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Pre-Launch Contest

The contest is over now. Results are posted here.

To celebrate The Castle Doctrine's forthcoming launch on January 29, and to mark the last week of a very successful alpha test, I figured it was time to give back to the player community. Or rather, have it taken back.

Here's how it works:

The contest will run until 5pm US PST on Monday, January 27. At that moment in time, whatever money you have in the game will be converted into real US Dollars and paid to you. Steal more, win more. Have your in-game money stolen from you, and the robber will win more.

I'm taking a fraction of The Castle Doctrine's alpha-period earnings and putting up a game-wide bounty of $3000 USD. This amount will be divided among all living players at the 5pm deadline based on the fraction of total game money that each player possesses. The exchange rate will fluctuate throughout the contest period, according to how much total money accumulates in the game. The current exchange rate is:

$1143 in game = $1 USD

At the end of the contest:
If your cash + tools are worth:You will win:
$2000$1 USD
$10000$8 USD
$50000$43 USD
$100000$87 USD

But wait! There's more! The very best players can also...


In addition to the cash prize divided among all players, the top eight houses in the game at the contest deadline will also win two fabulous prizes each.

Real Paintings

Each of the top eight players will have their favorite, in-game painting transformed into a gorgeous 20x20 inch giclee-printed canvas. Vibrant colors, archival pigments, the whole nine yards. To enlarge these tiny 32x32 pixel paintings, each pixel will be an enormous 5/8 inch square on the canvas.

(A sample of giclee pixel art on canvas.)

But there's a catch: to win a given painting, you must have that painting in your possession at the contest deadline. If you have your favorite painting stolen, you're out of luck.

Real Security Stuff

In addition to a painting, the top eight players will also receive these security prizes.

First Prize: Jason Rohrer's Dog Club
Own the club that started it all. A heartwarming souvenir from Las Cruces, New Mexico. (Note: was never actually used to club a dog.) Way safer than a gun! Much harder to commit suicide with. More compact than a golf club, which was actually the anti-dog tool of choice in Cruces.


A little rusty at the tip from being carried around on a bike. Think of it as patina, not rust. 26 inches extended. 10 inches folded up. Weighs over one pound. Cannot be shipped to CA, NY, DC, MA, or out of the US. Cannot be shipped to anyone under 18 years of age. Since it's not legal in CA (goodbye NM!), it is being held for us outside CA for shipping.

Second - Fifth Prizes: A Door Devil
Sick of having your front door kicked in at three in the afternoon? Our 85-year-old neighbor in Las Cruces was. Maybe she should have installed one of these. Worried that the feds aren't going to give you enough warning when they barge in? If you're worried about that, you're probably the kind of person the feds are actually watching! In any case, it's amazing what a few strips of metal and some long screws can do:

You can also watch this video to see some big guys really hammer on one of these. The folks at Door Devil were kind enough to give us four kits to hand out as prizes for the second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-place players. Did I mention that it comes with a free yard sign?

Sixth - Eighth Prizes: Custom Cartridge Shopping Spree
Ready to take life into your own hands? Why not do it in style, the New Mexico way, at Las Cruces' very own Custom Cartridge Company?

Go on a shopping spree at the only place where I ever touched a handgun. Don't try anything funny, though, because all the guys who work at the store are packing. Finish the contest in sixth, seventh, or eighth place to get a $50 gift certificate. (Note: $50 is not enough to actually buy a gun.)

Questions and Answers

How will you fairly determine who won at 5pm? Won't there be chaos?

At 5pm, I will take a snapshot of the server database to "freeze" the state of the game world safely for study offline. I will then study that game world to determine who is living, and how much money they have, including their tool resale value, and also who the top 8 players are. Note that only players who have edited their current house at least once, and put their house on the public list, will be considered for prize money. Your private starter home, with its untouched $2000, won't get you a prize.

How will you determine the top eight players?

The top eight players will be determined by estimated house value as it appears on the public house list. This is determined both by cash held and the resale value of all tools held. Essentially, if your house is on the first page of the house list, you are in the top eight.

How will you pay us?

All payments will be made using PayPal. Their MassPay feature will let me export the payment list and automatically pay everyone with one click. I'm assuming that each person registered for the game with an email address that can receive PayPal payments. If this is not the case for you, you may want to add your game email to your PayPal account (one PayPal account can have multiple email addresses associated with it). If this is impossible for some reason, please get in touch with me by email to have your game email address changed on my server.

Is there a minimum payment?

I will send a PayPal payment to each player whose in-game house value converts to at least $1 USD at the end of the contest. Anyone who has less than $1 USD equivalent will not be paid. Also, keep in mind that, depending on your PayPal account (business or personal), PayPal's fees may chew up quite a bit of the smaller payments that I send.

When will you pay us?

I plan to have all payments sent out within a week after the contest ends. Remember, this is my launch week, and I have a ton of other stuff to do, but I will do my best.

When will prizes for the top eight players be shipped?

Having the paintings made will take a bit of time. I hope to have all of the prizes shipped out within a month after the contest ends.

Won't splitting the money based on a player's fraction of the total money encourage rich players to take out poor players?

No, I've accounted for this.

If the prizes were based on the fraction of total money at the deadline, then yes, rich players could "burn" some of their own money to knock out lower players, thereby increasing their share of the reduced deadline total, even though they would have less in-game money themselves as a result. Worst case, the richest player could knock everyone else out and have only $1 left, but claim the entire $3000 prize.

To prevent this, the exchange rate is based on the highest game-wide total ever seen over the course of the contest. Thus, the exchange rate only goes UP over the course of the contest. This encourages players to acquire more money individually, because they are each facing the same exchange rate, and penalizes them for "burning money" to knock other players out. Suppose the total at some point was $1,000,0000. The exchange rate would be $333 game dollars per USD. Suppose the richest player has $100,000, which would be worth a 300 USD prize, with 2700 USD going to other players. Now suppose that rich player burns $90K to knock every other player out of the game. The exchange rate remains the same, which means that lone player's remaining $10,000 would only be worth a 30 USD prize.

Wait, so does that mean that you might not pay out the entire $3000 USD bounty?

Correct. It depends on the collective behavior of the player community during the contest. If one player becomes hugely wealthy mid-game and then dies before the end, the exchange rate will be inflated by that player and then not come back down. In the above example, I'd be keeping $2970. It's kind of like a game. How much will I pay, in the end?

What about "punished by rewards"? Aren't you afraid that people will play this game just because of the prizes, instead of playing just for the sake of playing?

I'm a little bit worried about that. But the prize structure here matches the spirit of the game's community pretty well, so I'm hoping that players will see it simply as another really cool thing that happened in the world of The Castle Doctrine. The cash prizes aren't fixed, and they are uncertain, so it's not like someone can bank on them and then be terribly discouraged by not getting a huge payout. The physical prizes are mostly just amusing souvenirs from the game's mental space. Well, except for the paintings --- those are pretty darn cool! (I'm actually going to make nine and keep one.) But they are so tied into the game that they are only meaningful to people who are really into the game already.

Also, no one knows about your game. My budget is small, and running this kind of contest is way cheaper and more interesting than advertising. It matches the spirit of the game and doesn't bother people who are not already interested in the game.

Isn't it unethical to give away a weapon as a prize? How will you sleep at night if it falls into the wrong hands?

The club that I'm giving away can be easily purchased in 47 states across the country without a license. If someone really wants to get one of these, they can easily do so. Besides, in the wrong hands, baseball bats and hammers are far more deadly.

You want me to travel all the way to New Mexico to spend a $50 gift certificate? What's the deal?

The certificate will have the Custom Cartridge Company's logo on it and be an interesting artifact in its own right. I mean, it's a gift certificate to a gun shop. Besides, there are many beautiful sights in New Mexico, so you will likely visit there someday. Keep your gift certificate in a safe place until that day comes.

What will you do if one of the top eight players can't accept their prize for legal reasons?

I'll try to find another winning player for them to swap prizes with. There are only eight people, and I'm sure we can work it out together.

What if one of the top eight players has no painting in their possession when the contest ends?

I'll move further down the list of top players until I find one who has a painting.

Where are the pages of fine print written by the lawyers? Where are the official rules?

The official rules are this page. When there is some doubt about the nuances of those rules, I'll make a decision according to my best judgment. This is clearly a contest of skill, not a lottery, which makes it legal pretty much everywhere. If it's not legal in your state or country, you have my sympathy.