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2012-06-27 22:53:48
29 votes, rating 5.9
Rookie Blackboxers
happygrue wrote a pretty interesting blog entry which caught my attention.

Instead of responding in the blog comments, I decided to respond in a blog entry of my own, because I wanted to explain a few things in a more public fashion.

happygrue states that he's unhappy with ending up being scheduled against min-maxing teams. Now, I'm not saying the point is to whine about his team getting beat, but I read the blog as a more high-level discussion. So, in order to try to explain things from a scheduler perspective, I've looked up the actual draws and will post data from the draws and what schedule was set up:

First of the two games were drawn on: Fri Jun 15 12:45:02 CEST 2012

There were 8 coaches activated at the time:


Smeesh:
- Undead @ 1260 TV
- Necromantic @ 1680 TV

HarpoHarvesterOfSorrow with 1 team:
- Necromantic @ 1250 TV

akenatopoulos with 1 team:
- Chaos Pact @ 1380 TV

kinderis with 1 team:
- Norse @ 1560 TV

Xandel with 2 teams:
- Orc @ 1310 TV
- Nurgle @ 1610 TV

happygrue with 1 team:
- High Elf @ 1050 TV

Tesifonte with 1 team:
- Chaos Pact @ 1330 TV

blader4411 with 2 teams:
- Chaos @ 1690 TV
- Chaos Pact @ 1080 TV


There may have been a few more activated teams, but none of them were close enough to any other team to be valid for scheduling at all (for example, there could have been a very high TV or a very low TV team included; teams without any valid opponents are not logged).

Now, the pairings that the blackbox scheduler chose (after looking at 10 different possibilities) was the following:


- kinderis vs Xandel (Norse 1560 vs 1610 Nurgle) @961
- akenatopoulos vs Tesifonte (Chaos Pact 1380 vs 1330 Chaos Pact) @946
- Smeesh vs HarpoHarvesterOfSorrow (Undead 1260 vs 1250 Necromantic) @987
- happygrue vs blader4411 (High Elf 1050 vs 1080 Chaos Pact) @978


In this draw, there were no other reasonable opponents for happygrue's team. The alternative to that pairing would have been to put his team against a significantly higher TV team. The higher team could easily have been minmaxed as well, ending up with the High Elves facing an even stronger team. The only viable alternative here would have been to schedule one match less and have two people end up without a game (not even necessarily blader in this case). I'll add more thoughts after the second draw analysis.


The second draw was made on: Sun Jun 24 16:30:02 CEST 2012
Similarly as above, these were the coaches who activated:

tykoonfranky with no teams in range

JockMcRowdy
- Amazons @ 1030TV

Baphomet
- Chaos @ 990

happygrue
- Halflings @ 1000 TV
- Necromantic @ 1530 TV
- High Elf @ 1270 TV
- Amazon @ 1070 TV

Faxa
- Orc @ 1500 TV
- Orc @ 1680 TV

JimmyFantastic
- Nurgle @ 1610

blader4411
- Chaos Pact @ 1240

The schedule drawn was:

- Faxa vs JimmyFantastic (Orc 1680 vs 1610 Nurgle) @957
- JockMcRowdy vs Baphoment (Amazon 1030 vs 990 Chaos) @850
- happygrue vs blader4411 (High Elf 1270 vs 1240 Chaos Pact) @966


Ok, this was a smaller draw. Fewer coaches and fewer activated teams overall. happygrue, being an open-minded guy, activated 4 teams which likely allowed the round to actually happen at all.

If I had been asked to set up a set of games from these teams, I probably would have ended up with a pretty similar set as the blackbox bot did. Take away the game between blader and happygrue and we'd have those two sitting out since I can't really find any other suitable pairing that seems balanced. So again, the reality is that the scheduler tries to get as many people to play as possible.

One core idea of the scheduler is to allow as many people to play as possible. Adding further constraints that would have prevented these pairings in the two situations would inevitably have reduced the number of games.

The suggestion in the blog post is to add some kind of limits where teams are protected early on by the number of games played of the teams. This would have a pretty nasty consequence that a team that gets a bit of a beating in the early games would effectively never be scheduled again. The probability of finding another beat down team with a reasonably similar number of games played is small. It's almost bad enough as it is now with teams having a hard time to recover from bad streaks of casualties taken.

So the next natural fix for the problem is to remove the TV limits since inducements cover for TV difference more than enough, right? As a side-note, I don't think they do but let's assume they do during this thought experiment.

Ok, great! We have beat down teams able to play again, no problem. Inducements will cover the difference. All is well in the land of the box!

Or is it? Consider a minmaxed team like blader's. 1250ish TV. Since TV isn't an issue here, let's pair it up against a TV 2000 team. Oh, his team gets 750k in inducements, which is supposedly covering the difference between a normal 1250 team and the 2000 one, but this time there are a number of seriously nasty players on the team, together with a star, some wizard love and all sorts of nasty stuff. Your TV 2000 team is likely to be pounded to the ground.

The inherent problem is that inducements can not be balanced for both normal and minmaxed teams, because they are based on TV which doesn't differ between the two types of teams.


There are a couple of hard truths to realize with the blackbox division:

- It can never be perfect
- It's not for rookies
- Rookies play there because it's easier to get games.
- Not all teams will survive
- Not all teams are viable
- Minmaxers do well

Could the division be improved? Most likely. However, the major obstacle to adding further scheduling constraints is that there aren't enough people activating to improve by any significant degree. You'd have to bring pretty strong guns to convince me that it'd be a good idea to have less games being played.

The current scheduler has a TV limit that is based on the number of games your team has played. This means that minmaxers (who naturally have more games played), are eligible to be scheduled against a higher TV team. This means that these teams are likely to face higher TV teams to an extent. There is potential to tweak this part of the scheduler somewhat to push minmaxers a bit further against older teams, but again it's something that kinda needs more active players to actually have a significant effect.


That pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter. I hope you enjoyed another long rant post by me :)
Rate this entry
Comments
Posted by Purplegoo on 2012-06-27 23:02:08
Yup. Well summed up.
Posted by MattDakka on 2012-06-27 23:08:08
What about forbidding minmaxed teams at all, or forcing them to play higher TV teams consistently, instead of teams having their same TV?
Straight approach to the issue.
Posted by The_Murker on 2012-06-27 23:17:20
In no way was it long, or a rant. It's the begining of what could be great discussion.

What would most people say if you asked them if they would prefer their newish team not be scheduled against another team if it had over 20 or so games? I bet most would rather not play. Maybe it's a 50 game cut off. With enough discussion this very smart group could find something to TRY. Maybe it would just lead to people activating MORE teams over all, like happygrue did.
Posted by blader4411 on 2012-06-27 23:41:00
@MattDakka: How would you decide when a team is min-maxing? What criteria are there? If any exclusion occurs, it cannot be arbitrary.
Posted by DukeTyrion on 2012-06-27 23:57:01
Nice blog.

I think blackbox works pretty well as is.

@MattDakka, I get accused of Min-maxing, but the truth is I almost never retired an uninjured player (look at my chaos for instance) and if I do it on other teams, it's because I am trimming for a tournament TW.

I do however spend some time trying to get team management right, but I don't think good team management is something that should be punished, as it's part of the bigger game.

Personally I think people are missing the point of the choice. If you want to avoid certain types of games, Ranked is ideal, albeit it takes longer to arrange a match. If you want to get straight into the action and relish the randomness of any match-up being thrown at you, Blackbox is the place.
Posted by MattDakka on 2012-06-28 00:39:49
@blader4411: When a team at very low or mid TV is full of clawpombers and has just 1 reroll I think we can quite safely state that it's minmaxing.
By analizing the rosters we can find what is wrong (generally speaking I guess it's the Clawpomb great efficiency/TV cost). A formula could be devised in order to limit the number of clawpombers in a team.

@DukeTyrion: There is a border between good TV management and minmaxing, they are not the same thing. Minmaxing is the cheesey, extreme TV management to gain an unfair metagame advantage by exploiting the flaws of pairing by TV, not just good team management.
Ranked is not so good, because you have to arrange matches with people, so you end to play with poor coaches with very low CR, or cherry pickers with farmed/cheesey monster teams who will never play fair matches. In both cases, Ranked it's not a very funny way to play BB for me, and a lot of time wasting.
Posted by Korenn on 2012-06-28 00:41:50
All right, so that whole restriction thing won't work in practice. Nice post.

So how about giving new teams a choice to say 'no' to match ups? Now of course that will lead to cherry picking so that might swing it too far the other way. But the current system slowly bleeds players except those who love claw pombers, until it dies from lack of use.

I'm a coach who recently returned to the site via a friend tournament, and thought Black Box was a brilliant idea. I don't mind if my team gets bashed up by others, or at least I'd like to think so. But when I'm matched to teams like this ( http://fumbbl.com/FUMBBL.php?page=team&op=view&team_id=697839 ) whose sole purpose is to get matched with rookie teams and destroy them, then what's the point?
Posted by harvestmouse on 2012-06-28 00:42:04
If it was up to me, I would add FF to the match maker.
Posted by Lorebass on 2012-06-28 00:43:52
well as seeing what happened for the draws. wouldnt it be easier to just require all coaches to put a minimum number of teams into the box? say 3?

this would make sure that there would be enough tv choices to go around. It also makes it harder for minmaxers to use their teams because it takes a number of games to create that lone legend player or two on the team. with a few teams in the box then that gets even harder/longer to come about.

this will also keep unluckers like happygrue from getting matched with a minmax team as probably many others will have lower tier teams or merely just a broader range.

I always figured blackbox was for randomization of teams not coaches anyways... dont you strive to be a better player when you get a matchup where the race is strong against your own?
Posted by Irgy on 2012-06-28 01:00:52
One opinion I have: Adding in something to discourage match-ups involving a team with few games played against a team with many might be more practical than just disallowing them completely. It might have a smaller impact than people would hope, and evidently wouldn't have changed the games above, but if there ever was two rookie teams in the box together it sure would be a shame to match them each against a predator rather than each other. I don't know exactly how the scheduler works, but it must have some sort of "matchup quality" measure, and a modification to that which isn't included in any threshold-decision that would disallow the match completely would seem like strictly an improvement.

I don't personally having anything against "min-maxing", to me it's ill-defined and mostly just good team management, but games between experienced and rookie teams are inherently unfair, minmaxing or not, because one team has had more opportunity to improve their team than the other.

Inducements don't totally balance games, and they're not supposed to, but they do make every game at least winnable (particularly compared to LRB4 where that was often really not the case at all). The benefit of actually removing TV from matching completely is kind of indirect. Assuming that natural TV is mostly better than inducement money (and you can avoid the bits that aren't), removing TV matching changes the metagame such that teams are encouraged to be bigger, which feels more natural (and more league-like) to people than retiring teams down to an optimal size. It actually makes things worse in a way for rookie and beaten up teams, but it does completely remove the motivation for predator teams intentionally lowering their TV in an unnatural-feeling way. Well tuned teams will still have an advantage, but that's as it should be really anyway.
Posted by uuni on 2012-06-28 01:40:31
By the way, how does the current pairing system relate to the sticky in Blackbox forum? (http://www.fumbbl.com/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=16727)
Posted by The_Murker on 2012-06-28 01:51:05
Christer. I would really like you hear your opinion (however brief it may be) on teams like the 970 TV team mentioned above. (Clawpomb legends at sub 1000 TV) How do you think they might be affecting the league? What if they gained in popularity?

With the advent of Min/Maxing, I thought one of the last bastions of safety and fairness in Blackbox would be the ability to start new teams and have fun at low TV. These guys eat new elf teams for breakfast.
Posted by Nelphine on 2012-06-28 02:52:50
My big gun is: make division more friendly to new coaches. Add a restriction that a coach with less than say 20 games in R and B combined cannot be paired up with a team that has a significantly higher number of games played (say more than 10 games higher).

In this way new people won't be scared off of the site, but we won't reduce the number of available matches for the majority of the draws.
Posted by Catalyst32 on 2012-06-28 03:24:20
So there aren't enough games to avoid minmaxers, the system as is helps minmixers find games due to their numbers of games, people don't like playing against cheesey minmaxed teams and somehow... no connection to the lack of people activating is made between this lack of activity and the omnipresence of minmaxed teams.

People don't activate more and in enough of a variety BECAUSE they can face minmaxed cheese in Ranked whenever they want. People don't activate as much because they can rely on getting games they are sick of playing against cheesey minmaxers.

Based on your sample activations it is clear to me the problem is allowing people to activate only 1 team... a favored tactic of minmaxers. This along with the horrible rule set that we insist on using to the detriment of the game itself. People that insist on minmaxing, capitalizing on a broken combo and using the scheduler to their every advantage are killing the Box as a fun environment for most coaches. Big surprise.

So... the solution to the "problem" is activate more teams to play in more games people are sick and tired of playing against minmaxed teams. The way to make Box FUN again is to play more games people don't want to play. smh

There is only 1 man with the power to improve this site for he better and he refuses to implement any of them.

Love you Big C... but you are watching your awesome site crumble and decay around you due to inaction. New coaches don't stick around as long as they used to and older coaches don't play as much as they used to. The reasons why are obvious... or at least they should be... but apparently no one else is willing to tell the Emperor he has no clothes.

Oh well. Screw it. Why have an awesome vibrant place of fun and strategy and fluff and interesting chat when we can have a place dedicated to a lame mantra like "kill all mens"? Why play the greatest game on Earth when we can play the cheesy knockoff of that game?
Posted by Woodstock on 2012-06-28 04:25:29
@Catalyst32: Blame CRP, not blackbox. I don't think you understand what it would take to balance something like this. minmax might be a flaw enabled by the TV-scheduler, its origin lies within the ruleset. As long as you keep the same ruleset, people will find the sweet spot and exploit it.
Posted by shadow46x2 on 2012-06-28 04:36:50
i think the most important point to take away from all of this...

obviously blader is a minmaxing cherrypicker <3
Posted by Catalyst32 on 2012-06-28 04:48:37
Woodstock... I blame every single contributing factor.

But the largest factor is not CRP, a set of rules that are mostly good with a few glaringly broken aspects.

The largest factor is the insistence on using CRP exactly as written when we don't have to.

What is the saying... "Evil can only succeed when Good Men do nothing to stop it."
Our only good man with the power to stop it instead does nothing.
Posted by Woodstock on 2012-06-28 04:50:54
You do understand that introducing a new ruleset to fumbbl, or changing only a few skills will only kill it quicker?...

But hey, why stick in B... move to R and ignore the cheesy teams, I dont see the issue.
Posted by happygrue on 2012-06-28 04:58:22
@Christer: Thanks for the in-depth response! I want to clarify that I am really not arguing against minmaxing - it is when such a team can play against a team with zero, or one, or only a handful of games. Since both of my matchups are highlighted in the blog I'll draw the big distinction between the two of them. In the first matchup my team had played 1 game and had gained no skills. I don't recall the details except that I didn't play that well and the dice were not kind. It was a blowout and but the part that I felt most frustrated about was that I had not had any chance to develop the skills needed to stop that high powered elf.

The second match was very close. I had played three games and had picked up a few skills and that helped to really even things out and give me a chance. I'll let the replay speak for itself: http://fumbbl.com/FUMBBL.php?page=match&id=3304442 but I am happy with how I played (though it wasn't perfect).

I would think that after another game or two I would have no fear of such a team. I would even expect it and enjoy the challenge. But hitting that team after 1 and 3 games is the real problem and what I was trying to get at in my blog. And hitting it at 3 games is much less bad than hitting it after 1 game. At 5 or 6 or "a bit later on" then I should be punished if I am not ready and developed for such things. But after one game?

I agree that reducing potential matches is bad and to be avoided. But I think that Irgy makes a really good point (especially if the link provided by uuni is still somewhat applicable to the matching algorithm). I like the idea of giving those teams with a handful of games AND a very large games-played difference with a potential opponent a lower chance of happening.

I think in a perfect world, where others coded things for me (wink wink), I would like a little box where I could input a number of games played as a cap and just turn down matches against teams with more than that number (only allowed for the first 5 or 10 or whatever games that my team plays, and obviously not lower than the number of games my team has played). I'm perfectly fine to sit out for a while and not get activated a few times if it is the difference between my rookie team getting matched with another fledgling team or matched against a strength 4 bodging legend that I just can't take down regardless of how well I position.

I can't say I expected anything to change - there are good reasons to do and not do so many things. But a man can dream and blog, right? Thanks again for listening and explaining things in your response!
Posted by dode74 on 2012-06-28 07:43:24
Totally agree that further restrictions would reduce the number of games played, so this may not be the environment for that, but the issue is the matching process rather than anything in CRP (despite Wooodstock's somewhat rabid defence of it).

There's already a weighting for older teams to play higher TV teams, and I think that could be an option to be pursued further. Tracking of historical TV (e.g. the last 20 games, actual number TBD) would weed out the recovering teams from those deliberately staying at low TV, and a weighting towards a mean TV for the number of games played (easily calculated or even simply enforced based on race - again, easily adjusted over time) with adjustment of the matching TV based on those two factors could up the TV at which older teams get matched without hurting the recovering TV.

I'll try to put together something with actual numbers later, but I think the principle is sound.
Posted by coombz on 2012-06-28 08:22:41
quoting Christer "However, the major obstacle to adding further scheduling constraints is that there aren't enough people activating to improve by any significant degree."

I think that more people would be activating in the Box if there was something in place to prevent powergamers cheesing it up. Just my 2 cents ;]
Posted by koadah on 2012-06-28 09:00:14
I'd still like an option to 'go random' so that you could face anyone (or anyone over 10 games).

Could have sworn I saw 5 coaches activated but not enough matches.

It's probably the only way I'll complete a Sprint.
Posted by Garion on 2012-06-28 09:12:05
good read, and although i and others find Blacbox increasingly dull because of said problems I am not sure there is a solution.

Frankly I think we would all rather Christer spent his team on the cool new Ranked stuff he is working on, and the improvements to L we have all been wishing for, rather than spending his time adjusting a formula which may never be right.
Posted by koadah on 2012-06-28 11:54:59
In a group as big as this one "we all" are not going to agree on anything. ;)
Posted by sann0638 on 2012-06-28 12:31:11
I think we can all agree with koadah.
Posted by PeteW on 2012-06-28 15:10:12
Meh. Storm in a teacup. People face 2 clawpomb teams in a row and feel they have to vent themselves in a blog.

My last 15 [B] games were against:
1 amazon
2 Chaos Dwarfs
2 Dwarfs
1 Halfling
1 Norse
1 Nurgle
1 Orc
1 Slann
1 Underworld
1 Vampire, and
3 Wood elfs.

Now the nurgle game had me playing at TV1390 playing against TV1570 and he had clawpomb and hurt me bad. But I didn't cry, I just picked up my mens and took it out on the next team I played. :D

Now I don't like the way that CRP calculates TV, but hey, who cares? Let's play Blood Bowl!
Posted by xnoelx on 2012-06-28 15:26:30
As a rookie here myself, who hasn't even made a team in [B] yet, my take on this; the best solution would be to have the [A] division working, and/or restrict entry to [B] to people who aren't rookies, whether that's judged on no. of games played, or CR, or whatever. Also, I think the min/max thing is a lot more about CRP than [B]. I mostly play in [R] and even there most Pact teams seem to be 10 marauders and one positional (which is dull), any team with more than 11 players is a rarity until you get up to 170 TV or so (which just seems odd, no subs? really?), and similarly, well-rounded teams are unusual, a star or two and a bunch of imbeciles is more common (which seems to me like Pele showin up for your pub's Sunday team). But then I guess you have to bear in my mind most of my BB has been played in 3rd ed, in TT leagues, without TV matching, so feel free to ignore/discredit the above as you see fit...
Posted by dode74 on 2012-06-28 15:29:12
" I think the min/max thing is a lot more about CRP than [B]. I mostly play in [R] and even there most Pact teams seem to be 10 marauders and one positional (which is dull), any team with more than 11 players is a rarity until you get up to 170 TV or so (which just seems odd, no subs? really?)"
That's because R is at least partly TV-matched, for the first few games anyway. Like you say, leagues are no issue for minmaxing.
Posted by happygrue on 2012-06-28 17:57:16
@PeteW, I love your work and I watch you when I can - but did you read the blog? The only time I mentioned clawpomb was this line:
"I'm not talking about straight up clawpomb"

Apologies if you are referring to some other blog. Sure I vented a bit, but it wasn't about clawpomb. I would like to think that I was presenting constructive feedback about a problem. A minor problem to be sure, but which Christer took seriously enough to explain why changing things would create even worse problems.
Posted by PeteW on 2012-06-28 19:32:40
@happygrue

Yeah - fair point. I didn;t read things in detail and just splurged.

Minmax has always been around. I used to run zero RR khemri in rookie snmacks that had 3 DPs, 2 MB blitzras and a AG3 throwra. It was silly and I got bored.

Sadly, there are a few coaches in [B] that don;t seem to get bored minmaxing at low TV. I think they are lame CR-chasing lamers. But hey - that's my opinion!

You either play to their weakness - which they have, or you just develop past them and then they are gone.

Either way - just enjoy yourself and play through it. A new game and a new challenge. :D
Posted by happygrue on 2012-06-28 22:06:06
"A new game and a new challenge. :D"

Words to live by!
Posted by PeteW on 2012-06-29 00:42:57
Lol. I quite enjoy playing minmaxers, or other metagamers. Actually, let me rephrase: I quite enjoying _beating_ minmaxers or other metagamers. But it is frustrating to lose!!!
Posted by SpacemanJames on 2012-06-29 00:45:00
This really isn't a problem - add a rule 'black box must be played within the spirit of the game'.

Give warnings to exploiting min Max coaches, then if they continue being numpties. Delete their teams and or ban them from the division.
simple.
Posted by shadow46x2 on 2012-06-29 04:05:26
pete...unlike you, the rest of us don't bring jesus to the dice ;)
Posted by Fela on 2012-06-29 12:39:55
I'm not seeing why we cannot have optional CRP rules in a division that ALREADY uses optional rules (aka. the scheduler).
By all means, use Blackbox as the primary division to test rule tweaks for balancing.

As long as there is ranked to fall back on for the 100% CRP purists, which you are free to still label the main competitive division, you should be on the safe side.
Posted by blader4411 on 2012-06-29 14:16:18
Slight problem with that, Fela.
Blackbox is currently the most-played division on FUMBBL, followed closely by R. Traditionally, neither of them have been a testbed for optional rules, thats been done in seperate divisions made for that purpose.