Staying Attuned to Changes in League of Legends ESPN-Style
Riot Games has had its fair share of criticisms and naysayers over the years. There has been a lot of controversy around punishments handed down towards members of the professional scene and towards game design decisions. With the recently announced changes to ranked play, new and returning players have something to look forward to in the near future. In this way, the game has become League of Legends ESPN. Just as the network is an ever-evolving entity in the world of sports, LoL never became stale. Whether or not changes will work can never be determined upfront, but they are happening and changing ranked play is a way to foster interest in a game arguably losing some momentum in the e-sports realm.
A Long Time Ago, In a Ranked Galaxy Far Away…
The current iteration of ranked play is far different than what it was several seasons ago. During the early seasons of League of Legends, ranked was a free-for-all in every sense of the phrase. While queuing, there was no role that could be selected beforehand. If someone wanted to play ranked, he or she simply queued for it and waited for the queue to pop. Once the champion select lobby loaded, five players were put on a team, with pick order based on your MMR.
MMR, or Match Making Rating, is something that has always been talked about in a negative way because it is not something that can be determined by the player. It is a number assigned to all players hidden behind algorithms. The player with the highest MMR would select first and the lowest last. In this way, you were always at the mercy of the others players on your team if you were not first.
Every player could state their preferred role, but given the toxic nature of the player base, there was absolutely no guarantee this preference would be taken into consideration. The nature of ranked play was always a source of frustration for players because it often pushed players into roles they were uncomfortable playing in a serious setting. When ranked play fundamentally changed, a lot of the frustration melted away.
Changes for the Better
A few seasons ago, drastic changes were introduced to the ranked system and they significantly improved the quality of life for players. Before actually queuing for ranked, players finally became able to choose both a primary and secondary role. This change was a big deviation from the past iteration. The toxicity often experienced during champion select became much less frequent.
While the chances of landing your primary role were high, there was still the possibility you could be what was called auto-filled. Being auto filled meant that you were assigned a role that was in need of the queue you were joining. The vast majority of the time this position was the support role.
The vast majority of players are adverse to support because you are not making decisions that only involve yourself. You are inherently tied to another player. Furthermore, support players almost always have the lowest amount of gold on the team for the entire duration of the game. As a result, in the off chance, someone is auto-filled into support, there is the very real possibility there will be trolling and negativity from the onset.
With that taken into consideration, role selection was a very necessary and important change for all players. From then until now, the ranked play has remained consistent for the most part. The recently announced changes are exciting because they are introducing several new elements which will have an immediate effect once implemented.
The immediate context behind the 2019 changes to ranked play was providing players adept at multiple roles more fulfillment. This is essentially the opening argument used in the announcement. This means that a new system known as positional matchmaking will replace the current system. With positional matchmaking, you will find opponents based on your skill for the position for which you are currently queued. There has been negative sentiment online regarding the changes as a whole, but this is a breath of fresh air for the ranked system. It goes a step towards removing the fluctuating skill gap between players.
Furthermore, there will now be five separate ranks that can be leveled up (one for each role). Riot believes having the five separate ranks will lend their weight to having more fair games overall. If you are auto-filled into a position, then your rank in that role will reflect that, thus matching you with players at similar skill levels in their roles. The counter-argument against this involves players putting in less effort when not playing in their primary roles. It is refreshing to see Riot address this before it becomes an issue. To that end, bonuses to your primary role and stricter penalties are on the table and both appear to be adequate consideration for the potential lack of competitive intent.
Bronze No More
Throughout the course of League of Legends, it has been no secret that the vast majority of players are in the Bronze and Silver tiers in Solo Queue. Additionally, the vast majority of Diamond players are grouped within the Diamond V tier. It is mentioned that there are long stretches of time for players in these lower tiers without ranking up. Riot is seeking to address this, and it has potential to be a means of positive reinforcement for the lower skilled players.
The most notable change is the inclusion of two new tiers. The wording suggests one tier will help alleviate the congestion present in Bronze and Silver while the other will be a means of combatting the dense population of Diamond V. These changes have the potential to motivate players who either feel they are not improving or are stuck inside a particular tier. To add to this, the five-division system will cease to be and will be replaced with a four-division structure. This restructure might go a long way towards increasing player motivation when it comes to ranked play.
Inching Closer to Professional Play
Perhaps the most interesting change being considered is the decision to move to three seasons in place of one. Other competitive e-sports titles already have more than one season. Not only that, professional play in League of Legends is divided into a spring and summer split. Taking those factors into account, it is rather strange that the ranked system only has one season which lasts from January until November in any given year.
The most important aspect to note is that your rank will not reset from season to season. Having three seasons will possibly allow for a break between each season which will give active players a chance to reset and work towards different goals once the new season begins. This new structure has a lot of potential for growth and reflection, and fans should be excited to see how this changes the game.
Reasons to Be Excited
While not every change has been discussed, such as provisional rank and borders, there is a lot of food for thought between provisional matchmaking, new tiers, and more seasons. These proposed changes are not only hot and recent, their presence is beneficial for the community as a whole. It gives players, analysts, and coaches a talking point and prevents the game from stagnating and being resistant to change. While a game should never change just for the sake of changing, these changes need not be viewed only in a negative light. There is a lot to be excited about and the wait for the new season will go by a lot quicker with something to anticipate.
For more LoL, check this out: LoL Support Guide for Smart & Safe Decisions