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/dev: Updates to Ranked for 2019

Positional ranks, two new tiers, better rewards that evolve throughout the season, and more.

Hey everyone! We just announced changes to Ranked coming to League in 2019. I’m Ed “SapMagic” Altorfer, the product lead and one of several designers working on Ranked. Today, we’d like to talk about how we think about individual competition in League and go deeper into some of our plans for the future.

Room to Grow

Way back in 2013, we introduced the current ranked system to provide milestones and meaningful goals for players. Since then, it’s become the place to test individual skill. But there’s always room for improvement and Ranked is no exception, so last year we started thinking about what we could make better for players.

One of the less-than-awesome things we saw was that hardcore players who played multiple positions weren’t being recognized for their accomplishments by the system. Instead, matchmaking was giving them really hard games because it can’t differentiate between their skill in different positions. We also noticed that we were missing the mark in terms of milestones and goals, especially at Bronze, Silver, and Diamond, where you can improve substantially in terms of MMR without ranking up. This, coupled with stale end-of-season rewards and a placement system that’s badly in need of an update, were leading to a pretty crappy experience for many players.

Ranking Up

We knew we didn’t want to make substantial changes to Ranked and then just announce a new system right before the end of the season. Instead, we’re sharing our plans early so you can help us shape Ranked, and we’ll be updating you regularly throughout development.

Working through the problems above, we focused on four key things we thought Ranked should do:

  • Give clear feedback after each placement game.
  • Surface a diverse set of challenges throughout the season.
  • Provide regular milestones and meaningful goals regardless of skill level.
  • Reward deep and ongoing investment.

Let’s break down the features we’re building to deliver on those four goals.

Clear Feedback

Each new season signifies a fresh start. To help with this, we reset your rank and place you slightly lower so you can re-prove yourself by climbing the ladder. Historically, this meant playing ten high-stakes placement games with little to no feedback, which left a lot of players feeling anxious.

Next year, you’ll get a provisional rank after your first game that’s only visible to you; this is the lowest you can place at the end of your placement games. Win or lose, your provisional rank will be lower than you ended the previous season, but you’ll know what to expect upfront. Over your remaining nine placement games, your LP gains will be accelerated, you’ll skip promotion series, and you’ll be shielded from losing LP since your true rank should be higher than your provisional rank. After you complete all ten games, you’ll unlock your actual rank and other players will be able to see it on your profile.

Diverse Set of Challenges

Over the years—and with features like Position Select—we’ve seen a decrease in the variety of champions and positions players pick in Ranked, especially compared to other queues. When we thought about why that was happening, we realized the system pushes players to specialize. Right now, Ranked doesn’t recognize players who master several positions. In fact, if you’ve ever queued up for another position or gotten autofilled, you probably realized our matchmaking system treats your skill the same regardless of what you’re playing.

This means the worse you are at an off-position, the more likely you are to find yourself in a really hard game. It’s kind of like assuming a soccer player who is a really good goalie will also be a talented striker—it’s just not true most of the time.

Matchmaking should be as fair as possible, period. We want the system to reward going deep on one position, but we also want to recognize hardcore players who choose to master several positions. To that end, we’re making some big changes to our matchmaker. Next season, Ranked Solo/Duo will be outfitted with positional matchmaking, which is a fancy way of saying we’ll find opponents for you based on your skill in the position you’re playing.

On the ranking side, the plan is for players to have up to five ranks, one for each position they play. With high chances of getting your primary position, you’ll still be able to focus on climbing in just top if you want… or mid, or whatever (Maokai is good everywhere). If you choose to play something else or if you get autofilled, you should experience more fair games and your rank will reflect your skill in that position. The current plan only adds position ranks to Ranked Solo/Duo, which we think makes sense given the well-defined position meta and emphasis on individual play. Having said that, we’ll stay open to changing this in the future.

Master and Challenger are a little bit trickier. Those players don’t get their primary position as often, and it’s important for the integrity of the ladder that every game they play counts toward deciding whether they’re the best. Our current thinking is that once a player reaches Master tier, all their games will count toward a single rank, similar to today. If that player is demoted, their individual position ranks will be displayed again. We’ll continue to evaluate whether this makes sense and adjust as appropriate.

One more thing: we know competitive intent is a big deal in Ranked, so we’ll be rolling out new systems to help combat situations where players don’t take games in off-positions seriously. One plan grants bonuses for winning secondary and autofill games that apply the next time you play your primary position. We’re also looking at new penalties to help ensure Ranked stays hardcore.

We’re solving a number of other edge cases like these, including position swapping in champion select or in game, and we’ll talk more about our solutions for those in future updates.

Milestones and Goals

When we looked at our current arrangement of ranks, we found some of our tiers encompass a wide skill range or have too many players—most notably Bronze, Silver, and Diamond. This results in situations where some players go a long time without ever ranking up. We could solve this problem by shuffling players around within our current tiers, but we’d end up pushing them into the higher ranks. Instead, we thought this would be a good opportunity to add more thresholds where players could get positive feedback on their progress without diluting what ranks mean.

The current design adds two new tiers, and the addition of these tiers will help achieve two things. First, they’ll help us smooth out the bad experiences in Bronze, Silver, and Diamond. Second, they’ll bring more differentiation for Diamond players, which is something that has been a problem for a while now.

Since we’re adding two new tiers, we saw an opportunity to slightly compress the number of divisions, from five to four. The end result of these changes is a climb that emphasizes the high moments of hitting new tiers without exposing you to more division promotion series.

Deep and Ongoing Investment

In a lot of ways, Ranked rewards could be more aspirational and, well, rewarding. Ranked should recognize players for competing throughout the season. For many players right now, playing ten games at the beginning of the year earns them the same rewards as their friends who play hundreds of games. The rank border is prestigious, but only recognizes last season’s accomplishments. On top of that, the Victorious skin has limited appeal. When we made Victorious Maokai, only Maokai mains like me were happy, while everyone else ended up feeling frustrated that their main missed out.

To improve the experience, we’re looking at dividing the season into three splits. Your rank won’t reset between splits—instead, you’ll have an opportunity to reflect on how you’re doing, set new goals, and earn better rewards. We’re still working through the details, so expect to hear more between now and launch.

End-of-season rewards will still be a thing, but we want whatever we make to recognize skill-based achievement and ideally have broader appeal than the Victorious skin. We won’t replace it unless we find a reward that fits better, and as always, we’re open to suggestions.

Rank Border

Next season, you’ll unlock your rank border as soon as you finish your provisional games for a position. You’ll be able to see it grow and change as you climb the ladder. In addition to the loading screen, the current design adds your live rank to your profile, hovercard, and lobby, so your friends will be able to marvel at your skill.

We’re still working through how we want to show off your previous season rank, so please share your ideas for how we can celebrate those accomplishments!

Evolving Rewards

Next season, your border will become more impressive based on how many splits you participate in.

In addition to the border, we want to give you other ways to showcase your skill. Next season, you’ll be able to earn rewards that reflect your rank and upgrade based on how many splits you participate in—things like icons, rank border upgrades, and maybe even some in-game flair. Players will have to show up and prove themselves throughout the season to earn the most epic rewards.

Coming Soon to a Queue Near You

We’ll be back regularly over the next several months with more info on each of these designs as we get closer to the end of the season. Before then, we’re planning to run some tests with positional MMR in Normal Draft, so stay tuned for more details.

This is just the start of the conversation. We’re excited to embark on this journey with you—let us know what you think of the changes, and we’ll be on the lookout for your suggestions and feedback!

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