Team Builder: Dungeon Finder for MOBAs

Back when I played Everquest II religiously and its population was still thriving (we’re talking Echoes of Faydwer days here) I had enough trouble finding groups on my main character, and this was all done through channel chat. When I was leveling an alt, if I didn’t have that alt in a guild, he was soloing til end-game. This was also the case in most other MMOs when the majority of the population was at the end game — newbies had no one to play with. World of Warcraft tried to tackle this issue by allowing cross-server dungeon runs, powered by an interface called the “Dungeon Finder.”

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the term, and all that it entails. If you aren’t, the long and short of it is that you could queue up for a dungeon that you wanted to run, and the program would search for other players across all servers who also wanted to run through the same instance. This eliminated issues caused by low server populations and also cut down on spam in your chat box. Sounds like a win-win right? Well people complained that it stripped away the social aspects of finding groups through chat, and that it further skewed the disparity between people who play DPS classes and non-DPS classes. Other people enjoyed being able to do what they wanted and being able to instantly transport to a dungeon; appearing where they left off as soon as the instance was cleared. I personally found it to be a pretty cool feature when I spent 2-3 months in WoW, but I was never that invested in the game, and was actually enjoying myself solo. So I’m probably a minority there.

I’m also one of the few bloggers that doesn’t really talk about MMOs that much anymore, so my opinion on Dungeon Finder is pretty irrelevant, but the correlation between Blizzard’s Dungeon Finder and Riot’s Team Builder can’t be denied. Apparently I missed the original announcement on the forums for the new feature — that announcement and some discussion occurred a few weeks ago. It was brought to my attention once the official site announced a Reddit AMA about Team Builder that is going down tomorrow (November 7th). More information will be discussed there, but I want to discuss what we already know.

Lyte here, and in this post I’m excited to talk with you about Team Builder, a new feature coming to PBE in the near future where you can queue up for a specific role, champion and position and get connected with four teammates that also preselected their preferred role. The goal is to build a balanced team where everyone’s in agreement on where they’re going and what they’re playing, and in doing so help lay the foundation for good teamwork.

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A teaser screen for Team Builder

This alone is an amazing idea. Being able to queue up for a specific role ensures that players are bringing their A-game, or at least playing one of their preferred roles. Personally, I can play all roles effectively, but I am superior when playing top, adc or support. Being able to queue for these roles specifically is much better than getting into the matchmaking lobby, trying to call what you’re going to play, being beaten to the punch and forced to play another role, and sometimes being flamed because you failed at that role. I’ve lost more games due to people fighting in champ select than I can count. Team in-fighting loses games, regardless of the opposing team’s skill.

An ideal champ select is one where all five players get their preferred role and feel like they’re all on the same page for the upcoming match. The current matchmaking does a good job of matching up players of similar overall skill levels, but doesn’t have any way to know what a player’s intentions for a given game are. Sometimes things work out perfectly and everyone gets the champion and role they wanted without a hitch. But if multiple players are looking to play the same role or lane, a consensus has to be built in a relatively short period of time. That’s time that could be used to get to know each other, agree on a strategy and build confidence that it’s going to be a fun match.

Team Builder is intended to bring players together that complement each other’s expectations and intentions from the moment they enter the lobby. When everyone’s aligned on who will be going where and playing what, the only thing left to figure out is how to dominate the opposition.

The complaint that this will increase queue wait times because “everyone will want to play ADC or Mid” is similar to the complaints of everyone playing DPS and no one playing Healers in WoW. The complaint that this is “enforcing the meta” is valid to a degree, but there has already been commentary on the thread by Rioters that there are safeties built into the system.

1) Won’t this enforce the meta?
a) Here’s an example of a crazy meta that was tried earlier in the day. Team Builder is all about introducing a new, cooperative Champion Select where players can agree to a strategy and team vision before entering a match. Players in Team Builder will be able to outline a strategy they are interested in playing, and the system will find teammates that share that vision. Feel like playing a double jungler strategy or want to send 5 players down the mid-lane? No problem. It might take longer to find 4 other players willing to try a crazy strategy but when you do, you’ll know the entire team is bought in and you’re going to have fun.

3) Will I have long queue times if I want to play a popular role?
a) In our research, we were surprised that role preferences were pretty diverse. When we surveyed players and asked what their preferred role was, about 15% of players preferred playing Support, 14% of players preferred playing Jungle, and 5% of players were willing to fill any role.

There will be more information thrown around during the AMA, and if this is already on the PBE then it will be making it’s way to the live servers probably during the preseason. This is supposed to be its own matchmaking but there was talk that part or all of the system could be implemented in other queues. More on this as it develops.