Putting this here instead of a PasteBin because, what the heck, I’m paying for a website, I might as well use it.
Some thoughts on the Swiss rounds of the recent Ninja Gaiden II speedrunning tourney:
(A brief note that when I say “the tournament”, I mean “The Swiss portion of the tournament”. I’m aware we still have Top 8 to go as of this post, but this feedback concerns the Swiss portion)
tl;dr version: Swiss can definitely work for speedrun tournaments, even for longer games with some massaging. It would have to be done carefully, though. This one was pretty darn great, despite some issues.
First of all, I’m familiar with how Swiss works from my days playing the WWE Raw Deal card game. That said, I didn’t pop in on this particular tournament until midway through the Swiss rounds (So round 3 or 4).
On Swiss in general:
- It’s great for separating the cream of the crop from everyone else (This also works on the opposite end). It’s less good at reliably separating out the middle–you wind up with a bunch of people with roughly .500 records, due to the design of Swiss.
- It ensures the tournament more-or-less always remains exciting for the competitors, at least in theory. Besides the mish-mash in the middle where you typically have multiple people fighting for the final few “playoff” spots, the idea behind Swiss is that everyone continually gets matched up with people of roughly their skill level, as indicated by their records to that point. This works for the audience as well, as the matches should always be close (Sinister noted that they only had to switch featured races due to a blowout in one round).
- It does require a bit of time investment on the part of the competitors, especially if you want to try and get it all out of the way in a single day. As a side effect of how Swiss works, the tournament is effectively halted until an entire round completes. Contrast with a single or double-elimination tournament, where one “straggler” doesn’t slam the entire tournament to a halt, at least at first.
Now, some thoughts on this specific tournament, and whether Swiss can work for speedrunning tournaments in general:
- I think, as Sinister previously said, the answer to the question “Can Swiss work for speedrunning tournaments?” is a resounding “yes”. However, that doesn’t make it the automatic best choice across the board, as he notes.
- The main thing to consider is “Are you trying to get the entire Swiss round out of the way in a single day?” While the NGII tournament answered that question with “Yes”, I don’t think that has to be the answer. If the answer is “yes”, though, you’ve restricted yourself to games in the neighborhood of a half hour long, max. Doing a Swiss tournament over multiple days would be more difficult (Someone not getting their match done in a timely fashion/being removed mid-tournament has more of an effect than it would in a more “traditional” tournament, where you just remove the person and anyone in that person’s “path” effectively gets a bye. In Swiss, a removal kind of screws everyone who played the removed person due to how tiebreakers work, through no fault of the people who got matched up with the “straggler”), but not impossible if you have participants who are truly committed to getting games played–just run it like the Mystery Tournaments do, where you have a specific range of days to complete your match.
- Having your Swiss round spread out over multiple days would also help mitigate what is probably the biggest challenge for commentators–striking a balance between helping people unfamiliar with the game without being repetitive for those who tune in from the start. The shorter the game, and the more rounds your tournament is, the bigger this issue. I think Sinister and Duckfist did a fine job of handling this in this tournament specifically, by telling some of the “stories” of the featured racers.
- Sinister noted that the event lasted longer than he would have liked due to various issues. The main thing, to me, was actually that the tournament went 1 round too long. In most Swiss tournaments, the general rule is 2^x = N, where N is the number of participants rounded up to the next power of 2, and x is your number of rounds. So with 30 people, there should have been five rounds, not 6 (The idea being at the end, you’ll have one person with an X-0 record).
- Another potential reason that the event ran long from what I saw was the desire for multiple featured races in a round, which meant that some races didn’t start until after others were finished. While I don’t necessarily agree with the “Too many featured races” critique, if the primary goal of a future tournament is simply “End it as quickly as possible” as opposed to “Showcase as many runners of varying skills as possible”, having everyone start a round at the same time would be preferable, and doable.
- Going back to my point about Swiss separating the cream of the crop from everyone else, I’ll note that 7 of the top 8 seeds advanced to the Top 8, and the 8th person was still firmly in the upper echelon of entrants, seeded 11th out of about 30 people. I think this shows that the system does work–people claim to love a Cinderella story, but they generally get pretty annoyed with anyone but “their” Cinderella story making a deep run. In that sense, I think this portion of the tournament is a definite success.
- I’m a bit confused about the comment regarding seeding in subsequent rounds. A brief note on Swiss: Round 1 is seed-based. Round 2 then consists of 1-0 v. 1-0 matches, and 0-1 v. 0-1 matches. Round 3 continues in this pattern as reasonably as possible without repeating past matches (So 2-0s play 2-0s, 1-1s play 1-1s, 0-2s play 0-2s). This pattern continues for the remaining rounds. What I’m guessing is that within that framework, Sinister and the other organizers had the highest-seeded 1-0 play the lowest-seeded 1-0, and so on. I’m not sure how big of an issue this really is, particularly in light of the previous point.
Still, overall, I’d say it was a big success from a viewer standpoint. Basically every race was exciting, and I enjoyed the interviews too. I’d definitely like to see more tournaments use the format.
(EDITED to fix typos 5/6/16)