This follows on from the comments in my last post on Leagues. Just another Peter, Thraug and Lionel all mentioned related issues, and I thought I’d pick out the problems here as well as answer them there, to put it in front of a wider audience.
The problems revolve around the effort-benefit angle from the point of view of the organisation, especially the league sponsor who runs the league. Actually, I don’t think it’s as bad as they suggest, and there are several simple ways to make things work more smoothly. But first, a ramble…
Some Whys and Some Developmental History
Most of the playtesting done on DreadBall’s league system was done in an almost tournament fashion, with people meeting for extended periods and playing several games. This was a side effect of the playtesting process rather than a deliberate plan. It arises simply from the difficulty in getting lots of people together repeatedly over a very short space of time. Most playtesters can make once a week, but few can do every day, which is what we really needed. So we condensed things a little, and ran what was somewhere between a tournament and a leaugue. Incidentally, this is why I know that DreadBall will work brilliantly in tournaments because we have effectively run several already, in a couple of different formats.
Anyway, testing the league rules like this was both good and bad. To take the good first, it demonstrated that with a little organisation you can play several league matches in a single session and that giving people a specific time to finish by is not arduous.
However, you needn’t make all the matches in a single session league ones. The rules include a discussion on how to deal with non-league matches played by league teams (against either other league teams or non-league ones). So you could have a gaming session with 2 or 3 games of DreadBall, only one of which was a league match. You wouldn’t then need to run an MVP auction more than once an evening, if that was worrying you. Of course, as the league sponsor decides which and how many MVPs are available in each league round they can choose to make the auction easy or hard for themselves anyway.
In a bad sense, this manner of playtesting was not entirely the same way everyone will play. To be fair though, playtesting very often isn’t exactly like real gaming, and it is plainly impossible to replicate the myriad variables possible in every gaming group. The fact that it worked as well as it does with as many people and as many disparate groups involved as there were did bode very well though.
Why It Isn’t a Problem
A couple of comments focussed on the imagined problems of getting everyone together to sort out next league games and auction MVPs. I suggested that you can use one of the many communication forms available such as Twitter, email, text, Skype, phone, etc, which is true. But what if you can’t even do that? Well, herding the happy gamers about is always the biggest problem any league (or campaign) organiser has, and there is no reason why DB will be any different as the real world humans will be the same. Even so, I don’t think there’s a real issue with DreadBall per se.
I think it’s fair to assume that you can get most of the people in the group together at once (otherwise how are they ever going to play any games?) on some sort of regular basis. Those people can go through the between matches sequence as written. Physical absentees could join by one of the comms methods mentioned. Any that could not manage that simply tell the league sponsor in advance (a) who they will pick to play against next, and (b) how much they will bid for each MVP they are interested in (remembering that this need not be any if they haven’t the cash or the inclination).
The sponsor keeps these notes to one side. When players are choosing their opponents, he reads out the relevant answer when it comes to an absentee’s slot in the league table. If they have provided no note or their preferred opponent is already booked, then they simply get the next highest ranked team available to play against as their next round opponent.
The MVP bids are exactly as happens at an auction house. The sponsor uses the maximum bid provided to bid up to, joining in the bidding as their proxy. If he wants, he could get an uninterested party to bid for each absent player, which might be more fun and would engage those who were sitting out of that bid for themselves.
Having said the above, and explained why I don’t think it’s hard to adapt the existing league rules to varied circumstances, it’s still obvious that they are not the only way a league could be run. I did consider and reject a number of other options as lacking some of the inbuilt control mechanisms that this version has. Runaway leaders is a problem faced by many leagues, and whilst this does not remove that issue entirely, it does mitigate some of the unpleasant issues that arise from it.
In DreadBall Season 2 and Ultimate I’ll come back to leagues and offer some variant styles which you could try. A more free-form option will appeal to sponsors who want less to do, though at the cost of some entertainment, a lot of story and almost guaranteeing the most prolific gamers will win (seen it happen time and again). I’m not fond of that way of running things as you can tell, but some will be so I’ll write that up.
One last thought. Meeting up between rounds is not just a mechanical function of the league – it’s a social one. This aspect doesn’t appear in the rules though it is just as important, and can provide a lot of entertainment. It’s a chance to brag and boast, to meet the other coaches and swap trash talk and tall tales. How this Coach fluked a win, or got a landslide in his second Rush. How this Striker survived 6 Slams from Orx Guards, then fell over in his first hex, why your lead Striker is now known as “Fumblefingers”. You know the kind of thing gamers do between games (and during them too), and giving them a venue for it with everyone assembled to hear the stories and the lies is just plain old fun 🙂