Online vs. Offline minesweeper tournaments

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Tommy
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Location: Vienna

Online vs. Offline minesweeper tournaments

Post by Tommy » Sun Jul 17, 2011 2:42 pm

Hi all, a guestbook post of mine recently sparked a considerable amount of controversy. Because the guestbook will gobble old replies to posts if too many are posted, I have decided to move the discussion here.

To quote:
Arsen says:
Great, Tommy! Good job. As to me, taking part from home equally with people at the place is a controversial matter for several reasons. Since it is still an interesting idea, as a compromise decision, I would let everyone participating from home play but put them out of the main ranking, maybe with a separate ranking for them.
Dennis says:
Depending on how busy I am, I might actually be up for competing from home over the internet.
Tommy says:
@Arsen, what reasons? Scores achieved online in this way will be just as secure as normal highscores. At the start of the tournament, every player will get a randomly generated tournament key. This key will be used as a vsweep nickname, and therefore be protected by the same mechanism that protects the videos themselves. By only accepting videos before the tournament is over, games are guaranteed to have been played in that time. Well, not guaranteed in the same way as we don't have guarantees for normal highscores either, but both are equally strong. Yes, being able to watch people play is the only way to be sure that they aren't cheating. However, a world championship where almost everyone is required to travel somewhere can't be representative without sponsors (or some party) that pay(s) for travel costs, and in my perception this is a much bigger problem. So I'll at least try this out in 2011 - if it fails, we can always go back to classic tournaments.
Sam says:
Hmm... if I feel like getting up before 6AM to participate, I guess I will try!
Tommy says:
@Sam, I just looked at a time zone map, I guess I'll try to start at 14:00 officially and reserve 13:00-14:00 for test runs and suchlike. Problem is, ETH closes at 17:00, so by that time we need to be outta there, and one hour to account for murphy is very, very dangerous already. The only reason I'm fairly confident that we won't have a problem is that I only use HTTP network-wise, and that I won't have dependencies on the systems we'll be playing on. All problems that we had at past tournaments were related to those two things, iirc. (OK, and windows machines deciding to reboot after an update :/)
manu says:
its not about cheating, its about the setup...
Arsen says:
Ok, my reasons: 1. I believe everyone playing at WCH at the PC he sees for the first time shows a bit less than he usually does at home (i believe that is what Manu meant by setup). This is the most important one. Unequal conditions. 2. Again, when you are in the heart of the event with all the best players around, it is nervousness more or less, and you have to cope with it. 3. This practice demotivates people to actually visit live tournaments, which I think is the most valuable thing in all this - maximum minesweepers meeting each other. I could have thought of something else but this is what comes to mind immediately. Making a separate ranking would still widen the tournament but not give people at home unfair advantage.
Sam says:
oh, don't worry about rescheduling the tournament... if the time doesn't work for me, that's my problem
I'll put my reply into a post of its own.
Don't anthropomorphize computers - they don't like it.

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Tommy
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Re: Online vs. Offline minesweeper tournaments

Post by Tommy » Sun Jul 17, 2011 2:48 pm

Well, I acknowledge that there are problems with this, but also consider the fact that while with this approach, people may have a slight advantage depending on their location, with the conventional approach, people like Dion Tiu or Shen-Jia Zhang are pretty much totally screwed. If I remember correctly, KAmil will not be able to make it to Zurich either.
In my opinion, a world championship where one of these (and some other) players don't have an opportunity to take part without considerable expense is simply not representative. At all. Munich 2010, while being the world championship with the most top players if I'm not mistaken, still only had only four players that are in the top10 now, and didn't have the two top-ranked players worldwide. It is also notable that more than half (9/16) of the participants were either from Germany or Austria, and Bertie was the only player from a different continent. This is all definitely not [name removed]'s fault, on the contrary, Munich was awesome - it's a direct consequence of the fact that hardly anyone will pay for an expensive flight to another part of the world just to compete in a minesweeper tournament. For good reasons, to reiterate, intercontinental flights are expensive.

Also, I may be unique, but I found that I always performed better at tournaments. As long as I was able to bring my mouse (and mousepad, I think that this is actually quite significant), setup was never a problem for me, either. Screen res and mouse sensitivity need to be configurable at the tournament site, of course.

I'm organizing the tournament in Zurich exactly to keep the tradition of meeting up alive. And I don't think that it'll change that much - people who can come and want to come will come, as they always have. I think that just being able to compete in a minesweeper tournament is not the killer argument to attend one in most cases. The tournaments in Vienna a longer while ago were officially called minesweeper meetings, and if I'm not mistaken, the number of participants was not significantly different.

So, to reiterate - yes, there are problems. But the incapability of players to compete at all is much less acceptable in my opinion. Until someone pays for travel costs or thinks of a different approach, online tournaments are still the best we have, as far as I'm concerned.
Don't anthropomorphize computers - they don't like it.

Arsen
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Re: Online vs. Offline minesweeper tournaments

Post by Arsen » Sun Jul 17, 2011 5:08 pm

Tommy, your arguments are also very reasonable of course. So what I think about is the decision that would take everything into account. Different rankings was what came to me as a natural one.

EWQMinesweeper
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Re: Online vs. Offline minesweeper tournaments

Post by EWQMinesweeper » Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:08 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EHegtzQoDA - my short input on this discussion.
„Das perlt jetzt aber richtig über, ma sagn. Mach ma' noch'n Bier! Wie heißt das? Biddä! Bidddää! Biddddäää! Reiner Weltladen!“

qqwref
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Re: Online vs. Offline minesweeper tournaments

Post by qqwref » Mon Jul 18, 2011 10:47 pm

I think it might be interesting to have an "online world championship" with a window of an entire day. My idea is, anyone can request a vsweep authentication key at any time in the day, and then they have exactly 3 hours to play and submit videos with that key, at which point the key becomes invalid. So then a particular person can do their 5+5 during whatever 3 hours they prefer, and at the end the best 5+5 results are ranked.

This would be much more fair, because it would prevent issues of transportation, jet lag, difficulty adjusting to setup, people preferring different times of day to sweep, and people not being ready at the exact time the tournament starts. A few new, different problems would be created: possible cheating (hacking the authentication key into old videos? is this plausible?), having a disadvantage if you compete early in the day (can't check previous people's results), having multiple people work together on one key, having one person try multiple times during the day (possibly to help out a slower friend by giving them a good tournament result).
NF player. Best scores 1-10-39.

qqwref
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Re: Online vs. Offline minesweeper tournaments

Post by qqwref » Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:08 pm

Sorry to bump this topic with another post by me (another LONG post!), but I think there is some interesting new stuff to bring up. During and after the 2011 WCH I was discussing this - whether online results are equally valid or less valid than offline results - and some points were raised which merit further debate.


1) There is a feeling that, since it is traditional for Minesweeper tournaments to be held among a bunch of people in one room at semi-public computers, tournaments should be continued to be held like this. There is a significant social aspect to these tournaments (exemplified by the bowling outing after the WCH) and people understandably don't want to abandon this. To me, however, this style of tournament was only done for so long because it was really the only way to guarantee the participants didn't cheat. And, until tkolar's amazing program and website, it was just too unwieldy to have people all over the world sending in scores. So I think it's worth it to examine the benefits of the new style (offline PLUS online) over the old, and decide which one is really better, and not be worried about changing things.

I think it's still valuable to have a physical location for major tournaments, because it's always fun to meet up with other players. However, it's very important to realize that with such a small community spread throughout the world many players could only attend a tournament if they held one themselves. I'm sure people would still attend tournaments even if they could compete online, because it is a social event - I know many old-school cubers who continue to attend large numbers of cubing competitions just to hang out with their friends, and not because they intend or expect to improve their official results. So in the end I think it's better to allow online competitors to compete as equals, especially in important tournaments (such as a WCH) where it would otherwise be a huge disadvantage to not be able to travel there.


2) I heard some people say that it was a bit unfair to let people use their home setup, when the offline competitors are all at the tournament computers. It's true that there some unfairness here, but there's a lot of other unfairness behind the concept of the tournament too. Competitors with home setups similar to the tournament setups, or who are familiar with using that type of public computer, have an unfair advantage over those who do not. And similarly the actual experience of the tournament venue (temperature, humidity, food, etc) will affect some competitors more than others. There are also issues of potential language barriers (especially for some Chinese players) and of being nervous around other people, which will affect some players much more than others. Plus, competitors in time zones close to the tournament have an unfair advantage over others, because the other players would have to play at odd times (I did the WCH at 7:15 am until 10:15) or else travel and then have to deal with jet lag. And of course, there is the ever-present luck.

So, I think that there is already a large source of random unfairness, which makes the setup issue basically negligible, especially if competitors bring their mouse and mousepad with them to the tournament. In fact, with tkolar's program, players who use laptops (I do) could now theoretically play on their own computers at the tournament venue, and now they have no disadvantage compared to online players. So I wouldn't say that playing the 5+5 at home gives a significant enough advantage over other players that the results need to be counted separately.


3) When we hold a world championship in a sport or hobby, what makes it valid as a world championship? Any tournament can be declared to be a world championship (there doesn't seem to be an obvious pattern to it). However, I think some people feel that the recognized world champion of a sport has only really earned their title if they went up against the other top players/teams and beat them. If I held the 2012 WCH at my house and organized it so that nobody else could attend, I'm sure everyone would laugh at the idea that I was suddenly the world champion. So, in the case of the 2011 WCH, we had the issue that Kamil was not able to actually travel to the locale, but still took the time to compete online, and actually posted better results (best int, best exp, best 5+5) than anyone else in attendance, and in fact (if I recall correctly) better than anyone has ever done at a recognized Minesweeper tournament. So although [name removed]technically became the world champion, it is clear that he didn't actually beat the best player there, and so, to me, declaring him as the world champion is unsatisfying.

At this point I'd like to bring up the cubing world championship, because it illustrates some interesting points. Although it is, in a sense, just as randomly chosen as the world championships in Minesweeper, it's also set up so that the best cubers are much more likely to be able to attend. First, it's a multiple-day event, so it's much easier to justify taking time off to travel to another country for it (an 8+ hour flight each way for an 8ish hour event is pretty inconvenient). Second, there are large prizes (usually for the top 3 people in each event), so that a world-class competitor doesn't have to worry about their travel expenses. Third, there are a very large number of serious cubers there (compared to the 6 serious players at the Minesweeper WCH) so there is a much bigger feeling of being part of a big social event. I do realize that the Minesweeper community can't possibly emulate these, but my point is really that the cubing world championship gains validity by making it very easy for the top cubers to attend, so that the world champion of each event is almost certainly the person who can deliver the best performance on that day. If our community can't give the same kind of incentives to attend, so that even the best player in the world may be too busy to travel to the venue, it's very reasonable to compensate by allowing players to participate from home as equals. I don't think wanting to have a tournament completely in meatspace is worth as much as having a world champion who completely deserves the title, with no technicalities or excuses.
NF player. Best scores 1-10-39.

KamilSaper
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Re: Online vs. Offline minesweeper tournaments

Post by KamilSaper » Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:15 pm

Very well written, qqwref, but on the other hand notice, that we already have rankings (World Ranking and AR) based on playing at home. Tournament's ranking is supposed to include scores played at tournaments. Damien can always make 2 tournament rankings (overall and on place). Or we can make a survey (admins?) and vote if ppl want to change current tournament ranking.
0.49 - 7.03 - 31.13
NF: 0.49 - 7.03 - 31.51

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