I have entered Dare before myself in the past and the whole early preparation issue seemed to be a bit of a Grey area even among judges, as I got varying opinions.
The general feeling I got after entering was that you could prepare your game before the ten weeks of the competition as much as you liked but you didn’t really get to use that material in the presentation anyway so it didn’t or wasn’t meant to handicap people at that stage, except maybe for still screens of your models illustrating gameplay. It would and does still bias here in my opinion though.
I was informed that when the ten weeks of the actual competition started the mentors or judges made a note of how far along you were at that stage and judged you relative to that point at the end of the ten weeks.
Personally I think the nature of Dare means you have to leave the regulations loose and not overly defined as some people use engines, some don’t, some people use open source art assets, some don’t etcetera etcetera. But I believe Dare should state upfront on the entry form what the regulations are, loose or defined that they may be, as it at least points out the importance of the issue.
I know back when I was entering the vague nature of the issue made me leave out renders that would of helped me as I didn’t want to advertise the amount of work we had done already for fear of scuppering ourselves. If I was doing it again now I would use as much as possible without showing an actual playable game, such as 3d renders or even early game stills.
I also vaguely remember there being an issue whereby one area of judging got double points almost, though this wasn’t pointed out clearly enough beforehand.