Greetings all! Several weeks ago, we had a listener question on Lords of the Storm that asked how we would fix team league. This is something that I'm pretty passionate about, so I went on a long dialogue about what I would do for a team league revamp. I've been working on this document for awhile, but basically, this is a fleshed out version of a lot of the design I talked about in that episode. I’m a firm believer that Heroes shines the most, and is played/enjoyed to the fullest when you have a full 5 man vs another 5 man. So, I really wanted to come up with something that would allow for this to happen easily, incentivize it, and hopefully grow it into one of the largest Heroes queues.
I wanted to break down the following points into their own sections to fully flesh out what I was thinking for the revamp, but the main things center around:
The first thing I believe should come back is legit teams. Yes, at one point back in alpha they were in the game and didn’t do so well, but you must admit it was an extremely poor and bare bones implementation at the time. This time, you create a team, team name, team description (could put your voice server in there, website, etc), and team acronym that will show on your hero in game, and become the “owner”. The team name must be unique, and you are limited to the amount of teams you can create (I would say 1-3 max per person though would lean towards less), and be apart of (potentially you could be on as many as 3 teams. You’d want to allow for a few, but not so many that being on a team didn’t mean anything). Teams would allow more than 5 people to join, but probably not more than 8. This would allow for subs but not turn it into an actual clan/guild which is/could be a whole other system in and of itself.
Within the team the owner could delegate rights to members, whether to invite, etc. The Owner could also set roles per user (and/or users could set their own roles) to show what they like to play, and specifically to show what role they play within the team. From an invite perspective, the owner would be able to manually invite anyone, but would be slightly more restricted from the group finder, which I’ll go into more detail with in the next section.
There would be 2 forms of invite, tryout, and team invite. A tryout invite would be one that the owner, or someone with invite privs would extend to another player, that would temporarily add them to the team for a preset interval that could be chosen when the invite is sent (ex: 1, 3, 5, 7 days, etc). This would allow the team to try out the person before choosing to turn it into a full invite, letting it expire, or canceling it early. To prevent “team hopping” from a tryout standpoint, games played with a tryout player would not count towards the team's stats or partial/all progression, to incentivize using it only when trying to find a more permanent player. You could potentially have up to 2 people above the normal team cap as try out players, but one of the main roster slots would have to be freed up before you could accept them to the team. The full team invite would grant the player a roster slot and full benefits of being on a team.
Now, I know one of the big concerns is teams being temporary, or people not sticking together. So let’s incentivize and penalize in balance! A “loyalty” reward could build up for teams that stick together over a period of time, building up to “max loyalty” which could be anything from extra gold, to shards, to gems every so many matches, to cosmetics. Will go into more detail in the cosmetics area. Suffice it to say, it’ll be worthwhile to stick together as a team if you get along and you found a good group of people. From a penalty perspective, there shouldn’t be much good about team hopping. You’ll be able to join up with your, up to maybe 3 or so teams, but from there, if you leave 1 or more of them, you would get some kind of cooldown before you could join another team. At first it would probably be very short, hours, a day or 2 before the empty team slot freed back up. If you did that continually though, over a short period of time, that cooldown time could ramp up. This should disincent people from team hopping some. You could potentially get to a point where you left all your teams and all your slots were on cooldown, so you might want a “buy back” method of sorts, be it gold, shards, or gems to be able to get at least a slot back, and of course you could always get to a tryout status whenever. You wouldn’t want the cooldown so long that the above would ever be a big issue, but you’d want enough for it to be annoying to the point of people at least having to think about joining and leaving teams for permanent spots.
One other thing that could be fun is the idea of team rankings. I don’t think it would be bad to keep the personal player ranking system, even in Team League as explained below, but I could see there being a Team Leaderboard as well, showing specific team progress and winrates, even if it was just number based (and could even be a little bit more portrait border flair). This would allow teams to show overall prowess, and there could even be leaderboards per division, depending on the competitive level the team was made at. This could be another incentive towards teams staying together, as, if you lost too many people, your spot on the leaderboard or a portion of progression could get stalled or reset.
As an addendum, for those that want to just play pick-up 5's, temporary teams could still be an option as well. This would allow you to queue as any group of 5, as you can now (and would queue you into the same 5v5 queue), but without Team Progression and some of the rewards associated with the new system. This would allow you to form a team "off the cuff" for a night, but would encourage you to form a more permanent team if you played regularly.
This is huge. This is key, imo, to the whole system working well, or just being another side thing. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from sites that have worked incredibly well up to this point, specifically, Chair League. So, what is the group finder? Pretty much this thing will let you find a team that will best fit your skill level, your role, and your schedule. And being built straight into the game, the amount of people to choose from is only limited to the size of the player base itself. So, the Group finder will be it’s own tab or page under the new Team League Ranked area. You will have a few different options if you are a Team Owner, Player, or both.
From a Team Owner Standpoint, you will be able to list your team as looking for players, and what roles you are looking for. You will be able to set your time zone, the days of the week you play, and even the times you play on those days, if you want to get that specific. You will also be able to set your competitive level (casual, moderate, hardcore, HGC bound, etc). You will also be able to look through applications, and perform try out, or permanent invites from them.
From a player standpoint, you will initially have a small wizard of information to fill out about yourself. You will put your primary role or roles, your time zone, and your day and time availability. This will allow you to perform a “targeted search” within those preferences of all the teams that are looking for players of your role with similar scheduling. You will also be able to manual search, inputting the parameters yourself if you’re ok with looking outside that scope.
From a rank matching standpoint, the system will take your last seasons TL ranking, or if that is not available, your HL ranking, or if that is not available an approximation placement from your unranked draft, or quick match ranking. You may need to have a certain # of games played before you can join a Team League team through the group finder (though potentially even through manual invite). This should help cut down some on smurfs in teams (though you can always invite anyone manually to any team, you are taking the matchmaking into your own hands at that point, and from a rank up/points standpoint, it would be very easy to dis-incentivize high level players from playing with low level teams, by causing the amount of points you get for wins/losses to scale through your team ranks with wide ranks getting less points while tighter would get more). From the group finder, the search system would show you teams within your rank +- 2 or 3 ranks (the initial team rank would be based on the team owners rank for search purposes) to find you teams of similar skills, and allow for building of teams with similar skill which will make matches, and finding matches much easier for the system in general.
Of course, what good is all this without a sweet reward system to back it and get people excited. I would suggest having a separate reward tier for teams only, as with the flexibility and ease of use of the new system, and forming teams, it should be fairly in reach for everyone (especially when clans/communities come online and people can easily form teams from within their respective communities). One of the first things I’d recommend is a logo creation system. You could, through Team League loot chests, shard crafting, or gem buying, get shapes and logos you could then put into an editor to make your own specific team logo. This could then be displayed in sprays, or on banners, or perhaps even on a specific TL mount. Of course you could then also have TL specific rewards for banners, mounts, sprays, portraits, etc.
Then you have the Loyalty rewards. These rewards would come over time for being part of, and maintaining membership *as well as* playing consistently with that team. These would build over time once you achieve the time and consistency criteria per reward tier and would be kept up by maintaining that criteria. This could include lump sums of gold, gems, shards, xp/gold bonuses, loot chests, and more. If you leave a team, this loyalty reward structure would be reset. This could be tracked per team, keeping the loyalty from the highest team, or from a full account standpoint.
Of course, what would this system be, without a great way to do in game tournaments and scriming. This system easily extends itself with the potential to take over the HGC open in the future, but let’s start at the basic end.
The Scrims search function could easily be an extension of the team search, only this time it’s a team looking for another team. The Team Owner, or someone with relevant permissions, would be able to list the team as looking for scrim. They would be able to set the days and times of availability for scrims, then other teams looking for scrim partners would be able to search, within either their relevant ranks or even for higher ranked teams to scrim against. Once you found a team that you wanted to scrim against you would send them a request with the date and time, and they could accept or deny. If accepted, it would then notify all members of the team, as well as put the scrim in the Team UI list until it had been played. Scrims could potentially even have some benefit to setting them up through this system, be it a little gold, or 25% xp still earned, etc. Enough to make it handy but not enough to make it easily exploitable, where just playing a regular game would be more worth it from an xp/gold perspective.
From a tournaments perspective, it would just be a great extension of this system. This could simply be another tab of the search/creation page. For making a tournament, it would be easy to set public/private, number of teams, rules, prizes (users might be able to purchase gems for the prize pool or something for example), signup time, number of days, etc. Teams could then search through public tournaments through the UI, and sign up for them, or be invited specifically to private ones. This seems like a no brainer too, to extend the HGC Open events into the game with in game teams and in game tournament structure.
So what about the queues?
Well this is a good question and doesn’t have the easiest of answers. From a current standpoint, I would say leave Hero League as solo queue, make a potentially new queue for 2’s and 3’s (which at least this way you’d never be a 2 and a 3 matched up against a 5 stack) or potentially have one that could have any number of 1-5, and then finally the full 5 only Team League queue. My gut is that the new, middle queue would be used somewhat, but might eventually become unnecessary with the game itself now supporting the tools the players need to easily form their own full teams of 5. Then the hope would be eventually your ranked structure just went to a solo queue and then 5v5 full team TL as, really, that’s just what HotS was made to thrive in, and that’s where your best experiences are going to be. But you of course would want to leave options open for those who do enjoy the middleground experience of 2's and 3's.
I really appreciate the passion that the Heroes team puts into their game, and I strongly believe a system like this, or one similar to it could be a huge boon to the mode that allows Heroes of the Storm to shine the most. As always I welcome any feedback and thank you everyone for taking the time to read!