How Do I Host a Tournament?


I'm going to do a basic outline on tournament hosting here. This is just meant to be a general formulation that explains the choices available to you as a Tournament Director (TD), for more pointed questions you are better off asking either me or someone with hosting experience. You can generally find who has hosting experience by reviewing the threads in this subforum and seeing who authors them.

A lot of tournament design, like writing anything, can go back and forth and there is no real ironclad way of going through the motions. I personally have an easier time being creative once some basic structure already exists, so that's how I'll give out my advice here.

Some Fundamental Rules:

  • A tournament should aim to have any single player play around 12-15 games in a day.
  • A tournament should aim to take no more than 6 or 7 hours in a single day.

Step 1) Choosing a Tournament Structure

There are 4 basic tournament formats.

Single Elimination

This tournament format is typically done for competitive events where players are sorted by skill prior to the tournament event. For example, your performance in the LotS group stage determines your seeding in the single elimination bracket for day 2 and 3 of the tournament. Likewise, a common standard is to seed players by their 1v1 rating in a 1v1 tournament.

Biggest Strengths: This format is concise and allows for competitive series, mainly BO3s, to happen in a single day. When you control for player seeding, this format also allows you to control for game variance between players by making them play several games against one another. If you want to see who is truly the better player of two individuals, this is the only real way to do it in the timeframe of a single day.

Biggest issue: The biggest issue with single elimination is that you face the cost of discouraging players that feel they would have no chance of winning the event if you seed for a competitive tournament. If you do not use seeding or some other meritocratic form of organizing players, you will upset competent players because they might get knocked out with 2 top 4 favorites having to face one another in the first round.

You can solve the former problem by doing rating restricted tournaments. For instance, a 400 rating difference between players results in the lower rated player having approximately a 5% win chance. Once rating differences get beyond this, the games tend to turn into little more than a formality.

The latter can only really be solved by seeding or by choosing a different tournament format.

Double Elimination

This tournament format tends to be used for more casual events as it provides a way to ignore the concerns of seeding that more competent players have by having a "2nd chance" bottom bracket. It takes losing at least 2 series to be knocked out. The format also tends to have an additional match to determine the final winner in the case that the winner of the top bracket beats the winner of the top bracket. The existence of this extra game in the case of a loss is the extra security the winner of the top bracket gets for never losing a series.

Biggest Strengths: As mentioned above, the existence of the bottom bracket provides extra security in the absence of seeding. In addition, the loser bracket also motivates players that are not at the highest tier as they could still try and face people closer to their level in the bottom bracket and see how far they could make it against these players that are closer to their level. It generally encourages people to play on when there is a lot of rating variance.

Biggest Weaknesses: Double Elimination suffers from the fact it needs to have two brackets running concurrently, which doubles the chances of bracket stagnation. I define bracket stagnation as the time periods where players are incapable of having a game due to the fact that their opponents are still in series preceding theirs. Often this means that the TD needs to juggle and give the bottom bracket more simple maps and the top bracket more complicated maps in order to account for the fact that the bottom bracket can only begin after a series of the top bracket is over. BO3 with double elimination is essentially impossible unless there are 8 or fewer players, which significantly influences the competitive use of the format.

Round Robin

This is a format that has each player face each other player in a rotation. This is best utilized when there is minimal variance in capability between players and you have an interest in deciding who precisely ranks where. In addition, it is the best way to reach the 12-15 game total when there are few players.

Biggest Strengths: The strength here comes from the ability to let everyone face everyone else. You get a definitive placement of individuals based on their overall performance.

Biggest Weaknesses: Well, just as the strength rises from the ability to face everyone else, so does the weakness. This format can result in "pointless games" in instances where precise position is irrelevant. For example, if only 2 players pass on in a 5 player round robin, once you are no longer a contender it is pointless to put effort into the games. In addition, the series can quickly get out of hand with games so make sure you stick to keeping players to 12-15 games at max.

Finally, there is the problem of tiebreakers. There are a lot of rules attached to challonge for breaking ties, but I'll just attach my system here. Generally, you want to minimize the need for "tiebreaker games" as much as possible as it adds additional, unforeseen games on players and extends the tournament.

Tiebreaker System:

  • Utilize total wins against the opponent(s) you are tied with.
  • Then utilize total point differentials. Essentially if someone won a series 2-0, they will gain 2 point score differential in the tournament. If they win 2-1, they only get 1. If you have more total points across all of your games than the person you tied, you rank higher than them.
  • If there is still some sort of tie left, then it will be determined by [insert qualification]. I would say use ladder rating. You could also do tiebreaker games here, but ONLY in the situation of a tie between 2 individuals. Larger tiebreaker series could result in situations where A beats B who beats C and C beats A resulting in another cycle of tiebreakers. Just don't do it.

Swiss Tourney

This tournament is a refinement of the Round Robin system where less rounds need to take place and where players are categorized in real time based on their performance during the tournament.

Biggest Strengths: Basically, take the weaknesses of Round Robin and put them here. The tournament can handle an 8 player format in 3 rounds rather than the 7 rounds of Round Robin. It eliminates the "pointless games" by categorizing players based on their current performance.

Biggest Weaknesses: Now, look at the strengths of Round Robin. If you want to get a precise rating of individuals, this isn't going to carry the same uncontroversial categorization that Round Robin brings. If you are more focused on a few select positions, then this tournament is certainly superior. Of course, if you want a Round Robin format with BO3 or BO5, a Swiss Style format is going to be more conducive to it when there are a larger quantity of players.

Also, be sure to still have a tiebreaker system in place or use the automated challonge one. But if you do, make sure you understand how it breaks ties.

Step 2) Choosing a Time

Now that that huge segment is over, let's look at something much easier. FAF tournaments happen on the weekends because it's when people have the most freetime to both play and watch. During any generic week, FAF peaks on Saturdays at around 16:00-18:00 utc.

So usually tournaments happen a few hours before that at 14:00-15:00 UTC as it allows tournaments to ride that wave of players that want to spend their freetime on FAF. It also allows tournaments to generally end late evening of Saturday, which is manageable for the largely young adult playerbase of the game that play in tournaments.

When you're picking a date, PLEASE talk to me before doing anything definitive. I generally want to avoid situations of multiple tournaments happening at the same time.

Step 3) Choosing a Rating Level

When it comes to tournaments, most activity tends to hover around the 1500+ mark. These tend to be the people invested enough into the game to actually read the forums and keep track of tournaments. While you can make tournaments for lower rated groups, I would not go below 1000+. Lower rated players have an extremely large attrition rate between signup and showing up while also not really having as large of an interest in devoting a weekend day to the game.

If you go lower than 1000+, make sure you have fished for interest somewhere (a community discord, a clan, whatever) before making a post.

Step 4) Choosing a Reward

Rewards for tournaments typically come in the form of two things: avatars and money. To get an avatar rewarded you can either make a new one or select one from the current catalogue.

To make your own, contact me to approve it. It should be a 40x20 file and made and approved prior to being offered as an award.

To select a premade one, review the list here and contact me about using one.

For funds, you can contact me about using FAF funds for a tournament or simply offer some yourself. Allowances are on a case-by-case basis.

Step 5) Choosing Maps

This stuff mostly comes down to your decisions in step 1. Need games to go faster? Have more 5x5. Need games to go longer? Have more 20x20s. Have a weaker player pool? Minimize 20x20s. Have a stronger one? Include more.

Generally I would recommend following the distribution you can see in 1v1 and 2v2 map pools. The standard I use for LotS is 4 5x5, 6 10x10, and 5 20x20s.

Step 6) Choosing Coverage

I can work with you to find somebody interested in livecasting your event, typically I try to make sure every tournament that covers these guidelines is covered. This coverage may happen on FAFLive or on personal streams, it depends on a variety of circumstances that aren't worth going into here. I would heavily recommend working with me on this step, however, as I think it's one of the most important aspects for tournaments.

Step 7) Tournament Setup

A lot of minor stuff falls under here. Mainly, set up an irc room which players can join via the /join command. This allows you to keep track with game results and player questions in a contained environment.

In addition, make sure you understand how challonge works. The big thing is that you MUST allow faftd admin access to your tournament so that it shows up in the client tournament tab. If you have no idea how to do that, visit here.

An Outline

Tournament #413
Tournament Dates: x/x at 15:00 UTC
Tournament Director: FAFTD

Challonge: blahblahlink
IRC: #Tourney413

Money, avatars per placement

Tournament Format:
This tournament will be a Single Elimination with BO3s for each round. The tournament will be open to everyone and seeded by the top 16 to sign up. Players will choose the maps to play in their BO3 based on the pool provided below. The top seed gets the first map pick, the bottom gets the 2nd, and they veto down to 1 map for their tiebreaker game.

Map Pool:
4 5x5s:
6 10x10s:
5 20x20s:

Players Signed up: