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.


V said...

Hey, this isn't so much a comment on this particular entry but on your entries as a whole. I've stumbled upon various of your forum entries and now this place as well.

I don't usually message people... but you've actually been someone who has taken an analytic eye to some of the aspects that have been lumped together into ELO Hell.

Admittedly, I didn't really encounter the Elo Rating system until playing Magic, and at that point I didn't care, but in an online format where people track everything, these rating numbers seem to matter a great deal to people.

I actually think that the general idea of the derivation of the Elo Rating system is pretty cool for single players, but people haven't worked out the extension for the coupling of extra players in the situation of a team game. Which isn't to say that it can't be done.

My question to you is actually this: League has this concept of a newbie island for ranked games. Do you think that the the fact that people are kicked off the island (I'm unsure of the actual mechanics so part of this is educated speculation) after 10 games leads players to believe that their 'true Elo rating' average and deviations are higher than the more experienced players?

I'll probably check back here for a response, but otherwise I exist at dealy.org if for some reason you're interested in discussing this.


Math_Mage said...

It's possible. The fact that newbie island gives the highest Elo rating changes, combined with the fact that newbie island matches have basically no correspondence to the rest of the playerbase, could really skew a new player's perspective on what their Elo bracket is like, and what their own skill level is.

I don't know to what extent this is a problem, though, or what the appropriate solution would be. Newbie island saves established 1200-ranked players a lot of grief playing with 1800- or 400-skill newbies, though solo queue randomness means they'll still end up playing with 1500- and 900-skill newbies. So eliminating it is probably not a tenable solution.