League of Legends players have claimed the ranked climb has become harder than usual in Season 10, and now Riot Games devs have responded, confirming they’ve made the time to progress “a lot longer,” and explained why.
For the past few seasons, something in LoL’s ranked ladder has changed. The system often becomes misaligned from a player’s hidden MMR, revealed on stats pages like OP.GG, and players are struggling to climb despite hefty win-streaks.
After one player called out Riot for their “changed” system following a 36–0 win-streak only landing them in Platinum, the devs confirmed they had tweaked the way solo queue worked in Season 10 to make the climb “a lot longer.”
Riot slows down ranked progress to punish smurfing
According to the devs, this extended ladder climb is “completely intentional,” and has been implemented to combat the ever-increasing amount of smurfs—high ranked players creating lower-level accounts—in solo queue.
Riot fears these top-level players, that really belong in ranks like Challenger, Diamond, or Plat, will join the lobbies of Bronze and Silver players, single-handedly deciding matches, and drive newer LoL gamers away from the MOBA for good.
“The climb takes a lot longer now. This is intentional. We really don’t want players creating alt accounts just to blow through the climb,” Riot said. “We encourage players to stay on their mains. Smurfing ruins the experience for others.”
The climb takes a lot longer now. This is intentional. We really don't want players creating alt accounts just to blow through the climb. We encourage players to stay on their mains. Smurfing ruins the game experience for others. ~Yadon
— Riot Games Support (@RiotSupport) February 17, 2020
Riot goes the opposite direction to Valve
Funnily enough, Riot’s Season 10 response to smurfing, and the much-maligned extended ranked climb, is in direct opposition of how MOBA rivals Valve combats the same issue in their own competitive title, Dota 2.
According to Valve, there isn’t a major issue with smurfing itself. Instead, they believe smurfs should just be “accelerated” to their proper role as quickly as possible, removing the reason people create low-level accounts in the first place.
Valve’s plan boils down to awarding more points than usual to Dota players who are “clearly overperforming.” While this may not always scoop up smurfs, and may give actual grinders a small boost, there’s no great crime in that.
“The system searches for players that frequently perform significantly above their current skill bracket, and applies an MMR increase until they’ve reached a bracket where they’re no longer over-performing,” Valve explained in a dev blog post.
So what’s the better system to combat smurfs?
Well, on a surface level it seems like Valve may have been the ones who got it right—Dota players have been reporting fewer smurfs in competitive queues, while League players have taken to social media in droves to complain about their slow progress.
That doesn’t necessarily mean either system is inherently incorrect, however. Dota’s solution is designed to not necessarily encourage smurfing, but just get rid of them quickly. Riot’s, on the other hand, is built to stop it altogether.
At the end of the day, there’s no real way of determining the best way to stop smurfs. The best players are always going to get frustrated at their own level, and want to ‘relax’ by stomping lower-level games.
For now, it looks like Riot is trying to get them to stop of their own volition. If that fails, maybe more drastic methods are implemented by the devs, but for now, League players everywhere get a slower grind because of smurfs.