VATNZ Achievements Now Live

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Nick Johnston
VATNZ Board Member
Posts: 1422
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2006 8:54 pm
Location: Auckland

VATNZ Achievements Now Live

#1 Post by Nick Johnston » Thu Sep 05, 2019 3:02 am

I'm pleased to finally announce the launch of VATNZ Achievements.

This can be accessed via the Achievements menu item on the VATNZ website, and is now accessible to all website visitors.

Achievements are a way of acknowledging milestones of your virtual career in VATNZ airspace.

This can be as simple as completing your first flight or ATC session, or more complex such as flying to all of the towered airports in NZZC. As you perform activities within VATNZ airspace, you Achievements page will be automatically updated to reflect your progress. Some achievements you unlock only once - eg: complete your first flight - whereas others can be earned more than once, such as completing ten flights in a week.

At launch there are more than forty achievements to earn (albeit with many that are variations on a theme), and we will be adding more achievements and achievement types in the months ahead.

The initial set of Achievements
achievements.jpg (90.45 KiB) Viewed 3554 times

What do I have to do to take part?

The Achievements system is open to:
  • all VATNZ members; and
  • all VATNZ website members (regardless of home division).
If you fall into either of those two groups, then all you need to do in order to appear on the Achievements boards is to complete a qualifying flight or ATC session. Shortly after you log off you will be automatically added to the Achievements system and will be able to find your progress page using the User drop-down at the top of the Achievements page.

If you're not part of either of those groups and want to take part, you can always become a website member by clicking Sign In and then using your VATSIM login to join the website.

What other Achievements are coming?

We have the ability to time limit Achievements and so we'll be trying a few Achievements that can only be earned during a specific period. We'll also be adding some additional achievement types that leverage some of the other data that we hold - eg: acknowledging weather or event related activities. We're able to set quite detailed criteria for which flights and ATC sessions qualify for an Achievement so we'll be looking to see what we can do to acknowledge less common activities - eg: perhaps a Gisborne Tower achievement - and to better understand what if any impact on online activity these sorts of achievements have (and whether it is beneficial!).

If you have ideas for specific Achievements, please feel free to mail me and we can look into implementing them.

What about my previous activities?

The Achievements system only acknowledges activities that took place on or after September 4th 2019. The reason for this is to allow everyone to start with a blank slate and to experience the full Achievements programme. Otherwise a number of our longer-time members would unlock almost all of the Achievements the moment the system went live.

More generally, the Achievements system is about acknowledging future behaviour rather than activity that in the case of some of our members will date back more than a decade. That said, if there's enough interest, we can implement some Division Membership Duration achievements that would specifically recognise those who have been part of our community for many years.

Why didn't my activity contribute to my achievement progress?

First off, you don't receive credit for a flight or controller session until it is completed: specifically until you either log off, or re-file with a new flight plan. You won't see any change in your progress mid-flight. There's also typically a delay of up to five minutes between when you perform an activity on the network and when we're notified about it.

We've put a bit of work into trying to make the system as resilient as possible to gaming (see below). This often takes the form of additional criteria to complete an Achievement. For example, most Achievements that involve counting flights require a minimum flight time of at least half an hour. Similarly, most Achievements that count controller sessions have a minimum length of time that a controller session must last before it is included in the tally. If your activity was brief or involved numerous logins over a short period, for example, it may not be counted. There is a balancing act between limiting abuse of the system and not excluding valid behaviour, and if you think you may have been incorrectly targeted by this, please email me and I can investigate.

This entire system depends on our receiving accurate activity data from the VATSIM servers. There are occasions when the data feed goes down and when it does we have no visibility of the activities that people are performing. There's not much that we can do about this unfortunately. The good news is that it doesn't happen all that often and usually only lasts for a short period.

Finally, the process of mapping the entries in the client data feeds to flights and controller sessions, and then evaluating those against various Achievement criteria is fairly complex. The Achievements system has been in beta for about four months as we sought to ensure that we'd ironed out all of the wrinkles, but even so there's a chance that bugs or corner cases we haven't previously encountered may still exist.

In short, if you think that your activity should have been included in your Achievements progress but it hasn't been, please email me with the details and I will investigate.

I was online for X hours - why did only some of that count for my flight time achievements?

Most flight time-related Achievements only count your flight's block time.

In other words, if you log on, spend half an hour at the gate in Auckland, fly an hour to Christchurch, and then spend another half an hour on the ground after you park up, you will only receive credit for one hour and not two.

This is a deliberate design decision to prevent people from inflating their flight times by leaving their aircraft parked up before or after the flight.

Note: this differs from the times that are displayed on the Homepage Current Activity and Leaderboard sections which get their data from a different source and are currently based solely on pilot connect and disconnect times. These sections will probably be revisited in the future to reflect block or flight time rather than connection time as well.

Is it possible to cheat the system?
Obviously, if someone is determined to scam the system, they'll probably find a way. At the end of the day it'll likely be pretty obvious from the Achievement boards if you've found a shortcut, and everyone will know fairly quickly, which seems like it would rather defeat the purpose of doing it in the first place. We might well just delete your activity records later, or exclude you from the Achievements system if we find evidence of systematic cheating.

Do I need to pay attention to my Achievements? Do they affect my status on VATSIM or within VATNZ?

The Achievements framework does not affect your status on VATSIM or within VATNZ. Earning achievements does not unlock special access or privileges within the division or the wider network.

Our expectation is that some members will find Achievements to be a positive addition to their VATSIM experience, whereas others will have little to no interest in the concept. If you fall into the latter camp, that's perfectly fine, and you need never visit your progress page or pay attention to who is earning what. The beauty of the system is that it doesn't require any effort or interaction on your parts: just by being active on the network you'll earn progress for achievements in the background.

What if I don't want to take part?

Not everyone necessarily wants their activities celebrated publicly on the VATNZ website, and that's fine. If you prefer to keep your information private, simply go to your progress page and select Profile Privacy from the Settings drop-down menu. This will prevent anyone other than yourself and the website staff from accessing your profile page, and your name will be redacted from all of the public achievement lists.

Note: even for public profile pages, we include headers to request that Google et al do not index the page, so people shouldn't suddenly start seeing your profile page when they Google you.

I hope you enjoy the new Achievements system.

If you have further questions, please feel free to comment here. If you think your activity is not being recorded correctly, please email me and I will investigate.

Nick Johnston
IT Director

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