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Published April 13, 2013

As many of you know, I'm relatively new to League. I started playing in September 2012, and I reached 30 and started ranked about a month ago. I never got to play under the old ELO system, so the current division/league tier system is the only system I know. I'm saying this so that it's clear this isn't some bittervet pining for the old days. This is a new player expressing concerns about the only system they have practical knowledge of. The issues as I see it are as follows:

  1. Leagues feels significantly less transparent than the old system
  2. Leagues were designed to reduce stress over games, but have introduced very high stress games into the mix instead
  3. Matchmaking feels "unfair" or, at the very least, confusing
  4. Initial placement in divisions too high or too low have unpleasant ramifications
  5. Promotion requires you to beat the 50/50 odds that the matchmaking is setup to establish

Let's explore these shall we?

Transparency

Under the old system, if you won a game, your ELO would go up. If you lost a game, your ELO would go down. Under the new system, you progress through divisions with league points. These league points are slightly skewed to permit upward momentum but, in the top division of each league, there is a phenomenon called "clamping" that kicks in.

Riot has established that each League has an "MMR" range associated with it. This MMR is roughly the same as your old ELO. If your hidden MMR is lower than the range for the new league, Riot clamps your LP production until you catch up. This forces you to go significantly better than 60/40 to move up. In some extreme cases, the win ratio necessary for promotion is closer to 5:1. While you don't have to maintain this ratio for long (generally less than 10 games), it can be very frustrating to see 1-3 point LP gains and 17 point LP losses. There have been a couple documented cases (confirmed by Riot on the forums) of people getting +3, +3, +2, +1, +1 (99 LP) then losing a game and losing 20 (going to 80) then winning a game and getting 20 points and being eligible for promotion. This sort of behavior is highly opaque to someone who doesn't pay attention to the forums and the nuances of the system.

Not being able to reliably move "up" with a winning record and "down" with a losing record is a frustrating experience. Yes, I understand that the MMR is driving things behind the scenes, but that's an argument for showing the MMR, not an argument for blindly trusting the seemingly arbitrary league system. 

Finally, your division is no longer representative of your skill. In fact, because the system is weighted to allow a bit of upward momentum, it's actually more representative of games played (an indirect measure of skill) vs actual skill (a direct measure). Placing so much emphasis on your placement games necessarily creates large numbers of skill discrepancy within a division.

Stress

The biggest motivator for Riot in implementing this system was that they wanted to relieve player stress. The unstated goal was to reduce toxicity as a result of that stress. My own personal experience has been that there are now games that are very, very stressful. I can't speak to whether the overall stress is more or less than the old system, but simple logic would seem to dictate that a promotion series game is significantly more tense than any random ranked game under the old system.

Additionally, there's the added stress of being dropped a division, which can occur after a few losses at 0LP, though you can't drop leagues. So until you get to the exact right league for your skill level (an impossibility because division isn't representative of skill), you're going to have frequent stressful games either for promotion or demotion. Even once you hit an equilibrium, a lucky four wins in a row is going to get you a promotion game. Likewise, an unlucky four losses in a row is going to put you in danger of demotion.

I'm hard pressed to see how there could possibly be less stress under the new system but I'm willing to listen to people who played before the creation of leagues. It's no surprise that people rage in these situations. I'm a very restrained person normally, but I had to fight hard to keep myself in check when I lost my third promotion series in a row one night because two people never actually logged in to my team and stayed at the fountain the entire game.

Seminole Sun
I enjoy the intellectual / theorycrafting side of his games and write about what I enjoy. Follow me for mostly LoL rated tweets @econocentric and join the in game chat room "themittani.com" in LoL. You can also email me at seminole.sun7@gmail.com

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