E-sports is growing fast. There are a lot of tournaments being tossed around. Some are successful, some are not. I just ran a tournament on Saturday that had a few bumps in the road, but we made it through -- thankfully, we had planned enough that, after smoothing out the bumps, things went fairly smoothly. Some may find success without hitting every requirement of this guide – that's okay. This is just meant to be some general guidelines to help point you in the right directions, and also to make your (and my) life easier. For those of you who are lazy, here's the quick and dirty version:
Choosing Your Tournament: Try not to be just another one-time 1v1 tournament where first place gets a small prize. Shake things up!
Getting Set-Up: There are a lot of pieces that go into making a tournament. Make sure you've got all of them in place, or you'll be scrambling and disorganized when it comes to the actual tournament. Planning is key!
Choosing a Date: Any day will work given the right timing. Weekends will have the most potential players, but also the most potential competition. If you’re concerned about other tournaments on a given date, get in touch with the organizer of the other tournament and have a conversation!
The Reddit Post: Make your post look nice and professional. Anything less and some people won’t bother reading it. Don’t post too far in advance, or you’ll be forgotten.
Send a Reminder: Reminding people is a good thing. Do it.
Streaming the Tournament: Do everything you can to make the stream look nice and flow smoothly. Please record the VOD for later!
Now for the gigantic wall of text that goes into everything in-detail, like I know all of you wanted.
Step 1: Choosing Your Tournament
The key is to make your tournament unique. Whether that's a different prize pool or adding something interesting to the rules, your tournament will have a lot more attention if you do something to make it different. Tournaments with money on the line are always going to be more popular and attract higher-level players. Just be careful not to go TOO crazy, or you might end up driving players away.
Step 2: Getting Set-Up
Every tournament consists of many parts, and all of them need to be working in order for your tournament to succeed. Before you even think about when you want to host your tournament, you should get everything ready. A typical tournament will need, at the minimum:
- A Challonge Bracket, with registration and tournament information. If you've got another bracket system, you can use it, but Challonge is easy to use, familiar to just about every player, and works extremely well. Do not allow players to put their own scores in for match results.
- A Discord Server. This can also be accomplished with a Steam group or other chat program, but Discord typically works a lot better. It's free, quick, easy, and familiar. Have text channels in the Discord server called 'Announcements' as well as 'Match Reporting', and one that's 'Find Opponents'. These three, at least, will keep chatting organized. Remember, Discord is free!
- Hosts. Whether this is you or not, I personally recommend you have at least two people casting matches, one of whom should be the "front-man" for the tournament and streaming it on Twitch. There are a lot of good commentators and analysts in the community. If you don't have anybody to cast your tournament and don't want to do it yourself, you may be able to get somebody to help you.
- Help. It's very tough to run a good tournament yourself, especially if you're casting it. You'll want at least one person on the back-end of everything, monitoring the discord, putting match results into Challonge, and resolving disputes between players. Having two or more can significantly reduce player complaints, particularly in the earlier stages of a tournament when there are a lot of matches going on at once.
- Prizes are where a lot of tournaments shoot themselves in the foot. Playing for community colors usually isn't incentive for top-tier players, and leaving a prize pool "To Be Determined" shows that you haven't done enough preparation. A tournament without a prize pool can succeed, but usually won't be as popular, especially for highly competitive players. Whatever your prize pool is going to be, make sure you have it in place before you announce the tournament. Your prize pool can be amended later, but make sure you don't leave the prize pool in limbo.
- Note that your tournament, unless it's a huge event, will likely not have analysts, but having a combination between a "technical caster" and a "color caster" is fairly standard.
Step 3: Choosing A Date
The first thing you need to do is pick a date for your tournament. Weekends are popular -- that's when people are available, right? Keep in mind that there are a lot of "set" tournaments going on during the weekends. You're either going to be competing with those or working around their time slot. Don't rule out the idea of weekdays (primarily evenings), but with summer coming up, some players may have their days significantly more open.
I also encourage open communication between tournament hosts to try to avoid scheduling conflicts. If you want to try to compromise with somebody, be polite and realize that they were there first; that's why you're concerned about them in your time slot. Weekly tournaments will probably not change their timing for a one-time event.
Step 4: The Reddit Post
Another place where a lot of tournaments, particularly new and inexperienced tournament-creators, shoot themselves in the foot. Here are a few key pointers:
Use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Failing to do this will just make it tough to read and tough for people to find the information they're looking for.
Make Use of the Formatting Tools. See how this thread is organized with headings, bullet points, and uses bold text to highlight key points? These are all good practices for making your information 'pop'.
Clear Rules. I mentioned earlier that you might want to give your tournament a 'twist' -- don't do that without making it extremely clear how it works, and be prepared to answer questions about it. Even if you're going for a 'standard' tournament, make sure you specify the basic information like rounds, map striking, restrictions on changing legends, etc.
Clear... Everything Else. Having the dates, prizes, tournament stream, discord channel, and challonge bracket are all very important. This goes back to the formatting tools -- make sure all of your key information is visible.
Your reddit post should go up no more than two weeks before your tournament happens. Unless it's a huge tournament with a huge prize-pool or an important LAN tournament, it will likely be largely forgotten if you announce it too far in advance. I personally recommend making your post 1-1.5 weeks in advance.
Step 5: Post a Reminder
If you announce your tournament two weeks in advance, make a 'reminder' post after about a week. Always make a post to remind people on the day of the tournament. Please don't make posts reminding people every single day unless your post contains important updates, which should always be posted as soon as they're decided upon.
Step 6: Streaming The Tournament
Whether you're using one caster, two casters, or a big panel of casters/analysts doesn't matter a ton -- just make sure the matches are streamed with some commentary. Casters don't absolutely need webcams, but having an out-of-game screen to look at between matches can be more interesting than a static image or the "lobby" screen in Brawlhalla.
A big thing about your tournament stream is to have overlays for your tournament. They don't need to be anything amazing. I'm no artist, but I made the overlays for my tournament myself; they weren't all that complicated. I got input from a couple people for some of the design decisions, but using Photoshop, GIMP, SumoPaint, or getpaint.net to make a simple overlay isn't too hard. At the very least you should have an overlay for your game screen, so everybody knows who's playing and what the score is.
You don't need a plan of who to stream every single round, but you should have a plan for when you want people to stop playing their matches so that you can cast every single one. This usually happens around Winner's Semifinals/Loser's Finals. Make sure to let the players know when this is so that the tournament can progress smoothly.
Always make sure that the streamer records the tournament VOD. Any tournament that doesn't get that set up is making a mistake. There are no downsides to getting this recorded to be viewed as a "past broadcast" on your Twitch channel, not to mention highlights and Youtube exports, so make sure that setting is on!