|Announced:||June 10, 2013|
|Started||July 8, 2013|
|Ended:||September 16, 2013|
|Notable matches:||Alucard/Falcon/Rydia, Missingno/Tidus/Banjo,|
Mega Man/Zero/Charizard, All Draven Matches
Summer 2013 Contest was the ninth GameFAQs character tournament held on GameFAQs. The format diverged from 1-on-1 again, but this time for 1-on-1-on-1, with the top voted moving on. This was probably made to fit something no Board 8er complained about: fitting the ninth edition, there are nine divisions, with the top seeds being the Noble Nine.
Ulti's Pre-Contest Analysis
Way back when Allen originally announced this contest, and man that seems like forever ago, there was a ton of excitement in the air. It had been three years since the previous contest for reasons unknown, and Board 8 was allowed massive influence over the entrants. It was the biggest single-board influence over a contest since Current Events had free reign over who got into the Summer 2002 Contest. We also didn't have to deal with the nonsense of vote-in polls this year, because 243 characters got in.
Allen was clearly very excited about this contest, because he was in constant touch with us and spoiled everything for us first. The short of it is that he released one seed at a time, outsourced all the character bios, and revealed a massive 243 character, 12-hour threeway poll contest, with 24 hour polling from round 3 on. There were also a ton of cute touches to it, namely the Noble Nine being the nine 1 seeds, an homage to the 3 seed curse with all the 3 seeds being newcomers, and the 8 seeds all being rallied Board 8 characters.
I'll save my opinion of the setup for when all the writeups are done, but I will say that this was a cool idea to try once. It meant for some crazy situations where characters could lose matches that they would never lose 1 on 1, and this contest would definitely deliver on that front.
Lastly, there were tons of new features to the poll results page. New maps, new results screen, new stat pages, a new expert challenge... pretty much everything was balls-to-the-wall this year to account for the massive layoff. And despite what everyone will say about this contest in the coming years, this was a VERY fun contest much like Summer 2003 Contest.
Ulti's Post-Contest Analysis
There's a lot I could say about this contest, but I'll keep it simple and positive. Everyone knows about Reddit and Draven, but even without them this contest was completely nuts. The Vivi > Mario upset, Pokemon going crazy, Mega Man beating Charizard even with Zero in the poll, and Final Fantasy 7 tanking are a few examples, but not to be forgotten in all this is how threeway polls were a cool new idea. Once.
Unlike fourways, this is not an idea that should ever come back, simply because it was just way too much. 243 characters is insane, as is 121 matches, 125 if you include bonus polls. The less is more philosophy should be used more often, and the 128 character format with 12 hour polls in the early rounds was really good. Allen had it right with starting the 24 hours polls in round 3 instead of round 4, too, so full marks on that.
That being said, ranking this contest is very difficult. Some matches were awesome, some left me wondering how the site's administrator could turn his back on it when the opportunity to stop the rallying was right there. Allen was nice enough to make a topic explaining everything though, finally, and I saved it for archiving purposes:
SBAllen posted...I was planning on doing a big writeup at the end of the contest, but since everybody is asking for one now, here you go.
1) The /r/leagueoflegends factor
The 70,000 difference in votes from Link/Shepard/Draven to Sonic/Mewtwo/Bowser is 99% accountable to Reddit users, according to Google Analytics and our own internal tracking. New voters (most of whom were Reddit users, although we don't track where someone visited from to how they vote) voted 3:2 for Draven over Link. They did not 100% for Draven, as many seem to assume.
However, those 70,000 visitors from Reddit are a drop in the bucket to our overall site traffic. Reddit accounted for less than 5% of our traffic that day, which is a whole lot more than they normally do, but for comparison, weekends this time of year give us a 16% boost in traffic over weekdays. The poll page, even with the increase in traffic from reddit, wasn't even the most popular page on the site on Labor Day (that was the home page, as always). A lot of people seem to think that I'm doing everything possible to keep Draven in the contest so we keep getting the boost in traffic, but it is simply such an irrelevant boost that it wouldn't be worth the effort. We aren't interested in people who hit the site and never come back.
Oh, and one last thing about those visitors. According to Google, from the first Draven rally in July, it was their first visit to GameFAQs for less than half of them. By the Labor Day rally, 80% of them had visited GameFAQs previously, which is what you'd expect from the same people coming back again and again to vote for Draven.
2) Cheating, rallying, and conflicts of interest
I'm not going to define conflict of interest here, but the only way to avoid them in something like this is to be consistent, and to not intervene in the contest except as absolutely necessary. The rules state that we can intervene in case of vote stuffing, which we did, or that we can even just shut down the contests or make massive changes in case of unauthorized intervention or fraud, but that simply didn't happen.
First of all, there was no DDoS, from Reddit or anywhere else. Our load balancers/proxy servers for our web servers had an out-of-memory issue after 300+ days of uptime. This had happened before to the load balancers for our database (back on December 26, also during a holiday, when the boards were down for an hour or two), but this was the first time it happened to our web servers, catching everybody off guard due to the holiday. Because the site was slow but still responding most of the 90 minute "outage", the first "site down" alert didn't come for over an hour. Once the operations team was finally paged out, restarting the servers fixed the issue immediately.
One thing we absolutely failed to do was to have a clear policy in place in case of outages. If we had one, it would have been very clear and wouldn't have come into effect unless there was a massive failure (something like a full outage preventing or impacting votes for more than six hours). We didn't though, meaning that any action we took in the Link/Shepard/Draven battle was going to be seen as (and may have actually been) a conflict of interest. Without any policy in place, all we could really do is let the battles play out without any intervention, unless there was vote stuffing. This won't be a problem in future contests(?) as we'll have a contingency plan for site blackouts in place before they happen.
We state up front that we reserve the right to adjust vote totals in case of vote stuffing, which is one person voting many times. We did just that in several battles where there was clear evidence that one person, using a VPN, was registering hundreds and hundreds of votes all by themselves. We caught that person red-handed, banned them, zeroed out their contest entry (they were on the leaderboard), and adjusted our anti-vote-stuffing code over the course of the next few days to prevent it from happening again, as that same person still kept trying new methods of stuffing votes. The huge boost in the number of votes in Draven battles matches up with both our internal and external traffic numbers, and everything about those voters looks distinctly human. There's not one person spamming thousands of votes (like we caught and stopped), there are thousands of voters visiting the site and voting once, and everything from our internal tracking to Google to ad serving rates confirms that.
Last night, I was watching Netflix with my wife and Devin was playing Final Fantasy XIV. I decided to check in on things before I went to bed. I was shocked when I visited this board to find myself being accused of rigging the contest, being a hypocrite, and much worse. I found out that the mods of the /r/leagueoflegends subreddit were shutting down rally topics, at the request of GameFAQs staff. I messaged them with my official reddit account that I used for my AMA, and asked exactly who it was they talked to from our site, confirming that we do not have any restrictions on external rallies. They simply reinstated the rally topic, not mentioning anything else, and that was it. That's all that I know about the topic.
Now, if I were to go to reddit and demand that /r/leagueoflegends stop rallying for Draven, then that is a conflict of interest, unless I go out and demand that every other site that mentions the contest stop doing so as well. I'm not the Internet police and the rules on rallies aren't so much that we want other sites to come in and rally votes for their favorite characters, it's that we really have no technical or legal means of stopping it. If a site started rallying, I asked them to quit, and they didn't, what then? Do I shut down the contest, or just award the victory to my favorite character? What if they were rallying to force the other character to win by default? Where does my interference on the outcomes of the battles end? Unless a single person is stuffing votes, which we specifically disallow and try to prevent, I have to let the battles play out. That's the only thing I can do per the rules of the contest, not to mention ethically and legally.
3) Changing the rules
This contest, like any other contest, has a legally binding set of rules, and we can't change the rules, voting restrictions, or guidelines on external rallies in the middle of it just because we don't like the way things are going. Nobody complaining about the rules now complained before the contest started, and those have been the exact same rules for our battle contests for many years now.
That being said, we did not expect /r/leagueoflegends to rally like it has. When the contest was being built, we were hoping to get both minor and even major publishers boosting up their games, and even independent game fanbases to rally up for their characters. The real problem is that it only happened once, for Draven, and nobody else, and it happened with such a force that not even Link could survive it. If other companies or fanbases had rallied their characters as hard as League of Legends fans did, there wouldn't have be an issue, but it's hard for any other group to stand up to such a massive and organized group of fans. And let's face it, they are fans. They're not coming to GameFAQs to ruin things (well, a few of them are, and they're very loud and gloating about it, but they're definitely not representative of the whole).
4) Registered users only
If, hypothetically, we were to restrict the contest voting to registered GameFAQs users (which we can't do in the middle of the contest, and which we couldn't get a budget or justify the hours for an entire contest), then we'd have a lot fewer votes (registered users only account for around 1/3 of the total), and a lot of different results:
5149: Jak over Draven
5171: Falcon over Alucard
5220: ?-Block over Rikku
5227: Mega Man X over Draven
5232: Luigi over Big Boss
5246: Mario over Vivi
5247: Missingno over Squall
5251: Zelda over Charizard
5253: Link over Draven
5255: Kirby over Sephiroth
5261: Charizard over Mega Man
It's not all about Draven. Non-registered users impact quite a few battles, and would leave us with completely different results.
5) This contest proves GameFAQs is dying
Nope, we're stronger than ever. More users, more traffic, etc. it's just that the Internet has grown around us. Fifteen years ago, the Internet was reserved for the technically literate, five years ago, your parents were using the Internet, and now even your grandparents are online all the time.
This contest does show how much the topography of the Internet has changed. Before, if someone needed help on a game, our average visitor came to GameFAQs via the home page, and then searched for their game. Today, the average visitor does a deep search on Google ("How to beat Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts"), and they're directed to one of many different pages on GameFAQs: a FAQ, a board topic, or even a question in GameFAQs Answers.
The home page of GameFAQs today gets half of the traffic it received five years ago, and that's reflected in the Poll of the Day totals. Fewer people hitting the home page means fewer people voting. The rest of the site gets a lot more traffic, but they're not even seeing the polls. Even a lot of long-time registered users skip the home page and go straight to the Boards page. Our home page just doesn't have a lot of compelling content and never really has. The Poll of the Day is actually one of the big draws to it. This is something that we actually plan to address in the near future, attempting to make the home page an interesting landing destination for our users.
6) Is it worth it?
That's the big question. This contest was truly created with a lot of love for Board 8, but the rest of the Internet gets to participate, and at that point it's out of our hands. This isn't the first time that outside forces have rallied for a character, it's just the first time it's been such an unpopular one. Future character battles could suffer the same fate. Or, they could just be boring snooze-fests where the Noble Nine reign supreme and Link is unmatched. I don't know which is worse. I was hoping with that between the three-way battles, expanded roster, and the ability to vote from (and promote) the poll page itself, that the old boring Link-always-wins contest would be different this year, but... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avr7enrZuJQ
Despite all of the conspiracies, this contest doesn't really make us any money or bring in very many new users. In fact, when you take into account all of the time spent building it up, checking for vote-stuffing, doing writeups like these, and just trying to keep things running, time arguably better spent actually adding new content and features to the site, it's hard to argue that it's worth the trouble anymore. But it's fun. Or at least, it was.
In previous contests, there simply wasn't a dedicated force like /r/leagueoflegends that could singlehandedly swing the outcome of the contest, and it's just going to get worse from here. If we have a Best Game Ever contest in a few years and League of Legends (or whatever the MOBA of the moment is years from now) fans rally their game to win, it's not really fun for the GameFAQs members who enjoy these contests, including me.
So, is this the last of the Character Battle (and Best Game Ever) contests in their current format? Maybe. There aren't going to be a lot of good memories from this one, and the issue of large external communities rallying is only going to get worse. Online games are getting bigger and more dedicated fanbases that are making the old Starcraft (Blizzard.net) and L-Block (4chan) rallies look rather tame. The problem is that there isn't really any fair way to limit who can vote. If we require registration to vote, we'll just get flooded with novelty accounts that are abandoned. It won't slow anyone down. If we only allow votes from people with X karma, it's unfair to the normal influx of new users who join our site on a daily basis to tell them that they aren't trusted enough to vote in our polls.
But, all is not lost. We've got some ideas for at least one more home page bracket battle that (probably) shouldn't lend itself to such huge external rallies, and some other ideas on keeping the spirit of the Character Battle alive while giving the users of GameFAQs control over the outcome. Whether or not those ideas come to fruition depends a lot on you, the members of Board 8, and what you want to happen. You're some of the oldest and most dedicated users of GameFAQs, and a lot of the most enjoyable, but the amount of hate and vitriol over the past few weeks has been unacceptable. You can disagree with what I did (or didn't do), but the personal attacks don't really help the situation at all. But, I'd like to think that's just a small and vocal minority, so we'll see how it plays out from here.
So with that said, it's good to know that Allen was as seemingly annoyed with everything as we were, and Board 8 would be lying to themselves if they tried saying they weren't acting just as bad as Reddit in some avenues. I also did promise the dude in private a fair evaluation in the PCA, so here goes.
I'd give him a straight B, since while overall he did a good job, the lack of any foresight or backup plan in case of an outage isn't exactly acceptable -- especially given such outages have happened before and have caused either match restarts or full 24 hour extensions. Technology has gotten out of control, but that doesn't mean it can't break. There should have been a plan in place. I'm also willing to honestly believe that Link/Shep/Draven was a coincidence, but that doesn't mean I think it was handled well. Neither were Draven's last two matches.
That being said, I'm okay with rallying from outside sources. Truly, I am. But Allen needs to actually take a stand with it instead of waffling like he did. Once the personal attacks started, he checked out. I don't blame him and I will never defend the idiots who went after him, but I do hope he learned something from the experience beyond "contests aren't fun". Not the least of which should be that he needs to make a decision and stick with it, and people will agree even if it's a decision they don't like. That's what goes into making leaders and men that are respected. If you like rallies, say so and be okay with them. There's nothing wrong with that, and there's no need to explain away people who don't do it. If r/LoL is the only thing that shows up in force, good on them.
With that being said, the forums need to be moderated a LOT more heavily during contest time if blatant invasions are going on. The crap Reddit got away with on Board 8 during Draven's last three matches was unreal, and mods really need to stop hiding behind the "if you don't mark it, we can't do anything" excuse. I'll guarantee these people didn't sit around waiting for things to get marked when Reddit spammed for Cory in the House. Why then does Reddit get away with invading Board 8? I don't understand.
So in conclusion, I hope Allen starts having fun with contests again. And for the love of all things, can we PLEASE get a 128 game bracket, 12 hour matches for the first two rounds, no division by era? You can even remove FF7 and Ocarina of Time and hold a tournament of champions, though it may not be necessary since League of Legends will be the favorite. That contest would be amazing!
You want to prove you listen to us and are a man of the people, Allen? We've been asking for that contest for nearly 10 years. Give us what we want.
People look forward to my contest ranking every season for whatever reason, and here it is:
Fall 2010 (GotD)
Spring 2004 (Games)
Summer 2002 (Characters)
Summer 2003 (Characters)
Summer 2013 (Characters)
Winter 2010 (Characters)
Summer 2005 (Characters)
Fall 2009 (Games 4-way)
Summer 2007 (Characters 4-way)
Summer 2006 (Females vs Males)
Spring 2006 (Series)
Summer 2008 (Characters 4-way)
Summer 2004 (Characters)
Spring 2005 (Villains)
Fall 2011 (Rivalries)
Last, but not least... The Ultimate Loser™!
Adol Chrisin! Going by first place > last place.... Draven > Samus > Red > Squall > Amaterasu > Adol
First place > second place just for fun.... Draven > Snake > Pikachu > Sora > Gilgamesh > Booker
Thanks and see you next year! Also, sorry for taking so long to finish this. I got super burned out right in the middle =/