Opinions on "Ladder" Room Format

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
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Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
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Opinions on "Ladder" Room Format

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Fri Jul 24, 2015 11:23 am

I figured it would make sense to have a discussion of what people thought about the format of RILKE. It generally seems to be agreed that this format is not particularly great for people who get stuck near the bottom, as you don't only just end up playing the same people over and over again, but the hard questions go to the end and you can end up with an awful lot of buzzer races.

I didn't get to see the top rooms play out this year and I only saw one full round in the top room last year, but I was wondering how people who played or read in them thought the set played out there. At the risk of sounding immodest, I've been wondering what it would be like to have a history tournament with a Tyrone Slothrop/Gorilla/RILKE style format and as to what playing in the top few rooms of such a tournament would be like. If I end up editing CO History next year (which I want to, assuming there's continued demand for such an event) then I don't think I would use such a format in the end, but I would be interested in getting some perspective.
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Re: Opinions on "Ladder" Room Format

Post by hydrocephalitic listlessness » Fri Jul 24, 2015 11:48 am

My post in the main RILKE discussion wrote:
Leaving aside whether it's the best format for determining the best literature player (it seemed to do a decent enough job of that), I think, for a couple of reasons, it results in a significantly less fun playing experience than the traditional format. (Apologies if I'm repeating criticisms of last year's tournament).

First, playing without teammates (even just one) is a bummer—you lose a lot of the small things that add up to make a round enjoyable: congratulating/being congratulated for good buzzes, talking about the game from a shared perspective, etc.

Second, the traditional format provides significantly more variety and excitement. I get the appeal of playing lots of games against others at your level, but for me, it's actually a lot more fun to have a mix of matchups: some in which you're probably going to lose, some in which you're probably going to win, some that are likely going to be close. It's also nice to play against a variety of people, playing styles, and knowledge bases. I was sitting in the fourth room for most of the day, and played against no more than a dozen different people during that time, which ended up making my experience somewhat boring. It's possible, even likely, that the very best literature players will have a different perspective on this, but I'm interested to hear what others think.
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Re: Opinions on "Ladder" Room Format

Post by vinteuil » Fri Jul 24, 2015 12:05 pm

I like the "mixed" playing experience of a doubles round-robin, although I appreciate that there may be too many people interested in literature for that to work. I ended up playing in all but two of the rooms at RILKE, so I did end up getting to play a lot of people, but, honestly, I found the singles ladder format unpleasantly stressful.

Moreover, the scoring system really over-rewards being in the top few rooms. At the beginning of the tournament, the ladder hasn't had time to properly sort out who "belongs" in which room (I think it's safe to say that there's a range of maybe three rooms in which people would eventually stay if the tournament were to continue indefinitely with them playing at their best). So, it's possible to end up scoring a large number of points in a higher room just because better players, who were put in a lower initial room for whatever reason, haven't had a chance to pull themselves up the ladder yet. In other words, I think that the scoring system ends up over-emphasizing initial placement, which is unpredictably determined by who's in your room for seeding (I understand that John tried to work out fair rooms, and maybe he even did so completely!).
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Re: Opinions on "Ladder" Room Format

Post by theMoMA » Fri Jul 24, 2015 12:26 pm

I like the format as a change of pace; I also careened pretty wildly between rooms, so I didn't have the same experience that someone trapped lower down the ladder had. I wonder if the format wouldn't work out a little better with slightly easier questions, however. It seems to me that some past CO lit tournaments have been both accessible and critically acclaimed. (I'm thinking of Jonathan's event in 2007 and Matt Weiner's and Rob's event a few years later; both of those tournaments certainly had their challenging moments, but on the whole, felt much easier than the past few iterations of this event.)

Perhaps a more accessible tournament would alleviate some of the frustrations that people expressed above. (Note that I enjoyed playing the more difficult recent iterations of this event, and don't necessarily think that it needs to be easier.)
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Re: Opinions on "Ladder" Room Format

Post by Excelsior (smack) » Fri Jul 24, 2015 5:27 pm

One defect of the ladder system occurred to me after reading in the top room for this tournament.

In rooms 3 and below, the scoring system does a pretty good job of encouraging you to score as many points as possible, so that even if you do end up moving into a higher room with tougher competition, the increase in points you'll earn makes up for this; and if someone in rooms 2 and below is getting all the tossups and depressing scoring for the rest of the players, they'll end up getting promoted to a higher room, making this only a transient problem that should resolve itself given sufficiently many rounds.

In room 2, however, there is a situation in which it may be advantageous to job and stay in that room, rather than moving up to room 1. Namely, if a player (let us call this hypothetical entity Bordan Jrownstein) is in room 1 and _still_ getting all the tossups, that's an issue - we can't promote Bordan out of room 1, since there's nowhere to promote him to! So the other players in room 1 will experience depressed scoring - possibly so depressed that it would indeed be better for them to play in room 2 and try to strategically earn the second-most points during each round, so as to avoid getting promoted into Bordan's room.

I dunno if there's much that can (or should) be done about this - this "ladder" system still does a fine job of identifying the top player, but the next 7ish spots are probably kind of distorted as a result of this.
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Re: Opinions on "Ladder" Room Format

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Fri Jul 24, 2015 8:06 pm

It's a fun change of pace to do an event in this format about once a year; I wouldn't make it more regular than that.
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