Category Archives: League of Legends

Postive Sum, Zero Sum, Negative Sum

EVE Online and meatspace violence are examples of negative sum PvP. The stakes are what people bring into the competition, some of those stakes will be destroyed in the competition, and what the winner gains is equal to or less than what the loser lost. (Meatspace political lobbying is negative sum PvP for society as a whole.)

Tournament standings and poker are examples of zero sum PvP. There is a fixed pool of stakes, and your gain is exactly equal to someone else’s loss. Almost all status games (explicit or not) are zero sum, with status as a relative good such that one can only rise by displacing another. (The tournament itself can be a gain for competitors, but the fixed nature of the prize pools makes the competitive elements zero-sum. For me to get the first place prize, I must prevent someone else from getting it.) (Poker with a rake is negative sum for the players.)

Games are increasingly fond of positive sum PvP. Everyone fights, everyone gets a prize, everyone comes out ahead. In League of Legends, everyone gets influence (and winners get more). In Guild Wars 2 sPvP, there are no permanent costs, and everyone gains glory, rank progress, and achievement progress (and winners get more). (Meatspace economic competition is positive sum PvP for society as a whole, where winners are decided by producing greater value for less cost rather than by political lobbying.)

In all of these cases, we tend to discount or ignore the time spent. If you enjoy the game, spending time is not much of a cost, anyway. Time spent being entertained is the benefit, not the cost, although the time spent in-game almost certainly has a higher earnings potential than the cash value of the in-game benefit you gain, although you can potentially profit by poker. (In meatspace, the time spent may be the most important thing.)

Marvel Puzzle Quest tournaments use a mix of positive and zero sum systems. When you defeat an opponent, you gain points, usually more than they lose for losing. Those points add up to benefits (positive sum). There is also a ranked tournament structure with a fixed prize pool, where advancing necessarily displaces someone else (zero sum). Because you can spend in-game resources in the tournaments, the tourney competitions can become negative sum, although given rewards per win, you would need to be burning it fast, which can happen in the fight for first place.

: Zubon

Rebalancing under F2P/P2W

I may have understated the amount of “pay to win” in Marvel Puzzle Quest, although I would think that we would now be past outrage at the notion that “free to play” games have a revenue model. I am not sure whether to be more concerned about the sanity or the honesty of someone who claims to have spent $100+ on Puzzle Quest. I must guess sanity, as there are surely whales in every F2P pool.

Let me explain the drama of the moment, which is like a microcosm of our usual MMO rebalancing drama. Last week, Ragnarok (evil cyborg Thor clone. This is a real thing in Marvel comics) was the best character in Marvel Puzzle Quest, largely because of a very inexpensive ability that did nice damage and fueled his other ability. You know how people tend to hate rogues/thieves in MMOs for having abilities that do high damage on low cooldown with almost no cost or risk? Yeah, that, only make him as tough as Thor. So they nerfed him, tripling the cost of that key ability while reducing its effect, knocking the #1 character out of the top 10. After that, they announced rebalancing, which looks like weakening the other top characters while adding value to the rarest/most expensive ones (which are currently nigh-worthless).

I can see why you would be upset if you are the guy who just spent $100 to P2W, and they took away your W the next day. That is a heck of a thing to do to players who are your revenue source, and it must hurt their revenue for a while, since that list is like a promise to nerf the characters you might pay for right now. If they fix one per week, that’s scaring off revenue for about two months, although they might get some from buffing the most expensive characters as two of the first three changes.

In most P2W games, you should expect steady mudflation as they add new tiers of “best” to buy. You do not expect major nerfing of things you already bought (although League of Legends players certainly saw some cycles of that with new champions). As with the Kingdoms CCG example, it is good for the long run health of the game, but how do you re-establish trust with paying customers after doing something like that?

: Zubon

“A Good Fight” Part 2

A good fight brings evenly matched opponents together in an environment where superior skill will prevail. If one side is obviously going to win, no matter what the other side does, it is not a good fight. If randomness prevails, it is not a good fight.

I would not demand that it be a fair fight. Luring your enemy into a situation where they are going to lose is an element of superior skill. Setting up a good ambush takes skill, as does understanding the meta-game to counter-build. It can also be a component of a good environment that one tactic is favored in A while another is favored in B. It is a bad game environment if ambushes always lead to victory or one class has no chance in A but will always win in B.

I think “evenly matched” is the key component to discuss here, and the two major components are quantity and quality. Continue reading

[LoL] P2?

League of Legends has been out for almost four years, and there has been significant rebalancing over time, including completely redoing some champions. They have also given away champions and sold packs with many champions, such as their initial retail box. If you have played a meaningful amount of League of Legends, you probably own some champions you are not interested in playing. You do not pick them, but you may come back to them as the pendulum swings.

Cue ARAM. You now have a game mode where you will get a random champion from all the ones available to you.

This struck me as P2L (pay to lose). People buy packs or every champion as a way of paying Riot for the game, a de facto subscription fee (which reminds me of Kingdom of Loathing and monthly donations for prizes). If you get many champions, you probably have many you are not interested in playing, and you have only so many rerolls.

This has led to a new approach to P2W (pay to win) in creating accounts dedicated to ARAM. Buy only the champions that work well in ARAM. If you are willing to throw a little money at it, you can have most of the best quickly.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. I also have the same question about low-level LoL accounts that I do about low-level WoW characters: how many of these folks around are actual new players, as opposed to smurfs/alts?

: Zubon

Human Risks

Single-player gaming lacks the peaks that you get in good multiplayer gaming. It also lacks the troughs in bad multiplayer gaming. Your gaming preferences are going to be strongly influenced by how much weight you place on the most extreme experience versus the average experience and your relative weight of positive versus negative experiences.

If one really horrible thing can ruin your entire night, PvP will almost inevitably be a harrowing experience for you, and any multiplayer gaming is a crapshoot. Beyond just the effects of anonymity, wide exposure teaches you that some people are just genuinely horrible human beings. And they want to share that with you.

If you are the sort to laugh it off or counter-troll, the downside of PvP and multiplayer gaming is limited for you. If you seek conflict rather than avoiding it, the internet will always have more for you. If you remember the positive and forget the negative, the downside is temporary while the upside is lasting.

If you evaluate the quality of the evening by how many minutes you were having a good time, something like EVE Online will rarely be a good night for you. Scouting, mining, traveling… the median minute of play is pretty dull. Granted, the average minute of MMO play is poor relative to most other niches, but PvP gaming with lengthy downtime stands out as low average quality. If you evaluate the quality of the evening by the best minute in which you were having a good time, nothing is going to top PvP and multiplayer. If you place more weight on extreme rather than average experiences, even strongly negative events can be rated highly because you take the ebb with the flow.

A related factor is the context in which you will tolerate all this. You might tolerate perverse randomization but rage against human maliciousness. You might laugh off human stupidity but rage against poor design. You might tolerate poor design as long as the company is good. Introverts will have an extra weight against negative multiplayer interactions, because those are excessively psychologically taxing.

: Zubon

[LoL] Toxicity Case Study

We had a request for League of Legends Tribunal highlights, and SynCaine linked to a guildmate’s post. I clicked a few “warning” punishments from my case history, and this one stood out.

You can view Tribunal records even if you are not a logged-in LoL player, but just in case this link does not work for you, let me give you a transcript of what the reported player said in the first game. The below transcript, plus being reported 14 more times in 4 other games, will get you a warning. The language used is likely inappropriate for workplace reading, but then you are already at an online gaming blog.
Continue reading

[LoL] Leaving

I am back to having 4v5 games 50% of the time in League of Legends, so I am giving it up for at least a few months. It is a roaring mix of people who never connect to the game, miss the first 5-10 minutes, AFK after one tower goes town, intentionally feed, wait at base for 200 gold, or (to take my last example) have their mothers tell them to come eat dinner 20 minutes into a game.

Whatever system discourages leaving games has no visible impact. It is tolerant, because technical problems happen. You need to accumulate some number of offenses before action will be considered, and then punishment is possible, and then it may rise as high as a temporary ban. I presume some number of time bans will eventually lead to a permaban, but my short Tribunal history shows no permabans for that, as opposed to cursing at people. In a F2P game, you can have as many accounts as you like, so the main penalty is that you need to log back on and have less IP. Basically, you can do whatever you want, and you have no skin in the game; the sort of person who might get permabanned on a level 30 account would love the chance to start a new account and smurf/troll the newer players.

I have mainly been playing ARAM because the average toxicity seems lower. The attendant lack of concern for playing the game (“eh, it’s just ARAM”) is rather upsetting. I presume I could have fewer of these people if I played high ELO ranked games on Summoner’s Rift, but I don’t feel willing to wade up the stream of toxin to get there. Also, I am far from a platinum player, so I am worried the game would suggest that I park for a few months midstream.

: Zubon

[LoL] Efficient Communication

League of Legends has a simple vocabulary for praise and abuse. “That” before something means “is very good or inherently overpowered.” “This” before something means “is very bad or inherently useless.” You’re in the middle of a game and don’t have time to type a lot of invective, but the most important thing in the world is making sure other people know you are better than them at online games, so you can quickly insult your teammates with “this cait” to make sure everyone knows that your team is only losing because Caitlyn is not performing up to your expectations. Make sure to put it in all chat so the other team can share your scorn for your teammates. Alternately, if “this cait” is on the other team, this will let them know that their team is bad and they should feel bad. Because that is the kind of community the game still supports, even after things have improved.

This also technically gets around using profanity and verbal abuse, although Tribunal reviewers (and most other players) will recognize that people who use a lot of “this cait” will also throw out streams of profanity and racial slurs.

“that cait” is usually reserved for opponents, rather than praising teammates, again to emphasize that losing is not your fault. Ashe, of course, gets it more frequently on either team because of the meme.

: Zubon

[LoL] Tribunal

I have started reviewing cases for the League of Legends tribunal. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. One case was decided in literally the first two words of the chat log. On other games, I want a replay or to see the text before or after the game itself.

Is there just something about Master Yi? A disproportionate number of people I see reported play Yi. It is like he is a lightning rod for foul-mouthed jerks and trolls.

: Zubon

[LoL] A Twist of Fate

I’m not much one for cinematics, but this is a nice close-up view of some League of Legends champions. On the gripping hand, it does not really show off what League of Legends is about. It is mostly one-on-one fights, which shows off the champions well, but it involves neither laning nor team fights. If you really want to show a League of Legends cinematic you need to put together a five-on-five fight around a tower with both minion waves hitting it.

I imagine that one good minute of that takes more time than this entire video.

: Zubon