Welcome to the iStock Steel Cage. Inside these confines artists from around the world dazzle audiences and stagger opponents with their creativity, Photoshop skills, and bloody-minded determination. Players create new worlds, twist each-other's designs, and generally bash pixels into submission until one contender walks out victorious.
Here's everything you need to know to rise to triumph in the Steel Cage.
If you can post in the forums, you can get into the Steel Cage. You just have to make yourself available:
Click 'My Account' in your bottom toolbar and choose 'Preferences.'
Check the 'Participate in the Steel Cage' box at the bottom of the 'Site Settings' tab. You are now open for business.
Down at the bottom of the main Steel Cage forum is a big button that says 'Create a New Battle'. Click it.
A new window will open up. Enter someone's member name in the search field or choose a name from your list of friends underneath. Anyone eligible will have a Start Battle link next to their name. Click this.
Your challenge will be sent in a Site Mail that says "I challenge you to a Steel Cage match!" Feel free to elaborate if you want.
When you click Send, two things happen. Your message is sent. Also, a new thread starts in the Steel Cage forum: your name vs. their name. Your match has started and the clock is now running. You are the Contender and they are the Opponent.
The Opponent has 48 hours to respond to the initial challenge. Once they accept, it is up to them to decide who starts with the opening volley. As soon as they make their decision the clock is on.
Each Battle consists of 5 volleys from each player — 10 total.
Each player is allowed 3 days (72 hours) to submit their volley. The Cage Clock keeps track of how much time remains for each volley. If the 72 hours elapses without a volley being posted, the person who missed is disqualified, the match is over, and the other player gets the victory.
Once the final blow is posted the battle is sent to the Battle Elder Council for judgement. The player with the highest total score wins. They get an iStock Credit reward, a tick on the Leader Board, and a Victory Mask beside their avatar. As you rack up victories you will get new Masks. The loser is marked with a Blood Drop. People sporting these tend to be hungry to get back into the Cage so keep an eye out for them.
Each entry is called a volley, (or sometimes a blow, as in "She struck him an earth-shattering blow that sure did shatter his earth.") Each volley must meet the following requirements:
Your blow is actually 2 different files:
• An 800 x 600 .psd file. The .psd must be under 20MB.
• A 350 x 263 .jpg thumbnail
Every volley except the first must contain some recognizable visual elements from the the one before it. The Steel Cage is all about taking what your opponent has done and reworking it, both by manipulating the previous elements and introducing new ones. Elements can be moved around and reworked at your discretion, but they must be recognizable.
A volley that has no visible carry-over is called a wipe. The judges give low, low scores for wipes.
Your .psd must contain fully editable layers. Flattened files are not cool and may earn you a flag. Generally you should keep as many of the original layers as possible and only merge down where necessary to fit under the 20MB file size.
Your volley can be made up of any imagery that you own the rights to use. In practical terms this means photographs and illustrations of your own, and royalty-free imagery you've licensed. So yes, you can use any image or illustration from iStock in your Cage work.
Each match is judged by three members of the Battle Elder Council, with each one submitting a score out of 10 for each of the volleys. They evaluate the matches independently of each other although they may consult with each other regarding flags.
Scores are at the sole discretion of each judge. There is no set scorecard. In general though, this is what they're looking at:
Isolations, blending, use of effects — your Photoshop chops. How difficult was the design you attempted, and how well did you pull it off?
Composition & Design
How does it look? How did you use the 800x600 field? What does it do for the viewer's eye?
Originality & Creativity
The Battle Elder Council are a jaded, difficult to please bunch. Over the years they've seen thousands of different entries. How does yours stand out? What new ideas do you have that we haven't seen in the Cage before?
Use of Elements
You must keep some carry-over from your opponents previous volley. What you do with those elements will likely be what makes you stand out. It's up to you to turn the tables and recombine the elements into something completely new, or grab the narrative reins and continue the story your opponent started. Either approach is valid but how you pull it off is key.
All judgements are final. Complaining won't get you anywhere.
We reward Steel Cage winners with iStock credits. Which is handy because once your balance is restocked you can dive right back in.
If a player feels a foul has been committed they can throw a flag. The Battle Elder Council will look into it and if they agree, they will throw a second flag to end the match.
One flag — warning:
Two flags — disqaulification:
Common reasons for flags:
You cannot use any trademarked or copyright material in your work. So no logos and no recognizable designs. The iStock Technical Wiki is a good resource on what is and isn't copyright.
We tend to flag volleys that contain iStock images with the watermarks still on them — take a plunge and actually download the image. We're particularly vehement with the flags if we see competitor's watermarks for reasons that should be apparent.
All volleys must contain several editable layers. Sending your opponent a flattened psd with one layer is no good and your opponent is within their rights to throw a flag at you over it. Masochists may agree ahead of time that flattened psds are okay because the Cage just isn't hard enough as it is — that's between the two of you.
Over-the-line Trash Talk
We encourage people to run their mouths off in the match thread. It has to be in the spirit of fun though. Don't go over the line disparaging your opponents work, and don't make it personal. The BEC reads everything and has been known to throw flags when the trash-talk turns into mud-slinging.
There are a whole hell of a lot of Icons different icons involved with the Steel Cage. See the whole list and what they all mean here.
Players with a past win in the Cage are able to download up to 5 free small iStock images per round. These free downloads are only available while you are engaged in a battle and while it is your turn.
Those are the rules. You are primed to dive in and start swinging. If you need more prep work, we've written a manual.