Riot Risks Stifling Creativity In League By Banning Players With Unconventional Strategies

Riot Risks Stifling Creativity In League By Banning Players With Unconventional Strategies

Last week, a player who goes by “Take the Draw” in League of Legends was handed a 14-day ban. The punishment wasn’t because of the champion they played, but the way they were playing it — and now, Riot risks setting a precedent for how you have to play the game.

At the start of a normal match of League of Legends, each of the five players on both teams choose a champion to play, working together to choose a team that can win. Some characters are only effective in a single defined role, while others are more flexible. The difference is often denoted by putting a role-prefix on the champion’s name; for example, saying “support Trundle” indicates that the player is going to play Trundle as a support role, rather than to the solo lane in top or into the jungle.

Playing support Nunu isn’t unique in League of Legends, though he’s been much more frequently played as a strong counter-jungler. His ability to consume jungle creeps — the neutral monsters that spawn in the woods between the lanes that divide the map — makes him quite effective at stealing monsters from the enemy’s side of the map, denying them precious gold, experience, and additional bonuses for killing camps.

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“Draw” plays this kind of Nunu, but in the support role. In matches of League, the goal of the support is simple: bide time and protect your team’s marksman, who will eventually be powerful enough to destroy the opponent’s entire team, but needs resources to get there. “Draw” does not sit bottom lane with their carry like most supports, but instead abandons them to steal enemy jungle camps, often leaving the weak marksman in a two-versus-one situation.

It is generally considered poor teamwork to leave your weak marksman alone, especially since many common marksmen champions struggle in two-versus-one situations, but “Draw’s” results speak for themselves. They frequently secures high numbers of objectives for the team and keep the enemy jungle from interfering in lanes, putting “Draw’s” team behind in one lane to surge ahead in another.

When “Draw” confronted Riot support about the ban, Riot told them it was for “stealing other people’s roles” and “failing to communicate.” In the days since, the community has petitioned for more answers, and Riot’s player support lead WookieeCookie went into detail in a follow-up post.

Q: Can I get banned for choosing a champion or strategy that is outside the current meta?

A: 100% no. Choosing a champion or strategy outside of the current meta is not a factor we take into account when reviewing accounts. On any given day tens of thousands of players are making unusual picks in the game and they will never receive penalties in any form.

Q: So why does this issue keep coming up? What makes it different?

A: Riot Gromp said it best in the previous post when they stated: “…common sense and good sportsmanship say that experimenting players need to clearly communicate intent and win conditions to their teammates.” League of Legends is a team game and sometimes the biggest challenge can be coordinating with 4 other strangers who share a common goal; victory. If a player is going to rewrite the rules for the rest of their team then there is more pressure to properly communicate to everyone what they want the plan to be, and what they think everyone should do to achieve it.

The previous post referenced was about a player who was banned for playing support Singed. In a similar manner to “Draw,” a high-ranking player was taking Smite on Singed and counter-jungling, often leaving their lane alone for a good period of time.

League of Legends is a team game, and while all players want to win, they also want to have fun, too. Unlike a fighting game, where you can pick a low-tier character, lose, and the only person it affects is yourself, in League a bad pick or bad play can ruin the game for four others. Yet “Draw” executed their pick and strategy with the intention of winning, not to screw over their teammates, and to push a unique strategy that garners results.

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According to WookieeCookie, while “Draw” had a respectable win rate of 53 per cent on support Nunu, they were also reported in nearly 50 per cent of their games for being frustrating and “unfun,” including reports that came from teammates after winning a game. WookieeCookie goes on to explain Riot’s issue further:

But wait! Communication doesn’t stop after you press the Enter button on your keyboard; and that’s where we saw a problem in this particular case. All of us need to be aware of the difference of communicating “with” someone vs. communicating “at” someone. Telling your team what you’re going to do and then ignoring them isn’t really working with them it’s holding them hostage. Telling your team what you want to do and actually working towards a common plan is a central part to playing any team based game.

In the days since, Wookiee took to the League subreddit to note that the team has lifted the remaining portion of Draw’s ban, and will be working to clarify the rules in the future.

“It’s probably not a surprise, but the details are hotly debated here at Riot too, and we think the discussion around gameplay agency and teammate pain is important,” wrote Wookiee. “It’s not great to be penalising people when the rules (hi ancient knowledge base article) aren’t all that clear, so Monday night, Player Support lifted the remaining portion of the ban. A bunch of us are meeting early next week to get our shit together, and we’ll be talking to you about it sooner rather than later.” 

Certain conventions, heuristics, and ideas of optimal play have sprung up around League of Legends, like they do in all games. How “Draw” is playing is antithetical to what the vast majority of League players think of as proper, and they don’t like it, despite its limited success. But new players with new ideas is also how competition evolves in any game. Communication is important for both a good and fun match, but prioritising everybody having a good time also means stifling those poking around at the game’s edge.


  • Considering how Riot continues to treat LoL, apart from it being ‘easy mode DOTA’, I have no idea why you would continue to play it.

    • Because its also a much better game for casual audiences to watch. League is the Iphone of video games; everyone hangs shit on it, but in reality it does what it set out to do very well.

      It brought esport PvP to the casual audience, which in turn has helped grow the esports scene in the west.

      Its a cancer game, but we should still recognised it for the good it has done for the industry.

  • This seems pretty much the same story as the Overwatch Widowmaker one. Someone tries to do something different but is criticised and reported by other players because it’s not the exact same cookie cutter way everyone else plays. Never mind if it’s successful, it’s different and different is uncomfortable to some people.

    I think Riot overstepped their bounds, I don’t think this is something players should be banned for and even though they’re their rules to write, I don’t think Riot should be creating rules (or considering creating rules) around this type of thing in the first place.

    • I thinks its something like overspill from their attempts to curb toxic behavior from people playing the game. They’ve gotten too used to banning or suspending one person for making another unhappy and they’re starting to go overboard on anything that seems similar. Curbing toxic players is a good thing they should be doing but going fully nanny like this is a problem in itself.

    • Difference there being overwatch can change heroes on the fly in match, not in lol/dota. Lol and dota has more varying degree of difference with what you can do in a match.

      Builds and strategy have a multitude of out comes in these games. Overwatch, you cant shove a sniper on a heavy tank line up and think that it can work, like items in dota got to change on the line up like heroes in over watch.

      Similar, but vastly different.

  • The problem with saying “everyone should only play according to what is currently best practice” is that “current best practice” might only be a local maxima. It might be better than all the similar strategies, but how do you know there isn’t something better further away? If you penalise people for exploring, then you’ll never know.

  • Wait, people can get banned in LoL just for playing in a way their teammates don’t like and not explaining why? That’s ludicrous.

    I get that this is frustrating in team-oriented games for more competitive-minded players but requiring communication as a game rule is just dumb. Let players who don’t communicate sit in the low-tiers where they belong (they’re probably more just playing for the fun of it anyway – you know, fun, that thing games are supposed to be?), and if somebody gets a good win-rate without communicating and rises the ranks anyway, their teammates should take the win and move on, not report the one dude who wasn’t talking much and played a weird character or whatever. That’s crazy, and that such a person could actually be banned for that behaviour is even more crazy.

    • Yeah but the game is full carebear mode where people’s feelings must be protected at all times.

  • What do you expect with a game that basically has one map? There isn’t room for innovation in gameplay.

    I’ll be over here being a filthy casual playing HoTS where I can enjoy playing the game how I want on maps that require completely different play styles.

    • The thing is it isn’t even a “one map” problem as Dota also has the single map but still has people coming up with new strats frequently.

      • Yep. As another example, chess has been going pretty well for a number of years with only one map.

  • You see this is why i dont play this game. When i play a game i want to play how i want. I tried playing LoL once and was screamed at for doing anything other than what they said. Such a welcoming community.

    • Well most online games that are team based require you to fill a role.

      Doing your own thing when you may not know the basics or have a decent understanding of how things work, its probably best to follow some one who may know better. Once you have better knowledge you can then make educated calls.

      Me and some friends play dota, and there is a definite difference in play between the guys who had more structure when relearning the game, than the friend who buys brown boots and no regen and does his own thing.

      Not saying that any raging is acceptible when someone is not liking your decisions, just a perspective.

      • Doing your own thing when you may not know the basics or have a decent understanding of how things work, its probably best to follow some one who may know better.

        I don’t play LoL, so forgive me if I’m ignorant of how matchmaking works in that game.. but supposing that brand new players like djbear get matched with similar ranked players (ie, newbs), is there any justification for said newbs to be toxic to djbear when in all likelyhood the reason they are getting matched with newbs is because they DON’T know how to play?

        ie – take everything they’re telling you with a grain of salt, they may just be regurgitating things they read somewhere without understanding why you might do something a different way etc.

        It’s common to a lot of online games that have “meta’s” – meta or gtfo is how the “masses” work, but at the top ranks/tiers the players would be constantly figuring out new strats by going “off meta” in order to defeat “old meta” opponents and win consistently.

      • I know the basics of LoL, I spent years playing the original Warcraft 3 DOTA. I was playing properly. But i wasnt playing how they wanted to. So they sooked. I wasnt playing competetive or anything. Just against bots with human teammates.

        There is a difference between offering advice and helping the player and “STFU NOOB, UNINSTALL AND KYS” just because i went mid and the other guy said he was going mid.

        The second part is what i experienced in LoL.

  • If you don’t want people playing outside the box, then make it less lucrative to do so – whether it be providing incentives for team actions or allowing players to indicate others they don’t want to encounter again.
    This is just a weak willed but heavy handed approach to the problem.

  • While I don’t ne neccessarily agrre with the notion, my guess is that these players are drawing a lot of reports from their team mates. So while this strategy may work sometimes, when it doesen’t their team will complain. As Terry Pratchett said, people are free to do what they want, but they are also free to suffer the consequences.

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