Tournament Efficiency: A TO's Perspective (Part 1)
Feb 17, 2018
Disclaimer #1: The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and do NOT reflect the opinions, views, or beliefs of InkTV, Leagues Under The Ink, Squidboards, any staff members within those organizations, or any other tournaments/events/people I may be associated with. The article also does not state that "Tournaments and tournament organizers need to do X starting now", but instead offers suggestions based on what I have seen from Tick Tock Tuesdays and other tournaments that have not had problems regarding pacing.
Disclaimer #2: This is also not going to delve into the recent topics of limiting/banning gametypes, special weapons, etc. in tournaments, but instead general guidelines that all tournaments, no matter the size or if there is a gimmick or anything else, should consider following.
Okay, now that I have gotten the disclaimers out of the way, let us begin.
Recently, I have seen several people complaining about tournament length, both on Discord and on Twitter. This problem was magnified by the most recent Squidboards Splat Series. Keep in mind a few things:
- This tournament had around 115 teams actually play in it, and 124 fully register.
- There were seven rounds of groups to accommodate the high number of teams, followed by brackets for all teams to play in after the group stage.
- There was an hour of unexpected Nintendo maintenance during the group stage.
With all of that said, the tournament itself lasted about seven and a half hours from start to finish (eight and a half hours if you factor in the hour of Nintendo maintenance). Is this an acceptable amount of time for a tournament of this size? To be completely fair to the event, I honestly could not say because this community very rarely has tournaments of this size. BUT, from having been there from before it started to after it ended, and having read feedback from several players who played in the event, this type of length is unacceptable and needs to be shortened in some way.
Now, before I go any further, I need to say this: this problem is NOT exclusive to the Squidboards Splat Series. I genuinely believe this tournament can serve a wonderful position in this community, coming from arguably the biggest and most notable organization we have, where casual meets competitive. Plus, if this was not an issue in multiple tournaments, we would not see people complaining as much as they have, we would not see people suggesting how to correct the issue, and I would not see it as an issue and feel the need to write this article. People in general do not complain this much for one-off problems.
So, why is this?
The tourney staff
As much as people may not want to believe this, it is not just the fault of the tournament organizers (TOs). If there are pacing problems in an event, it may very well mean that the tournament organizers either do not have rules regarding time limits for sets and rounds or they do not enforce them. They are responsible for making sure that their event is run smoothly, effectively, and efficiently, and I guarantee you that they will get the blame if teams perceive their event to run longer than it realistically should.
Players and teams
Yes, you guys have a hand in this too. As the event is for you guys, you are the ones that essentially control how long things take in order to be completed. I will not say much here, as that is the topic of another article that goes much more in-depth from the player side. I will say that when players and teams are transparent with TOs, this allows them to do their jobs in enforcing the rules and keeping the tournament moving.
What can both sides do to correct these issues? Below, I will discuss what TOs specifically can do to help tighten up their events. If you would like what players can do, then please check out this piece by my good friend and InkTV colleague Hermes.
What TOs can do
Coming from a TO myself, it actually disappoints me and even irritates me when I see TOs have the ability to punish teams for not abiding by the rules or have time limits that are established in the tournament rules and not wield that power/stick to the time limits. I admit, TOs should not and cannot be held to an omniscient standard where they know about problems before those are reported to them, or without them having any reasonable way of assuming something is even wrong in the first place. But if that's the case, then what can TOs do to help speed up the events they run?
Well... Quite a lot, actually. Allow me to explain.
This should start before the event has even begun. There should be something in the rules that mentions specific amounts of time for round or set time limits, how long teams have to get in the lobby, and penalties that may be given if teams take longer than any of those time limits. If a tournament's rules do not include any of these, or they are left vague, I would strongly suggest the TOs that run that event clarify them, in a manner similar to what we have for the Bleck n Spoon tournament series:
Having the rules is all well and good, and they are something you need in order to keep things moving in the tournament and have something to point to when teams take too long. But... They mean nothing if you do not ENFORCE THEM, and this is one area I believe TOs have fallen short of late. That, and it is quite possible that a given tournament's rules need to have tighter restrictions. A few things I would strongly suggest TOs do in general are the following:
- Determine time limits for:
- Setting up the match's private battle in-game
- How long teams have to substitute between games
- How long overall rounds/sets should take (In other words, how long for a best of 3 set? What about a best of 5?)
- Determine appropriate penalties for teams that break these time limits
- Using the Bleck n Spoon rules from above, a team has five (5) minutes to ready up for their match. For every minute after that, they lose one game.
- If teams go over the round/set time limit set for them, how do you determine the outcome?
- Do you give them a tie?
- Do you give them a double loss?
- Do you use another method?
- ENFORCE THESE RULES AND PENALTIES AS APPROPRIATE
- Again, TOs are the ones in charge, and they have to put their foot down if there is an issue that needs resolving. Excusing a team for being 10 minutes late or more to a set should not happen if one of your goals is a well-run tournament.
- I do not care if:
- Teams have time between rounds and choose to take extra time.
- If team A and B are both finished their round 1 match and face each other in round 2, they should be starting their round 2 match immediately.
- Hold them accountable to the time limit as soon as they're both available, and not to when round 2 officially begins.
- They are a new team (because how can new teams learn the ropes if you do not enforce appropriate rules on them right away?) or a veteran team that "should know what they are doing".
- A team had a player go absent without leave for reasons they did not even communicate to their team.
- That is not the job of a TO to be forgiving for teams when their players should know that they have a tournament and need to be ready.
- Here, teams are responsible for having four people ready for the event at all times, and if they do not have at least four ready to play at a given moment, then either they be penalized for it or drop from the tournament voluntarily.
- Teams have time between rounds and choose to take extra time.
Honestly? If I was on a team that was looking to play in a future edition of a given tournament series, and I saw the tourney either lacked rules on efficiency or the TOs did not enforce their own time limits, I would tell my team my concerns and why I think we should not play in that event. I remember early Splatoon 1 events and how poorly they were paced, and dare I say, it will get to that if this issue is not corrected. On that note, I also believe that it is up to the teams to keep the TOs in check and make sure they are enforcing the rules, and if the TOs fail to do this, the teams need to speak up and say something like "Hey, you have these rules and you are not enforcing them. That is not acceptable and something you need to change immediately." In other words, teams should hold TOs accountable for their actions, and TOs should hold teams accountable for their actions.
Tick Tock Tuesdays
I mentioned it briefly in my first disclaimer, so where does Tick Tock Tuesdays fit into all this? If you are not aware of what it is, I'll give you a quick rundown:
- It is a single elimination tournament run every Tuesday evening (based on North American time zones) that I started back in September 2017.
- Initially meant to emulate the style of Japanese tournaments where every set is a best of 3 until best of 5 grand finals, it has evolved over time to where most sets are best of 5.
- The rules I created are heavily influenced by the original Bleck n Spoon tournament series in terms of time limits, disconnections, lag, etc.
If you would like to view the complete rules, click here, as I will explain why I set them up the way I did regarding time limits.
Getting a response from your opponent
We start here, with contacting your opponent that your set is ready. This is where team captains need to be aware of how the bracket is moving, and should both be eager to contact their next opponent as soon as possible. Plus, it should not be hard to say "Hey, give us a minute and we will be there" because captains need to be ready to respond immediately in tournaments, but I understand sometimes things happen (specifically, their team is in a league match and would like to finish that first). Still, it should take a few seconds at most to set up contact with the team you face next, even if that means you stop playing for a few seconds in a league battle. This is why after five (5) minutes, the team that gets no response will win game 1, and after ten (10) minutes, that team automatically wins the set because at that point, there is no reason to keep the team that is ready waiting.
Marsh and I also added the point about not contacting your opponent before they are ready to go because we felt this rule could easily be exploited otherwise by pinging them while they are still in a tourney set.
Setting up the match lobby
These rules are slightly more generous than the Bleck n Spoon rules mentioned earlier in terms of how long teams have before additional game losses are given, but given how no set in Tick Tock Tuesdays will ever be more than a best of 5, it still winds up where if a team is more than 10 minutes late getting all of their members in a lobby, it is a set loss anyway. The reason six minutes was chosen is because that still gives teams around 60 seconds to move everyone from a league battle lobby to a private battle lobby assuming they just started a five-minute league match when the other team readied up. The two minutes after rule is a tad more lenient than what Bleck n Spoon has, but should still give teams the sense of urgency to get everyone in the lobby and get their set started.
The last sentence is also something to point out here, as it traces back to the need for teams to be transparent and upfront with staff on any issues. If they are not, Tick Tock Tuesdays staff should not be held responsible for handling problems they do not know are happening. And if teams are not upfront with the issues despite the strict time limits for their sets and penalties if they go over those time limits (more on that in a bit), then that tells the staff they not only accept the results of the match as they are but should not complain after the fact that there was a problem they did not report.
Set time limits
The last bit here is set time limits, which, as of Tick Tock Tuesdays 21, are something that will begin when a match has been set and the teams should begin contacting each other. Admittedly, this is only feasible because Tick Tock Tuesdays is usually a smaller event (mid-teens to low 20s in terms of team attendance), so it is easier to keep an eye on every set being played.
We have determined that set time limits should work like this:
- For best of 3
- You get six minutes to contact your opponent and set up the lobby (given the Tick Tock Tuesdays nickname system where captains have their team name AND Switch friend code as their Discord nickname system, this should take less time)
- You get around 15 minutes to play all three games
- You get around three to four minutes in between the three games to choose the gametype and your team's weapons and gear
- At most, this winds up being 25 minutes to complete a three game set
- For best of 5
- You get six minutes to contact your opponent and set up the lobby
- You get around 25 minutes to play all five games
- You get around five to six minutes in between each match for gametype selection and weapons/gear
- This totals up to about 36 to 37 minutes
- If teams will need to substitute players during the set, it is strongly encouraged that their subs are ready to enter the lobby immediately. Cutting down on the six minutes to contact your opponent and set up the lobby will help here (and in the need for overtime matches).
Though these time limits may seem harsh, we have been running the exact same rules in this section for the entirety of the Tick Tock Tuesdays series and there have been little issues throughout the tournament history. I would like to attribute one reason for that in being the disqualification rule. Should teams go over the time limit for any reason, assuming one team is not at fault where any issues have been communicated to staff BEFORE the round/set time limit would end, both teams are given a loss. Since the tournament is typically single elimination, that means that they are both out of the tournament if they go over. We report the scores on the Challonge bracket as follows (assume for this scenario, the teams are A and B where A is the higher seed):
- For this specific match-up, we report a 0/-1 score in favor of Team A
- In what would be Team A's next match-up, we report a 0/-1 score in favor of their opponent
Yes, this has happened a few times in the tournament's history. It is not something we enjoy doing, but in order to keep the tournament on track and penalize teams for not finishing on time, it is an option we must resort to when the time limit for their set has passed with no result coming in.
The last bit is actually the first thing seen in the screenshot: taking one minute tops in order to sub. Hermes can touch on this more, but real quick, I believe that subs should be ready to go immediately during a tournament, and TOs should not be afraid to penalize teams that are taking too long to swap their members in a private battle lobby.
Through all of this, if there are a few key takeaways from what I have discussed above, and what tournament organizers should consider doing in order to provide better pacing, it is this:
- TOs need to be ready to hand out penalties should they be necessary for teams that are late or go over the time limit set.
- As mentioned earlier, TOs need to hold players accountable for being late (whether that be not getting their sets done on time or arriving late to their sets in the first place) and players need to hold TOs accountable (whether that be because they are not enforcing the rules or are being lenient in their handling of given issues that appear during the event). It is a two-way street and communication is key, everyone.
Thank you for reading, and hopefully this helps improve the pacing that tournaments have been sluggish on lately. If you have any questions, feel free to direct message me on Discord (@Ink.Jordan#2816), and as mentioned, be sure to read up on Hermes's piece on what teams can do to help TOs out!
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