Season 1 Rewards and the Importance of Achievemnts

As the end of Season One approaches, players have been scrambling to rank up for rewards. I’ve been in the mix myself, finally pushing through and securing gold late last night. It was challenging, but that also made it fun, and as a result I’m going to get some rewards. The funny thing, for me anyway, is that I don’t care much about the rewards. I’m not a Jarvan player. I don’t post on the forums much, if at all, but the simple fact that there is a reward associated with a tangible goal made the journey toward that goal a lot more compelling.

There was also an interesting side effect, which is where the whole “importance of achievements” thing comes in. As my rating edged closer to the 1520 mark for gold status, players were more helpful and level-headed. Granted, this is some circumstantial evidence, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that the attitude adjustment is due to the fact that players have a common goal beyond just winning.

It’s rare that I play with people who don’t want to win, but there’s really very little incentive to winning beyond, well, just winning. The ELO grind really didn’t mean anything. Players at every ELO rank complain that the players in that bracket are noobs and trolls. There’s also the fact that ELO is an endless grind. I can hit 1800 but what then? More games? Maybe make it to 1900? Maybe fall back down to 1600? There is no tangible reward other than bragging rights to make the ELO grind interesting.

This Season One reward is nothing more than an achievement system, and for me it worked pretty well. I know there are still a lot of players struggling with ELO hell, but let me reiterate this – getting out of ELO hell won’t make your games that much better. There will still be trolls. There will still be feeders. There will still be games you just can’t carry. I don’t think you’ll see a real shift in player attitude until Riot gives us something more than just a win and a ranking to worry about.

Is tournament play killing LoL?

LoL Tournaments.

For my Champ of the Week features I always try to play a mix of normal and ranked games because I think it’s important to see how each champion plays in the different environments. In my experience, ranked games tend to be a bit more focused – teams attempt to pick solid team comps, fill each of the roles, and at least someone on the team will try to ward and control dragon. Normal games are a bit less organized – I see very little warding, team comp is kind of all over the place, and map control isn’t as important as getting kills. On the whole, I think normal games tend to be much more fast paced and much more fun, but that’s been changing and I think the tournaments are to blame.

Lately my normal games have been against focused players with tournament comps. I just got out of a game against a Rammus/Anivia/Xin Zhao/Lee Sin/Soraka. Was it a perfect comp? No, but it was way out of my team’s league, and the fact that they also had Clairvoyance made it even worse. The game went long, mostly because I think it was full of decent players, but it was insanely boring. Let’s face it, the cautious play seen in high-ELO matches just isn’t that fun in practice. Kill counts are painfully low and most of the game is a dance about who will initiate a fight. That’s not what got me into League of Legends in the first. I fell in love with LoL because it was active and engaging and rewarded aggressive gameplay.

I’m not complaining that the game is getting more challenging. In fact, I would love it if that were the case. I would love to have closer matches. I would love to see less surrender votes. Instead, I’m seeing slow tedious games that make me reconsider playing more than a game in each sitting. The excitement is rapidly disappearing from the game as more players turn to the tournament meta.

The only cause I can see for the shift in gameplay is the accessibility of tournament streams. I think it’s wonderful that League’s competitive game is getting a lot of attention, but it’s making the lower ELOs a boring mess to play. As this dominant metagame trickles further down the ELO chart it becomes increasingly important for Riot to make major adjustments to the game. Support has to get nerfed. Tanky DPS has to go away. Riot needs to address all of the attrition reduction mechanics in the game, not just the new ones.

What do you think? Are you seeing the same comps every game? Does the game feel less exciting to you or is it just me?

Riot adds “Unskilled Player” to reportable offenses

You Suck.

I’m sure you’ve been in plenty of games with players saying things like, “report this Shaco for sucking,” or “report Eve for being a moron.” Of course you wouldn’t report them. After all, isn’t matchmaking supposed to weed out the unskilled, matching them against similarly unskilled players? Well, Riot wants you to give matchmaking a hand by reporting the unskilled just like you report the trolls.

I’m going to put this in italics because I don’t want anyone to miss it: The “unskilled player” offense is NOT bannable. No one will be catching a ban because they aren’t as good at this game as someone else. In fact, Tamat said the expected impact is small at best but “worth implementing all the same.” My question is, how?

I’m trying to think of the ways that Riot can pull valuable data from this metric and I’m coming up short. For starters, the kinds of players that typically want to be able to report unskilled players tend to be unskilled themselves, just searching for external reasons a game is going poorly. As an example, I recently played a game with an Udyr who was calling for reports on his team’s Shaco, who ended the game something like 4-12. Thing is, Udyr himself was 4-13, picking up his kills late in the game. To top things off, their team actually beat us (they had a solid Amumu/Kat/Corki and we had no tank). I know that examples don’t prove anything, but this is exactly the situation I see skill based reports being asked for most. Even if decent players are using this feature, there’s going to be a LOT of unreliable data, and that’s not good for anything.

Isn’t the real issue here that matchmaking and ELO simply don’t work well for assessing a team game. Solo queue is a nightmare to balance simply by its nature. There’s not a reliable statistical method for evaluating player performance as it relates to game outcome when you’re matching 10 random players. There just isn’t. The best we’ll get is an approximation. Throwing a set of unreliable data at the problem won’t do us any good.

I hit 1600 ELO (and I don’t want to be there any more)

1600

It took almost 500 games but I finally managed to push my way through and break the 1600 ELO barrier. I’m now officially among the top 1000 players in the ranked Solo 5v5 queue and, I’ll be honest, I had hoped it would be different, though I’m not really sure why.

I think the thing I expected most from high-tier play was more coordination/communication and less finger pointing. It has actually been quite the opposite. In most games I’ve played since 1550+, where I’ve been for a while now, players rarely talk, sometimes to the point that you can’t get a response about comps, picks, and builds in champion select. Believe it or not, it’s really important for the team to know if you’re playing AP Twisted Fate. It’s also disconcerting when a player takes smite on an atypical jungle toon if your team already has a strong jungler. For whatever reason though, whether it’s the arrogance that comes from having proof of success or something else, high-tier players rarely want to talk about this stuff.

Another strange phenomenon at high ELOs are the players who think they can prove that the underplayed champions are actually strong, but that they just require skill. This isn’t just a few people, either. A ton of players do this. In particular, I can think of a guy I see on occasion who picks Gangplank regardless of his team’s composition. I’ve tried reasoning with him, saying things like, “Hey, how about someone else. We already have three melee,” or, “Gangplank isn’t a very strong mid these days,” to which the response has always been some form of “fuck off.” I can understand his frustration. Sometimes it’s fun to play guys like Gangplank, and in some comps, Gangplank fits very nicely. But when you’re locking a niche character the moment the champion selection screen lights up with complete disregard for your team composition, you’re making it infinitely less likely that your teammates have a chance of winning. The fact that I’ve seen him (the player, not Gangplank) in several games, not one for which Gangplank has made sense, and that he’s not only had a bad attitude but then blamed everyone possible for our inevitable loss dissolves any sympathy I might have for the guy.

He’s not the only one, either. A lot of high-level players share this sort of delusion about their level of skill with a given champion. The reality is, some champions just aren’t fit for high-level competitive play. You might see some marginal success with them, but it will almost always be anecdotal, an exception to the rule.

There is one problem with high-tier ranked that I knew would happen. As your ELO improves, there are fewer and fewer people at your rank to be paired with. A couple things start to happen. On the rare occasion that there are ten people of a wide ELO spread from 1600 and up online and looking for game at the same time, you get paired with and against people anywhere from 1600 to 1900. That’s not so bad, because a lot of those players seemed to be very similarly skilled. What happens more often, though, is that you become the balancing factor for someone’s duo queue. Shortly after hitting 1600 I played a ranked game in which I got Corki for another player with my first pick. He ignored my requests and picked me Rammus, even though we had a jungler (lane Rammus is a nightmare). I got stuck bottom with Kayle, who I begged for the first five minutes to “PLEASE STOP PUSHING THE LANE.” I got no response, and the player spammed Righteous Fury until we were slammed up against the enemy turret with Shen and Malphite in front of us and their jungler working up increasingly violent and creative ways to orchestrate our demise. I got out of the game only to find that he was nearly 200 ELO my junior. Either he or someone on the other team was in a wide disparity duo queue and I was there to hopefully balance things out.

At this point, I find myself enjoying normal games at least as much as, if not more than ranked. There’s more champion diversity and players are generally more friendly. I’ll still likely play ranked, but I think that will become increasingly rare. The experience just hasn’t been very fun lately, even since improving my ELO.

Life at the top

Man on a mountain top.I had a chance to browse the forums today (still not at home, still not totally stable with the internets) and found an interesting post from a summoner hoping to reach 1600 ELO. He, like me, has been hovering around 1550 and set up a few guidelines to help him make his way to the top.

It’s a decent read, which I’ll let you do on the official forums, but more interesting to me were the responses from the community. There were plenty of “your dodge-worthy champions shouldn’t be dodged because of X (it always makes me laugh when someone uses the word “strong” near the word “Teemo”)” but players were also willing to give all kinds of advice for someone striving to reach 1600. The most interesting to me was, “Just play a TON of games, and have a win % > 50. Saw a dude today at 1620 who had a measly winning percent of 52 percent, but had 600 games under his belt.” It made me wonder, how often are top players winning games?

The answer – not much more often than 50 percent. In fact, the top ten players have a collective 57.7 percent win rate. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, solo queue win rates are pretty close to 50 percent in most cases. That’s actually reassuring, because it means my own 56 percent win ratio is on par for me to continue climbing the ladder. Granted, I’m probably going to stall out at some point, but I can see that I’m at least winning as often as people who have stalled at the very top.

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