IntroductionIt's been 4 months since the introduction of ranked matchmaking, and many opinions have been voiced on it. Has Valve done a good job or did they put out a trash system to just satisfy the masses? In this post I will discuss the different opinions on the various intricacies of the matchmaking system, that have become apparent over these months.
First of all, a little personal background about me - this can give you an idea of the perspective I'm writing this with. If you are not interested, feel free to skip this part. My nick is SlashStrike, I'm sitting between 5500 and 6000 Solo MMR with 50-100 solo games played, and I'm on the EU leaderboard. I also play DotA competitively with my team, and my goal is to get into the professional competitive scene. The role I play on my team is mid, and while it is probably what I play most often in my solo ranked matches, I have played plenty of games in every role.
When playing solo ranked I focus on improving myself rather than gaining as many points as possible (the difference between these is mostly evident in picks). Additionally, I'm also trying to get known as a streamer, so if you wish to support me or enjoy a high quality but fairly unknown stream (~900 followers), head on over to www.twitch.tv/slashstrike
There are several topics I would like to discuss, as you could infer from the title:
- Support vs core
- Skill representation
- Match quality / balance
- Win / loss streaks
Support versus CorePeople often complain about supporting their allies well in solo ranked matches, only to end up losing because their cores were not competent enough to do their job despite being well supported. There are generally two stances on this:
1. If you want to climb you have to play a core, and in the higher end of the bracket where skill disparity is large, you should support if your MMR is lower than your teams average, and still play a core if it is higher.
2. It doesn't matter what you're playing - you will climb if you're a good player and if you don't it's because you're not good enough, regardless of your role.
Of course, there is some truth to both statements, but I feel like most of the misunderstanding stems from the fact that there are many different playstyles that could all fall under 'supporting'. Those that complain about not having any impact on the game as a support may simply be playing the wrong type of support. This would include heroes that require a lot of coordination to reach their fullest potential, something that you cannot count on pubs to have. I am talking about heroes such as Shadow Demon, Abaddon, Lina, Ezalor, etc. They do not have reliable hard disables starting at level 1, and are not the best candidates for ganking.
On the other hand, heroes like Skywrath, Disruptor, Rhasta, Bane, etc. can make many things happen even on their own, thus having great chances of getting a kill when ganking and being 2v1.
When playing support you don't need to sit behind your carry all game when you should be constantly missing and roaming the map, ganking whenever you see an opportunity and making the enemies play reserved in the meantime because they are afraid of overextending. Solo kill someone with Skywrath, get easy pickoffs or wreck teamfights with Disruptor, push a tower with Rhasta, more pickoffs with Bane, etc.
Compare this to an Ezalor who can only react to enemy movement and not force it.
To summarize, supporting does not entail only one playstyle, and it is definitely possible to impact the game as a support, arguably even more so than a core in the early game.
Skill RepresentationToday I read this on /r/DotA2 - How come Dendi has 5900 solo rating whereas Wagamama has 6700? Does this mean Waga is much better than Dendi? I'm sure many of you are rolling their eyes and wondering why this needs explanation at all, but I'm also sure that many people legitimately believe that higher rating = higher skill.
The thing is, that is true in a general sense. Most 3k players are better than most 2k players. Most 4k > 3k players, 5k > 4k. However, here's where it gets tricky. After a certain threshold, around 5400-5600, MMR hardly matters. There are still skill disparities, that's for sure, but you can no longer tell a certain player is going to be better judging by their MMR. Many pro players are a perfect example of this, and so are those that pick Terrorblade every game, which were the same people that picked Earth Spirit every game pre-nerf. Are the dudes in the top 10 of the leaderboard better than everyone else? No, they are simply good at winning solo ranked pubs, either through picks or play-style.
However, this is a vastly different set of skills and gamesense than those required in competitive - I can guarantee that if you put the top 5 in EU on a team, they would be a low tier 2 / high tier 3 team at best, even if you gave them time to practice together. This is because in a team setting there are many more qualities required (you can check out my previous blog post "To my Fellow Aspiring Stars" where I discuss these in detail), and the chances of these guys' ego's getting in the way (especially when they are top 5 on the leaderboards) are huge. And of course the fact that some specialize in heroes that aren't even in Captain's Mode.
So, does a higher MMR mean you're a better player? Yes, up to a certain point. After that it is less about being good and more about playing much and picking the right heroes.
After all, the game is balanced around competitive team versus team -CM, not all pick with 5 randoms. Therefore skill should be measured according to the former and not the latter.
Match Quality / BalanceThis is a much discussed topic, as I am sure everyone has at least once blamed their loss on the fact that the match was not balanced. However, when you think about all the factors that contribute to the balance of a match, it is fairly obvious that the chance of 10 people having a truly close and fun game is extremely small. Just think about yourself, you:
- get frustrated after more than 2 losses in a row, often rage re-queuing because you don't want to end the night with a loss
- You generally assume your team is incompetent in order to not be disappointed
- You have good days and you have bad days
- You have good heroes and bad heroes
- Sometimes you try hard, sometimes you want to try something new
These apply to pretty much everyone. There are right about a million things that can affect how well you play, each to different degrees, be it the lighting in your room, the neighbours dog barking, how much you slept last night or simply whether you're feeling happy or not. Now, apply all this to 10 individuals, and the roll of dice becomes more apparent. Still not convinced?
Think about professional games, where stomps are fairly common. This is due to the massive importance of the draft and simply the nature of the game. So, if someone that works on this game as a full time job can still get outdrafted to the extent of getting stomped, then imagine what can happen in an -AP pub.
In essence, any given solo ranked game is the roll of a million dice that decide the outcome. The only thing you can do is make sure as many of yours as possible roll like you want them to, and then try to affect some of your team's too (e.g. their attitude).
This involves the use of bots, stacking in solo queue through preference settings, sandboxing and playing against yourself, etc. As a general rule for a game played by this many - anything that can be abused, will be abused. I see people being surprised by the demand for high-rated accounts and the amount of people willing to supply them as close-mindedness, because with 7.5 million active players there are bound to be all kinds of people and communities, and that should come as a surprise to no one.
Of course I also think this is horrible for the game, and Valve should enforce harder punishments to those that take part in this abuse of the system, especially if it involves third-party programs such as sandboxie.
Win / Loss Streaks
I encourage you to look up an article on probability and statistics, because there is an extremely wide-spread misconception that a win-streak increases your likelihood of losing, and a loss-streak increases your likelihood of winning, but that is just false. Everyone has experienced 1 win 1 loss 1 win 1 loss sequences, and everyone has gone through 4-5 or more wins or losses in a row. The only thing streaks affect is your attitude about the game, which, coincidentally, is extremely important. If you go into a game disappointed with a loss streak and expecting a win handed to you because 'it's logical', you will probably not play your best and likely lose again. This is closely related to the following and final section.
I'm sure this is something everyone has dealt with - I also struggle with it often. For example, I went on holiday and played on a shitty laptop with the lowest possible settings and went from 5675 to 5875 in about 4-5 days. Then I came back home and played on my usual set-up, and lost 2 party games followed by 5 solo games in a row. This affects my mood more than I would like it to. It's easy to think about all the things that could be the reason for your win or loss, be it in-game (team, picks, luck) or even more stupid, outside of the game (humidity of the room, what you ate, the volume of your speakers). At the end of the day none of these things matter - the only thing that matters is how focused you are and how you approach the game, mentality-wise.
Something I notice in myself is that often after getting really mad over a loss that was supposedly my team's fault, as I calm down later I realize I didn't play nearly as well as I could have, and that is what causes my anger, while blaming my team is just an attempt to draw my attention away from that fact. Winning games such as those is often not even that satisfying. Carrying over this mentality into the next game can easily lead to a loss streak.
Likewise, I've had games where I know I played very well and made little to no mistakes, but still lost due to a plethora of different reasons. Those games don't make me mad in the slightest, because I'm satisfied with how I played. And winning a game like that, well, that's an even greater sense of accomplishment. Carrying over this mentality into the next game can easily lead to a win streak.
Lastly, it is this attachment of a sense of accomplishment to your number that is the reason to feeling sad after a loss and happy after a victory. Losing a game means losing points, i.e. not only have you not gained anything out of the time you spent playing, you even 'lost' the time it took you to gain those points in your previous win. Winning, on the other hand lets you feel like you have accomplished something with your time, i.e. gaining points.
I hope you can realize how stupid this sounds, because it is. At the end of the day, you play for 2 reasons - either to have fun, or to improve and aim for going pro. If you're not having fun, you need to change your approach or switch things up with either a different mode, different people or even a different game.
If your main aim is to improve, then all you need to do is forget about your points and winning or losing and simply focus on how you are playing and anything and everything you can do to play better. If you truly do that and manage to learn and improve after every match, you will forget about wins and losses fairly quickly, and ironically start winning more often as you are actually getting better as a player.