As the Round Turns …

It’s Pro Tour – Journey into Nyx from Atlanta, and we’ve just finished Round 9. Which, as it turns out, is the first round of the second draft as opposed to the last round of the second draft. Awkward. Almost disastrously so.

But I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself …

A couple months back, I talked a little bit about coverage, and specifically, why it takes so long to get data onto the coverage site. The follow-up question that seem to be rampant this weekend, from viewers and on-site staff alike, is, “Rich has been filling with this segment for a long time, why is it taking so damn long to pair the round and go back to showing matches?”

The question, as it turns out, is ill-formed. The round might be paired. Or it might not … it can be hard to tell.

Too obtuse? Well … it turns out, there’s a lot going on. Let me tell you the story of the Round 9 to Round 10 turn at Pro Tour – Journey into Nyx.

Rich Hagon is at the desk, doing a segment about draft picks with Zac Hill. A bunch of prep already happened to make this segment possible, which probably involved graphics work he did with Deb and John in advance to get the packs put together (which were typed up in the first place by Trick, myself, and some other number of text coverage staff). And that doesn’t even count the two or three camera operators shooting that piece. And the countless behind-the-scenes folks working on lights, production, streaming, and things I don’t even know.

It’s an interesting bit of content regardless, at least to some viewers, but it’s a segment to fill time between matches because there isn’t anything to show. Don’t tell that to the viewers that are already agitating for matches (to put it delicately … complaining about why we aren’t showing matches all the time is probably more accurate), though. It’s not that nothing is happening – there’s exactly one match left going on the floor … where there are no cameras, and if you don’t think it’d be disruptive mid-game-3 if someone asked you to pick up your stuff and move, then you’re more unflappable than most.

There is a veritable army of judges waiting to post pairings once that last slip comes in. Which it is coming in. But they’ve got a good bit of waiting to do, as it turns out. Trick, Nate, and Tim are also hanging out, and they come first, since they’re picking the matches for us to feature this round. But even they get to wait, as we’ve just finished Round 9. Which, as it turns out, is the first round of the second draft as opposed to the last round of the second draft. Which is awkward. Almost disastrously so.

Here’s the thing. DCI Reporter, the software we use to run this thing, was written a long time ago, in an era where it was never anticipated that we would ask it to do the unholy things that we ask it to do. In the grand scheme of things, the Pro Tour scheme of bouncing between drafts and constructed isn’t even all that unholy. First circle stuff, really. However, it means that our drafts no longer line up with even multiples of three rounds at a time, which used to be a safe assumption with any draft tournaments.

Why on Earth could that possibly matter?

Well, there’s a helpful dialog box that happens when you try and pair a round in a tournament that’s in draft mode that is one after an even multiple of three. It reminds you that you probably wanted to make new pods, and defaults to, “yes, do that for me.” Scorekeepers tend to act on experience and instinct and know all the places that they can blast through the myriad of unnecessary dialogs in DCIR to save some time, and if you’re in the vast majority of even experienced scorekeepers never to have seen this particular warning, then you’re not alone. Neither had Kali.

Once upon a time, that dialog made sense. I dare say it probably saved a lot of mistaken rounds paired against old pods that shouldn’t have been. So I can’t say that the dialog was poorly thought out. What I can say, however, is that now that we’re not aligned to rounds of three, it has undesirable effects.

Kaboom, the tournament is gone. Well, more specifically, all the pods are gone. So the round can’t be paired. And DCIR expresses its displeasure in dramatic fashion.

“Where are the pairings?” ask Trick, Nate, Tim … and Greg, Rich, Deb … and a bunch of producers … and all the viewers. Well …

Luckily, like any good scorekeeper who’s probably been burned a few dozen times, Kali has a backup, and she re-enters the results that weren’t in that backup like a pro. Some file syncing shenanigans ensue (it takes 3 computers in sync to do everything we do at the Pro Tour, but that’s a story for another time), but eventually, we have pairings, and Trick and crew spring to work.

Meanwhile, Rich (who somehow produces while still talking live on camera without skipping a beat), Deb, and Greg (the overall coverage manager) are probably wondering what’s going on. Along with BDM and Randy, sitting in the booth now waiting to get going. Which we can tell because they’re asking on our internal chat. And they need to know so they can plan the length of their segments and make the transitions graceful. We usually try and help keep them up to date as best as we can, but in this case, fixing takes priority over informing – sorry about that, guys.

So, features matches are chosen, we put up the pairings, the round starts, and we cut to match coverage, right? Well … no, not so much.

See, we have graphics to be set up and a feature match area to get prepped first. Also, the folks on camera are going to need to know the matches, get their decklists and some play history, and anything else they can get their hands on to sound knowledgeable on camera. And the staff in the feature match area need to know where players are supposed to sit to match these graphics as soon as they walk over. Which means that we need to get the feature match data all put together and distributed before we tell the players to go anywhere.

Of course, DCIR doesn’t know anything about feature matches. Or Top 25 rankings, which need to show up on graphics. Or deck archetypes (which to be fair weren’t needed for this round, thank goodness, but get spliced in at this point as well). So we have to pull matches, records, and countries out of DCIR and then splice in the rankings and archetypes manually before sending them out to everyone. A minute later, Rich and Deb can start the wind-down on the segment they’re working on, Kali can post pairings online, head judge Lems can fire up the judge machinery to post pairings and get the round going, and we can update the scrolling ticker with the upcoming feature matches, all while the graphics crew gets prepped with the right overlays and graphics for the impending feature match. And then we need to prep our software that streams the results data to the news desk and the updated standings to the scoreboard graphics. But that can wait until the round starts, and until another story.

At any rate, a lot going on. This picture, as it turns out, is probably incomplete. In fact, I suspect exactly zero people, myself included, know everything going on to get a round up and going for Pro Tour coverage. But next time you wonder what’s taking so long, you might want to recalibrate your idea of what “so long” is (the preceding story happened over the span of eight measly minutes), grab yourself a snack, and appreciate the insane work that is happening to make this thing work at all. We do, grumpiness aside, appreciate your patience and thank you for watching!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *