“The contest this year, despite its quality control issues, was one of the most well organised and well executed contests in recent years.”
Spanner is one of the lead organizers of lead organizers of the Sonic Hacking Contest. This year, we asked a few questions about the status of the event.
There was an interesting amount of subpar entries, some of them are simply “joke” or “meme” entries. With the “Null Vote” option leading on most community trophy polls, what’s the current situation on this issue and how will it be fixed for next year?
The subpar entries this year were a major concern to us. We feel that the quality this year was, quite frankly, inexcusable. To counter this, we intend to up the bar on the minimum requirements needed to enter a hack. Some decisions are still being made as to what we are willing to allow as far as joke entries are concerned and what memes / content are appropriate. This latter portion has not been thoroughly discussed and no decisions have been made concerning it yet. For now, we can safely state that next year hacks will have to meet minimum quality requirments if they are to be allowed entry. We do not wish to showcase and give attention to low quality material as it hurts both our reputation and wastes the participants time sifting through trash to find the gems.
The website was plagued with errors concerning its server. Some people called it a yearly tradition. What happened behind there and how will it be resolved for next year?
The website honestly has meant to have been revamped for a few years, but our site developer has had other things to deal with and hasn’t had the time to do so. However, we can confirm that for next year’s contest there WILL be a new site and there WILL be changes. The current website has an unrecognised bad bug with the code that is somehow making the server explode. It hasn’t helped that our host has been unavailable at times due to sickness and travel, yet fortunately for the last few days it seems we have things under control, but yeah, next year we won’t have this issue. Not only are we looking into a brand new site which will offer many features the current site does not, but we are also contemplating looking at getting our own server for the contest rather than piggybacking on others to ensure that if shit hits the fan, we’ll get it fixed ASAP.
What do you think the Contest accomplished this year?
The contest this year, despite its quality control issues, was one of the most well organised and well executed contests in recent years. We have established a brain trust that is in constant communication with one another — which has allowed immediate adaptation to emerging issues and trends. Sadly, our server admin has been busy and was not involved in this which, to my knowledge, has led to some of the site issues. Still, despite some content problems and a little controversy revolving around contest week overlapping with USA elections, this contest has been, organisationally, one of the best contests we’ve had.
If there’s one thing you wanted to be implemented in this year’s Hacking Contest, what would it be?
For this year’s contest? At this point I wish we had made a more stringent quality control system. There were hacks this year that were essentially breaking the rules and making just a palette hack. To get around this, they just changed a handful of chunks in the levels and modified the physics a tiny amount. This is ridiculous and I wish we had had the ability to simply disqualify them. Technically, we have a clause saying we can change the rules at any time; however, we didn’t find doing that to be in good taste. I wish we had a new website this year as well! We’ll get to that in a bit, though.
There was an entry that had a brief political statement that made rounds of controversy. What is your say on this?
The controversy this year was caused by a hack that wasn’t even an entry! This hack was actually entitled “Sonic the Hedgehog: Border Patrol”. It was meant as a “tongue-in-cheek” satire of the entire Trump ticket. The statement wasn’t made to support the Trump/Pence ticket. By the time it was released, the polls were almost (if not completely) closed. For that matter, the hack itself was made by a Filipino, a Mexican, a lesbian, and a non-US citizen. I’m not sure how anyone could take the hack as anything other than a parody. Still, some people’s jimmies were rustled and here we are! I will say, I don’t think anyone should be having problems over badniks wearing sombreros and tequila bottles….
There’s rumours of a new website for the Hacking Contest in 2017. Can you elaborate on this?
The website’s performance has been a wakeup call for many people in the community and especially for members of the staff. We thought we had a handle on it this year and it exploded yet again. The website next year will be redone from scratch. It will have completely redone checks to help avoid vote rigging and to ensure we find out all the information we need to know about a hack before we start grading it. We’re also discussing other additions that will make next year’s contest larger and, hopefully, much more fun and involved.