I thought of an idea to implement next VLDC (too late for this one):
The Judge's Timer rule.
For each level, the judge gets a five minute timer. However, they cannot activate the timer right away- they must get at least one exit first. From there, they can activate it right away- or wait, if they want to keep playing, and do so later if they wish. Once activated, the timer counts down. The judge can stop/start the timer's advance if they have a change of mind, whether they feel they want to keep playing. However, once the timer hits zero, they judge can stop playing- whether or not they actually got everything.
This encourages the designer to keep the judge engaged (so they won't want to put the timer on), and think twice about putting that secret at the end of a bottomless pit near the end. In addition, it encourages short levels, but allows well-designed long levels to work.
It also keeps things easier from the judge's standpoint- if a yoshi coin takes 10 minutes to find, they don't have to spend 15 minutes going for the next one.
tl;dr: once a judge reaches at least one exit, they only have to continue the level for five more minutes before scoring and reviewing the level.
Honestly, I like it. It means judges don't get worn down playing a level they dislike over and over trying to find that one secret in that one side room revealed with that one cryptic hint. At the same time, it means well-built levels that keep the judges interested end up with more overall screentime...which is another benefit, as it emphasizes their quality and makes them more likely to feature prominently in other areas (unique map segment, shown on title screen, etc.).
Judges would do that literally every time just because of the big amount of work all those levels are so all that'd do is punish collectables/make them less tedious when they are tedious and that SHOULD flow into the score.
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why wouldn't the title screen be either a combination of multiple levels, or something new altogether. Or if it has to be a level in the comp it'd be fun to have a different level appear on the title screen each time you boot it up. If the tech is there. Just some way to make it randomly pick from a list of levels or screens to spawn Mario on.
the title screen for vldc9 didnt make any sense to me because it made it look like the comp was going to be centered around the concept of space, or just that level in particular. Picking a single level to represent the scope of the contest is impossible, and we're better off deciding on another way to present the collab in a more unifying way. Or dont i guess it doesnt really matter.