[eDebate] New Resolutional Formats and Playtesting

Michael Antonucci antonucci23
Fri Apr 10 04:02:07 CDT 2009


The community can debate endlessly about whether or not a non-USFG agent is
a good idea for advocacy, or whether or not it will play well.

I'm pretty agnostic on the question myself, but I do have a fundamental
concern.  I don't think that any of the new suggested agent variations have
been adequately *playtested* to guarantee that they don't suffer from
enormous unseen glitches.

My concern probably reveals something about my philosophy of debate; its
articulation undoubtedly reveals that I'm an enormous nerd.

That said, for any other game that I particularly enjoy or value, I'd be
really reluctant to sign off on enormous format variations absent some form
of playtesting.  For example, I'm really happy to occasionally play a game
of "bughouse" chess or play Lexulous (or even Lexiko, haha) instead of
Scrabble.  I think it would a tremendous error in judgment, however, to
replace the standard USCF rules with bughouse rules for an entire year.  I
would have gladly signed off on Lexulous, but it took some play to figure
out that eight-letter racks just feel clunky and wrong.  Seven tiles is
somehow more natural for anagramming.

When new strategy games are rushed to market without adequate playtesting,
they usually flop.  All the brilliant game designing in the world is simply
no substitute for putting a group of uber-competitive players in a room (or
classroom building) and seeing how it works out.

A single annual topic raises these stakes.  While it might be fun to try a
new topic at one tournament, most people feel that it would probably be
terrible to grind out a full year on a topic rife with glitches.  Kevin
Kuswa's really smart, but he may not have foreseen some "cheat" that will
create an enormous and painful aff skew on some of his proposed topics.

The courts topic was, from most accounts, an example of what happens when
there's an unforeseen glitch or cheat.  Radically experimenting with topics
exponentially raises these risks.

I lack passionate ideological commitments in either direction on this
meta-debate.  I think my sentiment's shared, perhaps subconsciously, by a
big section of the community, though.  There's a sense that it's just too
weird or too risky.  That sense might be wise, not just knee-jerk
conservatism.  It doesn't stem from an arrogant conviction that we've
determined the best possible debating format, but instead from a humble
sense that our argument-predictive tools aren't all that successful.

I'd love to see some fresh new topics, but there would have to be some
hard-core playtesting first.

Some pre-empts:

"This has already been playtested!  We had different agents and passive
voices before!"

I don't really know what debate was like for the vast majority of those
resolutions.  I don't think it's a good analogy, though.  Didn't teams
essentially affirm the entire resolution then?  That built-in expectation
probably limited the design of tricky, unbeatable affs that affirm on a very
small scale.  I also think a number of earlier resolutions had implicit
agents. For example, the 91-2 resolution "That one or more United States
Supreme Court decisions recognizing a federal Constitutional right to
privacy should be overruled."  was probably almost exclusively a Supreme
Court topic, because of "overruled."

I'm open to reports on innovation within these passive voice and
alternate-agent topics.  Were there innovations or weirdish cases?  How did
those debates play out?

"Worlds."

I don't know much about worlds, really, although I'm happy to listen.

I have an intuition that teams at Worlds also tend more toward an
affirmation of the "whole resolution" as opposed to defense of the most
strategically defined individual example of that resolution.  I think that a
community theoretical consensus might really restrict the range of aff
innovation.

I'm open to correction on this as well.  I want more actual reports,
though.  They're a lot more helpful (to my thought process, at least) than
more sweeping but less easily resolved debates over political theory.
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