The Puzzle Competition feature added during the last release enables Pirates to participate in OM-organized competitions from anywhere on an Ocean. Prizes are awarded either to the top performers during the competition or on a tiered basis, with prizes going to the best scores in each puzzle performance tier.
Unsurprisingly, there was much discussion internally on the best way to award prizes for the Puzzle Competition. In fact, the discussion continues: we may find ourselves adding additional variants to create more interesting (or fair) competitions in the future.
In the meantime, it seemed worthwhile clarifying a couple of the design reasons for going with the two variants we deployed at launch:
Our first assumption was that separate competitions for Pirates with different levels of ability would be challenging to implement without extraordinary complexity. We believe that Pirates will always want prizes and will apply their piratey talents to getting them, no matter how modest a particular prize might be (it's a prize after all!).
It's not hard to see how setting up a competition for those with less puzzling ability would create a tempting target for a talented Pirate that believes he's unlikely to win in an event with competitive adversaries. The steps required to prevent this did not, at first blush, seem appealing given the work and limitations on game play that it would require.
Our second assumption was that the new feature would allow many more competitions to be held. Regular participation in frequent events should mean that Pirates are assessing their likelihood of winning across many competitions. They will be looking at the trend in their performance rather than how they do in a single event. Our hope is that the tiered option will, over time, provide an opportunity for more Pirates to win prizes commensurate with their puzzling abilities.
This same logic also applies to Pirates that frequently score "incredible" while puzzling. Unless it turns out that the same Pirate wins every event we hold (something that will surely involve a serious rethink!), we hope that the tiered approach will encourage healthy competition from event to event among the group of Pirates that normally score well. It will become a matter of how many events are won rather than who wins a specific competition.
There will, of course, be some instances where the prizes on offer in a competition are particularly valuable, making for a special event. As has been pointed out on the forums, it would be unfair to award a substantial prize in a puzzling competition to someone other than the best Puzzler. As a rule, we plan to award bigger prizes like this using the "top performer" competition configuration.
Ultimately, we hope that the Puzzle Competition feature increase participation in OM-run events. They provide a fun opportunity to socialize and interact with other Pirates. But, as always, we're always on the lookout for improvements!