Introducing Diplomats, Ambassadors and Star Ambassadors

Player classes used on PlayDiplomacy

Introducing Diplomats, Ambassadors and Star Ambassadors

Postby super_dipsy » 14 Feb 2014, 13:30

Diplomats and Ambassadors are two new player classes that reflect people's proven playing styles in terms of reliability. Ambassadors have proven to have an aversion to surrenders and NMRs, and can create Ambassador-only games if they choose which will only be available to other Ambassadors. Star Ambassador is an honorary title; a Star Ambassador is an Ambassador in terms of formal classes, with the same ability to create/play Ambassador-only games, but has the Star honorific to recognize a high level of communications in games.

This is how the Diplomat / Ambassador implementation works.

The main principle
All players at PlayDiplomacy will be sorted into two player classes, displayed on their Statistics display and also on the forum; Diplomat or Ambassador. New members will always start off as Diplomats, but players with a proven aversion to surrenders and NMRs can quickly attain Ambassador status. When you create a game, Ambassadors (only) will have the option of marking the game ‘Ambassadors Only’. All other games will be available to either group in the same way they are today.


The details
The first point to make is that Friends and Schools game classes are completely outside of the scope of the system. These have no effect on Diplomat or Ambassador classes, and the same is true of shorthanded games. In all the ensuing discussions, ‘games’ should be taken to mean Rank and Norank games with a full complement of players. The second point is that only games played since Feb 2013 are counted; this is because it is only for these games that we have gathered all the necessary data.

Becoming an Ambassador
In order to determine if a Diplomat should become an Ambassador, at the end of each game player records are checked to see if any Diplomats have attained Ambassador status.
• Your last three finished games you played from the start are examined, together with any other intervening activity such as other active games or surrendered pickups
• If you had NO SURRENDERS and no more than 3% NMR rate (excluding Builds), you become an Ambassador

Moving from Ambassador to Diplomat
If an Ambassador surrenders or NMRs, another playing record check is made. In this case, a longer history is taken into account to try to determine if this was a previously reliable player who has had a small blip. The idea is to give a little leeway to allow for an uncharacteristic mistake or real life issue.
• Your last ten finished games you played from the start are examined, together with any other intervening activity such as active games or surrendered pickups
• If you had ANY other Surrenders, you revert to Diplomat
• If you have exceeded 3 NMRs in the last 100 turns (excluding Builds), you revert to Diplomat
• If you do not have ten finished games played from the start, you revert to Diplomat


Star Ambassadors
There is one other related change which is not a formal player class at this time but is instead an honorary title. Ambassadors who are very communicative (in games where communications are allowed of course!) can attain an honorary Star prefix to their Ambassador title. If an Ambassador has played 10 ranked games through from the start (excluding Gunboat/PPO) and has sent an average of 5 messages per turn, then he or she is awarded the Star pefix 8-) . Note that there is no facility at this time for creating games that are only for Star Ambassadors; it is purely an honorary title. But of course if players choose to set up password-protected games where they only give the password to other Star Ambassadors that is perfectly reasonable :) .
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Re: Introducing Diplomats, Ambassadors and Star Ambassadors

Postby super_dipsy » 14 Feb 2014, 13:32

Diplomats and Ambassadors: Q&A

1. Why have the Ambassador and Diplomat player classes been introduced?
At PlayDiplomacy we have many players with a wide range of expectations from the game of Diplomacy. While some players come from the web gaming perspective, where people jump into games, duck out if they are not having fun and find another one, others want to play more seriously and in particular want to try to avoid the game getting unbalanced from players not moving or walking away. The new classes aim to satisfy the full spectrum. Players who want to play against others who are dedicated to full game-long participation can more easily get the sort of game they want, while others can continue to play the game much as they do today. This is achieved by Ambassadors (only) being able to create and play in Ambassador-only games that are only available to other Ambassadors (join, sub, replace).

2.Why only two groups, Diplomats and Ambassadors?
A key aim of the system is to ensure that players can continue to find games they want to play as easily as possible. In order to achieve this, it is important to keep the groupings large enough to ensure games will fill. There is also the problem of addressing new users. The two-group structure is designed to have around 20% of active players in the Ambassador group with the rest being Diplomats; this means new players, and indeed all Diplomats, will have a playing experience not much different from today, but for those interested they can quickly become Ambassadors (well, in three full games ;) ).

3.How did you decide on the qualifications for Diplomats and Ambassadors?
We have been gathering NMR, surrender and communications data for two years now, allowing us to model the groupings. The current qualification choices are not too onerous for players keen to become Ambassadors, while at the same time splitting our players up roughly along the 80/20 lines.

4.Why don’t Ambassadors move back to Diplomats immediately if they surrender or NMR?
The Ambassador class is intended to for players who value and strive to achieve a high level of reliability and commitment to each game. Of course, we all know that mistakes can happen, and real life can interfere. Therefore, if a player has a strong record as an Ambassador, proving to be reliable over a fair number of games, we have built in a small element of forgiveness for an uncharacteristic slip-up.

5.Why did you introduce the Star Ambassador title?
Remember it is purely honorary; it does not confer any game-related benefits on the player, although of course players may want to create private games between other heavy communicators. However, one observation that came up when doing the modelling provides an interesting pointer to those who want to do well at Diplomacy. Almost all our top ten players in the ranking communicate a LOT; indeed, one player sometimes gets through over 1000 messages in a game!

6. Will Star Ambassador become another formal player class?
The main advantage to this would be that it would allow Star Ambassadors to set up games that only other Star Ambassadors could enter, thereby allowing them to play only against other players who communicate a lot. This is a requirement that has been stated before, but the issue as at this time it is not clear that there are enough players who would qualify for the group to make it reasonably easy to get games. If a group is too small, it would be very difficult to fill a game. However, over time we may decide to refine the qualifications for the Star Ambassador group and be able to model a set of requirements that would create a large enough pool.

7. Why include norank games as well as ranked games?
Some players on site do not regard norank games as important, but others do. In fact, the data shows that there are quite a few players who choose not to play under the rating system at all, preferring to play norank games instead. The player classes try to give players an opportunity to play with others who have similar expectations from the gameplay, not about who is prepared to play for points or not.

8. Why exclude Friends, Schools and shorthanded games?
Friends and Schools games are special types of games. In friends games, players will often surrender, rejoin, miss moves because their roommate forcibly restrained them just when they were going to enter their orders, or leave the game for a time to make the dinner. Schools games are for education purposes and should not be taken in the same context as rank or norank games. Shorthanded games are also not suitable for being involved int he process; this is a little more controversial, but the issue is those with very few players and in particular 2-player games. The issue is that these are usually played like Friends games, where people just surrender when they are done. Also, games with only two or three players can be rushed through in a day which could be open to abuse in terms of the class system.

9. What if you have an unavoidable absence that causes you to surrender all your games? Is there any opportunity for appeal?
These sort of real life interrupts are unavoidable. However, it is not really practical to try to sort these understandable situations from ones where a player has just lost interest. While it may seem harsh, if a player does not meet the conditions to retain Ambassadorship then that player will have to get another three full games played to get back into Ambassador class. However, at only three games, this should not take too long.

10. Why are we even bothering to accommodate players who surrender and NMR? Why not just kick them into a dungeon of despair, or off the site completely?
Some keen Diplomacy enthusiasts find surrenders and NMRs as an anathema. They see it as unbalancing the game and introducing an unwanted element of luck. But judging from the statistics a large number of Diplomacy players here at PlayDiplomacy like to play the game in a more web-gaming style where players often drop in or out of games. This may often be when the country is more or less 'done', but it can still have an effect on the pother players. With the new player classes, players who have a proven aversion to NMRs and surrenders can become Ambassadors and then play in Ambassador-only games.

11. Why didn't we get any warning? If I'd known this was coming, I wouldn't have surrendered / NMRed
We decided it was best to do this in one go. Normally we announce these things and give warning, but in this case there was some concern that players might use the 'preparation' time to surrender any games quickly causing a surrender glut so that they do not get rolled in to the new system. That would actually not work too well since the new system does not just check games played since it started, but it was still a definite possibility. As for the point about 'if only I had known I wouldn't have surrendered'...I make no comment! ;)

12. How can I tell what I need to do to be an Ambassador?
Remember, each time a rank/norank game finishes the system will check to see if you meet the criteria. You can see your own game history. You get an email if you surrender, and also if you NMR, so you know when and how often this has happened. But the best advice is if you just play with no surrenders and no NMRs then it will happen once you start and complete three games at the latest.

13. How can I tell what I need to do to be a Star Ambassador?
This is more difficult for players to judge for themselves. It isn't really practical to go through all your games and count your messages. But you will probably have a feel for how much you communicate, and that should guide you. Remember too that it is just an honorary title.

14. Wont the new system make Diplomat games a lot worse?
According to the models that is unlikely. Some Ambassadors may choose to play only Ambassador games from now on, but others will still want to take up Diplomat games if one happens to offer the combination of options and timing that they want. But even within the Diplomat group there are lots of players who do not NMR or Surrender a lot, and certainly not in critical positions. Also remember that the Ambassador group is (currently) only around 20% of active players, so even if all 20% did not play Diplomat games it would not have a very dramatic effect. Also remember that all new players enter as Diplomats.

15. Are you likely to change the criteria for the different classes?
That is certainly possible, but the likely thing is that similar to the scoring system we will see how this goes over 6-12 months, keeping an eye on the pool sizes and how easily games fill up particularly in the Ambassador group.
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Re: Introducing Diplomats, Ambassadors and Star Ambassadors

Postby super_dipsy » 18 Feb 2014, 18:28

UPDATE after the first few days.

All systems have teething problems, and the class system is no exception. There are two outstanding issues:

1. Forum avatar blocks not showing Player Class yet
There is a problem here, and to fix it requires some less than trivial redesign of the code that updates these avatar blocks. Basically we have blown the internal storage limits. It is not difficult to fix, just tedious. I hope to have it fixed in the next few days.

2. Shorthanded games
Some interesting situations have come up with player records which have drawn attention to shorthanded games and the problems surrounding them. Shorthanded games (particularly those with few players like 2-handed or 3-handed games) are often played like Friends games; for example, in two player games it is a regular occurrence for both players to surrender when the game is 'done'. Also, in a 2-player game a player is unlikely to do a lot of communicating which impacts Star Ambassador achievement. On the other side of the coin, very shorthanded games can be played very fast (a few hours) and therefore are open to manipulation more than other games if a player wants to register a better record than perhaps their record of full complement games deserves. It is not easy to draw a line here. Clearly people might point out that 6-handed games are almost full games, and should count as such. But it is too hard to make a judgement on that.

As a result, the Diplomat, Ambassador and Star Ambassador qualifications are being changed. Friends and Schools games are already excluded from any consideration in these determinations, but shorthanded games are also going to be excluded. This will not be done by rerunning the whole site system, but will gradually be adopted as games finish / players NMR or surrender and people are re-evaluated in terms of their class.
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