Tips for Running an Online Tournament

As we already advised in the COVID-19 Guidelines we recently published, we expect the next few months will be difficult for Organised Play. Many events will be postponed or cancelled, but some will be run online on Jinteki.net. To help tournament organisers who want to try this, we've put together some tips and tricks from the best practices that our Jinteki.net coordinator, Akira Mitchell, arrived at from her experience running online tournaments:

  1. Collect payments in advance of the event, as it will delay check-in to do it on the day. Ask people to use PayPal, or set up an online ticketing solution like Eventbrite.

  2. Prepare two Google Forms populating two separate spreadsheets: one registration form where people can reserve their place and where you can check who paid; and one check-in form for players to fill in on the day. This is to check that people have actually turned up, as there are likely to be no-shows.

  3. You can also use the check-in form to collect decklists (although they are not mandatory at Store Championship-level events). Simply include two fields on the Google Form where people can either paste in their entire decklists in plain text or insert NetrunnerDB links.

  4. Suggestions on information to collect for the registration form: real names, Jinteki.net usernames, Discord (or whichever other chat client you’ll be using) usernames, and mailing addresses if you’ll be posting prizes.

  5. Set up a Discord server, with a text channel named after your event. You can also use the NISEI Discord server for Jinteki.net events; simply send that invite link to your players. Alternatives to Discord include setting up a Facebook chat group, a Google Hangout, a Slack channel, etc. Discord is particularly convenient due to its tagging functions and because players can break off into voice channels and chat to their opponent if they want.

  6. Send everyone who filled in the registration form an email a day or two before the event (remember to use BCC to protect everyone’s privacy), with a reminder of the start time and an invite link to the chat. It's also sensible to include links to our Supported Formats page so they can check the legality of their decks.

  7. Before round 1, instruct your players how to set up their games: the player on the left on the pairings screen in Cobra sets up the game in Jnet’s competitive tab, and tags it with the name of the tournament and their table number, so that their opponent can easily find them. This will make it easy for you to check if anyone’s missing. Player who set up the game plays as Corp first. We recommend that you ask them to password their games (using a password which you’ll specify), and to ensure that “allow spectators” is CHECKED and “show players’ hidden information” is UNCHECKED.

  8. We suggest you add 10 minutes to each round, as some players might not be familiar with Jnet’s interface. Don’t start the round until all tables are populated.

  9. Instruct them to @ you on Discord to report scores or if they need a judge call.

  10. While you need spectators to be allowed in case you need to join the room to resolve judge calls, you should discourage people not playing from spectating games directly. The temptation for the spectators to chat is great, and in doing so they may accidentally spoil the game by revealing lines of play the contestants themselves had not thought of! If the tournament is being streamed, you should encourage non-participants to watch there instead.

  11. If using the NISEI online event Discord, feel free to use the “.timer Xm” (where X is in minutes) bot command to keep track of round times. If you’re using your own server, install a similar bot there so players can always get automatic time checks.

  12. If your Store Championship is big enough that you need to run a top 16 (lucky you!), you’ll have to use Challonge to do it, as Cobra only supports up to top 8. You will need to determine who plays each side manually.

While Jnet is no substitute for in-person play, there are some upsides to online events. For instance, you will instantly increase the catchment area (and therefore attendance) of your events to people who would not have been able to travel to them. You might get some high profile members of the community attending (popular streamers, top players etc). You can also get former members of your meta who have since moved away to turn up again and meet up virtually with old friends.

Finally, online events are incredibly easy to stream via YouTube or Twitch! Unlike streaming meatspace events, it requires no expensive cameras and microphones, and you’re not subject to the vagaries of unreliable venue Wi-Fi. The first batch of online store championships already took place this past weekend and were a resounding success! Check out this stream of the top cut of the Huddersfield Store Championships, as commentated by Dave “Rotage” Saiya and NISEI’s own Michał “Vesper” Dziewoński!

This is an unusual and uncertain time, but the Netrunner community is a resilient one. We appreciate your flexibility and look forward to hearing about the exciting online events you organize!