Responses to Feedback

Mystical greetings.

We've received a lot of feedback about the game we hosted this year. We would like to address a few of the loudest and most heard pieces of feedback we received. However, we'll first tell you what other resources we're releasing in the coming weeks:

  • Finals database of tokens, captures, availabilities, and so on; out now, you can torrent it.
  • Quals binaries we didn't release.
  • Final binaries and Team 21 image.
  • Final availabilities checks.
  • Network packet captures; for the sake of teams that used our internet access, we're filtering their private data out.
  • Toolchain for any applicable binaries, including "reeses."

Zero Sum doesn't provide granularity at the low end.

This is true. We know that it’s hard to explain to your parents and friends what exactly is going on if you're hugging 0 points along with a few other teams. It was assumed by con attendees that many of the teams on the bottom of our scoreboard were simply not trying—THIS IS NOT THE CASE. We promised fewer, harder services, and we delivered on that. Even the teams at the bottom of our board are among the best in the world at what they do.

We’ll provide more information next year, although don’t count on us to change the algorithm.

The team size limitation is bogus.

Some of the team size limitation comes from fear of failure—fear that we couldn't deliver services that were truly deeper and harder. By allowing fewer people into the game, we got to cover our bases on the other side, and still hold hope that the game would last all weekend, even if we slipped on the difficulty of the game.

While that worked, we found out that many teams use DEF CON CTF as a social event for their entire team. While we still don't agree that it is the appropriate venue for training junior members, we are receptive to the social aspect many of the teams were expecting.

Some teams had hardware to run services, others didn't.

Some teams also brought bigger monitors, shower curtains, and a home-brewed laptop with obnoxious color LEDs; not to be crass, but many of the teams that prioritized bringing tons of hardware didn’t do so well. Being prepared is less important than being flexible.

The game has never been hosted on ARM, and no teams could have known with any certainty what architecture the game would or wouldn’t be hosted on. Some of the ARM challenges in quals might have foreshadowed ARM at finals. Many teams went and purchased ARM machines such as Chromebooks to overcome this, and more frugal teams simply used qemu to overcome this.

Ubuntu: apt-get install qemu-user-static lxc && lxc-create -n ctf -t ubuntu -- -a armhf

If we host on something that you can’t buy cheaply and emulate for free, we’ll let you know with plenty of lead time.

The music in the room wasn't loud enough.

We understand the spectacle of watching people give up their conference to compete at this level, and know quite well that music and videos make this more fun for spectators. However, we also have to worry about our competitors: CTF is hard enough without interruptions or listening to “Satisfaction” at a bone-rattling volume once an hour.

In years past, the volume has been so high that competitors were unable to filter it, even with a combination of ear plugs and noise reduction headphones. We certainly want everybody who comes by our room to have a good time and be entertained, be it competitors, team runners, or spectators.  We are open to ways to keep the CTF floor entertaining, but it has to be in a format that doesn't impact the teams who are playing.

With that said, we’ve got some plans for next year: fix bugs, more metrics, more visuals, even harder services, and anything else that we believe will make the game better for you.

Once again, we would like to thank all teams for their involvement in our game, as well as everybody that placed their trust in us to be good shepherds of a long held DEF CON tradition.  We hope that in the future we can continue to deliver the same quality game that will make everybody involved proud to be a part of it.  Thank you to the community for welcoming us, being such good sports, and providing us with the feedback we need to bring you the best game we can in 2014.  Good luck, and we'll see you then.