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Recently I saw some statistics about how many people are in each league (bronze / silver / gold / platinum / diamond / master). That is 6 leagues, and Bronze was something like 40% of the entire ladder.

To me that seems pretty rough. Top bronze players are not stellar, but they are good enough to win methodically, balance economy, micro units, and make calculated decisions in the heat of battle. They are using hotkeys and know the whole tech tree.

Why place these players in the same league as a complete casual newcomer who makes 10 workers, 1 of each unit producing structure, and attacks with a single marine?

I can understand that inactive / abandoned accounts will probably be more common in bronze, so bronze should be inflated for that, but I am mostly referring to the diversity of skill you see in bronze league.

The diversity of skill in all the other leagues is extremely small in comparison.

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I would argue the bottom league will always be extra broad. If there were a league below bronze, say, the "Brass League" you'd find a small diversity of skill in bronze league, and brass league is where you'd find the most swing-yest places. Ultimately, the bottom league simply has to handle more of the "I'm going to build a single supply depot and win the game!" crowd than any of the others. The bottom line is, most people aren't that good at starcraft 2, or if not not good, are at leas quite average compared to the skilled players in the higher leagues. –  Raven Dreamer Feb 26 '11 at 17:59
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I would say a full half of players are above average :P I think "good" is defined by the community. But what I'm saying is that top bronze players are not 1-barracks players. They are enormously better than low-level bronze, which is not something you can say for any other league. –  tenfour Feb 26 '11 at 18:19
    
@Tenfour -- right, and I'm saying that Silver-Master league contain that half of players above average. Bronze league is extra broad because it's the lowest league, and needs to contain all the players who will never make it to silver, as well as those who will eventually improve to diamond. –  Raven Dreamer Feb 26 '11 at 18:27
    
Ah good point - the fact that people will always improve, and never get worse, is why the bottom league must be bigger. While that explains the numbers, it doesn't explain the diversity of skill. –  tenfour Feb 26 '11 at 18:32
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Leagues have no meaning apart from having a badge saying you are in the league. You are matched using your rating, not league. –  Let_Me_Be Feb 27 '11 at 23:34
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3 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

So, Opera's answer is almost right, but the difference between it and the correct answer is too long for comments.

Master league is believed to be the top 2% of all active players in a region, and is believed to cut away the top 10% of Diamond league. This would put the approximate league populations at 2%/18%/20%/20%/20%/20% for active players. An active player is defined as a player who has played a certain minimum number of games per week. Going inactive does not demote you, you just no longer take up a spot in your league's percentage of the active population. The percentages are also not hard values and there is some slush involved to allow them to even out over time.

Quote from Starcraft 2 Forum's MVP ExcaliburZ

So what does Active really mean?

It's technically not a hard 2%. It's kind of complicated and our understanding of it isn't 100% thorough yet because we just learned a lot of this on Friday and there are still many questions that remain. I'll try to explain.

First, it's 2% of active players. That means that if you are within the top 2% of other players who are considered active, you are eligible to be promoted.

This raises the obvious question of "what does the system consider to be active?" Active status hinges upon your bonus pool, since the less active you are, the less bonus pool you are spending. You get 1 point of bonus pool every 112 minutes, or 90 per week, meaning 90 bonus pool is equivalent to one "bonus week." From what we understand there are several tiers of activity.

  1. Active players -- Players who spend 90 or more bonus pool per week and have less than X unspent bonus pool.
  2. Semi-active players -- Players who have less than X unspent bonus pool.
  3. Inactive players -- Players who have X or more unspent bonus pool.

X is something that we're still trying to figure out. It could be a flat value, say 6 bonus weeks' worth, or it could be a percentage of total bonus pool accrued throughout the season. We're also unsure of whether tiers 1 and 2 are the same.

Now, back to the league populations. If you are a semi-active or inactive player and you are matched against another semi-active or inactive player, the system does not gain very much information from that because there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding each player's MMR. It gets the most information by matching you against active players. Note that the system doesn't prefer active players in searches, it just so happens that you're more likely to be matched against an active player because they play more often. If you beat the active Master-level players (which compose roughly 2% of the active population) enough that your moving average moves comfortably into the Master region, you can be promoted.

Second, it's important to know that promotion and demotion also hinges upon a certain confidence level. If you start in Bronze, for example, in order to get promoted into Silver you would have to raise that moving average a fair amount of the way into Silver to prove that you belong there. Demotion is no different.

Therefore, it doesn't inherently mean that by getting promoted that you automatically boot someone else back down to Diamond. For example, if one of the people already in Master league goes inactive, then nobody will get demoted. If, on the other hand, all the active players are still playing games but someone's moving average has fallen into around the mid-Diamond region (thereby proving to the system that that person didn't actually belong in Master league), that person would get demoted.

Hope that answers your question, I understand if that's somewhat confusing. Let me know if you have questions on it and I'll try to clarify further. =]

ibid

So what does this mean for your original question?

While technically all leagues should have equal distribution (except for Diamond and Master), in reality, we'll see a much larger number of users in lower leagues as they have been dubbed inactive. If we look at the distribution of bonus points across leagues, its not hard to see that players in lower leagues have many more bonus points, and thus are more likely to be dubbed inactive, and not taken into account for the distribution.

I guess the ultimate TL;DR here is: Its even for active players, and lower leagues have more inactive players, thus more players.

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Excellent answer as always, you're like the Jon Skeet of gaming :p –  Davy8 Feb 27 '11 at 2:19
    
Thanks this is great info which explains the numbers. And we can then deduce that the skill level gap is the result of the natural learning curve. A learning curve will mean that the first league will always have the widest skill variance. –  tenfour Feb 27 '11 at 23:30
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+1 for the TLDR ;) –  Lohoris May 3 '11 at 18:32
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While it's true that the top bronze leaguers can play a well balanced game, many of the games can be won with a reasonably well executed all-in unless the opponent just happened to perform the proper counter-strategy. If someone can win the same amount playing in the same pool, but one is doing early rushes with marines and SCVs and the other playing "normally", who is "better"?

I view silver as a league where those cheese builds can be handily shut down better than 50% of the time--or where the skill in the game grows to include what the other player is doing.

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The distribution of players is : 20% in bronze league, 20% in silver league, 20% in gold league, 20% in platinium league, 18% in diamond and the top 2% in the recently created master league.

The main difference between low league (<= gold) players and higher league players is the macro part of the game. The better your macro, the higher your league (on a long term perspective). The differences between platinium / diamond and master league player are more detail-oriented (micro, global strategy, information handling, reaction to opponent strategy, ...).

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Do you have a reference for that distribution? –  Tom Wijsman Feb 26 '11 at 20:43
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