I say 'teased' and not 'announced' because they specifically called the above list of changes "a sneak-peek" of what was to come and said there may be some "extra surprises" on top of that list, so we can't really be sure of anything. However, I sincerely hope that the ranked season was delayed for a lot more than just what we've been shown. The thing is, all of these changes are nice, but many of them are just that, nice, and nothing more. None of those changes have a significant impact on actual game quality, even though there are plenty of things that could be changed which would directly affect this. Let me go over the teased changes one by one (in order of least impactful on match quality to most impactful) to show why these changes don't matter very much, and afterwards, I'll talk about some things that could be worked on which would directly improve match quality.
Meh. This sounds nice and fun, but we already had ranked season rewards before Storm League, and this doesn't sound like much of an improvement on that. I don't know what sort of 'quests' we could have in ranked that aren't some version of "play/win X games as role Y," (for example, "heal 500,000 damage" is basically "play a bunch of games as a healer") because anything more specific would "force" players to play a certain way rather than just playing to win. Maybe quests that focused on self-improvement would be cool, like having low deaths. But overall, this doesn't do anything significant for ranked, especially since we've already had end-of-season rewards before.
Visible Direct MMR To Rank-Point Mapping
This is a long-anticipated change, but I think there's a big misconception as to what this actually means. Nothing about matchmaking changes because of this, it is strictly visibility. The matchmaker already matches purely based on MMR and doesn't care about actual rank except in very specific circumstances (these mostly being that it tries not to match high Diamond players with low Masters most of the time, the Storm League party restrictions, and perhaps a couple of other miscellaneous cases that I can't think of). So while the visibility is appreciated, this change has absolutely no effect on actual match quality.
Promotion/Demotion games removed
This one is pretty self-explanatory. While nice, it changes nothing about matchmaking and match quality, it's purely superficial. This change in particular would also take all of 5 minutes to implement from start to finish, which is another reason I am not impressed with the teased list. The amount of time and effort required to design and implement the teased list of changes does not warrant a 2-month delay at all. The only change that might take a significant amount of time is the seasonal questline (depending on what that actually entails), the rest could all be done in under a week, they didn't need a 2-month delay at all.
Adjusted decay system
This starts to tread on having an actual effect on match quality, but still, it is mostly superficial. Remember, the point of a decay system in the first place is to force high-level players to continue to play games to remain on top as opposed to just getting a high rank once and sitting on it. At the moment, the system is quite lenient and doesn't really promote continuous play (Grandmaster requires a minimum of only 1 game every 10 days to avoid decay). I don't know what exactly is going to be changed about the decay system, but theoretically this could slightly improve match quality for the top of the ladder and make the Grandmaster leaderboard slightly more meaningful. Unfortunately, the top of the Storm League ladder has far, far bigger problems than this. Thus, is mostly just a nice change and only a marginal improvement.
Reduced Placement Matches
Finally, now we're getting somewhere. It is known that the system behind seeding and placement matches is flawed because of the numerous reports of players getting ranked drastically lower (-2 divisions or more) once Storm League hit regardless of their placement record. So adjusting the placement system for the better will actually have a noticeably positive impact on placing and thus match quality. Although, it does depend on what actually gets changed about placement matches. Hopefully, this doesn't amount to simply a visibility improvement where the system is basically the same, but you can now see your rank as you get placed. That would be meaningless. Either way, judgment is reserved until further information is acquired.
So, all of that to say, only 1 of the 5 changes listed actually has a significant impact on match quality, that being changes to the placement system. In addition, most of the listed changes would be incredibly easy to implement and do not at all warrant a 2-month delay. But there are so many things the team could address that would have a significant impact on match quality. Now, I do understand that everything I'm about to list would be very time-consuming to design and implement, so it's not like I'm expecting everything at once. But at least some changes of this magnitude need to be in progress to justify a 2-month delay.
Changes that would be meaningful
There are so many smurfs in this game and they have been ruining matches for years, yet not a single system is in place to detect a smurf account and quickly place it into a more fitting rank. Interestingly, one of the best ways to detect a smurf account may actually be its browsing and purchasing activity, rather than anything performance-related. For example, truly new players will usually cling to their default portrait for a long time while smurfs will usually buy the one portrait they want very early on in their account and without browsing the available selection. Patterns like this (in concert with others such as in-game performance) could quite reliably detect a large percentage of smurfs, at which point they can be handled differently before they jump into Storm League.
Loss Forgiveness for Disconnects
This is a huge one. Someone on your team disconnects, their bot walks way too far out and gets insta-gibbed (at least once, perhaps more), and you lose the game because of it. Why are we still, after 4-5 years, losing all 200 ranked points in this situation? The person who disconnected should lose 200 points, everyone else should lose much less.
Adjusted Party Restrictions
While the days of Team League "Grandmasters" partying with literal Bronze smurfs are gone, the problem of gaming the matchmaking with parties (and smurfs) still very much exists. Many Storm League Grandmasters abuse this and only play in parties with specific friends giving them ridiculous winrates. While this is definitely a very difficult issue to fix, my proposed solution would be to forgo party restrictions, and instead drastically reduce the number of points awarded/deducted for a game where the average player is far below you. For example, in my system, a Master rank player could party with a few Silver rank players and end up playing vs Gold rank solos. In that case, the Silver players still get the normal +/- 200 points, but the Master player would only get, say, +/- 50 points because his Gold enemies are so far below his rank. In this system, it is simply not profitable to climb by partying with smurfs because of the sheer number of games required. However, if you want to party with lower rank players for legitimate reasons, i.e they're your good friends and you want to have fun or perhaps you're trying to teach these people about the game, then you're no longer hindered in doing so. (You could argue that this would encourage boosting, but I don't think boosting is nearly as big of an issue as abusing parties, and where it is an issue, account sharing is the far bigger culprit which would be even more true in this system since the booster gets so little reward by boosting via partying.) This is one way of handling the problem, if you disagree with it, tell me why and offer your own solution (don't just downvote >_<).
I feel like if I don't mention this one I'll get crucified for it, so as a token gesture I'll put it on the list. Honestly, I personally think that the matchmaking itself is pretty good, and improvements to it would be very difficult and low-yield. The reasons why I think this are complicated and far beyond the scope of what I want to discuss in this post. Though, the general idea of my argument is that the game is so volatile, especially at lower ranks, that a player's performance can fluctuate wildly from game to game, even though on average they are ranked where they're supposed to be. For example, a player can play the same hero with the same playstyle 2 games in a row and in the first carry their team and in the second be dragging their team to a loss due to differences in draft and playstyles of people around said player. You might say, "but that's because the player didn't adapt in the second game which is the sign of a better player," to which I say, do you really think Gold players adapt? Do you really think Silver players adapt? A few of them do, sure, those are the ones with bright futures. But the vast majority just flail around doing mostly the same things over and over and hoping for the best (I was no different, I did this back before I was good at the game). And trust me, there are plenty of Platinum and Diamond (and even some Master) players who do the same thing, they just get fewer as you go up the ladder. The point is the matchmaker cannot possibly account for such volatile performances and will look terrible at times even if it were perfect. That's not to say there aren't things that can be improved about the matchmaker, but for all the whining and fussing people do over it, it's actually pretty good. All that said, any improvements that could be made would be very welcome.
At the moment, that's all I can come up with, but I'm sure there's more. If you can think of anything else significant they could do to ranked mode, discuss it, and if I agree I'll add it to my post 🙂
I am 100% aware that there are more features coming to Ranked than what has been teased. I actually suspect that the upcoming AMA on June 20th might be about ranked mode. The timing fits, though it could easily be about something else *cough Chen rework cough*. In any case, I understand that this post may very well be moot when more information drops. If it turns out they have a bunch of amazing and as-yet-unannounced changes to ranked mode, great! I will gladly eat my words and enjoy them. But what if that doesn't happen? I write this post despite the lack of information to make the following clear to everyone: The developers have set a very high bar by delaying the season by a whole 2 months, and the teased list of Ranked changes absolutely does NOT meet that bar! Yes they're nice, but not only are they incredibly minor and have almost no significant effect on actual match quality, but they are all (with maybe 1 exception) extremely easy to implement and do not at all require even a month of development time, let alone a 2-month delay. Those "few extra surprises" better be big ones or I will be very very mad >:(
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