A full description of this season’s League of Legends tournament format can be found at https://thenuel.com/tournament/lol-national-championship
This year the format for the tournament is quite different from last year. To help clarify the reasoning behind these changes and explain how they will benefit the players I spoke to League of Legends Admin, NUEL Ian.
So to begin with, why split the teams into a national league and a regional league?
Last season we were very surprised when 333 teams signed up. We had a format that was ready for 150 maybe 200 teams, and that was optimistic, trying to push the format to 200 teams. Then when 333 teams signed up we had to pretty much come up with a new format over night for the start of the season. So there were quite a few issues with it. I didn’t like having over 300 teams all in the same format. Trying to accommodate the range of needs and wants for all those teams is impossible.
So this season we want teams to play every week and play against equal levelled teams, but also have a goal, to have something to strive towards which is attainable. Starting in a bracket of 333 teams and seeding anywhere from 9 to 333 I think you feel a bit lost and don’t really know what you are playing for. So we are hoping this season teams will have a much better idea of what they are playing for, will know what each game means and be able to set goals to try and achieve every week.
We have also moved away from the Super 8 as well. The Super 8 ran for 2 seasons and when we created it there were far fewer teams and our aim was to make it like the premier league of the tournament. We thought if we hyped it up and used it mostly in our streams people would get to know the teams and players and it would bring more people to the stream and garner more interest. We wanted the best teams with the best players to thrive on this stage we made and then hopefully move onto compete at a higher level like national UK tournaments or players could get picked up by top UK teams
I loved the Super 8, it was one of the things I came up with when I joined the NUEL after I stopped playing and it felt like my baby, but in the end it didn’t really work out how we wanted. There would always just be a few teams that were better than the others and they would stomp. Then one or two teams at the bottom that would have gotten promoted from the S-League (the teams below the S8) and then lose every game. So yeah, I don’t think it did what we wanted it to. Also I think we got higher stream numbers when we streamed games from the S-League because they would be super excited about being on stream and they would share it around their university and they would get loads of viewers to come along. Whereas on the other hand the Super 8 teams were kind of jaded and used to being on stream, for example we streamed Birmingham like every week, so in the end they got kind of used to being on stream and it wasn’t a big deal for them. So now we want to stream a range of teams and give a chance for everyone to be on stream.
In regards to people being excited and wanting to share the experience, the new format is considerably more beneficial, isn’t it? Because someone competing for the top of the regional league will be like “Get in, tell everyone our team is at the top of the regional league, we’re competing to become part of the national league”.
What we saw in the Wildcard tournament last year is that it was really exciting to see these teams who have been outside the Super 8 all season to get a chance to play against them and try to earn a spot at the Grand Finals and do really well as well. So that was really exciting, there were these underdog teams going on runs, winning loads of games. We want that but on a weekly basis, we want a bigger national league where every team can challenge the top teams if they go on a winning streak and play really well instead of having to play in promotion every three weeks before they get a chance to play in the Super 8. We want them to play regularly and have this chance. Right now if you win two games you’re going to move up loads, and get a chance to play against supposedly higher ranked teams. It also gives them the chance to practise against better teams.
The Super 8 kind of locked these better teams away, and kind of like EU and NA against KR, they never got a chance to play against them and when they do come up against them they just get stomped. So we want to give them the chance to play occasionally against teams that are slightly above them and learn from it. Last year we had a lot of teams that were evenly matched, but couldn’t quite push on to the next level. We want to give them the chance to maybe have a game now and then against a higher ranked team and see if they can get an upset or learn from it. When they do get an upset it tends to be something very interesting and brings more hype to it I think.
Will there be anything like the Super 8 this year?
With the adapted swiss format everything is broken down into groups, so although the national league will be 64 teams there will be a top group of 16 teams, and obviously if you go undefeated you will go against other undefeated teams that will make the top 16, then 8, then 4, then the last 2 remaining will play a best of three on the second week. So I think it will become very clear very quickly who the top teams are, and then hopefully we should have some exciting games at the top as well, but if you have a bad week prepare for those lower teams to be snapping at your heels.
Last season we had a lot of top teams and hoped that they would go on and do more things. We had the opportunity to enter teams into the ESL tournaments. They did better than expected, especially Nottingham, but a lot of times they did seem very out of their depth. So I think our focus now isn’t on the top teams and giving them a chance to step up to bigger and better competition. I think we want to focus on all the teams in the league, as we had so many teams last year, we really shouldn’t be focusing on the 3-4 teams at the top. We should be doing our best for the majority of the teams in the league, and making sure everyone enjoys playing. I think we do have some players that are individually highly skilled that have gone on to join UK teams so that’s something we really want to encourage, but I’m not sure a team will come out from a single University and be able to compete against UK teams, that’s just not going to happen, but we have some very good players. Hopefully one day we will see someone who played in NUEL play in the LCS, although technically Impaler did play in the NUEL while he was on Dig UK.
What is the format of the leagues and why not run a simple single elimination or double elimination tournament?
Firstly I hate double elimination. It’s great for the teams but takes so much time it’s completely unfeasible. There’s a reason why most top tournaments use group stage into playoffs, although IPL5 was the greatest League tournament ever and there was some double elim in there I guess.
Due to time constraints and wanting everyone to play multiple games, but not too many in one night, and have it always be against similar skill level teams, we think a swiss system is the best way. You have a group where all the winners play each other and all the losers play each other. Then you keep going, so the people that are 2/0 play each other, the people that are 1 and 1 play each other the people that are 0/2 play each other and that just keeps going. What we developed last season was an adapted form of swiss where instead of just having one group in the first round you have multiple groups, kind of like starting mid way into a swiss. There were some issues with this, like teams not showing up causing lot’s of forfeits, that we hope we’ve fixed for this season. Then everyone earns points each week depending on where they finish which will be used to determine who qualifies for the post-season at the end of the [academic] year.
Towards the end of the season isn’t there a risk teams will intentionally lose games so they are not promoted to the national league and have no chance of getting enough points to get into the wildcard tournament and instead just be the in the end of season regional tournament?
We are trying to arrange the points system so that you get more points towards the end of the season. So if you are in the regional league at the start it shouldn’t be too hard to get into the national league and qualify for the wildcard tournament. We’re leaning towards having Regional Finals for the top teams from each region and the teams in the National League that don’t qualify for the Wildcard Tournament, although they could have their own separate tournament. We are debating which is the best way and which way the teams will actually prefer.
With the new regional leagues teams are quite likely to play each other again, do you see this as a good or bad thing?
With the new regions the rivalries will be a lot more engaging are more likely to actually be close to each other, they could feasibly actually go to an event together or take part in LAN’s that societies organise. The South West is a perfect example. They have a very good community down there. There are a lot of societies in the South West that interact with each other and they go to events together, so that is something we really hope catches on in the rest of the country and people can get to know each other and the tournament will be more enjoyable. If you do get to know the teams you’re playing against, if you get familiar with them and get to know them, I think it would be more enjoyable to play against them regularly. Also we really want to see more local events, there’s no reason two or three uni’s close to each other can’t get their teams together and have a tournament, like all the varsity’s that happened last year. On the other hand you don’t want to be playing the same team multiple times in the same week, so there’s a balancing act, coming up against someone you have beaten before, you want a rematch, another chance to beat them, but without being matched against the same team over and over again.
Is there a set map that defines the boundaries of each region?
After sign ups close we will set out the boundaries for all the regions, it’s hard to say what it will look like now as not all of the teams have signed up (again this interview was on Monday 26th). We want each region to have roughly equal amount of teams so if one region has a lot more teams then we will shift the boundaries to even out the regions but hopefully keep nearby universities in the same region. Especially rivalries, we want those in the same regions.
What if there is a region that is inherently more talented than others, making their regional league teams stronger than national league teams from other regions as they have harder teams to fight for promotion?
So the national league will be the top teams from each region, so if there is an abundance of good teams in your region then it will be harder to qualify out of qualification (first week) but as the season goes on hopefully you will be on the boundary so that if the opportunity arises you will be able to get into the national league. We have balanced it so that, taking a look at the distribution and skill level of teams from last year, we are hoping that the national league is big enough that once you get outside of it there should be a lot of equal levelled teams. So yeah they will be one case where maybe one region is a bit stronger than another, but only the very best teams will qualify for the national league. When you play in promotion in the second week you will have to play against the bottom teams from the national league so you will HAVE to prove that you are as good as the bottom teams from the national league to earn your place.
Again for full details on this year’s format you can find it here: https://thenuel.com/tournament/lol-national-championship
Any questions about the format can be sent to any of the tournament admins which can be found here:
Good luck to all teams playing this weekend!