League of Legends: Krepo On Ranking And Peaking

So there’s a conversation I had with Mitch ‘Krepo’ Voorspoels at the League of Legends [official site] All-Star which I’ve been coming back to a lot this week as I contemplate a festive season with time to play MOBAs.

“Everybody sees their current position as neutral and they can go up and they can go down. They never consider they may actually be at the peak for a while.”

I’d thrown in an extra question at the end of an interview just out of curiosity. Krepo’s a caster/analyst for League now but he has also played professionally so I asked if there was anything lower level players can change – perhaps a mindset thing rather than a skill thing – if they wanted to improve their play. His full response is about keeping the game fun rather than getting caught in the grind of climbing ranked for the sake of status. I’ll put it here so you can read it but it’s that line which suggests maybe you’ve peaked which really stuck out to me and which I’ve been pondering.

“Unless you’re planning to go pro – unless you’re this close [he holds his thumb and forefinger as close as possible without them touching] to the pro level – your rank doesn’t matter that much. You always want more, you always want better […] The most important thing is to have fun. This is, after all, still a game.

“I think a lot of people get lost in the grind and they see points and whenever they see their Elo they never consider it as a peak. Everybody sees their current position as neutral and they can go up and they can go down. They never consider they may actually be at the peak for a while. They may have lucked out. The negative variance will hit them way harder in that perception. Maybe your average is actually 100 LP lower than where you’re at right now and you’re in a lucky state. Instead they assume it’s their average and they could go 50 up or down.

“Just have fun. If you enjoy the game more you may lose a little bit but it won’t affect your life. You shouldn’t get grumpy – try to avoid getting grumpy – because then why else are you playing the game?”

At the time I suggested I could start a “Bronze and Proud” club, maybe with badges and t-shirts for the 2016 season. I might still do that. Or at least I could google the price of badges and then throw the idea out and start a hashtag instead. Unless it’s already in use by a sunbed corporation or something. ANYWAY.

The idea that you might be at a peak in League (or Dota or Smite or CS:GO or whatever your ranked multiplayer tipple of choice is at the moment) felt important. It highlights the realities of matchmaking systems. Matchmaking ranking systems are there primarily to help you find matches you enjoy and which you have an equal chance of winning or losing. We (and game developers) frequently repurpose visible versions for use as symbols of skill or ways to guide our play by measuring improvement. They turn into these sources of pride or shame, to be protected or improved upon and which can affect the respect given to us by the community. In that way, explicit ranking systems can become this destructive, grind-inducing thing. [I’ve written about that topic in more detail here and here]

I liked that conversation with Krepo because, for me, it’s a good reminder of the realities of ranking systems. It questions how we tend to think of ranking/MMR/Elo in relation to ourselves and prioritises enjoyment. I like that.

#bronzeandproud

19 Comments

  1. magogjack says:

    #Bronze3andproud

  2. Ravenine says:

    Rank 30 and annoyed. It had occurred to me I might be peaking, but then I watched the replays.

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      tigerfort says:

      There’s an old Go saying that you always rank higher watching than playing. It’s always worth trying to improve, but don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes that you can spot when you’re not under pressure.

      • jrodman says:

        Seems even more obvious (if less analagous) if you consider reading and writing.

        I can read and enjoy Jane Austen, Umberto Eco, Zelazny etc. I can’t write like that.

  3. Reapy says:

    Honestly good matchmaking in gaming has had to make everyone feel much more comfortable with losing. Usually you see people talking about like 55% win rates and up as ‘good’, which means you are losing a whole bunch.

    When you play without a match maker, if you are usually decent at a game, you typically get thrown in with the mass of less skilled players, usually you would cruise around a 90% + success rate, until you stumble on some other skilled players, or actively seek them out in a league.

    Call me lazy I guess but if I get hooked on an online game I’m typically not looking to push myself every moment I log in, and you want those moments of being able to log in play at a more relaxed state, rather than getting pushed above and beyond.

    It’s great if you want to constantly be pushing yourself and finding better and better players to go against to get better yourself, but kind of stinks if you are just looking to blow off steam at the end of the day.

    • Premium User Badge

      Maltose says:

      The problem with this is that the only way someone can maintain a 90% winrate is if loads of other people are getting dominated. That’s definitely not fun for everyone else.

    • Jaeja says:

      …this is why I’m closing in on 1000 ARAM games played. It doesn’t have the strategy or the long-form satisfaction of 5v5, but it’s simple and fast and in many ways delivers a more intense version of LoL (it’s basically a non-stop teamfight)… and everyone has a ready-made excuse for losing in the random team comps, so very few people take it seriously.

      When I have an hour (to be on the safe side) to block out and I want to challenge myself, I play ranked. When I get home and I want to blow off some steam for half an hour, I load an ARAM and hope I roll a tank so I can hard carry. It really is the hidden gem of LoL IME.

    • Baines says:

      Perfect matchmaking would have players seeing around a 50% win rate. The further you get from that, the worse the matchmaking is. Of course perfection isn’t possible in reality, because player ability changes over time (whether it goes up or down). And even in an otherwise perfect world, the system would lag behind in judging player skill.

      Of course most players don’t actually like losing half their games. They want to win the vast majority. They want bad matchmaking that favors them.

      (I used to care about the Call of Duty community, and it was almost sad hearing players throw fits at the idea of skill-based matchmaking. A rather vocal group didn’t want to see their KDR drop closer to 1, and people would flat out admit that they already dropped out of games that they realized weren’t heavily imbalanced in their favor. It actually was sad hearing an Infinity Ward dev say they wouldn’t implement such a system because they knew many players got their jollies from completely dominating weaker opponents (and were afraid those people would quit playing otherwise.))

  4. Yukiomo says:

    MOBAs (and competitive/ranked gaming in general) are something I have basically no interest in experiencing personally, but I find Pip’s coverage of said topics to be consistently interesting and engaging. I don’t really have anything else to say other than “Good job” or something weird like that.

    • anHorse says:

      Yeah, I’ve fallen out of love with them after playing League loads but Pip manages to make this area of gaming that I have no interest in interesting to me.

  5. Bobtree says:

    The mistake I frequently see in Dota and elsewhere is to treat MMR as a score or reward, when it’s just a statistic of your play history, to rate your relative strength. What you really earn are your skills, and there’s always room to improve.

    • jrodman says:

      Indeed. Overvaluing it as a reward leads to expectations for it to go up independent of your skills, which leads to anger and frustration at the gap between your perception of how skilled you are being higher than how skilled you actually are.

  6. mukuste says:

    One of the main reasons I quit LoL (beside the huge time investment and not getting to play other games anymore) was really how grumpy it often made me when I lost. It really seemed to bring out some bad side of me that I just don’t want anymore.

  7. Jockie says:

    The thing is, with what Krepo says ‘just have fun’ isn’t the right way to approach a MOBA, even from a casual perspective. You kind of have to take things like picks and bans and team comps and vision seriously otherwise chances are (if matchmaking is working) you will get destroyed past a certain level of play.

    At the top level of the game, the people there play the game basically 20 hours a day so these things are ingrained into them, they don’t have to try and they don’t have to think because every comes almost naturally and you lose a game, you win a game it’s fine, when you’re playing 20 games a day that will balance out. For people who are lower down the tree, who only have time for maybe 1 or 2 games a day, unless you want to get stomped all over and spend an hour of your life having a miserable experience, you do really have to try and you do have to want to win and work for it. Consequently it can be frustrating when your team-mates are fucking about or making the same exact error over and over again to the point where they’ve gifted your opposition the game.

    I’m not even talking about ranked here, I don’t have the time or the will to grind through leagues, (I play mostly with friends in groups of 3 and 4, though I usually play my 10 season games and end up in gold).

    I think the issue is more that if you want to win at a moba, you have to be at your best, because matchmaking doesn’t have a ‘fuck around and have fun’ queue (maybe blind pick, but plenty of people will just do that so they can play the OP champs). That tends to bring out the competitive streak in people, because they don’t want to have 45 minutes of their life wasted.

    • Abndn says:

      As someone who was Diamond 1 when playing league back in s3/4 (at the time the highest possible rank attainable without being a top200 player on the server), I always cringe when I see people complaining about teammates throwing away the game. If you are a gold-level player you already make such a vast number of fundamental mistakes every single game that you don’t even recognize. It really is quite humorous when someone playing at that level chooses to focus on what others in the game are doing wrong.

      I imagine this sort of mentality is a kind of delusion that occurs because people rationalize, explain away and fail to recognize their own mistakes, while being very sensitive and judgmental about those others make.

      • Jockie says:

        I make mistakes sure, on the other hand I’ve never played more than 50 games in a ranked season (about 3 years ago), and matchmaking usually puts me and my friends against plat/diamonds. If I gave a shit about ranked and had more time on my hands, whose to say I wouldn’t be at that level? But way to smugly pick up a tiny thing out of my argument, while completely missing the actual point of it.

        • Abndn says:

          Who matchmaking places you with means nothing at all, unfortunately. What you are describing is extremely common, and it does *not* mean you are platinum/diamond. Instead what really happens is that the plat/diamond players you face have a much lower MMR in normals (completely separate from ranked) because they don’t play them as often and take them much less seriously. Generally when high elo players play normals, they are just messing around with friends or playing champions they don’t know. Finally, it is also almost certainly not the case that you “would be at that level if you tried”, since you learn next to nothing about the game from normals; it’s barely even the same game.

          That aside, I didn’t miss your point at all. I picked out one point that interested me and engaged with that, while making no judgments about the rest of your post. It’s not as if this one separate point had deep, meaningful connections to the rest of your post that made it impossible to bring up without first untangling the rest. If I had ended my post with the conclusion that your post was wrong in its entirety you would have more of a point, but I did not. I only wanted to point out your incredibly banal delusion that you unfortunately share with hundreds of thousands of other naive low-ranked players. :-)

          • Jockie says:

            Nice.

            The thing is, you’re *still* missing my point, which is that the mechanics of MOBA are so tied up in trying and working hard that evident frustrations emerge and become exacerbated within the context of a game. My example of why people get frustrated seems to have set off some kind of ‘I AM FUCKING GREAT AT LOL AND MUST BE A DICK ABOUT IT IN A COMMENTS THREAD’ bell in your head.

            Maybe I’m shit at it! Great I don’t care. Engage with the conversation at hand, or shut the fuck up maybe?

        • jrodman says:

          Suggestion: just use block.