Heroes of the Storm

Celebrating Two Years since the Call of the Nexus debacle. What we can learn.

HeroesoftheStorm 5 - Celebrating Two Years since the Call of the Nexus debacle. What we can learn.
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Part 1: Manufacturing Consent

The devs didn't think of CoTN out of the air. There was always a vocal part of the community that kept complaining about Quick Match composition rules, that the games were not close enough to draft modes and thus "people don't learn how to play the game."

Quick Match MM already had rules that attempted to make compositions balanced (The golden rule was that if a team had a tank, the other team will also have a tank, same with healers) But vocal demands were that QM compositions, besides of being balanced, had to mirror the compositions that you are supposed to have in ranked. The idea was that Quick Match, the most popular mode. Had the duty to 'teach' how to play how to play the less-popular modes.

The stereotype was to blame Quick Match over selfish draft picks. That the guy who last-picked Nova in a healer-less team did so because he learned the wrong lessons from Quick Match. But no evidence was given that this was the case. And what was always notable is how these suggestions never seemed to originate from Quick Match players but from players who'd rather see the mode stop existing.

AS for sources, I think This 2018 AMA question is a very good example of the mentality that kept getting pushed in the months before CoTN

From what limited information we have, QM is still the most popular gamemmode (though feel free to quantify or correct that). However, many people in the community voice their concerns about it working so very differently from draft modes, teaching people a completely different game than they play when they draft in either Unranked, HL or TL. Are there any plans on your side to change how QM works or do you have any other thoughts towards the topic and the huge difference between QM and draft modes? Would you be open to promote Unranked Draft as the "standard" gamemode of HotS instead of QM?

This is the sort of thing that became very common circa 2018 and was a habitual trope in youtube videos. Don't want to point out the specific names of the personalities I remember because it's against the rules to do such call outs. In many ways, the sentiment is still around. So I don't think I really need to put a lot of work proving that this is a thing. And I am sure many of the replies to this thread will be proof that this sentiment exists and that it comes mostly from people who DON'T play QM but somehow feel entitled to changes to it.

Part 2: Pandering

I think the answer to that very AMA question says enough about this

Quick Match is still our most popular game mode in Heroes of the Storm by far. We don’t think the right move is to shunt Quick Match aside, we would rather improve upon it. The problem that we see is that team compositions rarely feel balanced or competitive. In the blog post that we posted yesterday we discussed making a shift away focusing on getting players into matches quickly, and instead to focus more on getting players into better quality matches. That is absolutely applicable to Quickmatch and serves as the plan of action here.

The first improvement we’re going to make is to strictly enforce role compositions for the matchmaker. A team will not be constructed without a balanced team composition on its own. This means that assassins or specialists may potentially have longer queue times, while some tank-capable warriors and healers may have shorter ones.

Here's my problem about this whole mess: No one asked Quick Match players about this. Later in the tale, you will see Blizzard acting surprised that queue times became longer, even though it is clear from this response that they knew very well longer queue times would be the result of these changes.

The crux of the problem lies in using a strategy that was attempted in order to fix issues with Ranked in an attempt to "fix" Quick Match. But without taking into consideration that Quick Match players' priorities may be different to Ranked Player's priorities. The devs were setting themselves up to a sudden realization that Quick Match players may have match making speed higher in their list of priorities.

Part 3: Dissonance

Here's something funny that happened during November 2018, before the "Quick Match Fix" was implemented. It looks like during this month, Blizzard reverted a lot of the actual, useful match making rules that made QM work. The quality of the matches dropped dramatically. It's almost as if they knew that Call of The Nexus was going to make the algorithm unbearably slow , so they started to drop rules in advance.

Most notably, the mirror match rule was removed! https://us.forums.blizzard.com/en/heroes/t/anyone-else-noticing-a-lot-of-mirror-matches-in-qm/5925/10 I always thought this was damn funny. In order to pander to the community regarding forcing "Proper" compositions in QM so that they "teach HL" better. They had to enable the one kind of composition that's impossible to get in Hero League. You CAN have a 5 assassins match in hero league. It actually happens. But you'll never see a mirror match. Heroes were just not designed with mirror matches in mind and the experience is always super crappy.

Part 4: Debacle

So everything was ready and Call of the Nexus was finally implemented.

The Quick Match players are forced out of their caves and into forums because queue times AND match quality became unbearable.

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Part 5: "We definitely improved match quality by a wide margin in many states"

Blues have no choice but to back down

Call of the Nexus

With the release of the Call of the Nexus, we have seen a significant increase in match quality (in terms of meta composition) and have ultimately achieved the goal we set out to accomplish. However, we have also seen an increase in queue times, especially in certain regions, which we really don’t consider to be an acceptable trade-off. In response, we are going to temporarily loosen how rigid our rules are when it comes to enforcing meta compositions. Our overall goal with this change is to still create as many standard compositions as possible (Tank, Healer, Ranged Assassin) while also putting the quick back in Quick Match as we continue to make improvements to the system.

To me this was always a red flag

we have seen a significant increase in match quality (in terms of meta composition) and have ultimately achieved the goal we set out to accomplish.

Do Blizzard have any real means to measure Match Quality? Every once in a while I get asked if I enjoyed a game, but I just wish I always received that question. Often I would receive it in very special niche matches, rather than all the time. I definitely was not getting that question during the Call of the Nexus debacle. It also doesn't seem like Blizzard ever bothered to ask anyone if the match making queue times feel too large or too short.

(in terms of meta composition)

So what they decided was that games where both teams have a tank and a healer are definitely better quality than games that do not. And since CoTN was causing more games to be of that style, then it definitely meant that matches were higher quality.

This does not reflect my experience.

The games I had during this debacle were still some of the worst I've experienced in my whole Heroes of the Storm player life. Oh sure, we had a tank, but it was a low level player that had no idea how to play the tank and chose it for the XP bonus. Meanwhile the other team had a try hard Diablo for no reason. And I had to wait 15 minutes for that brilliant match.

There are many factors to match quality. Something that's really important is that the teams are balanced. But more than balanced compositions, you also want some similarity in the skill levels. If a team had a seasoned tank player, you kinda want the other team to do so as well.

And the enforced 1/1/3 compositions were not really part of match quality. It made Quick Match closer to what you'd get in Draft games. But that's the problem, it was never added with the intention to improve the experience of playing Quick Match. A match in which there are 0 tanks is is not less fair than a match in which each team has one tank.

And that's the problem with artificial conditions built on top of the match maker. Consider this hypothetical case: If the match maker calculates that a 4 assassins/1 heler match is statistically more fair than a match in which one of those assassins is replaced by a tank. Then the match maker is going to pick a worse, more unfair match in order to comply with the new restriction.

Unfortunately, the only metric Blizzard seem to talk about regarding match quality is the compositions and if the compositions follow the draft meta rather than if the compositions provide a fun and/or fair experience to… experience.

Part 6: What we've learned

  • SL problems should be fixed with SL changes, no changing other modes.
  • The game's devs seem to lack proper metrics to measure game quality or to get feedback from players of each game mode regarding what they actually want. Rely too much on forums that can easily misguide them in regards to what is actually wanted. This is specially hard when the game modes are themselves so varied that the fans of one game mode can be completely alien to the wants and needs of the fans of another game mode.
  • There are no easy fixes to lack of game knowledge.
  • Forums, reddit and content creators can clamor for a change, applaud when the change is implemented and the change may still be actually completely wrong for the game.

Source: Original link


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