Announcing the WarLight Ladder (part 2 of 2)

Be sure to read Part 1 if you haven’t. Part 2 continues to discuss some of the more nitty-gritty details of how the WarLight ladders will work at launch.

Automatic Boot

WarLight 1.0 will bring a new feature: Automatic booting. This is a third boot timer, next to the vote-to-boot time and the direct-boot time, that game creators can specify. When the auto boot timer is reached, WarLight will automatically boot any players that have not taken their turn, without requiring anyone to press the boot button.

Automatic booting will be enabled for all ladder games at the 72 hours (3 days) mark. This is bound to be a controversial topic, but let’s first make sure we understand the benefits of this.

The main reason for automatic booting is that it keeps the ladder fair and balanced for all players. If booting was manual, players who eagerly boot whenever possible would, over time, have a ratings advantage over players who were more courteous with their boot button. By making booting automatic, this takes booting out of the equation and makes it fair for all players.

Another reason for automatic booting is that it ensures the ladder as a whole keeps moving. It’s not uncommon in WarLight for players to procrastinate games – I’ve seen some 1 v 1 games that got stuck for exceptionally long time periods (sometimes even over 100 days). These aren’t just because players quit WarLight, but rather they avoid playing specific games. Even when boot times are enabled, often players feel like they should not boot out of honor or kindness.

These kind of delays really cause problems in a ladder. There could be several people waiting to play with a stuck opponent. This also opens up exploits where high ranking players can keep themselves busy in a stuck game, preventing them from having to defend their rank.

Automatic booting solves all of these, but has other disadvantages. If you know you’re going to be away from WarLight for more than 3 days, you’ll need to depart the ladder before you leave. I realize this is an imperfect solution, and I plan to improve this in a subsequent release.

Game Expiration

Three months after a ladder game finishes, it will expire. Although they are still visible on the website for historical reasons, expired games no longer count towards your ratings. This is done for a couple reasons.

ELO is a zero-sum system, meaning each rating point that is lost by one player is gained by another. However, when a new player joins the ladder, they bring 1500 new rating points into the mix. If someone joins, loses a few games, and quits, they just deposited a few ratings points onto other players who may end up never leaving the ladder.

On a small scale this process is not a problem, but over long periods of time it causes ratings inflation. This makes it difficult to compare the true skill over someone who gets an early high rating versus someone who gets a high rating at some point in the future. It also can create further gaps between the players on either end of the ladder.

Wikipedia has a good explanation of ratings inflation here. Not only will game expiration eliminate inflation, it will also help reflect changing skill levels. Most players will get better over time, and game expiration will ensure that your skill changes are reflected in your rating. This also is yet another thing ensuring that high-ranking players need to actively defend their ratings.

First Pick

The strategic 1 v 1 settings have been designed to take most of the luck commonly found in WarLight games out of the mix. The luck percentage is set very low, manual distribution means you can choose where you start, and the initial map layouts are mixed up enough to ensure that the best starting locations are rarely obvious.

Just like any manual distribution game, ladder games will have an initial territory distribution phase where both players choose which territories they’d like to start with. Picking where you start is very significant for determining how the rest of the game plays out.

Sometimes, there’s an unfortunate and unavoidable situation – both players pick the same territory as their #1 pick. WarLight’s behavior, as usual, is to give out the territory to a random player. Their opponent is compensated by getting their #2 and #3 picks, but often it’s still not as good as getting their #1.

I like to compare this to Chess, which is well-known for having an advantage to the player playing the white pieces. Some Chess ELO systems give a slight ratings advantage to players playing white, under the assumption that this will help rank those players closer to their true skill.

WarLight will follow a similar model, giving a slight ratings advantage to players who get first pick. It won’t be a very big advantage – less than a third as big as Chess’s advantage. After the ladder has been live for a few months, I plan to do an analysis of every ladder game to get a better idea of how often the player with first pick truly wins and will adjust the ratings advantage to match the real-world results.


This post describes how the ladder will work at launch. Everything is subject to change – if you’re reading this in the future, be sure and check the Help tab for up-to-date rules on how everything works now.

11 thoughts on “Announcing the WarLight Ladder (part 2 of 2)”

  1. Joe, can I assume reading this that the initial ladder will only be using strategic settings? I’m a little disappointed to hear this. On a personal level, I’m just not a big fan of manual distribution. But also, regarding the luck factor that you mention (with territory distribution, etc), the beauty of the ladder is that since you are forcing people to be active, all this luck will even out pretty well. A ladder with standard settings/automatic distribution would be terrific.

    1. If you’re correct, then the ladder games will show it and the advantage will be removed. However, analysis of existing 1v1 games show that the person that gets first pick does win slightly more often than not.

  2. A once per game button to extend boot time would be nice. The button would have to be pressed by your opponent and how long it extends the game would have to be capped. Sometimes you have to leave town suddenly or have a crisis to handle after you have already started a game which the vacation setting would not handle.

    1. Am completely in favour of this idea.
      Also I don’t think that first pick is generally all that important, especially considering that if you don’t get your #1, at least you will know one of your opponents territories.

  3. I have to agree with Grundie on his idea to implement a once-per-game limited time extension for emergency situations. This would add some flexibility to the system without having to break it.

  4. Hi,
    I noticed that there is an option to decline games in the ladder mode. What happens if you do this? People could use this to select opponents, yes?. As stated before, this could be used by high ranked players to avoid risking their ranks when selected against low ranked players.

    1. Hey Nozone,

      It should not be possible to decline ladder games. The button is there in the lobby, but it’s disabled. If you see a case where the button was enabled, then it might be a bug – please let me know. Even if there was a bug where the button was accidently enabled, the server also checks to ensure you can’t decline, therefore clicking it would just produce an error :)

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