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.

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The Future of the AC: Problems and Solutions

Hi guys, I didn’t write any articles this year, so I suppose I should introduce myself. I’m Neon, and I’ve played for Krawk Island since AC2. Many of you have probably seen me on the boards over the years, blah blah blah, introductions suck.

(Everything in this article is just my opinion, but I try to do a decent job of supporting my points. This article is long, but I tried to stay on topic. There’s much to be said about this subject.)

As many people seem to recognize at this point, the Altador Cup is completely ruined if it continues in its current state. I’m going to break down what’s wrong with the tournament and explain how it could be fixed. Unfortunately, I think the future for the AC is bleak at best.

The Altador Cup used to be a great event, because it combined competition and community in a relatively balanced environment for people to show their skill (or their absurd amounts of free time, if you want to be a bit more negative about it). Perhaps I’m naive, but I think it’s fair to say that there was less cheating on the organized levels we saw in AC7 and AC8, and while All-Star Groups were present, their influence was weaker (they were smaller, teams were bigger). The AC was “too long” according to some, but it was a format in which matches clearly mattered (the 9-3-3-3 standings formula became clear after a while) and there was far less randomness (no bonus games, no random brackets, no pairings, no randomly playing teams twice in a bracket).

Were there problems? Of course! As I mentioned, many users complained that the tournament was too long. TNT had to address this, even if a lot of dedicated players didn’t care. The poll following AC6 indicated that people thought the tournament dragged on too much for the average user. The other difficulty was the apparent inability for certain teams to overcome the perennial powerhouse teams in a given year. Krawk Island, Kreludor, and Darigan Citadel in particular have each been labeled as teams that were basically too strong year in and year out, which would make the Cup boring after a while. I play for Krawk Island, so I wouldn’t mind being near the top every year interminably, but I understand the complaint and can’t say I fully disagree.

The only other consistent complaints I saw were not about core AC issues. Yes, new YYB made people angry, but TNT has basically gotten that in order since then. They took away the postseason awards, achievements mysteriously lasted just one Cup, etc. But these are minor things in the larger picture. I’ll get to this stuff later on in the article, because it’s worth mentioning at least.

There are three real factors that have ruined the Altador Cup at this point. I’ll go into all of the underlying stuff as the article goes on, of course, but the most direct factors in the Altador Cup’s decline are these: the format, cheating groups, and All-Star groups.

The Format

TNT changed the format after AC6, replacing the double round robin with a confusing bracket system. I’d describe all the details, but everybody knows what it’s like by now. The bracket system itself is not inherently flawed — there are real tournament formats that resemble it, to some degree. Honestly, it could’ve been an interesting step forward. But TNT’s implementation of the bracket system is horrible compared to the DRR.

What’s wrong with the format?

1. Randomness — mixing up brackets randomly, pairing teams in a nonsensical way (it was not random, but it still did not serve any purpose), randomly playing teams more than once in a bracket, bonus games, etc. There is too much pointless randomness involved. Sure, the DRR had a random schedule which could give a team a slight advantage, but I think most would agree that that was minimal. The big points here are the random assignment of brackets, and this year the (essentially) random assignment of “pairs”. The former issue opens up opportunities for undeserving teams to win, and the latter totally ruined the chances for the worse of the two teams in each pairing.
2a. Winning is not important — even this year, after TNT seemed to make some adjustments (or was at least more transparent about the changes from last year), there was not a direct correlation between winning and doing well in standings. The format is based more around the “points” in each win, which is okay, but it’s so unclear that there is still no clear consensus on how it really works. TNT thinks we’ll rig the Cup if we have this kind of information, but people have rigged the Cup to varying degrees for years now.
2b. Yooyuball is not important — or at least not as important. Some teams don’t mind this change, of course, but the Altador Cup is a yooyuball tournament. At this point, YYB counts for, at most, “a little more” than a side game. Maybe there isn’t universal agreement on this point, but I think most would say that that is ridiculous.
3. Bracket placements are clearly cumulative — this aspect utterly ruins the chance of a comeback win. Terror Mountain was getting some serious “help” this year and it took them a long time to move up a couple of spots. Obviously I don’t condone that behavior from the group that cheated for them, but it was pretty funny to see a team that was getting outside help but still couldn’t move up in the standings because of bad results earlier in the Cup. It just doesn’t make any sense.

I could say even more about the format, but the problems are obvious and fixing them is incredibly simple.

What can be done?

There are a couple of obvious options here that allow TNT to make the tournament shorter without doing it in such a terrible way:

1. Single Round Robin + Finals — probably the most popular option that everyone already knows about.

2. Swiss Style Tournament — keep the brackets. Start with 1-6, 7-12, 13-18 from the previous AC (like this year), but after that, set up the brackets based on performance. This is initially uneven, but with four or five of these rounds you end up playing tons of close, intense matches with a fair winner in the end.

3. Don’t make things cumulative — this suggestion is not exactly compatible with those format options, but still. If we’re going to have brackets, each round needs to be a new start.

In either of those formats, just go back to the old way of scoring things. Nine points for a YYB win, 3 points for a side game win, ⅓ of those for draws and none for losses. Base the standings on these clear numbers. Preferably no bonus games, or at least give bonus games a reasonably small impact on results. It’s not that hard. Just make it the way it used to be, but shorter.

Cheating Groups

There have always been cheaters on Neopets and in the AC. It’s incredibly easy to do if you’re not a moron about it, because other people have already written the programs for people to use. At least since AC7, though, they’ve started to be more organized about it and the impact was most clear this year with TY’s victory.

What’s wrong with cheating groups?
(That’s a dumb question, but I’m trying to be consistent here)

1. They’re not actually playing like everyone else — duh.

2. They totally discredit a team’s performance — as soon as it becomes clear that a team has cheating support, their legitimate players mean nothing in the eyes of most. And that’s mostly fair, isn’t it? No team would do better without cheaters. Nobody’s saying TY didn’t have any legitimate players this year, but they would not have been close to first without them. This has to be disheartening for the actual members of the team.

3. TNT isn’t stopping them — they’ve basically said they can’t stop them other than by freezing the obvious cases. (I assume the cheated games look exactly like regular games, to them.) But they’re going about it the wrong way.

Again, there’s more to be said, but I want to move on. Cheating groups were most directly killing the Cup this year, in large numbers on TY and AL, and with a decent presence on another team or two. What can be done?

1. Try to stop cheating before it happens — Joe’s article a few weeks back suggests to me that TNT is making a futile effort to track down cheaters and then freeze them. That will never have a meaningful impact on their numbers. Most of them aren’t stupid enough to cheat so obviously that TNT will actually catch them. Even if they are that stupid, they don’t get caught a lot of the time. TNT needs to take a totally different approach, and it’s funny to me that they ever thought freezing obvious accounts would be a sufficient counter-measure.

2. Captcha — making people enter a captcha every few games would seemingly drastically reduce cheating. The lazy cheaters who set their programs to send scores on multiple accounts all day would (hopefully) be forced to actually play far more games than they currently do. Sure, it’d be inconvenient for a game like SOSD, but even then, I think it’s silly to say that it’s not worthwhile for that reason.

3. Transition to HTML5 from Flash — based on what I’ve read on the boards about this, this might slow down their ability to use programs. As far as I know, there are two types of programs — ones that send scores for you, and ones that manipulate the flash games themselves, meaning you still play, but the game is modified somehow (all opponents in YYB are frozen for the whole game, or you just have to hold down one key for your score to go up in MSN, etc). To me, this sounds like something that would at least help with that second type of program.

4. Collect more data in scoresends — this is sort of a shot in the dark, because it might be incredibly easy for programs to add in any sort of data after a little bit of investigation on their part. But perhaps TNT could track movement and shooting power and power-ups and all of that stuff that seems like it would have to be pretty random/organic, making it a little harder for cheaters to send scores.

5. Change game IDs — again, I’m not entirely sure how the programs work, but if they’re based on game IDs, TNT could change the game ID on the AC games in the middle of the tournament. For example, YYB scores end up looking like “10015” (10000 + number of goals) if I remember correctly. Switch IDs between YYB and something with really low scores, and TNT would be flooded with 10k+ scores on games that max out with much lower scores. This might not work more than once, but it would probably get a few accounts/IPs banned.

I just find it hard to believe that TNT actually thinks that they can’t do anything to stop cheaters. They obviously need to change the way they collect score data if it’s so easily manipulated. I’m sure it’s not particularly easy, but it doesn’t look like they’re trying very hard.

All-Star Groups

I’m assuming this one will stir up a bit more disagreement, as I noticed a lot more support for ASGs this year as people tend to say “well, at least they’re better than cheaters” and “at least KI/DC won’t trade wins every year.” I’m going to start off by saying that yes, they are definitely better than cheaters, and no, it’s not “against” the rules for them to gather on a single team to try to bring victory. I get that. I simply think that they’re hurting the Cup, and I don’t think they’re meaningfully different from KI/DC winning every year to anyone other than a casual observer of the Cup (i.e. they’re both terribly boring situations). I’m not suggesting that ASGs are full of bad people trying to ruin the Cup, but I feel that they’re too strong at this point for the other teams to have a chance, thus becoming another factor making the Cup a meaningless effort.

What’s wrong with ASGs?

I can’t easily split this up into individual points, so here I go. ASGs may integrate just fine with the team they choose, but they’re not really a part of that team. ASGs are their own teams, in my eyes, and they’re simply jumping around to win (SOTAC through AC7) or be “interesting” in some way… while also trying to win (Stealth) each year. If I can make a basketball analogy, imagine LeBron James announcing that he was switching to the best team every year from now on (yes, I know that this would never ever happen, that’s not the point). Is LeBron cheating? No. But wouldn’t that be outrageous? Sure, they don’t always join good teams, but as the number of people on the site declines, it’s not hard at all for ASGs to dominate by joining a team small enough for them to win with.

Even if we guess that AL’s “help” did more than Stealth this year, SOTAC took RI from 14th to 3rd, clearly the best team without any significant cheating that I know of. And SOTAC isn’t even as big as Stealth. Nothing they do anymore will be “impressive” to anyone who pays attention. Stealth will probably jump on VP next year so they can say “let’s beat the cheaters!” and/or “let’s be the first team to win twice!” but who cares? First of all, if the cheaters are still around, they can’t beat them. Second, anybody could gather a bunch of All-Stars on VP or another tiny team and win. You know what was impressive? When Myth (and his teammates) took VP to 6th place in ACV on their own. That took real effort and real organization from real team members. Even their ACVI win was good, considering how much smaller Stealth was back then.

But the ASGs aren’t unique, and they aren’t impressive. Definitely not anymore, at least. They’re just loading up small teams with All-Stars and dominating. It’s nice that they stay quiet about it for the most part, but the fact of the matter is that they’ve proven that they can control the results at this point. I suppose it would be “interesting” for a team to win twice in a row, but it’s still not meaningful if they do it with an ASG. Hell, if it had the same value as a real win, I would’ve gotten KI’s 200+ All-Stars to join a smaller team and dominate by now.

So these ASGs are continually growing in an environment in which they already dominate, making up new “goals” to try to justify continual growth and… existence, and it’s just getting stupid. Of course you can take 40+ All-Stars and do well on a small team. It has been done before with fewer people, assuming the team tries a bit harder when they see that they actually have a chance to win. I’m tired of seeing “at least KI/DC/KD aren’t winning every year!” (something that never even had a chance to happen, but admittedly probably would have for quite a while) when all we’re getting now is Cheaters/Stealth/SOTAC winning every year — and that’s not going to change without drastic changes to the AC. It’s hilarious to me that people actually seem to prefer three non-team entities probably trading wins to three normal teams probably staying strong.

I understand and agree that people can join whichever team they want to join, and that this sort of thing is kind of inevitable because people want to win, but that doesn’t change the fact that it negatively impacts the AC.

What can be done?

1. Reduce the number of teams — ASGs aren’t going away on their own, and they’ve been beaten before. The primary issue is that there are a decent number of teams at this point that are really small. To combat this, the number of teams competing should be reduced. I think 6 to 12 teams would work, and I’d prefer 8, but that’s not something I have enough information to pick a number for.

2. Randomize team selection — tons of people would hate this (I would too) but it’s an option that would work if people didn’t just quit en masse.

3. Rewarding loyal team members more — either with NP rewards or by counting those players more in the standings, this would discourage people from team-hopping. I don’t really think this could be balanced very well, and I think an ASG could stay on a small team for a number of years before dropping off due to freeloaders or whatever, so I’m not sure how effective it would be in the long run.

Those are really the only options I can think of, and they would likely be quite unpopular. I can’t see TNT making any of these changes, and I’m not sure how else to keep things more balanced. ASGs are probably the most solid reason for my pessimism about the future of the AC because there isn’t much to be done about them, yet they’re capable of making the AC incredibly boring even after the cheaters are taken care of and the format is fixed.

There are other problems and bigger/different ways to combat them, but I’m trying to keep things somewhat concise and limited in scope. To conclude, here’s what I would change to try to make a fairer AC next year:

– Reduce the number of teams to eight, removing the ten smallest teams. Say the Meepits ate all of their equipment or something, I don’t care. This reduces the impact of ASGs and is, in my opinion, a good step regardless. Maybe instead of removing only the smallest teams, make it ten random teams.

– Implement captcha after every couple of YYB/SS games and after every ~20 MSN/SOSD games, perhaps.

– Convert the games from Flash to HTML5, if possible, try the game ID switch I mentioned at some point, and look into a more secure system for sending score data – With eight teams, have a triple round robin and use the old 9-3-3-3 standings formula

– Place four teams in finals and do that the old way. 1v4 and 2v3 for two days, then winners play winners for first while losers fight for third. This should put the length of the Cup at 25 days. Throw in a bye day after each of the three rounds so people can rest if they want to.

– Change the Darigan Yooyu back to its old form — not the annoying randomness.

– Remove 1-goal SOSD — I like it too, but it totally skews All-Star numbers and makes everyone want to play SOSD instead of other games.

– Make YYB faster by allowing us to skip the post-goal animations more quickly and by ending the game immediately after a goal is scored with fewer than 8 seconds remaining, rather than starting another possession with 1 second left (I don’t know if this is as annoying to me as it is to everyone else)

– Add achievements again, perhaps even expanding them from what they were in ACV. Maxed YYB every day? You deserve a unique, awesome item. Reach double All-Star? You get an item. A lot of people complain that the prize shop isn’t worth it, and I think high-end achievements are one way to counter that (alternatively, higher-point prizes in the prize shop, but it has to be something like a high-end BD weapon that has real value, though I suppose that kind of scarcity tends to give things value on its own)

Perhaps I’m leaving some important things out, but I wrote this article rather spontaneously, and I want to get it out before people stop thinking about how terrible AC8 was. If anyone has any suggestions, questions, comments, or recommendations on how to actually get TNT to fix the AC, please leave a comment. I used to love the AC and I hate to see it in this state. This article is not meant to offend anybody; I’m just expressing my thoughts. I welcome everyone else to do the same.

I hope everyone enjoys their offseason and returns to an improved Altador Cup next summer.

June 22nd Predictions / June 21st Commentary

Commentary

VP vs HW √
Or not. :K  Maybe VP smelled a win and changed their minds about what they’d play.

MT vs TM X
Bad gut, bad. TM nearly sweeps MT, and I’m starting to wonder if such a thing as consistency exists this year.

MD vs FL √
Thank you, MD & FL, for saving my sanity!

LD vs RI √
RI makes a slightly stronger showing in sides, but LD wins YYB as expected, keeping the match high and dry away from RI.

MI vs BV √
Aye!

KL vs SK X
*spews water* WHAT IS EVEN–… no, okay. It looks like KL’s slip yesterday wasn’t just a fluke. For some reason or another, KL is finally starting to check out of the competition. Not to completely discredit SK, but it’s too much of a coincidence that SK and RI do ridiculously well against KL right after another.

DC vs KI √
Funny that this one is one of the most predictable results today. ):

KD vs MQ √
KD misses the sweep, and MQ hands them their first ever MSN loss this year.  It  could be for the reason I listed in yesterday’s predictions (KD not playing as hard because they aren’t as fired up at MQ this time) or it could be because MQ focused and wanted to break one of KD’s streaks. Regardless, this is one of four losses in any game that KD has received all season, so congrats to MQ.

TY vs AL √
I didn’t know where AL would’ve gotten in if they did, but it looks like they picked SlS.  Not too big a deal in the long run.

Predicitons

TM vs FL
TM – TM – TM – TM
FL is most likely to upset in SlS and SOSD, and I think TM will be able to cover it.

HW vs MT
HW – MT – HW – MT
I don’t know about either of these teams anymore. YYB and SlS are close, but MT seems to possibly be on a downswing, so I’ll give the match to HW.

MD vs VP
MD – MD – MD – MD
MD doesn’t look like they’re going to trip up.

RI vs BV
BV – RI – RI – BV
Hmm, this looks familiar. This time I think BV will guard SOSD, but we might have to be careful about YYB.

LD vs SK
LD – LD – LD – LD
The closest game is SOSD, but no matter what happens, LD will probably win YYB and the match.

MI vs KL
MI – MI – MI – MI
No brainer with how each team has been playing lately.

KD vs TY
KD – KD – KD – KD
KD might just be up for another sweep. I’ve got the nervous willies again, but my gut hasn’t been very good this year. xD

DC vs MQ
DC – DC – DC – DC
DC’s got the better record across the board, so we’ll see what MQ plays / how motivated DC is.

KI vs AL
KI – AL – KI – KI
KI’s been drooping lately, so I wouldn’t be surprised if AL took SlS, or even something else.

 

Day 12 – Start Me Up, We’re Halfway There!

We’re almost halfway through. It’s time to enter fever pitch, people! For today, well, there’s some interesting results for results that should have been straight forward.

Altador and Haunted Woods came together and Haunted Woods got the overall win, but not without Altador drawing Slushie Slinger and Make Some Noise. Brightvale and Virtupets had an even fight that ended up having Brightvale as the clear winners, where they won Yooyuball and drew Slushie Slinger instead of the opposite. Kreludor and Darigan met again and Darigan got away with more this time, a full win in Shootout Showdown and a draw in Make Some Noise.

Tyrannia and Mystery Island clashed in a match not expected to be anything special. Nope! Tyrannia is the first team to defeat Mystery Island. They must have fought hard without Mystery Island realizing so they could back it up. They also got a Slushie Slinger draw to boot. Another comeback was Maraqua. I was right about this being a revenge match, because Maraqua got the win with Yooyuball overall. Maybe they aren’t dead in the water… And last in this group, Moltara and Faerieland, which went relatively normal.

Lost Desert and Meridell’s feud ended with a sweep for Meridell! Nice job. I called it, but I know many people expected more from Lost Desert. Roo Island managed to not get swept by Krawk Island by winning Yooyuball. And, of course, Terror Mountain and Shenkuu would just need to end in a complete draw, right? It’s 1-1-1 for them, so I guess we may get a fourquel.

Predictions

Darigan Citadel vs Virtupets
If Virtupets is looking for a stealthy win, today could be it. Darigan had a tough match yesterday and may try to break before the next round. However, Darigan still definitely has the advantage anyway.
YYB – DC / SS – DC / MSN – VP / SOSD – DC / WIN – Darigan Citadel

Kreludor vs Altador
A true test for Altador’s slingers. Kreludor has excess Yooyuball and Shootout Showdown strength and can probably transfer that to get a sweep.
YYB – KD / SS – KD / MSN – KD / SOSD – KD / WIN – Kreludor

Brightvale vs Haunted Woods
This result is unlikely to change from the first time. Haunted Woods only just got their first Yooyuball victory while Brightvale has more to there record. Brightvale plays better overall, too.
YYB – BV / SS – HW / MSN – HW / SOSD – BV / WIN – Brightvale

Maraqua vs Moltara
Maraqua is really lucky to be playing Moltara after a hard fought win against Kiko Lake. It won’t be a full getaway but it will be close enough.
YYB – MQ / SS – MQ / MSN – MQ / SOSD – MT / WIN – Maraqua

Tyrannia vs Faerieland
Tyrannia has been doing extremely well in the past two days. No reason to stop here.
YYB – TY / SS – TY / MSN – TY / SOSD – TY / WIN – Tyrannia

Mystery Island vs Kiko Lake
Hmm. Mystery Island is probably back on track for today, but Kiko Lake will definitely want a slice of that Yooyuball. Mystery Island should win but Kiko Lake can defend themselves.
YYB – MI / SS – KL / MSN – MI / SOSD – MI / WIN – Mystery Island

Shenkuu vs Roo Island
Both are quite close in Yooyuball and Shootout Showdown. I believe Shenkuu has won the last time(s) they fought, except they haven’t won Yooyuball. Likely close to the last time.
YYB – DRAW / SS – SK / MSN – RI / SOSD – SK / WIN – Shenkuu

Terror Mountain vs Lost Desert
Lost Desert could be demoralized about the sweep yesterday, but I doubt it. I think they’ll hold together because they know who they really are. Hahaa.
YYB – LD / SS – LD / MSN – DRAW / SOSD – DRAW / WIN – Lost Desert

Meridell vs Krawk Island
Yeahhh. 5 days too long of a wait. This is unbelievably close, where most of the records are undefeated or close to in some way. This is like playing Russian Roulette, and I’ve thrown the knife to Meridell. I can’t explain how this match will function, probably because it’s unpredictable.
YYB – DRAW / SS – DRAW / MSN – MD / SOSD – MD / WIN – Meridell

Day 10 – Under the Sea, it’s no Mystery

Starting off the results is Altador/Darigan. Not the sweep that I thought it would be, because Altador won Slushie Slinger! Winning against an abundant powerhouse is a good sign. I was wrong in predicting Haunted Woods winning, but if you replaced Brightvale with Haunted Woods for Yooyuball, it would be perfect. The last one in this bracket was the space battle, and it unsurprisingly ended in a moon rock stoning for Virtupets.

Sweeps and near sweeps galore in Minitheus 2! Tyrannia did the business on Faerieland, netting an entire sweep. Kiko Lake also did not power down and swept Moltara accordingly. The match of the day was Mystery Island and Maraqua. I expected a sweep from Mystery Island, but Maraqua managed to claw a Shootout Showdown draw. This was the first ‘powerhouse’ Mystery Island has been tested against, and it was successful.

Krawk Island and Meridell made sword-food for their victims Roo Island and Shenkuu. As for Lost Desert and Terror Mountain, it seems like the Mountaineers recognized Lost Desert’s weak spot in Make Some Noise, finally getting on the board for that game with a draw, and a draw in Shootout Showdown too.

Predictions

Virtupets vs Altador
I’m not predicting Altador to get swept! It seems like Altador has fallen back on their niche plan again, and they should do so according to schedule.
YYB – VP / SS – AL / MSN – VP / SOSD – VP / WIN – Virtupets

Kreludor vs Brightvale
I could potentially see Brightvale getting Shootout Showdown, but clearly Krleudor has to see that one coming.
YYB – KD / SS – KD / MSN – KD / SOSD – KD / WIN – Kreludor

Darigan Citadel vs Haunted Woods
Darigan Citadel may have been resting a bit yesterday, but they’ll take this match more seriously. Haunted Woods is probably taking it seriously too, even after playing presumably hard to beat Brightvale.  Therefore I think Darigan will be more covered and know what to expect.
YYB – DC / SS – DC / MSN – DC / SOSD – DC / WIN – Darigan Citadel

Kiko Lake vs Faerieland
Apparently the Lakers don’t even need rest days.
YYB – KL / SS – KL / MSN – KL / SOSD – KL / WIN – Kiko Lake

Tyrannia vs Maraqua
This could go either way, really. Tyrannia hasn’t been in top shape, but they can sometimes pull off sweeps against middling teams or lower teams. Maraqua lost yesterday and faces the realization that they’re probably not even contenders for a powerhouse title. It’s basically morale vs morale.
YYB – DRAW / SS – TY / MSN – TY / SOSD – MQ / WIN – Tyrannia

Mystery Island vs Moltara
Mystery Island went out guns blazin’ yesterday, and I’m sure they’ll need some rest. Moltara would be simple to sweep for them, but they can probably sneak by somewhere.
YYB – MI / SS – MI / MSN – MI / SOSD – DRAW / WIN – Mystery Island

Meridell vs Shenkuu
This happened already, right? Let’s do it again.
YYB – MD / SS – MD / MSN – MD / SOSD – MD / WIN – Meridell

Lost Desert vs Roo Island
Advantages go the first two for the Desert and the last two for the Island. However, today is Make Some Noise bonus day and I think it will be a bit turbulent there. Overall, I think Lost Desert will drop a sweep while Roo Island attempts the bonus.
YYB – LD / SS – LD / MSN – RI / SOSD – LD / WIN – Lost Desert

Krawk Island vs Terror Mountain
Krawk Island could sweep for the 3rd day in a row, but something can be arranged. Maybe something unexpected like Make Some Noise will happen…
YYB – KI / SS – KI / MSN – KI / SOSD – DRAW / WIN – Krawk Island

Day 9 – Slushie Slushie, Honey Honey

I called this day one to wait for with the results and it was. Some very interesting things happened.

First of all, Altador has made a breakthrough. They were able to draw Slushie Slinger and win Make Some Noise against Brightvale, getting their best result so far. Kreludor and Darigan did not disappoint to see, and I was almost right. I called a draw in Slushie Slinger and Shootout Showdown, but only the first happened. Incredible. If Kreludor can dismantle a top 4 team like that, then their power must be over 9000. Yooyuball, that is. Virtupets and Haunted Woods did not go as I planned. Haunted Woods managed to take Shootout Showdown and draw Make Some Noise too. Why could they not win like this before?

Minitheus 2 had 3 sound defeats, but some more unexpected than others. Mystery Island swept Faerieland, no big headlines there. Tyrannia overcame Moltara’s random sidegame selection and won Slushie Slinger along with what I predicted. Then Kiko Lake and Maraqua happened. This was my exact quote from yesterday:  Kiko Lake can be inconsistent, but they’re also not bad. The only clear advantage is Kiko Lake slinging for that bonus. I think it will be a close one for Yooyuball, but only ending in a Maraqua win or draw. Whoops, looks like I was challenged. Kiko Lake swept Maraqua. I know of their inconsistency, but if they’re capable of doing that, then hell broke loose.

Vaelous 2 was no fun. Lost Desert took most of the points from Shenkuu, slipping two draws in Noise and Shootout. Roo Island got swept by Krawk Island. Apparently the one draw in Make Some Noise I was talking about was too much. Terror Mountain also got swept by Meridell. I’m legitimately surprised about this one, because our Slushie Slinger score was higher than any we’ve ever had in recorded history.

Predictions

Altador vs Darigan Citadel
Darigan must be hurting from losing so hard yesterday, while Altador is gleaming from the bottom. It’s not like Darigan Citadel to just completely drop motivation like that though, and they have the huge advantage anyway.
YYB – DC / SS – DC / MSN – DC / SOSD – DC / WIN – Darigan

Haunted Woods vs Brightvale
Haunted Woods got some nice side game wins yesterday, which can definitely shine in this match. If they can win Yooyuball, it’s all locked up. I think Brightvale will try for either Yooyuball or Shootout Showdown, where one is more possible to win than the other.
YYB – HW / SS – HW / MSN – HW / SOSD – BV / WIN – Haunted Woods

Kreludor vs Virtupets
Space battle! Really, Virtupets doesn’t have a chance. They may be able to get Make Some Noise, but drawing Haunted Woods isn’t quite convincing.
YYB – KD / SS – KD / MSN – KD / SOSD – KD / WIN – Kreludor

Tyrannia vs Faerieland
Tyrannia held off Moltara yesterday, and I think they can completely hold off Faerieland today. Their biggest game is Slushie Slinger, so watch where the slip-up could occur.
YYB – TY / SS – TY / MSN – TY / SOSD – TY / WIN – Tyrannia

Kiko Lake vs Moltara
If Kiko Lake can sweep Maraqua, this is virtually no problem. However, take their small size into account, and they could be wiped. They’ll likely dominate again, but slips could occur in Make Some Noise or Shootout Showdown.
YYB – KL / SS – KL / MSN – KL / SOSD – MT / WIN – Kiko Lake

Mystery Island vs Maraqua
This one is way less exciting than I thought it would be. Maraqua is at a disadvantage in everything, and their result yesterday doesn’t show they’re on par with the current 1st placed Mystery Island.
YYB – MI / SS – MI / MSN – MI / SOSD – MI / WIN – Mystery Island

 Krawk Island vs Shenkuu
Krawk Island has the ability to sweep in this bracket, so it can probably happen again. Shenkuu doesn’t have anything overwhelmingly for them.
YYB – KI / SS – KI / MSN – KI / SOSD – KI / WIN – Krawk Island

 Lost Desert vs Terror Mountain
Both have their advantages. Hopefully it doesn’t end with a sweep.
YYB – LD / SS – LD / MSN – LD / SOSD – TM / WIN – Lost Desert

Meridell vs Roo Island
Meridell is on a roll and seems to be even stronger than Krawk Island. Not good for the Roos.
YYB – MD / SS – MD / MSN – MD / SOSD – MD / WIN – Meridell

Day 8 – You Can’t Stop the Defeats

The first results of the second round started off matter-of-factly, but today has some wicked matches to look forward to.

In the Virtupets/Altador match, Altador finally managed to stop a sweep by getting a draw in Slushie Slinger. Okay, it’s not great, but it’s progress. Darigan did not let Brightvale draw Yooyuball like I said, but I’m not in the least bit surprised. Also unsurprising, Kreludor sweeping Haunted Woods.

Maraqua sweeps Faerieland, proving that I was right and they usually do sweep lower teams. Meanwhile, Moltara actually drew Mystery Island in Slushie Slinger, which stopped a sweep. Totally uncommon for Mystery Island. And as hilariously confusing as this was, Tyrannia beats Kiko Lake the day after the Lakers sweep them. Right.

My Lost Desert/Krawk Island prediction was close, but Lost Desert did not pull through on the Make Some Noise front. It looks like Lost Desert did indeed improve, but certainly not reborn as a powerhouse yet. Meridell swept Shenkuu, why I had Shenkuu winning Slushie Slinger I do not know. Finally, Roo Island pulled through and defeated Terror Mountain in Yooyuball.

Predictions

Brightvale vs Altador
Well, with Altador drawing Virtupets in Slushie Slinger, it opens up new doors. But today is bonus day for that game, and Brightvale has a stronger offence to secure that game.
YYB – BV / SS – BV / MSN – BV / SOSD – BV / WIN – Brightvale

Kreludor vs Darigan Citadel
Yes. This could be written off as Kreludor sweeping with their higher records, but I highly doubt it. Darigan has plenty of loss-less records too. I do see Kreludor winning Yooyuball for sure, but the side games are in the wide berth of space to determine. Draws, anyone?
YYB – KD / SS – DRAW / MSN – KD / SOSD – DRAW / WIN – Kreludor

Virtupets vs Haunted Woods
Also a very interesting match. It’s hard to place these two in the overall standings. Virtupets pretty much has the advantage in everything except for Slushie Slinger, where it’s extremely tepid for both. This fight can determine where these two can be slotted in predictions. Hrm. I don’t suspect a sweep, but I think Virtupets can win.
YYB – VP / SS – HW / MSN – VP / SOSD – VP / WIN – Virtupets

Mystery Island vs Faerieland
A spanking, and stealing first again.
YYB – MI / SS – MI / MSN – MI / SOSD – MI / WIN – Mystery Island

Maraqua vs Kiko Lake
This is an interesting match too. It never would have been, except for maybe on day one of the cup. Kiko Lake can be inconsistent, but they’re also not bad. The only clear advantage is Kiko Lake slinging for that bonus. I think it will be a close one for Yooyuball, but only ending in a Maraqua win or draw.
YYB – DRAW / SS – KL / MSN – MQ / SOSD – MQ / WIN – Maraqua

Tyrannia vs Moltara
God, Moltara actually has some better records. They’re unlikely to take the win, but a few individual wins are suitable.
YYB – TY / SS – MT / MSN – TY / SOSD – MT / WIN – Tyrannia

Roo Island vs Krawk Island
Roo Island only just got their first Yooyuball win, so winning here is improbable. Krawk Island pretty much has the advantage in everything else too. It may be a sweep.
YYB – KI / SS – KI / MSN – DRAW / SOSD – KI / WIN – Krawk Island

Lost Desert vs Shenkuu
Much like Kreludor/Darigan today, Lost Desert has the yooyuball advantage, but the sides are very close and could be draw happy. I believe in Lost Desert’s skills more so than Shenkuu’s, though.
YYB – LD / SS – SK / MSN – LD / SOSD – DRAW

Meridell vs Terror Mountain
Meridell could sweep this one based on numbers alone, but it doesn’t happen so easily. Terror Mountain can probably win Shootout Showdown, but the puck stops there.
YYB – MD / SS – MD / MSN – MD / SOSD – TM / WIN – Meridell