A Critique of the Legend Ladder
Monk and Curi over at Team Liquid released an article today about an in-depth look at the current Hearthstone's Ranking system.
by monk, contributions by curi
The ladder system, newly implemented last month by Blizzard, proved to be a great success. Players are getting matched up much more fairly, ladder is now actually competitive, and the metagame is developing faster than ever because there's always a plethora of high level players to ladder against. But probably best of all, we don't have players posting their "3 star masters" decks on Reddit anymore. Still, while I applaud the changes that Blzzard has implemented to the ladder system, there are still a few kinks I want to point out. With each problem that I'll address, I'll also give a potential solution. Now, these may not even be the best solutions, but they will be possible solutions to get discussion rolling.
1. Too Much Fluctuation in Ladder Rankings
In non-legend ladder, you win a star for winning a match and lose a star for losing a match. Fair enough, right? But in legend, you can gain and lose about 30-50 Legend ranks for each match. And at the very top of the ladder, I've gone from Legend rank 2 directly to Legend rank 12 from losing one game. Another one of my friends went from Legend rank 2 to Legend rank 30 in a single game. Meanwhile, each game when you're at the very top nets you about a single Legend rank. This is incredibly frustrating for anyone trying to climb the ladder, to lose so many ranks per loss when you're already at the very top.
Make each game count for less!
2. Players are Sitting on Their Ranks
I know a lot of players who care about their Legend rankings so they hit a certain rank and then stop playing until the end of the season in order to maintain this rank. A lot of this is caused by the first problem I brought up. Players are very aware of the great ladder fluctuation that when they hit a certain point, even one loss can be devastating and they may need another 6 wins in a row to hit as high a rank. Even worse, they may not hit that high rank ever again. All-in-all, laddering to get ranks is a very frustrating experience.
In addition, because players are sitting on their high ranks, this causes even more rank fluctuation at the very top ranks. Remember when I told you my friend went from Legend rank 2 to 30 in one loss? I believe this is because so many people are sitting on their top 50-100 Legend ranks and these players are so close together in MMR that once you lose a game, you suddenly fall below all of them.
I believe a lot of these issues will be fixed once the fluctuation issues are fixed. Another solution to implement is to add a decay system into the ladder pool. If you don't play a game within a certain number of days, then you'll drop Legend ranks.
3. It Takes Forever to Grind to Legend
Currently, each legend season is planned to last a single month. I estimate that for some of the best players in the world, it takes about 150-200 games to grind to Legend(though it's harder in the first few days when legend is introduced). For more serious players this is completely fine. However, for more casual players who don't have as much time, 150-200 games per month is close to impossible, no matter how skilled you are.
Lengthen the seasons to something slightly more reasonable, maybe every two months?
4. Playing in Bursts is Rewarded
Hearthstone is meant to be a more casual game than some of Blizzard's other games, made partially for players who can play two hours after work. But resetting the ladder every month rewards bursting or playing all day for a few days. After a reset, players who have the ability to grind all day have the advantage to rank up first. And before a season ends, these same players have the advantage to play a bunch of games and pass lots of people right at the finish line.
If ladder resets were changed to every two or three months, then people would be less encouraged to do burst games as much. In addition, something could be implemented similar to "rest XP" in WoW or a "Bonus Pool" in StarCraft II. In WoW, if you log out in a town or inn, you accrue "rested XP" slowly. In addition, your XP will be doubled when you kill mobs. In Starcraft II, the "Bonus Pool" is a pool of points that are awarded whenever players are placed into a new League. The Bonus Pool also accrues over time. Whenever a game is won, an amount equal to the rating earned is deducted from the Bonus Pool and added to the player's rating. Though they're slightly different, they achieve similar purposes, to discourage players from playing too much at the same time and to give more casual players a chance to catch up.
5. The Value of Ranks Decreases Over Time
You might think each day in a ladder season would be as difficult as any other. Everyone can play on their own schedule and people who play and equal number of games in a season are on equal footing. In actuality, the difficulty of ranking up goes down the longer the season drags on. A lot. This is because as the days go on, players are more and more likely to climb up on the ladder and rank into Legend. People on play on the earlier days need more games to rank up, and people who wait a while can rank up much more easily. The difference between a Rank 3 player a week into the ladder season and a Rank 3 player three weeks into the ladder season is enormous.
This is tough one and I don't have a definitive answer for it. Unlike in SC2 where there was a fixed Grandmaster(Legend) ladder, there are an infinite number of Legend spaces. Without revamping the entire system, I think the community just has to realize that Rank X or Legend Rank Y on day one of the ladder reset does not have nearly the amount of prestige as Rank X or Legend Rank Y on day 30 of the ladder reset, lest Legend become the new "Three Star Masters".
6. No Room to Experiment
Right now, Casual Mode is on a separate MMR than Ranked mode. If you're Legend and want to test out decks on the ladder, you pretty much have to use your Ranked MMR to do so. But at the same time, if you care about your ladder ranking, you won't want to play experimental decks on ladder.
Have Casual Mode on the same MMR as Ranked mode. Or have a new mode that lets you play on your ranked MMR but have it not count towards your ladder ranking.
7. No Place to View Regional Ladder Ranks
There's currently nowhere to see the entire Legend ladder at any given time. The best we have are the Blizzard updates we get every week or two. (Or alternative you can just have a lot of friends in Legend.) In addition, there's nowhere to tell how far apart players are on the Legend ladder. About how many ranks will I get for a win? How many for a loss? If i'm Legend Rank 2, how close am I to hitting Rank 1?
I'm sure this is already planned, but have a viewable league system both online and in the client.
8. Confusing Terminology
The 25 normal levels that you can obtain in Hearthstone are officially called ranks. If I were a at the lowest level, I would be called a Rank 25 player. However, what about the 25th best player on the ladder in Legend? Many people would always call him Rank 25 on NA. This terminology, especially for newer players can be exceedingly confusing. Many times on reddit, I see players claiming to be Rank 3. Almost every instance, there's a follow-up comment along the following lines: "Do you mean Rank 3 or the number 3 player in Legend?".
One solution is that Blizzard could officially change the terminology for the 25 different standard ranks in Hearthstone. Perhaps "level" instead? However, the more likely solution to the problem is that the community will just have to be more clear whenever this comes up. As you may have noticed, I've been referring to placements in Legend as "Legend Rank 2" instead of just "Rank 2." If the community could get on board with that, we'd save a lot of headaches in the future.
Few Closing Thoughts
What other problems have you noticed with the new ladder system? What other creative solutions to these problems can you think of? As the game is still in the beta phase, now's the time to get your thoughts out.
Be sure to head over the Team Liquid's forums to leave your thoughts and comments! (Source)