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.

Finally hit 1500 ELO

1508It’s been nearly two months since the launch of Season One and, at the outset, I would never have thought I could pull this off. I finally broke the 1500 ELO barrier.

So far, there isn’t much to report. Players do seem to be marginally concerned about dragon, which is a nice change. I even convinced some teammates to take dragon before we went for the tower that had minions pushed right up on top of it. There are still plenty of inexperienced players, though. Yesterday I played a game in which our Fiddlesticks insisted he take middle, despite our having a Vladimir and maybe a Tristana if I remember correctly. It’s not that Fiddle is a terrible champion, but he’s a shadow of his former self and compared to many of the new characters, he’s a lackluster mid. That was also a game in which my teammate first-picked Master Yi (which the other team countered by taking 3 stuns and two exhausts). That game ended very poorly.

The really surprising part in all of it is that 1500 ELO and above represents the top 5 percent of players in solo queue. These are players who presumably outperform 95 percent of the other players in their queue. Am I delusional in thinking they should know better than to take Fiddle mid? Do I misunderstand my own skill? I think the reality is that all of these things point to the complicated nature of a team game with an individual rating system. At any ELO there will be a large number of players who have been misappropriated, for good or ill. Bad players get highly ranked and good players fester in ELO hell because their teams are either above average or below. It is nice to see that I’ve made my way up the rating list, though. There is some hope of improving your own rating.

Carry/Feeder adjustments coming to ranked play

ProFeed.I don’t think I’ve read better news today (granted, most of my reading to this point has been focused on either games or gadgetry, so it kinda makes sense). I found a thread in which Zileas said he would be adding feeder/carry consideration to the ELO calculations at the end of games.

This. Is. Huge. This is at least a step toward addressing the individual performance in a team setting and the penalties/benefits some players reap as a result. As a for instance, I had a game today in which I played Shaco. I got a slow start, mostly because I was on the phone and not focused on my jungling, so I didn’t gank much early. I did try for one big gank on our 1v2 lane and sent them back to base, so it wasn’t a horrible early game. Well, not to me anyway.

My teammates, on the other hand, would not stop berating me for being a terrible Shaco and a waste of a team slot and on and on. Our Olaf kept insisting I was going to be useless late game because I hadn’t ganked. As it turned out, I went 11-2-15 with two tower kills before the other team surrendered. Regardless of what my team thought was going on, I was largely the reason behind the victory, or at least the very heavy piece of leaden straw that broke the camel’s back. Our Olaf slightly below 1.00 in his K/D ratio and our Mordekaiser was 1-9. For the other team, that can be an extremely frustrating loss. They likely could have beat our team with a different player. My understanding, then, is that their ELO will not be as negatively effected because we had a strong carry. Likewise, my own ELO should receive a slight bonus for carrying.

On the flipside, if Kaiser had somehow lost us the game (which he almost did), we likely wouldn’t be as penalized because we had a heavy feeder on our team. No word on when these changes will come out, but I’m really excited about them.

Should ranked games have free champions?

Champion splash.

Here’s something that came up today, mostly because I was seeing a lot of Mordekaiser players. Then I realized he’s free this week (I only looked because of the miserable quality of some of the Kaiser players). The question pretty much asks itself. Why do we have free champions in ranked matches?

The question I always like to ask regarding ranked matches is, “will this enhance or encourage more competitive play out of more players?” I have to say, I think the answer here is no. Most champions only come up on the free rotation once every few weeks, some even longer than that. Should ranked matches really be full of champions that a player might use for a few days at a time, once every few weeks? It seems to me that if you’re going to use an ELO system that doesn’t account for individual player performance, I would think a primary goal would be minimizing the attrition from bad players and maximizing a good player’s ability to carry a team. Having teammates who don’t know the champions is a huge problem in that system.

Granted, there are exceptions to this rule, but I think the only thing holding it back from being a great idea is the current 14-champion requirement to enter ranked play. Reduce it to ten, which will be an increase for some players, hopefully forcing them to play more games at the level cap rather than less before jumping in to ranked play.

We need more Season One disclosure

Excited!I was really excited for Season One – maybe too excited – and I think that excitement led to overblown expectations about the changes to the game. I do think my expectations would have been held more in line, though, if Riot had been more transparent about all of the features/changes to the game and client with the advent of the League’s first competitive season.

Consider a recent thread in which a player asked about the required number of champions for Ranked Play. What’s that? Yes, you are required to have 14 champions unlocked in order to play ranked playlists. I was actually thrilled to find out, but why didn’t we know more about it before? It wasn’t in the patch notes as I can remember (and I tend to read those pretty carefully), nor was it in any of the previews.

The ranking system also includes anti-dispersion code so that a high player and low player can’t queue together to bump the high-ELO player’s rating (this still doesn’t explain how the top 5v5 solo player was more than 200 points above the next player, even though they were known to play with each other (this has changed since Saturday)).

All of this would have been great information for the community. I can understand withholding a few things for the element of surprise, but these little, behind-the-scenes mechanics actually disperse a lot of the rage players stir up with uninformed speculation.

Why did they reset ELO

Season One splashI seriously cannot fathom the answer to that question. Originally it looked as though Riot was going to let players self-rank for the early games. You would select a box, as it shows in the pic above, placing you with players who had selected similar ranks. Apparently that didn’t go through, though. I’ve been paired with people in their 20s in both games I’ve played so far. I’ve also had rage quitters on the opposing team in both games.

This really doesn’t make for a fun initial experience for everyone. I hate to be the guy crowing about ELO, but as mentioned previously, I’m in the top 3000 player base, potentially as high as top 1500. There’s no way I should be playing with level 22s. It’s not fun for me. It’s not fun for them. One of the things I love most about this game is the competitive environment and it’s totally out the window with an ELO reset.

There is a chance ELO has been marginally reset, meaning they may have just normalized everyone’s ELO a bit to give some players a fresh start, but still try to pair you by level and some measure of your skill. I will say, judging by the players I’ve seen thus far, it doesn’t look as though that’s the case.

Are you guys experiencing severe skill gaps?

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