Jul 9, 2022: How To Judge Guide
How to Judge Guide
Welcome back, Organizers! After reading our Tournament Guide and our Known-Issues Guide now it’s time to wind back and refresh (or even take a first look into) the basics of judging. In this Guide we will review some PvP concepts and terminology and see how to apply them when evaluating video. Remember! To fairly adjudicate, you need to be familiar with the Arena Rules and you should also play and watch PvP battles as much as you can in order to know how the game is currently intended to function. That being said, let’s begin!
Rules Reminder! Reviewing evidence to adjudicate will expose hidden information of the involved Competitors! Hidden information must remain hidden from other Competitors. You should not review a dispute coming from someone you are playing against.
There are some concepts that you need to be familiar with in order to understand what is happening in a video and also to be able to communicate in an efficient and correct way with the affected party, whenever a Competitor asks for a rematch.
- Fast Move (or Fast Attack): Action triggered while tapping on active screen areas that deals damage (Fast-Move damage) and generates energy (Fast-Move energy). The Fast-Move screen area includes all the screen except Switch buttons, Charge-Move buttons and top-left Quit Battle button. The Charge-Move circles area will be part of the Fast-Move screen area as long as they’re not filled with energy.
- Charge Move (or Charged Attack): Action triggered by tapping one of the circular buttons at the bottom of the screen. They can be tapped after the necessary energy requirement is reached. When this is done, a minigame used to calculate Charge-Move damage starts. Minigame damage and Charge-Move damage will depend on the quantity of successfully swiped type icons. Minimum damage is 25% of the maximum (attained by swiping 31 or 32 type icons).
- Banked energy: Cumulative amount of energy due to successfully completed Fast Moves. A Pokémon can store up to 100 energy.
- Swap: Action triggered by tapping the Pokémon icons on the right side of the screen. Tapping one will take the currently-used Pokémon out of the battle and send in the one shown in the tapped icon. After making a switch, a 60-second cooldown begins for that Competitor during which no switches can be made.
- Force Swap: Whenever a Trainer is forced to send in a Pokémon after their active one has fainted.
- Protect Shield: Whenever a Charge Move is triggered, the receiving Competitor has the option to shield their Pokémon granted they still have either of their 2 initial shields available. The Protect Shield hexagonal icon will be available at the bottom of the screen together with a “not now” (do not enable shield) button. No shield will be used if no action is taken within a 5-second timeframe. Shields reduce the damage dealt by the opponent’s Charge Move to 1 HP but this may not be enough to avoid the Pokémon from fainting.
- Turn: Time unit in PvP battles, that lasts half (½) a second. Switch activation can last up to one (1) turn*. Each Fast Move lasts a certain amount of turns that goes from 1 to 5. Energy gain and applied damage occur at the beginning of the last turn of a Fast Move (total fast-move duration minus 1) while a new action can be triggered at the end of it. Some examples of Fast Moves and their turn durations are:
Note: Several online resources have updated information regarding fast-move duration that could be used as reference. Please keep in mind that some websites measure turns from 0 to 4 instead of 1 to 5; remember to add one turn if this is the case, in order to figure out the total duration of the Fast Move during gameplay.
*Swap activation time is usually one (1) turn. In certain game situations, however, this may be reduced to 0 turns. The following are cases where swaps will consume 0 turns due to how the swap mechanic works at the moment: a) the Swap is triggered right after the switching Competitor’s own Charge Moves; b) the Swap is triggered right after the opponent’s Charge Move when the switching Competitor’s Fast Move has started but its damage has not been applied yet. It is common when Fast-Move Leaking occurs (check it below in this list) but it will happen in every situation that meets the definition; c) the Swap is a Force Swap (see definition below in the list). Moreover, a Swap may inconsistently consume 0 turns if triggered at the very beginning of a game.
- Priority of Actions: Switches have priority over Charge Moves, Fast Moves over simultaneous Charge Moves (Fast-Move Leaking). Charge Move Activation priority over Fast Move Damage application is currently inconsistent.
Note: Fast Moves generate energy that is collected to use a Charge Move. Therefore, the Pokémon stops attacking with Fast Moves until their Charge Move finishes. While a Competitor is triggering their Charge Move, their opponent may start a Fast Move depending on Charge-Move timing. If the Competitor’s Charge Move and an opponent’s Fast Move start during the same turn, said Fast Move will be sneaked (Fast-Move Leaking). In previous game versions (before 0.241.0) said Fast Move could have been denied (no Fast-Move animation starts in this case).
Note 2: If a Switch is used, the opponent’s Fast Move used on that same turn will land on the incoming Pokémon, if it lasts more than 1 turn.
Note 3: If a Charge Move is thrown after the opposing Pokémonhas started a Fast Move with a duration of 2 turns or more, whether leaked or not, the Fast Move damage will be inevitably applied on the Pokémon that used the Charge Move, even if it is switched out right away.
Note 4: The priority of Charge Move activation over Fast Move damage is currently inconsistent. As a consequence, if a Pokémon using a Charge Move does not have enough HP to survive the opponent’s 1-turn Fast Move, it may either a) faint before using the Charge Move, or b) successfully activate the Charge Move. In case “a”, the opponent’s 1-turn Fast Move animation starts (known as “Fast-Move Leaking”) and damage is applied immediately. In case “b”, the Charge Move takes priority and Fast Move damage resolution will occur after it (if the opponent’s Pokémon does not faint from the Charge Move). Additionally, since the resolution time for Fast Move damage is postponed, if the opponent swaps their Pokémon right after the player’s Charge Move, the swap will take 1 turn.
- Fast-Move Leaking: a Fast Move that starts at the same time as the opponent’s Pokémon throws a Charge Move.
- CMP: Charge-Move Priority (CMP) refers to how the game determines which Competitor will fire their Charge Move first in the event of a simultaneous activation. Currently, CMP is granted to the Pokémon that has the higher Attack Stat, which considers the base Pokémon stats as well as the IV. If the Attack Stat is the same, the priority will be awarded randomly. Shadow form does not affect the base Attack Stat used to determine CMP.
- False CMP: Situation where it appears the game has determined which Pokémon is getting Charge-Move Priority but said “priority” is not actually due to a tie. It is generally due to Fast Moves lasting a different ammount of turns and not actually ending at the same moment before Charge Moves are activated. However, in some situations it can be the result of an in-game issue, a user mistake, a combination of both.
- Sac (sacrificial) swap: Switch triggered at the same time or one turn before an opponent’s Charge Move is activated, resulting in the switched-in Pokémon being the new target. Sac swaps are a consequence of Switch priority over Charge Move activation. Fast-Move Leaking may occur after a sac swap in Current State of the Game.
- Farming: Dealing only Fast-Move damage to the opponent’s Pokémon without throwing any Charge Move, thus accumulating, or “farming,” energy.
- Overfarming: Completing more Fast Moves than the ones needed to use a Charge Move that would knock out the opponent’s Pokémon. Some Competitors may refer to this as overcharging, and understand overfarming as going over 100 energy.
- Overtapping: Energy related to a Fast Move gained by Leaking used to be gained slightly after the opponent’s Charge Move. Pressing the Charge-Move area within this small interval is called Overtapping: a new Fast Move is triggered instead of activating the Charge Move. As of version 0.241.0, Overtapping has been fixed as a Charge Move can be activated right away after the opponent’s one.
- Under-Charging: Completing only part of the Charge-Move minigame to strategically reduce damage output.
- Fast-Move Damage Transfer: Correctly timing the Switch or the combination of the Competitor’s Fast Moves and Switch to transfer the opponent’s Fast-Move damage into the switched-in Pokémon. As of version 0.241.0, damage transfer is not possible whenever a Competitor uses a Charge Move before switching if the opponent has started a Fast Move, whether leaked or not.
- Bug: Unintended behavior of the game. It is used as a general term to refer to any in-game issue.
- Lag: Excessive delay that occurs in communication with the game server, causing one-sided or mutual issues (game freezes, input failure, etc).
- Current State of the Game: The way that the game is working at present time. You might hear this phrase when talking about some known in-game issues that, even if not how the way the game is intended to work, are part of how the game is working at the moment. Every Competitor should be aware of these issues and accept their occurrence during the game. Refer to the Silph Arena Known Issues Guide for further clarification and associated official Arena stances. Moreover, the official Niantic GO Battle Known Issues page provides updated information about current solved and unsolved issues.
As an Official, it is likely that you will be contacted by Competitors in your tournament in order to decide if a technical issue that occurred in a particular battle is worth granting a rematch, or even an adjudicated win. Whenever this happens, there are some checks you need to clear before getting into the actual dispute:
- What game are they disputing? Did they continue with the other games in the match? Knowing what game the Competitor is disputing and knowing whether they continued with the match or not is of uttermost importance. Competitors must inform their opponent as soon as possible and not after starting the next game of the match. If they had an issue, but did not inform their opponent and continued with their battles it is understood as they accepted the result. Likewise if they reported the match outcome after the last battle
- Do they have a video? “No video, no rematch” is something you may have read before. And it’s the basic rule you must always follow. The Competitor must provide a full-length video of the match in order to start a dispute based on technical issues. A snippet of just the alleged bug is not enough, more on that later!
As you have checked that out, it’s possible that you already have a video to review. At this point, these are the steps the Arena recommends you take when this occurs:
- Try to get as much information as you can regarding the issue. After gathering the full-battle video, don’t be afraid to ask the Competitor their take on what happened and what they believe should have happened, as well as what time in the video you should be paying extra attention to.
- Watch the entire video. Even if the Competitor tells you that the issue is at a certain point in the video, start at the beginning and watch all of it. Always request the full video if it has not been sent by the affected Competitor as it’s essential to follow this step.
- While watching the video, see if you can identify the issue that is taking place and what may be affecting the situation.
- Do your best to identify all the issues, not only the ones highlighted by the Competitor. That’s why full videos are needed. Other neglected issues may have had a butterfly effect on the battle. Try to understand what is (or is not) happening in the battle, some “issues” may only be game mechanics.
- Once you have identified the potential issues, identify whether they are caused by a user error or a current state of the game or a lag-related issue. The Silph Arena’s Known Issues Guide is a useful tool to learn how to detect them, clarify their typology and their eligibility for a rematch.
- Determine if the issue affected the outcome of the battle. This must be done in an objective way without making assumptions on what would, could, or should have occurred. Simulations are not a way to settle this point as battles do not always play out exactly as expected and they might also not reflect the current State of the Game. Please keep in mind that it is your duty to determine if the impact was significant and not who the winner of the match should be. In very specific cases (see Silph Arena Rules 2.10.1), it is possible to adjudicate a win and override the game result.
- Issue the resulting ruling and communicate it to the Competitors. The ruling can be either:
- a rematch, whenever the in-game issue significantly affects the outcome of battle;
- a confirmation of the battle outcome as recorded in the in-game journal which is also known as “no rematch”;
- an adjudicated win (“DefWin”), which means the Competitor that experienced the technical issue has the game victory secured at the time of the technical malfunction, in full compliance with the requirements of the above mentioned Silph Arena Rule 2.10.1.
Rules Reminder! Competitors are expected to follow Official’s interpretations and rulings. If they disagree they can send a Misconduct Report, but refusing to play or stalling in any way based on such disagreement may be penalized.
What to Look for in a Video
This is only a small peek into the world of video reviewing. As we said before, Officials should try to be updated on current game mechanics and known issues. But above all, use your best judgment to solve these situations as they arise. Determining the impact of a technical issue on the game outcome can be a task of varying difficulty. In order to assist you with mechanics and issues, we have published a compilation of Known Issues Guide to further help you in this sometimes hard and dedicated task. Here is a list of useful tips for Competitors and TOs, while watching one or both sides of the game.
- Pokémon health bars as they might be key to see if one of the Competitors is not issuing Fast Moves and/or losing energy.
- The Energy Circle, where you can see the accumulation of energy for Charge Moves, to further complement the previous point.
- The User actions (taps) as there might be foul play from one of the Competitors to take advantage of a situation, or simply a delay in an action that they might later try to attribute to a game error. The Arena strongly recommends Competitors turn on assistive touches on their device in order to make seeing user actions more clear, recording with an external device or activating the microphone audio are other alternatives when this feature is not available. Taps are essential to confirm Competitors’ intentions.
- The phone UI and specifically the status bar as it might give us information to determine if there were other factors in play that caused the issue, rather than the game itself. Some elements of the UI that Officials should take a look into are:
- Signal bars, to see what kind of connection the Competitor is playing on and to see if it’s stable. This applies both to data connection (3G/4G/5G) and WiFi.
- Battery level and mode.
- Phone temperature if it can be seen in the status bar, as high temperature might affect the performance.
- Number of apps running in the background.
- Operating system and version, as it can be estimated from the status bar, and that can let us know the specs of the phone.
Please keep in mind that a Competitor is responsible for taking all the measures in order to avoid issues. If a Competitor is having performance issues due to a phone or connection failure, it can be ruled as user error. The same responsibility applies in the event the battle gets affected or interrupted by any mid-battle notification or call the Competitor may receive, which could be mitigated by having the “Do Not Disturb” mode activated; if the phone turns off because of a low battery, or if the system closes the game because of high temperature.
- If the issue is lag-related, take note of energy stored by each Pokémon before and after it occurs. Look at Fast-Move turns, to see if they are on their expected pace, which can be most easily identified visually by the in-game animations. If animations are affected by the issue, focusing on fast-move damage application time is the most effective way to understand what happened.
- Carefully analyze energy/damage discrepancy between Competitors to determine if, and how many, turns are lost by the affected Competitor. It’s often easier to calculate turns losses by dividing the game into intervals between Charge Moves and analyzing each one.
- Try to evaluate the impact of bugs/lag on the outcome of the individual matchup, and, to a greater extent, of the game. If one or more win conditions would have been realistically possible for the affected Competitor before the issue occurs, a rematch should be granted. If certain conditions are met, a win may be adjudicated (see next section and Arena Rules 2.10.1).
- Theorycrafting limits: while finding at least one feasible win condition for the affected Competitor is encouraged, Officials should refrain from making non-obvious gameplay decisions in the place of Competitors (e.g. extra farming, shielding, baiting, sack-swapping) to exclude one. Detecting too many possibilities and scenarios (typical in the case of an early game issue) is generally a symptom of an ambiguous situation, where a rematch should be granted.
- Decisions taken by Competitors after an impactful issue has occurred should not be taken into account when analyzing the rest of the game, as it could have been played differently had the issue not occurred.
- Focus the attention on the whole game, as additional issues may have occurred during the battle, potentially having a butterfly effect on the outcome.
- Use the right resources for information: Remember that while judging a video you are bound by the same limits as Competitors and may not use simulations to determine what the outcome of a match “should” have been. Static resources such as looking up Pokédex entries and referencing infographics with information such as move counts are allowed.
Reviewing tips for potential DefWin cases
Tournament Officials may adjudicate a win (“DefWin”) when certain conditions are met (see Arena Rules 2.10). Assessing that one Competitor would have undoubtedly won against the other requires a higher level of responsibility where both consistency and fairness in decisions are key.
Rules Reminder: 2.10.1
If the affected Competitor had the battle win secured in their favor at the time of the technical malfunction a win may be adjudicated (“DefWin”) but only if every single one of the following conditions apply in addition to the existence of the technical malfunction that significantly affected the game:
- The Competitor that would be adjudicated a win must not have willingly left the battle after being affected by the technical malfunction.
- The Competitor that would be adjudicated a loss must only have only one (1) Pokémon left and said Pokémon must have been in battle at the moment of the technical error.
- The Competitor that would be adjudicated a win must either have had enough energy to launch a Charge Move that would undoubtedly faint the last Pokémon in the opposing team and/or must have undoubtedly been able to faint it with the use of Fast Moves, Charge Moves, or a combination of both with the opposing Pokémon not being able to faint it beforehand.
- The Competitor that would be adjudicated a loss must not have any possible expected win-conditions left.
Although not mandatory, it is recommended that at least 3 Tournament Officials are involved in any decision, especially when adjudicating a win is on the table. Here are a couple of tips to follow when a dispute checks all the Arena Rules requirements and adjudicating a win is considered:
- All of the previous reviewing tips apply. Wins can only be adjudicated when, in addition to the specific requirements, a rematch could have been granted.
- Check out the affected Competitor’s video and remember that whenever a win adjudication is considered it not only must be the full game video but, in addition, the affected Competitor must have not willingly left the battle at any point. Otherwise, a win cannot be adjudicated.
- A win may be adjudicated only if the technical issue occurs when the opponent’s last and only Pokémon left is already battling. Technical issues that affect the game before may be grounds for a rematch, but never for a DefWin.
- The affected competitor may of course still have one or more Pokémons left.
- No win conditions left for the Opponent! Having only one Pokémon is harsh, but does not guarantee that everything is lost. Type advantage, residual HP, previously stored energy and potential Fast Move(s) and/or Charge Move(s) damage output at the point of the technical issue are key parameters to consider to evaluate if they could still make it into victory. In that case, even if it is just one possible and unlikely win condition, a win cannot be adjudicated;
- If the issue had a significant impact on the game but you’re not sure if the damage caused by Fast Move(s) and/or Charge Move(s) will knock out the opponent’s last Pokémon, grant a rematch instead of a DefWin.
- If one or more technical malfunctions have affected the game of both sides, consider granting a rematch, even if all DefWin conditions are met. Relevant technical issues may have had an impact on the Opponent’s game too. In that case, granting (or not granting) a Rematch may take priority over a DefWin.
- Always prepare a clear DefWin reasoning, since it must be shared with involved Competitors.
- Remember that you are the Tournament Official, your ruling is final, and it must be followed by both Competitors. Nobody can force you to adjudicate a win whenever you do not feel comfortable with that decision.
- Always be consistent with your rulings! Intentional abuse of win adjudication may be reported by both Competitors and Spectators to the Arena Infractions Team.
For someone who has not done it before, solving these kinds of disputes can seem to be a bit overwhelming. Using this guide to understand the basics of video judging keeping updated by practicing whenever you can, reaching out to more experienced officials to either learn or include them as Officials in your Tournaments (even if it is as remote ones!) and following the Known Issues Guide will help you gain confidence with this skill.