Revisiting Automatch Time Settings: Data-Backed Proposal for New Automatch Settings on OGS

Hello OGS Community,

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh no, not this again!”. We’ve been down this road before, but hear me out. I analyzed 340,000 recent OGS games, and the results are… interesting, to say the least. It’s crucial that we revisit the conversation about automatch time settings on OGS. Let me lay out the case and share some compelling data to support what many of us have been feeling for a long time.

Before you roll your eyes and reach for that reply button, I encourage you to read through this post entirely.

What the Data Shows
In this sample pool, the most common Custom Game Requests are:

  • 19x19 Custom Request (10m+30s): 11,108 games (198 hours/day)
  • 19x19 Custom Request (5m+30s): 5,832 games (94 hours/day)

Compare these to current Blitz automatch options:

  • 19x19 Blitz Automatch: 3,213 games (32 hours/day)
  • 19x19 Blitz Fischer Automatch: 6,969 games (108 hours/day)
  • 13x13 Blitz Automatch: 346 games (2 hours/day)
  • 13x13 Blitz Fischer Automatch: 761 games (5 hours/day)
  • 9x9 Blitz Automatch: 2,363 games (8 hours/day)
  • 9x9 Blitz Fischer Automatch: 2,276 games (6 hours/day)

And for comparison, here’s how much Live 13x13 is played:

  • 13x13 Normal Automatch: 11,265 games (132 hours/day)
  • 13x13 Normal Fischer Automatch: 1,844 games (14 hours/day)

Main insights from the data:

  • Custom requests for 10-minute games are 6 times more popular than the default Blitz option.
  • Custom requests for 10-minute games are 1.5 times more popular than 13x13 board Live games.

The data shows that players favor medium time settings through custom requests, far more than any blitz automatch option.

The Current Situation
Right now, we’ve got two extremes in our automatch options:

  1. “Normal”: This can easily turn into an hour-long game (great for serious players, not so great for casual ones and beginners).
  2. “Blitz”: This feels like playing Go while your pants are on fire, stressing out the majority of general players.

The displeasure with these settings shows in the data. A substantial number of players use custom requests to play games with 5- to 10-minute settings instead.

The default settings are not friendly for beginners: Imagine a beginner wanting to try out a 19x19 game. Not understanding what’s going on nor what to play. The beginner is going to use all their main time. So on top of all the confusion, the game is going to drag for over an hour. Not exactly screaming “play again soon!”, is it? Now picture them thinking, “Well… That was really long, let’s maybe try Blitz instead.” After waiting 8 minutes for a game (because let’s face it, not many people play this setting), they get a game with 10s byo-yomi. And it’s so fast they can barely blink their eyes, with a constant countdown pressure: 10, 9, 8, 7… Not very appealing either, right?

A Proposal for Better Balanced Time Settings

  1. Add a New Automatch Setting: “Rapid”
  • Introduce a 5m+30s or 10m+30s automatch option. This term is familiar to chess players and fits the existing demand perfectly.
  1. Adjust Blitz Byo-Yomi Settings
  • Current Blitz settings on 19x19 (5m + 10s), and similar settings on 9x9 and 13x13, are not catering well to either blitz enthusiasts or general players.
  • Blitz enthusiasts might find a faster setting, such as 1m + 10s, more appealing.
  • A slightly slower setting, like 1m + 20-30s, could be more attractive to a general audience. This is similar to the most popular time settings on the Fox Go server.

These changes align with modern gaming paradigms and appeal to a broader audience, especially beginners who might find hour-long games daunting. It also reflects popular time controls seen in other board games like chess, where medium-paced games dominate the player base. Let’s look at chess for an example. On Lichess server:

  • 20% play Rapid 10m+0
  • 17% play Blitz 5m+0
  • 13% play Blitz 3m+0
  • 8% play Bullet 1m+0
  • 3% play Rapid 15m+10s
  • 3% play Classical 30m+0

See the trend? Medium time settings are the most used ones. Longer time settings, such as Classical, and fastest time settings, such as Bullet, are not very popular.

Adding a new automatch option would provide a more attractive option for new, casual, and younger players. Which would encourage people who are put off by 20-minute games to play more.

Addressing Counterarguments

“Adding another automatch button will split an already small user base.”

  • The player base is already divided. An enormous part of players are already creating custom requests for medium-length games. Adding a new automatch option for these popular settings would not split the base, but rather consolidate it by meeting existing demand. It’s a quality-of-life improvement for the many players who use custom game requests to find a 10-minute game. This change would encourage more beginners and new players to play faster game settings. While activity in Automatch may drop at first until players adapt, this is a very healthy change in the long run.

“If you want a faster game, play Blitz.”

  • There’s a significant difference between medium-length games and Blitz. Blitz is too fast and stressful for many players, while 20-minute Normal games are too long. An intermediate setting like 10m or 5m would provide a more balanced option.

“Just create a custom game with any time setting you want.”

  • Currently, a single custom request is 6 times more popular than the default Blitz Automatch button. That’s not how it should be. In the modern, user-and-beginner friendly server, the majority of people should use the automatch button. The custom request method is far from ideal for new or casual players. It’s convoluted and discouraging for beginners who would benefit from a one-click automatch experience. Having to create a custom game just to play the second most common time option is not very user-friendly.

“OGS is traditionally for more serious players and slower games.”

  • While OGS has a history of hosting slower and correspondence games, it has evolved into a central hub for all western Go players. That’s the place where every western Go player starts. Catering only to slow game enthusiasts alienates a substantial segment of the player base. A faster option would attract and retain more players, especially beginners.

“Normal mode is the most popular, there’s no need to change anything.”

  • Default settings inevitably dominate usage statistics. They are literally promoted on the main play page. However, the significant custom request numbers for 5 and 10-minute games showcase a clear demand for a faster, more accessible option. And even without main play page promotion, they are already 6 times as popular as the default Blitz option.

Conclusion
Implementing these changes will:

  • Provide a more balanced time control option, which data shows is highly desired.
  • Improve user experience for existing players.
  • Likely attract and retain more beginners.
  • Encourage more frequent play, crucial for the growth of the server and Go in general.

For those about to argue against the changes, consider this: Why can’t we have a button for 5m/10m time settings that are already half as popular as Live automatch, but we do have a Blitz button that is six times less popular?

Let’s bring OGS in line with modern gaming trends and make it more welcoming for new, casual, and younger players.

Thank you for reading

Polls
To gauge the community’s sentiment on the proposal, I’d like to include two polls:

Do you support adding a new “Rapid” automatch setting (5m+30s or 10m+30s)?
  • Yes.
  • No.
0 voters
Do you agree with adjusting Blitz Byo-Yomi settings?
  • Yes.
  • No.
0 voters
16 Likes

I’d play on OGS more if time settings were 5min main, personally.

9 Likes

Why standard byoyomi and not Fischer? I vote for Fischer. Same for automatic sitewide tournaments as well.

9 Likes

Something KGS does well that seems immaterial but I think helps tremendously is to allow you to both request an auto-match and post a game challenge simultaneously.

9 Likes

There’s a reason why I usually play on Fox – creating custom games just to get a decent time setting would be it. One button press should be enough.

7 Likes

Strongly agree with this. I generally only play 5m+30s or 1m+20s games myself via custom matches unless it’s a pre-arranged long game. If these were included in auto match i would use that, but now i cannot really.

7 Likes

It’d be quite a big quality change to readjust the existing rapid byoyomi times so that there can be actual rapid games, the 10s byoyomi’s we have now are not good becauss it makes impossible for phone users to play on and also for PC players it’s still too fast even for those experienced with it.

2 Likes

Agree, BTW I would not add a new option, I would change the default settings and create custom games for longer games.

7 Likes

Currently also enjoying the Fox time options more. Would like to see something similar for OGS. Good proposal :+1:

3 Likes

+1 for the changes. 20m main time is way too long for a default time setting in my opinion. I don’t think going from 2 to 3 live game automatch options is going to drastically split the playerbase, and it would bring OGS in line with other Go and chess servers. Fox has an even more ridiculous 20m + 3x60s byo yomi setting that is vastly less popular than the default 5m + 3x30s.

4 Likes

I never queue regular games, because I find them too long (and I play fox games because they’re shorter).

For blitz, I like the 10s byo yomi, but 5 minutes main time is too long; just do 1 min + 3-5 x 10s.

Strongly stand by the suggestions in the post, and agree with the general claim as well: I don’t queue on OGS because of the default times.

3 Likes

Default being 5+3x30 would make me play on OGS again. It’s so much more convenient.

4 Likes

Why do all your settings show only one byo-yomi period?

The periods were implied, since players know what the default time is.
But yeah, I should probably edit them in

5m + 3x10s is such a weird time setting. Main time is so long for such short byo-yomi.

3 Likes

I think this is probably a good idea.

I might go further in response to

I would suggest using the opportunity to reduce the automatch options.

E.g. blitz (1+20), live (10+30), correspondence (whatever) with only Chinese rules, only byoyomi or Fischer (not both).

Details can be thrashed out but the point would be to make automatch pools as large as possible.

6 Likes

As a newer player, I can confirm that the standard time settings are not conducive to me. Knowing I need to set for at least an hour on Normal (and Blitz being way to fast for me to make meaningful analysis) it just…prompts me to not play without making a custom match (but then what time settings should I set? What is the ‘correct’ settings? Oh well, guess I won’t make one of those either…)

These settings look great for playing a meaningful game with some chance of analysis/study, but know that I can devote a smaller block of time, increasing the chance I would actually randomly queue for a match instead of looking for pre-arranged matches (and maybe can rank up)

I like the way Lichess marks numerous time styles for different ways of play and lets me choose the way I want to play at any given mark, and having consistent (and popular) time controls to work with only makes sense here as well.

4 Likes

Put me down for someone that never uses automatch. I much prefer 5m+5x30s games, which leads me to play more on Fox. Would love to see this change implemented!

2 Likes

That would be a magnificent improvement too! I love it as well.
The change of button descriptions is going to be necessary, so people are aware of the change

1 Like

Voted on the survey, but just also verbalizing that the only reason I don’t play as much on OGS is the default time settings.

Very much support any changes in this direction!

2 Likes