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Red Alert Global League: Season 6 - Post-Season Discussion

Posted: Tue Dec 25, 2018 7:52 am
by netnazgul
Traditional post-mortem thread to cover the good, the bad and the ugly of the season and how we can improve on the latter two.

I will start with the overall situation after Season 5. It looked rather bleak at the time as a lot of players forfeited before or during the early stages of the season; Recruits seemed the worst with almost the half of Bravo group being disqualified due to no-shows, and half of the rest forfeiting before that. Alpha group didn't perform much better on that. But probably the most impactful was the exodus in Masters, where Happy, kazu and Lorrydriver all left due to various reasons, being of course considered top spot contenders going into the season.

So, preparing for the season, it was already clear that changes are needed to keep the entity afloat, otherwise players would just all leave as the current system didn't hold their attention enough to stay. And even if this weren't already bad enough, the registrations for Season 6 were going massively underwhelming, as even those who finished the previous season declined to proceed or didn't respond at all. This resulted in only 13 players total coming over from Season 5, that including all the three tiers of Masters, Minions and Recruits combined.

All this gave really gloomy feelings, to a point that there might be no RAGL season at all for the forseeable future. But [fortunately] we decided against it, running the season as-is with all the signups gathered by that time (25) being split in just two tiers of Masters and Minions, Masters consisting of Season 5 participants. Also kudos to WhoCares, who not only signed up just for the sake of making the numbers even though he knew he wouldn't be able to give enough time to it, but again stirred up the player pool and dragged several players in, also manufacturing OpenRA Academy in the process, which has already contributed to RAGL roster somewhat and hopefully will be a perfect startup point for people to get into the competitive scene.

Two major changes were made to the League structure - doubled-down number of matches per week and the removal of Recruits tier. The latter change was initially planned (and still is) as Recruits tier was to be substituted by a qualification tournament so that there is less time strain on the newcomers, but still a level of competition that also supplies the league bottom tier (now Minions). In the end it also became a necessity as there were simply not enough signups to consider neither Recruits tier nor qualifications anyway.
Matches-per-week increase was a very positive switch as it turned out. It allowed cutting the group stage period almost in half, but still kept it reasonably self-scheduled. Coupled with the further streamlining of the schedule where mid-season break week was removed and delays were rolling over the whole season, the structure now compacted the season just enough to keep the attention span each week (compare this to previous seasons where due to delays or forfeits there might be one or two weeks with 0 matches being played).

In the end, Season 6 turned out to be much more fun than I initially expected it to be. Yes, we didn't have some of the top-flight players in the likes of Smitty, Gatekeeper, Lorrydriver, kazu, Happy, Blackened, Doomsday in Masters this season - that would have been a massive super-league otherwise probably. Still, we had a great number of games played, several League-shaking upsets (yet another time to mention Upps, I guess :P) and all in all a memorable competition.
By the way, two words about Blackened should be said here: I'm thankful for your trust in me and .1 to keep the League going, I'm sure that you have a good journey out there; we all will be glad to see you back of course ;)

A couple of talking points for the next season to be that were either already voiced or just waiting to be discussed.
  1. Map pool
    There were certain concerns from the players regarding this or that map being in, considering some maps unbalanced, unfair, inferior and so on. Most of this is due to the fact that the map pool wasn't impeccably refined prior to the season. Frankly speaking, it never is, and there always will be complains, because the playstyles of different players are too different to be able to have all the maps be to the liking of everyone. Also I'm still of the opinion that the map pool should also have out-of-meta maps as well as all-around maps just to test the players' skills and give opportunity to everyone.
    Saying this, I agree that something like Lorrydriver's Foretaste Tournament map testing is a great procedure to refine the maps to high standards. This was planned to be run this season as well, but lack of time and effort prevented it from happening, as well as the lack of desire from active players to do it, because in the end it is a community process and you need various players to play the maps, otherwise there is no point in testing.
  2. Tiebreakers and playoffs
    With the group stage being fast-paced and streamlined into a solid structure, tiebreakers after it now feel too dragged out and uncomfortable to be scheduled right away. Playoffs too, but less so and they still ran fine and were all live-casted.
    So, suggestions on how to improve on tiebreaking system are welcome. Introducing more sorting options (i.e. evaluating tied players' scores against opponents higher than them in the table) might reduce the probability of such cases ending up in a rematch. Making matches best-of-3 with first map being pre-drawn for each round is also a way, but doesn't solve 3-way ties, introduces yet more games (and all 3 need to be played if we are calculating game-win points) and other problems.
  3. Delay system
    This season played out ok in this regard, even though it looked a little bit worrying in the first half with the delay plague being as active as usual. Something might be improved here, as the current system still may punish a player who can play his games on schedule but is being delayed by his opponents. One of the ways actually may be to use total delays count used by a player as a sorting factor in tied situations described above (i.e. players are tied in standings, but playerA used 5 delays including re-delayed games, and playerB used 3, so playerB gets ahead).
  4. Discord integration
    Next season will probably completely be moved over into discord as a primary communication channel instead of emails. Probably the reporting/replay uploading may move there as well.
  5. Automation
    As for the automation, currently there has been no work on that as we are still short on manpower capable to do anything more complex than a bunch of spreadsheet tables. On discord, darkscrypt was undertaking a project to make dedicated servers able to post data outwards, so that's a start in the direction needed.
But first of all let's rest from all this serious stuff and just have some fun during holidays :angel:

Re: Red Alert Global League: Season 6 - Post-Season Discussion

Posted: Thu Dec 27, 2018 4:40 pm
by eskimo
Thanks for the season, reports, casts and updates. These are very welcome.

There was some hoo-hah (conflict), about the merging of tables and players getting a free ride into masters, whilst others had to wait a few seasons of performing to actually get there. As i said in previous seasons, it's unfair on those on the receiving end going major negative win/loses due to good players having to fight their way through. So the table merging worked really well, and i'd like to see other promising players have auto enrolment to masters if there's space, and obviously those who haven't performed, make way for those who have proven themselves outside of RAGL. And if it results in a crowded table, have an elites table above masters.

The 4 games a week layout was pretty good, and easy enough, well at least for those who were committed to playing. That leads me onto the delay game. A consideration perhaps, have the higher place finishers go against each other early season. For example, barf, Orb, zxGanon, FiveAces, clear their games vs each other in the first weeks. This in theory has lower tier players feel less stress as they'll be playing other lower tier at the end of the season, and everyone can get their worst matches out of the way. It also stress tests the delay game, knowingly high tier players delay games until end of season. This also creates an unfair advantage to replay spies, and imo an abuse of the system which is in place to accommodate those with busy lives. The table could of well looked different if i had bothered to check the Ganon vs Anjew replay on Badger Hills.

Big disappointment in Blackened's map being dropped for what appeared to be strange reasons, post season start. We consequently got left with the majority being small and off meta maps. It felt like we were only left Shadow Fiend and Forgotten Plains that fitted the big meta map game.

Being able to delay your 2nd game after you discovered you've not got your A game from playing the first game, seems daft, and lightly irritating to the opposing player. Playing double picks on maps should probably be out also.

I think refusing to play a map because of supposedly $500 start advantage is daft, but kennel opener $500 advantage continues to be fine, as well as the unbalanced ref on other maps. I've also noticed, you can have ore patches at the same value produce bigger value over X time vs the other same value patch. This also had our Kyrylo fire up, so really in the end no one won from this situation.

Was a bit disappointed that Minion playoffs were removed. Admittedly we had Whocares drop, but regardless, the Punsho vs Jur games were more entertaining than some of the masters games, so some BO3 playoffs could of been fun there. I feel the reason of, "minions don't perform as good entertainment as masters," isn't true. When it was up for debate last season, we had tight playoffs with myself and Unano, and whilst i thought our games in masters felt ruff and sloppy, they apparently were truly entertaining. More playoffs would of filled the gap of delays for masters playoffs also.

A dedicated move to forum/ discord to make things easier and more approachable by outsiders is definitely a good move. More clear cut shorter rule set also. If there is any need for additional help with a recruits/ sub recruits/ qualifier tourny i am happy to help with admin there.

But all in all, a good season.

Re: Red Alert Global League: Season 6 - Post-Season Discussion

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 11:45 pm
by Orb
I'd like a map banning system next season, and not only because of the drama surrounding my matches. It'd also promote more map picking variety if opponents banned the map you always played on.

For example, at the start of a match each player gets to ban 1 map.

Re: Red Alert Global League: Season 6 - Post-Season Discussion

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:23 am
by SirCake
I really liked the concise rules this season, which promoted playing games early and quickly. That’s the main reason why I did re-participate in S6.

One of the reasons why I didn’t participate in S5 was the „loaded“ map pool. Lorry’s efforts were commendable, but if pros decide the map pool beforehand it is going to favor those players.
Imho it’s better if a small admin circle (probably mid tier players themselves) decides the map pool in all conscience (with some community feedback).

I like Orbs strike-one-and-pick rule idea.

Re: Red Alert Global League: Season 6 - Post-Season Discussion

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:02 am
by netnazgul
Map banning system over-complicates the communication between players all too much to my taste at least (we can take TDGL system as an example). And then it becomes almost a requirement to modify matches to bo3 instead of 2 games, which will lead to all sorts of other problems: a) either counting match wins only, which makes scores more saturated and less forgiving for losing players (who get 1-2, but same 0 points as those who get 0-2'ed) and then also makes tie situations more likely to appear; b) or forcing all matches to play all 3 games and still count game wins, which increases the game count.

Saying that, Orb's suggestion looks simple enough to be enrolled, though both players will need to follow it themselves (or can both agree to not honour it at all, I guess) and not do post-match "I forgot to ban this map, he picked it and won" remarks. Also, this is beneficial in a way that players will have less reasons to complain on map imbalances as they can just ban and not play the map they find imbalanced, so overall less admin involvement in removing maps after the season is underway.

Re: Red Alert Global League: Season 6 - Post-Season Discussion

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:20 am
by Smitty
SirCake wrote:
Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:23 am
Imho it’s better if a small admin circle (probably mid tier players themselves) decides the map pool in all conscience (with some community feedback).
I'd volunteer for a spot on the competition committee but I'm also the guy who came to see Patches as a viable competitive map. :evil:

I know I'm the guy who started the whole "Big Boy Map" thing, but I think that map pools are starting to swing too far towards being wide open. When I made my post about us outgrowing the maps, Dual Cold Front was still in the pool and it has 4 cell passages in the middle.

I think a map pool should endeavor to have a list of categories filled. We had a similar map pool debate in Spring 2017 about map pools in which I stated a list of possible categories maps could be placed under: Tiny, Arena, Chokey (mid sized and large), High Eco, Low Eco, ''Standard" which I would now call Open, and Big Boy which would be Open Large. We could throw high oil and no oil into the mix as well.

My suggestion would be to have a RAGL map certification process which names worthy competitive maps, tracks the most recent edition, and places them into categories. Then the RAGL officials choose a map pool from the list of certified maps with the goal of filling each category.

Re: Red Alert Global League: Season 6 - Post-Season Discussion

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:09 am
by netnazgul
I think a map pool should endeavor to have a list of categories filled
...and I agree with this notion. The latest map pool was in a way an attempt to follow with this point.

One potential problem I see with map pick for the next season is that there was more or less a single active mapmaker (N/a) since the map contest, so at the moment we don't have much variety to choose from :P Need to actually check the RC and compile the full list of recent maps. Also I like the "30% old/70% new" rule we had last 2 seasons regarding the map pool refresh and I think we should follow it further.

Re: Red Alert Global League: Season 6 - Post-Season Discussion

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:31 pm
by anjew
netnazgul wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:09 am
Also I like the "30% old/70% new" rule we had last 2 seasons regarding the map pool refresh and I think we should follow it further.
I can't say I'm a fan of this. It's nice to put new maps into a map pool and give it some life but on the flip side it feels like forcing the new maps to be played or become popular. A map pool should be rock solid with maybe a rotation of what maps are in what season. Ripping out maps for the purpose of getting new maps played is not consistent with most competitive environments. In just about any game, the ratio of new to old maps used is the opposite of whats proposed and usually for a good reason. I'd rather have a solid map pool then to find out halfway through the season that 2 of the maps are considered unsuitable for competitive play (as what happened this season)
netnazgul wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:09 am
One potential problem I see with map pick for the next season is that there was more or less a single active mapmaker
I think a potential fix is to revisit older maps, maps that have been proven to be fun, played and competitive. Also maps that most players already know how to play have a much better chance of creating a good game as opposed to implementing maps that most people dont know how to play effectively