A (Choose: Great/Pointless/Annoying) Scoring System Thread

Anything about the Diplomacy game in general.

Re: A (Choose: Great/Pointless/Annoying) Scoring System Thre

Postby BrotherBored » 20 May 2019, 20:32

Nearly all my experience playing Diplomacy is online. Furthermore, for something like that last 3 years I have played online Diplomacy without a break; not a day has gone by where I wasn't in a game. Finally, I have only ever played on webDiplomacy, which only allows for sum-of-squares or "draw-size scoring" (which I understand to be known elsewhere as Calhamer points). I have played in very few tournaments. The vast majority of my matches have been routine pickup games that last 6-10 weeks.

With that background in mind, I find sum-of-squares scoring to be by far the more boring and frustrating of the two (as in, much less fun). The large majority of players on webDiplomacy choose to play with the "draw-size scoring" system, and I am with them. In online Diplomacy, especially pickup games with 24 or 36 hour turns, there is a terrible, fun-crushing problem of players giving up before the match is over. Unlike in a tournament setting, an online player can just start a new game if their current game is going poorly. "Draw-size" scoring at least offers some kind of counter-incentive to fight to the bitter end. I also think the gameplay is more strategic and interesting.

I am offering my preference (or opinion, whatever you want to call it) on this topic not because I think I'm "right" or to persuade anybody, but just so that a curious person could understand the mentality of someone who avoids sum-of-squares scoring when at all possible. I probably would dislike other systems that are not draw based, but I haven't played using them.

Here's an essay I wrote on the topic: https://brotherbored.com/why-players-prefer-draw-size-scoring-in-diplomacy/
I also published a response by a colleague with similar experience who disagrees with my perspective: https://brotherbored.com/guest-post-draw-size-vs-sum-of-squares-scoring/
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Re: A (Choose: Great/Pointless/Annoying) Scoring System Thre

Postby NoPunIn10Did » 20 May 2019, 21:08

Thanks for chiming in, Brother.

It helps considerably that you express this opinion as opinion, rather than as quasi-religious belief. Much of the resistance encountered here to any system other than DSS / Calhamer points treats DSS as the only legitimate system (and fully ignores the experience of players who can attest to the merits of alternative systems).

Any scoring system will have its pluses and minuses. I envy the capability in webDip to pick the scoring system on a game-by-game basis.

As to fighting “to the bitter end,” I personally find that often translates to a tiresome endgame grind or staring-contest; the leading player typically is stopped behind a stalemate line and won’t approve a draw until the opposing side cannibalizes one of its members (which often they cannot do, lest they risk handing over the solo). Draw-whittling of that sort is a necessary but not always enjoyable factor of DSS.

SOS does a poor job of rewarding players who survive with just a few centers for as long as possible, but it and other non-DSS systems take the notion of “draw size” out of the equation. As such, that tiny power fighting to survive may be under less overall threat, as its centers are really no different than anyone else’s. The powerful are incentivized to attack the powerful, rather than swallow the weak. So perhaps simply surviving becomes less impressive in an SOS context.
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Re: A (Choose: Great/Pointless/Annoying) Scoring System Thre

Postby jay65536 » 21 May 2019, 22:17

So, BB, I'll say this at the outset, having read both of the essays you linked and also having read your post. I think many of the differences between why you prefer draw-based scoring and most of the top players I know don't prefer it is "cultural". You sort of inadvertently highlighted this in your post, when you said that you think SoS doesn't do enough to deter people abandoning games when they are not doing well. As you admit, abandonments are not a big problem in FtF play. There is no need to use a rating system that encourages people to stay in the game when they are not doing well. That is not enough to say that that makes SoS better, just that that one particular drawback of SoS doesn't exist in FtF.

As I said upthread, but maybe worth repeating, is that when I'm listening to or talking about scoring systems, there are sort of 2 different things going on:
1. People have opinions about what incentives a scoring system should be encouraging. This is sort of an "a priori" debate, to borrow language from Dave Maletsky, and there's no way it's ever going to be resolved. Judging from your essay about Calhamer points, you believe that a good scoring system should encourage players with low center counts to fight for survival, by rewarding them with an equal draw share. I don't really see anything else in your essay about what a good scoring system should reward.

2. To me it's an important question whether a scoring system is actually rewarding what it is supposed to be rewarding. This is where I think draw-based scoring fails. I agree with a lot of the "counterpoint" essay in general, but I actually noticed that the point I'm about to make was left out of it. In top-level tournament play, my experience--and that of most live tournament players, I think--is that draw-based scoring actually does NOT reward fighting to stay in the draw, what you called "Desperado" play. The reason it does not reward this style of play is that in a high-level game, such "Desperados" are always eliminated when they are the 4th-largest power or worse.

Again, this may be a cultural thing, but let me tell you what I remember from playing under draw-based systems. Because a tournament is only 3-4 rounds at most, each player who is hoping to win the tournament needs to squeeze the maximum possible draw result out of each game they're playing. That means no top player would EVER accept a 4way draw or worse. 3way draws are basically the minimum you'll see voted, almost always. And because these are top players, when someone forces them to whittle down a 4way to a 3way correctly or else cough up a solo, they will NEVER respond by saying "it's too big a risk to allow the solo, so you can stay in the draw". (They were pretty good at draw-whittling when they had to do it.) So trying to hold onto a share of the draw as a small power was ALWAYS rewarded with a loss in these types of situations. That means that there was NOT incentive to play on--and also that solo-throwing becomes a more attractive option. I think there are people on this thread who've played at Dixiecon more recently than I have who can back me up on at least some of this.

Those are some long essays so there is much more I could respond to, but I guess the question I have for you, BB, is this: based on the fact that one community's experience with draw-based scoring does not line up with yours, don't you think it's possible that your opinion of the superiority of draw-based scoring is "cultural", and not inherent?
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