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VLDCX - New Leaders, the Overworld, & World X.

The impression from all recent posts is that I have done absolutely no work or effort while leading VLDCX (specially regarding the compilation ROM), which is not really true.

Since the beginning, before even the contest part started I was aware of the high potential work needed. Even that nobody in the Staff Team was originally interested in leading the contest, specially in the compilation ROM part. Nimono originally offered himself to lead the project, but not for the actual ROM compilation phrase. Jack wasn't interested either. During that time, I was the head administrator and worried that the expectations over VLDCX would end up ruined due of lack of people needed to run the project, I ended up suggesting myself for both contest organization and ROM compilation. Fun fact, I was gonna lead and organize VLDC9 originally in 2016 (even that I did the preliminary discussion thread), but I ended up dropping because I started studying Computer Engineering and I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to handle the whole leading contest because I had no idea how hard the course would be. Anyways, I offered myself to lead VLDCX because I had more free time compared to the last semester and was more confident that it would lead to good results and I believed that it was possible to make a so big contest and collaboration ROM project. I don't remember anyone against me at that time (it was in January, so I'm not 100% sure).

The very first thing needed was setting up the rules and the judges to make the contest possible to run. In said time, there were the whole polemic discussion about palette and tile remapping usage. People wanted to VLDCX have stricter rules while others preferred the current VLDC8+ styled rules. Another thing to worry was about the possible contest limitations to the collab don't even up impossible and I had to be sure that the rules over ExGFX, music, levels/sub levels, map16, secondary entrances, etc., had enough freedom to let the level designer do the best work possible and at the same time still possible to do the building ROM. Yet, disallow gigantic levels (so the timer limit was there for that).

My biggest fears were:
- Getting out of Map16 space. We had ~60 pages. The rules currently allowed a half map16 page per entry. So that limited us to ~120 entries.
- Getting out of levels. We had 512 levels. The rules allowed uh, 1 main level + 5 sub levels? That was up to 6 levels on worst case. That meant around ~85 levels. Let's say the average was 4 levels per entry. ~128 entries. Still not much, I was expecting from 150 to 200 entries. And don't forget X World, hubs and judge levels....
- Getting out of overworld space. Because if we had over 150 entries, certainly the overworld would get too many levels per submap. While that wouldn't make the compilation impossible, the overworld part definitely would get very dense in levels, having little room for decoration and design.
- Getting out of music. Because AMK allowed around 192 musics. We allowed four musics per submission. Yeah.
- Secondary entrances. We had only 512 secondary entrances. On the recent VLDCs, people already commented that we had few secondary entrance space and that might be a problem.

And many many more. I had no ideas about the possible Dual ROM system, so I had to rely on the only person that could break the logistics limits: FuSoYa, the LM creator.

I exchanged around 10 e-mails with him, exchanging ideas, possible solutions and risks.

...

Originally posted by The very first e-mail
Hi FuSoYa, how are you? Been a while since we talked.

The first obvious thing I wanted to talk is about BPS. I know you probably already heard of the whole BPS changes now and all (heck, I was supposed to send that e-mail on january 3, but I always ended up forgetting to!), but a fact is the main reason that SMW Central changed their hack patch standards to BPS to allow newcomers to patch hacks for both headered and headerless ROMs, specially since if you download a SMW ROM today, the first ones you will find will be headerless.

Since LM comes with a IPS patch generator and people seem to prefer patching and creating via the program directly, I think it would be good if you added BPS support too. FLIPS is open-source so you can easily add the algorithm to your program. Alternatively, if for some reason you don't want to implement the BPS algorithm yourself, just allow the user to program a 3rd party tool in LM just like how you can do that with the emulators.

Of course people will call the emulator much more times than a patcher, but that would be an easy (no manual custom toolbar hax) and interesting alternative if you cannot bring BPS right now.

---------------------------------

However, that is not the most important thing and the main reason I wanted to talk with you. Well, I suppose you already heard about VLDC, right? The "Vanilla" Level Design Contest. Basically it's a contest where people must make a vanilla level, that's it, closer to the original SMW and pretty much only using Lunar Magic. Since the 7th edition of this contest, we're getting all contest entries and merging into a single ROM, so people can enjoy playing all of the entries together without having to patch each one separately and with the additional feature of being a single hack with own overworld, special levels and all. It's been going pretty well, with every year getting a new ROM hack that usually is the most downloaded of the SMW Central during the period.

However one issue that is getting common is the default SMW/LM limits. The last year (9th) edition had 115 entries, so in total 115 levels to be accessed to the overworld, while the limit, you know, is 96. Fortunately, I convinced to the contest organizer, Jack, to take the effort and create a patch that allows you accessing more than the 96 levels to the overworld and the patch worked quite well (also would you be interested in getting that patch included in LM? I never seen the .asm file myself, but I got it recently since I'm the new VLDC host and I can send it you).

On the other side, the ROM was pretty tight regarding other aspects, like map16, secondary entrances and level numbers. ROM space wasn't a problem since we're using SA-1 and VLDC9 used the 6MB SA-1 ROM expansion method. How challenging would it be to expand the amount of available map16, secondary entrances and level numbers? I never really studied much about SMW's level system and since they're strongly connected with Lunar Magic, I thought you would be the best person to ask with.

For Map16, I remember you quadruped the limit on LM 1.70 and I believe it's now the maximum fixed limit without having to use even more additional bytes to index them. So one thing I thought was making one page specific per level. Let's say, page 3 and page 43 can be configured to change depending on the level number. How hard would it be, in your personal opinion? I know page 2 used to do something similar on the act likes depending on the tileset used, but what about making the tilemap and act like level dependent? If that's not too much complicated, I could set up some ASM to make its contents change based on the level number, but still it would require to manually updating it to the level get displayable on Lunar Magic.

Secondary entrances on the other hand, probably are easier to expand, I believe? Unless if they're sticked with level numbers. But for that option I don't have much choice since unlike Map16, I can't export them as an e.g. .bin file and therefore it would be obligatory to make Lunar Magic support more of them.

Levels are the most complicated ones. While there's some unused bits to make the level number safely range up to, maybe, 0x10000/3 levels, probably there's a lot of pointers that needs to be updated, expanded and therefore repointered. It's not impossible (you know, ASM-wise there's nothing really impossible unless if there's some hardware imposing limit, either by the CPU power or by the PPU, for example), but how hard would it be to allow, let's say, 2048 (0x1000) levels? Of course inserting levels manually would be overkill, so a LM implementation would be needed just like for the secondary entrances. But it depends on you.

The main reason I'm asking that is simply because the contest is very special and possibly one of the most recent appreciated hacks over SMW Central and Talkhaus on the recent years. Expanding those limits would not just allow more people participating but also make decrease some annoying restrictions, like the amount of secondary entrances and Map16 available per participant. While I could simply split in two or more ROMs, it would not have the same feeling of seeing so many levels beaten and later unlocking more levels once you played all of the entries. So yeah, I'd love if you could help me out either with an expanded LM that surpasses these limits or simply with some hints and a special LM version that would work with expanded limits. The contest will gonna start 9 days from this e-mail date, so please let me know if this is a possibility or not, so I can adjust the rules before I get it too late.

And of course, why not you give a try to the contest too? :P
I bet you haven't designed a level for a lot of time and I think it would be a nice opportunity to you make a simple but cool vanilla level for the contest, even if you don't have the chance at winning or anything.

That's all. Thanks for reading.


With the conversation with him that Lunar Magic 2.50 became a thing and doubled FG, BG space and 16x secondary entrances count. And as well the Dual ROM system idea.

What is the Dual ROM system? It's basically two ROMs in one. The contest would be split into two ROMs, but since the compilation is done the ROMs would end up merged into a single one and when the game boots up, the SA-1 chip would be capable of exchanging ROMs depending on the overworld the player was. Let's say that the ROM 1 had a ice, fire and grassland maps while ROM 2 had desert, forest and x world. When the player goes a pipe in the ROM 1, a special code checked to what overworld the player was going in and in case he was going to e.g. forest map, the code would tell the SA-1 chip to change the ROM internally and then everything, including levels, music, overworld, data, etc., would get exchanged as well. So the principle is not hard. Even that Medic got the system working perfectly. Once the ROM is exchanged internally, you don't have to worry about anything level: all levels, all data, all music, everything is automatically exchanged too. There were just a single limitation: you couldn't e.g. access a sublevel in ROM 2 when you were in the ROM 1. Because the ROM 2 is unloaded. The same applies for ExGFX, map16, music, etc. So the compilation would only be possible to start when the results were out, because otherwise there would be a risk of a couple of levels (not 5 or 10, things like 50 levels) ended up having to be in the ROM 2 instead of ROM 1 or vice-versa. Or even ROM 1 or ROM 2 getting out of space for logistics reasons. So to not have the risk of having to compile the ROM multiple times, it was made clear since the beginning that the compilation would only be possible when the results were out.... Still, considering that the overworld contest would run in parallel and the automatization tools, this wasn't a big issue for me. For me.

Now that I had one thing settled up, I had to settle the judges. The PR Team, which was lead by Koopster at that time, gave me a list of potential judges. Some of the names I didn't know fully, others I did but I was in fear if they would do well or how the judging policy would go. At the same time, some people (e.g. MrDeePay) wanted to judge but the staff was against it. And in parallel, I had a few personal names in mind. And still, considering the incidents from the VLDC9, I wanted to be sure that the same would not happen during VLDCX. So I went ahead and made judging interviews. Basically, I got all people that were interested in judging and had a private and a group conversation with them, along the other potential judges in an IRC channel. The questions asked during the process were this. During the conversations, I made clear my expectations that we would have from 150 to 200 entries and it'd be a challenging task from all judges. The intention from the judging interview was to learn more about the person and let know all possible details that could determine the success or not of the VLDC judging.

- Did I tell one of the judges that he wasn't gonna be part of the judging team (originally five) but after S.N.N. suggesting six judges I accepted him? Well, true and false. What happened was during the judging interview, I have told Deputy BS while he had potential to be a very good judge but the other ones were in front of him, but he would still be part of the judging team because S.N.N. convinced me that six judges would be a better go just in case one or another ended up leaving the judging team. It wasn't my intention to disqualify him nor make him sad. Even that I only heard about his complaints one month later and then I made it clear to him again that he was a qualified judge just like the other ones.

- What personal names you had for the judging team? I don't remember all, sorry if I added or forgot someone or other one, but I remember asking worldpeace (actually I even interviewed him), Hinalyte, Mirann, Wakana and Eevee.

- Would those names have priority over the other judges suggested by PR? No.

Okay, after the whole progress, you know what happened. The six judges were picked, you saw the meet the judges thing, I have prepared everything minor for the contest (like getting the banner from Magi, the scheme from Skewer, etc.) and running the contest.

- Okay, but did you held to yourself everything? All plannings, information, etc.? Not exactly. Like the previous VLDCs, there were a forum that only the leader + judges had access to it. In that forum, I pretty much tossed all ideas, thoughts and concerns about the contest. The judges knew about everything. The planning phrase was done in the PR Office forum, so all staff members had access to it, including periodic reports about the contest after the planning phrase was done. And of course, the preliminary discussion I tossed over 15 ideas about VLDCX to be discussed with everyone and you all should remember how it was. The forum currently looks like this. As you might have noticed, there were almost no activity aside from two threads made by idol. I suppose the recent VLDC discussions were either moved to the PR Office or vanished completely, or moved to the VLDC judge discord server.

- Why did you hold so much to announce the judging changes? For who don't remember, when Deputy BS dropped, he decided to leave judging without notifying me and made a public thread in this forum and it lead to somewhat dramatic level. It wasn't a very good thing, so I told the other judges to not do that and in case they wanted to leave, to let me make the proper announcements to avoid similar cases again (see Deputy BS thread name in the image). Plus: Torchkas was unsure whenever to leave or not judging and idol/me were looking for potential backup judges. Only after everything was settled up that the actual changes were announced, all at once with proper information and status.

- What is the story of you putting measurement metrics over the judges, to pressure them to do more work? When the judging started, Deputy BS made an online sheet with all judges and me, so everyone could put their scores and the sheet dynamically updates with the submission id score plus other information such as if the level should get disqualified or not or other comments. Since the sheet was dynamic and all judges were using it to put their scores, I added some dynamic rows that measured how many levels were judged, the average score, how many to left and an estimated judging finish time (ETA), plus a speed factor row to account how fast or slow you are considering the normal, expected judging deadline. It looks like this. When I made it, nobody complained about it, rather found it impressive and interesting to know if they are ahead time or not. Even that I remember lolyoshi was already going faster than usual while Noivern and Koopster always kept in the normal rhythm to accompany the deadline. Eventually, the judges started losing motivation or rhythm for several reasons and the values started looking much worse than usual.

- But you didn't motivate them properly? Actually if you look in the editing history of the judges sheet, their progress stopped and went to almost null after I left the administration team and the site. Probably some will argue that would happen regardless if I stayed in the team or not, but that's a fact.....

- Did idol take care of the replacement judges herself alone? At that time, idol was one of the PR Office members and she offered to help getting potential backup judges since I had no clue in who to pick. She brought me Rameau's and Ryrir (which wasn't added to the judging team) and Sinc-X I don't remember if it was her idea, mine or from Sinc-X himself (he was staff at that time). Still, after idol's picks I made sure to talk and context them about all details needed for the judging, so it's isn't really true that idol was taking of everything alone.

- What about the history of you firing staff members that didn't agree with you or something? That episode happened in the SMWC Discord Server. I remember I was very pissed off in that day and there was going in either in the PR or Forum departments. I was tired of some complaints (specially staff feedback) and I went wild on some staff members in that day (particularly leod and part of PR iirc). Still, that had nothing to do with VLDC anyways.

In the end, what made VLDCX collab pretty much die were:

1) I resigned from my admin status in June, including everything I was going due of internal issues.

2) Getting a job and having to handle it with university, adminship and SMWC.

3) Personal problems like my mom/dad breaking up.

4) The complex engineering behind the collab ROM which would require me waiting for the results and relying on my summer break to build the ROM.

5) No other ASMer in the site offer to handle the full compilation ROM.

6) Demotivation from SMW Hacking...

Either way, the reason I made this post was to bring up my viewpoints over the concerns presented over me and show some facts for the contest which not many people here probably know or remember. I don't have any intentions of keeping a discussion over this, so it will be up to you to decide if I'm the guilty over it, or if it's deserved, etc. If anything, feel free to drop me a message.

Once again, I'm sorry if I disappointed or pissed off you guys. VLDCX was gonna my last collaboration project and I don't think I will ever have another opportunity of running another one, so I just want to lament that it didn't work well...

Edit: Also everything from X World was planned around in July by me. These were just ideas but they were all applicable. read it by your own risk, if it ever gets applied it's super major spoilers.
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Thank you for the post, Vitor. I think you really shouldn't have done your last post because it sounded like a halfhearted excuse for how you handled this, but this post was a very good explanation of what happened and I understood that you didn't want VLDCX to come out like this. I'm glad you tried, and if you are sorry for how things turned out, then I'm appreciative of your efforts no matter what.

So here's to next VLDC.
We're gonna go with 60 it seems, following the judges' recommendations.
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I think this all depends on how many entries there are, and mayyyyybe the scores of the levels. I'm still in the process of playing the levels myself and I feel like I need to finish those before I can guess how many levels myself.

Like I think it depends on how many levels are good and how many levels there were, but I do feel like there needs to be some samples of the average and under, so it's hard to place this number exactly without crunching numbers and working up some statistics.

Or, you know, just adding levels to a rom from the best down until you can't add any more. That could work too I guess????

60 isn't a bad number though.
60 because there isn't anything really worth playing past it.
Here's my idea for the mini VLDCX collab.

* 10 levels for the tradition of the Best World.
* Have like 5 of the lowest ranking levels to continue the tradition of the Worst World.
* Have the Judge favorite levels included. (5 Levels)
* Allow members to vote for 10 levels not in the top 10 or judge favorites to be included into the collab.

That makes up to 30 levels, which I feel is nice since it's a byte size hack with some quality control and member input.
Layout by Erik557
Hi.
Originally posted by Wind Fish
Here's my idea for the mini VLDCX collab.

* 10 levels for the tradition of the Best World.
* Have like 5 of the lowest ranking levels to continue the tradition of the Worst World.
* Have the Judge favorite levels included. (5 Levels)
* Allow members to vote for 10 levels not in the top 10 or judge favorites to be included into the collab.

That makes up to 30 levels, which I feel is nice since it's a byte size hack with some quality control and member input.


Sounds like a much more complicated process in comparison to just taking the top 60 tbh.

Wouldn't mind top 60 and the worst 5 though!
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It may indeed be complicated, but the fact that there is still discussion of a mini version of the collab is also more effort than one would expect this late on in the game. I think it's ideal to make this end with a bang, rather than just sticking with using the ranking system as a basis as to which levels will be included.

People are more likely to enjoy themselves if they play good levels that are cherry picked from the tree. The Top 60 would just feel like an incomplete version of a full VLDC collab, so I feel it would be better to spice things up a bit with variety.
Layout by Erik557
Hi.
But... the top 60 literally are cherry picked already. The ranking wasn't given out by rolling dice, you know.
Your layout has been removed.
Originally posted by Wind Fish
It may indeed be complicated, but the fact that there is still discussion of a mini version of the collab is also more effort than one would expect this late on in the game. I think it's ideal to make this end with a bang, rather than just sticking with using the ranking system as a basis as to which levels will be included.

People are more likely to enjoy themselves if they play good levels that are cherry picked from the tree. The Top 60 would just feel like an incomplete version of a full VLDC collab, so I feel it would be better to spice things up a bit with variety.


60/171 is a little more than a third of the entries. Hardly what I'd call half-assed full collab.

And as the judges/leod said, the top 60 are all worth playing, so why limit it to even less?
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Originally posted by leod
But... the top 60 literally are cherry picked already. The ranking wasn't given out by rolling dice, you know.

Whilst some judges may think a level is decent, other judges may not. Therefore it may be better to pick levels that are universally seen as decent.

Originally posted by RZ1
60/171 is a little more than a third of the entries. Hardly what I'd call half-assed full collab.

And as the judges/leod said, the top 60 are all worth playing, so why limit it to even less?

I guess that's more of a personal opinion.

I would love to agree with this, but having read the judges' comments that simply isn't true. The scores vary for a reason.
Layout by Erik557
Hi.
Originally posted by Wind Fish
Whilst some judges may think a level is decent, other judges may not.

Maybe because different people have different opinions on a single level? I mean what fun would it be if all the judges were figuratively (and I guess literally) the same person?
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Originally posted by Daizo Dee Von
Originally posted by Wind Fish
Whilst some judges may think a level is decent, other judges may not.

Maybe because different people have different opinions on a single level? I mean what fun would it be if all the judges were figuratively (and I guess literally) the same person?

I get that. That's why there are multiple judges to play the levels. My point was, that not all of the top 60 is universally agreed upon, which is why I suggested the voting idea for the collab.
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Hi.
I don't trust the people to vote personally.
Why not? It works fine for the C3s for the most part.
Layout by Erik557
Hi.
Originally posted by Wind Fish
Here's my idea for the mini VLDCX collab.

* 10 levels for the tradition of the Best World.
* Have like 5 of the lowest ranking levels to continue the tradition of the Worst World.
* Have the Judge favorite levels included. (5 Levels)
* Allow members to vote for 10 levels not in the top 10 or judge favorites to be included into the collab.

That makes up to 30 levels, which I feel is nice since it's a byte size hack with some quality control and member input.


Bit short, but it's not a bad idea. Here's my thoughts:

-Best world containing top 10 levels.
-Top 40/50 others guaranteed a spot.
-Voting process for 5 levels not in top 50 Totally not just saying this because I got 140th. Seriously, though, it's possible some levels worth playing fall outside this range. Unlikely, but possible.
-Judges can pick 5-10 levels outside this range
-Judge Levels (5)
-I'm split on the Worst World, because sometimes the worst levels might be worth playing just because, but some users would rather not have their level in the comp. at all vs go into w. worst, which is totally an option this year. (I speak from experience, BTW). But if so, 5-10 levels.

That's about 75-80 levels, which is about as close as we're going to get to a budget collab. On the big side, sure. If you're going for a smaller one, I guess top 60 + judge levels would suffice. if about the top 60 are worth playing, it's probably a good idea to keep them.
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Then why even judge at all...just let people vote for all levels...

Seriously guys, we had 6 judges, there is enough diversity there so that the top 60 contain most (if not all) of the really good levels.
Yeah i'd also like to see some lower placed levels in the rom but that is not the point of a best-of hack.
If your favorite doesn't get in the collab that's sad, but there is no objective way to select the levels other than the judge scores.
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Originally posted by NGB
Then why even judge at all...just let people vote for all levels...

Seriously guys, we had 6 judges, there is enough diversity there so that the top 60 contain most (if not all) of the really good levels.
Yeah i'd also like to see some lower placed levels in the rom but that is not the point of a best-of hack.
If your favorite doesn't get in the collab that's sad, but there is no objective way to select the levels other than the judge scores.

The judgings are for the contest portion of the VLDC. They aren't usually related to the collabs other than Best/Worst worlds & World X.

It was merely suggestions anyway. Sometimes I get carried away explaining myself over the littlest of things. I suppose if most of the top 60 are liked by the judges, it's fine.
Layout by Erik557
Hi.
Originally posted by Wind Fish
The Top 60 would just feel like an incomplete version of a full VLDC collab, so I feel it would be better to spice things up a bit with variety.

I really hope you are not referring to the garbage of VLDC as variety, because when I think different strokes, I do not think works of art alongside piles of trash.

Furthermore player voting isn't that great of an idea for a couple reasons I can think of. The biggest one is only popularity will get them their ticket in, and it has little to do with whether or not they made a good level. Second, they have to play the level in the first place, and with how few people have played VLDCX's entries so far I am not expecting people to just download the patches, patch all the roms, and play all the levels, just to have an idea of voting. In fact nevermind, THAT's the biggest reason. That's already a lot of work for judges, and you're expecting people to do that just to have an idea of what to vote for?

Originally posted by NGB
Yeah i'd also like to see some lower placed levels in the rom but that is not the point of a best-of hack.

I draw the line at levels that has something interesting to it, be it good aesthetics or a good gimmick, but is held back by unrealized potential or inexperience. If we're talking about trying to show the best of VLDC, that should be every level that stands out in some way, or at the very least, have the potential to stand out.