The future of DHT

Frank Stajano 1997 03 16

Some background

I created the Doom Honorific Titles in May 1994, almost three years ago, and their success has vastly exceeded my expectations. I keep on receiving challenge requests, almost on a daily basis. However the mundane task of issuing the challenges has become rather boring and gets postponed whenever more urgent things turn up. Recently, for example, I have been writing a book (not related to my work) and this has taken up all of my spare time, leaving a gap of three or four months during which I have not issued any challenges. I am really grateful to all of you who have been waiting so patiently: you understood that I too have a life and didn't bug me because I wasn't doing the DHT thingies any faster. Thanks. You are cool. However this is not satisfactory. The DHT is still my baby and if I let it go like this it will eventually decay and die. The solution, of course, as I've been saying for so long, is more automation (if only I had DONE it straight away, instead of just saying it!). And this is what is going to happen now, because it can't wait any more.

The vision

My aim is three-fold, and all three items have the same priority:

  1. to make the DHT as close to zero-maintenance as possible.
  2. to make the delays for the players as short as possible.
  3. to remain entirely within the spirit of the original DHT.

The way it will work is as follows. There will be a challenge page on the web. You go there, fill in the challenge request form, press SUBMIT; there and then, you get your PGP-signed challenge. You copy this from your web browser and paste it into a text file. You can start recording your exam right away.

When you have completed your exam, you submit it to the repository (together with the challenge you received in the first step). A robot scans the site every night and lists all the downloadable exams on it, automatically generating the hall of fame page. You no longer mail me (or anyone else) a completion form. As soon as your exam is moved from incoming to the official area, it gets listed in the hall of fame.

All this will require some modifications and simplifications to the rules in order to satisfy the zero-maintenance requirement. I shall probably get rid of the more complicated rules having to do with the base, with the once-only titles and other weird things. The zero-maintenance requirement is also for Jeff, of course (mr he should no longer have the burden of sending me reports on who is in the base this week and all that sort of junk.

Appeals, people changing initials and other things that have caused problems in the past (though rarely, I'm pleased to say: the original rules have proved to be quite sound and robust) will be streamlined. If you don't like the challenge you got, you will be able to request another random one for the same title after two months. You will also be able to request as many challenges as you like under different names, and the way I'll guard against abuses is that if you do so, you won't be able to go very high in the hall of fame because your exams will be scattered among your different aliases.

The plan

There will be a new set of rules, DHT6, which will be my playground for experimentation with this new automated system. It will no doubt be readjusted a few times based on the feedback I get from those of you who try it. DHT6 will be a world-wide beta test lasting several months. When I am happy that everything is fine, I'll freeze the refined rules into DHT7. (Incidentally, I like the idea of having 7, the perfect number, associated with what should be the final revision, although being a computer professional I know that the very concept of a final version is somehow rather optimistic…)

To avoid messing up the titles earned with DHT5 and previous versions, DHT6 will have its own separate titles and log and hall of fame. Everyone will be able to get DHT6 titles, even if they had already conquered the equivalent DHT5 (or previous) titles. Remember that the DHT6 is a beta test, and I allow myself the possibility of making mistakes in setting up the rules, so I don't want to mix these experimental titles with the previous ones, nor with the DHT7 ones. DHT6 is my playground for experimentation and will be isolated from everything else.

As one of you wisely suggested to me in private e-mail, I won't spend any more time manually servicing challenge requests, not even for the accumulated backlog. Instead, from now on no more DHT5 exams will be accepted apart from those that already are on the repository and haven't been listed in the hall of fame (these will be listed eventually), and no more DHT5 challenges will be issued; but also I have reluctantly decided that, in the interest of getting something done, I'll humbly ask all those who asked for a DHT5 challenge between the last batch and now to re-ask for their challenge using the automatic DHT6 method. That will have the double advantage of (1) freeing up my time to do DHT6 writing and programming instead of DHT5 manual labour, and (2) providing me with a large pool of beta testers for the new system.

The new rules

This is all subject to change, but here are the fundamental ideas on which the DHT6 rules will be based.

DHT6 will definitely cover DOOM, DOOM II, Ultimate DOOM and Quake. I have not yet firmly decided whether to include any Doom lookalikes that people enjoy but that I don't play, such as Heretic, Hexen, Duke Nukem 3D, the other DOOM that I can't remember the name of (Final DOOM perhaps?) and so on. My inclination is to avoid all the games I haven't bought the registered version of, on the grounds that otherwise I may not be able to do a proper arbitration in case of dispute. I've always tried to be fair in administering the DHT and I think that to be able to continue to do so I must at least know the games it applies to.

For every title you get a signed challenge telling you which levels you must do. There is no appeal. You can't change any of these levels, which are chosen at random.

If the one you received was too difficult, you can however ask for another challenge for the same title after a certain time (say two months).

It would be nice to add expiration dates to challenges (“here is your challenge and you must complete it within such-and-such a date or the exam is invalid”) and possibly to ensure that you could never choose between different challenges by guaranteeing that only one challenge for a given individual and for a given title is valid at any given instant in time. However this addition may be hard to verify and may be too messy for my zero-maintenance constraint (besides being too complicated for the average player to figure out), so I'll probably drop it.

The system will log all your challenge requests and these will appear next to your name, so you are allowed to request, say, the Grand Master challenge 5 times (at intervals of two months) until you get an easy one, but it will be shown next to your name that you requested it 5 times (and what the other ones you requested were). This is a feedback loop to prevent abuse.

To avoid races and all these complications, no title will depend on the presence or absence of someone else's title. In other words, there won't be a “base” of completed levels as in DHT5's advanced titles and there won't be any once-only titles.

The base was an excellent idea to stimulate players to “do better” than what had already been done. It encouraged production of even more amazing LMPs. However it has done its time now, and is full. Its results will be used to prove that certain things are possible and to determine the new level sets for DHT6.

There won't be any once-only titles but, now that the operations are instantaneous, the order in which players conquer the titles will matter more than before. Being the first to get a hard title will be the moral equivalent.

The CRAP punishment (total ban from the DHT) will probably be modified based on my experience in all these years. Fortunately I have never come across someone trying squarely to cheat. All the CRAP candidates I had to deal with were actually people who had done something stupid, but with no malicious intent (that's why they were “pardoned” and not crapped). So: CRAP will stay, for cheats; but there will be a less severe punishment (like: a negative mention in the hall of fame, but no ban) to deal with people posting a broken exam but without the intention to cheat. Of course my attempt to simplify the rules will also, hopefully, reduce the chance for people to do stupid things without meaning to.

The level sets will be allowed to change over time, where required, without too much fuss, because the fact that one can always ask for a new challenge after 2 months evens out the fact that a new set may give someone else a better deal.

To play

As soon as a basic version of the challenge generator is ready, I'll make it available on this page. At that point I'll send e-mail to everyone who is still in the queue for a DHT5 challenge, telling them to use this instead. I'll write a rules document after that. Finally, I'll write the robot that generates the hall of fame from the contents of the repository.

Remember: DHT6 is a playground for experimentation, so I won't be too strict. There will be no real “punishments” for mistakes during DHT6, on the grounds that the mistakes may very well be due to the new rules not having been perfected yet!

DOOM, DOOM II, QUAKE © 1993 - 1996 id Software
DOOM Honorific Titles © 1994 - 1997 Frank Stajano
$Date: 1997/07/06 23:28:57 $ UTC