What Can Riot Learn From DotA2?
“Riot Pls” is the usual term used when a gamer, frustrated by a mechanic in League of Legends, wishes Riot had done something differently. In a break from my usual topic of covering what is obvious to Professionals but maybe not to the beginner of ranked play, I’m going to talk about what Riot can learn from other MOBAs out there, most notably Valve’s entry to the genre, DotA2. From the client, to matchmaking, to certain in-game mechanics, Riot has a lot to learn in terms of what makes a user base stick to playing their game. This is something that genre competitor Valve and Esports competitor Blizzard have been perfecting for over a decade. This is not going to be a rage filled rant, but hopefully a balanced view of some things Riot could learn from its competitors to greatly improve the game.
Queue Trolls and Forced Dodging
Lets be realistic here, if you’ve played ranked or even normal League of Legends, you’ve encountered a troll in the team select stage. This person will be adamant they’re playing their preferred position regardless of pick order (the official manner in which roles are given out) or team synergy, or even the skill level of your team mates in certain roles. At this point you have two options:
1 – Play the game with the troll and hope for the best. You might have been able to quickly rework your team composition around the troll to get something workable, but even then it is likely your annoying team-mate isn’t going to cooperate in the game, so your chances of victory aren’t great. On the plus side, they might do something you can report them for if they’re stupid, however this is little consolation if you’ve just lost some precious Elo.
2 – Dodge. You now have to sit and play ARAM for 30 minutes while you wait out the timer, or for an hour if it’s your second game of the day. Meanwhile the troll gets right back in to another game and is potentially going to be doing the exact same thing to the next unfortunate group of people. This option is what most people will choose to do; after all, waiting 30 minutes is far better than losing Elo.
Neither option is great for anyone. Either way, the innocent party usually ends up as the one getting the penalty.
So how does DotA 2 deal with the same situation?
The main way that DotA2 deals with this is having champion select in the game proper, not before the game. You are loaded in to the map, on the game servers where everything is being recorded, and then you select your champion. DotA2 has a less strict meta-game compared to LoL, which does make champion select somewhat simpler, but the main point is that if a troll decides to attempt to ruin a game with a useless pick, they are going to be forced to play that game, they can’t try and force someone to dodge.
So what can Riot do?
One of the main issues Riot faces is the fact the game client (or lack thereof; it’s just an Adobe Air application) is separate from the actual game client. The champion select is based on a different server to the game server, so there are no records of pre-game chat and it’s simply not possible for us to have champion select in the actual game. Reddit user ArchangelPT comes up with an interesting idea in this post from earlier this week. He suggests having a system in place whereby after a game is dodged, the other players on the team can choose to forgive the dodging player if they felt the dodge was necessary. While this is a great idea on the surface, some other Redditors did come up with one major issue: vote rigging. It wouldn’t be too hard for you to agree to dodge and forgive the dodger if the enemy team composition isn’t one you think you can beat, and you don’t feel like playing the game. It is however still an interesting idea that could be developed into something workable until Riot produce a proper game client that would allow them to having a more robust system.
Players leaving mid game
There have been many proposals as to what the situation should be if one player leaves the game, most of them rotating around the idea of increasing the passive gold gain for the team without a player, but like many things this would be abused. DotA2 offers a very simple yet effective solution to this problem. If a player leaves the game, after five minutes anyone else can leave the game without penalty; though of course there are criteria that need to be met and there are some penalties. The leaving player will be put on a lower priority for finding games if they leave two games within a set time period. Game records are still made as well, if First Blood has been given then the first team to leave gets the game counted as a loss and the other team gets recorded as a win.
But why haven’t Riot implemented this if it’s such a great system?
Like with many things, Riot is afraid of abuse, and rightly so. It wouldn’t be too difficult to abuse someone on your team to get them to leave so you can get away from the game you’re not going to win without losing Elo. On top of this we must remember that DotA2 doesn’t actually have a formalised ranking system. The closest it gets is a system similar to hidden Elo in LoL normal games, though this is expected to change with the move from Beta to Full Release. This is important because a lot of League of Legends is balanced around what the best people playing the game can do. Yes, you might think Blitzcrank is OP and needs a nerf, but in reality until we see him being abused to a game breaking level at a major tournament, this isn’t going to happen. This makes taking anything from another game without a comparable system hard to properly analyse as we can’t see the full effects. Naturally, this is something that I suspect Riot will have thought about, but presently it isn’t something that they seem to be pursuing.
One of the biggest downfalls of League of Legends is the fact it’s region locked. You create an account on a server group, i.e. NA, EU-West or EU-North East and you are stuck on that region’s servers. This is problematic for many not wanting to play on servers close to them or those with friends in different regions. This problem is made even worse once someone has invested a lot of money in RP and so doesn’t want to create a new account to play with distant friends. DotA2 gets around this by simply having region select built in to the game queue, you can choose to play on whatever server you wish to before you queue for a game, completely removing the problem created in League of Legends.
So where does this leave us?
In the last few days, since I started playing a few DotA2 games, I noticed a few major things I think LoL could improve on- but it is incredibly hard to see just how well they could be implemented into League of Legends effectively. All in all, Riot have managed to balance the game pretty well considering the handicap of not having a proper client. For any major change to come about, full investment in a standalone League of Legends client would be needed, and that is something I hope we see before too long. The issues I’ve stated aren’t enough to make me stop playing the game (and perhaps this why Riot don’t seem too rushed to improve it) or enough to make me play DotA2 permanently. It does raise certain questions as to whether Riot is working on the larger issues, as opposed to focusing simply on more champions and game balance.
What are your thoughts?