When I began playing the National Cyber League (NCL) capture the flag (CTF), I was so lost. I survived the Gym, then Pre-season, and holy cow my first Individual game landed me in Silver bracket! This was two years ago during the Spring 2018 Season, and mind you it was my first ever CTF. Having gotten all the preliminary jitters out of the way due to seeing it was not as scary as I initially thought it would be, it was time to pick a team.
Pick a team? Oh no, I cannot do this, how on earth do I find a team? It’s okay, just breathe we’re going to step through this calmly, unlike my first time. I was fortunate and had an amazing group to show me the way and ease the initial shock, the SNHUpers. With the help of the cyber league that I was in at my university, I was placed on a great team that had patience and taught me a few things about teamwork and captaining.
Enough people for a team from your own school?
Now, it is up to you to fill your team as the captain and you have plenty of victims…I mean players. For example, we had a pool of approximately 30 players so we collectively chose to ensure that there were at least 5 on a team, but could have up to seven and as few as one. For balance, we chose to have at least two new players so that the transition and shock was easier, and they could learn without fear of feeling they did not belong. For the setup, the captain needs to ensure they register a team and then distribute the game codes to the team to sign up to before the deadline. If you aren’t sure where the registration is, log into your Cyber Skyline dashboard during the registration time and you’ll notice links at the top left of your screen that say register your team here (those Cyber Skyline guys are pretty smart huh?).
Not enough people from your school playing to form a team?
So the time is upon you and you can’t seem to find enough people to form a team. Where do you go to fill the spaces? There are a few places that you can check, first being the Cyber Skyline Slack. Each season there is a channel made available to search for a team to jump onto or find people to fill your team, and always people in it willing to do both! Another place that I like to scope out often is the Facebook Page for NCL Competitors. I see the threads blow up during competition with people looking for teams and teams looking for people.
I have the people, now what?
I like to start by creating a chat avenue, my choice is a Slack channel but contingency plans are a good thing, so I reinforce it by having a Discord channel and readying a Google Hangout.
Next, I like to be prepared, the more prepared I am the more prepared my team is. How do I prepare after setting up the group chats? Glad you asked! I like to create a Google Sheets with tabs of the different categories and set the columns up to have each teammates name at the top. After the team event opens, I go to the sheet and add the questions and as each member works through them they can make notes on how they solved out to the side, or a note saying that they don’t understand and want clarification. At this point, most teams are virtual, so if you aren’t, you probably have a different way of working through this. By doing it this way not only can we verify our answers with each other, but those that aren’t geographically close and in a completely different time zone are able to work on the challenge when it’s more convenient for them. This allows us to leave in the category channel of our chat how we came to the solution and if we didn’t solve, it allows our teammates to brainstorm on their own using the information already used and adding to it for a higher chance of solving. This also helps with accuracy that so many people get frustrated with because in order to submit the challenge, two others must get the same answer.