Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Case for Balloted Fantasy Tournament Signups

By Dan Trick, with thanks to Conor Jackson for his initial idea

The following piece represents the opinion of the author and not of the Quidditch Post.

So far this season, there have been several high-profile fantasy tournaments that have all featured incredibly fast sign-up times. The Fourth Annual Mercian Cup filled 125 spaces in under three minutes whilst the League of Extraordinary Ghentlemen 2 filled 119 spaces in 141 seconds. Valentine’s Cup III: The Good, The Bad and The Quovely filled 340 spaces in six minutes and 38 seconds, which, when accounting for the extended pairs sign-up form, is again incredibly rapid. These are all incredible feats that should be lauded as displaying the success of the tournaments and their marketing, along with the passionate excitement of those players looking to compete at them.

These impressive sell-out times do, however, present a problem. To secure a place in these tournaments, or even a decent spot on the waiting lists, prospective players must be anchored to their computers at a specific time. This potentially punishes any players who are unable to access computers at the given time, be it for work, travel, or other reasons, and it also punishes those who simply have unreliable Internet. Furthermore, it places an extreme amount of stress on whatever system the tournaments use for sign-ups. The Valentine’s III form suffered from a glitch that meant many couples believed they had secured a spot when they had in fact not; this was not merely a minor case of false hope, but an indication of potential fragility – one strengthened by anecdotal accounts of crashing forms preventing players from signing up.

Valentines Cup III | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Photography

These issues could be solved by high-profile tournaments introducing a ballot system, such as one similar to that of the 2012 London Olympics. The tournament organisers could set a period of a few days in which sign-ups can occur, after which all the entries are placed into a pool and the desired amount of players could be drawn randomly. This would give those who cannot be at their computers at the precise time a fair chance across the days to have their name entered, and it would reduce the stress on the organisers form setups.

Moving to a ballot system that is open for an extended time would also allow for more detailed sign-up forms. Whilst forewarning of the questions can help players answer them, in the current fastest-first system, players who answer in little detail can submit their form faster than those who aim to give detailed answers. Removing the haste from the process would allow for in-depth forms that could allow for more accurate starting prices, or else simply be a greater aid to captains when it comes to deciding who to bid for. Ghentlemen recognised the issue of the trade-off between fastest-first system players who answer in little detail submitting their form faster than those who aim to give detailed answers by separating their form into two parts, but it still required the applicant to respond to the first section in mere minutes to secure their place at the tournament. Therefore, while it was a good move in relation to encouraging depth of answers, it did not overcome the issue of speed in signing up as a ballot system would.

Some may say a ballot system would remove the excitement provided by a first-come-first-serve policy, but the random nature of the ballot allows for similar suspense. The random selection of players could even be livestreamed, for those wishing for a spectacle and those wanting to promote how popular their tournament is; number of players who signed up to be entered into the pool could be touted as easily as the record sign-up times are currently.

Christmas Cup 2015 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Photography

A potential compromise could be a split between the two systems. Whilst exact percentages could be adjusted, 50 percent could be allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis, whilst the remaining 50 percent of spaces could be reserved for a ballot within a longer window to allow for those who are unable to sign up immediately. Whilst this would again initially incur the issue of potentially overloaded systems, there would be the ability for anyone affected by this to still have a shot at attending, while still rewarding those keenest of players willing and able to set aside time to act immediately.

Demand for fantasy tournament places is rising at a rate that the tournaments themselves cannot facilitate without becoming too unwieldy and time-consuming, and without detriment to the regular season. Matters cannot be solved by simply expanding the number of players let in. It therefore makes sense that the methods in which those players who get in adapt and evolve to ensure fairness and smooth-running for all involved.

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