MTGO Outside Assistance

  • You can always set higher stream delay. However this may be bad interaction for twitch viewers. If someone would actually want to play with 5 people behind his back, he can always choose not to stream. Streaming is not the problem here.

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    If it makes you feel any better, I 5-1'd the swiss today completely alone, and as soon as Stefan showed up I immediately lost in the top 8 :D

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    I have remained mostly silent about this issue for a long time because I have friends who stream and I have friends who played (and won) events both large and small with one or more "copilots" on Skype. I do not wish any ill will towards them or anyone.

    However I have to say that is feels discouraging to know I might have to defeat a team of people to win a single round of Magic on MTGO. I'm certainly not the best player in the world, but I do all my work on my own and I set a strong emphasis on honor. I have never ghosted a stream, even when I knew I could. But to think that my opponent might have beaten me because their buddy stopped them from making a mistake feels awful. That's just how I feel, and my feelings are valid as a human being.

  • TMD Supporter

    I'll preface this by saying I haven't gotten to play much competitive magic at all in the last 1.5yrs and don't follow streams, so I apologize if I misunderstand something.

    After following this topic a few times, it still seems incomprehensible to me to defend group play. I understand an elite player might not gain anything from a stream, or that MTGO is a different game, but I will say one aspect of Magic has always been consistent since the beginning. It's always been my best effort against my opponent's best effort.

    I know digital magic is a different beast, but if people were chiming in during a paper match at a live tournament, people would be going ballistic.

    The defense that it's not enforceable doesn't sit well with me.

    The defense that it doesn't help, I can't verify. I've heard elite players say they have never gained from help, but I can't speak to that. I would imagine that most help is distracting chatter, but not all of it can be.

    The defense that streaming is better for the publicity of MTGO might be perfectly valid.

    I guess at the end of the day, it truly is unenforceble, so at least kudos to those that don't do it in the shadows.

    I might play less in a year than some people play in a week, however, if I sat down to play in a tournament on MTGO, I would (perhaps unrealistically) assume I was playing against one person and if it were otherwise, I can't pretend I wouldn't be disappointed.

  • I think the reality of the situation is it's never ever going to be enforceable. If you ban streaming on Twitch, then players can still "team up" by hosting a private streaming session to garner the feedback from their friends, if they so choose. I'd love for everyone to be on an even setting, but the nature of a digital product is such that these things are an inevitable by-product. I'm sure this is an issue for nearly every competitive digital game.

  • As a player who skypes in other players or even streams his games sometimes I can understand that some players think it's unfair, well because it is but it's also impossible to stop. I do it because it is a very good way to improve at the game and have a lot of fun. At my local draft group we did this for years even before any of us played magic online and it helped all of us getting better at the game.

    I think banning outside assistance on magic online would only punish fair players that would obey a rule that is impossible to enforce. So my advice is "join the dark side" skype with your friends get better at the game and have fun.

  • TMD Supporter

    @Grischa said in MTGO Outside Assistance:

    As a player who skypes in other players or even streams his games sometimes I can understand that some players think it's unfair, well because it is but it's also impossible to stop. I do it because it is a very good way to improve at the game and have a lot of fun. At my local draft group we did this for years even before any of us played magic online and it helped all of us getting better at the game.

    I think banning outside assistance on magic online would only punish fair players that would obey a rule that is impossible to enforce. So my advice is "join the dark side" skype with your friends get better at the game and have fun.

    I'd rather lose that win with someone else on my side. That's just me. I already hear things like "your opponent should have won but they punted" when I have a good tournament, the last thing I need is people speculating that I received outside assistance or ghosted a stream.

  • @Islandswamp said in MTGO Outside Assistance:

    I'd rather lose that win with someone else on my side. That's just me. I already hear things like "your opponent should have won but they punted" when I have a good tournament

    Try to hear: Your opponent should have won but they punted and you didn't

  • I think this is an important thread, even for those who don't stream and never has/will. There certainly are differences in paper and online magic, but that's not what we're talking about in this thread (if I understand the views correctly). Similarly, the enforceability of a rule is not what's at stake here. Rather, this topic should (in my opinion) focus on a discussion about ethical implications of streaming. To be upfront, I am undecided on this matter, though I find myself leaning on the side of it not being unethical - note that this is different from my saying that it is ethical. I do see both sides of the issue, and encourage those who only see it one way to attempt to find a framework that allows them to see the other view as well.

    To begin, we need to separate rulings and potential enforcement from ethics. This will quickly get knotty, because people will reasonably point to the idea that something is not unethical if it is not against the stated rules: if it is allowed, it is not wrong to do. Those who rally against this idea are thinking about the way the rule should be, not at it currently is. This sense of how things should be will differ depending on ethical framework. The sense that 'everyone is doing it, and you could too' does not address and underlying ethical issue at stake for these people. So ask yourself, do I think something is right or wrong because the rules do or do not permit it?

    Second, we need to disentangle consequentialism from virtue. Would your feelings about finding out an opponent was streaming change if you won or lost? Or would you feel slighted (ethically) either way? If the former, we need to unpack the advantages and disadvantages of streaming to measure the expected utils on both sides. In this case, the question will become one of which is on average better overall for people streaming and playing against streamers. However, in the later case, we need to acknowledge that the question of whether someone streams is a question of honor, as Islandswamp put it. If that is the case, the real why someone is streaming* will be of crucial importance. Ask yourself if it would matter that an opponent is streaming to incur tactical benefits or to bring more exposure to the format. There are those that would argue that streaming will incur those tactical benefits implicitly and unintentionally, so that is an important point to keep in mind.

    Last, let's talk about realsits and logistics. There are benefits and disadvantages to streaming, but that is a more consequentialist consideration. Here, I want to talk more about the notion of 'If it's not enforceable, why even talk about it or try to regulate it?' The answer to this question: community. While that argument may render discussions moot in other contexts, the vintage community is an important one, and the hallmark of our format outside of the technicalities of what vintage is. I believe strongly that we should discuss this issue so that we try to approach (ideally) a consensus or (at least) mutual understanding of the issues that are at play here. So try to understand where people are coming from when they express their opinions, and try to think about your own underlying assumptions when giving your own views. Whether something is regulated or even if it can be, we can adopt our own practice surrounding this issue.

    I hope we have some good conversations here! Also, if you have questions about the ethical terms used, feel free to ask, as I was trying to keep this somewhat concise.

    • Note: In all of the above, I am using steaming to mean broadcasting in real time that allows for strategic input from others, unless otherwise clarified.

  • My issue is not streaming. The current MTGO rules actually encourage streaming (like, they literally say "we encourage streaming"). I was streaming the event and I think in general the value of strategic advice from Twitch chat is low enough that we should probably live with it. My concern is that you have players you trust in your living room (or on Skype) talking over plays and giving advice. I think the quality of that advice is much higher and does much more to cut against fairness than access to Twitch chat. I also think the people who want to defend the practice of team play are conflating it with Twitch chat, either on purpose or unintentionally.

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    I guess for me the biggest difference is intent.

    Human nature will be outraged if they lose to a team, but overly self-complimentary if they beat a team.

    If I am trying to get better and improve my play, I'd rather play against a team.
    If I am trying to win a tournament, I'd rather play against individuals.

    At the end of the day, I am not an active MTGO player, so my opinion doesn't mean much, but I do feel like over time it will diminish the value/accolades of an online tournament win for someone that does it on their own.

    Streaming I can understand in certain situations, but I can't understand any defense of team play in a Vintage tournament. It just goes against the basics of Magic for me.

    Edit: unless of course that's what the greater MTGO community prefers. I'm not an active part of it, so I don't know.

  • @ajfirecracker You are drawing an arbitrary distinction because you realize that unless you drew an arbitrary line you are being hypocritical. What does it matter if feedback were from twitch chat or from someone next to you? Ultimately streaming with someone nearby and streaming with an audience online is similar. You create a dialogue. You talk your plays out loud. You show the viewers, outloud, what you are doing. Trying to say what you do is okay but what Brassy and I do is different is really missing the mark.

  • @The-Atog-Lord So you think if you had a team of Vintage ringers helping you through a major tournament that would be A-OK?

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    I've never seen a streamer change their play based on what an audience member said. The delay probably makes that almost impossible.

    I have heard someone mention that they (meaning themselves and their teammates) decided that X was the only possible out they had, and even though it was a longshot they should go for it. Luckily for them that play allowed them to win the event. Would that player have decided to make that play on their own? Possibly, maybe even probably. The point is that they didn't have to.

    I believe it is illegal for me to let someone else play my account in an MTGO tournament. That's somewhat close to Skype or in-person team play.

    Again, I want to state that I've felt this way for a fairly long time but I've never said it because people who I consider friends have done it. But it does seem pretty sketchy when you think about it. If anyone whispered over my shoulder at a paper event we'd have a serious problem.
    Is this hard to enforce? Yep. Sure. Is that an excuse to just not care? I can think of laws that are hard to enforce but that are important.

    I really hope that nobody takes my words the wrong way. I'm not even telling anyone to change their behavior, I just want to express my feelings. Thanks.

  • I've tried to take a little time to absorb the different opinions expressed above. I'm definitely conflicted.

    If I'm playing on MTGO, both I and my opponents have access to the internet the entire time, including the ability to Skype a friend if they aren't already in the room with me. I never thought about it before, except to believe that live-streaming players were at a disadvantage relative to other players because of the distraction of twitch chat and potential ghosters. It's also why I've never watched a live-stream if I was playing in a tournament, because it would have felt like cheating.

    Intent matters if you are claiming someone is deliberately cheating or you are trying to attack their reputation and character. So far, this discussion has seemed to focus much more on the behavior and not any one person, which is good.

    Regardless of intent, it does confer an advantage--whether it involves a skilled player, twitch-viewers of varied skill, or if you just use the collective knowledge of the Internet to look up archetype playlists or sideboard advice.

    As of right now, I view it simply as a cost for the convenience of playing from home in a format that is harder to play in paper. By way of distinction, I think that ghosting a stream or looking up an opponent's decklist on MTG Goldfish are a higher level of unethical.

    If, as a community, we want to set a standard, we can try. However, this is where the issue of enforceability rears its ugly head. It is literally unenforceable. It is impossible to know (unless someone willfully reveals it) when a player is getting assistance in their matches from others. As it stands, all streamers are getting advice (of varying quality) from their viewers, and that advice has real value, no matter what skill level you assume twitch viewers have.

    I am perfectly willing to accept this as a reality of MTGO and the capabilities of the Internet. I accept that some of my opponents will beat me not because they have skill, but because the person next to them does or dozens of viewers help prevent them from making play mistakes or missing important facts about the game-state.

    IF it was possible to actually enforce this rule (which at a minimum would require banning streaming, and would still not work anyway), then we might have a different discussion. That said, ghosting a stream is probably hard to detect (I don't stream myself and never ghost, so I wouldn't know for sure), and opponents can easily find your decklist online. So there are other issues of using MTGO that are unethical and equally unenforceable, some of which are more important than the issue of getting advice from other players.

  • @jhport12 It doesn't need to be enforceable to be a good rule. If you ban outside assistance 99% of Vintage players will stop having their friends suggest plays. I think Rich and Andy (and hopefully me) are honorable people and will follow the rule regardless of whether it can be enforced.

  • Its online gaming, just a different beast entirely, and you all have access to additional tools. The guys that have access to vintage ringers are almost certainly incredibly strong in their own right, and they dont need their friends around to do well anyways, so who cares?

    Even ghosting streams is fine, it just comes with live stream territory. I seriously doubt you are losing matches that youd have otherwise won because a group of friends wanted to do something together. If you make good decisions and have a good deck it really doesnt matter at all how many people are on the other side of the table.

  • AJ, I understand your point, but from my perspective all Twitch comments equally fall under this rule, not just advice from friends or other players who are deemed to be "skilled."

    That said, I think we can debate and establishing any rule we want as long as we understand:

    1. no one is actually obligated to follow it.
    2. none of us is likely to actually agree fully on a specific rule.
    3. there is no way to detect it, let alone prevent it.

    As it stands, there are some people who think ghosting streams is fine, and that is a clearly far more egregious act than getting advice from other players because you gain perfect information, even to the level of hearing your opponent's inner thoughts.

    Also, for the benefit of context (not making any particular argument about it), Magic Pros routinely collude and cheat at big tournaments (full disclosure: I'm not a Pro myself, I haven't been to a Pro Tour).

    They take notes on all of their matchups (including any rogue variations on an archetype an opponent played) then they load that data into a cloud-based spreadsheet to share with the rest of their team. At Pro Tours, you have multiple teams of Pros sharing as much information as humanly possible during the tournament. It's like how in NASCAR and Tour De France, there are teams of bikers who bully and harass the best opponent's to actively damage their chances of winning.

    At GPs, it is even worse because a lot of Pros have multiple byes, so they can go around taking notes on anyone who is 3-0 and has really high tiebreaks.

  • When we sign on to MTGO versus playing in paper, we're signing up for a completely different game. There is no cheating around the rules, every trigger, phase, and crazy interaction reminded and followed. In paper no such omnipresent judge exists presiding over the game. In paper, rules and procedures have to be developed for every case, scenario, and, unfortunately, precedent to ensure the goal of fair and balanced game. That goal is shared by MTGO.

    This is where I'll get controversial. Any MTGO player by definition has a connection to the internet. The internet is the greatest resource and wealth of information available. Both you and your opponent can access outside game information at any time, for as long as you have time left on your clock. An analogy for us older people, MTGO is an open book test.

    In the scope of the internet, how do you limit the book?

  • @ajfirecracker MTGO is not perfectly equivalent to paper magic. What are you going to do next, bring a chess clock to champs and time your opponent?

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