Name: peterg
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 644
Quake and deathmatch in general has a problem, we lack players and often our communities are small and/or dwindling. In communities such as these with hundreds of players, or even less, it is hard to have enough clans form for proper competition. Clans work best when you have hundreds of them competing. Quake in the past had the numbers for a healthy clan scene but that time is long gone. When there are only 8 or 20 or even 30 clans there are usually big gaps in skill. Clans have served us well in the past but in the future clans are no longer going to be the best way to organize competitions and form teams, draft leagues are. Clans lack any regulation and are prone to massively stacked teams and anti-competitive behavior such as hoarding players to deny them to your competition. North America I feel suffers more from stacked clans as we lack the natural barriers present in Europe such as different languages and culture. As time goes on however you see more and more multinational super clans in Europe as well.

A simple function of a draft goes such a long way to balance out teams for more competitive and engaging leagues. Blow out games are bad for our communities and stop people from playing. Yes, these games are hardcore, and people need to suck it up, but at a certain point we need to realize stacked clans are rigging the outcome. In pro sports money and rules attempt to stop all-star teams from forming. Yet in Quake all-star teams can form without penalty; indeed all-star teams are rewarded with dominating their competition. The only penalty is an indirect one which is hard to quantify, hurting our communities by making people lose interest and stop playing from being unable to ever compete. It takes no great Quake skills to decide to put all the best players on one team. It takes great skills to win with a draft team that is not ideal and has problems to overcome to win. A draft league is closer to real sports in that you have a team of mixed skill players who need to work their best to win, not a top team of all-stars without weaknesses. I greatly enjoy watching two top teams battle it out in Quake but there is also a magic in watching closely matched draft teams compete, even if not everyone on each team is a top player. In a draft league you need to overcome your weaknesses as a team much more so than the best Quake clans have ever had to do. It is possible to make many more draft teams that can compete vs one another than top Quake clans filled to the brim with talent.

Other than more fair competition draft leagues have other benefits over clans. Draft leagues mix players of all skill levels together so everyone can learn from one another. Inclusiveness is almost inherent since every team can have their top player, average players and newbies yet still hang with all the other draft teams who feature similarly mixed skill lineups. In a clan environment it is wise to exclude average players and newbies from your team as they bring down your competitive edge. Clans can still have a farm team they are training but these players will often not get play time in a real match. Clans also at times over recruit to deny talent to the competition. Every great player you can bench on your own clan furthers the zero sum game of limited talent to favor your own team. In the past there have been clans with lineups 2-3 rosters deep which could still dominate the second best team. This is no error but a deliberate strategy to win by metagaming politics and ensuring the competition has no chance before the game is even played. Is this fun? Is this Quake? I do not see this as a positive in any way but it has happened time and time again in various Quake communities. Draft leagues are closer to pure competition often with small set limits on teams which go much further to promote more activity and less bench riding (though it still occurs). There is no purpose to allowing a draft team to have 20 players as you need only 4 to play TDM.

The players who most often resist draft leagues are the ones at the top. Guys who are in the best clans do not like having to play fair and break up their clans. I can understand this especially since by the old unspoken rules clans and politics to form the best team was how competition worked. Yet there is a better way and it's past time we realized this. A community such as EU QW is currently struggling because they cannot seem to grasp they need to move beyond clans. There is a lot to be said for having clans that have been together for many years, some more than a decade, but at the same time this can be a strong negative as a top team never goes away and usually just gets better with time. A draft league changes season to season and if one season you have a bad team you get a chance at a fresh start next season. Clans are much more set, and even with all the clan hopping that occurs, typically clans remain with the same players for months or years at a time greatly limiting dynamic interaction between different players. Clans and clan competitions need not disappear but I think our communities should focus on draft leagues as time goes on. It took the NA QW community being dead for roughly 6 years for us to realize this. Now we are almost back to activity levels not seen since 2005 and the reason for this is the great success of the TDM draft league. It is almost unheard of for an old game such as QW to experience such a comeback yet it is happening. I believe TDM and team modes are the core of any community, duel lacks a strong social element. We should go out of our way to support a draft league which can capture the interest and involve players of all skills in teamplay.

Draft leagues are not without problems either but I have found them to be much fairer and more engaging overall. There will always be winners and losers in any competition. A draft league is not going to magically make all teams have a .500 record and every match be within 1 frag. If the draft is captain based, captains are the critical element and need to make wise draft choices or risk tanking their team. Leadership of draft teams can be hard when you have to deal with players of all skill levels and some of whom are not as dedicated as others are. Teams almost always need extra players such as a TDM 4v4 competition requiring 5-7 players per draft team. This can still result in the weaker players being benched but I've seen time and time again captains reaching a gentleman's agreement and playing their weaker players on both teams. By numbers alone the weaker players have a much better chance to play in a draft league and be involved as typically scheduling makes it impossible to always ensure your top lineup is around. Quake is what we do for fun, very few of us do this as a living and we should recognize it is best when everyone can be involved at all skill levels in team competitions. I can get frustrated when playing with draft team mates who lack my skills but I realize on the whole it is a positive thing and I can help them learn how to play properly. I also know each team is dealing with this same issue. Even if I end up on a bad draft team there is always next season and a fresh start awaiting me. Draft leagues remain competitive at their core yet each draft team has weaknesses typically not seen in a top clan. In many cases teamplay is required to work around these weaknesses and each team has to approach this and seek out exploiting the other teams weakness as well. Draft leagues are not worse than top clan competitions but different and on the whole offer much more player involvement and possibilities for many more competitive teams to form.

It is hard to break with tradition and clans are a huge part of what has made community such a strong element of our game. Yet as time goes on and I've been in various clans (even a few dominating top clans) I've come to realize they are not the best mechanism for team competition, especially in small communities we face today. In the past a division system of skill has done well by placing teams somewhat closely to other skilled teams but a draft league goes further still by breaking up skill on an individual level to distribute across teams. I still join and play with clans from time to time (just quit one actually!) but I support and look forward to draft leagues much more. It is no surprise that leading the way with draft leagues are the smallest most hardcore communities in North America, Doom 2 and QuakeWorld. These games were in dire need of a fix and they have found it in draft leagues. IDL is a ZDaemon (Doom 2) CTF draft league which currently in its 11th season. QW Central TDM draft is now in its second season with more to come. Drop by #idl or #qwcentral on irc.quakenet.org if you want to get involved. I hope to see more draft leagues popping soon, they are the future.