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Arknights Op-Ed: How Cheating Ruined The Arknights CC Video Contest

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How Cheating Ruined The Arknights CC Video Contest

Note from the Editor: This article is an Op-Ed from Salieri AS, a news and content creator for Arknights. Opinions expressed herein are their own, and may not represent the opinions of GP.

Hello Doctors!  I’m Salieri.  Some of you might know me and my love of Arknights from my Facebook page.

Today I’d like to discuss some of the problems with the current Contingency Contract (CC) Video Contest being held by Yostar, specifically how cheaters are manipulating the voting process, and suggestions for a fairer next contest.  


 

Part 1: Contesting the Contest

First, let's look at the contest itself.  The details for the Contest seem pretty simple: Submit a video to the contest, and the videos that get the most interaction (views + comments + likes) wins these wonderful prizes:

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With contests like these, I had hoped that there were measures in place to ensure fairness for all the participants.  Unfortunately, I observed otherwise.

On 19th June, I noticed a sudden surge of view counts for several participants.  They suddenly gained hundreds of views or more in a few hours.  I found this odd because:

  1. The participants had close to no subscribers on their Youtube channels
  2. Some videos had 1k views, but no comments or likes at all
  3. The Youtube view count was not increasing at all (only the count on the AK website).  I even found some participants with 1.2k views listed on the AK site that had as few as 47 views on Youtube.

While it would be easy to just discount the views (as Yostar would later do), people were gaming the comments and likes as well. 


 

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Either this person bribed Operators with LMD, or he made a bunch of fake accounts to comment on the post.  I'm guessing it's the latter (since we all know Jessica is rich).

Despite the good intentions, Yostar's competition had multiple people trying to cheat the results.

Part 2: Contacting Yostar

Suspecting foul play, I sent an email to [email protected] on 19th June to notify them of my concerns on the event, per the event rules:

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Eventually, I managed to contact one of their Customer Service Staff directly through Discord on 20th June, in hopes of getting their awareness as soon as possible.  Fortunately, I got a prompt reply to the evidence I sent them:

SalieriOpEd4SalieriOpEd5Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 9.09.18 PM

According to the rep, the competition page is separate from the YouTube count and uses its own count system that only tracks page opens.  Additionally, they said the metric systems were "working as intended," while the inquiries on IP tracking/ other anti spam measures went unanswered.  (Editor Note: In the event you do have security systems in place, typically it is a good idea not to reveal what kind it is, since that gives others more information to work with for exploiting it.)

While the system may have been working normally, it seems like there were no measures in place to prevent exploitation and cheating.

Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 9.10.28 PM

Part 3: Official Response

Although I kept in contact until June 23rd, I did not receive any confirmation on my inquiries until this announcement was sent out on June 28th, 8 days after my first report:
 

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To summarize, views have been removed from the equation completely; the end result is now weighed on likes and comments, slightly favoring the latter.  Additionally, comments will now be filtered for quality, and they will be extending the audience support phase.

Part 4: Suggestions

Will these measures solve the problem, though?  It seems unlikely.  As noted earlier, there are people who are willing to create fake comments--they can just create more believable fake comments since what constitutes a “quality comment” is subjective.  But then what if Yostar bans all comments?  Likes?  Where do we go from here?

The bottom line is that more thought and concern needs to be put into making these contests fair and preventing cheating.  This is a real issue and players and participants care, even if the rewards do not have extremely high monetary value.  A contest marred by cheating creates the exact opposite of what an event like this should do: bring the community closer together and provide a positive experience for players.

What are some things that we could do to avoid some of these problems?

  • We could restrict the voting system to be done in-game rather than having it on the website.  This would deter spam accounts.
  • The team could analyze the ranking legitimacy/ spamming behaviour pattern.  Player account levels (like hundreds of low level accounts voting for one video), IP, IMEI, device information could be recorded so it would be easy to ban & disqualify them.  There could be a level restriction of clearing at least certain map stages to be able to enter the voting. (Editor Note: Some of these would be subject to laws depending on location, making them difficult to execute)
  • If the web solution must be used, then a more robust anti-spam or cheating system could be put in place.
  • Incentivize players' vote participation by offering a small reward for it (i.e., Sanity or Orundum), increasing the number of legitimate votes, thus reducing the impact of fake ones.
  • Offer more “participation prizes” and fewer “voting prizes” to de-incentivize the effort of cheating.
     

I would be lying if I said I’m not a bit disappointed.  Preventing cheaters should have been something that was thought about when designing the event.  Then, even though issues were reported long before the problems became severe, the participants were ignored.  Isn’t the players and participants who the event is for?

At the very least, I hope this observation will cause the next official event to go better.  That planning and foresight will be used to prevent cheating and benefit every Arknights player who still wants to be involved in community events and have a fair contest.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you very much for your time.  I hope this can shed some light on what happened, why some players are so upset, and how we can learn something from it to improve moving forward.

Note From the Editor: We reached out to Yostar for a comment or response to include along with this article, but they have not yet supplied one.  We will update if they do.

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