Champion select has long been League of Legends version of the wild west. Few rules, numerous standoffs and the fastest hand on the keyboard wins their role. Though it might not seem like a huge change, I am very happy with Riot’s decision to officially endorse pick order over call order.
For those of you who do not play League of Legends, or draft pick games in LoL, let me explain how champ select works. The players at the top of the picking order (determined randomly by matchmaking) on each team take turns banning three champs. After that, one of the top picking players selects their champ. Then, the top two players on the other team pick. The ability to pick then alternates back and forth between the teams until everyone has a champ. This process may seem pretty straight forward, but the time to make each pick is fairly limited, and there can be lots of politics involved.
LoL has evolved in such a way that playing the meta is basically crucial to success. This can be challenging when you only have between 30 and 180 seconds (basically the time it takes to make the initial champ bans) to determine who gets to fill which of the five roles available. Some people post several roles they would like to fill. Others don’t even bother to talk; they just leave everyone hanging until it is there turn to pick. Basically, there is a lot of room for frustration and very little time to work out the type of game plan that LoL actually requires for a team to be successful.
One habit that developed was that people would call the roll that they wanted to play. This was likely a natural evolution from the blind pick version of the game, where everyone picks a champion at the same time and whoever picks it first gets it. This call out system is useful for actually encouraging people to indicate what they want. Where it fails is when two people call the same roll, call it at roughly the same time or one person calls the roll and another person picks it anyways. The arguments that would develop out of these disputes would often be enough to splinter teams and ruin the game before it had even started. Think of it like a baseball game where everyone really wants to be the pitcher. There can only be one pitcher, and when the majority of the community are under the age of 20, you can imagine how willing the other players are to continue to try their best when they feel like they were robbed of their position.
“But 2hp, if call order is the done thing, why don’t people just respect it and move on?” Ah, but here’s the thing; not everyone believed that call order was the thing to be followed. Other people were beginning to advocate pick order. Basically, this is where if you pick before someone in the order you can pick a certain position even if that person called it. This created a GREAT dynamic where one person would call their position, another person would say, “I pick before you and I’m going there anyways,” and then you would spend the rest of champ select arguing over one position. Having two different rules on who gets what position was clearly not helping the already delicate process of building a team.
There are a lot of problems in LoL that are, and will be, very tricky to solve. The problem of call order versus pick order has always been something with a very easy solution. With two competing rules emerging, it would be a huge step for Riot to actually state which of the rules they favored. Say what you will about the maturity of the LoL community but I have seen them fight to the death to defend those aforementioned rules. Take one away and hopefully it would encourage people to rally behind the remaining rule.
What guarantee is there that people will actually follow Riot’s endorsement? Personally, I think that most LoL’ers recognize that the rules will eventually benefit them. They know that someday they will want to first pick a champion so they will defend someone else’s right to do the same thing. If you still don’t believe me look at everyone’s adherence to the meta. Just try doing something out of the usual and you will quickly see how many people will tell you off for challenging that unwritten rule that the game most be played the way it has been played for the past year. My point is that players in LoL do follow some rules, written and unwritten, because they believe that doing so will get them that all important win.
If we run with the idea that LoL players are actually capable of willingly following rules that just leaves us with one play to make. Eliminate one of the undesirable rules governing champ select and you should be able to minimize some of the conflict that occurs there. Riot went with pick order and I support their reasons for doing so. You can read them here but, basically, they favored it because pick order happens naturally, it is already randomized, it doesn’t favor players with better internet connections, everyone gets a turn at first picking and it takes away the quick draw nature of having to call your role before someone else does. A rule needed to be endorsed, and pick order was the one that made the most sense.
This does not mean that there won’t be problems with this new endorsement. It will likely take a while for the news to spread around, and even then, you can bet that there will be people stubbornly sticking to their “but I called it,” logic. What an endorsement of pick order risks doing is making those individuals who will only play a certain position feel even more cornered than they already were. Unable to call the position they want, and with the rules now against them, we will probably see a reemergence of the, “I’m going to (this position) or I’ll screw you all over,” types of players. These players always existed, but they were able to hide their unwillingness to work with their teams behind the guise of “called it.”
The other potential problems are that Riot isn’t officially mandating pick order; they are simply endorsing it. Also, chat records from champ select are not sent to the Tribunal so there is actually no real way of holding someone accountable for being a jerk in champ select. I’m not as concerned with the endorse versus mandate issue. The meta isn’t enforced, and it is followed like gospel. What more concerns me is the fact that the lack of accountability in champ select could totally undermine the conflict resolution potential of this change. Even if my whole team is telling me I can’t go mid, because someone else first picked it, I might do it anyways if I realize there is really nothing recording the fact that I am creating a huge fight within my team.
On the whole, I am very happy happy that Riot made this change. It is clear that the LoL community is capable of following some rules, and this one was definitely needed. Champ select will remain one of the most volatile parts of this game, but I am thoroughly convinced that the endorsement of pick order over call order should help to take away one of the major points of champ select contention.
In a perfect world, this change should let teams focus more on figuring out what champs to take and how to use them together effectively. I doubt it will do all of that, but if it does encourage my teammates to defend my first picking a position I actually want to play, I will consider it a definite improvement. Let me know if you find more people rallying behind pick order, or if you remain frustrated by those who do not.