The idea behind this series of blogs was to share my perspective on the overarching considerations that go into assessing any given part of a Dota league; as such, this entry is sorta out of place, as it deals with a specific event — but I figure it’s appropriate to use the Commentaries tag as a catch-all for any admin POV ramble.
That being said, it’s immensely important to note that I’m speaking purely on my current thoughts on the situation; as such, none of this is really official info, as we’re still very much in discussion about the actual details of the next Clarity season. I simply felt it appropriate to discuss this more publicly, in large part to assuage questions the community might have, but also to provide some insight into the process in a situation as, uh, unique as this one. All official and final information pertaining to season 8 will be nestled into the #announcements channel, and nothing short of info shared there should be considered correct.
So, what’s the hold up?
Put simply, Valve has fucked us a bit. The introduction of Glicko has changed many things for us, things that need to be considered at length before we can launch the next event. I’ll keep discussion of Glicko and the current state of matchmaking to a minimum, since there’s a separate blog on that, and instead focus on sharing where we’re at in the backroom.
The biggest issue at the moment — the one putting the launch of season 8 on hold — is that everyone has been stripped of their MMR, and is required to go through calibration to get their new MMR.
We made the decision very early on to require a calibrated MMR to participate in this season. This was announced in the hopes that a good majority of our playerbase would do so, and delayed the season to allow time for this — after all, playing up to 30 games is an undertaking for some.
This announcement was made over three weeks ago, so we did a small check in. How many of our players from last season are calibrated and thus eligible to play this one? I’m sure some are still lagging behind, but certainly we can count on upwards of 75% of our players.
That’s the number.
With our 120 player count in season 7, that’s leaves us at a rough projection of less than two full divisions.
Even assuming that this number is lower than it’d be in practice, it’s thoroughly disheartening to face the prospect of a season that would struggle to reach a third full division, something we’d grown accustomed to as a minimum that we can reasonably expect every season — particularly given the hope was that this year might feature our biggest season yet, with the idea that we’d potentially manage a 5 Division season in 2023.
Of course, there’s not much use dwelling on this; it’s unlikely to happen, and we’re likely going to be able to make the usual 3 divs happen (particularly with slightly more aggressive advertising and a longer registration period), but it makes apparent the need to give people more time.
Part of this also is that a primary area of concern is dealing with first timers, which leads into the other big problem once calibrated players do sign up: we’ll have two separate MMR values to work with.
Which is “correct” to use? The prepatch MMR is more accurate, insofar as it’s based on a much more significant number of matches, whereas the new MMR is less representative due to the lottery of whether any given player might’ve gained a cool couple thou, lost a couple hundred or stayed the same — and particularly how multiple players previously in the same bracket might now be in multiple separate brackets instead.
So, what’s the big deal, simply use old MMR, right? Not quite.
While we can use screenshots to verify new MMR, we’re essentially stuck relying on people to be honest in submitting their old MMR, and our only real ways to verify this are to use screenshots we already have from previous seasons for returning players, or checking Dotabuff to scan the averages of players’ prepatch solo queue matches, with the latter option being unreliable for people who hadn’t played solo queue, or for immortal players (as those averages don’t distinguish between different brackets within immortal). While I don’t mean to imply that most community members are likely to lie on this front (particularly under threat of penalization), it serves as significant disincentive from using old MMR as our go-to metric.
This might not sound like a big deal, since Clarity operates with an auction draft system, but think about it this way — MMR determines standin eligibility, free agent options, the cutoffs that dictate who can be nominated for a division, the coin budget of captains. Each of those is impacted to some extent by which MMR we use as a baseline.
Now, there’s two important notes to make here: one, even if we don’t use it as a metric that determines any of the above, we will prompt players for their prepatch MMR and they’ll be required to submit it (and will be penalized for lying about it). This will be shown alongside new MMR on the sheet. The logic is straightforward — it provides immensely important info to captains, and this is particularly relevant in the case of first timers captaining (which is nowadays a common occurrence, since veterans are animals).
Two, we’ve accepted the likely scenario that this season will inevitably be more imbalanced than usual, and generally…weird. Strong knowledge of the playerbase and community is worth more than ever, and will dictate outcomes — and yet, if a significant chunk of the playerbase is made up of first timers, this knowledge becomes moot, and things turn into a bit of a free-for-all. People’s MMRs are a bit of a lottery, so it’s reasonable to expect that teams and drafts will be much the same.
This is bound to happen no matter what approach we take, though the current outlook is that we lean into new MMRs, and have old ones there as reference, and potentially use them for some specific things. Let’s review where this leaves us — with again an emphasis on the fact that none of this constitutes official, final decisions:
- Adjustments: a majority of players would be left unadjusted, and adjustments would continue to only go up, rather than down — unless a particularly egregious case shows up, but in general, so many people have gained significant amounts of MMR that it’d make little sense to adjust down on average. Most adjustments would boil down to correcting players who lost MMR from the patch, or didn’t move, though this will be done mainly for the purposes of locking people out of divisions due to nomination cutoffs, rather than to attempt to estimate where those players stand relative to ones who did see MMR gains.
- Sheet sorting and nomination cutoffs: both old and new MMR will be shown, but the sheet would be sorted by new MMR, and the nomination cutoff (ie, the line that limits what the lowest MMR player that may be nominated for drafting in a division is) would be based on new MMR. The nomination cutoff will be fairly lax, as has been the case in the last couple of seasons, and disputable edge cases will be reviewed individually during the adjustment process.
- Captain coin allocation: once the captain selection is finalized, the coin budgets will be determined based on both old and new MMRs, but the captains’ on-sheet MMR won’t be changed for that purpose; efforts will be made to aim for captains that are closer together in MMR, and/or don’t have a significant difference between pre- and post-patch MMR.
- Standin eligibility: replacements would need to be equal or lower in current MMR compared to the player they’re replacing, but also equal or lower in prepatch MMR, and both of these metrics would need to be presented when requesting a standin. Captains would be told to approach standin usage with more care, communicate requests with their teammates, and directed to contact staff for potential disputes. New players would still be allowed to stand in, though would by default necessitate staff approval. Veteran captains would be allowed more leeway in approving opposing team standin requests without explicit approval from staff. Captains would be allowed to approve standin requests that don’t meet both the old and new MMR criteria, but only with proven agreement from their team.
- Free Agents: the assignment of any FAs will be scrutinized more harshly, with significant emphasis placed on potential FAs being equal or lower in both old and new MMR compared to the player being replaced.
At risk of harping on this point too much, it’s necessary to again reiterate that these are not yet our official decisions, simply my current viewpoint on these issues. All final calls on the matter will be announced.
Now, with MMR shenanigans gone over, let’s talk about season specifics — or, well, stray thoughts about it.
While overall the launch of the season is being delayed by our desire to give people time to calibrate, we’ll simply have to bite the bullet sooner rather than later. Almost a month into the patch — and more than that by likely launch dates — it’s hard not to feel like most people who intend to calibrate have already done so, and the amount that goes up with a week or two of extra time is negligible.
One strong consideration is to make season 8 dual playday — the rationale being that a very significant chunk of those who will have calibrated within a month of the patch are more likely to be able to participate in a season played twice a week. This subsequently makes the season shorter as well, which means that people who haven’t had the time (or will) to calibrate by now, but intend to do so, won’t have to wait out multiple months before the start of season 9. This is similarly not set in stone, but remains a viable option to consider in the following days as we prepare to start season 8 later in the month.
The one final topic to touch on is the format. The same dynamic I described ahead of season 7 exists: if we do a single playday season, we have two major options for the format: single elimination and adapted double elimination (the latter being the format of season 7). The potential for a double playday season adds a significant amount of options, with the one I view as being perhaps most exciting being the same double elimination format of season 7, except with a different group stage setup — ie, a round robin with all 8 teams in one group, who would then play 7 series before moving to tiebreakers and then playoffs.
Which of these we ultimately opt for is undecided — it’s a topic of discussion that has found itself low on the rung of priorities for the staff, considering all the MMR shenanigans — but it does evoke a thought that I’d like to speak on at length at a later date: the difficulty of obtaining tangible feedback and data for this kind of decision-making. I’ll leave that for the next blog though.
Have a lovely day y’all, hope to see you on the season 8 sheet. I’m happy to hear your perspectives on these issues — and, on the off-chance that there’s anything in particular about admining or Clarity you’d want me to shed light on (read: rant about), I’m open to suggestions.