Tiering Policy

#1
What are we tiering for?

As per Aldaron's policy framework, tiering decisions are made such that player skill determines the result of a match to the greatest extent possible. This framework, I will argue, is somewhat deficient.

I have a utilitarian view of tiering. Tiering should aim to create metagames which provide the best experience for as many players as possible. Tiering policy should thus reflect two major considerations:

1. Faithfulness to cartridge gameplay

If our metagames aren't sufficiently similar to cartridge play, people looking for a competitive Pokemon simulator won't play them. We have a lot of leeway here for making changes, but this is one reason we can't remove critical hits or secondary effects from moves.

2. Player enjoyment

The primary component of player enjoyment is that skillful play is rewarded. People have an innate desire to test themselves, better themselves, and prove themselves, and so derive satisfaction when given a platform for doing so.

But critically, rewarding skillful play is not the only component to maximising player enjoyment. To show this, consider the proposed Stealth Rock suspect test.

Stealth Rock does not significantly inhibit skillful play, and so under existing policy it should not be considered for a suspect test. Nevertheless, it is a popular source of complaint from players of all levels. In addition, a ladder without Stealth Rock in BW OU was regarded by many as being more fun than the standard metagame.

If a metagame without Stealth Rock was tested and found to be preferred by a clear majority of players (and it didn't inhibit skillful play or significantly reduce similarity to cartridge play) then it would be desirable to ban it, and our tiering policy should enable this. The fact that it doesn't suggests that the policy itself needs to be amended.

Note: Stealth Rock is an example only and any discussion of whether or not it should be tested belongs in its own thread. Similarly, the policy framework should be amended for its own sake and not specifically to enable a Stealth Rock test.

Interestingly enough, the principle of limiting collateral damage in banning decisions (which is quite topical thanks to Z-Moves) has no basis in rewarding skillful play, and shows that enjoyment is already a consideration in unofficial tiering philosophy (and this is far from the only example). The logic simply isn't being elucidated.

To sum up: I would like to see a re-evaluation of our policy framework, with a recognition that rewarding skill, although it should still form the basis of all or nearly all tiering decisions, is ultimately in service of player enjoyment. I also believe we should discuss the possibility that in specific circumstances, a suspect test should include personal enjoyment as a stated criteria for voters to consider.
 
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#2
You cannot confine every player to have the same standard for a subjective trait such as "enjoyment." Some players enjoy playing with/against stall while others do not. Some players enjoy the extra level of thought and skill that goes into counter play against Stealth Rock while some players do not. Some players enjoy high level ladder play while others enjoy high level tournament play.

Our tiering policy does not cater to masses who want to remove elements because they are subjectively "undesirable." Smogon is the premiere competitive Pokemon website and competitive play is not shaped by what a mob majority rules as "not enjoyable."

I can't even imagine running suspect tests, an examination of a certain Pokemon by select players that played their hearts out on ladder to reach a requirement, only to end up seeing a Pokemon banned because of arguments that consisted of "I just didn't like how it made me feel when I was battling, y'know?"
 
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#3
You cannot confine every player to have the same standard for a subjective trait such as "enjoyment." Some players enjoy playing with/against stall while others do not. Some players enjoy the extra level of thought and skill that goes into counter play against Stealth Rock while some players do not. Some players enjoy high level ladder play while others enjoy high level tournament play.
Don't suspect tests take into account this subjectivity? "Uncompetitive", "broken" and "unhealthy" are also entirely subjective after all.

Our tiering policy does not cater to masses who want to remove elements because they are subjectively "undesirable." That isn't how competitive play is formed and, as such, is not how our policy should be shaped.
This reeks of elitism, but the point (correct me if wrong) is that the majority of common players hold wrong opinions and will pervert the game against the wishes of more experienced players if given the opportunity. It's a valid concern, but isn't it addressed by a) a rating requirement for voters as in typical suspect tests, and b) careful consideration of when enjoyment might be a relevant factor (i.e. rarely)?

This also raises questions of who we're tiering for.
 
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#4
This reeks of elitism, but the point (correct me if wrong) is that the common majority of players hold wrong opinions and will pervert the game against the wishes of more experienced players if given the opportunity. It's a valid concern, but isn't it addressed by a) a rating requirement for voters as in typical suspect tests, and b) careful consideration of when enjoyment might be a relevant factor?
You can't hold wrong opinions. The majority of players who don't get reqs can just as easily agree with what the majority of voters who do get reqs decide on and vice versa. However, that does not mean that just because a lot of people want a test that they should get a test.

A competitive game develops policy that maintains or elevates its level of skill-based competition. "Careful consideration of when enjoyment might be a relevant factor" or not, it is not a necessary component of maintaining a competitive environment. Yes, in a hypothetical world where we ran a Stealth Rock test it would be fairly judged by players who were deemed experienced and competent enough that they could submit their judgment on Stealth Rock's placement in our metagames. However, you skipped a big step there in that you simply can't just decide on any random thing you don't enjoy in the metagame to be put up for a test.

I'm in the camp of Stealth Rock not being broken, but that does not mean I am opposed to discussion on it under the standards we have set for ourselves. However, that does not mean I agree with the argument that it should be suspected just because a lot of people "just don't like it." Maybe this will reek of a little more elitism, but catering to the whims of a non-specified quantity of people is not good practice. If you are actively admitting Stealth Rock does not inhibit skillful play (as you are in the op) then you are admitting Stealth Rock does not need to be judged based on its impact on a competitive metagame.

Edit: I saw your edit after I posted. Aldaron explicitly defines who we are tiering for in the policy framework
II.) We cater to both ladder players (the higher end of the ladder) and tournament players.
A.) The majority of our accepted "elitism skill" is concentrated in tournaments, but the overwhelming majority of our battles occur on ladder.
B.) For actions to be taken in tiering policy, it is important to show how that action affects BOTH the ladder scene and the tournament scene.
C.) Stats for both will be highly emphasized but not a sole determining factor.
 

M Dragon

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#5
How do you exactly define "player enjoyment"?
That looks extremely subjective to me, while the definitions of "broken", "uncompetitive" and "unhealthy" try to be as objective as possible.

Also do you know what the dpp meta i enjoyed playing the most? The one with latios, chomp, mana, etc.
Was it balanced? Was it healthy? No, but there were a lot of broken mons that made the games fun to play.
 

Kink

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#6
Just gonna leave this here.... http://www.smogon.com/forums/threads/ous-tiering-policy-framework-read-and-understand-this.3552154/

I'll bite. Let us challenge your utilitarianism and to demonstrate it's actually not utilitarianism because you're not actually accomplishing the greatest good for the greatest amount of people because that's an incredibly difficult thing to do and I'll now explain why.

I have a utilitarian view of tiering.
In any pertinent debate over the discussion of outcomes, philosophers have a difficult time outling the scope of what people perceive as good. Individual humans are agents that have their own sense of pleasure and pain. While there might be an intersubjective notion of what can constitute as happiness or good, at the end of the day it's important to define a metric that can, as best as possible, be an appropriate backbone by how we measure success. This is incredibly difficult in the modern world, where these hedonistic views can have disparaging claims as to what happiness or "the best experience" is. The biggest concern with consequentialism, aside from its calculated approach to people's lives, is the inability to truly know the outcomes of our actions. As David Hume once said, humans cannot truly justify their beliefs; however, we still try to reach an appropriate measure by which to give ourselves meaning and substance. Offering a modern look out the scope of Hume's argument, human beings look to our sentiments in order to experience different and ultimately superior capacities of life. The end result is a mass of conflicting impulses - individuals that have different needs and desires who, at the end of the day, end up doing whatever they want as individual agents. That's why finding a proper objective standard is not only incredibly difficult to do, but needs to rely on a higher level of accountability in its outcomes. In order to properly apply utilitarianism, you need to go beyond one tiering policy, beyond this website and look at the foundations of what human beings are, which is creatures of Power and Socialization.

Since you're arguing against the current tiering framework, I will introduce the current conflict of this discussion: "enjoyment" versus" skill. Since majority of users have read Aldaron's thread listed here (http://www.smogon.com/forums/threads/ous-tiering-policy-framework-read-and-understand-this.3552154/) we can assume its argument and compare it to yours. Your argument presented indicates that enjoyment is a superior metric by which we should measure our tiering policies. Let's examine the true consequences of these claims and see if your argument holds up.

Tiering should aim to create metagames which provide the best experience for as many players as possible. Tiering policy should thus reflect two major considerations:

1. Faithfulness to cartridge gameplay

If our metagames aren't sufficiently similar to cartridge play, people looking for a competitive Pokemon simulator won't play them. We have a lot of leeway here for making changes, but this is one reason we can't remove critical hits or secondary effects from moves.

2. Player enjoyment

The primary component of player enjoyment is that skillful play is rewarded. People have an innate desire to test themselves, better themselves, and prove themselves, and so derive satisfaction when given a platform for doing so.
Ayy since we're on topic, let's bring up my boy John Stuart Mill and see what he has to say about this!

"If I am asked what I mean by difference of quality in pleasures, or what makes one pleasure more valuable than another, merely as a pleasure, except its being greater in amount, there is but one possible answer. If one of the two is, by those who are competently acquainted with both, placed so far above the other that they prefer it, even though knowing it to be attended with a greater amount of discontent, and would not resign it for any quantity of the other pleasure which their nature is capable of, we are justified in ascribing to the preferred enjoyment a superiority in quality so far outweighing quantity as to render it, in comparison, of small account."​

aka if there is a superior pleasure, there is a superior choice. even if the quantity of the inferior pleasure is greater, by the happiness principle and by your metric of Utilitarianism, we are justified (thanks John) in pursuing that, despite it being "less than". One of the foundations of utilitarianism is that higher pleasures are not only intrinsically more valuable than lower ones but that they are discontinuously better as well.

"Now it is an unquestionable fact that those who are equally acquainted with and equally capable of appreciating and enjoying both do give a most marked preference to the manner of existence which employs their higher faculties."
Here Mill is identifying the higher pleasures with activities and pursuits that exercise our higher capacities. Even though we have Aldaron's assumption of his tiering policy in rhetorical view, let's revisit his precise wording for just a second:

II.) We cater to both ladder players (the higher end of the ladder) and tournament players.

Now Aldaron states this because the idea is to reward skillful play. I will now argue that by your own metric, the greatest amount of good and qualitative happiness arises from the metric of Skill > Enjoyment.

Let us ask ourselves why we have ladders, tournaments, and competitive arenas in the first place. The story of humanity is a story of evolutionary adaptation and survival. Culturally, competition has been known to advance the way human beings interact and produce invention and innovation. This is an incredibly intrinsic part of what it means to be a human being. Let's assume you're right that utilitarianism is the appropriate metric by which to analyze our tiering philosophy and suggest changes. If the goal is to create the the greatest amount of good for the most amount of people, then qualitative and long term good needs to be considered as well. This is why Skill is, by far, the best and most utilitarian measure by which to hold our tiering policies. By using skill as a metric, we fundamentally eliminate as many possibilities of lower pleasures acclimating against higher ones.

I would like to see a re-evaluation of our policy framework, with a recognition that rewarding skill, although it should still form the basis of all or nearly all tiering decisions, is ultimately in service of player enjoyment. I also believe we should discuss the possibility that in specific circumstances, a suspect test should include personal enjoyment as a stated criteria for voters to consider.
Look at this thread: http://www.smogon.com/forums/threads/philosophy-of-stall.3588352/ Look at what personal enjoyment suggested. Look at what everyone would need to take seriously if your metric was the one by which we defined our tiering policy. In this argument of Enjoyment versus skill as an appropriate metric, I would realistically need to take this individual's opinion seriously and be forced to look at stall beyond that of data, numbers, and competitiveness. This guy's opinion, if mass reflected by the average users, would need to be taken seriously, and a playstyle would be lost as a result. To suggest a radical shift of this manner requires us to evaluate the level of harm that will be produced as a result. In my opinion, being forced to respond to enjoyment would result in less optimal good being generated, resulting in less higher pleasures for those that have taken time to get really good at something like Stall. For this reason, I utterly reject your sentiments and I hope that this reasoning will resonate with future readers/posters.
 
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#7
As a competitive community, we should be trying our absolute hardest to cater to higher-end players, that being high-ladder and tournament crowds. The moment we start trying to cater to casual-level players is when we lose our sense of direction. Yes, Smogon is elitist, but competitive communities are elitist by definition because they're meant for a specific group of people.

While it's technically true that anything we deem as "broken" is done so subjectively, we have a framework built from years of testing and precedence that virtually nullify the subjective factor.

Man why do I even bother typing more when King UU throws down these walls? Damn it, dude.
 
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#8
As a competitive community, we should be trying our absolute hardest to cater to higher-end players, that being high-ladder and tournament crowds. The moment we start trying to cater to casual-level players is when we lose our sense of direction.
And by tiering for the upper echelons, you create a system which further encourages improvement...

Clearly I experienced some cognitive dissonance in suggesting that majority enjoyment could be reflected by the subjective opinion of the minority who vote. The enjoyment of higher-end players still seems like a valid factor to me, but I see that the enjoyment of this minority is less significant weighed against the clarity and pseudo-objectivity that the existing tiering process provides.

I also found King UU's suggestion that skill is a higher pursuit than mass enjoyment interesting, at the very least.

Thanks to all respondents.
 
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Kink

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#9
And by tiering for the upper echelons, you create a system which further encourages improvement...

Clearly I experienced some cognitive dissonance in suggesting that majority enjoyment could be reflected by the subjective opinion of the minority who vote. The enjoyment of higher-end players still seems like a valid factor to me, but I see that the enjoyment of this minority is less significant weighed against the clarity and pseudo-objectivity that the existing tiering process provides.

I also found King UU's suggestion that skill is a higher pursuit than mass enjoyment interesting, at the very least.

Thanks to all respondents.
We enjoy ourselves when we win against someone in a competitive metagame. That's where enjoyment comes in. This game wouldn't be worth playing if we didn't feel thug as fuck when we win. Enjoyment is important insofar that a metagame based on competitiveness and skill makes my win mean something, not the other way around. If it means anything, I think enjoyment has merit amongst a small group of users. The issue is that this framework has been build around a particular culture that endeavours to pursue competitiveness. That's the mantra of the site, y'know? Anyway, I hope I contributed something to your discussion.
 

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#10
How do you exactly define "player enjoyment"?
That looks extremely subjective to me, while the definitions of "broken", "uncompetitive" and "unhealthy" try to be as objective as possible.

Also do you know what the dpp meta i enjoyed playing the most? The one with latios, chomp, mana, etc.
Was it balanced? Was it healthy? No, but there were a lot of broken mons that made the games fun to play.
Echoing this. The best meta i ever played and the most fun i've ever had playing pokemon was Drought BW UU. It was a ton of fun, but every battle was basically a crapshoot and whoever won the kyurem speed tie, which was not at all conducive to a competitive environment, despite the fact it was extremely enjoyable and actually had a ton of diversity.
 

I'm Rick Pickle

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#12
Ok, I feel like an assumption being made is that enjoyment stands in opposition to skill. While pointing out examples of tiers which were fun but not balanced/skill-based counts for something, there's more to Utilitarianism than just this. There are seven elements to the hedonic calculus put forward by Bentham, but I won't address all of them. First and foremost I'd like to point out that extent is a key component for a philosophy with the slogan "The greatest happiness of the greatest number". In respect to this we don't necessarily have to take somebody too seriously if they suggest banning Chansey because they don't like facing stall, or Landorus-T because they feel it's too common in OU, provided that the people with that viewpoint are very few in number.

Currently, as we find at the start of every generation, there's a lot of devastating sweepers which can pick up wins for little effort. Honestly, it's pretty fun to clean teams up with something like Pheromosa, but there's more to consider than what is immediately in front of me at this present moment. We have to consider factors such as duration, certainty, purity (the likelihood that the pleasure will be followed by sensations of the opposite kind). I have some fond memories of the DeoSharp LandoI Maw metagame in gen6, but it's unlikely that in the long term, I'd enjoy it over a balanced metagame. Therefore, we don't necessarily have to pit skill and enjoyment against one another, or prioritise one over the other - as a metagame becomes more skill based, it's highly likely that I will enjoy it more for a longer period of time.

Secondly, another thing to consider is that our tiering process, in OU particularly, is democratic. Things only really get moved up by voting, except for quickbans, but those are only emergency measures when something very clearly does not belong in OU. I don't think I'm making a totally unreasonable suggestion when I say that the way a lot of people vote is based on the tier they enjoy more. We could have a metagame with a highly broken mon in it that centralises the tier, and you could make a provocative argument and compare, say, Mega Lucario, to the queen piece in chess. It's much better than the other pieces, but it's fair if both players use it, and accept that the tier is pretty much controlled by one pokemon. OU can deal with something which is so good that it forces you to run it on every team, and dedicate most of the rest of your team to not losing to this same pokemon. There's nothing inherently wrong with a game that is ridiculously centralised. It doesn't take skill out of the game in the same way that gen6 swagger, for instance, does. However, there's a reason why we don't just keep an incredibly broken mon in the tier now rather than grit our teeth, build every team with this pokemon on it, and prepare for it with the same rigid framework from the ground up. That's because in most cases it's simply not fun to do so, not because of a set-in-stone objective reason. The point I'm making is that enjoyment already forms a big part of our tiering process.

To bring this together, I will also argue that enjoyment forming a big part of our tiering process is definitely no bad thing. The tier that resulted out of the 7 ORAS OU suspects was in the case of each suspect determined by the opinion of the majority. Yes we should consider aspects such as what a balanced metagame should like - but bear in mind that this isn't objective. It's very likely that my opinion of what a balanced metagame looks like will differ from somebody else's opinion. We shouldn't hold words such as "balanced metagame" in high regard but forbid the term "more fun" - one might sound better and be easier to articulate, but they both express opinions of the speaker. I must add as a significant point that while both are opinions, a good debate over a "balanced metagame" can be held more easily than a which is "more fun" one. However, recognise that in both cases, I'm trying to explain why my preferred option would be the best one and why you should prefer it too, using facts to reach this conclusion. I'm not aiming to prove a fact in itself, but I definitely think that both discussions are ones worth having.

Enjoyment forms a big part of our current tiering process, and massively influences every vote - more so that I would say any other factor. It's important that we recognise this rather than shun the idea. Through the voting process, we can reach a conclusion which satisfies the majority of people. The descent into ridiculous suspects only begins if we try and maximise the enjoyment every single person has out of the game, rather than the enjoyment of the community as a whole. Once we recognise that enjoyment is a key factor, which does not stand in opposition to skill, but rather one correlates to and complements the other, we can deal with suspects of a different nature. Suppose that there are two metagames where the skill required is equal, but one is determined significantly more fun than the other by the vast majority of the community - would it not correct to choose one over the other, and have a tiering policy which reflects this? I can't necessarily say this all links back to stealth rock, because in my opinion that does actually add significantly to the skill of the tier, but I think we ought to take a look at a tiering policy which doesn't include enjoyment, for a game which we all play for specific purpose of enjoyment.