Organising Future Tournaments - Discussion

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Organising Future Tournaments - Discussion

Postby rick.leeds » 11 Feb 2016, 15:08

I've been pondering this for a while.

There are some issues with running tournaments that cause problems, in my mind, and I think it would be good to discuss them:
> Should tournament games be ranked?
> Avoiding breaches in anonymity.
> How to utilise End Game Dates (if they are part of the tournament).

Should tournament games be ranked? - Scoring Systems
This, I know, is going to be a big issue. I've had comments in the past that players wanted games ranked as it would be some reward for the time and effort put into them. Personally, I think if you're entering a tournament then doing well in that tourney should be enough of an incentive ;) but I can see the argument for making tourney games ranked.

Again, personally, any tournament I run (and I won't be running any until the site switch over has happened, neither finishing the POC) will be unranked. My reasons for this fit in with the thinking below.

We already have some rules about whether tournaments should be ranked or not. If it involves something which would not be allowed in normal games - eg. operating multiple accounts, explicit meta-gaming, team tournaments - games must not be ranked. There's no question about this.

The question, though, is about what scoring system the tournament uses and whether this either clashes with the site scoring system or if it introduces something which isn't primarily what Dip is about.

The best example for both of these is a scoring system which relies on SC-count. This is a common feature of most scoring systems. In FTF tournaments it is commonly used in one version of another. And it's easy to see why: tournament games at Conventions and the like have to finish by a certain time (I call this the End Game Date) simply because a number of rounds need to be completed within the short time the Convention runs for. In this scenario, many games will end in draws multi-player draws (concessions aside). This means that scoring based on how many SCs a player holds at the end of the game is often the best way to differentiate.

On the site, it is also common to use EGDs, for similar reasons. While there is no absolute need to have tournament games end before a 'natural' finish - be that a solo or an agreed draw - if games run on for too long, then future games or rounds may be delayed and - if the tournament has a final - the final may be greatly delayed. Common EGDs for site tournaments are 1912 or 1915 (end of the year). Again, in this situation, a scoring system based on SC-count may be thought most useful.

The issue is that, certainly towards the end of the game, if entrants are playing to maximise their score for tournament places, the scoring system will very much be in the front of their minds. Certainly, with SC-count this means playing differently from playing in a stand alone, casual game - and even if you are playing to maximise your site ratings score.

This produces a clash of interests if tournament games are ranked... and not only for the players in the game. A player has to decide what he is going to do - play to the tournament scoring system or play to the site ratings? Fair enough - you knew what was expected when you entered the tournament (hopefully) so you have to deal with that. However, it also impacts the sites ratings. A game which is scored differently to the site ratings, which is also ranked, may have a result which it would not normally have and this is exaggerated when EGDs are used or games are ended in early draws to maximise tourney scoring.

Now, I accept that no tournament scoring system can match the site ratings system perfectly but I think it is possible to use a scoring system that is, at least, likely to produce play which is more in line with 'normal' on site play (whatever normal may be) - or, if you like, will produce play that would mirror how players would play in non-tourney games. I've used scoring systems in the past that have this philosophy and I'm working on a series of systems again now. I'll post them when I'm happy with them ;)

For this aspect, then, I'm suggesting that, when organising a tournament, the TD (Tournament Director - the organiser) considers very carefully whether the scoring system used means games OUGHT to be not ranked. In fact, I'm going to go further and suggest that, when SC-count is a significant aspect of the scoring system - meaning that it isn't a low-hierarchy tie-breaker - tournament games should NEVER be ranked.

The implication for this is that some members probably wouldn't consider entering a tournament, which is why I think it is worth discussing this. However, my feeling is that the most important factor is that a tournament SHOULDN'T affect the site ratings if play in the tournament is likely to differ significantly from the way players would approach a non-tournament game. Remember, tournaments are a Premium-only feature (POC aside); this means that a significant proportion of members do not qualify to enter tournaments; in short, tournaments are exclusive.

Avoiding breaches in anonymity
Many tournaments on the site use anonymous games. This is often an attempt to prevent players in a game targeting a player who has done well in earlier games. It isn't absolutely necessary but it is common.

There are ways the TD can break that anonymity, from sending Gamestart details to multiple players and forgetting to BCC to posting game results on the Forum when the game has reached its EGD but is still being played (see below). I know the latter - I made that mistake once and was, quite rightly, panned for doing so. Maintaining anonymity is more important if the game is ranked.

Players can, themselves, break anonymity. Much of this is covered by Forum rules - don't post a bug report under your username if the game is anonymous, or a cheating report, etc. Other ways, though, may include discussing games on the Forum, mentioning a game in a post and giving your power away, etc.

In most cases, this is accidental and it's fair to say that mistakes are likely to be made. Everyone makes one of those occasionally and there are always going to be unanticipated results to some actions. It isn't accidents that I'm concerned about (but do avoid them ;) ). More likely its the posting of game results and tournament discussion of on-going games which can cause problems.

There are two suggestions, therefore:
1. We make it a rule that, if a tournament uses EGDs results of games must not be reported on the Forum if this date is reached but the game continues beyond the date for RANKED GAMES. If tourney games are not ranked, it is less of an issue.

2. If there is an invitation to watch a tournament game and discuss it on the Forum, players IN THAT GAME are not allowed to join the discussion.

(Incidentally, I would also suggest that if such a discussion is allowed by the TD only, this is with the agreement of all the players in the game.)

Using End Game Dates
Above, I've discussed reasons for using EGDs. They are fairly common.

There are a couple of issues with using these, though.

First, what happens if the EGD is reached and the game isn't over? With games which are not ranked, there are two options: the TD might end the game and ask all players to agree to the draw or have the game closed down by a Mod; alternatively, the TD can allow the game to continue, which gives the players to play the game out. With a RANKED game, however, there is only one option: the game MUST be allowed to continue. If a game doesn't finish before or on the EGD, and it is Ranked, it has to continue until it reaches a natural finish for the sake of site ratings.

Second, for the purposes of the tournament, the game will be scored based on the standings when the EGD is reached. This means that a TD has to keep a record of the result at that point, especially if the game is continuing beyond the EGD. However, posting details of the result on the Forum would damage an anonymous or Ranked game. This has been covered above.

The implications are that a game might continue beyond the EGD and not be completed in a timely manner. The simplest way to go is to say that all final round games (or final qualifying round games) should not be ranked; it is not a problem to publish details of no ranked games if they continue; in this case, only anonymity is damaged (if the game is anonymous) but this doesn't affect anything other than the one game. But that isn't QUITE true: if other games are still running, and these HAVEN'T reached their EGD, then it could also affect the tournament and change how entrants play their games out.

It should also be kept in mind that it isn't necessarily final round games that may go on longer than is ideal for the tournament. It is feasible that a first round game could still be running when all other games have finished! So making all final round games no rank doesn't necessarily cover every eventuality. (Another reason to not run ranked tourney games!)

One way around this would be to cover it clearly in tournament rules. TDs should make it clear that, however games are set up, if all games reach their EGDs results will be published. They can still continue but they would be affected by this; entrants know what the circumstances are.

So, a number of suggestions.
1. Have a set of rules for running tournaments on the Forum, which deal with the basics, including:
> When games MUST be unranked;
> Not posting results for games on the Forum until the game is completed UNLESS THIS IS COVERED IN TOURNAMENT RULES;
> Players involved in a game are not allowed to comment on the game while it is still being played.

2. Have a series of suggestions for what the TD should consider, including:
> Whether the scoring system to be used clashes with the site ratings, and whether games should be ranked as a result;
> How to structure a scoring system that complements site ratings but isn't so simplistic that ranking players in the tournament is impossible;
> Ramifications of using EGDs - what this may mean for Ranked and anonymous, as well as the length of the tournament.

In thinking about all this, I've tried to make it so that members who WANT to run a tournament have as much freedom to organise it as possible but balance this with the issues raised.
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Re: Organising Future Tournaments - Discussion

Postby mhsmith0 » 11 Feb 2016, 18:11

A few quick thoughts, as someone who's currently running a tournament:

1) IF you're making anonymous games, make them first come first serve, NOT preferences, and have explicit penalties for people who screw up.

If you're doing preferences, and something goes wrong, it's never 100% clear who screwed up. Moreover, if someone DID screw up, you have to wait until the game fills before you realize the problem.

OTOH, if you're doing first come first serve, and someone signs up for let's say Italy instead of Austria, then the guy who was supposed to get Italy can email the TD and say that there's a problem, BEFORE the rest of the game fills. That lets you get on top of problems more quickly, which benefits everyone (having to continue to create and disband multiple games because of signup errors is poor service to the majority of the players)

wrt penalties, I think a simple penalty is either:
- an explicit negative adjustment to the player's round point total; or
- the player gets removed from the game, and has to miss that game in the round

The latter is the penalty I'm going to be using going forward. It's not eliminating (players get 7 games in a round), but it's going to be damaging enough that I think I'll get everyone's attention.

2) EGD's: I agree that if you have EGD's, you need to have policy that handles the resulting issues (one thing I came across in mind is that I really hadn't addressed this).
I think a simple policy to address this is:
- for rounds with eliminations, have explicit breaks in between them (whether counting from the time the games actually finish, or from the time they hit 19xx, is a policy that you need to think about). If there's a realistic chance that players could be juggling multiple games from round one (that have yet to finish) AND multiple games from round two (that are starting up) at the same time, that's potentially a really heavy load.
- for rounds with eliminations AND anonymous games AND EGD's, once as TD you realize who's advanced, you may want to send a BCC email to the list of players who have advanced letting them know they moved on, and a separate BCC email to the list of players who didn't, letting them know the same. Anonymity stays protected, but until the games actually fully end, players don't need a full breakdown of results.
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Re: Organising Future Tournaments - Discussion

Postby gsmx » 13 Feb 2016, 03:27

Mixed feelings on all these items, but I'll try my best to give a productive response.

Ranked vs Unranked

For longest time I've been pretty firm in my thoughts tournament games would be better served as unranked, but not long ago I'd played a high profile game that was unranked and noticed a phenomenon, these typically competitive players were suddenly a bit more cavalier about the outcome of the game then they typically would be. The throw it to the leader attitude came up more then I would have expected. This is generally around the bottom-of-totem pole guys but still, in ranked games you see a much stronger hunger to cling on.

Gave me a deeper psychological understanding of unranked games which leads me to answer this with an "it depends".

I'm skeptical on games like PDET where you've got that option of having best 4 of however many games you participate in during the preliminaries. Could lead to players bailing to clear their plate or worse yet kamakazing the game to take out a player they feel their competition. I think in the preliminaries ranked makes sense as the scooting closely matches rating scoring. On the flip side would have preferred to see the final game unranked to take that aspect out of the equation and focus all attention on the tournament incentives.

Really ranked vs unranked should be decided based on the nature of the tournament and how much one or the other will influence game play.

Breaches in Anonymity

It happens and you're right, often it's innocent. Unfortunately it's too difficult often to really determine if it was accidental or "accidental" (wink). I think best approach is to give tournament related penalties for things like this (lost points), really about as good as you can do. Extreme cases elimination, but due to disruptions to tournament this would need to be pretty extreme.

Breaches should include inappropriate use of forum to break anonymity or intentionally outing yourself. People of course are going to guess who each other are in these semi-anonymous situations so not much can be done about speculation. I'm indifferent if they ought be allowed to voice this speculation.

End Date

Very mixed feelings about this one. Like everybody, i hate seeing g tournaments stuck in limbo due to one game holding everybody up. As and TD knows it can be a challenge to keep all players engaged from round to round and lifer the dead period on between the more likely the tournament is to lose its momentum and die. However, I've seen WAY too many times tournament games get to 1910 and players go into stall mode to keep them in the game which really turns into a drag as well. If much rather see some kind of sudden death incentive to keep the game moving to some extent. Maybe after 1915 games ends ends soon as you hit 3 players left or lower the bar to 16sc for the game end of whatever creative idea we can come up with. Naturally whether this is ranked or unranked bears a lot on how feasible this is.

But perhaps the answer really is to just not have a deadline at all. If the games ranked and anonymous you can't really post results and move on until it's over anyways, so what's the point? If it's unranked then what the heck, hard end.

Other Suggestion

One last suggestion is more of a development one. Would be nice to add tournement related features, and one really helpful one would be that results for a round to not get revealed until all games in that round are completed. There's certainly a meta strategic advantage to being the last game to be finished as you can aim to score only as high as you absolutely need to as well as really narrowing the likeliness of who's participating in your game. Waiting to lift anonymity on all round and games until after the last game finishes would mitigate this and give everybody a more even playing field.
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