Going on the information we have so far, The leagues system lacks most of the important features of a skill-based rating system, instead allowing people to constantly increase in rank by simply grinding the game, and will fail to actually represent a player's skill.
To see this let's look at the 'entry fees' for for each rank. At legend it's 1500 crowns, decreasing in steps of 500, to 250 at gold. We can then compare this to the average crown earnings as reported by Jesse: 650 for a poor game, 2500 for a good game and 1500 for an average game. The implication here is that anyone playing 'average' games will be able to climb to legend eventually, as the crown loss for diamond and below will always be less than the average earnings. One could even climb all the way though gold and probably plat by performing below average. While playing well will speed up the process, the need to play well can be overcome by just playing more games.
Okay but surely it will be harder to get an 'average' score at higher ranks, as you will be matched with better and better players, right? Unfortunately, I don't think so. The problem is, the system will never be able to actually work out your skill. It doesn't pay attention to your win rate; it doesn't care about the rank of who you win or lose to - it only knows your crowns. And since crowns can be earned regardless of your performance, the system cannot tell the difference between playing well and playing a lot.
For example, let's take two players in gold. The first, nayV, is a fantastically skilled player. He plays 20 games and wins them all convincingly, earning an average of 3250 crowns. The second is Jaysshan - he's not bad, but needs to work on his movement. He wins a bit under half of his games and earns an average of 1250 crowns. Luckily for him though, it's the school holidays and so he can play 60 games in the same time. Who is the more skilled player here? Who should be ranked higher? Surely nayV, with his 100% win rate, should be ranked above Jaysshan, who is playing below average. You've probably guessed where this is going, but taking into account the 250 crown fee for gold, nayV earns 3000 per match for a total gain of 60000 over his 20 matches. Jaysshan earns 1000 per match and so also manages to earn 60000 after his 60 games. So despite the apparent skill difference, both players are awarded the same rank. Worse, the system will consider them the same skill for the purposes of matchmaking.
Another issue is how skill disparity in matches is handled. This is especially important as, given the game's low population, imbalanced matches are inevitable. Most skill rating systems adjust the amount of rank gained or lost depending on the skill gap: a higher skilled player is expected to beat a lower skilled one and so in that case the change in rank is reduced, and vice versa. But let's see how this plays out in sb's leagues.
A third player, Skunklee, hasn't bothered to play the game much and so is sitting in bronze. One night, there's not many players on and so he gets matched against nayV and his 5 stack of skilled players, ranked in gold and plat. skunk's a bit rusty himself and his team are newer players also in bronze and silver. Predictably, Skunklee's team gets demolished by nayV's. Surely skunk shouldn't be punished for getting a hard match - he was 'supposed' to lose and it only proves he's ranked where he needs to be. Similarly, nayV shouldn't be rewarded for stomping weaker players. What would actually happen, however, is that skunk would earn far less crowns than normal, as he wouldn't be able to do much damage or earn many accolades against the high skilled players. On the other hand, nayV is able to earn extra crowns by earning as many accolades as possible and padding damage on the weaker players. This is the exact opposite of what should happen and further compromises the system's ability to assess skill. It also encourages stomping noobs like this and could incentivise players to play at off hours in order to find unbalanced matches, or to avoid queueing when good players are playing - neither of which is good for a healthy competitive environment.
One final thing I'll mention is exactly how grindy the system seems to be. This video from OSK goes over some estimations of how long it will take to get to certain ranks. He calculated that it would take 300-400 hours to get to legend, even assuming a 100% win rate, i.e. a 'good' game worth 2500 crowns. This worked out to be 3.5-5 hours a day, playing every day from the start, and always winning, to reach legend by the end of the chapter. It really seems that leagues is set up to be a slow grind masquerading as a skill-based ranking system. The ranks are even set up to need more and more points as you go. In this way it might seem like you're slowing down as you reach your skill level - but it's all artificial. A good ranking system should try to get you to your actual rank as fast as possible.
I think the goal of a ranking system should be solely to try and determine players' skill and rank them accordingly. There are plenty of other ways to work on adding progression, either through new systems or existing ones (chapter pass, mage rank, class rank etc.), such that progression doesn't need to be included in the ranked mode.
I understand that a lot of these numbers might be subject to change, but I think it's going to need a lot more than number tweaks to improve this system. I very much hope that leagues aren't going to be as bad as they look, so I'd be more than happy if anyone could point out where I might be mistaken or if there's something I'm missing.External link →