Some thoughts on Scoring, Design, Risks, Rewards, and Innovation:
Currently, during Round One of each new Lab, everyone submits their best design creations without any guide from previous sucesses; there are no previous designs to emulate or enhance or evolve, so players are (necessarily) free to be as creative as they want - or are able - to be, with no real restriction other than self-imposed, and no real guidelines to follow, other than the best practices they have learned in their whole EteRNA experience. This is the round when creativity is highest, no funneling into certain successful “solution-lines” has yet occurred, and the design process is full of risk and uncertain reward.
However, thereafter, subsequent rounds have historically (and quite naturally) focused on efforts to perfect the designs which did well in Round One - a good thing, (even a great thing) but it does also mean that explorations into new territory are minimized in favor of the more certain scoring advantage gained by tweaking one of the original high scorers rather than continuing the riskiness inherent in the “Round One Situation”, where there are no previous successes to model.
Again, not a bad thing, as it enables players to focus their efforts on improving upon the early successes - BUT - this does tend to shut down exploration into alternate solutions, and therefore curbs more aggressive expansion of the solution space, since the risk of failure would likely mean a loss of score - and THIS may be a bad thing for EteRNA; couter-productive to one of its stated goals (The Devs often mention that one of the goals of EteRNA is to maximize the size and diversity of the solution-space)
So these questions then naturally arise:
“How can we foster that Innovation which is already necessarily inherent in Round One of New Labs (where there are no previous successful models to follow), and transfer that kind of Innovation - into the later rounds - without also disrupting the current focus which is largely centered upon the improvement of already successful or promising designs?” (A practice I’m sure every player and developer wants to retain and foster as well)
“How can we incentivize players to divert some focus away from improving upon past successful designs, and instead, devote some focus to enlarging the size of - and increasing the diversity of - the solution-space - by seeking to create new designs which are measurably and significantly different from the current batch of “first-discovered” solution-lines?”
A possible first early step in addressing these questions:
I have an idea to create an addition to the game that I would tentatively title: the “Innovative Design Arena,” implemented as a separate Lab-List.
With each new Lab, this “Arena” would only open at the end of Round One and run as a concurrent partner to Rounds 2,3, etc, as long as the lab lasts. It would seek to foster the creation of designs significantly different from the current score leaders that emerged from Round One (or the previous round) by motivating and rewarding players for taking the risk of branching off to find other potential winners, from significantly different original “starts,” and to discover new and fruitful “solution-lines” to add to the overall solution-space. Differently put, it would attempt to re-create or approximate the fertile but un-certain “anything-is-possible” atmosphere of Round One situations where there are no previous successful examples to follow. It would seek to accomplish this goal by offering increased score incentives to Players who take the risks of branching off into uncharted regions of the Solution-Space.
In this “Arena”, player entries would only be allowed if they are significantly and measureably different than the current score leaders from Round One. Entries into this Arena would be screened for this characteristic upon submission by an algorithm (yet to be created by the devs) for this purpose.
Note: Although I originally envisioned that this “Innovation Arena” be conducted in a separate Lab-List, alternately, these entries could be included in the Regular Lab List for each round after Round One, but using a different text color and font (the different color to alert and notify most players that this is a "risky, " “Innovative Design” submission - and the different font to convey the same information for our colorblind community members)
As mentioned above, this idea will require the Devs to create and institute a method of screening entries into this arena for some (yet-to-be-determined) minimum-significant sequence difference from all of the existing score leaders in order to qualify; in other words, the designs must represent a significant expansion of the current solution-space, or they will not be accepted into the "Innovative Design Arena, with it’s greater risk/reward structure (see below for initial rough ideas on proposed reward structure enhancements for designs qualifying for entry into the “Innovative Design Arena”).
Entries into this “arena” would use up one of a player’s existing 3 design submission slots
Voting in this “arena” would also use up one of a players existing 8 votes.
But since there is addtional risk in both submitting and voting-for one of these “Innovative” designs, there must also be some addtional reward for both designers and voters.
As motivation for using up a design slot in the riskier endeavor of trying for a new winning “design line,” in a previously un-tested area of the solution-space, players whose design entries meet the requirments and are accepted into the new “Innovation Arena,” and who subsequently have one of these designs voted for and synthesized would be rewarded in the form of some extra score (either a fixed “design-risk-bonus.” or a greater multiple than the current 20 for winning designs)
Players who risk one of their votes in the “Innovation Arena” would also be rewarded with either a fixed “vote-risk-bonus,” or a greater multiple than the current 10 for winning votes.
Sucessful designs from the “Innovation Arena” will then, in the following round become part of the normal game and be included in the regular listings, and a New “Innovation Arena” will begin with the next round, with the same minimum significant difference requirements for admission, the same enhanced reward structure, and the same goals of further expanding the overall design solution-space, and seeking out new sucessful approaches to the current Lab Target Design.
I am submitting this idea with the recognition that it would need to be “fleshed-out” and vetted by both the developers and the player community before any possible acceptance or implementation.
However, I do think that the inclusion of this idea (perhaps in a more refined form, as other community members weigh-in with feedback and suggetions on where improvements can be made, faults fixed, and omissions filled-in) - may create a lot of enthusiastic excitement in the game (especially among the more experienced players seeking greater challenge and greater rewards), and could perhaps result in a significant advance toward the goal of finding optimal solutions for each new Lab Target, in addtion to meeting the challenge of significantly enlarging and diverifying the solution-space for all Labs going forward.
Thanks & Best Regards,