LoL Solo Queue Problems and the Solution Riot Never Acknowledges

The competitive matchmaking system in League of Legends was a hot topic in the past week. Popular streamer Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani released a video on YouTube earlier this week decrying the state of the North American LoL solo queue experience. His most emphasized point of contention was the behavior of other players, specifically teammates. Griefing can be done through text chat by using slurs or insults to upset other players, but automated text filters can catch these offenders with adequate regularity (although the more inventive griefers can still find workarounds). The bigger issue, however, is when players grief through gameplay.

Most instances of griefing are fairly blatant to the human eye. It’s very hard to misunderstand when a teammate deliberately takes all the gold in your lane and then runs straight into the enemy and then uses the dance emote before dying. Especially when they do it repeatedly.

LoL Solo Queue Problems, and the Solution Riot Never Acknowledges

© League of Legends

Griefing is hard for automated systems to identify

Unfortunately, as far as the game’s statistics can tell, all that happened is that one player had a disproportionate number of deaths: an outcome very possible for a player who is just playing poorly because of lacking individual ability. And no one wants to or should penalize a player just for being bad at the game without breaking any rules.

This is brought up in the official post by Andrei “Meddler” van Roon, League of Legends’ game director, that responds to general discontent. The post overall is rather lackluster in doing more than making vague promises of improvement.

One section, though, is worth highlighting if only out of concern:

“Avoiding unjust temp bans is important to offer a good player experience. Having said that, so is controlling deliberate trolling, self-sabotage, etc. In retrospect we may have prioritized avoiding one type of player pain too much at the expense of another type, so want to look at our options here again.

One thing that would be helpful as part of that is understanding where your heads are at as LoL players. What’s an acceptable rate of incorrect bans if it results in a noticeable drop in deliberate inting/afking? Is it worth accidentally giving a two-week ban to one player who was genuinely trying if that means 19 trolls also get banned? What if the ban is undeserved 1/100 times? 1/1000? Are incorrect bans never acceptable at all?”

The answer, of course, is that incorrect bans are never acceptable. A punishment system that acts without upholding a fair and just set of rules is just a malicious system in disguise. The fact that this is treated as if there is an acceptable level of compromise so long as the general player base feels that others should swallow injustice for their personal greater enjoyment is demonstrative that it is less about improvement and more about mollification.

Bans aren’t the only option but people pretend they are

Given that automated systems are probably poor at detecting player behavior, some would think the answer is to use a manual case-by-case review of reported players, however, as shown with the Tribunal system in the past, this is equally flawed. Not only is the system slow due to sheer volume against the number of judges, but it also risks human error on a massive scale as the judges are far from impartial or informed to make consistent rulings.

Based on one game, how can a judge tell if this is a repeat offender of the worst degree who should suffer long bans? It could very well just be that person was having a particularly foul day and behaved uncharacteristically poorly. It could also be a waste of time to review as it was merely triggered by repeated misuse of the report system. Taking the time to review many games for one reported player takes even more time and slows the process that much more.

This does not mean that the current system is without reproach or even optimal. The most questionable aspect of the punishment system is the oscillation between extremes in its response to repeat offenses. First and second offenses receive chat restrictions for first and second offenses; given that most griefing is done through gameplay, not text, this is ineffective for catching the most egregious abuses.

Third and fourth offenses receive a two-week and a permanent suspension respectively. This seems too draconian a leap given the preceding steps, and it is questionable if bans are even effective in altering player behavior.

Bans should be a last resort. Regardless of the severity, be it two weeks or two years or a lifetime indefinite ban, bans should only be implemented as a complete removal after all attempts of rehabilitation have failed.

The toxic pool – Secondary LoL Solo Queue

Rehabilitation such as the low-priority queue implemented by Dota 2. A queue that takes players with excessive numbers of reports and places them in games with similarly-reported players. They must then play a set number of games to earn their way back into regular play with the rest of the player base.

It’s not a perfect solution and it will require time and much fine-tuning to prevent false positives and unjust punishment, but it is a step in the right direction. Riot Games already uses a similar low-priority queue for its LeaverBuster system.

It’s long past time they turn that technology towards the most important areas of the game. Voyboy is not alone in his fight. European League of Legends coach turned caster Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi had his own view on the issue on a long segment you should definitely have a look at. In the end, is here to support all and any ideas that create a healthier LoL solo queue gaming experience for all players. #SaveLeague

This article was contributed by Michael Jeong. 
Twitter: Michael4Jeong
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