There have been other suggestions to improve the combat rankings before, but I'll still go ahead and offer an idea of my own.
There currently are a few issues with the combat rankings. They are mainly based on the fact that people can accept or refuse spars at their total liberty, ensuring that they only fight when it is most likely to give them a good benefit. Some examples:
- If you're ranked first with some lead, there's no incentive to continue fighting at all. The greater your lead is, the less you can gain from sparring, and the more likely it becomes that you will lose a great lot immediately from a lost spar - and even the greatest fighters lose spars now and then, sometimes due to entirely random factors such as lag or disconnections.
- If you're still ranked low, but are somewhat known as a fighter, it may be very hard to get any spars at all, because your opponents have little to gain from winning against you, but a great chance of losing something.
- At the beginning of a new combat season, it's easy for mediocre fighters to keep sparring among themselves and obtain a great rank, while dodging the more dangerous opponent entirely.
- People can also very easily pick raisins about which classes they wish to fight. If you do very badly against magi, you simply avoid sparring magi. This rewards fighters who are very specialised against certain kinds of opponents, but not particularly versatile in their ability.
- It can at times be difficult to find opponents for combat spars in general. Once people have reached a position they are comfortable with, they will often stop sparring completely, so for someone new to get combat spars, it can be a long task of continuously pestering everyone on the rankings for spars, which is neither fun for them, nor the pestered ones.
And so on.
There have been some suggestions of introducing requirements to spar a certain number of times to avoid losing your rating, or to introduce systems that allow you to force a spar against a particular opponent in a certain time frame. But none of these solutions deal with the fundamental issue of people strategically selecting the targets that promise the best benefits to their ranking and thus "gaming the system" in some form. I believe one way to really reduce this issue would be to move the system into a more anonymous direction, where fighters face each other without prior knowledge of whom they will be facing.
My suggestion, thus, is to keep the system as it is, allowing people to combat spar each other voluntarily if they like, but in addition introduce an anonymous pairing functionality, which would work as follows:
SPARON C places you on Sparwho, but not by name/level/class/ranking. Instead, it adds an anonymous line to the Sparwho list that there's a person looking for a combat spar. If you check SPARWHO, you will see how many people are currently looking for combat spars. Example:
Adventurers of Achaea seeking sparring partners:
your Combat Combat
Name might Rank Rating Class Type
Mako 75 24th 175 Alchemist spar (in arena)
Iocun 100 23rd 186 Serpent spar (in arena)
Ruca 30 16th 213 Priest spar (in arena)
Omi 15 --- --- Shaman spar (in arena)
There are 2 people currently looking for combat spars.
This SPARON C listing is completely independent from the normal SPARWHO. You can be on the normal sparwho list, but not on the combat spar list, or vice versa, or both.
If you see at least one other person on SPARWHO who is looking for combat spars and the Matsuhama arena is currently unoccupied, you may use the command COMBAT CHALLENGE ANONYMOUS. This will select the person closest to you in combat rank who is currently on the combat sparwho list and send them a message that they have been challenged. This person now has two minutes to ACCEPT CHALLENGE, upon which both contestants will be instantly transported into the Delos arena and a combat spar begins. If the challenged does not accept the challenge in time, his is considered to have forfeited the spar and the spar is ruled as if the challenger had won it. If the challenger logs out from Achaea after issuing the challenge, dies, or is otherwise rendered unable to begin the combat spar, the spar is ruled in favour of the challenged.
To prevent this system from being abused as a means of quick intercontinental travel, you can only issue combat challenges from the Prime Material Plane on the continent of Sapience. The same applies to entering the SPARON C list. Leaving Sapience or dying will automatically remove you from this list as well.
Every ranked fighter has to place himself on the combat sparwho list for at least an hour per RL week. This doesn't have to be in a single go. You might be on the list for a hour at once, or for ten minutes each, six days in a row. Failure to do so will result in losing a quarter of ones rating points. (E.g. a fighter with a rating of 400 will fall to a rating of 300 if he fails to place himself on the list enough.) Participation in an anonymous combat spar will relieve you from having to be on the list for the remainder of the week.
I think a system like this would ensure that all ranked players have to combat spar every now and then, without knowing whom they will be facing, yet still allow them the option of picking the times when they feel up for fighting, without being pressured into a spar while they are occupied otherwise.