AFL Rule Interpretation

From Armagetron

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This page is for judges, mainly. It serves as guidelines that should help them to interpret the rules when needed, and even ignore rules when it makes sense to do so. Players are invited to read this so that they will have a better idea what's expected of them, and what they can expect of the judges. Just keep in mind these are guidelines. Many of the topics discussed are going to require subjective decisions by the judges, and it's nearly impossible to codify what they should do in every situation, so we're not even going to waste time trying. The reason we have judges is to make calls that can't be made by a computer.

Overall Guiding Principles

We're all agreed we want the league to be successful, right? The best way to ensure that will happen is to ensure that the league is fun for as many of the participants as possible. We'll even try to achieve the ideal of making it fun for everybody! The rules we have are designed to provide a structure that will eliminate useless bickering and encourage competitive play. Sometimes the rules themselves will cause useless bickering or discourage competitive play. That's the nature of rules in general. So when you're called upon to mediate between two players, two teams, two servers, a team and a server, or whatever, try to keep in mind that while you're all bickering, nobody is having any fun. So try to reach the best decision to serve the purpose of the league's existence as quickly as possible. Sometimes a thorough investigation will be required, in which case you'll need to watch the recording of the game in question, talk to players involved, or whatever. Most of the time, such an investigation won't be required, and you'll be able to go on the information you're given. There are a few decisions that absolutely can't be made without thoroughness, however.

  • Kicking a player from the league
  • Kicking a team from the league
  • Disqualifying a game played

It may even be recommended in some situations like those listed that you should get another judge involved to make sure you're staying balanced on the issue. Don't be shy about it! Also, don't waste other people's time dealing with smaller issues that you should really be able to settle yourself.

Roster Limits

The roster limits are designed to make the games as competitive as possible, and to allow for many teams to be established. For many in the world of Fortress, 5 players is the optimal team size during play. However, due to the nature of league play, it is necessary to have a roster that's larger than the number of players that can play at any point in time. Teams need alternates, let's just face that one down. Teams need a way to know that they will be able to play competitively even if most of their team doesn't show up. So let's do a little math, shall we?

The ingame 5 player limit is optimal because it provides the most flexibility for the least amount of cruft. Up to 5 players, everyone has a distinct role on the team. After 5 players, it starts to get a bit iffy, and when you reach 8, you have at least 2 players who contribute nothing to play, generally speaking. You can field a standard 3/2 offense/defense ratio. When the situation requires it, you can make it 4/1, 2/3, and even 1/4. That allows for nearly every possible play to be played by one team. When you look at these ratios, it becomes pretty clear that even if a team shows up with 4 players, they can play pretty competitively. Surely winning will be harder, but it's still strongly within the realm of possibility. So 4 players out of 10 are a minimum for playing a competitive game, right? That's 2/5 of the team! What other game can you play competitively when 3/5 of your team doesn't even show up to the game?

However, there are problems that may arise as a result of the roster limits. One thing we don't want is last-minute recruiting before each game. This is strictly not allowed. It may make sense for a one-off tournament that allows new signups all the way until the first game kicks off, but in league play that's just going to cause problems. The main problem is that the opposing team has been planning to play against a given team, and then on game day they're not playing that team, they're playing against some other team who has usurped the name. There is a lot of potential for exploit in a league if you can do last-minute recruiting. So we won't do it.

Our solution instead is to allow teams to drop anybody from their team at any time, but to add someone they must seek league approval. That means "get a judge". The judge gets to approve or disapprove of the change. This allows for trading. It also allows teams to kick the player they thought was good but turned out to be a total smeg in the smeg. However, once the regular season is over, no more team additions can be approved. Teams can still kick their teammates, but we're not even going to go anywhere near recruiting ringers for the playoffs.

The playoffs are supposed to be the teams that played in the regular season determining canonically who was the best that season. So if a team is suddenly a bunch of different players, they're no longer the team that played that season!

When asked to approve a teammate addition, you need to consider the team itself. Are they 9 players just seeking to add a tenth player, or are they 3 players trying to reach the competitive number of 4? What's happened to them? Did they have to kick a lot of players early on for teamkilling? Even in exceptional cases, you should always be guided by what makes it fun for everyone, not necessarily just for that team, but let's be realistic. A team that's going into the last month of play without a single win isn't terribly likely to hurt the league by picking up 2 more players after 3 of their players dropped out, right? I'm not saying be terribly lenient, I'm just saying to look at the team's situation. There are perfectly good reasons for a team to want to recruit another player after the rosters are locked, and you should try to let them when they have perfectly good reasons.


There's not a lot to say here, really. Mediation will be required when one team believes another has committed an infraction, particularly when the infraction could have caused them to win the game that otherwise should have been lost. One potential area for abuse is in the recommendation that both team captains have the server password. Let's consider the case where only one admin has that password and someone on the opposing team goes psycho and starts teamkilling. Obviously the team captain should kick that player from the server, but he might be tempted to wait another round or two. That would be cheating if it were done intentionally, obviously, and is strictly not allowed. It might even get the whole team kicked out, or the game's results turned against them. But you're not going to see it in a clear-cut way, you're going to see it in a way that makes it look like the team captain in question really couldn't possibly know about the situation and that he acted as soon as he did. What do you?

First you go back to basic principles. What's the fun answer to this question? Is it fun to have the team captains face off in some random sumo server, the winner's team claims the win in the disputed game? Now what's fair? Is the previously mentioned solution fair to the other players on each team? It probably isn't, but you could easily find yourself in a situation where the two team captains are legendary sumo players, and it'd be worth it just to add to the overall excitement of the league. A more traditional approach would require you to do a thorough investigation, get the server logs, look at the recording, talk to the other players, etc. You may find that kicking the team captain and letting the game results stand is the right solution. Maybe you take the two teams to a neutral server and have them face off again. Always keep in mind that nobody's having fun arguing or being screwed over by another team who's getting away with it.

Showing up on time

This one's fairly obvious. If a team is consistently late and puts the day's game schedule behind, after 3-4 times, it becomes obviously reasonable to call a forfeit when they show up only 1 minute late. That team will hopefully be the exception, and most teams will show up on time. The reasonable guideline we'll follow here is "whatever keeps the games playing". So if a team shows up 40 minutes late and there's only 20 minutes before another team wants to take the grid, it's a forfeit. We're sorry the team that showed up couldn't play, but we've got games lined up that need to go through. But if there are no games lined up, and both teams still want to play, there's no good reason not to let them.

Lag and our lack of tolerance for whining

I can't think of a good reason to put up with whining about lag, but we have to admit that other tournaments have the information that supports concluding ping has a role in a game. We have two solutions in place to deal with ping. One is the previously mentioned 10 person limit on the roster. It is hoped that teams will recruit across the pond so that they will generally field a mixed team, and that both teams in any game will be comparable to one another in average pings. However, that is a factor beyond our control.

So we created the second mechanism for dealing with lag, which is simply to alternate between servers favorable for each team. So each team plays each other twice, and they're guaranteed one server that is favorable to them (provided they chose such a server). The situation gets a little muddied in the playoffs, but for the most part, these two mechanisms should reduce the role that ping plays in any given game.

On the subject of whining, we will have a winzone. Nobody is required to take it, but folks who have participated in other tournaments have said time and time again that the defender has a huge advantage. The winzone exists to eliminate that advantage in the situation where it actually matters. The only other acceptable alternative is a death zone that kills everyone after some set amount of time. So take the winzone, and take the win.

Sportsmanlike behavior

Making a call on sportsmanlike behavior is always going to be subjective. You need to try to consider the players that are there. It may be perfectly reasonable for one player to say to another "You suck", and for two completely different players to be penalized for it. Determining when a player is behaving badly will always be subjective, especially since a certain amount of trash-talking is inevitable, expected, and fun. The rule of thumb is that bad sportsmanship penalties should be given to the team, not individual players. Teams are expected to behave as a team and to deal with their own problems. Teams that have given a captain (which is most teams) have also reserved to themselves the power to drop a player from their team. In some special circumstances, the player might feel he was wronged and wish to seek some sort of retribution. Rarely will we give it, but depending on circumstances, we might be inclined to help that player find a different team so he can keep playing in the league. Teams that haven't declared a leader are going to have a hard time dropping players, and we might need to get more involved in the decision.


Sanctioning a server is like dropping a nuclear bomb on the teams that have declared it as their home server. This is one decision we don't want to make if we don't have to. However, since teams have declared home servers, and many of them control their home servers, there will be a temptation to change server settings to favor the home team. Some of these changes are expected and can't be dealt with due to the nature of an internet game, some of these changes are completely unacceptable. In the case of server-side settings that clients don't even know about, it can even be impossible to determine if any cheating is happening. The rule is to generally try not to sanction a server, but as soon as it becomes known that a server has been cheating, the team owning it comes under some pretty severe problems.

  • Does the team get to continue playing in the league?
  • If so, do they get to keep their home server? (Usually a team found cheating should be sent to Lucifer's Lag Server as their new home, with all previous games changed to forfeits)
  • Do they get to keep their current game record?
  • Do they get to keep their current lineup?

Luckily, most of the server admins this time around are known by the league to be pretty trustworthy, so problems in this area aren't anticipated.


In conclusion, try to keep in mind that the league exists for people to have fun, and the rules are there to lay down a foundation upon which the most people will have fun playing in the league. Sometimes it'll be necessary to interpret the rules creatively to keep the fun going, sometimes the rules will need to be interpreted rigidly to keep the fun going. But if everyone just behaves and tries to have fun and tries to help others have fun, the league should run smoothly to completion and we'll crown a champion.