[Essay] Snowballing - Why DotA had it right and LoL is still learning
Once again I am making another thread about the snowballing effects in LoL. This time around I'll be more concrete. I want to list the top 4 reasons LoL snowballs more than DotA and discuss them thouroughly with you guys.
For the unbeknown, this is the snowball effect.
Things have IMO changed for the good since the change to dragon and lizards spawn time so that you no longer have to tailor your team for lvl 1 teamfights, but much more work is needed. Let me start off by saying why I accept that in this genre of game has to be a certain amount of snowballing, but that the current amount is too much. And also, that DotA does it better.
Let me put out a simple statistic thesis: How many games do you manage to make a comeback in, where you are behind 7-0 within the first 10 minutes? A very likely guess would be around 15-25% of the time, do you actually manage to turn things around at this point.
Second question: How many kills does a game usually end with(both teams combined)? It differs alot, but generally an average of 40-50.
So asuming that my numbers are correct, we can conclude that over 75% of the games are won within less than 20% of the total amount of kills (to one side exclusively, that is). It's not perfect math by any rate, but even given some leeway it's perfectly clear to me that something is amiss.
Now I would like someone to explain to me the fairness of less than a quarter of the kills in a game, determine the outcome of more than three-quarter of all games? Because I don't see it.
4 reasons LoL snowballs too much.
1. The laning stage
The laning stage is Alpha Omega to your success as a team. Getting a kill without dying ramps you up the foodchain excessively fast. Getting an early double kill in a lane, followed by a tower can sometimes determine a game. This is because of the way that LoL works when giving bounty for kills.
For example, getting a double kill can net you that Sheen or Catalyst + Boots + 1-2 levels ahead right off the bat, allowing you to dominate your lane even further(despite the fact that you and your partner BARELY made it, the difference between success and failure is huge)
Also, kills early are worth more than kills later on due to the difference in power you get from items at a low level, when you don't really have any items to begin with. For example, being naked level 5 buying a Sheen and Boots is just so much more valuable than being level 13 having a Mejai and Banshee already that goes to buy Sheen+Boots.
For the level 5, the difference is dramatic, whilst for the level 13 it's just a slight improvement - Yet the amount of kills it take to acquire this gold are the same.
When you die to another hero, you:
Now this particular effect is not unique to LoL at all, DotA has it too. So while being the #1 factor in snowballing, it is actually one of the smallest differences compared to DotA. Atleast in DotA you don't transfer your Haste/Double damage, and you can get back into the action right away with a TP scroll. You don't really lose gold either since you buy small items like Bracer/Wraithband/Nulls from the lane as soon as you can afford it.
2. Gold distribution
In my opinion, DotA have way better comeback mechanics than LoL does. For example, in DotA, if your team was behind it wasn't nessesarily over as long as your carry could farm a lane by power-denying his own creeps at 50% HP while only lasthitting, he could keep the lane almost in place, thus farming in peace until interrupted by the enemy (but the river was warded, ofcourse) On top of that, creeps yielded double the amount of gold as they do in LoL. Alternatively, your carry could 'weather the storm' simply by being inherintly stronger lategame than casters.
In LoL, killing heroes is the supreme factor in getting rich. Theres no argueing that. Gold from creeps is half that from DotA while the gold for hero kills are fairly even. The map is also smaller, there is no denying so staying too long in a lane puts you at risk, while they rewards are questionable.
Experience tells us that 5-man roaming is very popular due to the size of the map not really making it worth to split up, nor is it worth farming creeps. Let us also not forget that when you're dominating a team, you also dominate their neutrals and the dragon again adding to the gap.
So we can conclude that the (absolute) best way to get rich is from heroes, that it is best to stay in groups of 5 and that gold from creeps is scarse. Now let's asume that your team is behind, do you see the problem here? The best way to make a comeback is to gank since creepgold is fail, but you can't gank a group of 5. Thus you have to beat them, but being behind already, the odds are against you.
An extension from #2. If only the map was larger, and farming creeps was a viable alternative this wouldn't be such a big issue. Because of the map size, most fights are either 2v2/1v1 (laning stage) or 5v5 (ganksquad stage). In DotA, we saw many more smaller skirmishes like 3v3 and 4v5 where, if you were behind in, you could overpower the enemy in sheer numbers taking control back. This rarely happens in LoL, it's mostly laningstage-->groupstage with little or no in between.
While the mapsize allows for more ganks, it actually also allows for less successful ganks. This is because of how close the towers are to the hero, and how easy it is to seek refuge behind them, especially if they are running Flash (which is blatantly overpowered). You can't counter a Flash with a Flash since it puts you into firing range of the tower.
So while you need the gank to make a comeback (for example against a 4-0 tristana) You try to gank her with 3 ppl (risking losing a lane) only for your efforts to be futile as she can flash+jump across half the lane, and you can't pursue her. Tough luck.
4: Snowball items
I'm not a fan of snowball items - never was.
Initially, they were introduced into LoL with the intention of allowing good players to 'carry' their team by getting kills and assists without dying too much. It was often a concern that individual skill was not rewarded enough.
While i think that the notion for introducing these items were justified, I feel that they did more harm than not. These items serve to reward a winning TEAM rather than the losing one with a good player. You see, often in high ELO if you're doing good, it probably means that you team is doing good.
The obvious answer is ofcourse to focus on the hero who has gotten fed, but the question is how exactly do you focus annie with a catalyst and 15 charges on her mejai? You literally have to kite her to waste her stunbear, force her to blow it on a tank(and somehow have them survive) or make an all-in, bring her down and lose half your team in the process. Possible? Yes. Likely? No, not really.
So while I definitely feel that we should reward individual skill, I feel like we're doing it the wrong way and instead creating an even bigger gap between the losers and the winners. There must be other ways.
Snowball items could either grow in time (like rod of ages) rather than kills/assists - or instead of creating a permanent gap, create a tempoary effect that gives an advantage to good players once they start racking up kills in a fight, but without you forcing everything you have to bring them to justice.
This thread discusses this further
In my opinion, too much of the outcome of the game is determined too early, and the comeback mechanics are too weak. Please understand that I don't want LoL to become DotA. I'm tired of DotA, and not to mention it has alot of flaws on it's own. But I do want to improve the MOBA genre as a whole, and take LoL to a more fair and competitive environment.
Well, that's about all for me this time around. Let's begin the debate.
Our philosophy on this issue is that individual snowballing is good, and team snowballing is bad. Right now, team snowballing occurs too much -- one super carry twitch is a lot easier to handle than 5 guys who are 3 levels higher than each of you.
We are going to make some experience table tweaks to reduce team snowballing without hurting individual snowballing much. We are also going to make a new 3 lane map that is larger, has less cross-map connectivity (so that there is higher cost to 5 man roam, and less shutdown of the farming/laning phase via the first tower being down), etc.
We probably will nerf flash.
We wont be nerfing snowball items. Emotional highs from the game you super carried make this genre sticky. We removed it too much in the beta, and it cost us. Sorry, but being super carry annie or super carry corki once in a while gets a player through the 8 defeat in a row streak they hit the next day.
I'm on the fence about early gold for kills. It's been something we have been talking about, for the reason you cite. OF course, an early kill is also harder than a late kill.
I feel that Dota snowballs much worse than LoL for the simple reason that when you die in HoN you lose gold.
Just about all your points are jsut as valid for dota too. If a melee carry gets a good first blood/double kill early game, it can spell certain doom.
Not only does killing an Opponent in HoN give you gold, you're taking away the opponent's ability to keep up at all with items.
So say you kill someone in Dota, you gain 280g, they lose 200g. The net worth of that exchange is essentially 580 gold for one kill. And now you gain about a minute and a half of farm, and he just lost a minute of farm.
Fix Leviathan IMO.
It's better used on Annie/Fiddlesticks than any tank.
Useless between stacks 11-19 and practically impossible to fill on a tank is silly.
Great post that covers a lot of the issues that have been bothering me.
Is flash really getting another nerf? I facepalm when I see 10 flash games. It's not worth it on every hero. Just because everybody uses it as their security blanket 'oh im noob i didn't realize i was killable hit flash!" instead of a gank tool doesn't mean it needs more nerf :(.
Also thanks for being the first to reply :)
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