Server restarts – an opinion

“Oh my god, no way. No way. No wayyyyyyyy. Oh my god, the server died.” Yes guys, the server died, now you have to make a lose-lose decision about how to restart.

For those of you who missed it, that quote was taken from game 5 of the Eurocup 10K winners’ final match between mousesports and Team BDS. An all-out disconnect occurred while kuxir was dribbling the ball into the BDS box.

The resolution in the end was to reset with 5 seconds left on the clock, with BDS passing the ball to mousesports at the start of the play. Mousesports failed to score and BDS secured match point.

This is just one of several high profile cases of competitive integrity being damaged by poorly timed server or connection issues. You’d hope by now that Psyonix had cottoned on and started updating the RLCS rulebook to account for this; instead, it merely says:

“If a disconnect occurs during any phase of the Tournament, except for the Open Qualifier, the shorthanded Team will immediately notify the Tournament Administrators via in-game chat. The Tournament Administrators may pause the Game once the disconnect notification has been received, at their sole discretion.” – RLCS Season 9 Rulebook § 3.5.1.2 ¶ 1

In some cases (like on Sunday), there is no shorthanded team, further complicating matters. Also, only the RLCS, RLRS and a select few other leagues have access to the pausable RLCS game servers.

Structuring a resolution

The first step to resolving any multi-faceted issue is to make categories for each possible event, if that is possible:

  • Multiple players have a poor connection.
  • One player disconnects.
  • Some, but not all, players disconnect.
  • All players disconnect.

A set of categories which describe the game state is also necessary:

  • It is early enough in the game that restarting with 5 minutes left makes the most sense, while retaining the scoreline.
  • One team has such a large advantage that it is unreasonably difficult for the other team to force overtime.
  • One team has an advantage but it is reasonably possible for the other team to force overtime.
  • Both teams are even and there is so little time left on the clock it is reasonable to ignore the remaining time on the clock.
  • Both teams are even, but there is neither negligible time nor enough time to justify restarting the game.
  • It is overtime.

An additional consideration is the position of the players on field at the time of the disconnect:

  • One team is on the brink of scoring and the net is open.
  • One team has significant offensive pressure.
  • The play is close to even.

In total this leaves 72 different cases, which, put simply, is too many to filter through. This doesn’t mean that TOs shouldn’t make an attempt to do so in as many cases as possible though.

Different ways of restarting

Restarting a game isn’t as simple as resetting the clock to 5 minutes and letting the players go again. There are two options available in the base game that can be adjusted to create some extra scenarios.

  • Total Restart – 5 minute timer, no goal limit.
  • Simulated Overtime – Unlimited time, first to 1 goal.
  • Reduced length game – 5 minute timer, first to 3/5 goals, allowing teams to score a certain number of goals prior to the game going live to further reduce the length.

Areas for improvement

It is abundantly clear that changes need to be made to accommodate for technical issues; especially so given the embarassment it causes for tournaments organisers (TOs) and Psyonix.

A robust ruleset surrounding server restarts is critical, the more scenarios where TOs don’t have to make rulings up on the spot, the better. Over time, rulesets can be adapted based on player opinion and in-game experience. Any scenario that requires a restart should have its details, decision making and resolution documented and published for this purpose. This is something that any TO can and should be doing for all areas of their rulesets, not just restarts.

Additional “chrono-breaking” features (regular game state autosaves which can be loaded as a start point, the ability to exactly set the starting time and score etc.) allow the creation of more scenarios that better cater to each of the earlier cases. These features have been implemented into other games for years and I have no doubt would be welcomed by TOs.

With that, my article has reached its conclusion. Feel free to leave your own opinion in the comments.

Tom Hurrell

Community Manager for Rocket Kingdom. Sigmσyd first joined the Rocket League scene in late 2016 as an editor at Liquipedia, but he is better known in the high school esports community for founding and managing AGSB Esports. Tom is the community manager for Rocket Kingdom, meaning he's in charge of managing website content, liasing with other UK event organisers and keeping the mod team happy.

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