Probably shutting down…

I’m probably going to be closing this site soon… so there’s that. Of course nobody seems to visit here anymore, so I’m not really sure who’s going to read this. I truly cherish some of the friendships and interactions I’ve had through this site. And if you’ve just been a lurker on this site but never participated on the forums or comments section, then I truly appreciate your time over the years. It’s been a long journey, but I think it’s finally time for it to come to an end. Feel free to friend me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter. Just send me a message that you’re from the site, so I don’t think you’re some random person.

Altador.com will live on in our hearts and in our minds, just not in a tangible format.

Alex

Examining the Altador Cup’s Problems

Hey Altador.com, it’s that time of year again… I’m Neon, and I’m back for the first time since last year to share my thoughts about the state of the AC. More specifically I’m addressing some of the Cup’s major issues and offering some suggestions on its improvement. I may update this article slightly as time passes, but this covers pretty much everything. This is lifted straight from one of my petpages, and addressed “to TNT,” but hopefully everything stays clear and formatted. Thanks for reading!

 

Examining the Altador Cup’s Problems

Background: I’m Neon, and I’ve participated actively in the Altador Cup for a very long time now, as one of the leaders of Krawk Island on the boards and as a general AC enthusiast. I’ve spent a lot of time playing the games, observing and discussing the results and systems, and making friends inside and outside of my Altador Cup team. The past few years have been very disappointing for most AC fans, and I’m here to offer my feedback once again. I do not claim to speak for Krawk Island or the entirety of the site’s users, and I did not come up with everything in this post on my own. I’m merely speaking my mind, as a long-time fan of the AC who has thought and read about the various issues regarding the event. To everybody who has expressed their concerns or discussed these issues with me — thank you for helping me formulate my thoughts here. (I apologize about the formatting as well — I’m not a design/HTML wizard, but I tried to make it readable, at least.)

I’ll try to fit the issues as neatly/concisely as possible in the following four categories: Communication, Cheating, Competitive Legitimacy, and  Quality of Life , along with some closing words. I apologize to TNT in advance if some of the issues discussed are sensitive ones. I’m just desperate to at least discuss what’s going on. And with that out of the way, here we go:


Communication


For me, (lacking) communication is the biggest problem for the AC and the site as a whole. Users are almost entirely left out of the decision-making process behind the AC each year. As someone mentioned on a recent board, the team uses a “decide, announce, defend” process as it decides how to run the tournament. The users are aware that you consider feedback in some way, but the efforts there have been far too limited. A “discuss, decide, do” style would serve TNT and the users far better than the current system would. Transparency is an absolute necessity for making your dedicated users happy.

This means that we need more than the occasional survey about our opinions on the site or the Altador Cup. The AC community was delighted to see a staff member, Comastar, answering questions on the board and via neomail shortly before the AC began. We are aware that you all have work to do, so it is unreasonable to expect constant, direct communication like this. But it is important for us to know what’s going on. We need to have some idea of your plans each year, so we can provide feedback before another year is wasted on an event that isn’t as good as it could be.

The AC staff desperately needs to open up lines of communication. Not only are the boards a great source of feedback from many users, but there are also a smaller subset of people who have led various groups of players and participated in the event very actively for a long time. Why not discuss potential changes with these two groups? There are plenty of users still participating in the AC, and their feedback is important. Open Q&A or at least more careful observation of feedback with the general population is necessary. Additionally, the smaller group of fanatics is knowledgeable enough to provide even more in-depth, specific solutions that you could consider implementing. Just ask, and you would get plenty of sincere advice from users that care about this event.

Closing words – Communication is a basic necessity for the site and for the Altador Cup, and the users are tired of being left in the dark. Even if you refuse to “break the fourth wall” any more than they absolutely have to, something must be done to make things more transparent. When the primary response to complaints about the bracket system (in its third year of existence, after nearly universal complaints) is basically an insult toward the community, something has gone very wrong. We need to be able to respectfully communicate with each other for the site to grow and improve.


Cheating


As you know, the last few years have been dominated by “ACGs” — players who cheat on multiple (from a few to over a hundred) “shell” accounts. The effects have been clear since at least AC 7 and have only grown more obvious as the years go by. I don’t want to dwell on the problem here, as it’s rather simple: the competition is dominated by users who aren’t legitimately playing the games, and this is unacceptable for any event on the site, especially a competitive one. You guys know how it works at this point, so I’m going to focus on some potential solutions, some of which would be trivial to implement.

The most fundamental solution, of course, is to totally redo the way that scores are accepted into the system. Find ways to make this process more secure, and continue to vigilantly watch for breaches or flaws. I understand that this is likely very difficult, and likely never completely secure. Even if the system can’t be completely redone, surely there are ways to tweak the system as the AC goes on to halt cheating methods temporarily. Although I’m sure most of us would be willing to wait as long as we needed to for a new, secure system (whether this means a transition from Flash, or more encryption, or whatever), I’ll also offer some ways to mitigate the impact of cheating when it occurs.

First, and most obviously, is to close sign-ups as soon as the AC begins. This would prevent people from joining on even more shells as the tournament goes on, and it would prevent people from shifting their illegitimate scoring from one team to another, either to boost another team or to attempt sabotage. Sure, this means that some users may run out of time to join their team, but that is far less important. There is plenty of buildup before the event starts, so users have no one to blame but themselves if they can’t find thirty seconds to join a team in time. You could either let users join the Practice Team to play for rank points and not count them for any team, or let them join as a “Reserve Player” (a distinction that, to my knowledge, no longer exists) where they can play and be on a team, but would not have their scores counted for the team.

Further options include requiring the completion of the Altador Plot (or, preferably, a newly designed plot or mini-plot, as the Altador Plot can likely be automated) before joining a team. This would make it more difficult for cheaters to join the Cup on so many accounts. There are other potential solutions, like the use of Captcha to confirm scores after every X games, but this idea seems to have mixed support. My last proposed solution is to cap the maximum score in YYB, SLSL, and SOSD, like you have with Make Some Noise’s hard limit of ~9999 points. The maximum score in YYB should be 18-0, ~800 or a bit more in SLSL, and 1200 in SOSD. Illegitimate players can abuse the unlimited scoring potential if they’re willing to lose their accounts.

Finally, it’s extremely important that the cheaters that you can identify and freeze are removed from the system, even retroactively. If accounts can impact results for a day or until they are frozen, then people will continue to create them. Removing their scores from the scoring system might require changing the system, but it’s another necessity. This might even change prior matches results — but that’s okay! It might be confusing, but I would rather see honest results than deal with another year of illegitimate players getting the satisfaction of a victory.

Closing words – Again, this is a pretty simple issue. Something big must be done about the cheating, or the AC is hardly worth having. There must be a way to eliminate the cheaters or at least minimize/neutralize their impact. If not, I fail to see the point of having a competition in which the winners aren’t really (necessarily) playing the hardest.


Competitive Legitimacy


I’ll start off with the infamous bracket system. We first met the brackets with cautious optimism that everyone could be happy — the AC would still be around for us to enjoy, but it could be a bit shorter to give people a break. Unfortunately, the system has failed to deliver a fair AC.

First of all, yes, we understand that the Double Round-Robin was too long for a lot of people; we know it needed to change. But the issue of length does not demand brackets, and as far as we know, AC fatigue was the only problem with the DRR (perhaps this is an issue of communication, again, but I’m working with what you’ve told us). With this in mind, the most sensible and widely suggested solution is a Single Round-Robin. It’s quite simple. We could have 17 matches (one day to play each team), followed by a bye day, two days of playoffs, another bye day, then the final playoff match for two days (i.e. the playoff system used before the brackets, along with the SRR). We end up with 23 days this way, which is even more manageable for people who don’t want the AC to go on too long. But yeah, the brackets are sort of ridiculous, as teams don’t go against each team once (despite this being a stated goal in your FAQ, oddly enough), and daily results don’t even matter like they used to.

There are more issues here than just the brackets themselves, though. The current system appears to weigh each game equally, even though Yooyuball is considered the focus of the tournament. This doesn’t make any sense, and it should be reverted to the old formula where Yooyuball granted the overall win, while the sides combined for an equal number of points that the YYB win gave. Further, the experiment over the last two years of showing each team’s “points” from the games has been a bit of a disaster, as the eventual winner becomes quite obvious after one or two days, and the cheating is emphasized. Finally, there should not be any cumulative elements in the system (although this is not a concern with a SRR tournament), as this basically makes it impossible for a team to achieve a “comeback win” in later brackets.

Disregarding the system, scoring, and cheaters, there are some serious imbalances in the system that have persisted over the years. Teams like KI or DC, where many players join for the “cool” themes and hardly play, were always carried by the players that dedicated an insane amount of time to the AC. With the lowered maxes this year, the influence of these less active players seemed more clear. As the AC goes on, the smaller teams with higher proportions of their players on the board are easier to positively influence, while teams with disproportionate numbers of less active players struggle to improve.

The best way to combat this would be to ignore scores that count for NP. This way, the masses of players that don’t play more than one or two games can still earn a few prize points and get some NP from the games, without any team having their averages pulled down too far. Admittedly, this will skew things in the other direction somewhat, but this year’s lower maxes reduce the impact of the “crazy” players that might join certain teams more than others.

This change, combined with the lower maxes, could help bridge the gap between “normal” teams and those with one or more of the roaming “All-Star Groups” (ASGs) of which I’m sure you’re aware, as well. Of course, ASGs do not appear to be in violation of any rules, but they are an important factor to consider because they’re capable of dramatically throwing off the balance of the Cup, which leaves a lot of users less interested in playing. There isn’t an easy way that I know of to reduce their impact (without reducing the impact of All-Stars, which seems kind of silly), but it’s something to keep in mind as you try to make the AC fun for everyone.

Closing words – We need a system that makes more sense, Yooyuball needs to be more important, and outside groups (legitimate or illegitimate) as well as users who hardly participate in the event need to have their impact lessened somehow. My last suggestion here is to consider a way to group teams together somehow, so that a relatively small group of users can have less of an impact and perhaps things would be more balanced overall. I’m not sure exactly how this might work, but again, I’m hoping for a fairer AC if it comes back next year.


 “Quality of Life”


This last set of problems and suggestions involves less critical issues that would still provide a more interesting/exciting/enjoyable experience for the next AC. I’ll do a simple list for this section to cover as much as I can without making this page too much longer than it already is.

  • In YYB, revert the Darigan Yooyu back to it’s former state, where it made a bit more sense.
  • Raise the YYB “max” to at least match SLSL’s 139.
  • Loyalty bonuses of some sort would be nice, considering the advantages that ASGs have as they roam to small teams.
  • Modify SLSL to avoid the slow, boring start, and/or consider giving it a time limit.
  • Even if SLSL is somehow changed, the rank points per game need to be rebalanced around the amount of time that a game takes.
  • Raise the minimum score in SOSD or, again, balance the points better.
  • Bring back achievements and expand them to make the daily grind more interesting. Consider adding NP rewards for ranking up (like leveling up in Habitarium).
  • Consider bringing back the post-season awards like All-Star teams.
  • Consider adding a new side game or two, and/or removing SLSL, MaSN, or SOSD.
  • Add mouse controls for the side games (at least SLSL and SOSD) to make them easier to play for people who have trouble with all the arrow key pressing. WASD controls would be nice too!
  • Work on the player art and make the teams’ players more diverse/unique.
  • Make it more “special” to win, somehow. This year, people were okay with losing teams getting gold trophies via individual effort because of all of the illegitimate play, but I don’t think that sort of thing would be popular in a fairer year.
  • All-Star or team-specific avatars?

Closing message – Keep the AC interesting with new elements, and make sure your design choices make things fun for everyone. The AC is growing stale for many users, even without considering the real flaws.


Final Thoughts


That pretty much wraps things up. I know that a lot of this is not new or unique, and there’s always more to say, but I tried to cover as much as I could in one place (without going overboard with it). The Altador Cup is a fantastic, unique event on this site, and I hope it can recover from recent changes. Rather than making slight changes over time that don’t appeal to the users that care about the event, I hope the AC can become a fun, competitive experience once again in its tenth year. If the event continues to be a messy, watered down version of what it used to be, I’d rather not have it at all, but I don’t want to give up on it yet.

I look forward to feedback from other users and, hopefully, from TNT as well.

Day 30 (July 1st): The First, The Last and the Repeat

The Altador Cup always signals summer and this may have been the longest, most dramatic summer so far. And we’ve only just entered July. The official victory ceremony hasn’t been staged yet and the prize shop hasn’t opened for the masses, but we do know the final placements of all eighteen competitors in the ACIX.

9 years ago when the Altador Cup first began, sixteen teams set out to win the trophy after a one thousand year hiatus. In an intense Yooyuball tournament, the Haunted Woods became the first team to hoist the Cup in the modern age. Much has changed since then. Three new games were added to the slate and the five member squad looks a lot different. But nevertheless, the team has finally done it again and has become the first ever team to win the Altador Cup twice. Congratulations.

But when we get down to the reality of it, Haunted Woods had a lot of help. Then again, in the first cup they did as well. Eliminated players were allowed to join the remaining teams in the tournament, so the Woods were made up of anybody opposing Darigan Citadel. The help is different this time around though. An ACG joined the group and prompted the scores to rise to nearly unbeatable levels, but not quite as strong as Tyrannia, the previous year’s champs. It’s unfortunate that the true flesh and blood of the team will be overshadowed by these circumstances, but this is the new Altador Cup that we have to deal with until it’s fixed.

Virtupets and Moltara also made the medal podium. This is the first silver for Virtupets after they won gold in the ACVI and promptly dropped in the standings yet never ceasing on Yooyuball strength. Silver certainly matches the glimmering metallics of the Space Station, and I’m sure they’ll want more in the future. Elsewhere, this marks the first time that Moltara has hit the podium, let alone placing in a number that wasn’t double digits. Going from the worst team in the Altador Cup to a bronze contender will bring the spotlight and speculation to them in the next tournament.

The final standings are as follows:

1. Haunted Woods
2. Virtupets
3. Moltara
4. Darigan Citadel, Tyrannia
6. Kiko Lake
7. Kreludor
8. Krawk Island
9. Meridell
10. Brightvale
11. Mystery Island
12. Maraqua
13. Terror Mountain, Shenkuu, Roo Island
16. Lost Desert
17. Faerieland
18. Altador

It’s been great being able to write for Altador.com for another year and graduating from a guest writer to a full time writer. I’m thankful for the readers that spend a moment every day to read my thoughts and humour as well as leaving comments or simply liking my stuff. You probably already know, but this could potentially be the last Altador Cup if TNT’s “threats,” so to speak, are true. I hope it won’t be but I also hope that it’s not anything like this format again cause it will only tear away more of our dedicated fanbase. We have a year to see. I’ll likely write more if the interest is there, so keep this place bookmarked or keep an eye on the Neopian Times. If you want to contact me at all on Neopets, hit up hol123.

In light of the recent exclusives.

We at Altador.com were given the unique opportunity to find out the backstory of the infamous score-sending group, NeoCodex. The opportunity was given to all writers on our site, but ultimately, Joe (Lady_elegant) took the opportunity to conduct interview, and posted the raw, uncensored result.

At Altador.com, we endeavour to bring you the best Altador Cup related coverage possible, and to do so all stories must be heard, including unpopular opinions. We do not condone the use of score-sending programs, autobuyers or other illegitimate gameplay means.

Thank-You

Tails.

Day 29 (June 30th): Going, Going, Done


Here we are everyone! The last day of the Cup is finally upon us. We’ve come so far and yet we’ve got so far to go. Most of the day will be dedicated to abusing the system in order to increase our prize points as well as rounding out or totals so that it doesn’t trigger the OCD in the vast majority of players. Total games ending in a 1, 3, 7 or 9? No thank you.

Yesterday had 7 sweeps and none of them were interesting or relevant because the brackets ceased to move. Maraqua drew Shenkuu in the overall match by taking Yooyuball only, so that’s not surprising, but Altador got a keen 5 in Slushie Slinger against Kreludor and that’s something.

 

Darigan Citadel vs Moltara
I actually don’t think it would be beneficial for Darigan to focus on Yooyuball here if they want to keep their slot in the bracket. I don’t actually know how far behind Kiko Lake is but they definitely can’t pass Moltara. But the Yooyuball score is close enough to see a draw.
YYB – D | SS – MT | MSN – MT | SOSD – MT | WIN – MT

Haunted Woods vs Meridell
In the exact same manner above, Meridell can draw Yooyuball but I feel like they could pass Kiko Lake at any moment so a spread over the games to get good scores all around may be a good plan.
YYB – D | SS – HW | MSN – HW | SOSD – HW | WIN – HW

Kiko Lake vs Lost Desert
Wow, this puts it into perspective how much Kiko Lake has fallen. Lost Desert could sweep here despite being swept for this entire last round. The Desert’s scores have generally been better though and sometimes it’s more than a marginal decimal. I don’t know if I see a complete sweep occurring though. Kiko Lake’s gotta unleash something on the final day.
YYB – LD | SS – LD | MSN – LD | SOSD – KL | WIN – LD

Krawk Island vs Virtupets
Virtupets gets another shimmering silver sweep.
YYB – VP | SS – VP | MSN – VP | SOSD – VP | WIN – VP

Maraqua vs Tyrannia
It wouldn’t shock me to see some of the random boosted scores Maraqua’s posted inconsistently but even Tyrannia can combat them.
YYB – TY | SS – TY | MSN – TY | SOSD – TY | WIN – TY

Mystery Island vs Shenkuu
This match could end in all draws and that would be a great way to close the Cup since we haven’t seen a result like that in years. Normally Mystery Island would be the better Yooyuballers while Shenkuu is definitely more prone to winning the sides, but I’m not so sure. Shenkuu is 6th in Minitheus and they really don’t have anything to lose. So I’m going with a minor shocker.
YYB – SK | SS – D | MSN – D | SOSD – SK | WIN – SK

Altador vs Brightvale
I don’t think Slushie Slinger is a priority for Brightvale today and thinking of their final standing is more important then protecting the one volatile game.
YYB – BV | SS – AL | MSN – BV | SOSD – BV | WIN – BV

Kreludor vs Terror Mountain
Terror Mountain will have to struggle to get a 4 in Slushie Slinger or Make Some Noise where there only real chance to dodge a sweep lays.
YYB – KD | SS – KD | MSN – KD | SOSD – KD | WIN – KD

Faerieland vs Roo Island
An easy sweep should finish the Altador Cup but the Roos need more than an easy sweep to ensure that their spot in Vaeolus is safe.
YYB – RI | SS – RI | MSN – RI | SOSD – RI | WIN – RI

Day 28 (June 29th): Power to the People

Come to me, power of 9s in side-games!

Today’s article is brought to you by power surges. Those things that randomly help your team and makes it look like everybody maxed out everything.

In Alabriss 5 Moltara swept Lost Desert with some very low scores. They lost 9 points in Slushie Slinger alone from one day to the next so clearly Lost Desert isn’t at threatening as Meridell was. Meridell, on the other hand, managed to draw another powerhouse in Yooyuball. The rest of the match was close to call but in the end another sweep was avoided. Success, sort of. Haunted Woods swept Kiko Lake in the bracket’s latest match with only single digit scores. It was enough though. And on a bonus day Kiko Lake still only scored a 1 in Make Some Noise.

In Minitheus 5 the pirates actually prevailed and won against Old Maraqua, not new Maraqua, if you know what I mean. They were pretty adamant about winning Yooyuball and Shootout Showdown with two 5s and Maraqua won the other games with two 5s. Shenkuu and Mystery Island faced Virtupets and Tyrannia expecting little success and they got it as the latter two swept them with double the scores.

In Vaeolus 5 Brightvale pulled a sky-high score total out of nowhere to sweep Terror Mountain, who appears to be closed for the season. Brightvale’s still trying to rise in their bracket, and with these scores it could be fulfilled. Kreludor looks the weakest they’ve been in the Cup with a dominated loss against Roo Island. Only able to draw in Yooyuball, Roo Island took the side-games with strong scores. Lastly, Altador got their first win of the season in the exact same manner. Faerieland was shut down as Altador surprisingly side-swept them in addition to staving off the Yooyuball front to a draw.

 

Darigan Citadel vs Haunted Woods
Even with Haunted Woods’ lowest scores Darigan has a tough time ahead to block a sweep. Yooyuball is obviously the closest bet and could potentially be drawn but I see the Woods taking this one more seriously and at least bumping it to a 7.
YYB – HW | SS – HW | MSN – HW | SOSD – HW | WIN – HW

Kiko Lake vs Moltara
Far from a dominating win but Kiko Lake hasn’t shown much except struggling recently.
YYB – MT | SS – MT | MSN – MT | SOSD – MT | WIN – MT

Lost Desert vs Meridell
6s don’t come everyday for Meridell so Lost Desert has a chance in Yooyuball.
YYB – D | SS – MD | MSN – MD | SOSD – MD | WIN – MD

Krawk Island vs Tyrannia
Tyrannia’s got an iron grip on every game pretty much against any lower team they fight.
YYB – TY | SS – TY | MSN – TY | SOSD – TY | WIN – TY

Maraqua vs Shenkuu
Ignoring any Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario, Maraqua could still win this closely contested match. Shenkuu’s no danger in Yooyuball but neither is Maraqua so the fun turns to the side-games. If Maraqua can bring out more 5s then advantage to them.
YYB – D | SS – MQ | MSN – SK | SOSD – MQ | WIN – MQ

Mystery Island vs Virtupets
Y’know.
YYB – VP | SS – VP | MSN – VP | SOSD – VP | WIN – VP

Roo Island vs Terror Mountain
Roo Island has the drive and the scores to sweep relatively well.
YYB – RI | SS – RI | MSN – RI | SOSD – RI | WIN – RI

Altador vs Kreludor
Kreludor should absolutely be worried about losing a few games today when a sweep is entirely possible. The biggest giveaways are Slushie Slinger and Shootout Showdown, and if Altador can fling out 4s again then good for them.
YYB – KD | SS – D | MSN – KD | SOSD – KD | WIN – KD

Brightvale vs Faerieland
Getting dominated by Altador puts a poor perspective on you but Brightvale has a strong advantage anyway.
YYB – BV | SS – BV | MSN – BV | SOSD – BV | WIN – BV

Interview with a Member of SOTAC

Hello avid readers, for my last article of the season I’ve been able to get an interview with a member of the Secret Order of the Altador Cup (SOTAC). Because of their rules preventing interviews he only agreed to speak under the condition of anonymity.

 

You are a member of SOTAC, what attracted you to joining them, and how did they go about recruiting you?

Because I cannot reveal who I am I cannot go into detail of how I was recruited; it wasn’t just due to some random neomail I got. But after I got referred to the person in charge of recruiting for the group, I began the process of joining. The process is long as it involves a bunch of steps such as letting them know your email address, being directed to a questionnaire that asks a bunch of questions just about you and your hobbies, agreeing to the main rules and guidelines for being a member and pretty soon they set up an account for you offsite in our own small forum. I found that process surprising because it wasn’t simply just signing up for a memo regarding what team we’ll be joining and whatnot, you’re really being let in to a community of great teammates and friends who care about you and not just your stats.

As for the reasons I had for joining it was kind of a tough decision. I was previously loyal to a certain team. I’ve formed a lot of great friendships and friendly rivalries with the good people at that team. Since I’ve been playing for so long I have experienced both being on a powerhouse fighting for first place, along with having no real expectation of being contenders. Being on a team like that is fine as it’s calm and it’s nice to spend time with your longtime teammates as you push each other towards each of your rank goals, but I really craved that other element of having that extra push from watching the podium positions in the standings, having the positive feedback of seeing your work translate to a lot of green in the daily matchups … long story short, I’m a competitive person. I’m used to trying my hardest to be victorious and to be strategic in that approach. Those are just my values. Other people reject invitations from ASGs because they value being loyal to their team more than that strategic and competitive drive, and I completely understand and respect those views. It was a hard decision for me to put one up over the other, but ultimately I still visit my old team whenever I can and I’m always playing attention to them and cheering for them during the cup. So it’s not like I’ve completely abandoned them; you could say that my heart is with my previous team and my mind is with SOTAC.

Do you know anything about the formation of SOTAC, its origins story so to speak?

Well I wasn’t personally with them during their formation. But my understanding of it is that the original members of SOTAC were all-stars on the Roo Island team of AC3, when they won the championship. Then they decided to move to a different team but to stay together as a group. Why did this happen? Like I said I’m not an original member but I suspect it was because at the time the Winner’s Curse was just becoming a pattern, as both HW and DC fell to 7th place the years immediately following their victories. And at that time everyone wanted to win, I mean getting 4th or lower resulted in a participation medal regardless of your rank. And also, loyalty wasn’t as strong of a force then as it is now. AC1 was all about people ditching their teams when they lost (because you had no other choice) and choosing another team you think would be successful in the next round. So with the influence of loyalty still developing, and the influence of the winner’s curse dominating everyone’s minds, it made absolute sense for people to leave their team after winning it all (I remember planning on leaving my team if they were to win). And if you’re in a tight group of friends all making all-star, why wouldn’t you want to make that decision of where to go next, together? That’s how I understand and rationalize the origins of SOTAC.

How does your group as a whole (and you as an individual for that matter) view the ACG’s?

We naturally dislike them, as they use means that break the rules in order to get what they want. And from what I’ve heard, achieving 1st in the cup is a part of their means; their end goal is just to see chaos and drama unfold on the boards about them which is basically notoriety and free advertising for more people to go join their site and use their programs. Staying within the cup though they’re the ones who we’re pretty much planning for and trying to put ourselves in the best position to beat. I’d call them supervillains but I think that’s just flattering them.

Do you view your group as different from the ACG’s, and do you believe the Altador Cup community should view ASG’s and ACG’s as the same?

This is one of the things that gets me going the most. It takes great restraint on my part not to yell at people who put us in the same category. I’m glad that now the term “ACG” exists. I don’t want Codex to be considered an ASG, as that puts them in the same category as us and Stealth when our groups are in fact completely different from each other, in both our goals and our means of achieving them. It’s impossible to know with certainty who is legit and who’s not; in any sort of grouping of all-stars there are sure to be some cheaters present. But in the general sense and in principle we are a group of legitimate all-stars who physically play as hard as we can to achieve the objective of the cup, while the ACGs are groups who not only use programs to automatically send a ton of scores, but also create a bunch of accounts as well as purchase and use old shell accounts to help saturate the team they choose with these automatic score-senders. I’ve heard figures as crazy as over 200 accounts belonging to one player, making them all max or be near the maximum amount of games played per day. So the means of going about things cannot be more different, along with the goals. As I’ve said before, the goals of the ACGs include pleasurable drama and attention toward their products. Where we simply want to organize our hard work and turn it into wins.

Did Stealth and SOTAC really just happen to pick the same team or was there some sort of plan to all of it?

Thank you for asking that. Not many people believe this but it was indeed a coincidence. Stealth leadership never made contact to SOTAC leadership. In SOTAC discussions we focused on what would be best for our group and our group alone. We made our final votes before the news that Stealth joined VP surfaced. Our news just got released way later since we find out as a group what the results are later. And even when that happened, the news stayed within the group as we tend to contain less moles. I hypothesize that that is because the process of joining SOTAC is more personal so we’re closer as a community but I can’t say that for sure since I have little idea of how things work over at Stealth.

That being said, however, a lot of us welcomed the fact that Stealth would be on VP as well since our main objective was more to try and beat the ACGs than it was to beat each other.

With it seeming apparent that the two of you combined can’t stop the ACG’s are you going to continue to play in the next cup (assuming there is one of course)?

Yeah, it seemed like this year was our best chance as the two biggest ACGs chose HW and DC which are both huge teams, and both us and Stealth joined what was the smallest team at the time. That is, of course, only if the format stays the same and if TNT doesn’t get smarter about how to slow down the cheating groups (such as closing the sign-ups as soon as it all starts, as well as executing a method to detect score senders). Even if none of that changes though, and the ACGs are in position to inevitably take the cup next year, we’re not going to stop. We’re too tight as a community to stop what we have going on. It’s a great atmosphere to be surrounded by other players just as or even more crazy than you are, pushing each other to do well and even if we don’t beat the ACGs, being the best legitimate team is nothing to be ashamed of. But our level of success really doesn’t determine our odds of returning. We could completely flop and finish off the podium hypothetically and we’d be right back at it the next year, trying to get stronger and trying to make better strategic decisions to get back up there. Because that’s what the cup is all about!

Do you know of any members of SOTAC who SS in order to reach All-Star status?

No. Like I said before I can’t guarantee we’re cheater-free as you can’t know with complete certainty who is and who isn’t, but if anyone in SOTAC is found to be cheating they’re kicked out of the group. That’s what our rules state and that is what our principles are.

What do you guys think about the stigma a team gets when you guys do well with it, talking specifically about how teams fall into the third and fourth tier once you guys leave, do you guys feel the team helped pull their share of the weight or did SOTAC drag them to the top?

Thank you for bringing this up. This also tends to really get to me, when people refuse to recognize the loyalists’ hard work when it comes to achieving victory. To me, the questions “Who is responsible for the victory?” and “Would they have won without (group)?” are two completely different questions.

To me, everyone who put in effort for the team is equally responsible for that teams’ success. It’s mathematically true! After team size is adjusted the score includes everybody’s contributions. Using VP from AC6 as an example, Would they have won without Stealth? Probably not; would they have won without the loyalists? Most definitely not. People seem to forget that Virtupets, the year before Stealth joined them, finished 6th. They came a long way from what they were in cups before that, so when people say that Stealth won AC6 and not Virtupets, I find that to be really disrespectful to what the loyalists themselves were able to do not just during the year that they won but also the cups leading up to that.

Loyalists are our teammates and we make an effort to make that known by becoming friends with them and motivating each other. Every game and every player counts. When we leave a team, if they fall to a place further down in the standings than they were before we joined, that’s probably because any success we had the year we were together just drew in freeloaders and we can’t really control that.

In the first few cups you guys joined teams who placed in the first tier, since groups like Stealth showed that smaller teams could be more easily influenced is that what got you to start picking smaller teams in recent years?

Since I wasn’t with SOTAC at the very beginning I can’t tell you how the group’s thinking has changed over time. But even after Virtupets won in AC6, SOTAC proceeded to join Kreludor then Roo Island, and both are more mid-sized than small. Team size isn’t the only thing considered when discussing what team to join. This is the first year SOTAC has truly gone with one of the smallest teams available. It is however, quite a change from the first few selections, that’s true. I’d guess that Stealth’s actions just showed SOTAC that there are more good options out there than just teams that are already close to the top. But like I said size isn’t the only factor.

How far in advance does SOTAC pick the team they join, and is it democratic effort to decide, or does a leader make the decision?

Discussions for this year’s team began about a month before the cup started. It is a completely democratic effort. After we voted the top 7 teams that had votes were revealed followed by another round of discussions. We don’t know numbers of votes so while a team may seem popular in discussion there are many others in the group who aren’t active in them that vote so we really don’t know for sure who the team is until pretty close to when the cup starts.

If someone decides not to join the group team what happens to them?

Well when you join the group you’re agreeing to join whatever team is voted the group’s team regardless of whether you voted for it or not, so we haven’t had any cases of that this year. I imagine they wouldn’t be a part of the group anymore if they went against that agreement.

What would be your best estimate to the size of SOTAC?

It’s just over 100 as of now.

Would SOTAC ever consider using SS methods in order to beat these ACG’s?

No… we’re a legit group and we are going to stay legit. We’re not going to become the enemy in attempt to beat the enemy. Again I can’t speak for individuals but as a group that’ll never happen. The rule is, you’re found cheating and you’re kicked from the group; that rule will stand.

Assuming you guys play in the next cup what other methods would you use to try and beat the ACG’s?

Hope for a format change hope for smarter methods from TNT. Like I said, this was the year we had the best shot under this system really.

What do you think about the remarks the ACG group made about SOTAC in their interview?

In regards to the claim that we “invade” the chats and never talk to them causing them to go to their guilds: I haven’t really visited ViPZ often but from my experiences at the beginning of the cup they were very welcoming, and we always make an effort to work with the loyalists and motivate each other. I’m not sure how evident that may be on that one particular chat but I know that I personally have had good experiences teaming up with the loyalists of VP.

Recently our leader contacted the leader of ViPZ regarding this saying that if we were disruptive we are sorry and offered to tell us as a group to refrain from posting there. The person from ViPZ replied back saying that SOTAC has nothing to apologize for. It’s awkward when you’re a tiny team so have a ton of new people join like that and it takes getting used to but ultimately they encourage SOTAC to continue being on the boards without feeling like we’re disrupting anything. So as you can see we have their best interest at heart and we never meant to cause any unwanted disturbance.

Other remarks either have already been addressed or don’t deserve to be.

Closing remarks:

To close this I just need to tell people what I think and what some of my fellow members have said in regards to the argument against ASGs. . Right now the cup is incredibly predictable, but that’s more of a function of the format telling you the standings day one than it is ASGs. The idea of an all-star group is a phenomenon that’s bound to occur in any sport; people just need to look at their values and decide what’s more important to them. We aren’t elitists, we are constantly looking to help grow our community and as long as someone works hard that opportunity should show up at some point. If someone values loyalty over being more strategic in team choice that’s completely fine, but to say that those who do not necessarily have those same values don’t deserve their success in the cup, I think is false. The cup is meant for players to organize and play hard together in order to achieve victory, and that is what we set out to do.

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