A new champ is possibly the more eye-catching midweek League of Legends [official site] news to catch up on but I'm far more interested in the overhaul Riot are giving to the game's honour system. Or, because they're a US-based company by and large, the honor system.
The overhaul is about making it easier for players to reward positive behaviour in teammates and attaching incentives to accumulating rewards for your own positive behaviour. Here's the video which breaks down what's happening and I'll add my own thoughts just after!
The basics here are that the prompt to recognise good behaviour in others is far more prominent at the end of the game and that each vote of recognition boosts your honor level across a season of play. If you boost your level you get more rewards but you can also drop points and suffer some consequences for that.
As someone who is part of a fair few MOBA communities and has experienced both the extreme patience/positivity/ability to make friends AND the extreme idiocy/casual abuse/misery therein the attempts devs make to shape their communities are really important to me. Obviously we'll need to see how this works out in the wild but I'll pop some of my immediate thoughts and concerns here:
1. Honoring one person
"You can shout out a single teammate who really stood out" - that line bothers me simply because I'm not in favour of limiting positive recognition online. The honor system is now tied to certain rewards and perhaps the limit is important in regard to that, plus Riot say they made the call so that the honor seems more meaningful ("The big change is that each player can now only honor one teammate; a shift that helps make each honor feel more weighty on both the giving and receiving ends") but it still feels odd to me.
You can honor for shotcalling, for staying calm under pressure/not tilting, or for just being nice to play with. I feel like it should be possible to apply the latter to a whole team if you had a good experience. Maybe you'd gate it to make it a valuable reward once the community was already super positive but until then I'd want to be able to tip as many people for being reasonable and nice as possible.
2. Visibility of Honor levels
Everyone starts the new system with level 2 honor, so if you see someone below that it means they've already dropped below the baseline by being slapped with penalties for bad behaviour. I'm wondering where you see this on someone's profile because presumably if you're aware of it before the match starts it might prime you to see them as a jerk. They might also be a jerk, but starting the match with good faith and it being up to them to prove that assumption wrong is different to starting and expecting them to be a jerk. I *think* that unless you dig around outside the normal screens you'd only see if they had recently earned honor and not if they were losing it though.
3. Begging for Honor
"If you stack a bunch of honors from making people's games better you'll move up slightly faster but not enough to be worth begging for honors and annoying your whole team" - hmm. Key fragments now ONLY drop through honor. Keys are part of an in-game crafting system and you use them to open chests. Your honor level dictates your key drop rate, so from 2 and upwards it's the normal rate, if you drop to level 1 it's a lot worse and if you go to zero (dishonored) it's nothing.
Even with Riot stating it's not worth begging for honor to increase your levels, given it affects that drop rate at the lowest levels I'll believe it when I see it. There are also other rewards which start appearing if you get to level 3 and beyond so that incentivises the climb up the ranks. Earning particular skins as rare rewards in those later-level drops also unlocks the associated champs if you don't have them, and at the end of the season there are rewards to pick up so it's not insignificant stuff. MOBAs are games about manipulating tiny stats for personal advantage and when that's tied to a reward system of any kind players will look for ways to make it more efficient, no matter how ham-fisted and no matter how many times a dev tells them it's not worth it.
4. Support love
The GG reward category reads: "The all-around team player who cracked a great joke in chat, or saved your ass with a well-timed Heal." so I'm wondering if that's part of trying to find ways to recognise support contributions. I suppose they could also have mentioned wards but wards providing sight are, ironically, invisible to other players while they're functioning perfectly well and thus will never be remembered fondly at the end of any game. Yes I play support WHY DO YOU ASK?
5. Fake niceness and Honor outside LoL
I'm interested in this line on the site:
"A quiet, hardworking player will level up and earn rewards even if they earn a few less honors overall. And as you’d expect, a standout player who earns honor more frequently will rise a little more quickly. This means you do not need to be fake nice to earn rewards or level up."
I do think that the system encourages people to be more demonstratively nice. It's not fake as such, but it's an attempt to cultivate something which has become outside the norm online and thus I think won't feel natural at first to a lot of people. I'm used to having to think of an absence of criticism as evidence of positivity, or at least non-anger. That applies to article comments and forums and MOBAs alike. It'll be interesting to see people settle (or not) into a new way of interacting if the incentivisation here pays off.
The other thing is that I'm sure some people *will* fake being nice in order to try to game the system, but the thing there is that if they're successful it should still improve the encounters other people have with those players. Thus believable fake-nice would still ultimately make another player's experience better and Riot are incentivising players to adopt that niceness for an entire season if they want extra presents at the end of it. I'm now wondering whether being nudged towards niceness - even if it's fake - will improve interactions beyond the scope of League of Legends or whether it stops as soon as the rewards do.
6. Old honor system stuff like ribbons and old honor points are disappearing but there will be a gift to players who took part in that older system to acknowledge that. It won't be announced until the system is live in all regions though.
Here's the dedicated page explaining more about how the honor system works. There's also an FAQ with more of the nitty gritty.