Last month, we ran the 10th iteration of Rumble in the Prairie, DDRIllini’s yearly tournament. This was my third (and likely last) spring tournament, so I’d like to recap about how it’s grown and talk about the wonderful people who help make it happen.

(This is pretty long; links to different sections if you only care about some of it)

'pattern-ref'

Our whiteboard, shortly after I first arrived, as penned by Tana. Apparently it's internationally famous.

Recap

My first tournament was RIP8, as a freshman. I had just joined the club, barely able to pass 12s or talk to any of the people at the event. I made the mistake of eating Black Dog (incredibly heavy barbecue) right before failing the (relatively easy!) qualifier. I spent most of the tournament hanging out with (since-graduated) Will and Sam, but ended up completely socially drained, collapsing into bed when I got back to the dorms. I had fun, nonetheless, seeing how vibrant the community surrounding the game was, and meeting so many cool people.

The treasurer position opened up and we had “elections” (unopposed) via Facebook poll. I submit money paperwork for the first time, and helped run the next fall tournament. Harris ran an SRT (which went fine despite his belief that it didn’t!), but that’s about all I remember — it’s all kind of a blur at this point.


'rip9'

Do not touch this image. It contains great power.

RIP9 swung around, and I felt more confident helping out and taking an active role in planning things ahead of time. I’ve recapped it some before here. This was the first time we ran SM5. Initially, not everything on the PC was configured correctly (missing sound device in Stepmania.ini iirc) but Dan, Devin, Tyler, and David (y’know, a collection of the devs who literally wrote parts of the userspace software, the kernel driver, theme, and syncing standard for the game) all jumped right on the computer and figured out the problem within half an hour.

I spent the entire week leading up to it preparing — setting up the SM5 PC (which sped up matches tremendously) printing custom wristbands and stickers with Ben, asking him, Will, and Matt to make a Snapchat filter, asking Brandon to design a marquee, setting up forms for signups and better tracking of participants, making a website to centralize information, setting up a stream, exporting videos, and running matches. We barely finished on time, but we ran matches fiercely and somehow managed. I did a LOT of things myself where I should’ve asked for help, and consequently slept through most of Monday and a good part of Tuesday. I remember sitting in my bedroom at 4am on Monday, reading a couple of the shoutouts posts, and feeling incredibly proud and content.

And holy shit, how could I forget: this was the year that I made it into the NYT and Ryan’s chiptune notepad All Star chart got Jim and Ryan onto Kotaku (plus Harris, who’s “making an L on his forehead”). Marty, the guy who ran the first RIP, came back and was floored at how large the event had grown since he’d been there last. I really enjoyed asking him about how the event started, and I felt honored that he came back.

We got a lot of feedback that the Rec Room was cramped, so we tried alleviating that with outside setups at the next tournament. I think it helped.


'uksrt'

Over the summer, I went to UKSRT9. I’d never been to London before, and it was fun hearing my English slowly get more British. I really enjoyed getting to know people from UKSRT backroom (even if that meant staying with a bunch of them in a cramped apartment for a week). I met a lot of EU dance game players! And invited a few to come to RIP (one actually did!!!!! wow!!! thank you Kate!!!)

The actual UKSRT event was relatively short, but stomping around London and Camden Town was a real treat. This was the first dance game event I’d been to where there’d been downtime. Since running tournaments is all-consuming, it was incredibly refreshing to be able to actually hang out with everyone.


With that under our belt, we ran the next fall tournament, RIP9.5. I made an effort to relax and take things easy, and so we casually tested some new tournament formats that were better suited to our time constraints and the number of people we have attend. I set up OpenITG on our Linux install, which again saved us time by enabling us to not rely on the ancient stock ITG computer for couples.

Favorite moment: “Twitch Plays: Exit Vim” in which Ash watched Ken try to use vim for a last-minute theme hack.

I tried really hard over the course of the semester to encourage our new underclassmen to come to the event, and quite a few of them did! Particularly in the spring.


'ups3'

Ben and I went to UPS3, which ended up being more of an adventure than we had planned. He took an Amtrak, which was inevitably late and left him stranded in Pittsburgh alone for a couple of hours.

Tyler kindly hosted us and chauffeured us around the whole weekend, and I was really grateful for the opportunity to meet East Coast players and Penn State students. I don’t remember the name of the (overpriced! Chambana bars are way cheaper) bar we went to, but the drinks were really tasty and it was an awesome experience drinking with everyone (Ben and I had turned 21 fairly recently).


The Process

or, everything that we do to make this event happen. (This is partly a roadmap for our underclassmen).

  • Always
    • Promote, promote, promote. Every dance game event I go to, every cab I find myself at, I’m inviting people to come.
    • Update the website.
  • The week after the previous tournament
    • Confirm next SRT with the creators.
  • Late December
    • Confirm availability with hardware suppliers, David Nelson and Ben Thompson.
    • Check dates with Donna Wargo, the Rec Room manager.
    • Create the Facebook page.
    • Make a date poll with possible dates on the event page.
    • Announce a date. Usually a weekend of spring or fall break.
    • Ask Brandon to make a logo, the marquee, and shirts.
    • Begin work on the singles pack.
    • Release singles rules.
    • Record all SORF (student funding) deadlines so that we don’t miss them (which would mean a more expensive tournament).
    • Think about other hardware we want and plan when to SORF it over the course of the semester.
  • Late January INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT
    • Calculate the total number of hours of machine rental. Tell Donna, and submit a SORF request for that amount, which will be partially refunded (more details in “How2SORF in the DDRIllini Drive folder”)
  • February (a month out)
    • Release the singles pack.
    • Release signups form.
    • Release schedule.
    • Check on SRT progress, and get the creators help if they need it. Better now than the week before the tournament.
    • Check with Brandon about the marquee (in the future, this should be handled by current students, by using the print shop)
  • A week out
    • Release the qualifiers.
    • Do PC setup for stream gear/warmups.
    • Nag people to preregister/send money.
  • The few days before
    • Make stickers and posters.
    • Estimate runtime based on tournament entry numbers and adapt format as necessary to meet time constraints.
  • The days of
    • Continually scream internally. Periodically scream externally.

'rip9'

RIP10

The big one. This was it. The 10 (technically 9 b/c fencepost error) year anniversary of Rumble in the Prairie. Everything we’d learned so far, applied to the biggest tournament yet.

Everything went smoothly. I can’t complain in the slightest.

Well, I can.

But they’re less complaints so much as “things that could’ve gone better”, that I feel personally responsible for, and wish I had been mature enough to handle better.

  • Singles upper (esp. round robin) ran way too long. We had runners for fetching people for matches, and I never checked with Matt to make sure that they were doing their jobs / things were running smoothly. I regret not having done so.
  • The pack was incredibly large and very hard, and received some criticism. A lot of effort went into its creation, and I verbally spat in Kyle’s face when he walked in, telling him that it sucked before even saying hi. I acted immaturely. The pack ended up working fine, and I had enjoyable matches regardless, so I especially regret my initial response to it.
  • I accidentally marked SRT as starting an hour early on the schedule, which caused Sami undue stress (i’m sorrrry)
  • None of our loaner pads were well-suited for doubles. David’s are too flat for most people, and Ben’s are lacking inner sensors. There’s really… not much we can do here, but I feel bad that those who come for the doubles tournament especially have to deal with subpar pads. (sorry, Tom).

Here’s all the cool new stuff we did this year, though!

  • New HD cap card meant that we had better quality stream on both cabs.
  • Posters! RIP10 stickers! Marquee! (thank you for help, Frums)
  • Custom RIP10 theme! Lightly edited by me and then bugfixed by Andrew. God Bless Andrew.
  • Singles: Upper, Mid, and Lower brackets enabled us to run Swiss, have far closer/more interesting matches, and finish Singles faster, especially considering our record number of entrants.
  • Warmup setups outside the Rec Room, combined with runners, enabled us to run singles matches more efficiently and encourage people to hang out outside the Rec Room.
  • We negotiated weekend locker rentals, which helped declutter the Rec Room.
  • I commissioned Emu, the person who makes MAX300 shirts to make a MATT300 shirt for Matt, and my best friend Kris to make a Jeff It Up shirt for Jeff (which is still in the mail, ugh).

Numbers

I do not have data on RIP8, as I was not involved in running it. I do have data on the fall tournaments, but I don’t care about them as much. (styling on my blog doesn’t have nice table formatting, ugh. oh well.)

RIP9 saw: RIP10 saw:
- 91 recorded attendees - 112 recorded attendees
- 546 twitch views - 1421 twitch views
- 36 singles entrants - 52 singles entrants
- 21 doubles entrants - 25 doubles entrants
- 40 srt entrants - 42 srt entrants
- 36 couples entrants - 36 couples entrants
  - 29 pump entrants


So. Yeah. Around 20% growth.

Wow.

It’s possible that I was very liberal with counting this year (if you were near the Rec Room, and somehow affiliated with dance games, I counted you), but, we totally cleared 100 people. Incredible.

Our cash outflow for the tournament came in at around $2500. A lot of that came in as SORF funding or entry fees, but that is a staggering amount of money regardless.


Shoutouts

in alphabetical order

THANK YOU:

  • DDRIllini Underclassmen
    • Alexa Barnes - for cleaning out the locker
    • Andrew Rivera - for making sure Marcos doesn’t overwork himself
    • Ayla Ak - for endless food from Sbarro
    • Andrew Park - more on him later
    • Carter Quinlan - not even a FRESHMAN yet and he’s already helping run a tournament, plus webcam, plus exporting stream videos
    • Daniel Morales-Salazar - for cheerfully getting better
    • Kiah Johnson - for hanging around and checking things out
    • Liz Rose - for hanging around and checking things out
    • Matthew Mytnik - for hanging around and checking things out
    • Peter Zukerman - for reg table, and running singles
    • Sangyeol Baek - for theme modifications
    • Tiara Beard - for hanging around and checking things out
    • Troy Ingram - for running singles, the stream layout, fetching sharpies, and exporting stream videos, and being focused and centered
    • Vlad Montchik - for reg table and listening to me kvetch
  • DDRIllini Upperclassmen
    • Aaron Wang - for running pump
    • Alex Goodlad - for continually hanging out and being awesome to talk to
    • Andres Silva - for being Party Dad and making us all food
    • Ben Tung (Benpai) - for being a great roommate and tolerating ten people on the floor of our apartment
    • Daniel Olivas - for supplying IIDX and good memes
    • Mary Jablowicz - for still working her ass off while sick, but knowing her limits and taking the time to rest
    • Marcos Garcia - for being my ECS partner w/ Ben (haha we need to do that)
    • Oscar Wong - for the poster design and consequently stream layout
    • Shotaro Ikeda - for hacking together card draw stuff at last minute and running pump
  • Donna Wargo (Rec Room Manager)
    • For negotiating and setting up weekend locker rental
    • For being a big part of why this event ever happened in the first place
    • For being a constant source of wisdom and advice
  • Doubles & Couples
    • Ryan Uchima - for hauling incredible ass running two tournaments
  • Hardware Suppliers - thank you for making this event possible
    • Ben Thompson and David McNeil, bringing pads
    • Chad Cary - for an excellent webcam and mic, as well as being generally awesomely helpful
    • David Nelson - for emergen-c vodka (and mountains of other help: group photo, pads, PC, software help, stream layout, stream gear, tools…)
    • Ryan Konkul - for bringing Pump hardware
  • Purdue Squad - for constantly running back to my apartment, and drawing the placeholder Jeff It Up shirt
    • Christina Garman - for picking up a sick Mary
    • Kristian Baluyot (StoryTime)
    • Max Li (Tybol)
    • Tom Yurek - for graduating from Purdue and making the right choice for grad school
    • Will Mandrola (Redzone)
  • Singles - thank you all for making the pack
    • Alex Scepansky
    • Ben Tung
    • Derek Vogan
    • Kyle Dobay
    • Matt LaGreca
  • SRT Crew - thank you for hauling ass on the SRT
    • Alan James (TaroNuke)
    • Chris Lim (Daikyi)
    • halcyoniix
    • Oliver Wing (Telperion)
    • Puuro
    • Sami Dowdle (CosmicLaer)
    • Sébastien Loubert (Ky_Dash)
  • Senpais
    • Aswin Sivaraman - for being cheery and helpful, all the time
    • Brandon Sudzius - marquee, shirts, running singles, it goes on forever….
    • Harris Kalat - for solving Problems on his own
    • Jeff Luan (jeff! jeff! jeff!) - for running pump, and making Prime @ UIUC a reality
    • Kasey Zhong - for being a constant source of wisdom and handling problems swiftly
    • Ken Gilmore - for helping with Pump even though he didn’t want to
    • Matt LaGreca - for designing and running singles
    • Tucker Campbell - for being a source of warmth and positivity
  • Special Thanks
    • Alex Campling (Prolix) - for helping with stream and outside setup
    • Ash Garcia (Fraxtil) - for helping me roll a card draw program in Python, and collecting couples team names
    • Dan Guzek - for being patient with me with Simply Love and fixing the sound device issue on the warmups setup
    • Devin Pohly - for rolling a card draw program in bash
    • Ellen Smith - for being the coolest mom to talk to ever and having the coolest kid ever
    • Jeremy Jarczyk - for running warmups and being a general delight to be around
    • Josh Watkins - for helping during SRT and being a source of calm
    • Penn State Crew - for making the drive out again, and hosting me and Ben while we were there!
    • Richard Black - for collecting doubles picks
    • Steph Dannenberg - for hanging out with us so often around the tournament
    • Tim Campbell - honestly I forget but I am confident you helped out
    • Trevor Whitehurst - for being awesomely helpful in countless ways
    • Tyler Frederick - for running warmups and being incredibly helpful in so many ways, again
    • Steven LaRue - for buying $69 of donuts for everyone
  • Extremely Special Thanks
    • Andrew Park - for assistance making the warmups PC, fixing theme bugs, maintaining the UIUC cab, doing things I want to do before I even think about doing them, an incredible last-minute black screen ratemod bugfix (which we ended up not using until afterwards because I scp‘d the wrong folder like a fool (i’m sorry)), and encouraging me to not be nocturnal
    • Finn Todd (Frums) - for writing the final SRT song, for helping me make stickers, for fixing the audio levels on Gate, for helping me with Hexels, for the mods logo, for helping run warmups, and for generally being a phenomenal and helpful person all around all the time

That’s exactly 69 (nice) people involved in the smooth operation of this tournament. We literally could not do it without your help.

Thank you so much.


So, what’s next?

Well, it looks like Matt, Jeff, and I are all graduating before the next (spring) RIP, so we won’t be around to run the thing from the student side. Mary and Ben will still be around, so they’ll take over.

I’ve gotten a lot out of playing dance games. I lost 15 pounds (~6.9kg, 1 stone) as a freshman and now have the necessary baseline stamina to do any kind of running or physical activity. I’ve learned a lot about logistics, and how to coordinate a large group of people (but honestly, most everyone handles themselves, RIP practically runs itself). I’ve learned countless amounts about Stepmania and awful C++ codebases, and plenty about dance game hardware. I’ve made so many good friends, and found a home of incredibly inspiring, fiercely creative, multitalented people.

I realized that I can graduate early if everything goes smoothly (which might not, you never know), so there’s a chance I’ll be in Japan (gonna visit Naohiro!) during RIP11 for an exchange. I’m excited! I’ll probably move to Seattle afterwards as well. So…. if you’re there… I’ll be looking for a cab to play on regularly…. (hint hint)

We’ve identified a couple of Audacious Underclassmen to who(m? (m’std’ve)) we’ll probably pass the torch. They were incredibly helpful this time around, and I’m sure they’ll rise to the challenge of running RIP themselves. I’m passing on the role of treasurer at the end of this semester, and I’m going to be entirely hands-off during my last semester — the underclassmen will have to sink or swim. But, I believe in them. I hope you all do too.

Thanks to Andrew, Ben, and Cass for proofreading.