Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The circus that is the development of a unified competition system for the game continues unabated. The latest problem to rear its ugly head yet again is the concept of qualification.

Currently, competitions in the game are static structures - a set number of teams from each rigid stage progress to the next stage, and the parade continues until the competition ends. Such stoic behaviour won't work for qualification, unfortunately. The problem arises when a team achieves a qualification place that it is incapable of accepting because it does not meet the criteria (for example, a B team winning a place in a cup competition).

The qualification system in the game goes into specific detail about which positions qualify teams for other contests - instead of simply saying "the winners of the FA Cup will play in the Community Shield", it's "The team who win the final of the FA Cup". It's a subtle difference, the accuracy allowing for any position at any stage of the competition to have an associated qualification, one that can't be done by simply taking the "top six" teams.

If a B team, or another undesirable side finish in one of these positions, the system also can specify a number of backup positions to consider. For the most part, this should cover the loss.

However, I can't possibly guarantee that enough teams will qualify. It is possible that the backup list will be exhausted (perhaps they're all B teams?) before the places are filled. Rather than grudgingly accept the teams into the competition, the alternative solution is to allow the competition to continue with a dearth of teams.

So, the formerly rigid competitions need new functions and rules to ensure that they work adequately in any scenario. Knockouts are easiest, as the system reduces the number of teams in the early rounds and creates more byes in order to ensure the final rounds are fully populated. Leagues are fairly simple, requiring the game to work out how many rounds need to be played given the new number of teams. Group stages may prove more complex in the face of the varying ways of distributing the teams but I'm sure an adequate solution will be found.

All of which has been rather annoying for me, as I was hoping to start creating European leagues and cups starting tomorrow. That will have to wait until I'm happy the system can cope adequately with the changing data. It'll be worth it in the end.

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