Over the past few years, we’ve made some changes to how TOPL works to try to keep league nights moving, fun, and competitive. Nobody wants to spend their Monday night waiting to play pinball, they’d rather be playing, so we’ve done things like put more games into league rotations, get rid of the high score standings, and introduce the handicap system to try to keep things interesting. The other thing we’ve experimented with is giving people choice of games, which unfortunately has only been possible when there are no groups of three players, since we need median scores for those groups. We looked at a system where we could use “lifetime medians” of a game, but that doesn’t account for new games, code changes, physical game changes, etc, so it’s not exactly bulletproof. Then we started looking at the new IFPA system for match play groups (which is similar to Pinburgh scoring), where a 4 player group gets 7-5-3-1, and a 3 player group gets 7-4-1.
The key to this system is that the expected value for a match, or the average score, is the same for a 4p vs 3p group (in this case, 4 points). Now you might think that 3p groups are “unfair”, since coming in 2nd on a 3p game only gets you 4 points instead of 5, and coming in 3rd gets you 1 instead of 3, but over an entire season it does work out virtually identically. To demonstrate this, Joe at PAPA (who developed the league manager software that we use) has generously set up a test site, and imported the data from the last two seasons, so you can check out the winter 2017 results using both the old and new systems, as well as the summer 2017 results (old and new). The final season standings end up almost identical in both cases. There are a couple of discrepancies where players were tied before, and become untied with the new scores, and vice versa, but the overall integrity of the season results is maintained.
The plan going forward is to adopt this new system for the Winter 2018 season. Under these new rules, groups will be allowed to choose their own games every week. We’ll still seed players based on their previous week’s scores, but now the player who is listed as p1 gets to choose the game. For 3p groups, the player in last place going into game 4 gets a second choice. If 2 players are tied for last in a 3p group going into game 4, then the player in the lead gets choice. As for game choice, any game at a location can be chosen by any player at any time, provided it hasn’t already been identified by either the host or an SLO as ineligible for league play (usually due to a known malfunction). These will be announced/posted (and possibly turned off) at the beginning of a league night. Players should use their own judgment in choosing whether to wait for a game to become available. In general, if something is being played, and you can tell it’s going to take a while, you can either choose a different game, or let another player take their pick and come back to your choice later. We’re all adults here, and this is a friendly league, so we hope things work out. If a group can’t agree on a course of action for a game choice though, an SLO will make a ruling on which game to play. If this becomes problematic, new rules may be introduced to deal with the situations. In the event of a major malfunction on a game that requires it to be changed out, the player who chose the game gets the choice of replacement.
Hopefully, this new change helps keep TOPL more fun and competitive, and ends up with less waiting and more playing.