We need fewer divs in Highlander

#1767
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  • NB: this is meant to generate discussion and as an experiment in thought, not dismiss the idea that the current number of divs is fine. If you disagree please argue with me!

    Why do we have so many divs in Highlander? Maybe we’re trying to echo the older UGC days, when there was Iron, Steel, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Maybe we’re trying to have several divs that can all be round-robin so that every team faces every other team in the div. Maybe we’re responding to season-by-season gaps in skill within divisions, such that every time such a gap exists, we add a new division. This happened in 6s with Div-1 and Div-2, and happened again in Highlander with Adv and Chal.

    Regardless of the reason, I think people are realizing that this many divs may not be good for competition. In this past season, we had a total of seven divs: six skill-based divs (Inv, Chal, Adv, Main, IM, Am) and Newcomer. The survey asks us if Challenger should be removed to make that six: five skill based and Newcomer. I’m here to argue that we should downsize even further, to three skill-based divisions a la ESEA—Amateur (current Amateur to low Main), IM (current mid-Main to Challenger), and a round-robin Invite, as well as Newcomer, for a total of four.

    Here’s why.

    Foster competition personal improvement rather than division climbing mentality

    Currently, above-average new players move up divisions remarkably quickly. They improve roughly a division’s worth in a season, considering that the difference between divisions is incredibly small just because of how many there are, and considering that they are above-average, meaning they leave behind worse and less-motivated players. However, this often tends to inflate their egos and expectations, meaning that people focus more on divisions as indicators of skill rather than on skills themselves. For example, I really only made meaningful improvements over Main level towards the end of my past season in Advanced. This happens even with teams having losing records – just as an example, I climbed up from Main to Advanced with a losing record in Main, just because the divs are small enough that that really doesn’t matter.

    By reducing the number of divs, we solve this by, firstly, making sure people can focus on growth to the top of a div before being pressured to climb to the next one. We allow players to improve as team players and not just as individual players by increasing barriers for player move-up across divisions, so that only truly those that have proven their merit in one division will get picked up in the other. All in all, we make low/mid/high [given div] mean something.

    Temper players’ expectations to reduce burnout when they’re not met

    If players are climbing divs faster than they’re improving, especially when the skill gap between divs increases in the mid-high divisions, then they gain a sense of momentum: that they are growing fast and that they will, with enough persistence and effort, soon reach the top, where all the good players are. This does not play out because at the top is an established group of players, even all the way down in Advanced, that are now competition for rising players. These rising players must now prove their merit; some may very well be able to do so, but others will climb fast, be unable to retain their momentum, burn out, and quit. This has happened with countless players I’ve played on teams with in the past; to an extent it’s happening with me as I hit a sort of plateau in my skill and development, the sort of “change in phase” as a metaphor for it taking a lot more energy to actually cross from bad to good than to become better than most bad.

    We solve this by making it clear to players from the start that division climbing is not a given; the worst teams/players in a div are held back to the next, and the best teams/players in a div are promoted to the one higher, but no less than the best. In 6s even right now, even though there are many divs, because the divs are much larger it takes players several seasons to break out of Amateur, and then several more to move up from IM to Main. This is much more healthy for the scene and for competition than just shifting the skill problem upwards. Given this, players will no longer grow burnt out when they can’t climb divs at the same rate as they could, by reducing this tendency in the low divs for players to either quit or climb to the next div.

    Keep teams together who would otherwise grow toxic and fall apart

    Right now in HL, if your team has a losing record in a div or even if your team has a winning record but doesn’t make playoffs, it’s pretty much a given that it falls apart, if not mid-season. There are few enough teams in each div that you can only compare yourself against the best and worst; you are either good or bad; you are either low or high. Teams that are “bad,” even if they may by all measures be teams with good coordination, good cohesion, and good individual player skill, grow toxic fast, with players expecting far more of their teammates than their teammates are often capable of in order to continue their div climbing streak, their teammates retorting in turn, armed with the original commenter’s own flaws, and them growing to despise playing with one another.

    We solve this by increasing the size of divs to the point where it is no longer shameful to go negative in a div. When teams stop being pressured to always go positive and “prove themselves” rather than sticking together and aiming for team improvement, they won’t turn on each other as much. Of course this will still happen – by no means am I saying that this is the magic solution to toxicity. But a lot of toxicity in general is driven by pressure and unrealistic expectations; this is no different.

    Fulfill the spirit of the Swiss competition system, allowing for accurate end-of-season placements that reflect a team’s and its players’ true skill level

    So for a bit of context: right now (this past season), we have two round-robin divisions (Invite and Challenger) and five Swiss-style divisions (Advanced, Main, Intermediate, Amateur, and Newcomer). Out of these latter Swiss-style divs, only IM, AM, and NC have the team numbers necessary to have healthy Swiss-style competition.

    In Adv (which used to be round-robin the season before this one) and Main, the divs are small enough that Swiss doesn’t really work, but they’re too big to have round-robin. Swiss doesn’t work in these divs because the fact that roughly-equal seeds play one another means that teams that get screwed with just marginally harder seasons end up much lower than similar skill teams in the end; the fact that you cannot get matched with teams you’ve already played means that the ultimate goal of Swiss, to match you up against teams of similar skill to find out who is better, fails. Tua made an excellent post about this on the forums a bit ago (https://forums.rgl.gg/topic/1597/swiss-breakdown-s9-adv-vs-challenger/15); I highly encourage y’all to check it out if you haven’t already. Swiss works in larger divs because you’re just not as likely to have already played all teams of similar skill, so where you end up at the end of the season is a true indication of how you do against all such teams of similar skill, and relative to the div as a whole, not just how strong or weak your schedule was.

    Another solution could be to maximize the number of round-robin divisions feasible, so that Invite all the way through Main is round-robin, with divs being split up as necessary so that each div has 9 teams. But I don’t see this as a desirable solution because it increases div fragmentation, makes the meanings of each div more arbitrary than they already are, and contributes to the other problems I’ve mentioned so far.

    Instead, Invite should remain round-robin, as a challenge bracket between the best teams in the scene; all other divs (NC, AM, and IM) should be large, Swiss-style divs with a consistent promotion-relegation system (look it up if you don’t know what that means), so that Swiss can do its job and ensure that your final placement in a div reflects your individual strength and that of your team.

  • thank fucking god someone said it

  • I agree tbh, main feels about the same difficulty as my first season in amateur

  • 🤔 if only i said this like last season🤔

  • You’re like so smart holy, maybe I should start living in YOUR walls now instead of ckrows.

  • where am i

  • @Maeko wow

  • @nukanga people have been saying this forever noob

  • Something worth noting is that when UGC added Gold division and split steel into red/blue there were 300 teams playing highlander. They removed Gold when there was what, 80 total teams? RGL only has 60 teams now, so I believe there is valid argument for consolidating lower divisions.

    Editing my post with more accurate data:
    http://imgur.com/9Rrgrxr this chart shows the total number of live (played at least 6 weeks) teams per season of ugc, for reference Gold was added in s9 and removed after… s21? I might need a fact check if it matters

    Total number of ugc hl teams vs esea 6s teams by season is here:
    http://imgur.com/17hMH2E

  • I agree that it would be good to deemphasize “moving up divs” as a seasonal goal. People fixate on it excessively. However, I don’t see how significantly increasing div size would improve the efficacy of the Swiss structure beyond a certain point, as eventually it just introduces too many opportunities for meaningless ties, and the fact that it takes time for teams to settle into the right area of the rankings means that a larger div = a larger number of meaningless rolls every season (whether doing the rolling or being rolled), compared to a small, curated RR div. Rolls teach nothing to the winning team and are suboptimal learning experiences for the losing team. It seems to court calcification rather than improvement.

    In the end, flexibility that takes into account team numbers and skill distributions from season to season is always important, but if there is an issue of divs being too small for Swiss to work, I don’t think “just smash all the divs together” is necessarily the best or only answer.

  • It would be great to get rid of the mentality of div climbing for glory and status, and incentivize personal and general team improvement. As a bonus it will also practically remove sandbagging as a thing. It’s much more fun to keep a team together and improve together than to switch teams every season just to try to “be on a better team.” However, I believe having 3 skill based divisions will cause too large of a skill gap between the bottom and top of the divs. Like what @scaredy-bat said, the number of rolls that will occur in a regular season will increase drastically and may even be a turn off for some players; causing them to give up and quit because of being badly beat repeatedly instead of encouraging them to improve. More teams in divisions will also make officials more luck based; if you are a mid skill level team and keep facing lower skill level teams, you may earn more points than another team that is more skillful than yours simply because of luck. I think removing challenger is a good move, and perhaps even removing main later down the road, but 3 divs seems too extreme.

  • @scaredy-bat said in We need fewer divs in Highlander:

    However, I don’t see how significantly increasing div size would improve the efficacy of the Swiss structure beyond a certain point, as eventually it just introduces too many opportunities for meaningless ties, and the fact that it takes time for teams to settle into the right area of the rankings means that a larger div = a larger number of meaningless rolls every season (whether doing the rolling or being rolled), compared to a small, curated RR div. Rolls teach nothing to the winning team and are suboptimal learning experiences for the losing team. It seems to court calcification rather than improvement.

    @Discount said in We need fewer divs in Highlander:

    However, I believe having 3 skill based divisions will cause too large of a skill gap between the bottom and top of the divs. Like what @scaredy-bat said, the number of rolls that will occur in a regular season will increase drastically and may even be a turn off for some players; causing them to give up and quit because of being badly beat repeatedly instead of encouraging them to improve.

    Rolls are useful in a Swiss system as intended with large divisions: to set up the early structure of the division. The point is that similar skill teams should face each other to differentiate: which is the better among them.

    Rolls will be concentrated towards the beginning of the season, when there is less seeding to go off. This is natural, inherent to Swiss, and most critically, happens anyway. Towards the beginning of each season you’re far more likely to see teams with large gaps in skill face each other. Yes, you’ll see harder rolls, but let’s face it, there’s very little meaningful difference between a 3:10 offensive time on Vigil, a 3:40, and a 4:10 time - which already happens, and happens a lot. There’s very little difference between being held on cliff/grass on Product and being held on point if either way, you can’t get any cap time the whole match.

    But what happens right now that won’t happen in my proposed world is that, once teams have exhausted all the teams near them in skill, they start hitting better or worse teams, to the point of it being a roll, just because there are no longer any teams in their division close to them in skill.

    This is most apparent right now in the teams that roll their divisions, with maybe only one or two worthy challengers. Once these teams have played said challengers, they are now facing teams they will reliably roll and that have been paired with said top team just out of poor luck, since matchmaking is done from the top down and the top team has already played everyone in between. Meanwhile, they often have worthy opponents in the div above - and often would beat, but not roll, the bottom teams in the div above. These matches would tell us so much more about their skill and where they deserve to be than just “at the top of division X” right now. They would tell us more about where they deserve to be placed next season. They would tell prospective tryouts more about what they can expect from that team and its players in the future. Sure, at the top of the divs there would still be the possibility of teams rolling the div, but fewer divs would reduce the frequency of those teams just because there are fewer divs to roll, and fewer divs would make it easier to have clear cut boundaries and overall streamline div placement for admins, reducing the chance of unsuitable team placements.

    In the other scenario are teams near the bottom of their divs, especially the ones who have unusually hard seasons. These teams have such hard seasons because of poor luck; fewer teams in each div makes for more chance that such poor pairings happen. The best example I can think of this happening is Sunrise from this past season of HL. They faced five out of six playoffs teams - 3-0ing one of them - and facing only two non-playoffs teams (and soundly beating both) - yet placed last seed at the end of the regular season. Just because there are fewer imbalanced matchups in a Swiss system with more teams, there is less chance for matchups to be exhausted to the point where a team gets screwed by the system and not by just being less skilled.

  • @Discount said in We need fewer divs in Highlander:

    More teams in divisions will also make officials more luck based; if you are a mid skill level team and keep facing lower skill level teams, you may earn more points than another team that is more skillful than yours simply because of luck.

    To that end, this just happens less when Swiss is working as it is intended to, with lots of teams. You are put up against teams closest to you in the scoreboard (i.e. with near equal match points) and you don’t end up facing consistently lower (or higher) skill teams since you’ve exhausted all the teams of similar skill level.

  • I’ve said it to a few different people recently, that I believe TF2 competitive would benefit from an open-ladder system (maybe a dual ladder system?), longer seasons, more flexibility in match times (less reliance on traditional Monday matches, weekend scrims, etc.), more monetary incentives (every team has to pay a flat fee to enter), and much more. I have even toyed with the idea of having it be a challenge system, where teams can play (x) amount of matches a week (if they please) to earn points throughout (x) amount of months, where the playoffs bracket is dictated by those who put in more time / effort / energy, and did what they needed to get to the playoffs. I have many different ideas for ways TF2 competitive could evolve (in my opinion it would be evolution).

  • @civ I have a similar mindset honestly. One thing that perplexes me is why the 6’s season is two weeks longer than HL. At the very least, I am hoping that we can run HL for 9 weeks just like 6’s, which would open up two additional invite slots, making challenger completely useless (even if they already removed it).

  • @civ

    more flexibility in match times (less reliance on traditional Monday matches, weekend scrims, etc.)

    One of the biggest things holding back HL currently is really just this. A lot of 6s players (top 6s players for that matter) would be able to play HL if it didn’t conflict with their 6s schedules. This is because Tuesdays are normally match days for IM+ in 6s, and Mondays are used as scrim days in 6s. Unfortunately, Monday is also used for HL match days, and with HL matches taking long to start, it causes an overlap.

    There are also different suggestions that you mentioned such as more monetary incentives (league fees for other HL divisions that are not Invite), more matches (would depend on if HL players are willing to deviate from this Monday structure), and longer seasons which could make Highlander taken more seriously.

    These things have been polled and whether the HL community wants to take the next step is open for discussion.

  • @Melon tbh surprising to see how much smaller esea was though tbf a lot of weaker players were in ugc 6s and esea was a paid league

  • this is only tangentially related to div size but i didn’t really realize that until i had typed up most of this because it’s been on my mind for a while

    i don’t have the knowhow for the methodology to prove this statistically and i wouldn’t really have the drive to do so even if i did, so you’re gonna have to trust me when i say that a significant amount of frustration re: swiss comes from the fact that RGL runs an odd number of matches

    anecdotally speaking, six weeks is generally a decent amount of time for the general structure of a division to form given the average size of divisions. further, due to how the bottom of playoffs tends to be around the 4-3 mark in the higher divs, it means the large mass of 3-3 teams swiss helps to guarantee in week 6 have an inordinately large effect on playoff seedings, because of all those 3-3 teams, some of those should be 3-4 and some should 4-3 but 6 weeks isn’t enough time for the stratification of those teams by MP to be accurate (even if the general “shape” of the div is). so the top 3-3 team playing “up” a record gets screwed, the bottom 3-3 team playing “down” gets boosted, and within the inter-3-3 matches you could have two theoretical 4-3 teams playing and two theoretical 3-4 teams playing, leading to some cases where worse teams end up making short term gains over better teams. an 8th week would correct a lot this.

    i don’t mean to say that 6 weeks is better than 7 weeks, as each week helps to further align the standings to their “true” form, but if the marginal gain in accuracy from week 6>7 is x, the marginal from week 7 to week 8 would probably be closer to 2x. that would continue further with 8>9 being something like .5x and 9>10 being around x.

    more in line with the topic of the thread, increasing div size to the point that the playoff cutoff is less near the middle of the pack and closer to the top (to the point that lower 5-2s miss playoffs) you eliminate a lot of this frustration, but i’d still be in favor of increasing season length to 8 weeks for swiss divs regardless

  • @civ @exa

    totally agree with both of y’all but that reform isn’t omnibus, you can improve the div structure without all of these things and it takes significantly less political capital to do that than all these other things like league fees, more matches, longer seasons

  • @Alto it makes sense to me.

    it would make sense imo to have, especially in conjunction with the other stuff i’ve suggested, a 10 team RR invite, swiss IM/AM/NC, and 8 weeks/9 for Invite as in 6s. Still one match a week unlike 6s but two matches would be insanely hard to push

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