Best Practices for Running a Discord Tournament

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Mike Bentley
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Best Practices for Running a Discord Tournament

Post by Mike Bentley » Sun Jun 24, 2018 4:06 pm

I'd like to use this thread to gather ideas for best practices for running a tournament of Discord. I've played two tournaments on this and they've been a bit of a mixed bag.

I'm not yet convinced that in aggregate Discord is better for online tournaments than Skype, the main alternative (at least for the actual playing of matches--Discord channels provide functionality that Skype doesn't really have and has successfully been used in conjunction with Skype for past tournaments). Here's what I see as the advantages and disadvantages of the two programs:

Discord Advantages:
-Has a centralized chat for organizing the tournament
-In general, fewer connectivity problems than Skype
-No need to add people as contacts
-In general, fewer text not showing up right away problems than Skype
-Can do more setup ahead of time than Skype (although this can also be a disadvantage because if you don't do this setup the tournament can run slower)

Discord Disadvantages:
-In general it feels like a harder program to learn than Skype. Even as a player you need to understand more concepts such as voice vs. text channels, push to talk, servers, etc.
-It seems that the account structure is a little weird. I think people can log in as guests (sort of) which makes it annoying to add/remove permissions.
-Push to talk is somewhat annoying and takes new users a little while to get it set up (especially because there's also muting which can be confusing). When moderators don't use it, you run into problems of Discord not properly picking them up and things like the end of the first sentence of a question always being clipped.
-In the first tournament I played there was a 15 minute period when the entire server we were using was lagging, especially for text inputs. There didn't seem to be an obvious solution to this at the time besides just wait it out for things to get better. Not sure how common this is.
-You need to make sure that only the people playing in a round have text access to that round so that other teams can't see answer lines.
-Get more notifications than in Skype for other channels which you need to work to turn off.

Skype Advantages:
-Starting a round is generally simpler.
-Don't really need to deal with permissions.
-Probably more familiarity with it for making calls to people among the general public, but maybe this is changing.
-No separation between voice and text channels.
-It's been used for more online tournaments so there's more familiarity with it.

Skype Disadvantages:
-Skype does not seem optimized for sending text messages. There have been numerous incidents where people have buzzed and their response has been delayed by many seconds.
-The Skype experience is different on different platforms and there are also many different versions out there. We've run into problems in the past where, say, a moderator on Linux isn't able to add multiple people to a call.
-Having to add people as contacts is annoying. This experience also changed a little bit recently which added to confusion.
-Generally does not have a centralized channel structure where you can organize the tournament.
-Frequently run into not being able to connect by voice to people.

In any event, I think some of Discord's disadvantages will go away if more standards are developed around how to run a tournament there effectively. Probably the biggest tip I'd give is to set up separate text channels for each round/room pair and add people to them before the tournament starts. By doing this, all you need to do between rounds is add/remove people from the voice channels (which can persist through the tournament since they don't have text history and because you can only be in one at a time).

But I'd like to hear other ideas for how to run a good Discord tournament.

Full Disclosure: I work for Microsoft which owns Skype.
Mike Bentley
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Re: Best Practices for Running a Discord Tournament

Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Jul 30, 2018 6:00 pm

A couple additional points for running a Discord tournament from having just played the Words and Objects mirror (which I think was pretty well run for an online tournament):

1. It's a good idea to get people to join the server well before the tournament starts. Otherwise I don't think you can add them as roles even if you've set up the text chats.
2. I can't prove this (because I also restarted the Discord app), but one potential way to fix the "not hearing the first part of questions" is to disable Discord on your phone. I ended up turning my phone off and it improved the situation some.
3. If moderators aren't going to use Push to Talk they should at least set the microphone sensitivity as low as possible so that it picks up the start of sentences.
4. It's important to let people new to Discord know that they should be using the app and not the web client.
5. Like all online tournaments, moderators really should have a headset. The experience is way worse if they're trying to do this through a laptop microphone.
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Re: Best Practices for Running a Discord Tournament

Post by Mike Bentley » Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:56 pm

Here's a more organized version of how to run a good Discord tournament. This post is missing some of the very basics of how such a tournament works. I'll add that when I get a chance.

Before the tournament:

Tournament Directors:
-Send out frequent reminders that the tournament is coming up to your players and moderators. Get confirmation that people are actually coming. People have a bad tendency to forget about online tournaments and/or flake.
-Make sure you have enough moderators. And ideally you'd even have a couple of backup moderators. Discord tournaments are prone to have technical issues. You don't want to end up with one fewer moderator than you need because a moderator's voice chat isn't working.
-Confirm that all your moderators have headsets for reading. This is essential and if they don't you're going to put on a bad tournament. Order headset mics for people if you have to. You can get them cheaply and quickly from Amazon. DO NOT EVER RELY ON A LAPTOP MICROPHONE for your moderators.
-Set you start time to be as early as possible. Discord tournaments often have players in different time zones. I'd suggest making people on the West Coast get up early as you're more likely to run into people having to leave by dinner time than West Coast players who can't get up on time.
-Create the server early and send out invites. This will let you set up the permissions to channels.
-You'll want to set up a voice channel for each room. And separate text channels for each room+round pair. Add permissions to these channels for all rounds before the tournament starts. DO NOT PLAN ON ADDING PEOPLE TO CHATS AFTER EACH ROUND. This takes forever and causes delays. Do it all at once at the beginning (or on rebracketing if needed).
-The day before the tournament, confirm that voice chat works with all of your moderators.
-Recognize that Discord tournaments take a long time and plan for a schedule that has no more than 10 games. Plan for a final only if teams are tied--it's rare that teams want to play advantaged finals.

Players and Moderators:
-Download the desktop app. DO NOT USE THE WEB APP. It uses inferior voice chat protocols and you'll run into issues.
-Be responsive to the TD. Confirm with your teammates that they're playing.
-Join the server as soon as you get the link. Use your real name.
-You'll almost certainly want to get a headset to, but it's less crucial than moderators.
-Test that you can hear audio in Discord.
-Plan to be in a place with a good internet connection. Ideally over a wired connection.
-Moderators: This should be self-evident but read in a place where there isn't background noise.

During the tournament:

Moderators:
-Use push to talk to speak. If you don't do this, you're liable to get cut-off at the beginning/end of reading questions / acknowledging people.
-Arrange your windows so you can see the packet, the scoresheet and the chat without having to Alt+Tab. This will help you efficiently move between questions.
-Get someone else to type of the number of the question in between tossups (to separate the buzzes).
-If you're playing a tournament with bonuses, be strict on timing. Don't let people think of answers if they don't have an immediate answer. I'm personally inclined to accept correct answers even if teams haven't directed them to keep things moving.
-Unless it's a shootout, always assume that people buzzing on the other team will withdraw after a neg. If people want to vulch, they can re-buzz.
-If you're having audio issues, try restarting the app.
-Worst comes to worst, you may want to try reading over your phone.
-If for some reason you didn't listen to me above and don't have a headset mic, at the very least use headphones to reduce echo.
-Let the TD know as soon as possible if you're having technical details, waiting for someone, etc.
-If things go super wrong with mics, you can fallback to pasting in text. This sucks, though, and you should avoid it if possible.

Players:
-If you're using the web app, stop right now and download the desktop app.
-Plan for lunch ahead of time.
-Mute your mics except when absolutely needed.
-Use headsets. At the very least use headphones to reduce echo.
-On bonuses, be clear about directing answers. Use things like CAPS or ^ to indicate something is directed. Don't slow down the whole tournament by being slow on bonuses.
-If the event is a play test, write down notes about your questions and post them at the end of the tournament. Don't slow things down by discussing each question in realtime.
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Re: Best Practices for Running a Discord Tournament

Post by settlej » Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:05 pm

This is a great guide. Having recently been a mod for the FST Discord mirror (that Mike played) there are definitely things in this post we should have done to improve the player experience. Everyone who hosts an online tournament should re-read this a week or two before the mirror date.
Mike Bentley wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:56 pm
During the tournament:
Moderators:
-Use push to talk to speak. If you don't do this, you're liable to get cut-off at the beginning/end of reading questions / acknowledging people.
Regarding PTT, moderators should also hold down the push to talk button a little bit after they stop talking. If you release the button right away, sometimes the end of the sentence is cut off. I've had this problem a couple of times.

Edit: English is hard
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Re: Best Practices for Running a Discord Tournament

Post by A Very Long Math Tossup » Thu Aug 08, 2019 9:16 pm

settlej wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:05 pm
Regarding PTT, moderators should also hold down the push to talk button a little bit after they stop talking. If you release the button right away, sometimes the end of the sentence is cut off. I've had this problem a couple of times.
Teams should use push-to-talk, but for moderators, I think it's a better idea to just leave the mic on and turn the noise threshold all the way down. The only time a moderator shouldn't be talking is when a team's conferring on a bonus via voice chat, and a single mic picking up the occasional scuffle shouldn't interfere with that too much. In addition to eliminating the risk of your words being cut off, leaving your mic on also frees up your hands if you need to type or switch windows while talking.
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Re: Best Practices for Running a Discord Tournament

Post by Mike Bentley » Thu Aug 08, 2019 9:19 pm

A Very Long Math Tossup wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 9:16 pm
settlej wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:05 pm
Regarding PTT, moderators should also hold down the push to talk button a little bit after they stop talking. If you release the button right away, sometimes the end of the sentence is cut off. I've had this problem a couple of times.
Teams should use push-to-talk, but for moderators, I think it's a better idea to just leave the mic on and turn the noise threshold all the way down. The only time a moderator shouldn't be talking is when a team's conferring on a bonus via voice chat, and a single mic picking up the occasional scuffle shouldn't interfere with that too much. In addition to eliminating the risk of your words being cut off, leaving your mic on also frees up your hands if you need to type or switch windows while talking.
Maybe. I've seen mixed success with this.
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Re: Best Practices for Running a Discord Tournament

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Thu Aug 08, 2019 10:19 pm

I, for one, really enjoyed hearing Mike's kitty in the background.

I'd also:
- get someone to post question numbers after each cycle (beyond keep tracking, it makes it easier to scan for answers if your eyes have to move between questions and chat)
- make a specific note for people to keep cross"talk" between questions minimal, it interferes with finding answers in the same way
- keep people in "rooms" in the same scenarios you'd keep teams in physical rooms, e.g. confirming scores and before lunch/rebracketing (you don't want to have to start @ing people to track them down)

Honestly, a surprising amount of analog QB habits have digital equivalents.
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Re: Best Practices for Running a Discord Tournament

Post by Mike Bentley » Sat Oct 12, 2019 4:26 pm

Is anyone familiar with Discord's Server Boost feature? As far as I can tell it does things like increase fidelity for audio quality after a number of boosts (only available to people with paid Nitro subscriptions). If it improves latency or audio quality, I think having two people temporarily pony up a subscription from the mirror fees of the tournament would be worth it to improve tournament quality.
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