Introducing simultaneous multi-division play

SPiN Toronto’s Season 7 introduced a small feature that impacted how Toronto ran their League.

To help optimize the space more than it ever did before, SPiN Toronto decided it would run two divisions simultaneously. We made a small tweak in the Matches Page to help League Admins manage the schedule:

Multi-Divisional Pic

To keep things simple, we colour-coded Div2 matches (grey) which was enough for Admins and MCs to identify divisional matches. By alternating match call-outs between divisions, players from both levels were able to play out their matches in sequence.

(For office leagues that run a week long event, this feature wouldn’t impact their game play)

Outside the obvious logistical benefits, we found that this improved the community experience overall, especially when friends with varying play levels wanted to hangout on a Sunday aft together.

That’s it for now league-faring competitors! More feature updates soon to come…

The Matches Page

The Matches Page is a key Smashscore page . Once the admin completes live scheduling, the Matches Page houses a global list of scheduled matches to be played.

The live Player-vs-Player scheduling feature allows match schedules to be created based on who shows up, which creates a splendid set of league mechanics unique to Smashscore. With live scheduling, player defaults and no-shows no longer occur – pre-registration deadlines are also eliminated, allowing players to join at anytime during the season. Combined with a rankings algorithm that is dependent on the number of games played, the result is a well-balanced system that gives players ultimate flexibility while providing enough incentive and competition to drive playing activity.

Once match scheduling is complete, the Matches Page displays the schedule with some additional information:

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 8.59.45 PM

    • Green numbers represent the number of points a player stands to gain with a win (Christina will win 8 points if she beats Amy)
    • Red numbers present the number of points a player stands to lose with a loss (Christina will lose 6 points if she loses to Amy)
    • Numbers in parenthesis represent the number of matches a player has played within that league event

For details on how the scoring system works, see this blog post

Each match offers Players and Admins additional actions. Upon triggering the orange arrow button, depending on whether you are a player or admin, a few options are available:

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 11.09.57 PM

As an Admin, you have multiple actions you can perform including recording and deleting a given match. There’s also an option to ‘Change Status to ongoing match’, which helps change the state of a match to being ‘in progress’. This allows the admin to filter those in progress versus those that are to be played:

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 11.12.39 PM

A variation of the live match scheduling feature was seen used for pong at a local office; instead of a predefined date and time for play, an entire week’s event was created with scheduled matches assigned for play at anytime. This increased playability and was a regular water cooler discussion topic.

With a design point focused on player convenience without sacrificing the competitive mechanics to encourage play, we believe we’ve found the secret sauce that makes Smashscore’s next-gen leagues, work.

Now all we have to do is work on making it even better. And we absolutely plan to with tourneys, teams, and additional scoring options on the horizon.

Smashscore’s League Schedule Maker (and why it works)

Leagues are like long-term relationships; they require cultivation, and a steady dose of nurturing love. Unlike their sexy cousin, tournaments, also known as the one-night stand version of organized play, leagues tend to breed communities a wee bit better.

But managing them is tough – and sustaining them over time is even tougher. We live in an age of distraction and time is increasingly fleeting. With the right balance and dynamics however, a community will form with enough stick that can have people coming back for years.

theLeague

Traditional league setups are great for team sports (volleyball, baseball, soccer). You have a pre-registration deadline and once you pay, you get a pre-defined schedule. But individual sports and game leagues (pong, tennis, darts, gaming, chess) have a problem: what happens if your opponent doesn’t show up that week? Playing short a person or two is manageable in a team; after all, you still get a game so as long as you meet the minimum squad requirements.

Today, 9-5 schedules are less the norm, and convenience and services on-demand are (e-commerce, pay-as-use plans)

P-vs-P leagues however, don’t have such luxury; if a player doesn’t show, the person that does show also doesn’t get to play. And it sucks. A lot.

The other problem? Pre-registration deadlines just aren’t cool anymore. Not only do you miss the deadline, you have to wait months for the next season. Today, 9-5 schedules are less the norm, and convenience and services on-demand are (e-commerce, pay-as-use plans).

Smashscore’s league format attempts to solve these  problems with its open league format managed by a feature called ‘live match scheduling’:

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 8.59.45 PM

Live match scheduling schedules matches based on who shows up that day. It’s an open league system whereby anyone can join the league at anytime. In many ways it’s a glorified league ladder but in every way, it’s the best of both worlds: league mechanics to keep the competition relevant, but flexible to maintain regular and recurring league play.

League B&W pic general

Over the last couple of years we’ve helped SPiN run their leagues. We’ve had over 4000 players checking into our ‘pay-as-you-play’ League Ladder with a total match count of over 13,000 (and counting).

I call our league schedule maker the league format of 2016. It follows the tech trend lines of cloud services (on-demand IT, pay as you go) and the growing movement of open computing. Why not open, non-restricting, super flexible, pay-as-you-go leagues?

(ok, a stretch, but just a bit).

Set Winning Percentage. Does it matter?

During SPiN’s Season 3 League session, questions were asked about the ‘Set Win Percentage’ (# Sets Won / # Sets Played). Here’s the ranking of the Div1 players at the time by set win %:

Rank by Set Win % Div1 Player List Set Win %
1 The Denier 93.8%
2 Vivian 79.5%
3 Danilo 76.5%
4 Roman 75.0%
5 Klaus 73.3%
6 William 71.3%
7 Craig M 71.1%

Vivian was officially ranked 8th, Roman 10th, and Klaus 9th on SPiN’s League ladder. Roman has beaten The Denier before and Vivian, Gideon and the Aussie has taken him deep into matches. What gives?

A similar story can be seen with Div2:

Rank Div2 Player List Set Win %
1 Gord 85.2%
2 Kyle Robinson 81.6%
3 John B 79.5%
4 Adam B 75.5%
5 The Thunderbolt 74.4%
6 Emily Talbot 73.4%
7 Irmina 72.7%

At the time Gord ranked 6th, The ThunderBolt 13th, and Irmina 9th.

So how is it they lag in ranking points? 

In all cases, each of these players played a handful of weeks, ‘robbing’ them of precious points in the leaderboard race:

Player Number of wks played (of 8)
Gord 4 wks (50%)
Irmina 4 wks (50%)
The Thunderbolt 4 wks (50%)
Roman 3 wks (38%)
Vivian 3 wks (38%)
Craig M 3 wks (38%)
Klaus 2 wks (25%)

(it is worth mentioning that set win % does become the tie-breaker when players have an equal number of ranking points)

So what does this all mean? 

In some leagues, the Set Win % defines a player’s ranking. In some circles this is the best way to determine a higher ranked player –  there’s no question that set win % is a serious indicator of pong power.

But our goal was never to find the best player in the city. They have pro leagues for that. This format was designed for Joes… Joes that have busy schedules, things that come up, and other activities to conquer. That’s the beauty of a ‘pay-as-you-play’ League.

Traditional leagues punish everyday Joes but this format allows them to still participate, and if played enough, can still have a shot at winning (not to mention the opportunity to fill their trash bucket to dish some serious insults, brags, and boasting techniques)

For more info on the scoring system, read a previous post, ‘The Scoring system – the format that cares‘. I assure you that you’ll feel more loved after reading it.

Persistence pays off. Playing more pays off more.

I’ve been eying the win trend since the League began. Let’s take a look at what could have been for Ivan the Terrible in SPiN Toronto’s Season 5 (I’m coining nicknames for everyone. I’ll blame Mark Buck, MoC for TO’s SPiN League, for the inspiration.

Ivan finished the season impressively in third place for division 2. His set win % was actually a league high 80+%. It’s pretty clear he was one of the – if not THE – player to beat in Division 2. So why did he finish in 3rd?

Looking at Ivan’s match history, the truth reveals itself. He played consistently but only over the course of the second half of the season. Let’s compare Gocho’s history (who placed 2nd) versus Ivan’s (who placed third):

gochoVSivan
[each vertical collection of circles represents a player’s standings points for a given League day]

Main observation? Gotta play to win.

The goal of the league was always about building a community of players who can call a place home for Sundays. Share a few laughs and revel about what could have been. The scoring system Smashscore devised was designed to reward participation with just enough competition to make it interesting. It’s a tough balance but I think we struck it.

I had the pleasure of playing Ivan. One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet but boy was he a slippery rat that day. All 3 of our sets was decided within 2 points. If I’m a betting man Ivan will make a strong case for top spot.

The Scoring system – the format that cares.

After every weekly event, your standings results gets posted and recorded as a base point reference for how much you stand to win or lose in the following weeks. It’s designed to handsomely reward upsets and reduce the amount of points the ‘favourites’ win in later weekly events (this also prevents leaders from winning too much against lower seeds).

Here’s a quick view into how the scoring works when a LOWER seeded opponent scores an upset (the ‘unexpected’ result):

Score System - Upset

The ‘point difference’ is the standings score difference between you and your opponent. If you score the upset, the ‘winner’ column represents the points you win; the ‘loser’ column represents the points your higher seeded opponent loses.

The system is loosely based on the official USTTA and TTCAN ranking system… and as everyone knows, it’s not perfect. That said, we found it worked really well for us, especially when each season starts anew.

Here are the points exchanged when the HIGHER seeded opponent wins (the ‘expected’ result):

Score System - Expected Result

So don’t give up if you’re (way) behind. The system is designed to lend you a hand, reward those that play more (and not necessarily the best players), and put the brakes on the leaders. I’d like to call it: a system that cares.

Now if only we can make our system trigger a care bear stare after every upset win. Now there’s an epic thought… and not completely inconceivable…