Teamwork is essential in any group activity. And with the Internet’s well-known tendency to troll, it’s no surprise that when it comes to online gaming with others, teamwork is damn near impossible.
It’s a problem that many game developers are attempting to correct. Some, like Strife developer S2, are designing their game with cooperation in mind, including elements purposefully crafted to encourage people to work together.
But for Riot Games, whose League of Legends is one of the biggest online games ever, redesigning the game is out of the question. Their solution? The “Team Builder,” which went into live beta this week, a feature that improves team communication and expectations dramatically before the game even begins.
To anyone who has played League, the problem is obvious. The biggest trolls can show up in the most prestigious “Ranked” mode, where continual wins can earn you consecutively higher ranks and points—and losses send you right back down. The high stakes often mean high emotions.
To participate in Ranked, all one has to do is press the “Play” button. Then, the game will match you up with four other members of a similar skill level. Together, you form a team, and are pitted against another team of five. The first phase of the game is the banning and picking of champions, in-game avatars that determine which position you play, which skills you have, and which items you should buy.
The team captain (determined by the highest ranked player on a team) decides the bans, then players take turns picking their champions in alternating order.
And that’s where all the trouble comes in. Players often have favorite champions and positions. So what do you do if your captain bans out your favorite champion? Or what if a team member picks a position that you wanted to play? Many are faced with those dilemmas each and every game. And it can create a very negative environment.
Some even go so far as to announce threats like “mid or feed,” where they demand to play in the mid lane position. If not granted, the player will “feed,” or continually die to the other team so that the enemies gain money and experience quicker, making them stronger. This ends the game faster, and the end result is a bad time for both sides—the losers get steamrolled, while the winners don’t get the satisfaction of a fair fight.
“Team Builder” seeks to upset the current state of picks and bans. With it, players select their position and champion before pressing “Play.” Then, they go into a pool of players from which captains draft for their dream team.
Or, you can queue up to play as a captain yourself, and draft up your own dream team. When playing as captain, you get to make the positions, and you have control over which players and champions you select.
The combined effect creates a place where players can play how they want to. Instead of arguing about who gets what role before the match starts, players talk about strategies that they can use or just get to know each other.
And from early results, it’s clear the players love the new feature. Reddit threads and comments have been popping up all throughout this week with people stating their appreciation for the coming feature.
The live beta is moving through the many regions of League this month, and will appear as a launched feature sometime thereafter. Riot’s team, Jeremy Lin, is actively monitoring the feedback and looking for ways to improve the system even more.
“We’ll keep reviewing our decisions in time,” Lin wrote. “And if we’re wrong again, we’re happy to pivot and make some design changes to the system 🙂 But for now, I think many players are having a great time in the current version of Team Builder.”
Photo via Riot