Season 43 - Newsletter Part 2

Happy Holidays

December 06, 2020 / by SamE

Season 43 has now started! If you’re playing in the season, say hello and make sure to check in, where now also you’ll be asked to give a description of when you’ll be available to play your matches. Here’s what the League looks like overall this season:

a table depicting the tiers of the Dominion League Season 43

While the exact number of players will continue to fluctuate with late signups over the next week, we can also look at the number of divisions for a good sense of the size of the League. Here’s what our pandemic-fueled growth has looked like:

  • Season 39: 51 divisions (then a record)
  • Season 40: 131 divisions
  • Season 41: 142 divisions
  • Season 42: 130 divisions
  • Season 43: 126 divisions

So the decline we saw from Season 41 to 42 has continued, but has slowed. Some of the underlying metrics are actually looking up again. For instance, 74% of Season 42 players chose to come back for Season 43, up from 70% of Season 41 players (albeit out of a smaller total). The last time we had a big growth spurt, in Season 27, it took us four seasons to even crack 70%, and nine to reach 74%. New player recruitment had similarly leveled off, so we will probably remain right around this size for the rest of the pandemic.

The good news is that this means we’re bringing new players into the culture of the League and they’re choosing to stick around. We totally understand that there will be people whose interest fades after the pandemic no longer restricts their choices for leisure activities, but we hope that we’ve been enough of a welcoming community and life-giving hobby that you choose to stay regardless.

With the vaccine rollout on the horizon, many are turning their eyes to the future. Season 44 Signups open in a week, and we’ve got some changes in store:

  1. We are removing the practice tier in Season 44. All players will be placed into the standard A-J tiers.
  2. However, all new players will now need to play a minimum of 10 rated games before joining. This should ensure a minimum level of commitment to and familiarity with the game, as well as providing us with some calibration of your ability.
  3. As previously announced, players who sign up for the League next season can now offer their e-mail address as a backup means of communication. We will only e-mail you, from the League mod e-mail account, if you do not respond to messages on Discord.

In part due to the holidays and the lack of urgent topics, we will not be holding a town hall this season. Feel free to continue to give us actionable feedback in the Returning Form!

Setup Meeting Minutes

  1. Town Hall
    1. Existence
      • Motion to skip the Season 43 Town Hall.
        • YES (1 dissenting)
      • SamE: No repeated issues stood out from the feedback given. If anything, it would have been another open floor type town hall, and we've already had one of those recently. Moreover, the typical timing for such a town hall would place it right in the middle of the holidays.
      • DISSENT (tracer): we should be trying to have town halls each season since they provide a better forum for people than the returning form questions do. Revisiting topics from before the pandemic expansion is always an option given player turnover, especially on controversial topics (like flex divisions)
  2. Changes from the moderators
    1. Onboarding
      • In the standard onboarding message, should we drop the third question (Which expansions are games played with?), as it's in some ways redundant with the second (What table settings do you need to change to play a League match online?)?
        • NO (2 dissenting)
      • SamE: While expansions are technically a table setting, it's still important to remind players that League players are expected to play with all expansions (unless both players agree otherwise).
      • DISSENT (tracer): including this in the table settings question consolidates possible table settings to that question
      • DISSENT (Rozyroz): Many players say what expansions games are played with as part of their answer to the second question (What table settings do you need to change to play a League match online?). Even though expansions aren't part of that question, many players end up just answering that question twice and some will even say "answered above" so I don't really think we need to ask about expansions.
    2. Practice Tier
      • Motion: Drop the Practice Tier for Season 44 onwards.
        • YES (1 dissenting)
      • SamE: We introduced the practice tier for two general types of players: Those with a deceptively low rating because they simply hadn't played enough rated games, and those who wanted to be placed correctly but had a general aversion to playing rated games. Our experience from the first full season of the practice tier, and its aftermath, was that the players of the first type were rare: No player ended up more than one tier above where they would have been had we not had the practice tier. After polling the practice tier players, we did find a few that fell into the second category, but it was not very widespread. In addition, for both Season 42 and 43, the practice tier was quite a bit smaller than we were anticipating (mainly because overall growth of the League was slower than the pandemic-fueled growth in Season 41), which forced us to put more players into divisions with those far from their timezone than we'd like, especially for new players. Since we advertised that this would be used in Season 43, we're officially continuing the experiment for the rest of this season, but with Season 44 signups opening up soon, we will officially be dropping it.
      • DISSENT (catmom): I just liked it as an option for players who didn't play 20 rated games prior to the start of the season.
    3. New Players
      • Should we require all League players to have played a (small) minimum number of rated games to be able to join at all?
        • YES (1 dissenting)
      • Earl: One of the big complaints we hear in feedback, especially in tiers H,I and J, is that players aren't committed. People sign up for League on a whim, drop out mid-season, and that's very frustrating for their division. Requiring a few rated games demonstrates commitment to Dominion and has the additional benefit of giving us a sense of your skill level for accurate placement.
      • truffles: How do you place a player with 0 rated games? (Trick question: you can't really). Placing them in the lowest tier (currently J) can potentially really disrupt the division balance for all their opponents. Requiring some number of rated games helps us better place players in a tier that closer resembles their skill level.
      • DISSENT (SamE): This seems to be taking exactly the wrong lesson from our experience with the practice tier. We found that players with very few rated games are not actually often that misplaced, but that there are a handful players who simply don't like automatch. This season, we have 10 players who didn't get 10 rated games in and are now in the practice tier. And we want to just turn them away?!? For next to no benefit? In Season 40, prior to the introduction of the practice tier, there was no statistical relationship between the number of rated games on their account and the likelihood of finishing the season. This change also significantly complicates the onboarding process, because we now have to either provisionally confirm players who don't meet the games threshold and then correct that later if they don't reach it, or reject them outright and make them sign up again. Either way, I don't like the message this sends at all.
      • If the above poll passes, what should the limit be? (approval voting)
        • 2 votes for 1 rated game, 6 votes for 5 rated games, 8 votes for 10 rated games, 4 votes for 20 rated games
      • Earl: 10 seemed like a good compromise number. On the one hand, it shows some commitment and experience with the game, and it starts to build a sense of your skill level. On the other, it's not a huge barrier for people who want to sign up even a few days before sign-ups close.
      • truffles: Playing at least 10 rated games shows commitment to playing Dominion (especially on the client), which is a fairly easy requirement to meet. Additionally, it helps us avoid misplacing players since players with little to no games end up in low tiers, where they don't necessarily belong.
      • DISSENT (SamE): If we're going to make this a requirement, it should be as minimal as possible, i.e. just 1 rated game. That way we could at least say that we just want to make sure that they are able to play a game on the client. Anything more and we're rejecting players for no good reason.
      • DISSENT (Sharur): I think it's reasonable to expect people to complete enough games to suggest that they won't drop during the season, which is bad for their entire division. I think the 30 game practice tier threshold was a good implementation of that. I'd have preferred 20 games of the options we considered, but 10 is better than nothing.
      • DISSENT (nottoobad): I think requiring a few rated games played is a good thing as it shows that players understand how the site works and are willing to play matches against people they don't know. 10 games feels like a bit of a steep requirement for this; I'd prefer 5 (or even 2 or 3).
  3. Season setup
    1. Returning Form
      • Motion to reorder the Returning Form questions in this order:
        1. Any comments about your experience in Season n? Any ways the league could improve?
        2.How balanced did you feel your division was this season?
        3.In Season n+1, how flexible will you be in terms of playing in divisions with players from other time zones?*
        • YES (unanimous)
      • SamE: First, we want to focus on the season they just played before moving to the next. Second, by placing the balance question directly before the general comments question, we were getting a lot of balance-related comments, many more than we got before that priming question was there. Putting it first lets us emphasize what matters.
      • Motion to add "I did not find myself and my opponents evenly matched." to the non-returning options.
        • YES (2 dissenting)
      • SamE: The League advertises itself as matching you with opponents of a similar skill, so if we are not delivering on that, we should investigate what went wrong. This option would let us examine the cases of players who felt that way.
      • DISSENT (truffles, nottoobad): My dissent isn't to do with the concept of polling non-returners about balance, but dissenting based on better alternative presentations of this question. Right now non-returners already have a selection of 10 checkboxes of various statements. This adds to the clutter, and I would rather of a section based on asking for feedback, and have this question belonging there.
      • Motion to remove the "I did not fill out the form by the deadline" option from the non-returning options.
        • YES (unanimous)
      • SamE: We don't need to make this an option at the beginning when we're the only ones who would use it, at the end.
      • Motion to split off the League Fan role and reminder for the following season into another question following the "Care to clarify", such as "Would you like to keep in touch?"
        • YES (1 dissenting)
      • SamE: These answers were always a little bit different from the rest in that they simply triggered us to do something with those players? Removing them also makes the question's options less lengthy.
      • DISSENT (tracer): Moving these into their own question makes the form longer, not shorter
      • Should we accommodate players who, upon being reminded to return, ask us to wait a season and remind them again?
        • YES (4 dissenting)
      • Sharur: We already have a system in place for reminding people. Adding a few more is easy. Presumably the people asking are doing so because they aren't checking in the usual places.
      • DISSENT (SamE): It's a pretty small number of players who want that reminder after more than one season, and if they're spending any time around or Discord, they'll get plenty of general reminders anyways.
      • DISSENT (Earl, alibby1152): I did not have strong feelings here, but I wanted to respond to feedback that it's frustrating to play against opponents who aren't committed to the game. Setting up a system to remind people season-over-season to return seems to invite players who don't have the commitment we're looking for.
      • Regarding the "How balanced do you feel your division was this season?" question, what should we do?
        • 2 votes for "We should continue just asking all returning players."
          8 votes for "We should also add it to the page for non-returning players, but keep it optional."
          7 votes for "We should also add it to the page for non-returning players, making it required."
          6 votes for "We should move it to the first page so both types of players have to answer (required)."
      • SamE: Not much harm in collecting the data, but for a player leaving the League, we shouldn't make them fill out any additional questions. After all, we don't actually get everyone who isn't returning to fill the form out, so it's not a complete sample.
      • DISSENT (alibby1152): as League Mods, we have made multiple changes and conducted Town Halls in attempt to make divisions as balanced as possible. Collecting data from everybody in the League, not just those returning, helps evaluate how we're doing.
      • DISSENT (catmom): I like the idea of collecting info on it for all the players.
      • DISSENT (truffles, tracer): If we receive no feedback from players non-returning, what's the point of having a non-returning form (since we automatically assume players don't return) once the deadline is reached. I would like to make it required rather than keeping it optional.
    2. Flexibility
      • How should we make hybrid divisions of flexible players? (approval voting):
        Status Quo: 10-point flexibility scale
        crlundy: Which time zones can you play in? US west coast, US east coast, Europe, Asia.
        nottoobad: when can you play? 2x4 checkbox grid: {morning, afternoon, evening, late}, {weekdays, weekends}
        • 6 votes for the status quo
          6 votes for crlundy's proposal
          8 votes for nottoobad's proposal
      • Sharur: Many of us agree that the 10 point scale is unclear, with different people meaning very different things with the same number. Moreover, there are different types of flexibility, e.g. being flexible to play early, but not late, or vice versa. We want the new system to capture those nuances in as simple and intuitive a way as possible, so that we can do a better job of building hybrid divisions.
      • nottoobad: As SamE and others will tell you, the current system works well for creating hybrid timezone divisions efficiently-- however, it doesn't work well for creating hybrid divisions that cater to people's time preferences. A European could put that they are a "9" in terms of flexibility, and this could mean anything from them being able to play during weekdays, overnight hours, early in the morning... whatever 9 means to them. In the 2x4 checkbox grid system, we can know more specifically when players can play, and use that information to make hybrid divisions that work for the players involved. Yes, this does ask players to take the time to fill out a few checkboxes, but we believe this time is a worthy investment. Additionally, although this system will only be used to create hybrid intercontinental divisions at this time, it is possible to imagine a future for the league where this system can also be used to systematically create intra-timezone divisions that cater to players' availabilities.
      • DISSENT (SamE): The current system is lightweight, easy to use, and works fine. Now that we have experience with it, it would be nice to explain to those who are curious the numbers we typically include in various types of hybrid divisions, but that's all we really need to change.
      • DISSENT (sweetjohn33): The major issue with the current system is its interpretatbility. Adding clarifying options to give the scale clear interpretability is the simplest solution suggested and the most painless to implement.
    3. Tier Structure Review
      • Motion to discuss the details of tier transitions (e.g. stickiness at a tier count beyond the published thresholds) at the next Rules Meeting.
        • YES (unanimous)
      • SamE: While we were growing, we set thresholds above which we will require an extra tier to be added. As we look likely to continue to shrink somewhat, we also need to establish thresholds below which we will remove a tier. These are likely not the same thresholds, as we don't want to constantly be toggling between two numbers of tiers if we happen to end up around one of those boundaries for the long term. Since we're not yet near the 9/10 tier boundary, we have some time to figure this out.