Improving the quality of tournaments through seeding

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Isa

Pax Romana
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#1
I've been a proponent for seeding in individual tournaments since the start of my Pokémon career, and indeed my first few RBY tours back on RBY2K10 that I joined also had the players seeded. At times I perceived some of the seeds as not optimal, but the system was never in doubt and made the tournaments have a higher quality. Outside of RBY2K10 and select Pokémon Perfect tournaments though, there's been a very saddening lack of seeded individual tournaments within the Pokémon community. After getting paired with top players today in both GSC and RBY Cup, I got frustrated and complained about the draw of the bracket and decided to more actively revisit this subject.

Almost everyone of the ones reading this passage can recall instances of themselves having to face top players early. While I was a TD I spoke to various users about seeding and some remarked that they enjoy playing versus top players at the early stages of the tournament to get competitive games throughout the entire tournament. This is not however something that a tournament should have as its primary goal - the goal of a tournament should always be to create results that can be interpret as an accurate indicator of individual skill. This can be achieved in various ways - double elimination is one way, increasing the games played in a set is another. However I believe that the single biggest change to improve tournament quality as of right now would be to seed tournaments.

As said above, the purpose of having seeded tournaments, and of tournaments in general, is to ensure that the tournament results are as reflective as they can be of the participants individual skill level. Right now however many tournaments on Smogon (especially unofficials, but also OST and individual Classic cups/Slam opens) are running single elimination tournaments without seeding. This results in very high variance in matchups, and players can make it very far into tournaments despite being clearly inferior to multiple prior eliminated players, strictly through the luck of the bracket draw. This is not a feature, it's a bug - tournament results are meaningless if you cannot confidently say that even your second or third placed participant has a skill level that is indicative of their respective placement.

Moreover, multiple Smogon tournaments, such as the aforementioned Classic and Slam, rely on results from the entire bracket and not just whoever places first, making it even more imperative to ensure that these tournaments can fulfill their set task. As of now, even though in theory the "best" player going in to the tournament should always win said tournament, we all know that this is not the case. Even the most elite players face upsets. The odds of getting upset by another player increases with the skill level of an opponent though. You can look at the top 8 of any decently big tour - blunder exemplified it very well in OST last year by comparing the runs of the quarterfinalists, as can be seen here. Malekith had a bracket filled with very skilled players, whereas most of the other quarterfinalists faced only one or two skilled opponents. This variance meant that although it could be argued as "fair" in theory when everyone has the same shot at playing the same individual opponent, in practice it makes individual runs very uneven in difficulty. With seeded tournaments, all players - including both the highest and the lowest seeds - are guaranteed brackets that are similar in difficulty to what other players are experiencing. You would not, as is often the case now, have multiple players in late portions of brackets that have fought very few opponents of significant skill while one or two have fought through very difficult brackets.

The biggest difficulty with seeding tournaments on Smogon would be to identify a system that is fair. For some metagames such as CG OU, there's plenty of tournaments that can be used to draw results from. Not all metagames have this fortune however, as OUs from past generations and various lower tiers simply do not see the same representation within the tournament community. Previous attempts at seeding a few unofficial tournaments have been made, but were done manually by a group of people. While I am personally completely OK with this method (it is used in Super Smash Bros. Melee, the other game community I have a history of hosting and competing in), I understand that many would prefer a more "objective" system than that. My proposal is as follows:
  • Design the Circuit Tournaments to be used for seeding. Start X amounts of new tournaments per year and official tournament-relevant metagame that wishes to see seeding. These tournaments would ideally be open to everyone and would run in a format that'd allow for prolonged participation - ideally a Swiss-system tournament where players are not eliminated.
  • Create a public database for Circuit Tournament results, managed and updated by the tournament host and/or members of the TD team.
  • When hosting a non-live official tournament without a prior qualification phase, create a tournament or bracket, ideally on smash.gg or challonge.com (or a not-yet-developed Smogon system that'd allow for seeding), to ensure that the seeds are all placed on the correct sides of the bracket.
I have chosen to not focus on the specific numbers involved in this suggestion, as I do not believe them to be of significant importance. Tournament hosts may decide to only seed the top 32 players in any given tournament, or only the top 25%, there are multiple ways to track results and handle seeding as a result of those pairings, maybe official individual tournaments should also count for future seeding purposes etc. etc. These are all up for debate. My personal opinion is that every player involved in the seeding-related tournaments should be seeded according to their results and that all win/loss by raw numbers makes for a decent starting position until a better system is developed, but this could be changed. It could also be argued what tours should use this system were it to be adopted - should OST use seeds or not, do you really want to change the format of the first tournament?, - again I feel like this is a secondary question, and right now the primary question is if and how we should implement seeds.

I believe that seeds would vastly improve the quality of tournaments, and I'd like to hear what the community and Tournament Directors have to say about it.
 
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#2
After getting paired with top players today in both GSC and RBY Cup, I got frustrated and complained about the draw of the bracket and decided to more actively revisit this subject.
I genuinely don't see how you plan to properly, without bias, seed every players for different gens, tiers, etc. in Pokemon. It's really hard to compare Smash and Pokemon on that point. Pokemon being highly side effect (luck) heavy compared to Smash is one difference as well. I could easily add in more and more.

If anything, double elim > seeding
 
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Nails

Color Synergy
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#3
While I was a TD I spoke to various users about seeding and some remarked that they enjoy playing versus top players at the early stages of the tournament to get competitive games throughout the entire tournament. This is not however something that a tournament should have as its primary goal - the goal of a tournament should always be to create results that can be interpret as an accurate indicator of individual skill.
i hard disagree on this point, that you base your entire argument on. i don't feel that the purpose of an open tournament should be to create a set of results, i feel that the purpose of an open tournament is to offer a fair, even chance to every player to make it as far as anyone else. we already have spl as a tournament where you have to be known to get in and play old gens, and classic is the only other tournament where old gens have representation in the official circuit. i don't think we should skew literally everything in favor of established players and shut out up and comers.
As of now, even though in theory the "best" player going in to the tournament should always win said tournament, we all know that this is not the case. Even the most elite players face upsets. The odds of getting upset by another player increases with the skill level of an opponent though.
we're playing pokemon, not smash. the best player isn't meant to always win his sets. you know that, but leading a paragraph with that sentiment sort of irked me, and you're framing "upsets happen" like it's a bad thing. top players should have to earn their wins just like bottom players; random brackets are the only way to be fair to everyone. a top player isn't entitled to a disproportionately higher chance of victory than a mid level player aside from what his skill provides him. i feel extremely strongly about this point.

i'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of "how can we ensure that the TDs are seeding the most skilled players?" or "why should the 32nd ranked player have such a massive advantage over the 33rd ranked player?" because while they are issues, i just disagree fundamentally with seeding in tournaments and don't think the discussion should even get that far, at least for tournaments that aren't invitation-only. we don't have stream numbers that will take a hit if established vets aren't making it through to the top 32; i only see down sides to seeding.

edit: removed an unnecessary comma
 
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Finchinator

IT'S FINK DUMBASS
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OU Forum Leader
#4
While I think we can all acknowledge the pros of seeding, which Isa outlined quite nicely in the OP, I do not think that it is optimal to resort to for current generation tournaments or tournaments that are particularly large in size. In addition, I think we, as a community, would need a partial philosophy change to adapt this to any official tournaments at all, regardless of the tier or size, which I do not view as particularly likely.

As for why I feel the seeded tournament structure is not optimal for current generation tournaments, I think that it has a lot to do with the nature of playerbases and metagames; if you look at any of the communities, the "top players" are often pretty stable and set, but the group of "tournament players" and respectable tier mains often has a fairly high level of variance/turnover as time elapses. In addition, there are always the hidden gems in the mix and I feel like there is no real way to seed accurately and consistently because of these factors. I think that a great example of this is with the NU community; personally, I have always kept ties with the metagame, but I tend to frequent it playing wise much more during NUPL/SPL/GSlam time and during those times I consider myself to be someone who would be seeded near the top, but during other parts of the year, I would often favor many more dedicated, yet less established tier mains over myself. This goes for a number of other tournament players in lower tiers and it is not always easy to gauge where they are at at any given point in time. Continuing on the NU comparison, over the last year/handful of months alone, a number of players rose to relevance and if a tournament like Grand Slam were to include a seeded NU Open (totally using this as an example, not proposing this as an application), the seeds established at the start of the tournament are very likely to seem very off by the middle stages, let alone the end, considering the continuous evolution of the playerbase and public perception of the players of the tier.

As for why I feel the seeded tournament structure is not optimal for larger sized tournaments, it is pretty simple -- we do not know who a lot of people are and sorting out the bottom half (or even potentially more if we're talking OST/classic cups) of seeds can basically become some glorified guessing game where funny names end up getting higher seeds and the rest is, more or less, randomly picked. Sure, you can argue that the top/middle-end is what truly should be emphasized upon, but the fact of the matter is that every portion of seeding/player pool matters equally as every single pairing holds the same weight in a tournament. To show this, I want to use another example from NU, but this time I want to hone in specifically on their seeded tournament that was held last year. It was actually a very enjoyable experience to play in this tournament, but that was largely because I liked the metagame as opposed to the seeding aspect. If anything, the seeding aspect proved to contradict what it truly intended to do with regards to rewarding top players and stacking the middle-of-the-pack up against each other. To exemplify the former, a seemingly random user who got seeded dead last by pure coincidence because he was one of the dozens of randoms in the field ended up defeating FLCL, Z+V, and Disjunction, all of which were seeded relatively high (you can see the full bracket here and diif's run (the user I am alluding to) here). The fact of the matter is that the "randoms are dangerous" quote from the whole BlooStyle fiasco very much applies to seeding of large portions of fields of any larger tournament and I do not like the consequences this has on the tournament, especially when it has large potential to undermine the whole purpose of seeding in the first place. Seeded tournaments are best for fields where the seeders/system has formal data or experience with all of the players involved and this simply is not applicable to almost all Smogon tournaments, especially individual officials.

Finally, I have noticed that Nails alluded to this in his post and I couldn't agree more -- nowhere on Smogon have we established that we want to give any priority or preferential treatment to any type of players, be it middle-of-the-pack or top players. This type of seeding where a certain player gets an easier draw, especially in the early rounds, makes a lot of sense when there is some qualification phase, which is why we see seeded brackets in pretty much every playoff, but it does not make as much sense to me when we are giving officials/tournaments a fresh slate and a lot of new users are joining, as I touched on above. All things considered, unless we want to have a pretty drastic departure from our current philosophy in this regard, which admittedly is not really outwardly stated so much as strongly implied by current tournament structures, then the seeded structure is not a fit for our flagship tournaments, in my opinion.

edit: also, it's worth noting that in the Smash community, seeding is often utilized in tournaments where there is an entry fee or a significant monetary prize involved, which means that RNG match-ups can be quite annoying in the earlier stages when people who normally would be serious contenders are not in the money. Our only money tour is OST, only one person of well over a thousand wins it, and there is no entry fee, making the monetary opportunity cost of joining being absolutely nothing compared to potentially noteworthy amounts for a Smash tournament depending on specific quantities/economic factors.
 
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#5
Both Nails and Finchinator have touched on most of what we feel holds seeding back with regards to Smogon Tournaments, but I wanted to add that there's there's no objective and uniform way to fairly seed either, which makes the concept massively impractical to implement. I can empathize with getting a rough bracket, but seeding isn't something we're planning to implement anytime soon.
 
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