Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hot Topics Round-Up

You would expect that with the return of competitive games and the arrival of the spring season, the quidditch community would have new things to argue about. However, ignited by an official IQA Gameplay announcement, the forums have come alive with several favorite topics as well interesting new ideas and proposals. The QuidKid is here to examine each of these issues from a new angle and lend my own opinions!

Match Structure
Seeker Floor
I've always advocated for a longer seeker floor and was thrilled when I first saw a five minute floor used way back in the finals of 2011's Brotherly Love Cup. The IQA would follow suit, establishing a five minute seeker floor at World Cup V the next month. World Cup VI progressed further, creating a ten minute seeker floor. Still, critical pool play games ended way too early, with snitches returning to the fields before the 15 minute mark too often. It's undeniable that gameplay and the overall spectator experience at a quidditch tournament has grown immensely over the past three years, and I would argue that a large part of the credit goes to the annual five minute increases to the seeker floor. Why would the seeker floor not increase to accommodate more athletic players that execute more complicated gameplay that takes longer to develop between two evenly matched teams? Furthermore, if something (like the annual five-minute seeker floor increase) has been working well, why stop it? A 15 minute seeker floor has worked excellently at two of the biggest tournaments of the year--the Western Regional Championship and Diamond Cup--and hopefully, it will also be used at World Cup VII.

Off Pitch Seeking
In quidditch's earlier years, off pitch seeking was a fun-spirited, accepted part of the game, that was especially fun to explain to quidditch newbies. There have been plenty of thrilling, "Kodak moments" created by the triumphant returns of a successful off pitch seeker, but the cameras have not captured the utter disappointment of the losing team. To the losing team, a game ending off pitch snatch feels as if they have been cheated out of a fair chance to win the game. Not to mention, paid spectators could feel as if they have been cheated out of their money. Quidditch tournaments aren't being held at scenic campuses that resemble Hogwarts anymore like Middlebury and Chestnut Hill, and many campuses and tournament venues can't handle high speed and/or physical chases between a snitch and two seekers off pitch. In my opinion, the snitch should be released on the pitch at the end of the fifteen minute seeker floor. 

Timeouts and Halftime
I wouldn't be entirely opposed to one timeout for each team. It would take a good, assertive head referee to make sure teams weren't exceeding their one-minute time limit and the game could resume in a timely manner. I don't like the idea of a halftime though. Quidditch games are meant to be more or less continuous and while timeouts can provide a quick breather and a chance to talk strategy, a halftime would completely disrupt rhythm and delay tournament schedules further. I've pushed back on the idea of any game stoppages for a while, but I do see that there are benefits for both teams and spectators to allowing one short timeout for each team. 

Tournament Structure
FIFA World Cup Style Bracket
At first I really loved the idea of a FIFA World Cup style bracket for our own IQA World Cup. In FIFA's World Cup, teams advancing from the group stage are slotted into specific, predetermined slots in the knockout stage (bracket play). Pot one teams expected to go undefeated in pool play could prepare for teams they might face in the Round of 32 and the Sweet Sixteen in the weeks leading up to the World Cup. There would be certainty and predictability for the bracket instead of the frenzied 
overnight point differential calculations and anxious waiting. With win-loss records becoming more important, teams would have no reason to run up the score.

But, as I began to think more, I decided the current system of determining bracket play seedings is the best for quidditch. In quidditch's premier event, outscoring opponents by as many points as possible should be fair game. Regional championships are supposed to select the teams who deserve to play on the world stage. At World Cup VI, Texas and UCLA dominated, going into matches looking for a shutout and 100+ points. They executed defense to perfection and scored early and often, earning the top two seeds that ensured that they wouldn't meet before the finals. In a FIFA World Cup style bracket, the bracket's seeding wouldn't reflect the performance of teams besides basic win-loss records. It would have been impossible to distinguish the almighty 4-0 UT squad from Penn State, who also went 4-0 in pool play. With more reliable score reporting and a dedicated staff, issues related to point differential calculations shouldn't be a problem anymore. 

Best of Three Series
Super Bowl/March Madness vs. World Series/NBA Finals/Stanley Cup Playoffs. Quidditch has always taken the side of the NFL Playoffs and the Big Dance before, but with the unpredictability of a game-ending, thirty point swing, single elimination can be, well, maddening. Luckily, at World Cup VI, we didn't have many major games that were clearly won by the lesser team on a snitch grab in a short game. BGSU-Miami comes to mind, but 1) BGSU proved themselves in the later rounds of the tournament and 2) Matt Ziff of Miami admitted that the Hurricanes hadn't taken BGSU seriously enough. World Cup VI bracket play worked perfectly with fun upsets, but very few deserving favorites getting screwed by a quick snatch. Could it all fall apart at World VII? Sure. I can definitely imagine anger and skepticism about how the WCVII bracket plays out. But, until that's a problem, or World Cup finals matches are in snitch range year after year, there's no reason to switch from single elimination brackets at regionals and World Cup.

Alternative Tournament Format
Although it's not a hot topic in the quidditch world right now, I've been thinking a lot about how an alternative tournament format could work for regular, non-IQA run, 16 team tournaments such as Turtle Cup or the upcoming Capitol Cup. The format is based on the Sochi Winter Olympics Women's Ice Hockey Tournament and is designed to facilitate more competition between the top tier teams. It's easiest to explain through an example. 

Say, in a 16 team tournament, the teams are ranked from 1-16 using the IQA standings or a coaches vote or whatever.  The top eight teams are placed into pools A (#1, #4, #5, #8) and B (#2, #3, #6, #7) and the bottom eight teams are placed into pools C and D in the same way. Teams in pools A and B are guaranteed spots in bracket play so they are not penalized for having a tougher pool. However, only the top two teams in pools C and D advance to bracket play, giving the less experienced or lower ranked teams a reason to play hard games and fight for a chance to play the powerhouses. This leaves us with 12 teams. Proceed using a standard NFL Playoffs bracket with the top two teams in pools A and B getting byes in the first round. Being blownout doesn't help any team and winning 150*-0 over a non-World Cup qualifier is really useless, especially for a top-tier team with hopes of getting to the final four at World Cup. I would love to see this tournament format in action, as I think it would produce much more exciting games and interesting results in pool play, while still sustaining a fair bracket.

Other Announcements
Global Games Selection Committee
Thank you to everyone in the Mid-Atlantic who voted for me! Sadly, I was not elected to the Global Games Team USA Selection Committee. I wish the selection committee luck with a very difficult task and I assure you that I'll be back in 2016! #JackthePhan2016

Video Contest
Here are the current standings for my Video/Gamefilm Contest! Alex Wilson and Arkansas have a well deserved lead right now for the $50. I was very happy with Miami's decision to release film from Swamp Cup and Southern Regionals this past weekend, so expect them to climb up the charts in the coming weeks. Also with the Gold Medal Invitational and Southwest Regionals this weekend, I think we're going to be seeing some more great video very soon!
Alex Wilson (Arkansas) 32
Drew Wasikowski (Texas A&M) 9
Peter Lee (Lost Boys) 6

1 comment:

  1. I was going to criticize saying anything positive about Brotherly love cup, but I'll just pass on that and be productive. The real question for time outs would be the restart since call it would simply require possession of the quaffle. I would think that each team would need to restart with all players in their own halves. I would also probably say that you cannot call timeout after the snitch comes on pitch, which if off pitch is eliminated would be easy to time.