Have recent changes to league of legends successfully reduced player “toxicity”?
Anyone who has played League of Legends, or any other online multiplayer game has likely “toxic” players. In this case, toxic means players who actions make each individual session less fun to play and degrade the game experience as a whole. These players can range from flamers, who attack other players with verbal abuse, griefers, who intentionally try to hinder progress in the game, and leavers who, as the name may imply, leave the game as soon as things going south. We have all been there. These people are no fun. They make our play experience miserable and make us want to stop playing the game. Most games have very few enforced methods of dealing with these players beyond, “If you don’t like them, don’t play with them.” However, Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends, has long held an aggressive stance in dealing toxic players.
In League of Legends, players have two means of dealing with toxic players. The first is a function of the game generally referred to as “Leaver Buster”. Leaver Buster automatically tracks players who abandon their team in the middle of a game of League of Legends. If a person leaves one game, or their internet fails, they will simply receive a warning and be banned from joining the queue for another match for several minutes. Leaving several games over a short period of time can lead to a player being banned from queuing for games for several days.
The other method of dealing with toxic players is the tribunal. After a match, players are given the option to report grievances against any other player in the match they just played. If a player multiple reports over several games, their case will be sent to the tribunal. In the tribunal a randomly selected volunteer jury of League of Legends players will be shown the chat log from that game, the kill/death/assist statistics for each player, and the character being used by each player, along with any notes added by reporting players. The players reviewing each case will then vote to punish or pardon the offender. If the majority of jurors agree to pardon the offender, then the case will be dropped and the accused will never know he/she had been reported. If the majority votes to punish the offender, the offender will receive punishment based upon the number of cases in which they are the offender the tribunal has voted to punish. Punishment can range from a warning that will appear when the offender logs into the matchmaking server, to a temporary ban from the match making queue, and in the most extreme cases, the offender’s League of Legend’s account being permanently banned.
Despite the potential punishment from the tribunal, many player felt that the League of Legends community was extremely toxic and little fun to play with. With the most recent patch to League of Legends, Riot Games has run a massive overhaul of several key systems in the game. The two main ones being the jungle and support characters, which were often seen as being the main source of the problem. The exact changes made in the patch can be seen HERE.
First let us look at the changes made to supports. Supports, traditionally, were in charge of baby sitting the marksmen, who usually has a weak early game, at the bottom lane until they could scale into a major threat later in the game. Their other responsibility was to provide map vision and denying the enemy vision. This mean spending almost all of their income on wards, items that would illuminate a portion of the map for a period of time, while putting them selves at risk to do so, as just about any other role in the game can easily kill a lone support. This caused supports to quickly fall behind their teammates and only fulfill a stressful and limited role with and experience very little growth over the course of the game.
To combat this Riot did two things. First, they put a cap on the number of wards any one player can have placed at the same time. This was intended to force other players to begin buying wards and taking part in securing map vision, and over all it seems to have been largely successful. The second change to the support role was the addition of items specifically designed to appeal to supports no one else. These items gave supports a small amount of extra early game power along with a supplementary gold income so long as they were not killing enemy minions, which were usually given to the marksmen. These items allowed supports a means to buy items that would otherwise be beyond their reach to them so that they could progress in power at a rate roughly the same as their teammates. The new items, combined with the ward cap also allowed supports to focus on jobs other than being ward dispensers, allowing them to fulfill their roll in the game in many new and diverse ways.
The second major mechanic that was changed was the jungle. The jungle is a shrouded are between each lane. The jungle contains may hiding places for players to ambush one another, and neutral monsters which can be killed as a means of income. Prior to the patch, players who chose to take the jungler role had substantially less income than players who had minions to kill in a lane. This forced junglers to attack enemies in lane as a means of income. This would cause junglers with nothing else to do but waste time to attack enemies lane in less than ideal situations. Attacking a lane is always risky, but can have huge rewards. If the jungler assists a teammate and killing his lane opponent, both the jungler and laner will receive a substantial amount of gold and experience. How ever, If done poorly, the attack could lead to the death of the laner, or worse, the jungler. This would often put the jungler irrecoverably behind give the enemy laner a huge advantage over his opponent, as several jungle monsters give powerful buffs to the player that kills them.
To help improve the quality of life for junglers, riot made three important changes. First, they added a new monster to the jungle called the weight. This provided another monster for junglers to farm if none of the lanes were open for attack. It was also in a position that laners, who often take the junglers monsters, would not be overly eager to run the distance necessary to take it. The second was the way in which monsters gave experience for increasing in power. Before the patch jungle monsters gave scaling experience based upon how long the game had been going on, but it was the same for everyone. Riot changed the monsters to scale in power based upon the average level of all the players in the game. This would keep the jungle manageable even when behind, but it was not the only change. Jungle monsters were also changed to grant bonus experience to players based upon how many levels behind the most powerful player they were. This allowed junglers who had a bad start to recover, and made mistakes and death in the early part of the game far less damning.
The final change to the jungle was a modification of several items tailored specifically to the jungle role. These items were made weaker in the general stats they provided to make them unappealing to laners, but given a massive bonus to damage against neutral monsters in the jungle, along with bonus income for killing jungle monsters. These items allowed junglers to maintain a higher income and progress through the game at a much closer rate to the laners than before. Junglers no longer had to deal with the stress of being behind and being the weakest member of the team, and helped to combat the feelings of uselessness that plagued many junglers when they got behind. These changes did not make the jungle easier by any means, but they did make it far less stressful.
Now let’s go back to the original question. Did the changes reduce player toxicity? In my opinion, yes they did. The support and jungle roles can now remain useful even when behind and have been given a much wider array of tools to get their jobs done, making them more fun and less stressful. It also keeps both themselves and their teammates from feeling like a burden or a hindrance to the team. Many league players have expressed have expressed their relief at a better game through many outlets such as reddit, reignofgameing, and the League of Legends forums. While the overall results may very from person to person, over all they have been very positive. Things may not be perfect, but no one has told me that my mother enjoys intercourse with farm animals because I ran out of wards since the patch was released. I personally find that to be a very good thing.
All images used were created from screen captures and are not copyrighted. Material show in the images is used under fair use to give information about the state of the game.