It's been a few months since Team Builder's Beta launch, and I'd love to spend some time with you to talk about the system. There's a lot to cover, so the TL;DR for those of you who want to get back on the Rift: We've added a slew of new features to Team Builder that improved queue times, match quality and building a team itself. There's also something I think is pretty awesome that I won't spoil up here. You'll have to read until the end for that one.
When we launched the Team Builder Beta, we knew that there'd be a few hiccups; however, we were also at a point where we'd been in development for a while and were eager for player feedback so you could build Team Builder with us.
Let's back up a bit to an earlier part of the story: When we were designing the system, we decided on a goal of "six minutes or less." From when a player hits "Play" and decides to start or join a team in Team Builder, we wanted them to be at the loading screen in six minutes or less. We chose this goal because when we analyzed Normal Blind Pick and Ranked Queues, queue times were only a few minutes or less depending on the server, but it took at least another minute and a half to play through the Champion Select or Drafting phases. So in Normal Blind Pick or Ranked, it already took three to five minutes to get to the loading screen and we assumed a few extra minutes wouldn't feel too slow. We were wrong.
Fast forward to the initial weeks of Team Builder Beta: there were a few issues with queue times and match quality. First, matchmaking in Team Builder wasn't taking into account Summoner Levels, so we had quite a few matches where Level 20-29s were thrown into matches with Level 30s. Second, although the average (and median) queue times were five and six minutes, players that were high or low MMR had pretty severe issues trying to start or find a team in Team Builder. Sometimes, it would take these players upwards of 20+ minutes just to find a match. Some players might think high MMR is Challenger, but in fact, even Gold-level players were having difficulties with the system. These experiences were unacceptable by our standards, and we quickly realized in the data that the problem was the matchmaking system.
But we were also facing some pretty heavy psychological challenges, and I want to walk through what those were. Throughout the Team Builder Beta, we sent out surveys to try to quantify a player's experiences with the system. One question repeatedly came up for us: why did players rate the Team Builder experience as "slow," even when the overall time to get into a game was only one or two minutes slower than Blind Pick?
This cognitive bias is due to something we call passive waiting versus active waiting. In Blind Pick, players can often instalock and then AFK to browse a website, go to the bathroom or grab a drink. We call this passive waiting. However, in Team Builder, players have to actively wait in the lobby while the team is being formed so that they can accept or decline a player and chat with teammates. Because you are actively attending to Team Builder during the team building period, six minutes in Team Builder seems much longer than six minutes in the Blind Pick flow.
So we had a matchmaking quality issue and a psychological problem to solve, what did we do?
Well, we're still working on the active waiting versus passive waiting issue, but we're happy to say that for many players, queue times in Team Builder are now as fast as Blind Pick, and in some cases faster, because of two changes. First we implemented a feature that shows what roles are in demand by teams, allowing solo players to "fill" when they want. Then we created a completely new, custom matchmaking criteria for Team Builder that dramatically improved the queue times for high and low MMR players. Averages are now three and four minutes, and even players above 1800 MMR have queue times in Team Builder around five minutes.
Along with the queue time matchmaking improvements, we fixed the Team Builder matchmaker to accurately account for Summoner Level and we've tweaked a number of dials to improve match quality--meaning more balanced teams and appropriate challenges for both sides.
We've been experimenting with other features in Team Builder for a while now, and we've added one of them that we think will help make Team Builder even better. With "Suggested Players," you'll see a box in your Team Builder lobby filled with players we believe you'll have a positive experience with. A one-click invite adds them to your team before you start searching for solo players. We'll expand this feature over time, and could possibly go into detail on the algorithms in the future if there's enough interest.
In light of the massive changes to the Team Builder experience, we'd like to re-invite you to give Team Builder a try, and give us your latest feedback. Are you still interested in a Team Builder take on Ranked Modes (perhaps, without selecting a Champion)? What about a Team Builder Co-op Mode to make it easier to bring friends into League? What's Team Builder still missing that would make it better than the Blind Pick experience?
To celebrate the current milestone, we've added six exclusive Summoner Icons (one for each role!) that you can unlock by playing each specific role in Team Builder. You can find out more about this promotion here.
Join us in Team Builder, and show off your favorite role with your new icons!