Monday, March 8, 2021

Complete rules for the marching band game


Our marching band game is back! Just for fun, we invite you to put the bands in order based on what you think their score will be at the festival at Illinois State University on Oct 11. The winner will be the person who picks the closest final ranking for all 40 bands.

Privacy Policy

When you play the game, we ask you for the following pieces of information:

  1. A screen name, which will be your login. This name is for your own purposes, between you and our system. We don’t display this name publicly in most cases.
  2. A password, which is NOT secure. Don’t use a password that you use on any other system, because we don’t encrypt it in any way.
  3. A public name, which we will display on leader boards and occasional data dumps. Don’t use your email address (or even your real name) for the public name.

We do not collect your IP address specifically for the game, although this information can be found within our server’s log files, which are protected by password and never made available to anyone outside our organization.

If you check the box that says “Stay Logged In” on the bottom of the log in/sign up screen, we will put a cookie on your computer, which is accessible only by us. It will expire after 31 days. The information contained within the cookie is your unique user ID number on our system. This is a number between 1040 and 9770 and is based on the sequence in which you first created a game account on our server.

We may display your public name along with your final score in the game at the end of the game or during the game on a leader board. Please note: As stated on our log in/sign up screen, if you do not supply a public name when you initially create your account, we will use your screen name as your public name.

If at any time you would like to change your screen name, public name, or password, please contact me by email at I’ll be glad to accommodate any such request immediately. I’ll need to know your old screen name and the password you used. If you would prefer to change your personal information by phone, our number is (630) 863-5871. You’re probably going to have to leave a message, since I can’t answer my phone while I’m working at my real job.

If you forget your password, either email me or call me, and I’ll send you a reminder. Because of spam and robot attacks, we don’t allow automated retrieval of passwords.

We will never provide your information to third parties, but as noted, your public name and score in the game may be displayed on our website, which is not protected by password.

After the game ends and the final winner list is posted on these pages, the database will be purged of all records. The expected date for the purge is Nov 1. However, if at any time before that, you would like us to remove your information, please give me a call or email me.

The winning formula

All scoring decisions are based on each band’s total score during preliminary competition. The finals competition is separately scored and does not figure into our calculation of the game winner.

Points in the game are based on the idea that picking the first-place band is more important than picking the 40th-place band. That also means if you miss only the top two bands and someone else misses only the bottom two bands, the other person would beat you in our game.

Let’s imagine a field of 40 bands, which is what it is this year. Based on each band’s placement in terms of total preliminary order, we will compute your score as a sum:

\sum\limits_{i=1}^{40} (41-i) |j-i|

where i = the actual place of the band and j = the place you put the band in. If you put every band in the correct order, your score will be 0, since the quantity |j–i| will be zero for every term in the sum. The lowest score wins the game.

To play the game

You can practice as much as you would like, and a login is required in order to save your choices. After you log in, the game pieces, or band names, will be displayed in the order in which you last saved them.

To move a band to the top of the finishing order, hit the “TOP” button to the right of the band’s name. To most a band just one up or one down, hit the arrow key.

Hint: If you know the order you want the bands in, start at the bottom, and move each band sequentially using the “TOP” button for the band. When you’re done, the bands will be in the order you wanted.

Make sure you click the “Save” button at the left to save your game. You can save your game as often as you like and come back to it later. As long as you get your final changes in before the festival starts, it’ll count.

Example score computation

For our example, we’re going to use a field of only five bands, just so our explanation doesn’t get unruly. This means the 41 in the formula will change to 6 and the upper limit on the sum will be 5.

Let’s say the actual finishing order of these five bands and my prediction for the finishing order are shown below:

  1. Band A (actual), Band A (my prediction)
  2. Band B (actual), Band C (my prediction)
  3. Band C (actual), Band E (my prediction)
  4. Band D (actual), Band B (my prediction)
  5. Band E (actual), Band D (my prediction)

The summation comes out to (5)(1-1) + (4)(4-2) + (3)(3-2) + (2)(5-4) + (1)(5-3) = 0 + 8 + 3 + 2 + 2 = 15. Note: instead of writing the absolute value every time, I just switched the order of the subtrahend and minuend in order to get a positive difference for every term.

Note: We’re also going to produce a winner in each of the six classes. That is, we’ll look at the bands in 1A only, computing a score for how you placed those bands. If you placed the 1A bands better than anyone else, you’ll be the winner for Class 1A. And so on.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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