Scott Hardie | November 23, 2022
Seeking feedback, please!

In a discussion from a few months ago, I said that I'd think some more about ways to make the goo game better before the end of its fall season. I believe we're all in consensus about the need to ditch the point-based scoring system, but I also believe that we have an opportunity to change things further. There are fewer players these days, so we can do things that wouldn't work with a large number of competitors. And I have more free time lately, so I can go bigger or at least more experimental than I normally would.

But to be honest, even after I've thought about this at length, I have yet to come up with anything that feels like a great next evolution for the game. Every idea that I have just feels like trying something different for the sake of it. Maybe that's because I've had so many attempts to improve the game turn out to be flops that it's made me jaded. Or maybe I've just been preoccupied with other things and haven't given this the full attention that it really needs. Or maybe my ideas just aren't great, or maybe there isn't a really great idea to be had, or who knows.

I risk diminishing other people's enthusiasm by being honest about this, which is especially risky at a time when we few remaining need to muster all of the enthusiasm for the game that we can. But I don't want to pretend that I'm passionately excited about an idea if I'm not. I want you to know that I mean it when I am. :-)

So, here's what I'll do. I'll describe what I'm currently thinking, both about the game overall and about what format it should have after December 3, and I'd appreciate it if you could give me some feedback about that. I'm also very open to wholly different ideas about what the game should be like. Now's actually a great time to transition into a new era of the game; I just don't know yet what that should look like. :-\

Firstly, some guiding principles or values:

• It's already implied but still worth saying explicitly: Even with the diminishing number of players, I still enjoy the game and still want to run it, and I expect to continue doing so for at least some time going forward, as long as someone's playing. If there's something making you disinterested in playing, please tell me so that I can try to make it better.

• I believe the goos themselves are mostly good, if a little repetitive. I'm trying to break out of old habits when making goos, such as listing their characters' occupations when making a goo of a prolific screen actor. I'm a bit bored of the same distortion effects over and over, and I have some longer-term plans for that, but it's too time-consuming to change that in the short term.

• The player-created goos have a few issues, from leaning so much on a player's favorite topics that they become simultaneously obscure and predictable, to being difficult to classify correctly in our current system. But overall I still like them and prefer to keep the system, and at a minimum I'd still like to publish the remaining goos that are already in the queue. It's neat to see the creativity and cleverness that players put into them. :-)

• Do we need to keep score? Wordle is fun, and I could see the goo game trying a similar model like one new goo every 24 hours that you guess on your own for fun, just trying to maintain your own streak without any kind of direct competition between players. But I also think that the competition creates a binding effect that keeps us together and keeps people coming back, and the cycle of each new round or season creates a sense of the table being cleared and everyone having the same opportunity to win all over again. At this point in the game, I just want a scoring system that doesn't feel like a whole other complex game unto itself; I want the emphasis to remain on solving goos.

• Do goos need to stay open to guessing for several days or a week? This one I feel more strongly about: Yes they do, because if I was to try the Wordle model and only run each goo for 24 hours, there would come days where nobody played at all and my effort making the goo would be wasted, and that would quickly make me lose interest in continuing. But the overlapping of daily goos in a seven-day schedule creates a weird asynchronicity where you might solve goos out of order, which can mess up some scoring systems. (First example: The first player to solve 50 goos wins. Player A solves their 50th goo. Later that day, player B solves their 50th and 51st, having a higher score overall. Would B be wrong to think that they deserve victory? Second example: Same win condition. Player A solves their 50th goo but with a strange spelling and so the guess is flagged as pending. Later that day, player B solves it with the anticipated spelling, before I can make A's guess correct. Would B be wrong to think that they deserve victory? There are workarounds for these problems; I'm just saying that there's no simple solution here.)

• Does each season need to run for 90 days? No, not any more I think. I would probably stop calling them "seasons" if they were shorter, but a round of the game (or whatever we call it) can be anything from a week upwards. The more often that we clear the scoreboard, then the better for all players to feel like they have a shot at winning, as long as each round of competition still feels long enough like the winner earned it and victory wasn't a fluke.

• Do we still need a prize after each round of competition? No, not with so few players who have all played for fun for years, but I'll probably keep it around at a smaller dollar amount in case it might entice someone new to join.

• As I wrote about in the discussion linked above, I don't think we need one single winner per season any more. Insisting on that rule created limitations that hurt the game in the past. I now prefer a model where whoever earned victory gets it, whether that's one person or two or ten.

All of the above, I feel good about. That's a solid foundation. But it's also a lot of "what not to do," rather than what to do. So far I don't know how to build something that feels right, only how to avoid building something that feels wrong.

For lack of other ideas, I keep coming back to the game's earliest days, when the player body was similarly tiny. I am tempted to run an updated version of that format: Five categories (Film & TV, Music, Sports, Govt & Military, Miscellaneous), each assigned a color. You start with a blank chart requiring you to solve five goos in each category. Each solution fills in an empty space on the chart with that color. The first player to fill in their entire chart wins. Goos might appear weekly instead of daily, in a batch of five at a time (one per category), so as to avoid the complexities of overlapping daily goos. But what to do with player-created goos? And what to do about late-night players having an advantage in speed? There are always workarounds for fairness at the expense of simplicity.

Do you have other ideas, or opinions about where the game is right now? I'd love to hear everything that you have to say. This could be an interesting conversation for the next week and a half. Thanks for weighing in, and reading everything so far. :-)

Scott Hardie | November 26, 2022
I've been hearing privately from people, and I appreciate it. Please keep the comments coming.

I know that this is a lot to digest. You can appreciate why I'm asking for help, because I'm a bit lost in the weeds with all of it. :-)

I wrote the above comments about Wordle strictly as examples, not really thinking much about it. But lately I'm wondering if there's merit in the Wordle approach after all. By that, I mean a sense that Celebrity Goo Game is about visiting the site daily to solve a goo, not about racking up certain point totals or figuring out when to trigger some lucky advantage.

I don't think I like goos that expire in 24 hours, so they'd probably remain "live" for a week-ish. But otherwise, I could just refocus the game on solving goos for their own sake for fun, and de-emphasize any ongoing competition. I could make an optional, just-for-your-entertainment-to-know "Leaderboards" page showing who has solved the most goos in the last day, week, month, quarter, year, and ever, like we had years ago in Pirate Paradise.

If that were to happen, the questions I would have for you are:

1) Would it still be worthwhile to have a cycle of rounds/seasons in which some kind of winner is declared every so often and some kind of prize is issued? It could be done more quietly in the background without going away completely.

2) Would you still play if there wasn't a winner or a prize, and the game was simply about solving goos for fun? It's 100% fine to say it's not your thing and you wouldn't play it; on the contrary, I want to know if such a change would drive anyone away.

These are just things I'm thinking. I have no attachment to any specific ideas at this time.

I continue to appreciate your feedback!

Scott Hardie | December 2, 2022
After a LOT of thinking and testing out various scenarios using existing data, I think I've finally hit upon a good new format for the game. Here's sharing the plan now before it launches tomorrow night. I might still tweak this before launch Please share any final feedback ASAP if you'd like to see any change to this plan!

• Each calendar month will be a new round of the game. December 2022 will be abbreviated, but rounds will last 28-31 days thereafter.

• Goos will continue to run daily and last for seven days. However, each goo will belong to the month in which it expires, not the month in which it is published. This simplifies scoring. I'll color-code each month to make it easier to keep track.

• You'll earn one point for each goo solved in the month, and one point for each of your own created goos that is published in the month.

• Each month, four goos will be special "bonus goos." The previous month's winners will not earn a point for solving these nor creating them, giving other players an opening to get ahead. The previous winners can still earn other rewards for solving them, like raising lifetime scores, extending a streak, earning solo solutions and swift solutions, and so on.

• Whoever has the most points at the end of each month will win. If multiple players tie for the most points, they'll all win. Prizes will be $20.

I have run a lot of simulations. The above combination of rules seems best for introducing variation in the winners without relying on an unfair element such as random chance. I really like that winning will be determined solely by solving goos and creating goos, which should be the focus of the game. I experimented with other versions of this, like no bonus goos at all, or non-reigning-champs getting 2x or 3x points for bonus goos instead of reigning-champs getting 0x points, but these didn't introduce enough variation in the winners; nearly every month always had the same outcome, which would slowly poison participation in the game. (In one version, goo master Russ Wilhelm won for 38 consecutive months!) I came this close to eliminating competition entirely and just letting people solve goos for the sake of solving them, because I couldn't see a way forward that worked, but I'm glad that I finally came up with this instead.

I look forward to any final comments you have, and I look forward to playing this way starting next week. It was painful figuring out what we should do next, but I sincerely believe that this is a good way to proceed. Thanks for putting up with my process here. :-)

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