TODO: Rewrite this page for the new site.

Guidelines for judges

With great power comes great responsibility.
This page summarizes and details thoughts the judges should adhere to when watching and judging submissions, and communicating with their authors.

Sum-up

There are no laws that work in all possible situations.
Each case is slightly different, and a judge is required to use multiple perspectives when judging a movie: both short-term and long-term consequences to (including but not limited to): site content quality; authors' feelings; audience's trust in the site staff; site's maintainability; the rules of TAS.

Judging

Watch the entire movie from the input file!

It is important that the judge verify the authenticity of the input file itself, especially with the increase of authors/users encoding and uploading submissions to streaming media sites.
The input file should sync properly on an approved version of a rerecording emulator. Being an approved version means it can be downloaded from the official website as a packaged release. Development builds don't count as such (unless it's a messy case like Dolphin). Any settings necessary for sync should be documented in the submission properly (edit the submission to include this information if necessary). The settings chosen must be considered legal, and not used to hack the game in some way. If the submission does not sync on at least one official release, it must be rejected (unless there is an unavoidable exception). If it syncs for someone other than the author, it is still valid (so that games/emulators that require similar OS/computer specs to be deterministic have a chance).
The input file should complete the game (or achieve the goal stated in the submission text).
It should not contain any blank input at the end (trailing frames recorded with no input), because it unreasonably increases the movie's total time.
It should fulfill the claimed goals of the author. I.e., if it is a Super Mario Bros. "walkathon", it should not press B in any level where doing so would allow the player to run.
It should not start from reset, SRAM, or soft-reset unless, of course, that is necessary for the goal choice (such as to unlock a character, or take advantage of newgame+, for instance). Of course this depends on the goal choice being worthwhile too.

Act consistent with the message of the site

If a Judge is not familiar with a game, they should do basic research to ensure that they understand the game mechanics, and ask the audience for details they are missing. Read the game manual if needed and if it is available. If something does not look right in a movie, check it yourself to be sure. However, Judges do not need to thoroughly in-depth test a game as if they themselves were the one trying to TAS it. If it looks good on the surface, and the movie appears to consist of superior play which outperforms casual play and any records elsewhere, it's good enough for TASVideos.

Be fair

A judge has the greatest control over the content of this website in the long run. All judges must act towards the goal of having an encouraging and rewarding atmosphere for both the players and the audience. You must be fair towards both.
It is fairness towards the audience when judges disqualify worse submissions and qualify the better ones.
The players must have chances of getting their movie published.
Every newbie could be the next superstar. Their first submission might be rejected, but don't destroy their self-esteem. Reject with reason, but only in the necessary amount.
[1]: Normal viewing conditions refer to real-time playback with no additional indicators to judge the player's performance; i. e., like most people watch these videos.
Notice to new players: Experienced TAS makers often possess a great observation skill for typical mistakes in TAS movies. Mistakes unnoticeable to you might still be noticed by experienced TAS players and the judges. (But of course, we don't know and see everything.)

Be thorough

Uncover, evaluate and address as many aspects of a given run as possible. This allows for decisions that could serve as a long-term reference or set important precedents in complicated situations. If you miss some of the aspects that might have influenced the final decision, your decision will be imperfect.

Make sure the movie is optimal and not sloppy

This is mostly covered by the Guidelines, but whenever you see something that looks like it has potential for improvement, either try it out yourself or ask the author to address it. Note that the run isn't required to be completely unimprovable, it just should not be sloppy. If it uses sub-optimal strategies all over the place, even if it's not obvious for an untrained eye, but which becomes clear when you actually try to improve it, then it should be rejected for sub-optimality.
Always check the runs against existing records, which might be present on other sites (for example, Speedrun.com, since its goal is to document the latest RTA records). If the author did poor research, help them find a better approach.
Judges however do not have to try to TAS the game themselves and try to uncover every technique and secret. The primary goal is to ensure the basics are well covered (such as those in GameResources/CommonTricks and GameResources/BossFightingGuide), and that the player didn't miss out on something the game obviously offers (such as being able to charge a weapon, or basic movement options such as running, hopping, or high jumps).

Use your and others' experience

Past decisions can always give an insight if the case is complicated. So refer to the decisions that you know of, to their key points, and to what can be assumed based on them. Ask other judges and the senior judge for opinions for nuances that are possibly outside your scope.
However, note that past mistakes don't necessarily justify future ones, so do not use precedents blindly. Moreover, when considering a precedent to base your decision on, always ask others to make sure it's not a misjudgment in the first place, but a reliable valid decision.

Review future possibilities for obsoletion, rejection, and branching

Check the previous submissions for a given game. They may contain decisions on how some future situations for that game should be handled. In some cases, when an exception is being allowed, you may also need to set such regulations for future decisions. Keep in mind though, that as time passes, previous regulations may be rendered obsolete or irrelevant, so examine the situation carefully and apply such regulations wisely.

Consider the audience's feedback

Viewers that are experienced in the game you're judging can expand your outlook even further by providing good food for thought. Always analyze their opinions and talk to them in order to get valuable information from them.

Make an elaborate judging note

The research that you've done should be available in the form of reasoning and conclusions based on it. Address in your decision all the aspects that you've accounted for, to make them clear for the author, for the audience, and for the judges of the future submissions that might need to refer to your decision.
Try to make sure your judgment notes are readable. You can use wiki markup to add sections or tables if required. If a diagram is needed, post the necessary image. If your judgment note is really long, make sure there's a summary for those who don't want to read the whole thing.
If there's anything important a publisher needs to know, mention it, and make sure whoever attempts to publish it is aware of it.

Classes and goals

Which class a movie is to be accepted to is almost entirely dependent on the game and on the goal.
For moons, it’s important to determine what the overall feedback is.
If a movie is obsoleting a Starred movie, a judge can accept straight to Stars assuming the entertainment value has not decreased significantly.
When judging the run's goals, offer some insights to publishers regarding what kinds of goals this run represents, to help them figure out what to put in the branch label. This is a good practice, because after having judged the run, you have already done some research that can help publishers. Their job is assigning accurate labels, and at times conditions are very complex, so collaboration helps to prevent mistakes and having to fix them afterwards.

Improvements and obsoletions


Major skip glitches

Major skip glitches (sometimes called game-breaking glitches) require additional confirmation that it's actually a developer oversight, and not a cheat code or a password that's subtly entered and looks like a glitched skip.
The most certain way to determine this is reading what programming code the game is executing, but there are some trends among cheat code scenarios that can make this detection easier:
  1. Input that works specifically during pause screens, menu screens, or other non-gameplay-based input
  2. Buttons have effects that have nothing to do with what the button normally does in gameplay or in menus
  3. Doing certain steps a number of times, or entering certain button combinations ("jump 10 times then press B+Select")
  4. Easy and consistent to replicate if you know the steps
  5. Increments or decrements memory values in consistent steps, especially if not related to normal gameplay functions (see also point 2)

Game completion point

Glitched endings

Runs that incorporate "game end glitch" techniques need certain verification on whether the ending really occurs. It can be done by comparing how the game acts after it ended normally, with how it acts after it was glitch-ended. Missing some critical ending routines would mean it was not really completed.

Input length

There are two basic opinions as to what kind of TAS ending is better:
The author can tweak their movie's ending as a stylistic choice, even after it was accepted (but before it is published). However, a run looking to obsolete a published run needs to do more than just tweak the movie's ending, as we aim to avoid meaningless publications. A run with real improvements is free to use a different ending than previous movies did.

Post-completion input

Sometimes extra input is required after the game ending sequence has started, so it could fully proceed to the last ending screen. It is preferred to contain such input in the submitted movie, but there are conditions under which such extra input can be excluded, and only applied during encoding.
The author may forget to mention that this extra input is required, to include it in the main movie, and to provide a secondary movie containing it. To prevent publishing movies and encodes that lack some part of the ending, always manually ensure the game has fully ended. For example, after the game reaches some screen that does not seem to automatically fade out nor lead to the game start again, save a state and try pressing a few buttons to see if it's possible to proceed further (switch to recording if needed).
If there is indeed extra input required by the ending sequence, but not provided by the author, ask them to either include it in the original movie, or to post a secondary one that has this input, so that movie could be used for encoding.

Endless games

Games without a clear ending which keep repeating can still have a defined completion point according to our rules. The mechanics of the game must be reviewed to ensure that the author(s) chose a valid ending point which conforms with our rules.
If the author(s) chose an earlier ending point from the list we offer, and another which shows off more of the game is also reasonably viable (the movie won't go on for days), the judge should ask the author(s) if they'd like to play more and provide an updated movie. If the movie is accepted for publication with an earlier ending point, the judgment message should include remarks specifying which completion point was reached, and identify what other more complete options are viable which would be accepted to obsolete the movie in question.

Hacks

By nature, hacks have different criteria for judgment compared to regular games.

Be open

Collect opinions

The audience has voice. If they don't use it, encourage them to use it.
Read what other people think of the submission.

Be impartial

Judge movies, not players.

Be verbose

Inform people of your actions, your thoughts and everything regarding a particular submission.
Try to express yourself in an encouraging tone, even if you are going to reject a submission.

Editing the submissions

When you add a comment to the submission, your markup should look like this for example, so that it links to your profile

[user:your username]: Rejected in favor of a [828S|faster movie].
(828S (an example) stands for a link to submission number 828.)

Replacing submission files

Judges have the ability to replace a submission file. This can be done when the submitter finds a small improvement to their submission; it is usually better to incorporate it immediately rather than cancel and submit a new movie.
Check that the movie still satisfies its stated goals and that the movie file is good. Make sure it still syncs.
Use this feature only for small improvements and not major changes. Anything that could possibly invalidate the voting results should definitely be a new submission (such as a controversial trick, a major improvement, or anything that might affect the entertainment value of the movie).

Procedures

There is a minimum time a submission can be in queue before a verdict can be made (currently 72 hours). Prior to this time a submission can be set to "judging underway" or "needs more info".
Use the "judging underway" feature, and use it sooner rather than later. If you decide to handle a submission set this first so other judges know it is already being taken care of.
Let the conversation play out. The audience has a say, so let them say it. If a thread is very active still (many posts in a short time period), let it sit until the conversation dies down a bit.
Give a chance for rebuttal. Try to indicate the verdict you are leaning to in a post, or ask questions rather than make statements ("Why did you do x?" instead of "x looks improvable"). Give the author a sufficient chance to respond to assumptions made about the movie.
Avoid saying it "looks" improvable. Instead, take the time to show that it IS improvable. Show an existing WIP, or make a short one of your own. Document some specifics rather than making blanket statements impossible to prove.

When you're done

Even after you've finished judging a movie, a judge's job doesn't necessarily stop there.

More reading

If you're also a publisher, please read the Publisher guidelines as well.

JudgeGuidelines last edited by Samsara 1 day ago
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