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2011-02-04 14:26:18
59 votes, rating 5.4
Blackbox vs Ranked
Pretty much since the start of the black-box division, there has been a fairly heated debate on FUMBBL regarding the two divisions and how they relate to each other. The debate has pretty much been centred around a couple of central topics:

- Which division is the "best" (most competitive)
- Over-abundance of bashers in B and cherry pickers in R
- Ease of getting games (this includes the problems that occur when there aren't enough active players in a division)
- Merging the divisions

I want to let you guys know how my thinking goes around these topics and will approach them in an orderly fashion to try to keep things at least somewhat readable.

Which division is the "best"?

In this context, "best" means the most competitive. There's an argument that best could mean which one is most fun but that quickly turns subjective simply because people enjoy different things. Some of the things I will talk about here applies to the "fun factor" as well, and I'm sure you guys are intelligent enough to draw the parallel.

To me, the question boils down to one essential question: Is the ability to identify an even match part of being a good coach or not?

Take a moment to consider that question, because I truly believe this the core question that differentiates the two "camps" in this question. Those who favour Ranked as the most competitive one will argue that it's simply part of being a good coach to be able to decline the matches where you have a high probability of losing. On the other side of the fence, you have the Black-box camp who say that "those people over in Ranked are all cherry pickers, preying on noobs" and state that in B, you get much harder matches on average because you can't choose to avoid those dwarves with your amazons or whatever the worst match-up is considered to be this week.

You can rephrase the central question from above to: Does harder matches make a division more competitive or not?

The way I see it, the two divisions cater for two fundamentally different types of people (remember that I'm speaking about the competitive type of people here, and that there are plenty of people who don't really care much about competitiveness or not).

Black-box is a natural home for those who feel that hard matches create a more competitive environment.

Ranked is for those who feel that the ability to chose your opponents is a large part of being a strong coach.

So, what about me? I don't know to be honest. I'm inherently a very competitive person, but I find that both Ranked and Black-box are competitive in their own way. You just have to take a step back to see it.

Over-abundance of bashers in B and cherry pickers in R

These two are generally used as the main argument for which division is the better. To me, it's very natural that this happens because of the way the divisions function. And again, it's easy to see how fundamentally different the two types of people are. It's quite obvious that a division where you can't choose your opponent will tend to have more strong teams. Not so much because everyone wants to kill off teams (although some do), but mainly because people can't chose their opponents and want to preserve their teams. In a sense, both divisions are driven by this thinking. People simply don't want their teams to be destroyed and continuously have to rebuild. It's all pixels, sure, but there is a significant effort in coming up with a name and theme for a new team.

Ease of getting games

This topic isn't very complicated in essence. More people playing in an environment means that it's quicker to find a match. Simple as that. We've had a long stint of quite low number of games being played, and we were all affected by this. The divisional split does indeed dilute the players somewhat, but I don't think it's such a big deal. Most people have teams in multiple divisions and would rather play a match in a "non-preferred" division than not play at all. The lack of players mostly affects black-box, which inherently needs more people to function.

With FFB being introduced recently, there is a big difference in how Ranked and Black-box function from a usability perspective. It's significantly easier to set up a Black-box match at this point than it is in Ranked. Even after Ranked is migrated, it's still more complex simply because you have to find an opponent, and agree where to play (proxy + game name). This latter problem is something I am working on improving (nothing to show officially yet though).

Merging the divisions

A number of people have suggested to merge the divisions into one. The reasoning behind this is to try to get the "best of both worlds". The way I see it, merging these two divisions would completely destroy the point of the black-box. The two different types of competitiveness I outlined above are simply not compatible and one of them would die (hint: it would be the open ranked way that would survive). Inherently, removing a division while they're both relatively active is nothing I intend to do. Sure, Ranked is currently vastly under-played, but I believe that's mainly because people want to play LRB6 rather than LRB4. Once I can migrate Ranked as well, I will continue to monitor the number of games played and go from there. The migration to a new client is probably the most complex change that I've done on the site over the years and I really don't want to do other fundamental changes if I don't have to.

Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
Rate this entry
Posted by Calthor on 2011-02-04 14:34:14
Pretty much exactly what I think, so good to know.

(Only thing is that I would like to see a unified tournament scene. I think the FUMBBL Cup has shown us that it is possible and fun.)
Posted by fabik on 2011-02-04 14:44:42
Black box will Kill (R).

You can find an even match, can't chose your opponent, can find a match quite everytime.

I think that merging will be the endo of the story.
Posted by maznaz on 2011-02-04 14:51:52
Get off the fence and admit R was a mistake and B is the way forward :)

Just kidding, a bit.

Simple merge R and L, remove CR and keep big fun tournaments in R/L along with silly leagues.

Make teams play a certain number of open games if they have taken part in a league or tournament with special rules before they can take part in one without.

Keep B as the only "ranked" division and base the competition around that, not tournaments.

Job done.
Posted by freak_in_a_frock on 2011-02-04 14:53:13
That's it in a nutshell.

The problem is people want more games in the division they like and they don't like to feel threatened about that division. We all know that when one division increases in popularity another division suffers, and nobody wants 'thier' division to be the one that suffers.

Definately think joint majors are a good thing though, and seperate minors for each division of course.
Posted by Carnis on 2011-02-04 14:59:20
The site desperately needs an open play option, if not for competitiveness then at least for player run leagues, player run events etc. I find the argument about which is more competetive a bit irrelevant on the whole. All in all though, I do not think the ability to pick games that are fair is a part of being a good 'competetive' coach. It is however, a part of being able to cultivate a strong team for R tournaments.

Scheduler based gaming as the basis of the site is easier for me, and I believe for most people with a even slightly busier lifes. Go online, you got a game within 5mins. I remember even in the busier times, my ogres would often wait over an hour to get a game, ofc ogres are a bit exceptional in that sense so not a good example ,).

Bigger issue than any competitiviness or not is the too many divisions part. I'd really merge R & L, I dont see why they need to be separate. I'd consider merging academy too, but that's not strictly necessary of course. Academy merging would serve the new players in that they would not have to retire their training teams but could try to start playing on from then. Having 6? divisions is very confusing for sure. Leagues can surely be run within the R or Open environment without much extra coding needed.
Posted by Warmaster on 2011-02-04 15:05:41
When it comes to stupidity, FUMBBL has the copyright and ownership sewn up! Do you seriously think your going to make this website flourish by forcing new players into playing a division that will likely pit them against killer teams run by complete wankers who care nothing for actual ball play over MB+claw+pile on??? Your kidding yourself and by making ranked obsolete, you will lose a horde of coaches and then you will be stuck with a B div full of bash bash bash.
I have to laugh when i see ppl say B isn't full of bash teams then look at the races list for the B division. When some of you enter the debate regarding bashing in B, do you kind of run in with your hands over your eyes shouting "if i can't see it that means it isn't there"...?
Posted by fabik on 2011-02-04 15:26:38
I think that no one wants the scenario you painted, but what i think is that we don't need two similar categories.

R=B with different ruleset.

What we need is a Unranked blackbox.
Posted by Calcium on 2011-02-04 15:42:09
Most coaches (i.e. me) are happy to play R and B and can adapt to each division accordingly, although it's no secret that I swing more towards B. I think being put into 'Team R' or 'Team B' happens too much here, and is a bit daft. Your best comment was *rather play a match in a "non-preferred" division than not play at all*

I fear that despite your hope that B will be reasonably supported once R is switched over, it will become as dead as it was pre FFB.

Fingers crossed it remains playable, as well as seeing R thrive again.
Posted by Purplegoo on 2011-02-04 15:46:47
I'd love to think this topic will go away now...

But it won't! :)
Posted by Jester_Spirit on 2011-02-04 15:54:29
I don't care if it is R or B which has a ranking, simply because I don't care much about ranking anyway. If you'd ask me which system I'd suggest for a ranked division it would be the Box. Though I'd prefer the two divisions to be treated equal with a merged tournament scene of which none has to be one of the majors of the respective divisions.
Maybe make an "Open Ranking", "Box Ranking" and a combined Coach Ranking to start with?
Posted by Grod on 2011-02-04 15:57:07

I agree that the migration should just take place, keeping everything the same. If there is a problem down the track due to inactivity, that is the time to "fix" things.

I have also suggested in the past ways of merging divisions etc, but I am prepared to admit that in the end, it is probably a bit like "Google Wave" - looks good in theory, but too complicated to be actually successful.

The way you have done it at the moment is probably the best, or close to it.

Bring on FFB Ranked!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nice work Christer.
Posted by Qaz on 2011-02-04 15:59:59
Thank you for the always insightful blog entry about the subject.
I swing more to B because I dont have to think about getting the game. But most of all I just want to play my old teams. So I might stay in R when it opens up again.
I do hope That we can have all the divisions running with plenty of games in each.
Posted by Warmaster on 2011-02-04 16:01:20
What confuses me the most with the FUMMBL community is why the f**k is it even such a big discussion??? Have both divisions and so anyone who wants to actually decide for themselves which division they wish to play can do so!! Its a new fangled approach to the world i know but letting each human being decide what division they wish to play in would be appreciated.
Posted by Astarael on 2011-02-04 16:06:34
Most Competitive...

Out and out it's [B]. The inability to choose your match ups means you have to cater for more eventualities, develop many different strategies and there's no 'easy' games.

With [R] sometimes the main challenge is getting a game (Khemri coaches can ya hear me :P). Whilst it's a competitive division, the ability to choose an easier game if your team is not where you want it diminishes how truly difficult it is to get a well formed team.

Now don't get me wrong, I'll be mostly be playing in [R] when it migrates, I find it a more fun division simply because of the option to get an easier game when my team needs rebuilt. (Also all my teams are in [R] except the one [B] team made to pass the time).

Bashers in [B] and pickers in [R]...

I'm pretty sure there's almost as much of a ratio of bashers in [R] it's just people arn't forced to play them. That answers that one :D

Also picking doesn't necessarily mean always playing 400TV down or whatever, it has different meanings for different people. We all choose our games in [R] one way or another. (Ok there's some 'we accept all challenges' teams, fair play to them)

Ease of Getting Games...

Once [R] is transferred I think this will largely even out, especially at the quieter times of day/night. In [R] you just need 2 coaches wanting to play after all, [B] needs 8. [R] is really easy to get games if your standards for a game are low, obviously the higher standards you have the harder to get a game it is. [B] is purely the coach number issue. I see no problems in the future of getting games within 30-60mins in either division.



No. Choice is brilliant. Both divisions have their merits and both get played, I'm with Christer on this one. Keep em going whilst there is demand. Allowing both for majors, I'm all for that though :) (although I'd perhaps make some exlusive B minors as [R] gets SMACKs etc. [obviously this may not be feasible depending on staff load/the way [B] works but it's an idea at least]).

PS: Not sure Fumbbl can handle sensible and logical posts like yours Christer, the site needs moar pie :D
Posted by Flix on 2011-02-04 16:45:11
Thank you very much for your blog,

But my comments:

Tournaments ist what i care about.

Without Tournaments Ranked is senceless
Without Tournaments Blackbox is just a scheduler

Tournaments need a very huge number of teams and coaches.

Posted by Arktoris on 2011-02-04 17:01:01
Sounds like an excellent plan Christer.
Posted by Ehlers on 2011-02-04 17:17:14
- Which division is the "best" (most competitive)
I agree on this one. They are both competitive and none is better than the other one. Just personal choices.

- Over-abundance of bashers in B and cherry pickers in R
I agree with you on this one too

- Ease of getting games (this includes the problems that occur when there aren't enough active players in a division)
I remember first joining and playing R. Always easy to get games. Took a few mins to 10mins which I can live with. But as the years went by, it got harder to get games. In the start I was not happy that Black Box got introduced because it took coaches and teams away from R. Made it harder to find games and also let to more picking than ever. Why do we need the discussion someone ask, well I don’t want two wasteland divisions to appear. If we assume that a 50% split will happen when R comes live, then I do fear for if I will still play BB if I cant get a game within reasonable time. I see at max around 100coaches on FUMBBL at times. I see around 20-6 coaches activating in the box every 15mins. I am not against or for R, but when R comes I fear that the box won’t work as smoothly as it does now. Why I raise my concern now.

- Merging the divisions
Deleting, merging or change the divisions structure, I don’t care just as long as it is easy to get find a game. The decreases of players are not necessary the different division fault in the LRB4 time when cyrainde game came out, but merely that they used LRB4 rules and players wanted to play LRB6 or wait for it to come to FUMBBL. But by splitting and scattering the player base out into “many” different divisions is my concern and I hope you (Christer) has already taking into account what could be done in order to prevent players leaving FUMBBL when R comes and IF it might split the player base and make the player pool decrease in each division.
Posted by Timlagor on 2011-02-04 17:19:10
Is that "hint: it would be the open ranked way that would survive" a prediction of the consequences of putting the scheduler in R while still allowing people to go outside it or an indication of actions you would take?

B seems unambiguously more competitive than R to me. LEAGUE is where I go for actual competition though.
I don't see the ability to pick an easy match as an interesting or useful coaching qualification or a desirable quality: if everyone went to R for that I could see some slight merit in it but those people are really competing to 'prey' on the more casual coaches who wandered in because R is the 'default' division, rather than facing each other directly ...picking the opponent should not outweigh the way you actually play your team imo.
The Box isn't perfect either of course and as PC has pointed out it is possible to game the scheduler if you really care and put your mind to it: not only by optimising your team but also by watching who's playing when: not perfect is a long way from R though.

Getting there first seems (from people's comments) to be a significant (not the only one) factor in Ranked's popularity. The FFB change will tilt that at least a bit but some people clearly still have favourite teams in R.

BASHING: One issue that R causes is that is pushes bashers out as people select against them. This leads to R players taking their bashy teams to B and keeping their squishies safely in R: excess* bashyness in B is caused by "R coaches"!

* I'm not really convinced that B is all that much bashier than an arbitrary 'norm' (anyone want to do a comparison of B casualties for various races to those in the big Leagues? -my WIL rats sure see regular bloodbaths!) but R is definitely much much softer if you pick your games to make it so. Coaches who go out of their way to kill my pixels are also not common in my experience. Again if you've played a lot in R and got used to avoiding them altogether you're bound to find it tougher. I don't really know how prevalent the doding of bashy teams in R is but I definitely had the impression that LRB4 claws made it nigh-impossible to get a game (which once again reduces the unmber of 'bashing' teams even trying to get a game in R).

I don't see any real difference between R and L at present (there could be some if Leagues were able to change rules for their teams -as opposed to just adding extra restrictions: my understanding is that competition prizes are strictly the preserve of the official tournaments).
I'd be interested to know what Christer (and admins) think is the big difference there.

Abolishing B would make me play more L but certainly not as much R as I play B (though I might play occasionally). R and L are the obvious merger to my mind and I'd appreciate* being able to get a game with an odd L team between seasons in the more open Leagues (OCCS, Warlock etc).
* In theory: I'm probably just gonna play in the Box and WIL for the forseeable future

I'd be entirely happy to see R disappear into L but I don't expect it to happen and for all the length of this comment am not overly excercised by the notion.
I don't see any real merit in adding the Box scheduler to R though I'd keep playing it if that's where it was -better than just losing B altogether at least.
There are tweaks to the way B works I'd like too but that's another discussion that's been done at length :)

Posted by maysrill on 2011-02-04 17:24:46
Sounds good to me. Why complicate things. Leave it as is and migrate to FFB as it seems prudent based on performance to-date.
Posted by Frankenstein on 2011-02-04 17:40:39
While I prefer [B] and still see why an open division is important, I'd like to mention that the most thrilling, exciting and COMPETITIVE part of Blood Bowl are leagues and tournaments.

Therefore, I'd suggest to implement SMACKs for [B] as well.

Incidentally, I have always considered [B] as the perfect basis for [T] (tournament division).
Posted by PainState on 2011-02-04 17:52:30
Thanks for the blog Christer.

Merge the Ranked majors with the Box...allow both divs to compete..This will allow all the coaches who like playing in majors to have the best chance to have larger and more fun tournaments.

Keep B and R seperate.

that would appeal to coaches who want "pure" seperation.

Only and only if there are problems with lack of coaches looking for matches in a Div is that subject looked at and addressed....Claiming the box will immediatly die off once the ranked conversion happens is pointless at this time.
Posted by Cavetroll on 2011-02-04 18:01:31
Thank you for sharing your ideas, Christer. Also, thank you to yourself and the admins who do a good job of keeping this site fun.

I thought I would share that I never played Blackbox in LRB 4, but I'm playing it in LRB 6/CRP. Initially this was only because it was the only LRB 6 game in town, but now I very much enjoy it and will continue playing both [B] and [R] when Ranked gets converted. I'm sure I'm not the only reluctant [B] convert out there, and for those who are waiting for Ranked to be converted to LRB 6 my advice is - don't wait. Try LRB 6 in Blackbox now, and if you still don't like it you can go back to Ranked when it gets converted. But you might like it :)
Posted by Timlagor on 2011-02-04 18:20:30
Another thought on bashing: are people seeing bashing everywhere because they primarily play at high TR (now TV) where it's harder to sfoter teams to reach and survive/thrive? -ie more an indication of people's (in)ability to reach that level than their willingness to play softer teams.
Posted by Garion on 2011-02-04 18:21:05
I agree with a lot of what you say. I don't buy the whole black box is bashy and ranked is for pickers either. But I do think B should remain the main division purely because of how quick it is to get a game. Then merge Ranked in to L, so people can still play in an open league in L or join groups with those teams as well. The only difference there would be is the games in L wouldnt count towards your CR. So what is really being lost?

Im sure people will say Ranked is where wall the majors are etc.. but they could all be moved across to B. The teams currently in R is the only problem I could see with this solution because some people wouldnt want them joining B and others would be upset that there teams were no longer in the competative division, I have some teams I really like in ranked but I would be more than happy to get rid of them if this happened.

Put simply black box is amazing because how quickly you get games and the mystery of not knowing who you are playing with or against.
Posted by Cloggy on 2011-02-04 19:34:04
It's a sad day for this community when the bitching between coaches about where and how people like to enjoy their hobby has to provoke the management into a blog like this.

Best division: there is no best division. Each has it's own pro's and cons

Most competitive division: Box for me. You're forced to build a team to take all comers and every game is a final in itself.

Most fun division: Ranked for me, because I get to do my silly projects, hunt for awards and play silly teams. Besides that, I like to decide for myself what type of game I'm in the mood for. Sometimes I go to war, sometimes I want to elfball. Depends on the mood, and there's no mood factor in the Box scheduler.

Bashers and pickers: Will never be solved. What C said.

Ease of getting games: has never been a problem for me in R, and I fully expect it will not be problem after we migrate.

Merging divisions: I have never seen the point of a separate division for the scheduler. I don't agree however that now that the divisions are settled another change would be a good idea. Merging R into L is a complete nonsense idea. The divisions have always been very different, more different in fact than R and B. Propagating a merge between R and L as a counter argument to merging R and B is just another example of the total disrespect some people around here have for other people's enjoyment of the game.
Posted by Jeffro on 2011-02-04 21:46:38
There is no best. The fact that there's a choice caters to different opinions and preferences. Keep each division as such...

Now as far as TOURNAMENTS... I think they can be combined. FUMBBL does enough to keep people from "cheating" and team building in Ranked and it's just not possible in the Box. If there were separate tournaments for each division and then a couple that combined the two, I think that's the best. To have folks who play mainly Box debate with folks who play mainly Ranked about which division is more "competetive" is part of the fun. It keeps discussions going endlessly... mainly because there is no right answer :)

This site is run very well - and that stems from folks that give a good deal of thought to each decision made about the structure. Thanks to all that do just that!
Posted by Ballcrusher on 2011-02-04 22:37:02
As long as it is quick and easy to get a nice bloody blood bowl game, then both B or R are fine by me.

Just don't forget the most important division: League!!! Can't wait to see what improvements you guys are planning when L goes FFB :)
Posted by RandomOracle on 2011-02-04 22:55:08
I honestly don't see who would think that being a good picker correlates to being a good coach. The ability to sweet-talk or pester people into lopsided matches has nothing to do with how well you play Blood Bowl. From what I remember, that's what faction was like at some point: the winners were the ones who had a circle of friends in F1 that they could get games against. I'd hardly call that competitive.
Posted by Fela on 2011-02-04 23:03:58
The most important thing would be, if you can wait as long as you can possibly justify before porting [R] to FFB. That's IMO the only way you can collect unbiased data on the 'bashyness' of the box, before it is spoiled by coaches playing only bashers in [B] because they can pick matches for their softer teams elsewhere.
Posted by SillySod on 2011-02-05 00:11:06
The problem with the current system is that the divisions dont sit on a level playing field - scheduler teams dont get to take part in the cool majors. Blackbox majors arent a great substitute.... because everyone knows they're a substitute for the real thing :)
Posted by TheCount on 2011-02-05 10:53:29
As an admin i know the big number of problems in ranked about picking/teambuildung/arranged games. Yes i liked playing in ranked and yes i really enjoy the box.

My personal vote is to promote B to the Major division, cause it is the most competetive: Lets have a look over to other online games. In the most cases there is a random opponent selector for game laddersno or things like this. Surely you are able to play vs. an opponent you want to play, but then it doesnt count for the ladder/official tournaments.
Ranked should stay beside blackbox, but the BIG and really honorable tournaments should be played in blackbox only.

I look forward to see League division moved to LRB6 second and Ranked third.
Posted by studmandudebro on 2011-02-05 14:27:58
also there needs to be a displayed black box win rating (either optional or not?)

"I honestly don't see who would think that being a good picker correlates to being a good coach. The ability to sweet-talk or pester people into lopsided matches has nothing to do with how well you play Blood Bowl. From what I remember, that's what faction was like at some point: the winners were the ones who had a circle of friends in F1 that they could get games against. I'd hardly call that competitive."

Is pretty much the most accurate post
Posted by studmandudebro on 2011-02-05 14:30:32
I'd even say that lrb4 could support an open division MUCH better than lrb6. Now that aging is gone and SO many of the skills function in a ROCK/PAPER/SCISSORS way black box is the only one that makes sense as the competitive division.
Posted by SzieberthAdam on 2011-02-08 10:24:30
Thanks for this blog Christer!

One remark: With the journeymen system team rebuld became much easier. Consider that guys.

Posted by gandresch on 2011-02-10 12:53:26
For me at this point, there is a clear answer to the question:
BlackBox is much more competitive than Ranked is.

This results in a single argument: The inducements aren't fully implemented.
I won games on tabletop against teams, that had more than double the amount of tv than my team had at this point. If a 280 team plays against a 120, which will never happen in BlackBox, then you are never able to spend all the money on useful inducements, because the cards are missing.
If the inducements are added to the client, then Ranked has a lot more of a competitive nature, because you are able to play more uneven matches and try to win those, which is not possible with BlackBox.
Posted by BlizzBirne on 2011-05-13 15:07:21
you wrote "Once I can migrate Ranked as well, I will continue to monitor the number of games played and go from there. " ... and I wonder what your conclusion on this is. I just started knowing FUMBBL two weeks ago and haven't played in the last 15 years until then. Now I am back to it and enjoy the online possibilities that are provided here, in a fairly professional manner, if I may add that.
I have been given the advice to start in either blackbox or ranked - and i tried both so far, about to the same extent.
i really like the idea in blackbox that you get random opponents and noone can be picky. i only once had a really unbalanced match scheduled yet. also, as a side remark, i believe blackbox is fantastic for newcomers simply because you can focus on other things (and there are plenty to consider) than the opponent selection.

all in all, both systems have their own beauty, and i wouldn't see a reason to stop any of them, since both are attractive. if you just want to play and are not picky, blackbox guarantees you to find an opponent rather easily and fast. if you are more experienced, the freedom of choice in ranked allows you to test special strategies against specific opponents and therefore characteristic team builds. different things really, i like both. :-)

thumbs up for all your engagement.