That MOBA communities are one of the most brutal in gaming hardly needs saying. Common belief dictates that newcomers are unwelcome, and whether or not the name calling and general jerkitude are as rampant as reports would lead us to believe, they are an issue. No one is more aware of this than Riot themselves.
So what's the company doing in response to all this bad stereotyping? They find ways of changing how the community behaves, a seemingly impossible endeavor helmed by Riot's Lead Designer of Social Systems, Jeffrey "Lyte" Lin.
At E3, we sat down with Lyte to discuss League of Legends' past, present, and future in the pursuit of a better community. Riot has certainly learned a lot over the years by trial and error, and while Jeff knows they've still got a lot of work ahead, League's current systems are really making a difference.
Evolution of the Tribunal
With a community as huge as the one in League, why not let the players police themselves? The Tribunal works by this principle, and it works remarkably well. One of the earliest and most successful tools implemented by Riot, this system basically allows every League player to judge their peers. Each participant is allowed to judge 20 cases a day (formerly in exchange for a modest sum of IP). Each case has a good amount of evidence attached, too.
According to Jeff, 70% of reported players who wind up in the Tribunal never return, which is a huge improvement over the 50% from a few years back. That's a rough 300,000-player difference, right there.
Another major improvement to the system is how forthcoming it is now. Previously, Jeff notes, Riot was rather clandestine about all this Tribunal business -- how it all worked, your participation history, and so on.
In order to keep participants coming back, Riot recently added more feedback programs. In the past, no one really knew what became of the cases they judged, except the occasional email informing you that a random case has been resolved. Now, you can actually check your judging history through the Justice Review panel, where you can see your judging accuracy, which cases resulted in bans or never panned out, etc. It's very similar to looking at someone's Ranked progress, only based on your Tribunal judgements.
Honor, Not Punishment
One of the most important lessons Riot picked up over the years, Jeff says, is that punishment isn't the best route. No, better to teach the community how to behave, and punishment isn't the best teaching method. So the company began considering alternatives. Instead of punishments and flat out bans, they turned to restrictions and positive reinforcement. Bans became more temporary, and even when they were allowed back into League, guilty parties found themselves restricted in-game; try having a chat limit that only allows one message per however many minutes. In a game where communication is key, this is a rather hefty sentence -- yet a very fair one.
Interestingly, this new feature has been so popular since its inception that players are actually contacting Riot asking to opt in. Yes, people are actually asking to have restricted chat privileges, namely because players who've experienced this feature have been attesting to its usefulness. Despite this surge of interest, Riot isn't rushing to fulfill these requests yet.
What's the harm in that, you wonder? Well, as Jeff explained, letting players take advantage of a system that's meant as a punishment would be considered an abuse of its own, and Riot doesn't want this learning tool to be used as a crutch. That, he says, teaches the player absolutely nothing, and may even go as far as enabling bad behavior.
On the flip side, Riot has their new and wildly successful Honor system. For new players, that'd be the colorful ribbon decorating the corner of player icons and portraits. Did you appreciate the tips someone was offering during a previous game? Were they exceptionally nice? Then give them a thumbs up. These ribbons are, by no means, easy to acquire, especially with a limit on how many times you can give Honor at a time.
Riot is rewarding the gentlemanly/lady-like crowd in other ways, too. Last year, for instance, players on notably good behavior got a free avatar. When I asked whether this would become a regular thing, Jeff suggested that it would be. The hard part for Riot now is trying to figure out what rewards to give out each year. It's really meant to be a surprise, too, so the jerks out there don't try taking advantage in hopes of acquiring a specific reward.
To non-Summoners, League of Legends may still seem like a daunting and unwelcoming place, but the community has changed since the game first launched. Progress is slow, but Riot seems to have a handle on things now. And if they don't, then they're learning pretty quickly. Maybe someday down the road, we won't need chat restrictions and temp-bans anymore.
Many thanks to Riot Entertainment and Jeffrey "Lyte" Lin for this little retrospective -- and all their hard work building a better community.
Follow Lydia on Twitter @RabidChinaGirl or check out her news, reviews and features every day here on Neoseeker.