Technical KO

or.. “how I placed somewhere between 3rd & 46th at Super Vs Battle 09” Sorry no snappy titles for once! :P.. unless you want to count “I wuz robbed?” 😉

Super Vs Battle 09 Report & Analysis
Super Vs Battle 09 Report & Analysis

Despite getting blown up in HDR casuals before the tournament, I settled down and ended up going 5-1 in my group. I was really amazed I’d managed to do this well, as I was really thinking the competition would be way too good for me at SVB. There were about 50 entrants to HDR, but there were great players from all over Europe such as Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy and it was clear this was a really quite hardcore group, unsurprisingly for perhaps Europe’s biggest fighting game tournment.

Chunli1 (left) and Cuongster (sat) playing HDR
Chunli1 (left) and Cuongster (sat) playing HDR

We’d been split up into groups of 6 and 7 players randomly, and the top 2 qualified from each group to create a top 16 knockout tournament. I knew some of my friends had gone through from their groups on only 4 wins so I was feeling quite good I was going though. But there was a problem. There was a 3-way tie on 5-1 in my group. The group organiser was confused about what to do and eventually various other Tournament Organisers were brought over to try to resolve it. Firstly we looked at our records vs each other – but we’d each only lost to each other. There was then an idea we’d all play each other again.. however as I pointed out that could mean we’d get exactly the same three way tie again if the results were the same. “We’ll play all day!” I shouted pumping the air – I love HDR so much I thought this sounded like a pretty good solution. 😉 But having run quite a few tournaments, I understood the problem from the TOs’ perspective straight away. It was almost like paper, rock, scissors. Myself, maining DeeJay who’d beaten CalmDownMonkey playing Honda who’d beaten Cuongster playing Ken, who’d beaten me.

Eventually ‘The Golden Gunman’ came over to sort out what would happen.

“None of you are going to like this..” he started, “but we’re going to have to use ‘Inti’s rule'”. He went on to explain: We’d have to play a single elimination bracket where one player got a first round bye, and the other two played a knockout matchup, and then, because they also needed to determine a group winner for top 16 matchup seeding, they’d also have a 1st place playoff. I drew the shortest of the straws and had to play again for knockout, against Cuongster’s Ken – the only player who’d beaten me in the whole tournament. Now I’d learnt a bit about how to play him, and I got a 2nd round win and pulled it really close in the 3rd, but as I’d already discovered, he’s a really great player and was using some tactics I’d never seen before until that day, and he won it again against me. Cuongster then went onto beat CalmDown the second time around too, to take 1st place in our group. And so I was out of the tournament despite going 5-1 in real play and 5-2 even including the extra “Inti’s rule” matches. Cuongster was the well-deserved winner of our group, having gone 7-1 with the two extra matches thrown in, but CalmDown was also the same 5-2 in ‘real games’ without the Bye. And of course not only did I have the same record as him, I’d beaten him, so still arguably had a better claim to 2nd spot. However CalmDown was the only player in the group to have taken a match off Cuongster, so those arguments work both ways. However it wasn’t the fact that CalmDownMonkey went through instead of me that was the most striking about the unfairness, it was the fact that I knew  there were players on 4-2 and 4-1 records and had gone through to top 16, even though they’d done worse within their groups than I had. And I was the only person now out of the tournament who’d only been beaten by a single player! I naturally voiced this complaint and one of the TO’s had the audacity to say “You wouldn’t be saying it if you’d won”… hah.. I just shake my head in retrospect at the thought of that; obviously he didn’t and doesn’t know me at all! If he did, he’d have realised what I’m like; I’d have been FAR more vocal and annoyed on behalf of CalmDown or Cuongster had they drawn the short straw and got knocked out at this early stage despite playing so well. I heard mutterings from a couple of my friends in other groups (some of whom had qualified for top 16) that I was a better player than some of those who had gotten through. I can’t say that for sure myself; but certainly the evidence in tournament matches at SVB did back that up.

The Golden Gunman apologised to me for the situation and even shouted “Inti’s rule sucks!” when he saw me later in the weekend. I discussed it with him and he said “well, if you could come up with something better…”. Within an hour of being out I’d already had one idea which he thought was pretty good, albeit it would need some organisational tweaks. By the next day I’d had even more ideas, so I promised I’d write them up for him. Here would be my thoughts on various ideas to help improve the ‘heats-then-knockout’ tournament format and SVB in general:

1. My initial idea: Why was I forced into a “playoff” just within my group? Why not consider all the groups in this? So whenever a top 2 cannot be determined in a group, then look across the whole 8 groups and select the two worst (or perhaps four worst if required by ties) records to play off for the bottom 16th or 15th & 16th positions. Effectively at SVB I ended up being the 17th player and odd-man out of the top 16, but why should one player in a larger 7-man group with a 3-way tie get all the disadvantages loaded onto them? Why not allow all three of us to go through and have two 4-2 players from other groups play-off for 16th place. Or, not quite as good, but possible, would be to do a playoff with the three way tie group and the 2nd place player from another group randomly selected to balance things out and try to prevent giving out a bye. The difficulty with this, as Golden Gunman pointed out, is that it would mean you couldn’t finalise any groups until all the groups were finished. Earlier running groups (in multiple stages, as was the case at SVB) might mean some players had already left etc. However, I don’t really think this would be an issue if everyone knew the rules beforehand, and knew not to leave or they’d possibly forfeit their chance at top 16.

2. The ‘FIFA’ solution. The World Cup of soccer works in a similar manner to SVB, so why not copy it further. They use goal difference to resolve ties – Street Fighter (& most fighting games) has round difference. People aren’t used to it but there’s no real reason it can’t work. It requires a tiny bit more recording by group organisers, but it means ‘Inti’s Rule’ will hardly ever come into play if you still need it as a secondary tie-breaker. It’s worth noting that Magic the Gathering tournaments also use this method of tie-breaking it’s best of three matches.

3. The ‘NFL’ solution – as well as a very detailed system of tie-breakers than go down in order from ‘head to head’ matchup, divisional matchups, right down to points difference, points scored and eventually to a coin flip, the NFL also uses a system of “Wild Cards” to determine which teams go through to the knockout stage. The winner of each division – groups in SVB terms – automatically qualifies, and then two more wild card teams make it through. These wild cards are the next two best win-loss records out of the entire conference (you could potentially split stages like this in SVB terms if you wanted to), so you can have three teams qualify all from the same division if one division is strong enough. This is essentially similar to my initial idea but taken further. The problem with this is that the NFL season also has inter-divisional and inter-conference play, whereas SVB groups only played within themselves. So you’d arguably be increasing the problem of an unbalanced group by doing this.

4. If you are going to use groups, then attempt to avoid unbalanced groups by using some form of seeding, so known ‘top’ players are theoretically spread out across the groups. Again, I believe this the same method the soccer World Cup uses to seed teams into different groups. The obvious difficulty here is the lack of data you have on players to even attempt to seed them. SVB did have the Dramatic Battles as preliminary heats to potentially gather data, but there wasn’t really enough of them to do this. Still, they also presumably had data from previous Super Turbo tournaments that could’ve been used to seed players. Another idea would be to seed players based on geography. NeoEmpire & Electronic Dojo organiser DNA really likes this idea because he wasn’t too happy about the fact that a bunch of good Midlands players were in the same group. Why let this happen when players are travelling a long way to compete, only to match them up against their local competition anyway?

5. Given the “matchup” nature of most fighting games, you should always allow “blind picks” by ‘telling the judge in secret’ in the same way EVO does it. I’ve already some heard some complaints about “character select screen camping” in HDR, although I saw no evidence of it myself – there’s absolutely no reason to allow it to even be a potential issue. Alternatively make people pick a single character and stick to them for the whole tournament, the same way almost all Japanese tournaments are run, and the way Electronic Dojo runs theirs.

The main thing is that whatever you do there must be TRANSPARENCY; you must have the rules for tiebreakers (& especially for seeding if you are doing it) clearly documented beforehand. I would’ve been much happier if we’d all known about “Inti’s rule”, as the organisers clearly did, before we got in a situation where it applied.

However it’s also worth noting that a totally different tournament organisation would possibly be even better than any of these.

Now firstly let me say, it really all depends on what your goal is for a tournament. If your goal is purely to find a #1 then the way SVB’09 worked was completely fine. I’d had just as good & fair a shot at winning the whole tournament as anyone else – it was just that my “finals” came very early. In fact barring the differences mentioned above, SVB was really quite close to the way the NFL works – a league and then into a playoff format for the ‘Super Bowl’. It’s a great method for creating drama and grudge matches – for example if you maintained the same group from tournament to tournament like the NFL retains its divisions. However it’s also frequently rather unfair in the NFL, and it’s unfair here. This is a definitely personality slant of mine, but whilst I can often see the benefits in other ways of doing things, I place a huge amount of value on fairness and balance. It’s why I abhore cheating so much, and is a big part of my love of HDR as it least attempted to improve overall character balance.

If your secondary goal is to give all the players a chance to play a fair number of matches, then again, SVB’09 is a fantastic way of doing it. Unlike the harshness of elimination-style tournaments, every player had a chance to get in at least 5 or 6 matches against serious competition. I see that as an excellent result of organising it in this manner. However if your goal is to give every player a fair chance to advance as far as they can in the tournament, or to attempt to rank players within the tournament, then SVB’s method doesn’t work so well.

Absolutely top-tier at everything :D
A fantastic tournament game

For ranking, it’s really utterly impossible. Whilst I had a fair shot at 1st place, I definitely didn’t have a fair shot at top 16 or top 8. I don’t have all the data (although I’m hoping the organisers of SVB will give me access to all of it), but I might actually be far from the most ‘hard done by’. Cuongster went on to get knocked out in the top 16, whereas CalmDownMonkey went on to finish 3rd (although got a Bye to top 4 due to 2 people not showing up for the top 8!). I don’t know how the groups broke down, but it was possible that one of the other groups had 2 top 8 players (or even two top 4, or the top 2) in it, and someone knocked out at the heat stage who only lost to both these players might’ve technically performed better than me. The top 16 to top 8 cut-off with a single match was also incredibly harsh. In fact one thing that would be really interesting would be if all the results were put through the same ELO-like calculations used to create the XBox Live ratings – and create an “offline tournament rating” in effect. It would probably be best to take the tournament result itself into account by going through all the matches twice under ELO to “double weight” them. Under that kind of scoring I could’ve easily ranked somewhere in the top 10, having beaten the person who’d placed 3rd, and only lost to a player who placed somewhere between 9th-16th. Note that this is exactly how DCI ratings work in Magic the Gathering – incorporating the results of every single match of every officially judged tournament you play in and weighting them by tournament size & organisation. That sort of thing would be absolutely fantastic for any offline game, and especially for Street Fighter, but it would likely need to involve backing from an organisational body like Capcom to work (just like the DCI is backed by Wizards of the Coast).

In so far as advancing, it’s worth noting that under a double-elimination format (eg. the way the Midlands Dramatic Battle by Electronic Dojo was run, or the way EVO is run in the USA), or naturally a triple-elimination, it is impossible to lose a tournament by being beaten by only a single player- that cannot ever happen until the finals or top x playoffs if they are used. It’s also impossible in the ‘matchmaking’ style of Magic the Gathering tournaments… which having thought a lot about this now, I think is probably the best solution for running a tournament of this nature. Now of course there’s no completely fair way to do it, other than a likely unmanageable round-robin of all the competitors. And even then, as Fulan and I discussed at SVB a single tournament can never truly define a ‘best’ player – it is only a snapshot in time of that small period of the event. However I think the DCI’s method for Magic is the fairest that still allows players to continue even if they lose their first two games. It’s pretty simple really, and there’s even a piece of software (DCI Reporter, that I believe is based on chess matchmaking software) that does all the potentially complex matchmaking & round pairings for you. Basically if you have 50 players it just creates 25 matches for the first round and every round after that, but it also allows for players to drop from the tournament at any time, re-calculating matches (and byes if required due to an odd number of competitors in a round) as it goes. After that, it tries to matchmake similar records as much as it can each round. So if you’re at 2 wins and 1 loss in the fourth round, it will match you against someone else with 2 wins and 1 loss, or the best matchup it can make. This can then go on for a set number of rounds based on the time available & then use tiebreakers as required to calculate results, or it can can on until you have an outright winner, or a calculate a top x cutoff at any point. It’s essentially similar to double elimination with a bit of added fairness put in & without the harshness of a quick knock-out (although going 0-2 can likely means you have no shot at winning if there aren’t really enough rounds for the top people to lose 2 games). It’s also particularly nice in a matchup-heavy game like Magic or HDR. Using this style, you’d probably want o run longer rounds too with perhaps best of  5 rounds or best of 3 matches if time allowed.

One last point before anyone claims I’m whining or making excuses – not at all! If I want to do better at HDR, there’s only one focus on my mind, and it’s nothing to do with tournament rules – I need to learn to beat a player like Cuongster and his great tactics against me! I certainly learned a lot at the tournament and came away with more things to work on. But the thing I found most fun was that as I generally find in high level play at HDR, execution of combos is not that big a part of it. I didn’t once get a chance to land one of DeeJay’s big combos – that I would’ve likely messed up anyway! – simply because these players were too good to fall for the usual crossups or risky jump ins. However some other aspects of my play in various situations and matchups need a lot of work. More thoughts on that in a future post. I also found that, as before at the Dramatic Battle, when the heat is on, my results get better. Even when I’m losing – for example against Cuongster, the guy was absolutely pasting me in casuals before & after, and the only time I almost beat him was, sure enough, when it was a knockout tournament match.

Now having said a lot here about how it doesn’t necessarily represent as much as it appears 😉 Here’s the Official Results of HDR at SVB’09 (from NeoEmpire):

Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix:
1: Orf
2: Chunli1
3: CalmDownMonkey
4: Alan Da Man
5-8: Angel Killer
5-8: Prodigal Son
5-8: SMQ
5-8: Kaosflare

My own notes on characters: Orf played Ryu, Chunli1 played Chun Li and switched to DeeJay in top 8, CalmDownMonkey played Honda, Alan Da Man played DeeJay, Angel Killer played Chun Li but missed top 8 due to transport problems, Prodigal Son (Ryan Hart) played Ryu, but didn’t turn up for top 8, SMQ played Boxer, and I don’t yet know who Kaosflare played.

Shout Outs:

Well people are doing this over at the NeoEmpire forum, but I thought I’d do it here.

The, quite literally here, split ST & HDR groups! ST in the background, PlanetRV & Spatz1 nearest playing HDR in the foreground
The, quite literally here, split ST & HDR groups! ST in the background, PlanetRV, Spatz1 & Orf in order nearest playing HDR in the foreground while TastyC watches

Firstly I wanted to say a huge thank you to all the organisers for running it. I know from personal experience how much work these things can be and how little reward it can seem at times! So, I, for one, really appreciate everything it takes to pull this off. Special thanks to the Golden Gunman and BulletProof for being especially sound gents whenever I spoke to them. And HUGE thanks for running HDR. It’s the best fighting game I’ve ever played!

XBox Live REPRESENT! So impressed that tons of XBox Live players made good at this tournament, making up at least half the top 8 and two who were already on my XBL Friends List who I’d had matches with online. I was really sorry for Angel Killer who got caught in a London transport foul-up to miss his top 8 matches in HDR. The look on his face when he found out he was too late said it all. 😦 Congratulations of course to Orf for being a fantastic winner. Hopefully get some more matches in with you online sometime. And also congratulations to CalmDownMonkey & SMQ for their top 8 finishes. I think it all shows that no matter how much some people may not like it, ‘online’, and games with good enough netcode to allow it to develop like HDR, are becoming the present and is future of this gaming genre, and I’m starting to agree with what Bruce Askew said here about how good online play really does count. What’s great about this is that it will only improve the ‘offline’ game and the real-life tournaments as well. Thanks to everyone who plays with me on XBL. I wouldn’t have had a chance to learn any fighting game to anything like this degree if it wasn’t for you and for playing HDR. So thanks too to Capcom, Backbone, and Sirlin for getting this game out with good netcode that allows me to even have any competition!

It was really great to get to meet PlanetRV face-to-face after much chat over XBox Live before, oh and don’t forget… TUNA SANDWICH! Great also to meet SMQ (91), C0rbul0 (SIX Elephants!), TastyC & Fulan for real. Hopefully I’ll hear no more accusations of turbo eh SMQ?? 😉 Fulan.. loved your smile after hours of HDR casuals on Sat night and loved your explanation – cos you were beating ME! *shakes fist at you and then grins* GGs… I was really tired and off-form though after my Friday peak… you’d better believe I’m better than I showed then! 😉 Still, I learnt some new stuff which is what it’s all about. 🙂 Oh and NICE custom stick TastyC!

Good to get to know CalmDownMonkey, Spatz1, SpinalBl00d and Chunli1 a little too. Congrats Chunli1.. I really wish you played on XBL; I could really learn some stuff from you. Great DeeJay in the finals… and painful, yet somewhat comforting to see you lose to the exact same stuff I lose to when its vs Ryu myself. Still, I’m sure you did better than I would’ve done there. Nice! CalmDown – definitely no hard feelings about the heats; shame that all you Scots seem to play Honda! I already know how to play vs him. 😛 Spatz1 – hopefully play you more in future, I need some serious training in that matchup.

SamStyle102 – cheers, dude – you and your 360 really made this event for me as far as casuals go. I really was going to leave on Saturday when it looked like we’d get NO HDR love whatsoever (& not even any ST) but between you, DNA, PlanetRV, Spatz1 and others we kept finding a way to keep SF2 alive, no matter the cost! 😉

Ethan & The Bleeper– good to see you both again after over a year since BOD. Thanks Ethan for helping to keep HDR going somewhere no matter how much crap you got for it. 😉 GGs Bleeps… ok sorry, Obi 😉 your Claw’s much tougher now!

DNA for many of the same reasons. Thanks for being the first friendly face there at SVB to greet me, and once again for the Midlands HDR Dramatic Battle. I know I’m new on the offline ‘scene’ but you’ve really made me feel welcome. Thanks for being a great supporter of HDR too. Maybe if you get something regular going in Brum I’ll be able to make it down more often. Although hopefully one day I can get something going in Yorkshire too.

Killer7 for saying hello even though we’ve still not played in months, you were still a really friendly dude!

Ups, Raks & Kamal for coming down even though you only had a few hours on Saturday & for being the only other guy there I know of from Sheffield. I hope this inspires you to get back into fighting games perhaps.. ?

and finally..

Marc, for doing this: Super Score Tissue 2 Turbo 😀

The Man with the Golden Gun

The Golden Gunman's awesome Dudley AV :)
The Golden Gunman's awesome Dudley AV 🙂

Not quite “STOP THE PRESS” but I sent this article to Golden Gunman before full publication and he told me this:

“It appears that during that tiebreak scenario, I made a whopper of a mistake, and in fact, you should have had ANOTHER chance to make it through.

My mistake was that you guys were all tied for first place, not second place, and the rule works differently according to each situation. In your situation, the winner of you against Cuongster should have been the the group winner, and the loser should have played the player who sat it out to see who went through as runner-up.

That way everyone has to win at least one game to make it through, whereas in this case, one player made it through without playing a game. Although he later played Cuongster, he was already through, so the result didn’t really matter.”


He’s also apologised far more than is necessary, cos he’s a great guy, and also offered me some monetary compensation; which I’ll trade in at my next big Neo Empire event. Also, as I said to him, this would’ve still put CalmDownMonkey in the same unfair position I  had been in, had I beaten him in a rematch, he’d have been 5-2 and only beaten by a single player; and yet out of the tournament, so I believe the points I’ve raised here in this article still stand completely, even though it would’ve been a fairer situation overall that no-one got through with a ‘free’ win.

One thought on “Technical KO

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