It's been a very long time coming, but Riot Games is finally turning one of the most frequently requested matchmaking features from an idea into a reality. Huzzah!
Team Builder has long been one of those things in League of Legends that's great in theory, but not always in practice. The basic idea of it is: instead of hopping into a pre-game chat box with the four other players on your prospective team and calling out your preferred position for the oncoming game, you could select your ideal choice (or choices) before jumping into one of League's pre-game chatrooms.
That might sound like a glaringly obvious feature to have in a high-stakes team-based competitive multiplayer game like League of Legends, because it is. But it hasn't really been one in League yet, leaving players to jump into prospective games and try to claim a preferred position before a match gets going. There's a great deal of tension in this type of dynamic; two or more people might want to play the same position, and something as rudimentary as saying, "but I called it first!" doesn't work as a response in many cases. And since you can't leave with a) disbanding the entire team and putting everyone back into the matchmaking queue and b) getting penalised by the game, many people wind up feeling trapped in a shitty situation -- which is exactly the kind of thing that leads to in-game toxicity in League of Legends.
There's been a version of Team Builder available in League for a while now, but even Riot admits that it doesn't work very well -- not very many people use it, and some positions are more popular than others, meaning those who do use it have to regularly wait 5-10 minutes (or more) to get into a game. And what many League players really want is a Team Builder option for the game's ultra-competitive ranked mode.
Jeffrey Lin, Riot's lead designer for League's social systems, explained how just such a feature will work when it finally comes into the game in the near-ish future. Writing in an ask.fm post that was later confirmed by other Rioters on the League subreddit, Lin spelled out an 8-step process that sounds refreshingly simple. And flexible:
The new Champ Select flow is now:
1) Players can invite friends into a Lobby.
2) Each player is required to select at least 2 Positions (such as Top/Mid, or Mid/Jungle). On average, Ranked players only play 2.2 positions, so we wanted to start simple with a Pick-2 design, but have some backups like rank-sorting all 5 positions if there are queue time issues. We also have designs to incentivise mastering all positions in the future.
3) There's a new position called "Fill."
4) We're currently asking Duo Queues to cover at least 3 unique positions, to further improve queue times. Duo Queues will still have a higher chance of getting the exact 2 positions they want, but it is not 100% guaranteed.
5) Once you've chosen your positions, we match you into a full team and you enter Champion Select.
6) We've made some changes to how drafting works; however, we'll be talking more about this in a future design blog.
7) During Champ Select, you can still negotiate with your teammates to lane swap or trade champs if you want a more favourable match-up just like Champ Select today.
8) Once drafting is done, your team enters the game.
So basically: keeping the stuff that was good about League's matchmaking already, while introducing an element of preordained choice prior to actually meeting your teammates and planning out the game ahead. I like it.
Now here's hoping it actually works this time!