Red Post Grab Bag - Player Behavior, More from Morello, and Akali's glowing hands

Posted on at 3:37 AM by Moobeat
Tuckered out from all the exciting LCS playoff action? Then why don't you take a break to peruse this latest collection of red posts!
Continue reading for a several posts about player behavior topics - including champion select, pre-game / post-game chat in the logs, and more, Morello talking about relaunches and sharing his thoughts on Poppy, and an upcoming aesthetic reversion that should make Akali players happy.

Player Behavior - Champion Select, Chat Restriction, and more.
Let's start off with Lyte talking a bit more about champion select, the current focal point of the player behavior team.
"We agree, Champ Select isn't the ideal environment for seting teams up for success right now. I talked to a few scientists recently about Champion Select, and mentioned that it's like putting 5 strangers together and asking them to negotiate a plan they all agree on within 90 seconds. The scientists laughed and said, "That's a problem we've been studying for decades." 
There's no easy solution to Champion Select; in fact, it might be one of the most difficult problem spaces we've ever had to tackle. However, it's currently a major focus of the player behavior team, and we hope to fix the core issues with Champ Select and find a way to really build trust among strangers before the game even begins."

When asked if he was able to share any information about these plans to change champion select, Lyte responded:
"We don't have anything to share yet, we've been doing some pretty diverse research to really map out the space. We're being very careful with the Champ Select problem and making sure we really understand players' frustrations and expectations of the flow."

Lyte then discussed the option of working towards these champion select features vs something like pre and post game logs in the Tribunal, saying:
"When we investigated pre- and post-game chat, the question we asked was: "What is the incremental value we would get by adding this feature? Would we identify more toxic players, and if so, how many more?" It turns out that many players who are toxic in pre- and post-game chat are also toxic in-game, and tend to be caught by the Tribunal. However, Riot does have access to the logs--they just aren't hooked up to the Tribunal system. Given the choice, should the player behavior team work on Champ Select issues, or work on pre- and post-game chat? The answer is pretty clear.

In saying this, as you might have heard from other player behavior members, we have been shifting away from feature development on punishment systems. Like I mentioned in the GDC talk linked earlier in this thread, we're focusing much of our development on making the game more enjoyable for neutral and sportsmanlike players instead of focusing on the toxic players"
He continued:
"For example, adding reports and pre- and post-game chat logs to the Tribunal is a solution to a problem--the problem might be defined as a lack of accountability for extreme toxic behaviors in Champ Select (since the solution would only identify the worst of the worst offenders for the Tribunal). 
Champion Select; however, is a problem space without a solution... yet. The problems include: 
1) Time pressure creates a hostile environment 
2) Putting strangers together in a lobby and forcing them to negotiate strategy is hindered by a lack of trust (in other words, everyone only has data on themselves, and truly believe they are better than everyone else in the lobby -- a reasonable behavior pattern given the lack of data on everyone else) 
3) A mismatch of expectations going into the environment

If you look at the problems in Champion Select, it's very obvious that pre- and post-game logs in the Tribunal does not address them."

Another summoner questioned if there was a possibility of adding a, for example, feature that allows you to see your team mates win / loss ratio with a particular champion during champion select. Lyte replied:
"We have considered things like showing teammates your Win/Loss records on certain champions, but there's a red flag with this suggestion. On average, humans are notoriously bad at probability and statistics--this even includes smart people like doctors, lawyers and scientists. 
For example, if you are in a Champ Select and someone chooses Jax and a 0-2 Win Loss record shows up... a lot of players would be instantly frustrated and politely (or not so politely!) ask the player to choose a different champion; however, realistically, 0-2 isn't a significant data point. It's meaningless.

You could argue that we wouldn't show Win/Loss until a certain number of games have played, but this creates a similar effect where if you don't have a Win/Loss record, then players lose trust because you haven't even played enough games to have your record show--it's a lose-lose situation."

Switching gears a bit, he also talked about the match making system, it's fairness, and how players actually perceive it. Lyte explains:
"Matchmaking is an interesting problem space. Let's say that we had a perfect matchmaker, and every game you have a 50% chance to win. However, let's say Team A and Team B play 1000 games. Team A wins 500 games, Team B wins 500 games. Technically, this means the matchmaker was quite good at matching these teams together. 
However, what if every game had scores like 30-5? 25-3? If every game is lopsided, what does this mean? Players might claim that the matchmaker is completely broken. We have to separate the fairness of the potential match outcomes, and the in-game closeness of the match. In MOBAs, there's an inherent snowball factor to the games--some games have a higher snowball factor, and some have a low snowball factor; however, in all MOBAs an advantage you build early game can lead to advantages later game that can secure victory. Snowball factor can be tuned, but it's an extremely complicated parameter. 
For example, if there's no snowball factor, then there's really no gravity or weight to the early game--advantages you earn are neutralized, and you don't get the satisfaction of making plays and pulling ahead. Then there's the fact that there is a delicate balance between building powerful champions and enjoying being powerful versus being on the losing side and suffering through the rest of the game.

Right now, the vast majority of games do have a 50% win chance. It's highly accurate in that aspect; however, we could debate about whether the game is too snowballey and thus feels unfair or unenjoyable to play."

He continued to note that third party sites take their toll on player's perception of how fair matchmaking is:
"On average, the vast majority of matchmaking matches are pretty decent; however, one of the issues with matchmaking perception is that players use third party websites to judge the 'quality' of a match.

With the introduction of Leagues, websites typically only use a combination of tiers/divisions/LP/wins/losses to assess your effective MMR, but they aren't accurate. In fact, in many cases, players have up to 300-400 MMR difference compared to their profiles on websites. Combine this with the fact that players tend to check profiles only in major snowball losses... and you can see why false perceptions and associations can form."

He also discussed the recently instated "Restricted Chat Mode", an alternative to banning that forces a player to be "not toxic" in several games before regaining the ability to use the in game chat, and the results they've been seeing:
"On the player behavior team, we take a lot of risks. We have to because we're often pushing boundaries on what's been tried before in the online community space. We have very little prior history, documentation, or references to learn from so we really have little information on how a player might react in a pressure situation with something like Restricted Chat Mode. We simply take what we can from psychology, cognition and neuroscience and try to make the best decisions given the limited knowledge and data we do have. 
We'll make mistakes. I know we will. However, for every experiment, we reveal a few more insights about psychology and a few more insights about human behavior in general. We're going to keep trying new things, and we're going to keep learning--that's all I can ask of the player behavior team. 
So far, we've learned a few interesting things already from the Restricted Chat Mode experiment: 
1) It is correctly forcing a subset of players to consciously think about their chat resources. At the end of the day, players want to win, and they are learning about the difference between positive chat providing a distinct advantage versus the destructiveness of negative chat. We're mapping out the usage of Restricted Chat Mode, and are interested in seeing things like what ratio of messages are used for cooperation versus destruction. We're also interested in seeing how many games of Restricted Chat Mode is required before a player's personality or character fundamentally improves for the better.

2) A lot of players are self-aware of their own outbursts and rage in games and have asked to opt-in to Restricted Chat Mode voluntarily. This is interesting because for a long time, many developers and game studios have assumed that a lot (if not all) of toxic players simply lack self-awareness--they don't realize that their behaviors are toxic, or that racism isn't OK. However, through Restricted Chat Mode, we're finding a demographic of players that are very self-aware, but need help--they need a nudge in the right direction, and they can't do it alone. I often talk to the player behavior team about whether it's our responsibility to collaborate and work with players in these cases and time and time again, we find that the answer is "Yes.""

Finally, he addressed a few other player behavior odds and ends.

He commented that there will soon be more in game tips ( you know, the ones from the loading screen and right when you start up a game ).
"Definitely doing this soon. Not next patch, but we have a large line-up of new tips."

Lyte also briefly discussed why a system other than the Tribunal is needed for "infected" cases like this, saying:
"Actually, players who are 'infected' occasionally by others never get sent to Tribunal--only consistent ragers or toxic players get sent there.

This is part of the reason why we need to create systems other than the Tribunal to also tackle the player behavior problem. The Tribunal is designed to identify and reform or remove the worst of the worst. We need other systems to provide feedback and nudges to the players who are sportsmanlike 90% of the time, but may have a bad day or be influenced by a toxic player on rare occasions."

Considering all this high falootin' talk about player behavior and the science behind it, one summoner asked what the qualifications are for a being on the player behavior team. Lyte replied:
"We have a pretty diverse background on the team. A few of us have PhDs in different fields of Psychology (Cognitive Neuroscience and Human Factors/Applied Psychology), while others have Masters in Aeronautics and Bioinformatics. 
I wouldn't say that there is a degree requirement like Masters or higher to be on the player behavior team; we just require people who are very strong critical thinkers, and can quickly learn the latest research in a variety of fields and apply the results to game design. For example, I was not an expert in motivation, but had to dive into the research to really understand the last few decades of motivation research to determine whether we should remove IP (currency) rewards from the Tribunal or how we were going to execute the Justice Reviews experiment.

Because we have so many scientists and smart people from a variety of disciplines, we're constantly learning from one another--it's surprising how often a base idea can improve dramatically from insights from multiple fields"
More from Morello
In response to a summoner disappointed in the Trundle relaunch, Morello took time to talk a bit about his thoughts on the process for creatively adjusting existing champions during reworks.
"This is an important topic, and I think a lesson has been learned - though lessons can't be instantly shown due to real-time considerations of development. For example, look at Vi and Lissandra's visual design in comparison to our mid-year female casters. That's about the "cook time" for a character - 6 months isn't actually long, but I think it League Time feels like it!
I think the mistake with choosing Trundle to rework is that he's niche. What that means is a small number of people have a heavy investment into the character. Reworking the character's thematics does open it up to a broader set of people and make it fit in more, but it comes at a high cost to original players because almost all Trundle players would be highly-invested. "Chapter 2'ing" (developing his story to make him deeper) might have also been OK, even if the end result had some similarities - that's all theoretical though. 
Instead, I'm pushing hard for a different approach on when we creatively adjust existing champions;
* Choose champions who are not niche, but instead are weak creatively by being "flat." Basically, characters that don't have much going on outside of gameplay/art. Some people will always get mad at change, but I think this has a greater degree of success. I can pretty confidently say that almost nobody cares that Sivir is a banker, and I'd be willing to say "sorry, but that's how it is" on that subject. :P
* When changing champions, do the "chapter 2" approach like we did with Lissandra. Retconning should be a "red button" (where no other alternatives make sense to fix the problem) and we should instead tell the next piece of the story - a journey that could change the character.

* When making changes, be a bit more respectful of what is there, unless it's a nightmare. By nightmare, I mean stuff like Sion (sorry in advance, but that dude will definitely change creatively in some big way). Traditional skins are a big piece of this, but not the only tool we have available."

Morello also responded to a summoner question on if a cyclops or a 4-6 armed brute type champion has ever been pitched.
"We have looked at this, but no paydirt yet!"

Morello also shared his thoughts on Poppy, emphasizing her need for a rework by offering two options for her.
"Well, there are two choices; I'm OK with both to some extent; 
* Rework Poppy and make her a real pick in League, balance appropriately.

* Don't rework Poppy, and never ever buff her, and nerf her if she ever sees play."

When questioned about the second option, he elaborated:
"Because if Poppy's good, she supports terrible counterplay and unreadable skills with a slew of mechanical overload. Current Poppy being strong damages the game more than Poppy players get to derive joy from playing Poppy in competitive settings."

Akali's glowing hands coming back!
When Akali's passive was tinkered with a few patches ago, you may have noticed her glowing fists went missing. These particles were used to indicate when each of her passive boosts were triggered and, since the passive  no longer has a minimum threshold to activate, were removed.

However, according to ricklessabandon they are coming back
"i followed up on this, and the removal was intentional (for reasons similar to what you mentioned). after speaking with some of the artists and the developer that made the change, we've decided to add them back—i'll have the change up on the pbe with one of the next couple updates—basically our sentiments are that while the style is likely not something we'd make today, and we'd like them to have more gameplay significance, those are opportunities that would best be tackled in a visual update for akali. in the meantime, we've decided that since akali has had those particles for nearly 3 years, it's fine for her to hang onto them for a bit longer until the relaunch team turns their eye onto her (which could be a long time out). 
tl;dr - they were removed on purpose, but after talking about it we're going to keep them until we can update akali's visuals as a whole."


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