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Annual Predicament, Biannual Problems: The Struggles with Half-Year Rankings

LumiRank 2023

Throughout January 2024, the team at LumiRank released the Top 150 players in 2023. Their statisticians also put together full-year rankings for the Top 200 players in North America and Japan, as well as a ranking for the Top 100 players in Europe, all of which received critical acclaim.

However, with critical acclamation came critical condemnation regarding numerous aspects of the 2023 rankings. Outside of the outcries of bias toward the Japanese scene and skepticism regarding the placements of certain players in the global Top 150, the most vocal criticism was how two half-year seasons would be better than one yearly season. This debate is not new, as players across all skill levels discussed this when the LumiRank Mid-Year 2023 was released this past summer.

Half-year seasons were the standard since the Panda Global Rankings started in 2015 for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U and carried over into the Panda Global Rankings Ultimate once players transitioned to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Then, in 2022, the UltRank was created as a half-year ranking with the teams at OrionRank, EchoRank, and the ΩRank

Once Luminosity Gaming announced its partnership with UltRank on August 4th, 2023, numerous changes followed. The most notable changes were a completely new algorithm and switching to a full-year season (with a summer checkpoint thanks to the LumiRank Mid-Year). Note that Luminosity Gaming only financially supports LumiRank; the decisions about its ranking go to the designated team behind it.

The LumiRank team has publicly stated they would discuss the potential move to half-year ranking seasons. Still, I and many other individuals in the Ultimate scene believe this would be a poor decision.

For starters, working on two seasons means less data per season. With the increased workload, Stuart98, the algorithm creator for the LumiRank, described how there would likely be no accurate rankings outside the global Top 100. Even then, a full-year Top 100 is more challenging and would be a Top 50 ranking similar to the LumiRank Mid-Year 2023 rankings due to minimal amounts of data per season. With that lack of data, regional rankings for North America, Japan, and Europe become lost due to minimal amounts of data per season. The European Ultimate scene already has less representation in the full-year ranking than the Japanese and North American scenes. Having fewer European tournaments qualify per season incentivizes those players to travel to other continents, which is difficult for most. Stuart98 even expressed concern on X, formerly known as Twitter, by stating, “If we revert to just six-month seasons, I think all of that [data] goes away, and we are back to just a big 50-player release.”

While two Top 50 seasons may be what the Ultimate scene decides is best, trading off more representation in our rankings (both for players and tournaments) to make that happen is not wise. I witness vocal frustration toward a lack of their region’s representation in players and tournaments, most notably in my region, the Midwest. If the LumiRank (using the current global Top 100 & Top 200 in North America) became two half-year seasons, that problem would worsen. Instead of the Midwest having ApolloKage (#31), Onin (#43), and Cosmos (#76) as its representatives in the Top 100, it would just be ApolloKage and Onin. That does not seem like much, but with the Top 200 in North America absent as well, the public will know less of other notable Midwest talents like IcyMist, Ikan, Geist, skittles, loaf, Zinoto, Deathspade, Rocke, Ned, Wildz, AnthonyIsntCool, Candle, Rydra, IceKnight, ATATA, Lucky, HENRY LUMA, Suspect, SUPERBIGMARIOFAN, and JeJaJeJa. All these players are in North America’s Top 200, and not having that means decreased Midwest representation overall.

If I lived in a less represented region like the Pacific Northwest, losing regional rankings due to a half-year ranking system with fewer of my region’s tournaments and players would be disheartening. Taking this to a bigger scale, Europe would only have four players in the Top 50 (Gluttony, Sisqui, Bloom4Eva, and Raflow). Europe struggles with global representation enough as is, creating an entire continent of players who are almost required to face the challenge of traveling out of Europe just to be considered to be ranked.

It is noteworthy that the SSBMRank, the global ranking season for Super Smash Bros. Melee, has thrived under a full-year ranking system since 2013. Even when the ranking was partnered with Panda Global to create the Melee Panda Global Rankings, it remained full-year with a mid-year ranking during the summer. Despite the SSBMRank being a panel ranking, that ranking has stayed the same with the lack of public outcry to switch to a half-year ranking and remains largely successful within the Melee scene. The SSBMRank uses a panel ranking and is less friendly for an algorithm than the LumiRank, whose algorithm is likely the catalyst for this debate.

Speaking of their algorithm, one of the subjective arguments of the LumiRank is how their algorithm creates questionable player placements on the ranking. For example, individuals saw the rankings of players like AlanDiss (#58) and Kiyarash (#88) as incorrect due to thinking the algorithm rewards these players with a higher ranking thanks to great performances with lower overall attendance. Regardless of whether the LumiRank is full-year or half-year, the algorithm lowers ranking scores for players with lower attendance. If the algorithm did favor lower attendance, the problem would still arise in a half-year ranking. Data reduction lessens the tournament attendance requirement to qualify per season. While the problem would still exist, its results become mixed. Player rankings in the Top 50 may feature an oddball in people’s eyes, but past that, it becomes inconsistent due to a lack of overall data per season. If major requirements increase, certain regions gain a more arduous time qualifying to be ranked. Of course, the latter half is merely hypothetical, but it shows that the complaint would still exist either way.

When looking at past half-year rankings like the Panda Global Rankings and OrionRank, the Smash 4 and Ultimate scenes shared similar criticisms and complaints. The Panda Global Rankings struggled with balanced regional representation, as their algorithm consistently underrepresented the Japanese and European Smash scenes throughout its duration. Their qualifications to be ranked were also the most strict, leaving notable players and tournaments on the outside looking in. Meanwhile, the OrionRank overvalued weaker regions ( notably with Jdizzle at #100, despite being 0-10 against the Top 99), punished players hard for inconsistency, and excessively favored players with higher attendance. 

While people jump toward the LumiRank algorithm’s “bias” toward Japanese players, the Japanese Smash scene has dominated as the best region since LumiRank started. With most notable tournaments qualifying for the LumiRank in Japan, places less fortunate get multipliers and points to players to help their chances in potential LumiRanked events. The team at LumiRank has acknowledged flaws in this system by working toward improving multipliers for regions like Louisiana and fixing player point values for places in Mexico and Europe. These flaws stem from its algorithm rather than its full-year ranking.

In tandem with its player values, certain regions struggle to gain tournaments of higher value. Looking at the Midwest, there is often an abundance of D-tiered tournaments. However, an alarming decline in higher-tiered tournaments rears its ugly head there. A lack of players in the Midwest who have Player Point or Hidden Boss Values combined with the difficulty for their tournaments to tier up makes these regions tricky to grow in the eyes of the LumiRank.

For example, Odyssey Esports’s Afterburner 2024, a 200-attendee event in Auburn, Indiana, clocked in only at a D-tiered tournament, despite having numerous Midwestern talents in attendance (Onin, ATATA, Doorstop, AnthonyIsntCool, Dice, JeJaJeJa, AndrewT, etc.).The only players with points are Onin, Doorstop, AndrewT, and AnthonyIsntCool. All in all, regions (usually larger ones) with a lack of top talent struggle to get top players to attend, but the events they want said top players at are not ranked highly on the LumiRank. Yet, players in these regions who do not have player values struggle to earn them due to an abundance of lower-ranked events not offering enough points to enough players.

With this dilemma, individuals claim that a half-year ranking may solve the issue due to shifted tournament requirements. However, I know that this would only hurt these regions even more. Half-year seasons have less data per season than full-year seasons. With that logic, more tournaments fight for a small pool of players with points in a shorter time. Tournaments in less desirable regions (according to the LumiRank) then suffer and cannot help their scene grow abiding by the LumiRank’s algorithm.

My point is that a half-year ranking does not solve LumiRank’s problems. Instead, these problems only worsen. These problems solve themselves through community change. Figureheads, tournament organizers, and the team at LumiRank should come together and voice all their concerns civilly to reach the goal of a revitalized competitive scene. I would suggest giving additional chances to earn player value points at C-tiers and B-tiers (5th-7th at B-tiers, 2nd-4th at C-tiers). Also, events with ranked potential on the LumiRank could occur in central portions of regions to make travel less difficult for players. A hot-button issue of this magnitude does not have a cold-button solution, so it will take sewing multiple buttons on wool to make a lovely sweater out of this situation.

As we go on six years of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s lifespan, we still scramble to find unity. Even with the LumiRank taking charge as the head ranking, people make new rankings to fill that insatiable desire that the most recognized ranking may not fill in their eyes. Sticking with LumiRank’s full-year ranking showcases more global representation and has fewer flaws when looking at previous rankings.

Scottie Wade

Writer, 26 Rising

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