Let’s talk Smurfs, Snow, and Bans in Ask Riot

By Calisker, Ostrichbeernana

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You’ll find three existing questions and answers below and can expect to find new questions answered each week. Please feel free to hit us up in the comments. Each of the Rioters who answered will do their best to engage in a conversation with you. We want this to feel like it’s offering a deeper insight into our work.

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(This week’s version features questions taken from existing player conversations on the web.)

Is smurfing okay? Why don’t you have better solutions in place for this?

(Note: This question generated a lot of interesting internal dialogue. So we wanted to include two Rioters in an edited conversation for this question, to highlight that we don’t always have all the answers.)

It’s complicated.

WookieeCookie: We don’t endorse smurfing, but tackling it is a very difficult issue because of our player population size and the ease of account creation. We agree that smurfing can really ruin the game, such as when a smurf stomps lower-tier players. However; from past attempts we've learned that it's a real uphill battle to create powerful restrictions on alt-accounts without inadvertently affecting the majority of our players who don't smurf at all.

Instead of cumbersome systems to blanket restrict smurfing we're looking for targeted answers that attack specific pain points. For example, if we find a player is using a smurf to actively hurt the game and other players we’ll take direct action on that account, and in some cases their main account as well.

Ghostcrawler: Sometimes players are smurfing because they are trying to accomplish something that League isn’t offering - in other words, the need is unmet. For example, playing with a friend with a different skill set is a noble pursuit that League doesn’t support very well. Other players might make a smurf account because they want a sense of rapid progression that they experienced when leveling from 1-30 or maybe even climbing through Bronze and Silver.

So we should be careful not to paint all smurfs with broad strokes and assume that they are trying to grief actual new players. They may have other intentions. That said, taken on the whole, I’m not a fan of smurfing and worry the potential harm to other players outweighs the benefits to those players with unmet needs.

WookieeCookie: Agreed! That’s why we can’t endorse it. Instead of trying to restrict or prevent smurfs, various teams across Riot try to minimize issues caused by smurfing. For example, one of the teams that works on meta-game systems developed pretty good detection methods that quickly separate new players from experienced smurf accounts in the early levels. Within a few matches, smurf accounts only end up playing against other smurf accounts.

Since we are having more and more champions, are we thinking to redesign the amount of bans in champ select?

We don’t think the number of bans needs to scale linearly with the number of champions. If you take that to an absurd conclusion, we might end up with so many bans that champion select gets really bogged down.

If we increased bans, it would be because we thought we could promote team diversity or produce some more interesting comps. Player agency is an important part of the "how many bans?" discussion. Too few bans and you can't deal with frustrating champions. Too many bans, and you might never get to play the champions you want to play.

One idea that we're beating around internally is whether one ban per player (meaning 5 per team or 10 total) makes sense. That increases ban number slightly, but more importantly, it gives everyone a chance to make a choice about who they don't want to see on the opposing team. We have no idea when or if we would make this change - we’re just trying to give you a glimpse into how we are thinking about the issue.

(BONUS ANSWER!) Reading between the lines, there seems to be concern about how many champions LoL can support. There probably is a finite number, but at the rate we release new champions these days, it will be many years before we really have to worry about having too many. - Ghostcrawler

Why don’t we get a winter-themed Summoner’s Rift skin for Snowdown anymore?

One of the outcomes of the Summoner’s Rift Update was a need to completely rehaul how we would reskin the map. When updating Summoner's Rift, we wanted to deliver a unique, timeless art style that remains relatable years after its creation. We also wanted to do all of this while increasing the visual quality, gameplay clarity and thematic cohesion AND while still running the same or better on our min spec. This was quite a challenge and required developing Summoner's Rift in a totally unique way. We took the talents available on our team and decided to take a hand-painted approach. This means every pixel on the map is unique, no shared textures, no programmatic lighting, no tiling. We achieved stylistic lighting and gorgeous textures, without the performance cost, in a way that won't degrade over time as technology improves. We essentially created a giant painting and overlayed that on the rift.

So what does this mean for a winter-themed map? The con of our approach to building SR is that making any changes or modifications to it requires significant work. It's like trying add snow to a summer landscape painting – it's impossible – you have to repaint the whole thing from scratch. These changes also mean we have to repatch data over multiple patch cycles, causing pain for those of you who have data caps and extra costs, which add another layer of complications with changes to the new map. I’m sure some of you have seen the winter-themed custom map skins made by some players and have asked, if they can do it, why can’t Riot? Most of these maps are made by running a programmatic filter across all of the textures and simply put, we want players to feel like the map is of the highest quality. It would be like slapping some snow on top of Orianna and calling her Winter Wonder Orianna. That may have been fine 5 years ago, but nowadays we consider the things I mentioned above; gameplay clarity, thematic cohesion, and visual quality, which means it’s not a simple undertaking.

Does that mean we'll never have a winter-themed skin? No, not at all, just that we have to invest in updating the rendering technology on LoL before we can deliver features like Map Skins without risking game stability. It's a lot of work and needs to be prioritized against the other opportunities we have, such as Rotating Game Modes that offer alternative game modes not just changes to the map, but doing that will allow us to create a sustainable pipeline to deliver content like winter SR and more ;) – Riot JxE

Here are a few links that touch on our approach to the Update to Summoner's Rift if you want more info:

3 years ago

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