The Big Picture: Official Tour Circuit Structure

Hogg

grubbing in the ashes
is a Tournament Directoris a member of the Site Staffis a Super Moderatoris a Community Contributoris a Tiering Contributor
UU & Tour Head
#1
With the ongoing discussion about WCOP's format, I wanted to start a separate conversation about the future of the tour circuit as a whole. Sometimes I think we spend so much time focusing on the individual tours that it's easy for people to forget that we're trying to plan an entire circuit, and I wanted to take a step back and talk a bit about the big picture: the official tournament circuit as a whole.

I wanted to bring up some thoughts I had about how a future Smogon tour circuit could look. Important disclaimer: this is definitely NOT supported by the TD team as a whole. This is me just talking about some potential ideas for how a tour circuit could look down the road. Again, these are NOT the views of the TD team as a whole, so please don't take them as such.

Talking to Ojama a few weeks ago, he mentioned the idea of having a three-pronged team tour structure where one tour focused on old gens, one focused on the current gen and one focused on lower tiers. I've got to say, I like that idea a lot (though maybe not necessarily in the exact fashion Ojama envisioned). If I were completely making these decisions on my own, I'd do just that: I would remove lower tiers from SPL, make WCOP all current gen OU, and replace Snake with an official version of LTPL (essentially a lower tier version of SPL, though if it became official I would want to change the name). I feel like this would fix a lot of issues. A lower tier-focused official team tour would make tier inclusion on the lower tier side far easier as opposed to having to pick and choose with what is included in SPL, while SPL without lower tiers would have the freedom to increase SM OU slots and incorporate every generation without needing to expand indefinitely or start arbitrarily excluding things. It also would satisfy my desire for balance: old gens and lower tiers would have equal inclusion in team tours, and WCOP would be the bridge between them: a team tour that used the "neutral" option of current gen OU so that it could focus on the community aspect of the tour.

Diving deeper into the above: SPL gets to focus on all generations of OU. It's the premier league, so it brings in all the all-stars past and present, and showcases every single generation of Smogon OU. It gets left with plenty of breathing room to expand down the road as new gens come out, while still keeping all the elements that make it a great tour. LTPL (again, change the name) keeps that tried and true format but instead shifts the focus onto the lower tiers, which are an incredibly important part of the current Smogon community. It will also help to grow and develop those tiers by encouraging players who traditionally remain in OU to start branching out into those tiers. I mean hell, some of the most creative teambuilding I saw in all of Snake came from Roro dropping into UU. Why not encourage that even further, while also expanding representation for lower tiers in official team tours? Meanwhile, in my eyes, the only representation that matters with WCOP is regional representation, not tier representation. Bringing geographical communities together—that's the whole point of the tour, right? Current gen OU makes it an even playing field across the board and keeps the focus on the communities, rather than the tiers.

Again, these are probably pipe dreams. SPL is a great tour and a lot of people have serious concerns with potentially fiddling with it, and not everyone likes the idea of scrapping Snake or making something like LTPL official. And, as we can see in the other thread, all CG OU WCOP is clearly not a super popular decision either. I also think any of these suggestions proposed individually would probably be met with an incredibly negative response, but I personally think that the overall effect would be a good one.

That covers team tours. For individual tours, I think that by far the best individual tour is stour. It's exciting, it's fun, it has a really cool live aspect that sets it apart from the rest. Even though my own schedule means I can almost never participate in it, it's definitely my favorite to watch. If it were all up to me, I'd try to figure out another tour that could capture some of what stour brings to the table to replace one of our existing individual tours (probably OLT; it has some good aspects but it's probably our least "essential" individual tour). I know ABR in particular has been pushing hard to get Frontier fixed up and working again, and I think it could be a great option. Six individual tours (counting stour twice, since it happens twice a year) and three team tours seems like the right balance to me; team tours are exclusive by nature, so there should be fewer team tours than individuals, and too many individual tours just gets exhausting. This makes the schedule easy to properly stagger also: an individual tour starting every other month, and a team tour starting every four months.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, because sometimes I think that during discussions about tours and formats, it's easy to just focus on the individual tour and not on the future of the tour circuit as a whole. Part of that is our fault as TDs; while I've expressed my vision of an ideal tour circuit to the other TDs (and was met with some serious opposition; I'm serious when I say that this is very much just my own opinion and one not shared by the TD team as a whole), I've been a TD for months and never actually brought it up with the community as a whole. The same is largely true for the others as well. Every member of the current TD team cares so much about tours, and every one of us has a vision of our own. I don't know if anyone particularly cares what mine is, but I think sometimes that vision can get lost in these discussions, so I wanted to bring it up here.

I also wanted to make a place where people can discuss how they feel the actual general structure of the official tour circuit should look in an ideal world. I doubt we'll ever come up with a solution that will make everybody happy, but I'd be interested to see what other people think the ideal official tour circuit should look like. How do you think the big picture should look?
 

ABR

is a Tournament Directoris a Community Leaderis a Community Contributoris a Tiering Contributoris a Contributor to Smogonis a defending SPL Championwon the 13th Official Smogon Tournamentis a defending World Cup of Pokemon Champion
OU Leader
#2
Going off of what Hogg discussed above, I agree that 6 individual tours and 3 team tours is the limit for our yearly circuit. That being said, one thing I specifically wanted to discuss was OLT and the potential merits of replacing it with Frontier. Via the limit discussed above, we cannot have both, so we need to choose one or the other.

OLT definitely has its perks. First and foremost, and this is something I experienced first hand, OLT brings in new players. The tour scene can sometimes be seen as hard to break into, but OLT is the tour where new players really get their chance. If you're a ladder player who just watches tours time to time, as I was, then you should see this as the golden ticket into the scene. You're familiar with ladder and you get to use those ladder skills to get a direct shot at a tournament playoff.

Now, to me, the perks kind of end there, and OLT brings on a lot of other aspects that essentially aren't competitively ideal. One main thing is that the ladder simply isn't as good of a distinguishing factor as something like opens/cups or 9 weeks of live tours. There's a lot of spontaneity and unpredictability in asking someone to just end at the top 8 of the ladder after a ~weekly cycle. As a result of this, and I don't want to be the arbiter of who is a good player or not, we see some pretty low quality games in OLT playoffs. I know I'm not the only one who thinks this way - an average OLT playoff game is worse than an average Smogon Tour (or anything else really) playoff game. Competitive quality is important for a tournament system and the way OLT is currently set up is a bit unhealthy in maintaining a high competitive level.

As for Frontier, it's something many people are familiar with but I'd set it up with a sort of preliminary stage to address some issues such as brain fatigue. For anyone who doesn't know, the basic premise of Frontier is that you have a bunch of challengers who have to defeat all Frontier Brains. The brains are meant to be the highest level players in a respective tier, so the challenge is maximized. However, if you do it like old Frontiers were set up then you just have masses of challengers and it is very difficult for the brains to keep up with, so this is where a preliminary stage comes in.

There would be several ways to weed out challengers to a more reasonable number. The basic options boil down to either pools or a bracket. We can put all of the challengers into pools and say "people with top x records in each pool get to challenge the frontier." We can also have a double elimination bracket and say "everyone remaining after x rounds gets to challenge the frontier" (with the winners side having an extra loss allowed in the frontier or something). Either way, we can iron out the right details to get an ideal number of challengers, whatever that number may be. Depending on the difficulty of the prelim stage, we can also adjust the # of required brains to beat, so the overall tour has a sound level of difficulty. One way or another, difficulty can be adjusted both in the prelim as well as the frontier stage itself to achieve the kind of results we want to see in this tournament.

I'm not set in my opinion but if you asked me now which tournament I'd rather have I'd say Frontier. OLT's inclusivity is nice but to me it probably doesn't justify the overall lack of competitiveness compared to other tournaments. The TD team itself is also not really decided on anything regarding this topic so I'd love to hear the community's thoughts on the prospect of a new Frontier.
 

teal6

see you again
is a Tournament Director Alumnusis a Super Moderator Alumnusis a Community Contributor Alumnusis a Tiering Contributor Alumnusis a defending Smogon Snake Draft Championis a defending World Cup of Pokemon Champion
#3
I think I am quite literally the most qualified person to speak on the following topic:

The aims and goals of the TDs and the aims and goals of the tournament playerbase are necessarily different. Having left, I am free to argue to my hearts content for a tournament that suits me, teal6, as opposed to all of Smogon. I might go through the pageantry of making it look like some super logical, incredibly considered debate point but at the end of the day now that I have no official obligation to other players most of the time if I'm included on a vote or anything like that I'm picking the option that makes my life better.

Players do not realize this. I have noticed how ludicrous that WCOP poll was just in the last few days that I didn't even realize at the time - you're polling a ton of players who potentially wouldn't get included in WCOP if Old Gens were axed (or they wouldn't do as good) in a poll about whether to axe old gens. It's a 100% necessarily biased sample and almost all our polls are the same because players vote for their own interest.

I write the above more toward fellow players than the TDs because I think when I was on the team we had trouble communicating the different aims in a coherent way but I can see it more clearly now. Also please note the debating is wildly asymmetric - Hogg has to respond to 25 of you, you all have to respond just to him. This makes things a war of attrition often in the end which ends in "TDs just don't respond" which is pretty unfair, all things considered.

All that said, as a player I'll keep trying to keep the circuit in mind if I make effort posts about how to set up the circuit but honestly, instantly going grey I've wanted RBY in more things and more chances for me to shine. I want ST times to change to better suit my schedule. I want tournaments that cater to me. And with no official obligation to anyone other than myself why wouldn't I argue for it?
 
#4
ABR

Pools would seem more appropriate for frontier if you plan on doing that, similar to how farm league was just with some more prestige while keeping the inclusion factor into play, which is important to maintain a growing player base something not mentioned in these tour threads enough. OLT is cool and exciting during the ladder stages but as a spectator I think people stop caring until finals and certain matchups with big names so not too much i can say with that

Frontier / OLT or whatever the subject should be a separate thread anyways if that’s a plan you want to iron out in the future. It doesn’t even seem related to the OP to begin with and from what I’ve seen with wcop, spl, and Snake that’s been a matter of certain groups arguing for what tiers should be represented and in what tour to try and magically please everyone.
 

Hogg

grubbing in the ashes
is a Tournament Directoris a member of the Site Staffis a Super Moderatoris a Community Contributoris a Tiering Contributor
UU & Tour Head
#5
I think it's related in that it's a potential part of how we envision the official tour circuit changing down the road. I don't think we necessarily need to spend this thread ironing out the particulars of Frontier itself, but this definitely seems like the right place to talk about potential major changes to the official circuit.
 
#6
Then the TDS should individually comment here on what they envision the circuit to look like starting off with the basics. Trying to do too much at once sometimes turns into doing not a whole lot and the discussion would be better with specific focus points then going from there. So for example if TD 1 wants the major tour circuit to be spl, wcop, Snake, olt and TD 2 wants spl, wcop, Lcpl, and frontier that should be said first so it’s not all over the place. At least then you can get a good idea what the community is interested in at each step and revise from there.
 

Lavos

totalselfhatred
is a Community Contributoris a Tiering Contributoris the 4th Smogon Classic Winneris a Past WCoP Champion
#7
I will preface this post by saying that the current team of Tournament Directors is not comprised of a single person with their heart in old gens. Not only is this a structural failure of what a TD team should represent, it also gives me cause for great concern about the future of old gens in Smogon's official tour circuit. I know that some of you play these tiers casually, and get backer has played BW in team tours, but you are all CG OU or lower tier players at heart. I don't think that any of you are "out to get" old gens or have any malicious intent whatsoever, but I am worried that during this period of renewed focus on CG OU (which seems out of the blue, considering the myriad complaints that skilled players leverage concerning the current tier), old gens will fall by the wayside.

On the subject of team tours in particular, I'm strongly opposed to creating an all CG OU team tour out of WCOP, unless TDs are going to compensate with equivalent representation for old gens. Currently we have WCOP as half CG half old gen, Snake as half CG half lower tier, and SPL with equal representation for old gens and lower tiers. Actually, old gens have 2 more slots here, which could be fixed by making SPL 14 slots and adding LC/Ubers while not having to cut RBY - which is what the community wanted when TDs started the discussion about tiers before the last SPL, but hey, there's been significant turnover since then, so maybe the new TD team will be more reasonable.

Anyways, I'm not sure what the problem is with the current team tour setup. There is a near-perfect balance between old gen and lower tier representation, and even though CG OU isn't the outright majority tier in any team tour, if you take SPL/WCOP/Snake as a whole, CG OU still makes up the majority of the competition - falling in line with the emphasis on CG OU that you guys are pushing. I really want to emphasized how overstated this "team cohesion" point is, too. I've played in WCOP formats where it was 8x BW OU, and where it was ORAS through RBY, and the most recent SM through GSC, and I can't say that there was any noticeable difference in how well the team worked together. In fact, during the all-BW days, it would usually be the best players dominating the conversation when it came to teambuilding and theorymon stuff, whereas in a mixed format, lesser-known players or specific metagame one-tricks are allowed to stand out in that capacity. If the format were to be altered, the biggest impact would be the quality of games. Already in last year's WCOP we had some very questionable SM OU games where it seemed like both players did not deserve to be on the official tour stage. Imagine trying to field double that amount of players for each region. I think that even without regional restrictions, in a league of 10 teams with 10 slots for example, you would find a lot of trouble getting mostly competitive matches with such a wide field. As it stands, team tours are structured so that the SM OU field isn't too deep, which means we still get the best players but don't have to watch so many bad ones. Additionally, for both old gens and lower tiers, the slots are limited in each tour, meaning that only the top players in each tier get to compete. I can't speak for lower tiers, but in my opinion most of the old gen games from this SPL were high quality, and it makes sense that they would be, given the setup we have now.

This all feels like a contrivance to push a certain set of opinions about the tour circuit onto a community that is largely disconnected from, or in outright disagreement with, those opinions. I would urge the TDs to first consider why something needs to be changed, before considering how to change it.
 
#8
I would like to wholeheartedly disagree with the discontinuation of OLT.

The low quality of 'ladder' is not because of a bad system that is in place (ELO), but rather because of a bad playerbase competing on said system since there is no incentive for proven, good players such as ABR (and even far, far less proven players) to actively try and have the best ELO rating. OLT gives people an incentive to participate in a system thats proven to be good at determining the best competitor in various sports and games, therefore I fail to see the reason as to why this would produce less qualitative games.

Removing OLT would make OST the ONLY OFFICIAL CG TOURNAMANET THAT ANYBODY CAN ENTER which happens ONCE A YEAR. For the future growth of smogon I am heavily advising against replacing an actual tournament with massive interest from both new and familiar faces with a corrupt minigame.
 

teal6

see you again
is a Tournament Director Alumnusis a Super Moderator Alumnusis a Community Contributor Alumnusis a Tiering Contributor Alumnusis a defending Smogon Snake Draft Championis a defending World Cup of Pokemon Champion
#9
OLT has design problems that encourage some of the worst behavior of a huge part of our userbased, "established" or not. Also, Smogon Tour exists.

I think the tournament should be rid of because of its qualification flaws - replace it with whatever, from the bottom up it asks players to invest an unhealthy amount of time in the game but I've been beating that drum for two years now so whatever.
 
#10
OLT has design problems that encourage some of the worst behavior of a huge part of our userbased, "established" or not. Also, Smogon Tour exists.

I think the tournament should be rid of because of its qualification flaws - replace it with whatever, from the bottom up it asks players to invest an unhealthy amount of time in the game but I've been beating that drum for two years now so whatever.
Sorry for the short post but last time I checked CG OU was only one third of Smogon Tour
 
#11
yea please dont get rid of olt. its my one thing.

i really enjoy the qualifying aspect and the amount of tour players that have come out of it cant be overstated enough. ok early playoffs arent 'competitive' but its still FUN for us and good experience (i definitely wouldnt be on smogon now if not for olt). all the finalists have been deserving anyway so its not like some random ladder hero is getting one of ur coveted trophies.

OLT has design problems that encourage some of the worst behavior of a huge part of our userbased, "established" or not. Also, Smogon Tour exists.

I think the tournament should be rid of because of its qualification flaws - replace it with whatever, from the bottom up it asks players to invest an unhealthy amount of time in the game but I've been beating that drum for two years now so whatever.
i have to disagree with everything here since no one else is gonna say anything. Smogon Tour is literally worse. ur asking ppl to dedicate big chunks of their weekends just to have a shot at qualifying. ive heard ppl cancelling plans irl just to play in stour. and if ur not blessed with a good tz then ur either forced to play at weird ass hours or not bother. im lucky stour actually fits with my schedule this season but usually its shit and not worth doing.

olt on the other hand is much easier to manage. unlike stour if u miss a week its nbd. olt's just a few hours in a single week, with one longer session before the deadline to secure ur spot. staying up the night before the end of the cycle is actually rlly fun anyway (and u only need to do it once as long as u qualify). so hows it different to staying up to do an assignment, go partying, watching netflix/anime or whatever u like to do? its just one night playing the game u enjoy, its not gonna kill u.

the 'unhealthy' thing ur talking about was only cause u changed the rules on us and didnt give us a hard deadline. ofc we're make sure we qualify after putting in all that time laddering. im not just gonna go to bed hoping nobody passes me and the cycle ends.

if u really think olt's flawed then lets talk about how to fix it. but dont scrap it dudes :psyangry:
 
#12
Perhaps after the cycles end, have the qualifiers compete in a brackets-style tournament (think March Madness) to weed out the weaklings. Have 8 brackets and seed the players based on their win/loss ratio. The top player in each group then makes it to playoffs to face one another to determine the overall champion. Sounds a bit convoluted but something to think about. The current second chance format isn’t exciting, and many players probably give up after losing the first round since they don’t have the mental fortitude (or care anymore) to play at a high level after that.
 
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Nails

Color Synergy
is a Forum Moderator Alumnusis a Tiering Contributor Alumnusis a Battle Server Moderator Alumnusis a defending SPL Championis a Past WCoP Champion
#13
Perhaps after the cycles end, have the qualifiers compete in a brackets-style tournament (think March Madness) to weed out the weaklings. Have 8 brackets and seed the players based on their win/loss ratio. The top player in each group then makes it to playoffs to face one another to determine the overall champion. Sounds a bit convoluted but something to think about. The current second chance format isn’t exciting, and many players probably give up after losing the first round since they don’t have the mental fortitude (or care anymore) to play at a high level after that.
just a thought on that topic since it hasn't been touched in a couple weeks, while i don't support subjective seeding and pretty aggressively opposed Isa's thread when it got posted, seeding OLT players based on gxe they qualified with seems like it'd be a really cool addition to the tournament, and it's one of the few chances for objective seeding that smogon's official circuit has.
 

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