When the Do Gaming League (DGL) announced the introduction of Playoffs in the legs, it was met with a mixed reception. But as the year has developed and we're coming to the end of the second leg, I have to say that I think the Playoffs idea is really working.
Before the Playoffs were introduced, a team entering into the bottom of a large league, like Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3, could take more than a year to ever reach the Premier League. If the team and its players were Premier material, it would mean a whole year of playing against teams that aren't – and where would the fun be in that?
The design of the DGL is set up to help gamers play against teams or players with the same skill level. Or, more appropriately, to play against others who want to take things as seriously as they do. So the bottom divisions are generally for those who want to play more socially, while the upper divisions are for those who want to play more competitively. That's why the higher divisions require more commitment with certain mechanics like best-of-three maps matches and so on.
Every year the scene changes. So a highly skilled team could either slog it out the whole year and then be met with challenges to line-ups and so on the following year as team members head off to study or start jobs etc. Or, if everything works out there, continue to work their way up. Or, the other option (which has happened in the past fairly often) is for the team to just disband and each individual team member join a team that's already in Premier.
The issue with that is that the top names remain the top names. It's great the teams like Bravado and ASF get to dominate and stay at the top in a scene like Call of Duty 4, but that's not very good for the scene in the long run. There needs to be more competition than that if the whole scene's skill level is to rise in its entirety and we're all to enjoy an exciting league.
Now, however, if a team performs well they're rewarded for it. They could have started right at the bottom of a league and by the third leg find themselves in the Premier League. If they had a hiccup on the way, they could at the very least take advantage of the third leg playoffs and secure themselves a guaranteed invite to the DGL Championships.
Is it working? I would say it is. And I think it's working very well.
For example, in Call of Duty 4, HpX |N-erGy rose through the ranks by first winning the Group C seeding stage. This got them into the Novice Cup which, while they didn't win (that was given to GAMEOVER) they got to the semi-finals where they were taken out by I.SBS. Divine' COD4 is worth a mention here as well as they got to the semis in the same cup where GAMEOVER took them out.
Despite that they didn't win, their high placing shot both teams straight into the First Division, skipping right over the Second Division. They continued to perform well with N-erGy topping Group A in the First Division for leg 2 while divine' COD4 topped Group B. This got them a Champions Cup entry where they reached the Quarter Finals. They both had to face pretty tough teams there (divine faced ASF while N-erGy faced Bravado) but their placing has now secured them a Premier spot.
With the likes of xTc and these new teams in the Call of Duty 4 Premier Division, the next leg should be highly competitive and the old cats might get a run for their money.
Meanwhile, divine's other team, divine Juniors, are poised to shoot off into the First Division after reaching the quarter finals for this leg's Novice Cup. Divine Gaming, as a clan, are approaching the scene very competitively and they're being rewarded for a great performance.
Perhaps the clearest indication of how things are working is how BFB Lard will probably find themselves in the Call of Duty 4 Champions Cup by the end of the next leg and then competing at the Championships for the DGL title. BFB Lard started at the bottom of the league this year due to a number of reasons, but as most in the scene would know they are the DGL 2011 Champions.
Call of Duty 4 is a great example to show how the Playoffs are working because the game has been a popular title in the DGL for several years now. In a scene that large and competitive, we probably would have seen things stay mainly business-as-usual most of the year round if this year's system remained as last year's – where the bottom two teams of a division would be relegated to a lower division, while the top two of the lower division would be promoted to a higher division.
But now teams coming from practically nowhere are causing waves right at the top in a relatively short space of time and they're getting to have fun while they're at it. Moving through the ranks no longer has to be a laborious or demotivating process, but teams that perform well are rewarded well.
I know that some gamers still don't like the system as it is not only confusing (especially when teams pull out mid-leg) but it also seems to make the pre-playoff matches in the leg seem a little pointless. However, for the lower divisions those pre-playoff matches are imperative as if they secure themselves a high placing on the log it means they go through to a higher Cup for the playoffs and have a better chance of skipping an entire division on the way up.
For Premier teams, however, the pre-playoff matches might be something of a slog, especially if they're dominating. However, in the long run it will begin to make sense there too, in my opinion, because the competition itself will increase and Premier teams will find themselves enjoying things more as a result.