Jun 1 2016 - 10:57 pm
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The Impossibility of Dynamic Queue and Why a Perfect Queue System is Unrealistic

The Impossibility of Dynamic Queue and Why a Perfect Queue System is Unrealistic
Dot Esports
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Riot has three contradicting goals for Dynamic Queue:

  1. Decrease queue times
  1. Make every match as fair as possible (have each team's chance of winning pre-champion select be as close to 50% as possible).
  1. Give players the role/champion they want.

I would like you to imagine these three goals as one of those triangle diagrams that says "you can only pick two," because that is what they are. The matchmaking system is designed to match your team with another team as close to your skill level as possible. As your queue time increases, the system widens the scope of what it considers to be a suitable opponent in an attempt to find you a match, which sometimes results in theoretical mismatches. Complicating matters is the new Champion Select, which allows you to pick the two roles you want to play. If you have queued with friends, you have probably noticed that if you all pick similar roles as your two roles, the system does not let you start the game. There has to be diversity in the roles selected. You cannot game the system. 

You can give a player the role they want and decrease queue times, but you will end up with big mismatches. You can decrease queue times and make the match fair, but players will not be able to get the roles they want. You can give players the roles they want and make matches fair, but queue times will be awful.

The player base is going to have to accept one of these compromises, but that would require logical thinking, something that is difficult in large groups like this where group-thinking tends to occur. Your average consumer does not care about the details or difficulties facing a task, they just want what they want, when they want it. The truth is, people are not good at knowing what is good for them.

Player Goals versus Riot's goals and how they complicate the system

Riot's goals partially align with the players. Most players would love lower queue times, the ability to pick their role/champ and having fair matches. But players also have an additional goal that is tough to quantify in a system. Players want the game to feel rewarding to play. They want to feel like their climb up the ladder is worthwhile. This essentially translates to a player wanting to feel like they control their own destiny. If they play well, they win. If they play poorly, they lose. Most reasonable players have no problem with those two outcomes because they got what they earned. The difficulty lies in the fact that League of Legends is a team game, and one that's only grown more team-oriented as time has passed.

Your average League player these days knows far more about basic strategy than even high elo players did in the early days of the ladder. In a game with five teammates, you are never going to win every game you play well. Which, in itself is fine. What players want is to feel like they are in control of their own destiny. That does not mean you have to design a system where a player actually is, they just have to feel like they are. In this, Riot has a problem. A vocal minority of players do not feel like they are in control of their destiny in Dynamic Queue. They do not feel rewarded. This comes down to two things: Leagues/Divisions being less straightforward than a rating system and the introduction of three-five man premade groups.

There are many that play the game now that never actually experienced the rating system. For them, it’s the green grass on the other side. They might not realize or remember that the rating system had its own flaws. There never seemed to be much rhyme or reason behind how much rating you gained or lost, the cutoffs seemed kinda arbitrary and with huge gaps in rating between different tiers (1500-1850 gold-platinum), it often felt like you were wallowing away in purgatory. The move to leagues and divisions means you get these small achievements that let you know you are making progress.

Another flaw of the rating system is that it was much easier for a player to luck their way into a huge elo gain with a win streak. Promotions ensure a player deserves their rank up. But, the rating system had one big advantage that speaks to the players that want to feel rewarded. It gave them this easy number to toss out, brag about. Compare themselves with each other. Its easier to say "My ELO is 1500" than it is to say "I'm Gold 4, 57 LP in Garen's Gorge."

The introduction of three to five man premade groups into what was previously a solo/duo queue experience changed the dynamic for how players assign blame/glory to themselves and others. Players, when they do well, want the glory. But, with premades, its not so easy to claim that glory for yourself. Its a team game after all. When playing alongside a premade, a player might feel left out or that they got carried. Even if they win, that win would not feel as satisfying. When playing against a premade, they might feel like the odds were set against them from the start. A lot of people hate to admit that they are wrong, or they played poorly. Its human nature to find someone else to blame.

The existence of premades is the low-hanging fruit for these people. "Oh, I lost because the other team had a premade." Now, the best advice you could ever give a player is that every death is due to a mistake you made. It's not "You didn't call MIA," its "I did not pay attention to the map and did not ward my lane." Taking that further, every loss is at least partly your fault. Getting fed is not the end all be all. A lot of the time, you see a player get fed and stay on that island in their lane because they want to continue bullying their opposing laner. They like that feeling of domination, even when the better play would be to take that advantage and use it to help out another lane. In short, it is very rare that a player plays a perfect game and loses.

This all comes down to a feeling. Truthfully, there is no real world difference in how Solo Queue operated versus how Dynamic Queue operates. For every claim of "the enemy team got a better premade, so we lost," I can match it with a complaint players had in Solo Queue where you got bad individual players. In most cases, if you have a premade, the opponent will also have an equally sized premade. If they do well, they will have a good chance of winning. That feeling that the climb is not rewarding, that the match was set up against you, is just that. A feeling.

In truth, the vast majority of players will enter a game with an equal chance of winning 95+% of the time because the vast majority of us are at ELOs where there are a lot players. Casual players often look to and mimic the complaints of pro players despite never having had to deal with their difficulties. In the vast majority of cases, a bronze to low diamond player is not going to have a 30 minute queue time. They probably will not even have a five minute queue time very often. Matchmaker will not have trouble finding a similarly sized premade to match them with, so they will not face mismatches there. This makes the problem very hard to solve. It is psychological. In actuality, the players are generally getting a fair match that gives them an equal chance to win and prove themselves, but they just do not think they are.

How does Riot change that? It is going to be difficult to change the perception of players who have already convinced themselves that DQ deals them a bad lot. And meeting the needs of your average player and high elo players is not an easy task. Their matchmaking systems need to be designed differently to account for lower population.The truth is, Riot cannot please everyone. A perfect queue system simply is not possible.

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