certain games were the top ranked player from a new track claims to be the "true world champ" whereas the top player on a traditional track says "au contraire."

    That said, if new tracks eventually get enough of a buzz to become more "mainstream," then that's one thing. If, however, most new tracks only yield a number of contenders countable on one hand then, as Jace once suggested, they will fade into obscurity via the rating system....thereby reducing concern of the aforementioned dilution.

    My $0.02....
    Updated 05-10-2015 at 03:01 PM by pacmantab
  7. sindharlian2's Avatar
    Thoughts on applying and changing the rules of the tracking and aspects. The fabricated tinge of tracking rules for pay for essay online and all comprehensive terms. The comments are valuable and vital.
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