Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tournament Structures (group stages)

Tournament Structures:

Alright so this may seem more like a rage-article more than anything--or atleast that's how the idea came about. I've been trying to gather my thoughts on it for a while now so I can illustrate the poor example that the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship set for tournament structures.

In case you didn't know, the S3WC had 14 teams present. 4 of them got BYEs for performing well in the All-Star tournament. The other 10 teams were split into groups of 5 in a best of 2 (bo2), where the top 2 advance and the other 3 drop out of the tournament. The seeding for those 4 that advance out of the group stage are randomly seeded, and then the bracket stage begins where it's a bo3 for the quarterfinals, bo5 for everything beyond that in a single elimination bracket.

Alright, that was quite a mouthful. Now let's break this down into what is wrong with this. Firstly let's break down how the group stages should go. Similar to how the UEFA group stage is set up would be optimal--3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 for a loss. This is important because there is a blue-side advantage in League of Legends. So there must be an even number of games played versus each opponent--one on blue and one on purple (red) side. (Or 2 and 2 in the case of NA/EU LCS.)

It made it so the difference between 1 point per each game win and 3 points for each series win is meaningful. The overall results would not have changed in the S3WC group stages, but it's nonetheless a better system.

Okay now for a less important topic on group stages: the number of teams in each group. It may seem like a trivial thing (which is really is) but the optimal number of teams in a group stage is 5. Why five? Because it's the smallest integer above four--and 4 is inadequate.

So the first problem with 4 teams in each group is that it is impossible for a team to not play back-to-back. If you have the schedule:

A vs B
C vs D
A vs C ; A vs D ; B vs C ; B vs D

Then one unfortunate team is forced to play with no downtime in between. You can decrease this advantage by having mandatory breaks between matches/games but it's still a disadvantage nonetheless.

Another thing that could be wrong with 4 teams is the general structure. In Blizzard's WCS for StarCraft II, each group has four players. A vs B ; C vs D -- then the winner of each match faces each other and likewise for the losers. Then the winner of losers and the loser of the winners face each other to see who qualifies for the 2nd seed of the group. The problem? This is exactly a double-elimination bracket. Honestly, why even call it a group stage?

If you make it go round robin, then there's chances of 3-way ties, which make the whole group twice as long, and if you were going to do round robin to determine seeds why not combine all the groups and play round robin? Or even better: do swiss rounds? Why even make it so the loss of group stages makes it so a team is out of the tournament, without playing many of the other teams? This was especially frustrating in Riot Games' S3WC group stages where the regions of NA, WU, KR, etc. clash once a year--and more games were anticipated for many of the regions.

A lot of unanswered questions will come soon in part 2 of my rant on proper Tournament Structures along with bracketology.

Thanks for reading!

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