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League of Legends New Matchmaking Changes & Smurf Catching Explained

By Jamie Good

September 27, 2021

Riot’s MOBA is over ten years old at this point, with millions of players worldwide. Despite this, matchmaking for League of Legends still seems to be a significant point of contention.

Riot Games made a post explaining all of the additions and improvements made to League of Legends so far in 2021. Within this year’s retrospective, the company put its changes to the game’s matchmaking and behavioural systems into perspective.

They detailed how the changes so far have positively impacted the game and player experience. As well as touching on the direction they intend to take when looking for other ways to fine-tune matchmaking systems.

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The State of Matchmaking and Plans for the Future

A critical point of success for League of Legends matchmaking made within Riot’s post was that players receive their primary role choice 90% of the time across all ranks. As well as that, skill disparity across all levels is within one whole tier, and queue times have been reduced compared to 2020.

With these positive results coming from the changes they have made across the year so far, Riot needs to consider a new batch of questions to help them improve matchmaking.

What does the system do with players returning after extended breaks from the game? How does when someone start playing ranked affect their placement or who they face? And how well does the system deal with new level 30 accounts that are statistically the same as accounts that have been playing for years?

Their post concluded that these questions all result in needing to better isolate and differentiate smurfs from returning players or regular players who happen to be doing well that day.

To Catch a Smurf

What makes it very hard for matchmaking systems is the variety of skill levels between players. While the whole purpose of a matchmaking system is to allocate matches appropriately based on skill, it isn’t necessarily a smurf when an anomaly presents itself within a skill group.

Riot’s post mentions how they have also had great results in removing smurfs and misplaced players from the general play population. The only issue with this is how the system identifies these players.

A player coming over from another MOBA, bringing with them a higher general knowledge on how to play these types of games or a new player that may just be doing well, could get targeted as a smurf unfairly. And this may potentially ruin their League of Legends experience through no fault of their own.

Riot has acknowledged that their system for placing players, whilst successful, still needs improvement. And this seems to be their crucial point of focus for the coming year when talking about matchmaking improvements.

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Jamie Good
@Purple_413

I enjoy playing and keeping up to date with the professional competitive scenes of League of Legends and Valorant amongst others. Additionally, I have a great interest in following the advancements of PC and gaming hardware. When not playing reading about or watching videos on games or technology, I am often playing or watching volleyball.

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