Groups and multiplayer games

oTree’s group system lets you divide players into groups and have players interact with others in the same group. This is often used in multiplayer games. (If you just need groups in the sense of “treatment groups”, where players don’t actually interact with each other, then see Treatments.)

To set the group size, go to your app’s models.py and set Constants.players_per_group. For example, for a 2-player game:

class Constants(BaseConstants):
    # ...
    players_per_group = 2

If all players should be in the same group, or if it’s a single-player game, set it to None:

class Constants(BaseConstants):
    # ...
    players_per_group = None

In this case, self.group.get_players() will return everybody in the subsession.

Each player has an attribute id_in_group, which will tell you if it is player 1, player 2, etc.

Getting players

Group objects have the following methods:

get_players()

Returns a list of the players in the group (ordered by id_in_group).

get_player_by_id(n)

Returns the player in the group with the given id_in_group.

get_player_by_role(r)

Returns the player with the given role. If you use this method, you must define the role method. For example:

class Group(BaseGroup):
    def set_payoff(self):
        buyer = self.get_player_by_role('buyer')
        print(buyer.decision)
        # etc ...


class Player(BasePlayer):
    decision = models.BooleanField()

    def role(self):
        if self.id_in_group == 1:
            return 'buyer'
        else:
            return 'seller'

Getting other players

Player objects have methods get_others_in_group() and get_others_in_subsession() that return a list of the other players in the group and subsession. For example, with 2-player groups you can get the partner of a player:

class Player(BasePlayer):

    def get_partner(self):
        return self.get_others_in_group()[0]

Chat between participants

See the participant chat add-on.

Group matching

Fixed matching

By default, in each round, players are split into groups of Constants.players_per_group. They are grouped sequentially – for example, if there are 2 players per group, then P1 and P2 would be grouped together, and so would P3 and P4, and so on. id_in_group is also assigned sequentially within each group.

This means that by default, the groups are the same in each round, and even between apps that have the same players_per_group.

(Note: to randomize participants to groups or roles, see Arrival order & Randomization.)

If you want to rearrange groups, you can use the below techniques.

group_randomly()

Subsessions have a method group_randomly() that shuffles players randomly, so they can end up in any group, and any position within the group.

If you would like to shuffle players between groups but keep players in fixed roles, use group_randomly(fixed_id_in_group=True).

For example, this will group players randomly each round:

class Subsession(BaseSubsession):
    def before_session_starts(self):
        self.group_randomly()

This will group players randomly each round, but keep id_in_group fixed:

class Subsession(BaseSubsession):
    def before_session_starts(self):
        self.group_randomly(fixed_id_in_group=True)

The below example uses the command line to create a public goods game with 12 players, and then does interactive group shuffling in otree shell. Assume that players_per_group = 3, so that a 12-player game would have 4 groups:

C:\oTree> otree resetdb
C:\oTree> otree create_session public_goods 12
C:\oTree> otree shell
Python 3.5.1 (v3.5.1:37a07cee5969, Dec  6 2015, 01:38:48) [MSC v.1900 32 bit (Intel)]

# this line is only necessary if using otree shell
>>> from public_goods.models import Subsession

# this line is only necessary if using otree shell
>>> self=Subsession.objects.first()

# by default, oTree groups players sequentially
>>> self.get_group_matrix()

[[<Player  1>, <Player  2>, <Player  3>],
 [<Player  4>, <Player  5>, <Player  6>],
 [<Player  7>, <Player  8>, <Player  9>],
 [<Player 10>, <Player 11>, <Player 12>]]

>>> self.group_randomly(fixed_id_in_group=True)
>>> self.get_group_matrix()

[[<Player  1>, <Player  8>, <Player 12>],
 [<Player 10>, <Player  5>, <Player  3>],
 [<Player  4>, <Player  2>, <Player  6>],
 [<Player  7>, <Player 11>, <Player  9>]]

>>> self.group_randomly()
>>> self.get_group_matrix()

[[<Player  8>, <Player 10>, <Player  3>],
 [<Player  4>, <Player 11>, <Player  2>],
 [<Player  9>, <Player  1>, <Player  6>],
 [<Player 12>, <Player  5>, <Player  7>]]

Note that in each round, players are initially grouped sequentially as described in Fixed matching, even if you did some shuffling in a previous round. To counteract this, you can use group_like_round().

group_like_round()

To copy the group structure from one round to another round, use the group_like_round(n) method. The argument to this method is the round number whose group structure should be copied.

In the below example, the groups are shuffled in round 1, and then subsequent rounds copy round 1’s grouping structure.

class Subsession(BaseSubsession):

    def before_session_starts(self):
        if self.round_number == 1:
            # <some shuffling code here>
        else:
            self.group_like_round(1)

get_group_matrix()

Subsessions have a method called get_group_matrix() that return the structure of groups as a matrix, i.e. a list of lists, with each sublist being the players in a group, ordered by id_in_group.

The following lines are equivalent.

matrix = self.get_group_matrix()
# === is equivalent to ===
matrix = [group.get_players() for group in self.get_groups()]

set_group_matrix()

set_group_matrix() lets you modify the group structure in any way you want. You can modify the list of lists returned by get_group_matrix(), using regular Python list operations like .extend(), .append(), .pop(), .reverse(), and list indexing and slicing (e.g. [0], [2:4]). Then pass this modified matrix to set_group_matrix():

>>> matrix = s.get_group_matrix()
>>> matrix

[[<Player  8>, <Player 10>, <Player  3>],
 [<Player  4>, <Player 11>, <Player  2>],
 [<Player  9>, <Player  1>, <Player  6>],
 [<Player 12>, <Player  5>, <Player  7>]]

>>> for group in matrix:
   ....:     group.reverse()
   ....:
>>> matrix

[[<Player  3>, <Player 10>, <Player  8>],
 [<Player  2>, <Player 11>, <Player  4>],
 [<Player  6>, <Player  1>, <Player  9>],
 [<Player  7>, <Player  5>, <Player 12>]]

>>> self.set_group_matrix(matrix)
>>> self.get_group_matrix()

[[<Player  3>, <Player 10>, <Player  8>],
 [<Player  2>, <Player 11>, <Player  4>],
 [<Player  6>, <Player  1>, <Player  9>],
 [<Player  7>, <Player  5>, <Player 12>]]

Here is how this would look in before_session_starts:

class Subsession(BaseSubsession):
    def before_session_starts(self):
        matrix = self.get_group_matrix()
        for row in matrix:
            row.reverse()
        self.set_group_matrix(matrix)

You can also pass a matrix of integers. It must contain all integers from 1 to the number of players in the subsession. Each integer represents the player who has that id_in_subsession. For example:

>>> new_structure = [[1,3,5], [7,9,11], [2,4,6], [8,10,12]]
>>> self.set_group_matrix(new_structure)
>>> self.get_group_matrix()

[[<Player  1>, <Player  3>, <Player  5>],
 [<Player  7>, <Player  9>, <Player 11>],
 [<Player  2>, <Player  4>, <Player  6>],
 [<Player  8>, <Player 10>, <Player 12>]]

You can even use set_group_matrix to make groups of uneven sizes.

To check if your group shuffling worked correctly, open your browser to the “Results” tab of your session, and look at the group and id_in_group columns in each round.

group.set_players()

If you just want to rearrange players within a group, you can use the method on group.set_players() that takes as an argument a list of the players to assign to that group, in order.

For example, if you want players to be reassigned to the same groups but to have roles randomly shuffled around within their groups (e.g. so player 1 will either become player 2 or remain player 1), you would do this:

class Subsession(BaseSubsession):

    def before_session_starts(self):
        for group in self.get_groups():
            players = group.get_players()
            players.reverse()
            group.set_players(players)

Example: assigning players to roles

Let’s say you want to assign players to roles based on some external criterion, like their gender.

This example shows how to make groups of 3 players, where player 1 is male, and players 2 & 3 are female. The example assumes that you already set participant.vars['gender'] on each participant (e.g. in a previous app), and that there are twice as many female players as male players.

class Subsession(BaseSubsession):
    def before_session_starts(self):

        if self.round_number == 1:
            players = self.get_players()

            M_players = [p for p in players if p.participant.vars['gender'] == 'M']
            F_players = [p for p in players if p.participant.vars['gender'] == 'F']

            group_matrix = []

            # pop elements from M_players until it's empty
            while M_players:
                new_group = [
                    M_players.pop(),
                    F_players.pop(),
                    F_players.pop(),
                ]
                group_matrix.append(new_group)

            self.set_group_matrix(group_matrix)
        else:
            self.group_like_round(1)
            # uncomment this line if you want to shuffle groups, while keeping M/F roles fixed
            # self.group_randomly(fixed_id_in_group=True)

Shuffling during the session

before_session_starts is usually a good place to shuffle groups, but remember that before_session_starts is run when the session is created, before players begin playing. So, if your shuffling logic needs to depend on something that happens after the session starts, you should do the shuffling in a wait page instead.

For example, let’s say you want to randomize groups in round 2 only if a certain result happened in round 1. You need to make a WaitPage with wait_for_all_groups=True and put the shuffling code in after_all_players_arrive:

class ShuffleWaitPage(WaitPage):
    wait_for_all_groups = True

    def after_all_players_arrive(self):
        if some_condition:
            self.subsession.group_randomly()

After this wait page, the players will be reassigned to their new groups.

Let’s say you have a game with multiple rounds, and in a wait page at the beginning you want to shuffle the groups, and apply this new group structure to all rounds. You can use group_like_round() together with in_rounds(). You should also use is_displayed() so that this method only executes once. For example:

class ShuffleWaitPage(WaitPage):
    wait_for_all_groups = True

    def after_all_players_arrive(self):
        [...shuffle groups for round 1]
        for subsession in self.subsession.in_rounds(2, Constants.num_rounds):
            subsession.group_like_round(1)

    def is_displayed(self):
        return self.round_number == 1

Group by arrival time

See group_by_arrival_time.

Example: re-matching by rank

For example, let’s say that in each round of an app, players get a numeric score for some task. In the first round, players are matched randomly, but in the subsequent rounds, you want players to be matched with players who got a similar score in the previous round.

First of all, at the end of each round, you should assign each player’s score to participant.vars so that it can be easily accessed in other rounds, e.g. self.participant.vars['score'] = 10.

Then, you would define the following page and put it at the beginning of page_sequence:

class ShuffleWaitPage(WaitPage):
    wait_for_all_groups = True

    # we can't shuffle at the beginning of round 1,
    # because the score has not been determined yet
    def is_displayed(self):
        return self.round_number > 1

    def after_all_players_arrive(self):

        # sort players by 'score'
        # see python docs on sorted() function
        sorted_players = sorted(
            self.subsession.get_players(),
            key=lambda player: player.participant.vars['score']
        )

        # chunk players into groups
        group_matrix = []
        ppg = Constants.players_per_group
        for i in range(0, len(sorted_players), ppg):
            group_matrix.append(sorted_players[i:i+ppg])

        # set new groups
        self.subsession.set_group_matrix(group_matrix)

More complex grouping logic

Fixed number of groups with a divisible number of players

For example, let’s say you always want 8 groups, regardless of the number of players in the session. So, if there are 16 players, you will have 2 players per group, and if there are 32 players, you will have 4 players per group.

You can accomplish this as follows:

class Constants(BaseConstants):
    players_per_group = None
    num_groups = 8
    ... # etc

class Subsession(BaseSubsession):

       def before_session_starts(self):
        if self.round_number == 1:

            # create the base for number of groups
            num_players = len(self.get_players())
            ppg_list = [num_players//Constants.num_groups] * Constants.num_groups

            # verify if all players are assigned
            i = 0
            while sum(ppg_list) < num_players:
                ppg_list[i] += 1
                i += 1

            # reassignment of groups
            list_of_lists = []
            players = self.get_players()
            for j, ppg in enumerate(ppg_list):
                start_index = 0 if j == 0 else sum(ppg_list[:j])
                end_index = start_index + ppg
                group_players = players[start_index:end_index]
                list_of_lists.append(group_players)
            self.set_group_matrix(list_of_lists)
        else:
            self.group_like_round(1)

Fixed number of groups with a non-divisible number of players

Lets make a more complex example based on the previous one. Let’s say we need to divide 20 players into 8 groups randomly. The problem is that 20/8 = 2.5.

So the more easy solution is to make the first 4 groups with 3 players, and the last 4 groups with only 2 players.

class Constants(BaseConstants):
    players_per_group = None
    num_groups = 8
    ... # etc

class Subsession(BaseSubsession):

    def before_session_starts(self):

        if self.round_number == 1:

            # extract and mix the players
            players = self.get_players()
            random.shuffle(players)

            # create the base for number of groups
            num_players = len(players)

            # create a list of how many players must be in every group
            # the result of this will be [2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2]
            # obviously 2 * 8 = 16
            # ppg = 'players per group'
            ppg_list = [num_players//Constants.num_groups] * Constants.num_groups

            # add one player in order per group until the sum of size of
            # every group is equal to total of players
            i = 0
            while sum(ppg_list) < num_players:
                ppg_list[i] += 1
                i += 1
                if i >= len(ppg_list):
                    i = 0

            # reassignment of groups
            list_of_lists = []
            for j, ppg in enumerate(ppg_list):
                # it is the first group the start_index is 0 otherwise we start
                # after all the players already exausted
                start_index = 0 if j == 0 else sum(ppg_list[:j])

                # the asignation of this group end when we asign the total
                # size of the group
                end_index = start_index + ppg

                # we select the player to add
                group_players = players[start_index:end_index]
                list_of_lists.append(group_players)
            self.set_group_matrix(list_of_lists)
        else:
            self.group_like_round(1)