(This is kinda responding to all 3 threads and the comments I've received so far)
At the moment we do kind of have a first and 2nd place prize in the Normal and Newbie category. We cant really afford 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for both categories, except maybe just to mention them as "honorable mentions". Which is lame.
I could, however, see doing away with categories and then doing more of a traditional 1st, 2nd, and 3rd lineup.
As for the themes, i personally think they are pretty varied. Being a game artist myself, I'd LOVE to just make them all game art contests, haha.
But i realize not everyone does that kind of stuff. But perhaps they are too varied? Maybe I need to stick with modeling/texturing challenges for the most part with maybe an animation or something else thrown in now and then rather than trying to do something different every time?
Perhaps the challenges are too long? The reason why some of the themes are a bit more challenging (the transformer, for example) is that you have two whole months to do it. Maybe 1 month challenges with simpler themes, (but, as a consequence, with smaller prizes) would work?
One of the reasons we went to a cash grand prize as opposed to hardware and such is that due to the international, world-wide nature of those who enter these challenges, we've had difficulty actually getting the prizes to some people in the past due to their being in some rather hard to reach places. Money however can be transferred fairly simply. And then the winners can of course spend it as they wish.
One possibility might be a prize offered but with the warning that depending on the availibility of the prize to the region of the winner's location, a money substitute may be sent instead? Of course, some folks would be upset I'm sure if they enter for a cool video card only to find they get the money instead... although they could then go use that money for the card, but I digress.
I agree that a bit more noticeability on the site could be cool.