Quick Gameplay Thoughts 10/8

Ranked Season 2021 and Season Start 2022.

DevAuthorRiot Codebear
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Welcome back! Again, I’m Cody “Riot Codebear” Germain, Product Lead for Competitive Gameplay on League of Legends.

Season 2021 is reaching its end, Worlds is in the air, and Preseason 2022 is on the horizon. Let’s take a look at how Ranked 2021 went and where Season Start 2022 is headed as we continue to make League the best competitive PvP experience in the world. I’m going to focus on our individual competitive queue—specifically, Ranked Solo—but many of these learnings apply to all of our other MOBA queues as well.

2021 Season Light Review

Heading into 2021, we made a bunch of changes to Ranked, like improving placements for new accounts, softening season resets, and removing division promos, just to name a few. These were pretty huge adjustments, so we intentionally let the dust settle as we actively monitored the system. Informed by the data, we focused on tweaking matchmaking formulas, cleaning up our backend systems, and creating fairer matches. You can read more about these in our 2021 Competitive Gameplay Mid-year Analysis.

Here are some highlights from Season 2021:

  • New accounts were ranked much more evenly and effectively
  • Overall match quality improved, with less than one division of skill difference between teams for 99% of games
  • Time to game (from queue start to match start) stayed the same or improved in every region
  • We saw autofill reduced to less than 2% of games in almost every region. In some regions, autofill rates in popular roles like top and mid were brought to almost 0%

We also uncovered some less visible but still highly impactful opportunities for improvement:

  • Rapid LP decay rates at high ranks resulted in volatile matchmaking for players returning to League after a break, causing unpredictable experiences
  • Players returning to League after long breaks were also often placed in unexpectedly challenging matches because their MMR did not take into account the effects of being out of practice (a.k.a. "rusty")
  • Mid-to-high MMR players who started the climb later in the season were occasionally mismatched in their first few games due to a lack of similar players
  • Ranked resets were too soft, unfairly placing our most engaged players in negative LP states early.
  • We learned a lot from Season 2021 and are incorporating these into our plans for next year. Overall, we're extremely happy with how 2021 is leaving off, and we're confident that 2022 will be even better!

Season Start 2022 Expectations

In 2022, we're being extra deliberate in our investments for Ranked. This is because the competitive systems we have today are in highly mature states, which basically means the “big problems,” have equally "big solutions". The good news is that the doors are now wide open for us to tackle the really difficult ones thanks to the improvements we made to overall stability this year. We'll be able to focus more on our technical challenges moving forward to make your games more satisfying, your accomplishments more prominent, and your overall competitive League experience more modern.

For our first few iterations, we're going after the most time-sensitive and highest impact opportunities:

  • Apex Decay: At high MMRs (Master tier and above), decay rates have long functioned like timers ticking away to keep the best of the best at the edge of their game. However, that clock may be ticking too quickly and pushing players into places where they really don’t belong. We're taking a closer look at what decay does for our players and tweaking the system to ensure even fairer matchmaking over the entire season. This means that we’ll be trying out some new decay configurations over the next couple months and reaching out for feedback prior to Season Start 2022.
  • Season Reset: The soft resets we did this year might have been a little too soft. Resets introduce some uncertainty to give players the chance to show their improvement since last year. Not resetting cleanly enough takes away the breathing room for players to showcase their improvement, pushing them into negative LP states very quickly. This year, we want to provide a longer runway for players to really show off their growth since last season and get the proper liftoff at the start of their climb. We do this by tuning the resets to be stronger, which puts more uncertainty back into the system. This lets players push their skills to new boundaries and ensures more sustainable growth and accurate system feedback.

In addition to the above, we're also looking at how the Ranked experience can be improved for players just entering the ecosystem mid-to-late season, players returning to League after a hiatus, and many more ways to keep driving League competitive play forward.

Good luck climbing and, as always, see you on the Rift.

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