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Altador Cup VIII

Are you ready to yooyu?
The classic game of Yooyuball is back in this year's Altador Cup. Pick a team to represent, play games to rack up points, and help your team get a chance to win the annual Altador tournament. Stick with JN for all of your AC updates along the way!

Parting Thoughts on the Cup

This year, more than any other, the Altador Cup has seen changes that seem vastly unpopular with the event's core participants. It's clear that there are some problems with the Cup, but what are the solutions? This year, Jellyneo's Altador Cup coverage has been provided by the dedicated team of Herdy, Link, and Ummy. On this page you'll find their thoughts about the present, and future, of the Cup.

Herdy's Thoughts

(Herdy has taken part in the Altador Cup in all 8 years on the Haunted Woods team.)

There have been a lot of hot topics in this year's AC, and everyone seems to have their own solution. For my part, I'm largely going to ignore the problem of cheaters running rampant. I honestly can't see a perfect solution to completely eliminate the problem, and TNT have their work cut out solving the problem there. My only real suggestion there is to recalculate team scores at the end of the Cup to take into account scores from users that have been frozen during the event. My main issue is with the current system as it stands, what has been done well, and what can be improved for the future.

The Brackets

It seems overwhelmingly clear that the majority of the AC community is not a fan of the bracket system. Whilst you can make a case that the majority of the players on site are not part of this community, and as such those views may in fact be in the minority, the AC at its heart is a community event - more than any other on Neopets. It is therefore important to keep this community on side, so to speak, in order for the event to be a success.

The bracket system was a good attempt at reinvigorating the AC format and shortening it, but it simply didn't work. It prevents teams for playing all other opponents, and stacks a lot of the outcome on pure luck. The changes during the AC8 only made these issues worse. Five day brackets combined with the potential to play a team twice in a bracket mean that event fewer teams are now playing each other in daily matches. The additional fact that this year's brackets were not random, but based on last year's standings, makes the selection even more unfairly stacked against some teams. Scrapping a good deal of the planned changes mid-Cup this year wasn't a great idea, either.

So what's the solution? Well, the double round robin format was good, but it was a bit too long. By day 34, most people were bored with Yooyuball. A smaller format where you play all teams seems like a good idea. A single round robin with finals seems the best solution, at 19 days play. Some people feel this might be a little too short. The solution there is simple - add two more teams to the Cup :P

Scores

Without a doubt the single greatest improvement in the AC8 was the decision to show scores on the results page. Without that, we never would have known the sheer scale of cheating going on, or how strong/weak certain teams really were. It was a bold move to improve the transparency of the Cup, one that has doubtless given TNT a few headaches, but a good one.

But why stop there? As long as the brackets remain, showing us the scores of daily results doesn't really matter as the two are not directly related. The move towards transparency should be applauded, but TNT must go further - it is time to reveal the formula. The method of scoring for the AC has been kept secret since its inception, and TNT have used the cover of not wanting to encourage cheaters by revealing it. There was somehow the idea that cheaters would be able to use the formula to win the Cup. Well, guess what, the cheaters just did that. Revealing the formula is not going to make them more successful - they have already taken a team to 1st position. They cannot do any better. To be in a sport where, 8 years in, no one knows how to win, is ridiculous. It shouldn't continue.

Teams

Ethel Boortz is a fun addition to the Meridell team this year, but I'm likely to say that as I am a fan of elderly Neopets. The switch between Tyrannia and Moltara was also logical given the relative similarity in team themes. In terms of new additions, TNT has done well this year. However, it is now 3 years since a good chunk of AC players suddenly switched genders for no reason. To make matters worse, this year the identities of Vere Polinek and Tulah Kisner on Moltara suddenly swapped. Adding in new characters is great, but existing ones should at least be labelled correctly, surely?


Girl or boy?

The Fanatic's Museum

I know many people are not fans of NC, but it is a fact of life, and in this AC it's involvement has been good. I am a fan of these access area events, and it was an imaginative theme to visit the Techo Fan's home this year. There were many good items with multiple uses, and the inclusion of the Collector's Corner area that re-released popular previous items was also a fun move - roll on the GMC and the re-release of Lulu's wig, I say! The only gripe I have with the NC areas this year is that this is now year 8 of the Cup - where are our wearable Yooyuball slings, TNT?

The Staff Tournament

If there's one area of the Cup that I feel is working absolutely perfectly, it is the Staff Tournament. Gone is the elimination format, and the pick-a-team format is great fun. The fact that staff's scores also vary, making picking and sticking a poor tactic, also gives an extra element to play. It even has its own prize shop, which typically has fun, playful items in it.I've long been a fan of extending the guessing/betting system of the Staff Tournament to the Cup as a whole - this would have the effect of legitimising preexisting prediction pages and encouraging a lack of team bias. Perhaps a valuable addition to next year's Cup.

Conclusions

The Cup can still be salvaged, but action must be taken. We simply can't have another year of brackets. The event needs to be refocused towards the thing that sets it apart from other Neopets gaming events like the Daily Dare or Games Masters Challenge - the community. They are the key to the Altador Cup. Encouraging players to visit official team chat groups on the Neoboards, team avatars, making daily results matter again to make Cup coverage matter. All of these things would help the community feel like they matter once again. Of course, cheaters are a major issue for the AC, but let's not get bogged down in that. The AC has other problems, and if they are not fixed, there won't be a Cup to cheat in.

Link's Thoughts

(Link has participated as a member of the Altador team in all 8 years)

The Altador cup is one of the more prominent site events that occurring annually on Neopets. It has garnered followers that only appear each year on Neopets to compete in this “ancient” tournament. I would go as far as to say that the Altador Cup is one of the most popular (in terms of user participation) and entertaining of the site events; save for the plots that occasionally show up. Since its creation, now 8 years ago, I personally have participated in every single Altador Cup and each time I always pick Altador as my team. This year, even though I actively participated in bringing Altador Cup updates to Jellyneo users, I hardly played at single game. I made it to Rank 1 on the very last day in part to racing against the clock in Shootout Showdown. In this run down of the Altador Cup, and more specifically AC VIII, I’m going to give my two-cents as a veteran of the games and why exactly this year was so difficult for me to gain much interest in playing in it.

Teams

Every year I wish for something new to happen amongst the team that could stir up the participation levels of the Altador Cup. I love seeing new players being brought in and I like seeing teams’ trade players as well. This year we received 1 new player, an Elderly Ixi for Team Meridell, and the goalies for Team Moltara and Team Tyrannia were traded. I was hoping that it would be more of a bang honestly. I was crossing my fingers for another pet, maybe something Eventide, to show up on the field. But it didn’t. Sad Link is sad.

One thing I believe TNT can improve upon is the amount of information we get from teams BEFORE and DURING the Altador Cup. All we are given about the teams are the little blurbs during the new count down set up, and the team bios when signing up. What if during the tournament the team captains, or anyone else on the team for that matter, gave us feedback on how we were performing (not personally performing but how the team itself was during in the tournament), told us strategies on defeating the current team, or even some words of encouragement! The one example I can give for this is the Obelisk War event where the leaders of each army talked to the participants. This in turn would draw me into playing more to discover what [insert players name here] says. It’s small addition if you get right down to it, and it can be used for some humorous results.


Ya doin' great kid! Keep on winning for the glory of Altador!

The Games

I think it is time for change in the actual games of the Altador Cup. Shootout Showdown was the last game to be released and that was back in Altador Cup IV. Since then only the game of Yooyuball has changed and there was a large outcry over the update; and there still is. One thing that deterred me away from participating this year was the fact that games remained the same in every way as year previous. The only thing “new” I noticed in this Altador Cup was the aforementioned team updates. TNT should try and focus on their main event again to get the tweaks out of it. There is still an outcry over the main event, and if the main event gives people problems, then you have a problem. I would rather NOT have the power ups and the charged up shooting bar. I felt the old style still suites me more in the sense of enjoyment. I know it was changed so there was not as much repetition occurring, but no matter what they do there will always be repetition. This year and the previous year it felt as though Yooyuball did not matter as much too, but more on that later when I talk about the bracket system.

One change they could make to Yooyuball is with the Yooyus. We haven’t had a new Yooyu since Altador Cup II and it is becoming a wee bit stale. Adding a new color or two to the lineup would shake the tournament and add a nice flare to it in my opinion. Try Jelly or Shadow. Jelly could bounce all over the place and shadow could disappear for a second or two if held for too long... actually wait DON’T use those. I may be repeating what everyone else has said a countless number of times, but please do something about the Darigan Yooyu. If someone on the opposing team can shoot it straight into my goal without having to do any fancy angles then we have a problem.

The side games could use some spicing up as well, but in the end I have no quarrels if they are not. Honestly the only qualm I have right now is that Slushie Slinger is too slow in the beginning and actually put me to sleep this year.

Achievements

ACHIEVEMENTS! Y U GO AWAY?

Dear TNT, if you wanted to any future Altador Cups a success and entertaining, add achievements back again. Add achievements that we don’t see on the main page Altador cup hub, making them all the more exciting to…well achieve. If Altador Cup VIII had achievements in, my participation would have been higher than it was.

The Brackets.

Can we be honest here? I think we should. Let’s be honest here, the brackets are the worst idea to come from the Altador Cup. If there is one thing that could possibly single handedly bring down the Altador Cup, it is the bracket system. In the beginning it was seen as the shining light for the lower ranked contender of the Altador Cup to finally rise up and gain higher ranks than what they are common to. This couldn’t be further from the truth. After a day or two of playing the brackets a practically became set in stone. Smaller teams, such as Moltara and Faerieland, could only fight over who wasn’t placed in last.This year the very first round was last year’s final round brackets, so nothing original there. This year teams we partnered together until the very last round. Some smaller teams were always against section brackets with much larger teams and as such they were eradicated in the standings. It makes it seem as though the games no longer matter. It does not matter how many games you win; what matters is if you stay on top of your opponent. By the third and fourth rounds, many teams started giving up proclaiming that the brackets were unfair.

But what can be done to remedy this wound in the Altador Cup’s side? If we went back to the Round Robin type of tournament, the length of it would certainly be its downfall, and even then we crave some sort of variety in it. Will TNT stick with the bracket system for future games, and if so how will they fix the problems that are blatantly in front of their eyes?

The Staff tournament

I actually enjoy the staff tournament style that they have going. A nice small side prize shop and some strategy in picking the staff members. Bravo there~

TNT on site news updates

Has anyone notice the little news updates TNT gives on the main Altador Cup page? They don’t update every often, in fact there were only four new blurbs in that area during the entire AC 8, and that bothers me. It should take too long to make a new blurb every once in a while right? It shows that they are paying attention to the cup and are willing to comment on it. I did one just to see how long it would take


In a stunning turn of events, Faerieland takes the lead in the Altador Cup for the first time in Cup history. Fans of the team are shocked and awed and proud of their team and continue to cheer them on, if not louder! Queen Fyora, who you might recall is always busy, has even graced us with her presence! We can only hope that they don’t slip up now! Watch out Neopians, Faerieland might just win it all.

That took me 10 minutes to make and write. Now obviously this would take a member of TNT a tad longer to complete as they have more to do, but in the end it is a small bump in the road compared to what else needs to be done. If they are not willing to put forth more effort then why not just get rid of the feature? Or maybe spotlight fansites/petpages that do daily recaps of the events. There are tons out there (even though Jellyneo is the best at it.)

Cheaters

Point blank, just stop talking about them. Yes teams this year were tainted by them. Tyrannia’s near perfect record and Altador’s sudden success are just two prime examples. We cannot however disregard those on aforementioned teams that fought for their placement fairly and gave it their all just like any other. To them I say bravo, and to the cheaters I turn a cold shoulder and ignore.

Conclusion

In conclusion I feel that there is a plethora of features that TNT could update and fix with any future Altador Cup tournaments. Even though my team, Altador, did fantastic in the cup I could not help them out more than I did. You could call me a freeloader, or someone who has other things to do, or someone feels that there is so much that could be improved upon. Call me anything you want, but these are all my own personal opinions. I love the Altador Cup. I look forward to each year as if it were a real sporting event. I do hope changes are made in the future to help this site event progress. Who knows, maybe the changes will help spark ideas into the minds of TNT on future features for the site in general. I do not foresee this tournament closing anytime soon; and though the amount of participation I put forth may vary from year to year, I will always be playing this amazing tournament.

Ummy's Thoughts

(Ummy has played on the Krawk Island team for all 8 years of the Cup)

The Altador Cup has always been one of my favorite events on the site (second to plots), and I hate to admit it, but this year I found myself struggling to enjoy it. I’ve been loyal to Krawk Island but still I struggled to find the spirit to root for my team, even as we rose through the standings and I continued to rank up. What should have been a fun highlight of the summer quickly morphed into something unsettling, and unfortunately, I see that others share my disappointment.

Now that Altador Cup VIII has come to a close, I’d like to take some time to give some insight into what can be improved for next year and beyond. After eight years, I say now is the time to freshen up the Altador Cup. Personally, I find that the problems with this year's Altador Cup could be summed up in three core issues: the brackets, the scoring, and the cheating, but I also touch upon plenty of areas that could add even more fun to future Altador Cups. Honestly, as a fan it hurts to write some of this, but I feel that it must be made known that the Altador Cup can be great again.

The Games

The core of the AC—the games—is not flawed, but is need of some repackaging. Some small improvements, along with some new additions, could do wonders to invigorate the Altador Cup.

To start off, the Darigan Yooyu simply must be reverted back to its old behavior. In old Yooyuball, the ball was simply a reflection across the horizontal direction, and with just a little practice, you could figure out how to score them consistently. Now, the Darigan Yooyu gets thrown in a random direction, and goals are entirely based on luck—no skills involved! Believe it or not, the best way to score is to wait for the other team to score it into their goal by mistake. Another thing worth mentioning: time is critical in the Altador Cup. The ability to skip cut scenes immediately as opposed to waiting a few seconds would save us time, as would not having to sit through kickoffs with 1-2 seconds left in the game, a time window so small scoring is impossible.


Your worst nightmare

Since the last new mini game we had was Shootout Showdown more than four years ago, the Altador Cup could benefit from some new mini games. In particular, alternate side games. Side games are already alternates for each other, but even limiting yourself to four games across a thirty day competition can put you at risk to boredom. My solution is to have side games the same length and point value as an alternate, both which represent a skill. For example, the current games and an alternate could fall under these four skills respectively: Yooyuball, Preparation, Team Spirit, and Goal Scoring. We could have another goal-scoring game that can take 3-5 seconds a game. When you tire out Shootout Showdown after half an hour, you could switch to the other game without concerns of wasting time or points for your rank. Since Make Some Noise and Shootout Showdown are worth the same, but Make Some Noise can last 6 times as long, they aren't exactly the best substitutes for each other. Not to mention Slushie Slinger can take longer than Yooyuball but is worth 1/3 of a Yooyuball game. Rather than just adjusting the scoring, we're overdue for some new games. Sure, the All-Stars might quickly tire of them too, but at least we'll have more options—and it'd be interesting to see how teams would fare. It'd be something new, and new is what the Altador Cup desperately needs after eight years.

Format and Scoring

Without a doubt, the bracket system was the biggest problem with Altador Cup VIII. It just does not fit compared to the fully functional Double Round Robin system we once had. Oddly enough, the bracket system doesn't make sense if the Altador Cup is intended to be a sport. While there are certainly sports run by brackets in the real world, results are determined squarely by wins and losses. The Altador Cup seems to be using a combination of many factors. Even at the end of the tournament, it is still unclear how the Daily Results translate to both the bracket standings and overall standings, if at all. On the first day of a bracket, the losing team (Meridell) ranked higher than the match's victor (Haunted Woods) in the bracket standings. Based on that fact it appears that previous results influence them, but we also don't know how or why. Under this system, you can win and lose at the same time. That's a real head scratcher.

In a sport, the players are always aware of how to win and what constitutes a loss. They know the terms of how performances are scored. Not only do we not know the methods of how teams are scored, but which factors are being used to determine the rankings. Essentially, we're missing the what, the why, and the how. I feel that we don't need to know TNT's algorithms, but more transparency would increase our understanding of the rankings. More explanation as to why the rankings are scored in this manner would reduce a lot of frustration and confusion in the community. We need to feel that a team is truly better, and if they are, how our teams can improve. The inclusion of scores in the Daily Results was a wonderful step in the right direction, but we still don't how they affect the standings.

After two years with the bracket structure, I feel strongly that the brackets were not the most fitting replacement for the Double Round Robin. Unlike the round robin, teams now end up playing others twice while not playing every team in the bracket. The double round robin system worked. In the round robin, each and every team played each other once; the victor could claim honestly they were the best team of the Cup. And no matter how great your team performed through the round robin, nothing was decided until finals, the most exciting part of the Cup. With the lack of finals with the brackets, the results were pretty clear from halfway into the Cup, with third place being the only question. This was the fairest system, since all teams played each other. Skill got you to the top, no luck involved. Since the brackets involve luck, it can never be fair to all teams. Some will have to face the top powerhouse teams several times, while other won't. And as we saw with ACVII, the top teams never had a chance to face each other.

The best solution I could suggest would be to introduce a Single Round Robin with finals. It would almost be the length of Altador Cup VII, the shortest Altador Cup. It may be a simple system, but it's fair, easy to understand, and it works. The brackets, even without the scoring issues, will never be fair to all teams. A true sport promotes fairness and awards skill based on set terms of winning. As it stands, the Altador Cup has a way to go.

I also feel it's worth reminiscing over a major sparkle that has been missing these last few years. With the Double Round Robin, teams gradually improved year after year until they finally won. To go down the list: Darigan Citadell, Roo Island, Krawk Island, Lost Desert, Kreludor. In the following year, the winning team fell in the standings and a new winner was allowed to shine. It's great that smaller, underdog teams win, but when they are made nearly invincible because of a team's size, it can become frustrating if your team is too large. Teams who take last place may jump to the podium in the following year. That said, it could be nice if the scoring system was more balanced. For example, if higher ranks only accounted for a large chunk of a team’s Daily Points, so players at all skill levels would influence their team without relying on a handful of players who go to All-Star and beyond.

Prizes

The prize shop is one of the most exciting things about the Altador Cup, but it has gotten a bit predictable. Sure, it is fun to imagine what will replace the logo-plastered slushies and pillows of years past, but when you consider the time and dedication it takes to score the higher tier items, the prizes seem less than spectacular. Worthwhile prizes are more than just witty; they're desirable and useful, and on top of that they have good investment value: unbuyable stamps, books, excellent BD weapons, Petpets, stat increasers, amazing wearables. We've had quite a few of these in the recent Obelisk War and the Faerie's Ruin prize shops, but the AC has trapped itself within its tradition. Every year, we see the same types of items around the same point values. Why not mix it up a little, and add a little flare? And why even limit the shop to Neopoint items? Imagine if you could buy some NC game tokens, fortune cookies, or NC exclusives with prize shop points, getting the large NC community even more involved in the Altador Cup. Altador Cup prize shops always have something for everyone—whether you're a battler, customizer, book reader, collector. On top of that, they have a great balance and great ideas, but it's a shame all of that greatness doesn't translate to desirability, usefulness, and value that the earliest Altador Cup Prize shops had.

Every year, it takes a massive amount of effort to get the top prize, and the returns vary. Many people feel the glory from finally hitting that elusive All-Star Rank after a month of playing, only to realize it was not enough to earn the top prize, not even close. Typically, it takes 1.5 times All-Star to achieve the top prize, which usually runs at only a few million NP and is no longer an item unique to the Altador Cup, so it's very susceptible to deflation. To many, the sheer amount of hours to rank well beyond All-Star is a difficult achievement, requiring a perseverance that makes restocking and playing games look highly lucrative upon comparison. Therefore, they should be rewarded appropriately. And, as there's nothing truly special All-Stars can buy, it's treated as just another rank in the AC prize shop. Perhaps the ranks are in need of some adjustment, where All-Star equates to 40,000 Points. Either way, a fresh new prize shop would make all efforts truly worth it. Even if the competition wasn't leaning in your favor, you still have the fun of increasing your personal rank and expecting something nice, something far better than you could restock or anything else you could be doing on the site instead. Hitting All-Star is an achievement, and it should be rewarded as one.

Fanatics Museum

I've been saying for years now that NC events in general should borrow from the Altador Cup V NC challenge format with actual challenges, rather than just click-and-get-a-prize daily, but it seems that no amount of flashback passes will rescue that event from the past. The quirky art alone makes up for the lack of actual event attached to it, though, and made it a worthwhile daily. This year had some fun with the Techo fanatic and his lineage, I assume—his trademark cheer seems to run in the family.

Like last year, you could choose to participate in only one of the sections, which is a plus if you're saving NC or if a set just doesn't suit you. Speaking of suits, the Make Some Noise pass is in essence a nice super pack with a cute bonus. Most importantly, this event introduced the flashback pass, which has single handedly forever revolutionized the NC community. These 600 NC passes awarded retired NC items from past AC NC events, including the coveted Skeletal Face Paint and Altadorian Wig with Gold Ribbon. Just for these two items alone, it was a great deal, not to mention you get six other items and an addition three if this was your first pass you activated. Bravo for TNT for rereleasing some of the NC community's favorites. About the other items, the team wearables were silly but that's what made them so fun to wear. Someone was clearly an avid sports fan. Finally, it's nice that they're moving away from just garb adorned in Altador Logos and Yooyus toward pieces usable year-round. The variety of items here was pretty good, and there's even clothing for male pets!

Staff Tournament

The Staff Tournament is a whole lot of fun. I honestly can't think of any improvements here. There's a lot of strategy at play, too. I know at least I had to look up data here on JN to pick my team. To do well, you must analyze whether you want to switch out a teammate for the chance of scoring higher, or being loyal to your chosen staff. If you picked right, the NP payout is pretty sweet by the end of the Cup. And a prize shop on top of that is even sweeter. If you picked wrong, well, there's always TNT Staff Smasher...

Disclaimer: Ummy does not endorse the usage of TNT Staff Smasher against TNT Members. Water balloons are to be used instead.

Achievements

Achievements, where art thou? One of the great things that surprised us from AC V was the introduction of achievements. These were very popular, but for unknown reasons they were scrapped the following year. Since then, achievements have been featured in plots, events, wars, and are the crux of the Daily Dare and Games Master Challenge, so achievements returning to the Cup would be a welcomed move. Perhaps, much like the game challenges, we could have daily achievements. Achievements, completing them on release day or not, could contribute toward some bonus prize shop points.

On Cheating

TNT has made it clear that cheating will not be tolerated, but they need to take their stance a step further—action. There will always people willing to cheat at any game, but that doesn't mean we let them win. The entire Altador Cup suffers at the expense of cheaters if they can influence the standings. Many of these cheaters will be caught, but the damage has already been done. Their illegitimate scores leave a scar on a team's good reputation, and tarnish the integrity and fun that we've come to love about the Altador Cup. If users are motivated by cheating, let their voices not be heard. At the end of the day, TNT cannot control one's decision to cheat, but they do control the score calculations. My suggestion for TNT is to find a way to recalculate scores if necessary. Once the cheaters are dealt with, their illegitimate scores should be removed if they significantly affect the Daily Results. If a team won by a massively wide margin, or if anything strikes them as odd, perhaps the results should be immediately flagged as “Under Review” and not published until TNT could get to the bottom of it. This is all probably easier said than done, but TNT needs to take control the AC from the cheaters and back to its rightful place—the players. Solely focusing on stopping each and every cheater was clearly not enough. What first needs to be stopped is their influence.

Closing thoughts

There is no doubt ACVIII had its share of problems, but I want to make it clear that there is plenty of potential left in the Altador Cup. The Altador Cup has survived so long because of the community built around it. Players come together every year and dedicate hours a day to helping their team, even if some find the games repetitive after a while. The Altador Cup has become a place for old friends and new, for experts and beginners to unite and compete for glory. With more transparency, some minor tweaks, and a revamp of the system, it can return to the Cup that fans praised, and become a warm welcome to those who've never experienced the AC before. I personally would love to see more changes to promote the Altador Cup community as a whole, including achievements, because it's the community that has brought team spirit to the Altador Cup for the past eight years.

The brackets, the scoring, and the cheating cannot go on as is. We need finals to keep the nail-biting, heart-pumping going until the final minute of the Cup. We need a structure fair to all teams from start to finish. We need to understand how rankings are determined, and how it reflects the best of the best. We need to stop cheaters so no longer will the Cup be burdened by cheating teams, and teams accusing each other of cheating. A new structure that is familiar to the old one is best. With a new coat of paint combined with some fresh gears, wrought from the parts of the Cup we all knew and loved, the community can return to embracing the Cup again.