For those who don't remember the history of WST, it started with a discussion about large scale Sumo tournaments that involved many players on a team. Up until that point there was only TST and the TST map. If two "Sumo clans" (an actual thing) wanted to compete there was no appropriate server for them to play. I proposed a well received map with two spawn points that would sensibly allow teams to scale in size. The prototype for WST was the Team Sumo Knockout. This was eventually rebranded to War Sumo (think Sumo Clan War). And later there was even an attempted Mega Team Sumo tournament with 3v3v3v3.
Looking back over these old threads I can safely say there wasn't a clear objective other than adding more teammates to Sumo matches. However, WST arose out of a time of renewed experimentation with Sumo. I personally had hoped that Sumo would evolve into a team sport that had similar complexity as Fortress, and I thought a map involving a grind was a good start. We now know that making Sumo a true team game is a difficult problem.
Sumo has become a generic term for action that happens in a zone, for any game mode, whether that zone shrinks or not. I've even seen players boxing each other referred to, stupidly, as "Sumoing". Sumo as a game mode is basically "stay in the circle." It lends itself to a lot of individual skill, but not much when it comes to teamwork. You can try to match player against player, but the dynamic, ever shifting environment of a Sumo ring makes this nearly impossible to maintain. Generally, the team with the best individual Sumo players will almost always out-perform all others, no matter how those other teams strategize.
Sumo is missing defined roles for teammates. In Sumo, you have vague titles such as attacker, defender, and mazer -- but these describe playing styles more than positions. In the best use of the terms, a defender "mazes" inside the zone and the attacker pressures opponents from outside. In practice, any teammate outside the zone is a liability, so a team made entirely of "defenders" should always preform better. This is true no matter how many people are on the team.
Can there be defined roles in Sumo as it is today? I think the answer is "probably not." An environment consisting of a single area with stacked zones is too constrained and too chaotic to give teammates special jobs. Any role or intent would likely dissolve immediately.
Team and Game Mechanics
Zone-based servers can offer, at the least, three different gameplay objectives:
- Enter a zone from outside
- Protect a zone by encircling it
- Fight for control of a zone from inside
Team games have roles and specializations. In addition to roles, teams are often required to make decisions and create strategies that require coordination over the course of a game. I recognize there are some team decisions and strategies in Team Sumo, but these are few and rather subtle.
Given these feature of zone-based servers and team games, what would it take to amplify the team dynamic in Sumo?
Before offering ideas on how to make Sumo a true team game we need to consider how far Sumo can be stretched until it is no longer Sumo-like. The zone fight is the centerpiece, so any changes need to directly affect this interaction in some way without taking away from it. Here are a some suggestions:
1. More zones. This is a nod to long-lost servers such as classic 4-Zone Sumo and some Wild-Fort maps. Having zones in places other than the center of the map would require decision-making on the part of teammates. Maybe some zones don't shrink? Or shrink at different rates? Or have different sizes?
2. Overload the zones. Every sumo game mode, team or otherwise, tends to tailor the zone size to the number of players. But what if we deliberately add more players than could possibly fit in the zone? Some players would have to interact outside, or act as reserve players. Maybe you think this looks too much like a broken Fortress zone with 10 players around it? I don't think that's a bad thing and it is an interesting starting point. How can we develop this idea?
3. Game stages and side quests. There is no shortage of ideas when it comes to map design and scripting. What if Sumo had stages where some zones need to be conquered before moving on to others? Death zones could partition off Sumo zones until later in the round, zones can shrink AND move (like in Flower Power Sumo). Spawn points can be stretched across the map to have teammates fight 1v1 matches while others fight in a main zone. Let's not forget we can rotate through multiple maps in a match.
Aside: In this space I imagined showing a map I thought of the other day that had rim_accel launchers, a middle Sumo zone, and two static zones on each side, but decided it was too gimmicky and didn't really create an environment that could evolve into something requiring high strategy and team coordination. Maybe I'll have another idea soon -- I'm going to keep working on this problem.
Some of what I've written probably looks like nostalgia for CTWF or old-school Sumo. This is less about nostalgia and more about adding at least one more team game in Armagetron. These days all we have is Fortress. That's not bad, we all love it, but we used to have CTF and occasionally Wild Fort or other tournaments like Inca, plus countless other events you can see on the wiki's Challenge Board. We play a lot of Sumo. If we are going to play so much, let's put some effort into making a version that compares to 6v6 Fort.