Good Morning Duelyst Fam, this is an opinion piece. The last time I wrote an opinion piece it went badly. So, before I get started I want to remind you that my opinions are not here for you to use in an abusive way towards the development team. I can not strictly speaking enforce that statement in any way, but I can encourage you to always be polite. There are plenty of bad communities on the internet lets not be one.
That having been said, here is some information you may need to understand what I am talking about. The Rules for the upcoming Trials of Mythron tournament.
I want to discuss Rule 5.2 “Both stages of the tournament will be unlimited in card selection.” For those who don’t know this was not originally in the rule book. It was placed there after people asked what the format would be. This means that consideration was given to what the format should be and they decided unlimited would be best, I disagree vehemently.
What I am going to do today is talk about why choosing unlimited was a bad decision and should be changed to standard.
The first talking point is about what tournaments are for, from a business perspective. As players we often thinking of them as sort of Gladiatorial events where we go an compete for the sake of discovering who is the best player, but that really isn’t the driving reason that a business would want to host a tournament. If you have something well established like MTG then yes you can make money off of entry fees and vendor space, but if you are a small company like CPG the monetary output for a tournament is lower than the intake, so why would you want to host a tournament? The reason is simply to help player retention. At its core Duelyst is a CCG not unlike too many others, and it has to be able to compete with those other games. It is a not well kept secret that tournament players are your stable players. They are likely to keep playing despite changes in the meta, or adjustments to their pool of friends who play. Once a tournament player starts getting a consistent weekend event they enjoy playing in, they are likely to keep playing. I do not expect a lot of argument on this point so we will move on.
So, we have established that our goal is player retention. Lets talk about how we get players to stick around. The first thing I will talk about is perceived success level. When a player is a first time tournament player they are going to get crushed (barring that they are extremely gifted) the reality is that your average player is just that “average” they aren’t going to be putting on a great show but they also probably wont totally flop. Something like a 0-5, 1-4, or 2-3 record is likely, and they will probably win a game or two in their match losses. It is actually really important that a couple of things happen here. They need to feel like They got a little unlucky, that their was a chance they could have done better. If they don’t feel like there was any chance at all they are unlikely to return. In a real life tournament you might make a friend or have some enjoyment of having a personal interaction, but online you don’t get that personal element, it is all about hwo you perceive your performance. One of the ways that people try and rationalize their results are by looking at what they were attempting in comparison to what the winners were attempting. If they can see that they were at least trying things similar to what the final table looked like they can rationalize their poor performance as a combination of bad luck and a need to improve. If however the top table looks totally foreign to them they will feel like an outsider, someone who had no business being there in the first place. How does a person end up going to a tournament and playing something completely unprepared for what the tournament meta will actually look like? All of their testing experience comes from a group that is unique to them. In MTG we see this happen to the “local hero” a lot he comes to a PTQ or GP event with a homebrew and gets demolished, sure he is the best of his friends on Friday night but he isn’t used to playing against your average tournament going player who were all the best player with their kitchen table buddies. The homebrew was a baby for that guy, it was his project deck he spent hundreds of loving hours perfecting for his group of friends, but it is out of its depth in a large event. I look at this coming tournament in much the same way we are going to alienate a large portion of younger up and coming players who will have had zero experience testing against what the top players will end up playing. Why would this happen? Because the unlimited format is the wild west on client right now, you don’t know who you will get paired up with or what they will be playing. Attempting to test for the tournament on the unlimited section will give you very bad data about what your deck is capable of and of what people will actually be playing. Your top players are testing in house as we speak, and they are doing it that way because they need to see specific matchups. They are figuring out what unlimited decks are the best, and tuning their lists based on what the top tables metas are going to look like. Even if our young players end up playing something stock list looking it is going to be many cards different from what the experienced guys are playing. Alternatively because there is a meta developing on the standard ladder, you would not need to be friends with a high end player to start testing on your own on the ladder for standard. Certainly having a dedicated testing partner would be better, but you could at least get good testing data from the ladder for standard.
Another thing that is a problem is the barrier to entry. Fundamentally almost anyone who enters the tournament is going to come up with a deck list that has everything they want. Some guys are going to have to craft some cards, but by the time they enter round 1 they will have their decks like they want them, so card acquisition is not the issue here. The issue is the breadth of card knowledge you need in order to compete in unlimited. It takes a lot more card knowledge to play in a format with significantly more cards. So again we are increasing the gap between experienced players and new bros. Classically when you are making decisions about how to format an event you want to lean your decisions towards those that will help the young guys out more than the old guys. When you create a barrier of entry between the two you make it seem more like the old dudes are walking on water. This is not good, certainly they appreciate people looking at the like they are some sort of guru, but the more separation between young and old the more likely players are to quit rather than try to reach the level of their tournament peers.
Finally, there is a minor point to be made about what does it say that CPG believes in when they split the formats between the ladder and the tournament scene. It makes the ladder mean a lot less. Trying to climb the S-rank ladder is already sort of this halfhearted joke because there really isn’t anything in it for you except a personal feeling of “well I did it.” Now in addition to already feeling like I am getting up there just to say “look I can still do it” I am now actively taking away from the time I “should” be testing for tournament events. Making the tournament format different from the ladder makes the ladder feel even less important than its already dwindling credibility. Duelyst players want their achievements to mean something, and there really hasn’t been a lot of incentive to compete on the ladder outside of getting to Srank to get the nice name border, which CPG takes away every month when the ladder resets. Nothing you do in Duelyst feels permanent, there really aren’t any “achievements” except one, The tournament banner. I used to get on and climb to S-rank every month just so I could test for tournaments against other really good players, now why bother? And it is a short step from why bother to ladder to why bother to play.
If people aren’t playing the game the game will die. If their experience playing the ladder is different from their experience at a tournament then the two do not feed back into themselves and each must individually be the driving force of retention. If, however, their experience playing the ladder is symbiotic with their performance at a tournament then the two can work in tandem to be a driving force of retention. At the end of the day there is no greater force for retention then if their friends are playing the game, so for every one extra person we get hooked into playing the game we are more likely to draw some of their friends into playing. Every decision about how Duelyst should be balanced, promoted, played, etc should be geared towards player retention right now.
Counter arguments and why they are not good.
Standard is difficult to enforce – BS you say “this tournament is played using the standard format” in big bold letters. You then tell people, “if your deck can’t load into the ladder it isn’t standard.” Then you give a 1 game loss for a first offense use of non-standard cards, and a DQ to a second offense. Bam done.
But Hopper someone might get upset if they are young and didn’t understand what standard meant. Avoiding hurting that one hypothetical persons feelings is not a good justification for making an overarching decision that is going to affect player retention on a much larger scale then one or two dudes. Also don’t be lazy be good judges an tournament organizers. You know you can’t make everyone happy you do your best to be fair and the handful of people who cant handle that well truth be told they were going to find something to get upset about anyways.
Players like unlimited better. – Great! You talked to a lot of the young players did you? You may notice my argument never approached what did people like better, that is because we don’t know. And lets be honest here we actually just don’t know. So if someone tries to tell you players like unlimited better it actually means “they” like unlimited better. Which is fine, but extending it to the young bros player base is fictitious.
As always guys I have nothing but love for the community and the Devs for Duelyst and the goal is always to improve things. I hope to see you guys next weekend.
Link to the tournament. Regardless of the format you should play!