Implemented Objective Timesavers in Tournament Games

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DaWoblefet

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In discussion with other Doubles players about Smogon's tournament rules and general guidelines, I came across an unusual ruling that I think merits serious revising concerning so-called "objective timesavers". Quoted from the post:
On the ruling of calculations and other timesavers:

Player-requested calculations and other objective timesavers* are allowed. The driving force behind allowing objective timesavers is that these actions require only minimal effort and/or the information is publicly available and easily accessed by the player in the context of the battle. The act of giving other players this information is largely considered negligible and only exists to save time.

* It is incredibly important to understand that only objective timesavers that provide trivial information are allowed. There are ways that players can provide seemingly OK information that implies a move, thought process, or a route of action; this is not allowed and is considered ghosting.

If you're not sure if an action is acceptable or not, look at this list:

Requesting that a teammate do a calculation for you to save time: Allowed
Doing a calculation that was requested by the player: Allowed.
Linking the player a RMT of the team they are facing: Allowed.
Linking the player a public replay where their opponent uses the same team they are facing: Allowed.
Pointing out that their timer is low: Allowed.
Asking about a mechanic: Allowed.
Answering an objective question about mechanics: Allowed.

Doing any calculation that was not requested by the player: Not Allowed.
Speculation of any kind, such as (this Landorus has to be scarf): Not Allowed.
Linking the player a private replay where their opponent uses the same team they are facing: Not Allowed.
Linking the player a private importable where their opponent uses the same team they are facing: Not Allowed.
Suggesting moves of any kind: Extremely Not Allowed.
I have a few problems with objective timesavers that I think are independent issues. This thread isn't motivated by any particular abuses of objective timesavers, but rather because I think their allowance generally is flawed.

The first problem I have with this is that knowledge of these timesavers aren't required to be made public to both players. Nothing in this ruling is restricting a player from messaging their whole team on Discord for assistance with any of these! The definition of ghosting provided earlier in the post rules out voice calls at least, presumably due to a lack of documentation. But what restricts having a bunch of players working away in the background, providing calcs and mechanics information on request and replays / RMT without even needing to request? Maybe someone on the team will know how this niche mechanics interaction works, or can quickly test it on the side and tell you!

My second problem is the devalue of timer management. The player who is able to determine the optimal decision to make in a reasonable amount of time ought to be advantaged over the player who is not able. But making informed decisions often requires information that takes additional time to collect. Suppose I'm playing and U-turn from Lando chips my mon. There isn't any need to have that information immediately (it just left the field), but it is advantageous to know that info in the future. By asking a friend or teammate, "can you calc if that's offensive lando", you save time and can focus on the immediate board state post U-turn. Surely this also falls under "doing a calculation that was requested by the player". But this takes away from the skill of timer management. Rather than taking up time early game to find out this info, you can just ask a friend to do it for you, which gives you more decision-making time. I don't see how you could argue that objective timesavers aren't objectively beneficial to the player receiving them, because having more timer is advantageous. Because I think time management during a game is a valuable skill, I think allowing timesavers from sources not originating from the player devalues this skill.

My third problem is a few of these definitions seem dangerously slippery to me. Suppose I ask my team, "hey, are there any replays of my opponent using this team with their Heatran set revealed"? I don't see how it violates the current objective timesaver rules for my teammate to give a replay with that information, especially given that replay sharing can even be done unprompted. Regarding damage calculations, there is also nothing here in the rules about requesting a specific calculation. What restricts me from asking a friend, "hey, what's the minimum and maximum amount of defensive investment they have to have to only take 40% from this first hit and 5% from this second hit". This is useful information that would tell you a lot about a mon's EV spread and inform decision-making, but is time consuming to do mid-game. With a friend helping out, you can obtain nuanced information like this that would otherwise be probably inaccessible. Presumably, there's no problems sharing with a friend the exact amount of damage your mon took from an attack as well; they have your paste and can reverse engineer the damage rolls exactly. Or consider mechanics! Here's some sample questions that I think fall within the scope of the current definition:
  • If two Pokemon switch in after a double KO and one takes Stealth Rock damage before the other's Intimidate, asking "does that mean <mon damaged by rocks> is faster"?
  • If Kartana gets a Speed, rather than Attack boost, asking "how much Attack does that Kart have to get a Speed boost"?
  • If a Flying-type Pokemon is Yawned, but Misty Terrain is active, and you ask "does using Roost mean I won't get slept?"
  • If my opponent dodges Sleep Powder, asking, "does that rule out Safety Goggles?".
I'm bad at coming up with singles mechanics examples because I'm a doubles guy, but you get the idea, these examples can be multiplied. Understanding how a interaction works informs decision-making, and I think it is a skill to understand how the game works in both common and unique situations. If one player knows how a mechanic works and the other doesn't, I don't see why that shouldn't be an advantage to the more informed player. Sharing mechanics info is directly influencing a player's decision during the match, and isn't that ghosting? You're in effect telling them, "don't do this play, it won't work".

Fourth, it seems to me that such a rule violates the spirit of the motivation behind punishing ghosting: that is, players ought to play their own games individually. Tournaments are supposed to test individual skill, and allowing outside influence, at all, is problematic. Why is allowed for a person to share an RMT or replay with a person who might not have otherwise known that information? Just because information is public doesn't guarantee every person has accessed every possible public resource, or would know every mechanic there is to know. While there is no reason you can't have all of this assistance before the match, I think it goes against the spirit of the game to allow outside help during the match, period.

My proposal would be as follows:
  • Consider requesting / giving calcs, sharing public replays / RMTs, and requesting mechanics information as ghosting.
    • I feel most strongly about mechanics information. I don't see how that isn't in effect telling players what to do based on how an interaction works.
    • I'm not asking for communication to be completely banned, but for communication contributing to player success in a game to be disallowed.
    • Many of these could be considered "lighter" versions of ghosting and warrant less punishment, but still be generally against the rules.
  • Alternatively, allow these things, but require the request be public knowledge to both players, such as in the game chat.
    • Requesting information is still possible, but comes at the cost of your opponent knowing you asked about it, and responses are publicly available to the opponent as well. It's not behind closed doors.
Anticipating some responses:
  • Response: Abuses of objective timesavers would be ruled as ghosting by TOs anyway.
    • Counter-response: I think the objective timesavers as they are currently stated just are examples of ghosting (i.e. not playing the match yourself as an individual and receiving help from an outside party). They are ghosting in their current form, and the rules should be revised to reflect this.
  • Response: Objective timesavers are helpful for people in certain circumstances x (e.g. playing on a phone which means calcs take longer).
    • Counter-response: I can't think of circumstances x that would warrant the advantages receiving third-party assistance entails. If you're playing on your phone for a tournament set and can't do calcs as fast as on a computer, that's just a consequence of using that kind of technology and not something that I think should be bypassed by allowing another to do it for you.
    • EDIT: I was PMed that a good set of circumstances could be things like a person with vision issues asking for help because their assistive technology doesn't work well with the damage calculator. I think this is perfectly reasonable and is a valid exception, so long as the opponent and probably the TO is aware. I could imagine other situations like this where the opponent agrees to allowing third-party help due to special circumstances, while still generally disallowing objective timesavers.
  • Response: Objective timesavers are only supposed to offer trivial information. But your examples are non-trivial.
    • Counter-response: Modify the objective timesaver definition and examples provided so that my non-trivial cases would be more clearly forbidden. They do not currently seem to be.
  • Response: Changing this rule doesn't stop people from obviously ghosting, e.g. in a private voice call where they can do way worse than these.
    • Counter-response: Right, but at least our rules more accurately define and disallow ghosting.
Now, I should point out that I probably have a natural bias against any sort of outside player interaction. I am primarily a VGC player, and at in-person tournaments, sharing or requesting information from another player is not allowed during the match. You couldn't ask your friend to calc a move on their phone while you were debating what moves to choose, and a friend couldn't walk up and tell you mid-set about your opponent's team that they saw from a public game on YouTube. Similarly, in online VGC tournaments, these objective timesavers are generally forbidden and would be treated as ghosting. However, I don't think so-called "objective timesavers" are bad because you can't do it in VGC offline/online tournaments; I think it's bad for the 4 reasons I listed.
 
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Merritt

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I would like to point out that the TD team has already expressed an intention to revise these rules after the situation in SPL.

Personally I think that mechanics information isn't an unreasonable request to make as game interactions become more and more complex and resources for the player themself to look up these things are often spread over multiple pages of poorly indexed threads. This is obviously not a jab at the people doing research on the games, but I do think that it's not fully reasonable to expect players to understand every interaction to some of the more obscure game mechanics.

To give a quick example - if a Pastel Veil Pokemon is facing down a Neutralizing Gas Pokemon, is poisoned, and then the Neutralizing Gas Pokemon switches out, will the Pastel Veil mon still be poisoned until they next switch in? Bulbapedia would suggest that's the case, the OP of the SWSH battle mechanics research thread (which is in an OI subforum incidentally which is its own issue for searching) does the same, and this exact question is literally the 6th post of the thread. Naturally the answer is on page 44. Even then, that post doesn't explicitly lay out the answer, it requires that the player understand the stuff about Mold Breaker means that Pastel Veil will immediately cure the user, not just on switch in.

I bring this up because this exact question came up while I was helping to prep for an LC teamtour a short while back. At the time it took me several minutes to find the answer, and even knowing the answer now still took me a little while to find a source for. Obviously this is implausible to search for mid-game.

In the end, I'm not sure that knowing all mechanical interactions by heart is something to necessarily encourage simply because it's a skill, much in the same way that knowing how to calculate damage without needing a calculator is a skill but I doubt that an attempt to ban the use of the damage calc would go over well.
 
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Zephyri

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I would like to point out that the TD team has already expressed an intention to revise these rules after the situation in SPL.

Personally I think that mechanics information isn't an unreasonable request to make as game interactions become more and more complex and resources for the player themself to look up these things are often spread over multiple pages of poorly indexed threads. This is obviously not a jab at the people doing research on the games, but I do think that it's not fully reasonable to expect players to understand every interaction to some of the more obscure game mechanics.

To give a quick example - if a Pastel Veil Pokemon is facing down a Neutralizing Gas Pokemon, is poisoned, and then the Neutralizing Gas Pokemon switches out, will the Pastel Veil mon still be poisoned until they next switch in? Bulbapedia would suggest that's the case, the OP of the SWSH battle mechanics research thread (which is in an OI subforum incidentally which is its own issue for searching) does the same, and this exact question is literally the 6th post of the thread. Naturally the answer is on page 44. Even then, that post doesn't explicitly lay out the answer, it requires that the player understand the stuff about Mold Breaker means that Pastel Veil will immediately cure the user, not just on switch in.

I bring this up because this exact question came up while I was helping to prep for an LC teamtour a short while back. At the time it took me several minutes to find the answer, and even knowing the answer now still took me a little while to find a source for. Obviously this is implausible to search for mid-game.
I feel like if you're in middle of a battle you shouldn't be able to search for info you didnt know about at all though? Much less asking your teammates for information? I think a good analogy would be to compare a tournament game to an exam; your friends or teachers can give you as much help as you want until you step into the classroom, but once you start the exam, you're all on your own. No friends, no help, nothing. If there's a mechanic you don't know about, that should be on you, you shouldn't be able to find out how the mechanic works, and you definitely shouldn't be able to ask your teammates if they know how the mechanic works.
 
I'm not really looking to partake in this discussion, but something that was posted confused me a little and I think it should be clarified.

I feel like if you're in middle of a battle you shouldn't be able to search for info you didnt know about at all though? Much less asking your teammates for information? I think a good analogy would be to compare a tournament game to an exam; your friends or teachers can give you as much help as you want until you step into the classroom, but once you start the exam, you're all on your own. No friends, no help, nothing. If there's a mechanic you don't know about, that should be on you, you shouldn't be able to find out how the mechanic works, and you definitely shouldn't be able to ask your teammates if they know how the mechanic works.
So are you also saying that a player shouldn't be able to use the damage calculator? In my eyes, using the damage calculator is largely the same as browsing the forums/asking a teammate to figure out a mechanic mid-game; they are the resources available to you and you are using them. Where exactly do you draw the line with what is allowed? Because it doesn't seem like you thought about that much in your post.
 

Martin

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I don't think you should be allowed to communicate with anyone other than your opponent and tournament staff during your tour games. I don't see how objective timesavers are different from any other form of ghosting, and giving it a different standard just sounds like an avenue that's waiting to be abused.
I'm not really looking to partake in this discussion, but something that was posted confused me a little and I think it should be clarified.


So are you also saying that a player shouldn't be able to use the damage calculator? In my eyes, using the damage calculator is largely the same as browsing the forums/asking a teammate to figure out a mechanic mid-game; they are the resources available to you and you are using them. Where exactly do you draw the line with what is allowed? Because it doesn't seem like you thought about that much in your post.
I don't see anything wrong with Zephyr's analogy. You have a calculator, formula book, and/or any required texts in an exam setting, which is functionally the same has having forum resources and the damage calculator while you play. The key thing here is that you need to expend time on your timer to do these calculations or to look up this information, similarly to how running numbers through a calculator/checking the formula book/finding a line in the exam copy of a novel instead of memorising the value of sin(30), cos(45), tan(π/6) etc. or any lines of text/formulae you will need beforehand means spending precious minutes to do so. I think anyone would agree that having someone read through an exam text for key info while you answer other questions or reciting formulas to you while you're solving equations is cheating, and I don't see why that should be any different in a tournament game. I think "don't talk to anyone outside of the game" is very clear and objective line to draw on access to outside information, unless we decide we want to legalise designated coaches. (That is a whole other topic in itself.)

Edit: I've realised I slightly misread his post/ur response, my apologies. I think I've probably clarified what he meant though so I guess it's fine.
 
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Isa

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if memory serves me right "objective timesavers" was something we in the td team created some 5 years ago. back then the ideas and culture regarding what was and wasnt allowed in a tournament on smogon - especially a team tournament - was vastly different from what i perceive it to be now. internal td debates were held, landed clumsily in the above and i'd say it is somewhat of a product of its time.
however with time and more distance i think it is clear that these "objective timesavers" are something that should be disallowed for the reasons outlined above. the fact that it is saving time is indeed an issue. then we get into other issues - if i say "calc eq vs his clefable" or similar, what spread will be used? what assumptions are made by those calcing for me, and how does that change the way i think about the game? there are implications contained within those responses and they cannot be escaped except with such detailed queries that the time save was lost in the first place.

i believe that the ruling should be, as written by others, that game-related contact with others should be disallowed. let this product of a spookier time vanish.
 
obligatory this should be in tournament policy

Quick note on the exam analogies: I don't like them. I was writing one in this post and I had to add so many qualifiers to make a Pokemon battle and an exam analogous that it's more confusing than it is helpful to the discussion. It's more trouble than it's worth.

-

I'm not strongly opposed to the suggestions of largely or entirely doing away with the objective time savers rule in favor of a no contact rule. As a tournament host, it's much simpler to enforce a blanket ban on all contact during battle than it is to make certain allowances. That being said, however, I still think there's merit to considering editing the rule, rather than deleting it.

The main thing that we all want to avoid is a teammate giving advice on the current gamestate, aka ghosting. I don't think asking my teammate "does sand chip proc before lefties heal?" qualifies as either advice or advice on the current gamestate. I might be able to use the response I get (yes/no) to inform my next move, but the response itself won't change based on what's going on in the battle. That someone else is involved at all might be distasteful to some, but does it constitute an unfair advantage to be given this piece of information? No, it doesn't.

However, it's a different matter if I ask my teammate to calc 252+ Lando-t earthquake on 252/0 Tyranitar and neglect to mention that Grassy Terrain is up, and they calc it with Grassy Terrain anyway. My teammate has implicitly reminded me that Grassy Terrain is still up when I'd hypothetically forgotten, and that's crossing over into the territory of ghosting with something seemingly innocuous. In other words, it's very easy to trip over this rule, and we should address that.

The simplest solution would be force everything to be entirely initiated by the player and allow no room for suggestion or opinion by teammates. This means that any questions about mechanics should be a yes or no question, any request for calc should include all specifications (EVs, battle conditions, status, etc) that should be followed exactly in the calc. If a player wants to be reminded about the timer, they need to specify at what time left they want to be reminded. This would also disallow linking an RMT or public replay to the player, since that's at least implicit speculation that the teams are the same. Besides, it's hard to make the case that RMTs and public replays are objective to the degree that calc requests and mechanics questions are anyway.

I understand that this is a lot of words to preserve something that could be considered distasteful, especially by the newer generation of Smogon that was not around when ghosting was culturally accepted, and still has potential to trip newer players (and if the TDs take the approach of editing rather than deleting, hopefully these rules can be written with maximal clarity and managers be encouraged to clarify these at the start of each season), but if it's not providing an unfair advantage, I don't see a reason to outright ban it. Like Merritt, I am not enthused with the idea of considering objective mechanics questions and answers as ghosting for the same reasons he laid out. We're also playing on a simulator, not cartridge, so the potential of error is compounded by both the knowledge of cartridge mechanics and the implementation, and expecting a player to be able to keep track of all of that isn't reasonable.
 

Amaranth

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The arguments equating assistance from people with assistance from tools are really silly. People are bringing up irrelevant distinctions about what the information is (damage calcs, mech details, rmts) but the only issue here is the source of the information. If you're looking it up yourself, then it's obviously fine. If someone else is doing the looking up for you, it's not fine because it opens up all sorts of cheaty gray areas and the benefit is less than minimal. It's really not very complex. I'm echoing Isa, get rid of this spooky and crusted regulation
 
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