Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ranked Bill of Rights

Okay, so it's been a while since I wrote the Ranked Bill of Rights. The thread received a lot of initial interest, but eventually it died off, as happens with all threads.

Now it's back. At 4 this morning, one xoxo pLexxy signed the thread, and that triggered a veritable flood of signatures--over 120 in the last 16 hours. Simply cataloguing the signers took the better part of an hour. So I feel it's a good time to bring that post to Mage's Plane. Here it is, in all its uncensored glory.


Disclaimer: All statements apply only weakly to normal games, and can be waived by 5-man consensus at any time.

1. The summoner has the right to a team that plays to win.
If you queue up for a game, you are making a contract with four other guys that you will break the enemy's Nexus before they break yours, or at least give it a damn good shot. If you queue up with no expectation of contributing to that goal, you're pissing on your teammates. That means you, intentional feeders. That means you, first-time Shaco player who doesn't know why a second Shaco appeared when you pressed R, or why you suddenly started attacking Rammus in tower range, or why Thornmail-stacking Ashe is a bad idea. That means you, Mr. "I'm 7/1/2 with 200 CS and 10k gold, who gives a shit about towers or teamfights?" We give a shit, because that's the point of the game, and if you don't, why the hell are you here?

2. The summoner has the right to a team that plays together.
Riot decided to make it impossible to win the game on your own, God knows why--thought it'd make the game more interesting or something. Whatever the reason, the fact is that you can't break that Nexus by being the better player--you have to be the better team. You gotta talk to each other, listen to each other, work with each other. Sometimes that means you gotta man up and play the fucking tank, take the duo lane, and screw your KDR. No, you can't play Squishy Carry #4. No, you can't insist on solo mid Eve. No, you can't just farm top for 40 minutes and ignore the calls to group. I don't give a shit if you speak English or Swahili, but if you can't or won't respond to "karth mia," "focus ashe," "baron," or well-placed pings, then get the fuck out of my game. And so help me, I will hunt you down if you leave or AFK.

3. The summoner has the right to civility.
This is a goddam game. You may have all the killer instinct of Mike Tyson (or Jack the Ripper), but if you suck the fun out of playing, the whole exercise is worthless. Plus, you'll lose. The chatbox is not for revealing to your teammate what a fucking ghey n00b excuse for dog food he is because he gave up first blood or stole your pentakill or built double Infinity Edge on Karthus. The chatbox is for helping your team win the goddam game. Anything you put in the chatbox that doesn't do that is a waste of time and emotional energy. Get as mad as you like--scream, stamp, break things, whatever--but don't you hit that enter key and try to make your teammates feel as shitty as you do. That's the mark of a loser, and if you're a loser, who the fuck cares if you're losing?

Play to win, play together, play nice. It's that simple. If you can't deal with it, take your two remaining brain cells and go farm bots.

[I]Inspired by condon's Thou Shalt Read This MFing Thread and OmegaHorizon's own Bill of Rights. See also EncasedShadow's I pledge to follow the code.

Attention all: I will be going to a private chat named "BillOfRights" (suggestions for a better name are welcome!). I'm not on all day, but I'm on almost every day. Besides, I'm not the main attraction--you are! This is an opportunity for serious players to find each other, discuss LoL, and set up premades. Have at it, and have fun queuing--something that's certainly difficult without a like-minded team!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Empty Ladders, Empty Queues: The Dearth of Premade Play

I wrote this post a couple months back, but I feel it's worth compiling these posts here for future reference. My last blog post was about how to make solo queue more worthwhile, but ultimately solo queue is an inferior experience. League of Legends is a team game, but teams are few and far between, and so it suffers. Here are some thoughts on that. There's more at the link; this is just the original message.


The biggest problem with League of Legends isn't the lack of Leona. It isn't "Soon." It isn't the price of runes, the patch day downtimes, or even the troll-happy playerbase.

No, the problem is this: League of Legends is a competition between teams of five...where the primary mode of play is solo queue.

Solo queue forces the system to estimate your individual skill from the result of a team game. It creates opportunities for trolls to inflict themselves on others, and provides sparks aplenty to kindle ragers' ire. It marginalizes team strategy and rewards the most rudimentary low-risk high-reward tactics, because anything more sophisticated is too difficult to coordinate with four random teammates. It's a stagnant system with too much luck, too little team play, and rampant frustration.

The premade ladders obviously do not suffer from these problems; they are a superior way to play LoL. So what's holding them back? Answer: there simply aren't enough people queuing up. Those ladders haven't reached the critical mass necessary to sustain themselves. Queue times for top players can be hours, so they don't queue; but then the second-tier players become the top players in the ladder, and face hour-long queue times, so they desert.

Premade play is much more common on the EU server--we know it can work. It's no coincidence that Europe's metagame is often leaps and bounds ahead of ours (split push, tankless comps, dual-burst, Tele-ganks, AD-support bot lane)--it's not that the Europeans are inherently better at LoL, but rather that they have a popular teamplay environment where strategies are developed and refined.

So how can we reinvigorate premade play on the NA server? I have a few suggestions.
-IP bonuses for premade queues. Simple, clean, effective. Put greed to use! If people earn 4/3rds the IP for finding 4 friends and queuing for 5's Ranked, they'll do it. Heck--right now, it's only fair that they earn more considering that they're waiting an extra 15-30 minutes in queue.
-Open challenges from top teams. Ask a favor from CLG or TSM or EG, or from other popular streamers with high-Elo friends. See if the Runeterra In-House League will lend a hand. Get some top Rioters together--Eski, Phreak, Classick, Pendragon, etc. Get people to issue open challenges on the premade ladder, and stream matches from 5's queue. The failure of the premade ladders was a trickle-down problem--so let's trickle down success.
-Clans clans clans. Okay, this one's obvious. Get people to group up, and they'll queue together. One of those Beta promises that fell through, and I think it's the most important one. Independently organized clan platforms will never have the momentum of a Riot-supported clan system. It doesn't even have to be clans, specifically--any general networking tool to get teammates together will do. Friend lists and chat rooms are not enough.
-Hard reset on the premade ladder. Solo queue should be soft-reset to avoid the chaos that reigned at the beginning of Season 1--sure, I get that. But the premade ladders were a failure this season. They need the reboot. Cut queue times with a reset and you make an opportunity for people to get back into 5's.
-Rate teams, not players. Solo queue forces you to rank the individual because the individual is the one who queues--but here we're dealing with teams. Individual skill ratings have no meaning at all in this setting, and cobbling five such to compose a team rating has even less. This will be tricky to implement, but absolutely worth the effort. I remember when red posters downplayed the importance of clans because it was more important to have permanent teams--well, why don't we have permanent teams, then? Make it so players get together and register a team name for Ranked, with those players individually registered for that team (allow more than 5 so people can sub in). The ladder should be comprised of those team names, rather than summoner names.

Solo queue is a pathetic shadow of how League of Legends is meant to be played. In order to bring strategic depth to the general population, combat the effects of leavers/griefers, and expand the competitive scene, it is absolutely critical that we make the premade ladders into a real option for competitive play.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Turning Skill Into Elo: Solo Queue Mindset and Methodology

I've written once before about climbing the Elo ladder. That was nearly 10 months ago, and I wince on rereading that guide. I got some basics right--keep calm, communicate, comp well, and so on--but I had the perspective of a new-to-Ranked, barely-1300 player, and it shows. It shows most in my emphasis on picking a champion that can carry you out of Elo Hell. Since then, I've had it ground into my bones that the champion doesn't carry; the player does.

As before, this guide is directed at people who feel their skill level is above their Elo. I'm at the low end of gold, so I can't exactly advise 1800 players on getting better. But an 1800 player who thinks he should be 2100 is really in the same boat as the 1300 player who thinks he should be 1600, or the 900 player who thinks he should be 1200. In each case, the player perceives that he is not held back by his skill, but rather that his Elo perversely holds him back from rising, in the form of uncarriable teammates. Here I will lay down some principles that help you turn your team from a hindrance into an asset that helps you carry your way up the ladder.

(Some games can't be carried. Accept it and move on. You don't have to win every game to go up; you just have to win more than you lose. Finding ways to blame your feeder teammates for the last game you lost isn't going to help you do that.)

You aren't communicating enough. Yes, you. If that chat box isn't being used within the first 3 seconds of champ select, and isn't full within the first 15 seconds, you're not doing your job, which is coordinating with your teammates to find a comp that works for everyone. One thing that tremendously frustrated me in the 12-1300 brackets was when people would keep quiet until the end and then say "Oh by the way I can't jungle." The earlier you can get that person to own up, the easier life will be. Inversely, if someone has a main, getting them to say so can prevent role redundancy.

Speaking of mains: Have a few. Don't have just one--then you can get banned/picked out, or someone might fill your role before you can talk (see above about communicating), or you might get counterpicked, or whatever. But don't try to have two dozen--then you won't have sufficient mastery of each champion. The ability to play all champions to your Elo is not going to raise your Elo; being consistently better than your opponents with the champion/s you choose is what will do that. You should be comfortable with as many champions as possible, especially in key-but-unpopular roles like jungler/support, but focus your efforts on a smaller group. If your main is someone common, you need at least one more in the same role. Don't count on getting Singed every game.

Understand matchups. Part of mastering a champion is knowing when not to use it--so even if you're a pro Teemo, don't pick him against Mordekaiser solo top. Recognize what your goals are in your particular matchup. Don't focus on trading harass with Morgana at level 5--keep the lane off your tower and kill her with burst later. Don't fight Mordekaiser in your creeps--burst him from a distance. Don't let your team enter game against Tryndamere without Exhaust, against Twisted Fate without Teleport, against Shaco without CV.

Realize who has to die and who has to live. If you're jungling and the enemy has a Kog'maw, you gank his ass and shut him down. If your team's Tristana is 6/1 with IE-PD at 20 minutes, you protect her in teamfights even at the cost of your ass, because she will win the fight as long as she's alive to DPS.

Realize the point of winning fights. No, it's not your KDA. It's the ability to take objectives unopposed after fights. With that in mind, don't chase 3v1 just because he's not dead yet if you can take two towers instead. And don't go looking for a fight when there's no objective at stake. You should never get caught at dragon cave when dragon's not up, and neither should your teammates, so spam that Ctrl-click when necessary. The corollary to this is that if you can take the objective without a fight, that's better than fighting, so don't towerdive when you can slow-push and poke a tower down.

Maphacking wins games. Buy a ward every time you go back. If you're the support, buy three. Learn the good ward spots--next to enemy wraiths, between the river bushes, in front of dragon, behind baron, and so on. Realize what the threats/opportunities are at different points in the game and ward accordingly--don't just drop it in the nearest brush.

And back to the original point: it's all very well for you to do these things, but you'll win far more if you can get your team doing them too. That means telling them what to do in a way that makes them feel good about doing it. "Tristana, you're our carry this game, we need to keep you alive, and you need to stay alive." "Their only chance of coming back is getting picks or BDing, so push lanes and force Baron." "We can come back as long as we don't get caught in bad fights, ward baron and turtle." Pings are your friend. Ping the next objective. Ping where you think the enemy is. Ping to back off, ping to go in. Having a second type of ping is the best thing Riot has done for solo queue in a long long time. Make use of it. Carries not following you in? You're not pinging enough. Support getting caught out of position? You're not pinging enough. The more you can flood the chat box with GOOD communication, the harder it is for Negative Nidalee to start the blame game. And the more you give your teammates good direction, the less time they have to do something stupid.

The corollary to the above, of course, is that you absolutely cannot start the blame game yourself. Especially late game, anything bad that happens is the whole team's fault, because the team has to function as a unit to win. Raging is the surest way to break down team coordination, which is the surest way to lose. Don't do it if you value your Elo (or your account, for that matter).

Finally, realize that your skill level isn't high enough. If you aren't on the front page of the ladder, you have no reason to sit back and say "I'm good enough, it's up to my teammates to get carried." And if you're good enough to be on the front page, there are other concerns. I will hazard to say that nobody has plumbed the depths that League of Legends has to offer. Rock Solid gave us a glimpse when they shocked the world this past weekend by knocking off CLG and TSM in quick succession at the IEM NYC qualifiers with comps that defied the established metagame. We can't all hope to imitate RS' success--nor should we attempt to imitate a team that prides itself on being inimitable and innovative--but we can surely improve ourselves, elevate our games, and play better than we ever did before. At the end of the day, that's what rising in Elo is all about.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The New IP System--How Did it Really Affect You?

By now it's common knowledge that Riot is a soulless, greedy corporation intent on sucking our wallets dry. The most obvious evidence for this is that Riot continually releases 6300-IP champions, and nerfed our IP gains to boot, so that the poor playerbase is forced to spend their hard-earned money on overpriced champions just so they don't fall behind.

Have I accurately captured the QQer's mindset? All right, moving on.

I see this complaint over and over and over again. It's tremendously frustrating. Today I'm going to focus on one aspect of this: the change to the IP system. Players lament the loss of 120 IP for 25 minutes of game time. They claim to have lost the ability to earn 6300 IP in two weeks, which puts them hopelessly behind in buying the latest 6300 champion.

But is that really what happened?

Boring Numbers Time

Average game time under old system: 35 minutes. The source for this, a TREMENDOUS number of games archived in Lolbase, has unfortunately been lost, as Lolbase has become defunct. So you'll have to take my word for it.

IP at 25 minutes: 118/62, avg. 3.6 IP/min
IP at 35 minutes: 110/68, avg. 2.55 IP/min
IP at 45 minutes or longer: 102/72, avg. 1.93 IP/min (or less)

Average game time under new system: ??? (I conjecture 30 minutes due to 20 minute surrender change)

IP at 20 minutes: 71/46, avg. 2.92 IP/min (this needs to be checked, I don't have the numbers)
IP at 25 minutes: 76/51, avg. 2.55 IP/min
IP at 30 minutes: 88/58, avg. 2.43 IP/min
IP at 35 minutes: 98/65, avg. 2.33 IP/min
IP at 45 minutes: 121/80, avg. 2.23 IP/min
IP at 55 minutes or longer: 145/93, avg. 2.16 IP/min (or less)

Explanation of Boring Numbers

The IP/minute is much, much flatter under the new system. At the old average of 35 minutes, IP/minute has declined; however, shorter game times due to 20-minute surrender imply IP/min is higher than the 35-minute number under the new system. So the nerf is at most 7% in terms of pure game time, and is almost certainly less. It could be argued that out-of-game time reduces the benefit of playing many shorter games for IP, but this argument is coming from the same people who lament the loss of 118 IP for 25-minute games under the old system, so I'm not sure how to respond.

Now consider the addition of guaranteed FWotD through Co-op. So a casual player who plays a couple of games a day can get FWotD in 15 minutes despite losing his PvP games. The gain from this depends on how many games you play per day, but anyone who's playing enough for this not to balance out the losses in IP/min doesn't have to worry about having enough IP.

An example game is provided below to show that the graph I'm basing these numbers on accurately represents actual game results. Additional examples can be provided on request. If you have an example of your own, feel free to post the screenshot. If you have a counterexample, feel free to post the screenshot. Merely posting "I only got 40 IP for my last 60-minute win!!!" does not count as a counterexample.


I have never taken the complaints about IP seriously. IP does its job: it introduces new players to the game for free (even more so with the price reductions), allows serious players to get competitive without paying money--but does not allow players to acquire the entire game for free. But even were IP QQers to have a legitimate argument, innumerate arguments like "Riot nerfed our IP gains, I can't afford this game anymore!" would cause me to dismiss them out of hand.

If I have a complaint about the store, it's the price of RP. I might have spent money on this game long ago, except I'm not willing to buy $10 in RP, buy only one 6300 champion (two if they're on sale), and have RP left over that I paid for but can't use. The game makes me want to buy from Riot, but the store stops me every time. This is bad for business, Riot. Fix it.


After getting multiple responses on this subject, I have to add one thing: Because long games can stretch up to an hour, players need to budget an hour of free time for their last game, no matter how long it actually takes. What matters in that case is the IP/game rather than the IP/minute, so the nerf actually shows here. However, the people to whom this most apply are the people who are squeezing in 1-2 games per day, and those are the people who benefit most from guaranteed FWotD through Co-op v. AI, so in my opinion it balances out.