The Growing Pains of Quick Patching
When a player confronts a difficult problem they require time to think and try out different strategies in order to solve the problem. This is the basis of problem solving and discovering new ways to innovate the Meta in games. If we looked at the 6 or 7 pool cheese strategy in Starcraft 2 where Zerg players would rush zerglings players at first thought this strategy was oppressive. However, just given some time players figured out several different strategies to counter this like blocking the ramp, early scouting, and using their worker advantage to fight off the first rush. Blizzard didn’t just nerf the cheese build because some players found it hard to play against. They gave the players time to find their own way to counter the strategy. This is the thinking that Riot should implement instead of doing quick patches that contain several changes.
Example of a 6/7 pool cheese strategy.
To start off there is a set of videos on YouTube from 2010 that covers how Blizzard balances Starcraft 2. The first thing they discuss is how they combine all their tools to fix a problem and how these tools need to agree with each other. The tools I speak of are community, professionals, staff, and of course strict data. Community feedback was there to help them find bugs and debate about various topics. The pros were meant to help show if something is over powered or not. The staff is there for hands on learning and finally data to help analyze overall views that the community and pros may have. If just one or two tools are used then the system fails because the community and staff may feel like certain changes are necessary, but the pros would disagree. It feels like Riot mainly looks at the community and staff. I know they use data, but a particular problem came up with Blizzard where they found a certain matchup being one sided in every region except for one very specific league in a region. This particular instance shows how players were finding a way to adapt towards the matchup and could be proof that the Meta will eventually evolve to balance it out. If the developers decide to try to make big changes quickly to counter act the imbalance matchup without all the tools agreeing with each other then a new strategy or pick may emerge that has the same problem.
When we look at League of Legends, it doesn’t feel like Riot is giving enough time to pool all their tools to see what changes are necessary. I find it hard to believe when we look at Riot that they get large amount of feedback from pro players when a new patch rolls out every 2 weeks. Players are focusing on learning the patch, the new strategies it brings, and the top tier builds and champions that encompass it. We also can’t take much from tournament or professional games because several variables can affect the outcomes of the games like if a player isn’t feeling well, if one team just prepped better, or even a player being nervous. You could say Riot is reducing the usage of their pro tool already. Now, once players finally get past learning the patch they can begin working on counter strategies to build upon the Meta. If we look at Super Smash Bros Melee players will test and test to find the answer towards problems people never knew how to deal with. These Melee players had to get creative and use critical thinking to come up with solutions. Take the example of where Hungrybox was ledge camping to time out the game, but Armada discovered a way to counter Hungrybox’s strategy. League players can be just as creative given time. If these past patches came out a month apart, instead of seeing which teams can adapt towards the patch the quickest we will see which teams can innovate and prove they are the best off better micro and macro play.
Also, try to understand what it feels like to constantly grasp how the new changes impact the game. Players will feel stressed by trying to constantly adapt towards a new patch. Players need time to adapt towards a patch while playing competitive matches on the previous patch. If you change patches quickly players will have to keep resetting what they know which can cause stress. In an interview with Travis, Fenix said how the new AP item overhaul was giving him a headache. Well, two weeks later and we have another big patch released. This creates an unhealthy environment and gets rid of the creativity phase as I spoke of. We also can’t forget certain champions that players practice suddenly become less effective and efficient to play. Let’s take the example of Runeglaive Ezreal in patch 5.12. This created a strong mid lane pick along with creating several cheese picks. The problem is in just two quick patches Ezreal mid is gone already. Anyone that put time into practicing Ezreal mid just wasted their time. Ezreal was by no means invincible and was often just said to be over powered. Teams were already learning how to deal with Ezreal mid as we can see in TSM vs GV and SKT T1 vs CJ Entus Game 1. Ezreal isn’t very strong early on and if he gets behind then he becomes rather useless. This is just one example of how players learned to work around certain champions people thought were over powered.
In conclusion, I believe if Riot wants to create a healthy game they must give longer waiting periods for big patches so players aren’t getting overwhelmed and allow for competition between teams to become more based on skill rather than adaptability. I agree that the best teams should be able to adapt to patches, but teams shouldn’t be expected to adapt to patches every 2 weeks. This can delay teams trying to improve their overall macro play, hurt champion pools, and force them to focus more on how to play to the patch. A balance needs to be set and it’s up to Riot to find it.
Reference towards the Starcraft video can be found here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hmz6sWVl2Z0
Reference towards Fenix saying he gets a headache from the AP changes can be found here, http://www.gamespot.com/videos/fenix-says-there-are-many-changes-because-of-the-n/2300-6425978/