Friday, June 3, 2016

The TLDR on Solo Queue vs Dynamic Queue

As usual with my blog entries, I'm starting to write this right in the wee hours of the morning and it's about to ding 5am PST. The inspiration and desire for me to blog usually comes when a thought is eating at me that something doesn't feel right or I need to get something off my chest. The thought that hasn't been sitting with me well today is about all of the back and forth & misunderstanding that has happened around solo queue vs. dynamic queue and the resulting player angst associated with the recent video where our tone was one of finality around putting the nail in solo queue's coffin.

I think there are two important things to get straight:

1. Some background on why we (Riot) are inconsistent with communication - some days we are awesome, connected and in touch, and other times we come across as tone deaf or are radio silent and how this ties to feelings of confusion, hurt and anger for some players

2. What our philosophy on ranked & team play actually is (and development philosophy in general)

So let's take some time to see if we can provide some additional perspective here.

Background
First of all, as players have pointed out to me when I dove into the subject on Reddit a couple of days ago, apparently we said multiple times definitively that we are bringing solo queue back, other times we had said we are evaluating the situation, and recently we released the video mentioned above with the tone of finality saying it's gone permanently. Clearly, players who are confused or feel misled have very good reason to feel this way.

So how does it possibly make sense for us to be in a situation like this where we can say this stuff with a straight face?

The fundamental reason that this type of inconsistency happens in some external communications with players are twofold:

1) Riot structures our organization in an empowering way that enables teams that "own" different parts of the experience to make decisions.  We create frameworks and high level philosophical guidelines and empower our teams to go crush. Thus, many specific choices of how things will manifest are not "run up the flag pole".  New or controversial things tend to get more eyes on it rather than established pipelines (like champions), but once there is conceptual buy-in, teams move fast and don't often check in again with details.

2) Long ago, we made a decision at the company to encourage all Rioters to "be themselves" and "engage directly with the community" on forums and on social media.  Brandon (Ryze) and I largely credit Steve "Pendragon" Mescon for helping us realize the power of this idea and we love it when we see Rioters develop meaningful personal relationships with the community. We have great examples of this all over the world where this works out well and we think Rioters and players who connect really enjoy this.

But in other cases some Rioters end up getting harassment and death threats.  This stuff is pretty disgusting which makes us periodically waver in our commitment to this ideal and is likely the type of experience that has caused pretty much every other large game company to only communicate via very structured and formal announcements / dehumanized corporate speak.

Even with Riot, you can note the difference between formal things like the patch notes and polished videos we produce, with informal statements where an individual jumps on social media to chime in, which then gets picked up on Reddit and is perceived by players as being an "official" statement from Riot.

Riot is a large and diverse team of passionate gamers
Now, to really understand why Riot sometimes comes across as inconsistent or contradictory,  you need to understand the mindset of a Rioter and what our working environment is like.  First of all, we've grown relatively quickly, and as every single business person will tell you, it is hard to grow and it is incredibly hard to grow well and stay aligned.

Rioters are indoctrinated from day one to care about core gamers. If you don't, you are extremely unlikely to get hired and/or you will likely be managed out.  A lot of our negative glassdoor reviews are oriented around "feeling like an outsider" relating to lack of culture fit (most often meaning not being hardcore about games, even if they don't interpret it that way), or criticizing our relative lack of structure desiring more direction and being told what to do in a more prescriptive way.

Rioters are taught that we aspire to put players at the center of all of our decision making and always try to do right by our players. We believe this is one of the primary reasons many of the incredible men and women that work at the company choose to be a part of the team and is one of the core factors that makes Riot a great place to work. We think this intention has been incredibly important and has helped Riot make many unconventional decisions (for our industry and genre) and do things differently for players in the face of huge resistance. Some examples:

Industry-Related Decisions

  • Launching a free, multiplayer only game on the PC in 2009 when PC gaming was supposedly "dead"  according to industry conventional wisdom
  • Building our own publishing business (the company was originally just intended to be a developer) because after meeting with the publishers of that era, it became clear they didn't have any understanding or capability (at the time) of what it would really take to launch a successful online only game and build a healthy community
  • Bringing eSports in-house and leveling up the production values at a rate to a quality bar never seen before in the history of our industry

Genre & Game Development Decisions:

  • Demonstrating that MOBA's were more than just Dota with many controversial gameplay decisions such as:
    • Focusing the laning phase on fighting against another player by making big mana pools, lower cooldowns for "spammier abilities" and different resource types instead of passively "denying" minions in lane while just last hitting 
    • Trying to de-clutter the environment to focus on the relevant gameplay space by removing destructible terrain, day & night cycles, etc
    • Making the game more team oriented vs. hyper carry dominant with items, stats role and champ design
    • A full roster of completely unique characters
    • Adding summoner spells and some out of game progression to try to add interesting depth at the meta layer and out of game decision making / analysis
  • Releasing a patch every 2 weeks (much of our team thought this was an impossible and unreasonable goal originally)
  • Launching the game without ranked play and introducing it later via the Season One update
  • Focusing on core gamers only.  No single player.  No deep tutorial.  Very little hand holding. 
  • Constantly updating / tweaking the game (many said the game will never be able to be an eSport if the core game isn't static)

I could go on and on. Much of these may seem obvious in hindsight, but every single one of these were extremely contentious with investors, potential recruits, with early adopter players and potential international partners. We faced resistance every step of the way where very smart and rational people would dispute our plans with well-reasoned arguments.  We faced doubt and wavered on many decisions at times, but we learned over time to have a healthy amount of skepticism towards conventional wisdom and popular opinion.

If we didn't push, we'd never achieve
anything worthwhile & difficult
I would summarize to say that our history has taught our team to be open to different opinions and to listen deeply, but to be ultra focused on the player experience and not be too married to any preconceived notion for the "best way" to accomplish a particular thing.  Our mindset is one of trying to push hard beyond what is obvious or easy to try to deliver an incredible experience to players. Sometimes we are right, sometimes we are wrong.

That's a lot of background, but I think it may help everyone understand why Rioters come across the way that we do.

Do we always succeed at putting players first?  No. We have made many mistakes, but part of what we try to do is acknowledge those mistakes and fix them. One of my favorite examples is the story of our awards that we promised our Refer-A-Friend grand prize winners of having them come out and help design a champion with our team. To make a long story short, we didn't fully deliver this (at the time) to all of the winners due to dramatically underestimating the number of people who would hit 10,000+ referrals as well as the effort and feasibility of this. Years later, after the company became more stable, we reached out to the winners and tried to make up for failing to see our prize through by flying everyone out to work directly with the developers to prototype a champion.  This led to the decently well known story of  Total Biscuit donating his award to the make-a-wish.

Anyway, back to the core point.  We know that this can feel bad when you care deeply about the game, have a strongly held opinion about the direction it needs to go, want to help by offering suggestions and can't understand why we don't agree with something you are advocating for, why we wouldn't seem to listen, or why we would seemingly promise one thing and then do another.  We really do understand that you guys care.  The thing we'd like you to understand is that we DO listen, even if we don't agree or react immediately. Listening and respecting another persons beliefs does not mean that you will always agree.

Something that makes me incredibly proud though is that when issues pop up or disagreements happen, many Rioters feel hurt, sad, confused and motivated when they see players distraught and upset with the company over any issue. This has happened many times since the launch of League, and the comfort that Rioters feel to internally debate complex issues and iterate about "what is truly best for players" is actually the element that helps us keep improving over time and make up for our mistakes. The LCS contract leak overreach that initially had a clause banning pros from streaming other games was a great example.  Rioters internally were like WTF?  Which helped the team be like "oops" and switch course.  We perceive ourselves as not being overly proud or stubborn, except around our values where we are extremely stubborn.

Which brings me to the core point.

What is Riot's Philosophy on Ranked / Team Play?
I personally hate black licorice, but I love League
League of Legends is a competitive game focused on core gamers. Unless our Chinese overlords slay me and Ryze (or we leave), this will continue to be the case (and even then will still likely be the case - it is deeply ingrained).

It was designed since day one to be a competitive game. We have also made intentional decisions all along the way to not focus on a wider audience despite internal and external pressure to do so. "If we care about gamers, why not try to serve ALL gamers" goes the argument.

Our answer is because League is not designed for everyone.  To quote Ryze, "Riot & League of Legends are like Black Licorice. Some people love it, some people hate it.  We are not for everyone.  We will never be Vanilla, nor should we aspire to be."

Yes, League is the largest online game in the world. But that sure ain't because we tried to focus on "casual gamers" or "go broad".  League is hard to learn.  It takes years (literally) to understand much of the nuance of the game in the same way that it takes years to master a team sport like American Football, Soccer or Basketball.  

League went into beta in 2009 and here in 2016, we are bigger than ever and we keep growing.  The game has evolved a ton and will keep evolving.

Regarding Dynamic Queue vs. Solo queue, the bottom line is this: we believe we can create a competitive League of Legends experience where you can play with friends in ranked play and have deep ways to measure and compare individual skill on a relative basis with other players.  We know we haven't accomplished the individual skill part yet with the current implementation of Dynamic Queue. We are working on many different things to accomplish this, not simply trying to improve dynamic queue.  We think the real solution we are going for is far broader than that and requires multiple other systems. In other words, Dynamic Queue is a start, not the end state. This will take us some time to keep iterating through and developing all of the complimentary features, but we believe in the teams vision and capabilities to make this happen.

Some of you may wonder, "so why ship it if it isn't finished"?  Our answer there is nothing is ever finished in League. We make a call about when something is "good enough" and we get it out to the door and then we build from there.

Why has the team not stated their future plans concretely?  Because we know from past experience that a couple things will happen:

1. The internet will theory craft the heck out of the solution and rip apart every specific word with a very high probability of misinterpreting how it will actually manifest in reality

2.  If we pivot during the course of development the team doesn't want the response of "OMG you promised X, yet delivered Y!"  You learn a lot as you deeply dive into a feature or system and that learning may invalidate earlier assumptions that you had and communicated externally.  This isn't about our own sensitivities, but it's about not letting players down and disappointing people through wrongly set expectations.

In other words, we aren't done, will never be done and we're never satisfied if you guys aren't satisfied. This is true even if you doubt it, even if we sometimes misspeak or have to backtrack and even if we are slow to deliver.  We may fail at some execution for a time, but we don't forget and we do get better over time.  Think about lore as an example remember (or how much our art has leveled up).

People were like "zomg why reboot lore and take it away" - and now people are starting to see how cool this stuff is (and we have some winsauce coming).  Making cool stuff takes time and sometimes we have to "take stuff offline" to take it to new heights.  

When the servers were on fire in NA, Korea and EU, teams worked night and day to resolve the issue and then stability wasn't enough - we wanted to go beyond and we built a better internet for NA and EU (turns out Korea has a pretty good internet =p).

These blog isn't about making excuses. We know we have to deliver. This is simply an attempt to provide more perspective on what happens and why we think it happens the way things manifest to players.

And guess what?  If we're wrong and the stuff we're working on to improve dynamic queue and ranked doesn't work out the way we think it will, we'll re-evaluate and bring solo queue back IF it is the best solution.  The team set the right expectation with the message of "not bringing solo queue back" because we don't think we will need to. But we'd rather "get to the right answer" for players than "be right" and we'll be quite OK with eating crow and backtracking if we can't deliver the even greater outcome that we think we are hoping for.

But as with many of the controversial decisions in the past where we took a huge amount of flak and people called us idiots and worse, we hope we are right - not for our own sakes, but because we think the potential experience will be way better than solo queue ever was - and this is coming from a guy with thousands of ranked solo queue games who has been plat every season except season one where I was gold. Rioters are in the same boat as you guys, even if sometimes it doesn't feel that way.

In the meantime, LCS and chill.



- Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill









PS.  For further reading, I do recommend this post as referenced above.

72 comments:

  1. So basically you know better than everyone else and are bulldozing ahead with DQ anyway even though nobody wants it... Is it not too difficult to have new champ select with soloq and ranked 5s like everyone who actually cares enough about the game to voice their opinion online wants? You're destroying the competitive integrity of your ranking system and no amount of tinkering is going to fix the fundamentally flawed system that is DQ.

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    1. You should consider reading articles prior to responding. :^)

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    2. I read the whole thing actually, a whole load of PR talk and jargon (:

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    3. Who are you to say that "nobody" wants it? Do you represent everyone?

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    4. Who are you to say that "nobody" wants it? Do you represent everyone?

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    5. No but the majority of pro players have spoken out against it as well as a large majority of the player base on forums like Reddit.

      There is something fundamentally wrong when the pro players decide that the ranked system for the game they play is bad and go ahead and make a closed door one on the tournament realm.

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    6. I would say a very small vocal minority doesn't like it when the rest of us love DQ.

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    7. The pro players are a vocal minority whose voices are heard a hell of a lot louder than anyone else. They dislike it for different reasons than 99% of anyone else would. They dislike it because of the 5 mans they are forced to play against where at that level they just get smacked around. Also the high lvl players have a longer que time.

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    8. Hate to tell you, but plenty of people wanted Dynamic Queue and are happy with it. Sure, it may not be the best for high elo players who want to demonstrate individual skill without massive queue times, but you need to remember the vast majority of players are gold or below and don't really give a shit.

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    9. The problem that Rlex is that most players do not play with large groups. You are trying to encourage something the is not really natural to league. True it is a team based game, but player ability ranges to much in group of friends. The only people i would play Flex with is my IRL friends. The problem is that I am ranked much higher than them.

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  2. The problem by not letting the choice of solo vs dQ is your killing the growth & competitiveness of the game on dQ. We knew that from the beginning some questions was : when league will start to fall and will it goes back to the top ? By any reasoning i would have never bet on this scenario when the company decide to take a bad road 'mistake happens' but keeping it after 6 month of obvious proved failure is quite surprising. By destroying what's the core of the game you can't expect good results and if the flagship 'pro players' start to boycotting your system you might for once ask simply what i've done ?

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  3. This was very thorough, thank you.

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  4. I really hope you guys develop the "deep ways to measure and compare individual skill on a relative basis with other players". Dynamic Q in it's current iteration/perception genuinely changes the neurobiological reward structures of ranked games quite profoundly for a lot of people. We really love your magic gamer crack and it's the persistence of LoL in our minds that keeps us coming back and wanting to involve our friends.

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    1. This. I like to summarize league in one phrase. "It only takes 1 player to lose, but it takes 5 to win" Meaning if one person on your team is not pulling their weight, all 5 people are punished and lose. While in order to win it takes all 5 people.

      With this in mind DQ is really unfortunate. You either understand this or you don't, and if you are the owner of the company and you don't understand my phrase then I don't know what to tell you. You are directly responsible for the success or failure of LoL.

      If you want to keep DQ, then great go for it, but you should of found a way to recognize players individually first before you gave the middle finger to the majority of your player base.

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  5. This is really what I've been looking for for a long time. Thank you for offering some perspective, it really helps me understand you guy's intentions.

    I'm still not convinced, but I guess you guys have proved me wrong in the past, I really hope you can do it again. It's good to know that you're at least doing what you think is best for the player base, than just for yourselves, I think that's all I needed to hear. Best of luck.

    -CLTRLS

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  6. Great context. You may not be able to please all the angry kids on reddit but for those critical thinkers and/or people who have worked it a large organization, this helps shed some light on the issues. And for the record, I still want solo queue back. But I also "get it"

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  7. well until you "iterate" and come up with a viable alternative i'm not going to sit through the game, and that LCS comment at the end was unnecessary

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  8. I really think you guys should tackle the queue from another angle.

    Make playing support more engaging and interactive, change the name to "commander" role, make Heal spell single target and can't be used on yourself, make items bound to this spell similar to jungler items, create different items that make you feel like you're winning the game, although you're not fighting and killing like a mid/top/adc.

    Doesn't matter what algorithm you use, if no one is playing a role, and you need this role to fill a team, you will always have a problem with queue times.

    As said by Riot on the discussion, they are willing to sacrifice quality and balance to shorten queue times, and I don't see this as a optimal solution.

    About DQ over SoloQ I'm not going to get into this mess, but you guys need to tackle queue times in a optimal way if you want to make DQ works.

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  9. If you need ideas for support rework, feel free to mail me;

    (made.by.will@hotmail.com)

    You may not believe it, but it can help your game more than you imagine.

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  10. Riot should look to the past and see other major gaming companies mistakes and learn from them. Case in point: Jagex. They had a bad situation, that required drastic changes to improve their game, and proposed something that the masses disagreed with, and vocalized it heavily. They pushed onward as they "knew" that it was the right decision, and that it would eventually work out, and the player base would eventually come around and agree with them. Needless to say the second month they neared filing bankruptcy due to a quick decline in the amount of memberships, and the general discourse of players who lost interest in the game, from the bad decision making of the company.

    While its important for a company to inovate and provide the next best thing that other companies haven't developed, It's also important to not only listen to your audience, but to also re-evaluate your current position.

    If the agenda your pushing has been declining since its release, and every update you have suggested, released for it has been received with negativity by your audience, step back and start over.

    If you continue down this path of trust that the future will be brighter, you WILL eventually see the sunrise, but you might be viewing it alone, while we move on to the next big thing. This is also referred to as a "False Positive", which by coincidence is my username on NA.

    - NA: False Positive

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  12. Just a friendly reminder that Valve noticed the problem Riot has just discovered years ago, and wholly implemented Dynamic Queue, but with different ladders, Solo ranked and Party Ranked. This is why we sometimes have stacks vs solos in ranked.
    Duh.
    The difference is in the maturity of the algorithm used to match players in Dota2. It's much better than what they have in Riot. You never get 5-stack vs 5 solo, or even 3-stack vs 5 solo, at the very most it would be 5 solo vs 3 solo+2-stack, which is very rare.
    Please get this out there to Riot. People want different ladders to climb. The tech of queuing itself, they don't care.

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    1. Also Dota's player is about 20% compared to league, but ranked matchmaking works just fine in dota. I honestly think that valve does pretty much everthing better than riot from cliet to balance patches.
      For example saying that league have balances in a 2 weeks period is very frustating as a player because the moment that i feel the meta is cool and stuff everything changes, the games its not stable at all, so you need to play as a mad man to be able to play 'the meta' champions, i hate this conceptual design.

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  13. This was exactly what I was hoping to read from exactly who I needed to hear it from. Thank you for putting some perspective on the issues, and I will be happy to continue playing in the hopes the data will help in future development.

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  14. Hey Marc,
    Thank you for being so direct and forthcoming in this post (you tend to be anyways but this is clearly an important time for it). I just wanted to let you know that I, and I presume many others, very much appreciate RIOT's attempts to iterate on ideas that you think are beneficial to the players in the long run. It takes a lot of trust in the process to make huge changes knowing they need to be ironed out in the real world over extended periods of time. I know you don't need to hear this, but keep the philosophy going. Keep making changes that you feel are necessary and keep being fluid enough to change direction when necessary.

    I am someone who exclusively plays solo, and I do get a pang of worry when I see that those who play in groups get more perks and rewards than me. I DO feel like I am being slightly marginalized and I do not intend to start to play with groups (I'm 36 with twin babies who plays perhaps 3-4 games per day scattered at random times (I work from home) so trying to duo or trio with people is not likely to happen). But, that being said, I have no doubts that shifting the population as a whole toward more cohesive group play is a good idea. It enriches the game in a meaningful way and will elevate the game consciousness of the player base. This will be important for a game who will be the first to gain cultural acceptance (in the US) as a legitimate sport. I am happy that RIOT has high aspirations for the game and will continue to play solo as the changes start to take place.

    There is a reason League has done so well, it is because of the philosophies that you detail above. The model you have created can influence other companies (game and other) to be more brave and flexible. I know dynamic Q has not received the feedback from the community that the team has hoped and I trust that you will continue to iterate on it until it is right for the players and the future of the game. Good luck as time goes on.



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  15. Thankyou for this, but I think the whole point about this problem is that some people just don't belong in certain ranked I.E they got carried into it, wich hurts the competitive off it.

    I don't use lolnexus alot, but I was curious for a day and started to see some off my matches and saw I was getting in a group with players who started this season with ranked, while the other team had some players who knew how to play in that "elo", this is also a big problem for the high elo players couse they tend to play with or against d2 players and yet you don't even know if they got in d2 alone or "boosted". You should think about this more then anything becouse that is what is taking the most fun out off the game.

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  16. >Riot sometimes comes across as inconsistent or contradictory

    Ok, you did explain why Riot comes across as contradictory because of a rather unstructured organization and a focus on differing opinions internally.

    However, does this mean that we can't trust any communications from Rioters as anything besides personal opinions? How can we know what statements are facts and what statements are just thoughts from the person saying them? You say that Riot wants to be transparent and open to communicating with the playerbase but there's really no point if the things you say can't be trusted

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    1. IT'S HARD TO TELL, SOME GUY ON A FORUM JUST JOINED CALLED ABOVETOPSECRET.COM AND CLAIMS TO BE TRYNDAMERE HIMSELF. YET I CAN'T WRAP MY HEAD AROUND IT BEING THE GUY WHO OWNS THIS BLOG. SO IT'S POSSIBLE THE OWNER OF THIS BLOG IS BEING IMPERSONATED BY A DUDE USING A CHICKEN FOR A PHOTO AND ACTING LIKE AN ASS. I'D BE PISSED IF THAT HAPPENED TO ME IN FACT I'D CONTACT THE WEBSITE OWNERS AND COMPLAIN ABOUT IT. THIS GUY IS TARNISHING YOUR NAME MARC MERRILL. JUST A HEADS UP.

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  20. I think, this post or recent video about dynamicQ needed to be created earlier, but i guess things take time to figure out perfectly, so i understand.

    I just want to say i almost never played duo or group ranked in my 3 years (soon 4) league life and i was against the idea from the start because it fundamentally benefits groups, punishes solos and also a lot of people will abuse being able to get boosted by friends while i try to improve alone by myself.

    But now, after reading the article, i'm truly amazed (mainly by referring links) how much care goes into this game that i love playing every day and i want to say i "get it" and wish other people to get too that you guys just need to make something BETTER than just soloQ, something that is playable by every type of player (solo or with friend/s or whole groups) and is fair and YOU CARE about everyone of them.

    I finally get that it is worth to try to find that "thing" and it WILL be better than just soloQ if it exists and just as a summoner i support the idea now.

    Lastly i want to say to you guys that with bashing developers and people who create and care for the game everyday we will not accomplish nothing productive or positive, if you love this game try to do things that will really improve thing not just spit your hate without caring about anything or anyone. Your attitude today will affect your tomorrow.

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  22. I can agree what you are saying Mark, but i disagree with your decisions on eSports, you eliminating 3rd party hosted tournaments is going to be end of League eSports.

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  23. Just wanted to say that DQ is one of the best things thats ever happened to league, It's whats the game is all about, and I think most players are in agreement with this (allthough the vocal community, those that comment in every forum, are mostly SoloQers)

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  24. You made soloQ be normals. Why even soloQ now? I used to be plat 1 last season. Now I struggle in gold 1 because I stomp lane and get camped by 3-4 people. I'm mostly a soloq guy only.

    I played with 2-4 other premades too, because I was invited. Won with my eyes closed, all I had to do is tell them what to do and game was over.

    Yeah, I still like the game, but so much less so. And there are many, many games in which a team has 3,4,5 premades. Maybe 20% of the games or so. That's 20% of the games being bad games, on top of the games that were bad because people are humans and do mistakes, tilt, play when tired.

    Please step down from Riot. And allow someone who is dedicated to satisfy the user base to lead the company. Your vision, no matter how many different iterations the dev team goes through, is precisely the opposite of what players want from soloqueue. You're getting a false positive feedback because the people that would do this in normals can do it in ranked and feel good about themselves for getting freelo. When that stops, everyone will be against it or neutral.

    Step down from riot. I wish I knew chinese, I'd send tencent letters to remove you.

    Did I mention job review sites and applications have you and the leadership style at riot the worst thing about the company? Riot no.1 employer because of conditions. Getting things done = nope, better lick boss's feet.

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  25. Marc, as much as I respect you and your team, I don't think there is any way you can make me play ranked as long as dynamic queue exists. I played ranked for years. I quit a while back for a different reason, but never ruled out the possibility of returning... and recently I've been playing again... but ranked is doomed to be awful as long as I cannot opt out of being matched alongside 4-man premades when I play.

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  26. A pure solo player with rank X and a pure 5s player of the same rank don't represent the same skillset. They're vastly different experiences and don't belong on the same ladder in a competitive game. It would be similarly misguided to average out doubles and singles rankings for tennis in order to provide a unified ranking. Just like in DQ's case, this would only create an ambiguous ranking which fails to be a good indicator for either format.

    For a ladder to be valid, it has to operate under controlled conditions which are consistent for all its members. DQ adds a myriad of new variables which greatly increase the difficulty in isolating individual skill while also dramatically increasing variance and leading to a feeling of reduced individual control in outcomes (for both directions). Worst of all, many of the variables are not only unequal but also unknowable (voice communication, smurfs boosting friends, well-practiced pre-game plans and strategies etc.). Unknowable variables are especially problematic because it's impossible to perfectly compensate for their absence/presence and their influence can be dramatically different from game to game.

    When you can't accurately compare players of the same ranking due to potentially huge queue configuration differences, you know the ranking system is broken at its core. These are not just matchmaking or queue time issues. This is about the very legitimacy of ranked and as long as such inconsistent experiences are aggregated on the same ladder, it will always fail in this dimension. Even the best voodoo math cannot change the fact that the fundamentals directly oppose key premises of a viable ladder and such attempts will always lack transparency for laymen anyway.

    As ranked is further devalued, motivation to pursue the game seriously will dampen and the primary engine behind the game's growth will eventually stall. When people no longer respect and trust the ranked system, they'll be less driven by self-improvement through streams, guides, as well as watching LCS or absorbing other LoL content.

    Forsaking ranked integrity in the hope of attracting more casuals is akin to plunging a dagger through your heart to cure high blood pressure. As the blood pressure first drops, it may seem that cardiovascular health is better but the cruel truth eventually manifests itself. Most of what makes LoL a vibrant game comes from its hardcore fans who make art, create websites, stream, preach to their friends, post on forums, etc. The casuals don't care all that much whether it's normals or ranked anyway and tend to follow the trendsetters from game to game. Even if ranked is more accessible to them, they may never become that "ideal ranked player" who buys a lot of skins and champions. It’s not worth losing the goodwill of the community and frustrating those who actually do care about ranked.

    While SQ would be ideal, Riot seems unwilling to let their customers choose which queue will live so I’ve come up with a few compromises. The first would be to simply not allow anything beyond duo queue in Platinum and above. The most vociferous opposition to DQ comes from dedicated players in these ranks and larger premades also lengthen queue times. Since it’s generally accepted that anyone can reach Gold with some effort, allowing DQ and its distortions upon the ranked system only below Platinum is an easier pill to swallow.

    Another idea would be to keep DQ but segregate out solo performance almost as if it was a separate queue. This would still be higher variance than a true SQ due to premades but at least all solo players would be exposed to the same variables over sufficient games. Unlike the current system, it would have internal validity and it also wouldn’t kill 4s like a solo ladder probably would.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Very well written post, I can appreciate the attitude you have towards improving. It's honestly very motivating.

    I am also a pure solo player, but I think the old system was better for a totally different reason. Having 'fixed' roles kills creativity and player innovation. You are FORCING players to stick to a defined meta.

    We'll never know if a double mage bot or trilanes will ever be viable. This is because you are limiting players as a random design choice (I also dislike the restrictions with smite/jungle items). Give us the freedom to play your game our way .

    I sorta liked getting paired with 5 randoms and filling in the old queue. However after 20 support games in a row I became a top main.

    To end, have you considered 2 ladders for solo and group play? A player can be ranked gold for solo and silver for groups as an example. Solos and groups still play together in the same queue but solo players have their own rank.

    I like ranking with my friends too, but mostly play solo. Both experiences are different so it might make sense to have different ratings.

    Solo q has always been the core of League. This compromise will give solos the recognition they deserve, as well as retaining the benefits of the new queue.

    I hope you read this. I really appreciate the effort and research gone into this post. I think riot's greatest flaw is hubris, but I still trust you guys got my back. I expect great things (you guys created the damn moba genre, can't wait to see what else you got). Sry for typos am on my phone.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Its not like we are giving you no time.

    It has been over half the season already and the system keeps failing and is not even close to being fixed. How much time it will take for you to make the rollback call? A season? Two Seasons? Ten Seasons?

    I understand that your team is egocentric and think that they are all powerfull and keep saying they can fix it, but the thing is, they couldnt fix it in a reasonable amount of time (we are way pats what a reasonable amount of time is) so the time has come Tryndamere to get down the high horse and admit that since you couldnt fix it in a reasonable amount of time, it needs to go.

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  29. You destroy my LOL by dynamic Que
    I loved LOL but I don like Riot, i want only real rank game

    ReplyDelete
  30. i have many friends in LOL, and play game with them
    but i don want play "Rank Game" with them
    Rank is special

    ReplyDelete
  31. "
    Yes, League is the largest online game in the world. But that sure ain't because we tried to focus on "casual gamers" or "go broad". League is hard to learn. It takes years (literally) to understand much of the nuance of the game in the same way that it takes years to master a team sport like American Football, Soccer or Basketball."

    Dude, you change the nuances of the game all the time. It is NOTHING like Soccer or Football because of how often subtle rules are changed.

    OH, that and they don't play with random teammate in organized sports. Really cuts down on the annoy factor.

    For you to make the comparison and say what you said seriously makes me question how much thought you put into this subject--which an absurdity on its own since you won the company

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi Mr. Merrill, I am posting this reddit post I wrote in up in the hope that you will read it here. For what it's worth, I do not have a Masters or PHD, but do have an Honors degree, and am currently doing a post-grad diploma in educational technology. I only mention this because I want you to know this is the opinion of someone with a reasonable education behind them.

    Anyway, on with the post.

    Firstly, TLDR at the bottom of the post since this is basically an essay. Secondly, I will be making this into a video with slides after a few days that I will edit in.

    Ranked in League of Legends, and what it should be.

    In the game of League of Legends, ranked should be, at the very least, an unbiased system that is fair to all players. All players should have access to the same tools and same options as all other players. There are various external factors, like ping and PC speed, that yes, affect players, but since these factors are out of Riot's control, the ranked system cannot be held accountable for them. However, all factor's within Riot's control should not favour one group of players over another.

    Dynamic Queue

    DQ, is not balanced, because in its purest state (that is without outside influence), the team with the most amount of premades will always beat the opposing team that has less premades, or premades that are split into multiple smaller groups. This is due to the HUGE influence cohesive communication has when it comes to winning a game. This influence has been acknowledged by Riot themselves and is reflected by balancing in both their old Solo Q matchmaking, and their new DQ matchmaking.

    Matchmaking algorithms and premade players in old solo Q

    This is where Riot's matchmaking algorithm comes in. In the old solo q system, Riot acknowledged that the team with premades had an advantage and tried its best to make sure both teams in a game had premades. If there were no other premades in the queue, the system then made sure the overall MMR of the team with premades was lower than their opposition to compensate. I would like to highlight a problem that I believe exists within this older system, which also exists in a much greater degree in DQ.

    I do not believe that Riot could correctly balance the communication influence premade players have in a system that was essentially designed around 5 random solo queue players. Why? Firstly, how do you quantify, or place a value, on communication? Sure, I'm not denying that you could undoubtedly pick up a trend that players with communication win more than those without it, but what I'm saying is how do you, in a ranked system that balances according to numbers, give communication a specific value? Do you see how many games a premade duo wins on average and then calculate that as an overall percentage, and then adjust according to that? Perhaps Riot has the data on that, but I personally feel that whatever value they use to compensate for duo players having communication, it is, at best an average, and is not an accurate representation of the impact communication has on games. But let's just assume, hypothetically speaking, that Riot has some good numbers and that the number that they balance duos by is accurate.

    Then what happens if I'm premade, but I'm not actually using voice chat? The system has now given me a handicap because it assumes that I have an advantage, even though I don't. This simple fact highlights the issue that by introducing one pair of players into the solo ranked system, it becomes an uneven playing field, and is therefore not fair to all players. You are making certain assumptions, those assumptions influence the ranked system regardless of whether they are true or not, and at a very core level, your rank gets messed up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This problem gets worse with dynamic queue

      So now take this issue (the issue being that communication is not something you can simply put on a scale and give a numerical value to, and the assumption that all premade players use voice communication in the same way) and apply it to dynamic queue. You are now not only dealing with one factor of influence, but multiple factors. This issue becomes even worse if you are dealing with say, a team of 5, versus a team of 3+2. Now you have a 5 man team, assumedly with completely cohesive communication, versus a team with fractured communication. How do you balance that numerically Riot?

      Conclusion

      The problem I am trying to highlight here is that Riot should not be fiddling with matchmaking in order to force the system to work for both solo players and players who want to play with friends. This is because:

      *you cannot balance around the communication advantage that premades have, without making certain assumptions, which in turn leads to innaccuracies that influence your ranked system negatively

      *the needs of solo queue players are different from the needs of players who want to play with their friends in a competitive environment

      Riot needs to make a balanced and fair ranked system for both groups of players. To do this they need to split the queues. Make solo queue purely for solo players, and replace ranked 5s with the new dynamic queue that allows for flexible group sizes within teams. Yes, these queues will be longer than average, but the current compromise with dynamic queue is a complete mess.

      TLDR:

      1) Ranked should be designed around being an even playing field.

      2) It is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately give a number to communication and how it influences games. The ranked system makes certain assumptions around premades (such as a communication is worth a certain value, and that if you are premade you are using voice comms). These assumptions break the rank system as a result.

      3) Riot should split dynamic and solo queue in order to even up the playing field for people who want to play solo, and people who want to play with friends, as opposed to trying to force together these two different groups which have two different sets of needs.

      Delete
  33. "It was designed since day one to be a competitive game. We have also made intentional decisions all along the way to not focus on a wider audience despite internal and external pressure to do so. "If we care about gamers, why not try to serve ALL gamers" goes the argument.
    "

    I feel like with the release of DQ you've failed this. DQ is not competitive, as it encourages lax gameplay. Sorry to say, but if the idea of competitive playstyle is to continue, then DQ is going to have to go for players plat+

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hey, Marc. I brought this article to light on the Boards recently, and surprisingly a lot of people are forgiving of Riot. A lot more need convincing, however.

    I was wondering if you guys could start a discussion thread about Dynamic Queue on the Boards, so the players feel they're being heard and we can settle these tensions without more harm to Riot's credibility. Right now, people see the silence not as a cautionary procedure, but arrogance and condescension, and it's about time for Riot to re-establish its credibility.

    What do you say? Do you think we can mend relations between Riot and the playerbase?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are pissing off more people than ever this season. I don't think they care as long as they are getting new players.

      It sad that will lose half their player base within a couple of years because of how short sighted they are.

      Delete
  35. Hey, Marc. I brought this article to light on the Boards recently, and surprisingly a lot of people are forgiving of Riot. A lot more need convincing, however.

    I was wondering if you guys could start a discussion thread about Dynamic Queue on the Boards, so the players feel they're being heard and we can settle these tensions without more harm to Riot's credibility. Right now, people see the silence not as a cautionary procedure, but arrogance and condescension, and it's about time for Riot to re-establish its credibility.

    What do you say? Do you think we can mend relations between Riot and the playerbase?

    ReplyDelete
  36. Seriously you guys on comments are awful , i cant even describe it into words . I really like this article and the way he describes things . I really hate dynamic queue but i appriciate the way Riot approach their audience . Keep up the hard work guys and keep listening to players . As long as you support us I will support you

    ReplyDelete
  37. I don't know why I can only comment as: "Unknow". But ok, let's say my user name is juan terrats.

    I can only give a suggestion for the Solo Q and Dynamic Q thing.

    1.- Make Solo Q, dynamic Q and ranked team Q as different options.

    2.- Make an algorithm for solo Q players: if the queue time takes too much time, ask the player if he wants to join a dynamic queue (being the random guy on premades of 4 players). If the player says YES, he goes to dynamic Q. If the player says NO, he stays waiting for a match on solo Q.

    3.- Make an algorithm for Dynamic Q players. If the queue time takes too much, suggest the leader of the premade to increase or reduce number of players on their premade.

    4.- Build an App for informing the players about the queue traffic. Options with Solo Q, Dynamic Q and Team Q. For normal, ranked, ARAM, TTL, and RGMQ. Also with information about the roles being played.

    The purpose of this APP, is to inform the players about the traffic of people playing game modes, the roles that are being played, and based on that information, display an approximation of the queue time.

    For example: I want to play ranked solo Q as a mid laner, before going to queue, I check the APP to see how's the traffic of players in solo Q, playing mid, and how much time approximately can take me to find a game.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'm apparently one of the crazy people that still loves Riot.

    I couldn't imagine representing Riot: "Here at Riot, we love chocolate ice cream." Something like that would get insane posts about how chocolate ice cream is awful and Riot is wrong and that only strawberry ice cream truly tastes good. Frankly, it doesn't matter, in the end. You can't make everyone happy. Whether it be purely opinion or something like "Dynamic Queue Vs. Solo Queue Vs. Have Both" that actually has an effect on people, Riot just has to do what they think is best. There will always be people screaming and yelling until their eyes are popping out on the forums and Reddit and everywhere else.

    Riot: keep it up, I still believe in you, all the way from beta until now, I haven't lost faith.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I would like to believe you mr head rioter man however currently the system tells me that i am a second class citizen or a serf to premades where i bust my arse off helping them out while they get all the extra goodies, rewards and get to decide if i surrender or not even if we could have won.

    In short i do not believe you have the time to iterate this problem and your queue times shoving up in time due to solo queue players either A: quitting until the does not suck for us or B: just not playing as much or only playing arams.

    ReplyDelete
  40. am a blogger too how can i put a nice template on my blog to make it look nice

    ReplyDelete
  41. LOL passive laning. What META are you? Dota1?? LOL
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwsZZUz-3rM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LoL devs = 'we going to generalize and speak shit about dota2 so that people will stick to our crappy game'

      Delete
    2. Yes, actually. The part of his post that you're commenting on, he is referring to when League was first created.

      For sure, DOTA 2 is a giant leap in evolution from how the original DOTA was, you are certainly correct. However, he was discussing big changes and decisions that have been made over the years (or seasons, however you would like to measure the game's age) and early development when League was born.

      Delete
    3. @GoldenBoi His reference to DOTA is not shorthand for DOTA 2, he literally means the original DOTA. I doubt there are many people playing DOTA anymore, if any at all.

      Delete
  42. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  43. As some one with 2 young kids myself and a busy un-plannable gaming time schedule I can't stand the dynamic Q system at all. The fastest easiest way to climb now is to have a good team and just voice com Q with them and climb fast, however on a real solo Q stile game time this is next to impossible as you canno't organize...you basically put the same problem 5's had on the solo Q group as now we can't organise to climb as fast /easy as those that can and often it's not about your personal skill but if you are on the right side of the pre-made coin!

    ReplyDelete
  44. The problem with dynamic que is that it isn't a true representation of individual skill (what a competitive ranked system should be ) -- and this effects all elos, a 4-5man will always beat a bunch of randoms 9/10 times. Than you have the terrible match-making and que times in higher elos.
    I understand you're probably diverting a large amount of your internal resources for the upcoming FPS title you're developing
    but come the fuck on.

    If you want to decrease the high elo que times than you increase the amount of fixed challenger games before decay to 'x' ( 7-10) per week, this will eliminate acc dumping in master-challenger elo >> into playing on alts ( smurfs), eventually stimulating a more competitive ecosystem, and most importantly promote higher quality match-making.

    If you going to allow premades to exist, than at the very least enable an 'opt-in voice com' feature FOR THE STRANGERS like every other team based game. I'm sorry it isn't fucking 'toxic', if the player has access to a mute button than there isn't a problem.

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  45. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  46. you took away being on a ranked team with 5 close friends at varying ranks. that was the strongest most fun version of league, and you took it away.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Do you believe the game is more competitive with dynamic queue rather than soloqueue?

    Yes or no.

    ReplyDelete
  48. So this is the most amazing gold mine I have ever stumbled upon... As an aspiring game designer being able to read from the Co-Founder of the biggest MOBA franchise is amazeballs! Totally reading everything on here.

    I have been playing league of legends since around season 2. It is quite literally the only game I have played and still play today. I have followed this particular Genre since the days of DOTA and WW3 Map mods, and it was this company that ignited my passion for game Design which I am now seeking formal education in through Full Sail University. I want you to know that I idolize your organization and love your game. I have dreamed of one day working for you all once I am ready as a hero designer. I currently ALPHA test for the new EPIC game Paragon and have referenced League as the staple model for the MOBA genre more than once. You guys rock.

    Regarding dynamic Q. I personally like it, as I am a lower level player it does exactly what you want it to. The reason I feel people have such an issue with it is because they are looking at it from strictly singular perspective.

    So I will end with this. I am honored you shared your thoughts with us, and that I was able to get so close to just a huge inspiration to my dreams. I know you all work for the interests of not only your company, but tailor those interests around the players, your community, and family.

    Keep up the good work guys!

    ReplyDelete
  49. 1) This is DEFINITELY NOT TLDR.
    2) Oh, sweet summer child.

    ReplyDelete
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