A brief rant on Maestro's Unwinnable Final Rounds

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A brief rant on Maestro's Unwinnable Final Rounds

Postby Spaztique » May 23rd, 2011, 6:02 am

Notice: Due to the controversy this topic has stirred up, I must remind all new readers that this is not about keeping Maestro fair for players or giving people a fair chance at winning Maestro. This topic is about making it look fair to the audience and creating tension for the final round by avoiding an automatic win, making any efforts by the other players pointless.

In short...

NEVER LET THE HIGHEST SCORING PERSON GO EARLY IN THE FINAL ROUND OF MAESTRO!!!

THIS POST HAS BEEN REVISED ON MAY 26, 11:20 PM.

I've seen this scenario play out more than once: we got one player who is either two to four points in the lead and everyone else is just about even. The player in the lead is called out first for the final round, and that player decides to do a scene that makes the audience cream their pants. When finished, the scene gets a unanimous, uproarious five. Now, NONE of the other players can hope to catch up, and this can lead to the following:
Best Case Scenario: The players just screw around, knowing they will lose, and the audience just doesn't care.
Worst Case Scenario: Players who know they can't win lose steam and face diminished performance, audiences squirm in their seats knowing the other improvisers can't win, and instead of ending on a climax, the show winds down from a high point.

Edit 1: Although many improvisers would agree that Maestro is not about winning (and if you think it's 100% about winning, you may want to rethink why people play Maestro), the audience tends to get antsy when they see one player impossibly far ahead of everyone else. In fact, in one show, one audience member blurted out, "Player so-and-so automatically wins!", turning every scene afterward into an anti-climax.

Edit 2: I should clearly emphasize this since most people still feel this is for giving players a fair chance at winning: IT'S NOT!!!. It's to at least give the illusion of a fair game. For example, if "Player #I'm Lucky To Have Even Gotten This Far" goes before "Player #I Own My Own Damn Theater And Give Classes To Professional Actors", of course it's not fair, but if "Player #I'm Lucky To Even Have Gotten This Far" has a lower score, gets the chance to go first, score a four, and is now two points ahead of "Player #I Own My Own Damn Theater And Give Classes To Professional Actors", it feels like he may have a chance, thus making it more exciting. Who knows? Maybe that rookie will win if the professional guy flubs up his scene. Automatic tension!

Let me just say that again,
It's not for the players, it's for the audience.
It's not for the players, it's for the audience.
It's not for the players, it's for the audience.

So, I would like to propose a remedy; one that I've seen work before: have players in the final round go in order of their ascending scores. That way, somebody in the very back at least has the illusion of a chance against the other players, and in the least, competition can feel more ruthless when players can be eliminated on short notice once the next player beats their score. The show ends on a high point when it all comes down to the final vote, and everyone leaves happy.

How does that sound for an idea? Also, any other suggestions for how to remedy an unwinnable final round?
Last edited by Spaztique on May 26th, 2011, 11:24 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: A brief rant on Maestro's Unwinnable Final Rounds

Postby Spots » May 23rd, 2011, 6:48 am

Spaztique wrote:How does that sound for an idea? Also, any other suggestions for how to remedy an unwinnable final round?



If the pressure of maestro is messing with your performance, take a break from it. Sure, the show's strength is the added rush that competition brings (mostly for the audience). But never forget that scoring points is counter productive to the bigger picture. Take a break and stop worrying about points.
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Postby Brad Hawkins » May 23rd, 2011, 7:46 am

From an audience perspective, this kind of makes sense. After I'd been eliminated this past Saturday, I sat and watched the final round and noted the players' scores... it occurred to me that no matter how good Chuy and Noah were, it wasn't mathematically possible for them to beat Jon, and I found this a little dissatisfying in watching their performance. There was a sense that it was all in vain.

However, as a player, I've never been able (or particularly inclined) to keep track of where my point totals sit in relation to everyone else, nor can I really read the board from the wings. Even when I'm at the board for scoring, I'm concentrating on moving my own name the right number of spaces and seldom notice where anyone else is. When they call my number for elimination it's always a surprise, and likewise when they don't.

There was one time I was in the wings, and whispered to Ruby that I hoped I'd get a five on this next scene. She replied (and I have no idea how she remembered this) that I couldn't win anyway. This did indeed take the wind out of my sails a little, which I think is what Spaz was suggesting. So my recommendation is -- ignorance is bliss. If you're like me, and the scores have an impact on your performance, then just ignore them. Think about it -- what advantage does keeping track of everyone's score, or even your own, yield?
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Postby Spots » May 23rd, 2011, 8:07 am

Brad Hawkins wrote:There was one time I was in the wings, and whispered to Ruby that I hoped I'd get a five on this next scene. She replied that I couldn't win anyway. This did indeed take the wind out of my sails a little, which I think is what Spaz was suggesting.


I'll withdraw my comment. Sensations of highs & lows are hard to avoid during competition.
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Postby shando » May 23rd, 2011, 8:50 am

I haven't played in a long time, but in a nutshell, it's not about winning.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » May 23rd, 2011, 9:04 am

on the one hand, winning doesn't matter and it's all just an illusion created for the audience anyway, so you shouldn't be letting it mess with your performance (hell, if you know there's no chance of winning, you should be willing to take more risks...personally, i love the feeling of knocking a scene out of the ball park, getting a 5 or really strong 4 and then going out the same round. the audience's shock is always weirdly satisfying, lol).

but i do agree with David somewhat, insofar as it affects shape of show. even if we can't see the scores and do the math, the audience can. so if the first player puts themselves in a blow out position where no one can catch them, it can feel a bit anticlimactic. but that's a rarity. most Maestros i've seen and been in, the final score is much closer even if someone is in the lead. and there can be something very satisfying about having the underdog go second, get a 5 and bring the upset. so i wouldn't say "NEVER" let the highest scoring person go first...but have the option of having the players go in order of their scores in your back pocket as a director if it looks like it might be a blow out for shape of show's sake.
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Postby Brad Hawkins » May 23rd, 2011, 11:53 am

I think if you let the scores affect you (which in my case extends to even knowing the score), then you can't help but affect the show.

And Shannon is right, it's not about winning; it's not even about competing. It's about the audience experience.

I've been thinking about my earlier comment (that it's less satisfying to see a great scene at the end if that scene has no chance of securing a victory for the improviser) -- you know, I don't know that it's true for most audience members. *I* was watching the scores in the last round on Saturday night, but I have no idea if any of the actual audience were... they were more likely just riveted by what Noah and Chuy were doing.

I retract what I said before, unless someone takes some kind of poll.
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Postby Chuy! » May 23rd, 2011, 12:31 pm

I try my damndest not to think about anyone else's score but my own... You can damn sure bet I was completely aware that (with the help of some great players) I was one scene away from perfect fives on Saturday (even though I think the audience did vote five on the scene that was diplomatically for shape of show given a four by our esteemed director. A great directorial decision by Justin).

For me, I don't care about winning. I care about pleasing the audience. That last scene with Noah was worth it to me for the groans that I received by being disgusting about cannibalism. They were groaning, but they were loving us and knowing that their 10 bucks was well spent. (BTW, when Noah showed his abs, it was all I could do not to show my gnarly, post-hernia surgery scar and tell them that I had taken a bite out of myself... What a groan that would've been) Sparing with a young mind like Noah's is one of the beauties of Maestro. It's the reason that I love the Lottery. An old geezer like myself likes to be challenged and in turn, the audience gets a better performance out of me.

It's about the audience, yes, but I love a Maestro where we all take a little something home...
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Postby LuBu McJohnson » May 23rd, 2011, 12:42 pm

If you are worried about winning to the point that knowing you won't win will affect your performance, you are too competitive for Maestro. Like others have said, it is less about winning and more about ensuring the audience remembers your performance and the performance of the cast.

I don't like this idea, David. Having been in a similar situation, in which Matt Pollock was going to crush us all in the final round, I just tried to get a 1 instead of a 5 in my solo scene. It was great, and a moment like that wouldn't have happened if I had gone before Matt.
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Postby kbadr » May 23rd, 2011, 12:43 pm

It is not about winning, but the show of the competition is an important one. The directors should keep that in mind and tailor the final round appropriately.

There's a fine balance to strike, though. Once in a while, a player is just so far ahead that there's nothing you can do as a director to heighten tension of the competition without making it seem like a total sham.

The other thing to consider is that, by the time the final round is being played, it's almost too late to do anything to correct or game the scores for the sake of the audience. I think the ideal move would be for the directors to keep an eye on the scores in general throughout the show and throw out some bonus points here and there to keep the playing field more even. *Shrug*
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Postby Matt » May 23rd, 2011, 12:44 pm

LuBu McJohnson wrote: I just tried to get a 1 instead of a 5 in my solo scene. It was great, and a moment like that wouldn't have happened if I had gone before


This is still one of my all-time favorite Maestro scenes - I doubt anyone in the audience remembered what I did, and that's the way it should be.

Not to mention, this kind of thing is why we ask the audience if they disagree before awarding the prize. It's happened a few times before where the audience overrules the scoreboard due to surpassing awesomeness in the final round. Those moments are amazing.
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Postby shando » May 23rd, 2011, 12:46 pm

kbadr wrote:
There's a fine balance to strike, though. Once in a while, a player is just so far ahead that there's nothing you can do as a director to heighten tension of the competition without making it seem like a total sham.


In which case the winner-take all final scenario or some kind of double points round would make sense. My guess is in the show mentioned initially by David, Asaf wasn't crushed by losing, and it kept the competition going through the end of the show.
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Postby Spaztique » May 23rd, 2011, 1:07 pm

I knew I was forgetting something when I made that post.

I'll make the necessary edits. The short-and-skinny of it is that it's for shape-of-show, not necessarily for the players.
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Postby shando » May 23rd, 2011, 1:11 pm

The shape of show thing that I see at the end of Maestro that can drive one nuts is say you have 4 people left, or 3, and some tie scores. And then people tied get put into a scene together and there can be no separation between them in the scoring. Like I said I haven't been in a while, so maybe that doesn't happen anymore, but it used to drive me bananas.
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Postby Brad Hawkins » May 23rd, 2011, 1:31 pm

shando wrote:The shape of show thing that I see at the end of Maestro that can drive one nuts is say you have 4 people left, or 3, and some tie scores. And then people tied get put into a scene together and there can be no separation between them in the scoring. Like I said I haven't been in a while, so maybe that doesn't happen anymore, but it used to drive me bananas.


Chuy and Noah's dueling-preacher scene was one of those. There seem to be fewer non-solo scenes in the final round these days.
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