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Monday, January 08, 2007

Guild Wars: Rankings and ratings

Right now the GW ladder is not exactly frozen, but it's a bit chilled. The low k-value means that ratings are changing very slowly.

I think that quite a lot of PvP players are staying away until they see what happens with the new automated tournament system to be released. In the meantime, I've seen quite a bit of nervous carping over the new system and ratings and rankings in general - even though it's not public knowledge how the tournaments will actually work.

Well, GW players aren't unique in that - MtG players are forever grumbling about similar stuff. Elo rating systems of the kind used in MtG, Chess and GW are well suited to games like Chess where there's a low variance between expected and actual results - if I play Kasparov, the probability of me winning is effectively zero. In Magic, the same isn't true - I can beat someone like Kai Budde if he gets a bad enough draw. In GW, there's a similar problem - albeit not as pronounced - in that teams don't always have the same roster and one build may have advantages over other builds. I happened to talk to Mark Rosewater the other week about this and he did confess that he's never been terribly happy with an Elo rating system for Magic. He prefers accumulated-point systems like the one Bridge uses but personally I'm not so sure that's a great solution. Then again, he's spent a lot more time thinking about it so he might be right.

Anyway. The choice of rating system aside, one of the interesting things in the new system being proposed is that the ladder won't be reset any more. I've seen quite a few GW players fretting about stale rankings hogging the ladder. There's a bunch of easy fixes for this problem, but it seems to me that the easiest would be that a guild has a rating but not a ranking unless they've played 5 GvGs in the previous week. If a guild is camping a high rating that they earned a long time ago but no longer deserve, the inflated rating will fall away swiftly when they start playing again to get back on the ladder.

I'll be curious to see how the new tournament system works out. I was a little worried that I'd never get to play any tournament games - as a dad with 2 little kids it's basically impossible for me to allocate regular 5-hour blocks of undisturbed time without an act of Congress - but a couple of ArenaNet staff have dropped strong hints that I'd get to play tourney games. We shall see. In any event, I suspect that once the tournments start up the ladder games will be seen as practice games for the "real" matches.


Blogger Sausaletus Rex said...

I agree with you that as time goes by and the tournament system is introduced the ladder won't be as important. So arguing about the current system is a bit like arguing over skill ring drop rates - interesting but ultimately pointless.

But since there are few details available about the upcoming system all we have to go on is what's available now. And what it looks like from where I'm sitting is that the developers are basically abandoning the ladder to its own devices in favor of something new. Abandoning it, basically, and doing so in the most slapdash, temporary fix way possible - that might be the most logical and economical course right now but not in the long run. Leaving the ladder around would seem to be inviting unnecessary headaches. Either it's unimportant and can be scrapped (You want a historical record for guilds, fine, just keep a record of their wins and loses but a rating system that can't deal with point inflation is going to be about as useful for matching purposes as it would be if you pitted HA teams against each other based on fame ranks.). Or it is still important and it needs to be taken care of as much as anything else.

What I remain unsure of is exactly where the casual gamer's place is in all of this. There just seems to be no way for people to get into the higher levels of PvP (Unless, of course, they've already been there) and growing that scene which should help the game thrive and grow in popularity. The barriers to just getting into a guild to play at that level are so high to say nothing of the talent set you need to even be there so why create more? The upcoming changes might be all well and good for the teams already at the top of the ladder and better ways of running the competition among them but what are they doing to draw new competition in? How does this help casual teams become hardcore teams as they become better and more interested? That the developers hint you'll be able to participate in tournaments without having to commit for five hours at a time is nice to hear but I'll believe it when I see it.

To me, it sounds like they are, in fact, headed to a point accumulation system - I'm not overly familiar with how it works in bridge, but it sounds somewhat like what they were doing with teams earned points in order to secure a spot in the Championships and all last season. And expanding that sort of thing to the regular season and not just the occasional tournaments makes sense to me (ELO style systems work okay in chess because, as you say, there's no variation beyond the players. In Guild Wars, it's not as good a fit because not only can builds change but so can the playing field. I'm not caught up enough to give a good example but, say, would a Ranger-spike team have the same record if they played every match on the Isle of the Dead - or some other map with a lot of twists and line of sight breaking turns - as they would on Burning Isle or another more wide-open and split unfriendly map? I don't really think so. And the ladder system doesn't take that into account just the raw wins and losses. Which, you know, is why I'd like to see more detailed records kept.) Personally, I'd like to see something like the Konrad variation on the Swiss tournament style where you don't have to participate in every round of a tournament to take part in it. Obviously, if you want to win you need to play in most of the rounds but it means that teams can drop in for a round or two without committing to more than they have time for.

Like you say, we'll have to see. But it's a big shakeup that's going to have some wide-reaching implications. It'll be interesting to watch it all play out. But hopefully not pointless.

1/09/2007 11:50:00 AM  

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