Working with Partners
Last night, my wife and I had a bad run of League of Legends games. I knew I’d have to pay the piper at some point, since I was sitting on only victories in my match history (bear in mind half of those were against beginner AI, but even half of all those games being live pvp victories was pretty impressive for me), but it didn’t make the pill any less bitter going down (the pill the piper gave me when I paid him – way to mix metaphors, eh?). We both struggled with our laning partners in several of those matches, so she brought up the point; how can you learn to work well with a stranger as a laning partner?
The short answer, the one I told her, was “clearly I don’t know,” since I was stinking it up in those games. It may be that our partners were too aggressive, which we weren’t suited for, or that they were idiots who kept running into certain death, but when you see the pattern repeated and you’re the common denominator, you have to wonder. I’ve done great laning with strangers as Shen, Teemo, Taric, and Nidalee (my four primaries depending on what’s needed), though, so I’m not sure.
That’s the problem: I’m not sure. I can’t always tell whether it’s me or my partner, and I’m not sure if I should be trying to match their sometimes-suicidal-seeming playstyles because I’m being too defensive or whether they need to consider who their partner is (me) and play a little more conservatively.
I don’t have this problem in WoW – not in dungeons, bgs, or raids. I can often tell you exactly who did what to screw up a pull and cause a wipe. Sometimes it’s me, of course, like when I overestimate a healer’s capability along with my own capabilities to heal myself on my baby DK and end up pulling too much. In raids, it can take a moment to parse data, but it’s usually there: one of the dps didn’t interrupt enough and the others became overwhelmed. The tanks weren’t blowing their CDs so the healers became overwhelmed. The healers were double-healing people instead of working in tandem. And so forth.
I also feel that overall there’s more time for coordination in WoW. That difference is not to say one or the other is better, mind you, just that it’s a difference. You can take time to type in WoW, for example, and there’s marks that can allow a player to more easily see their healer. I always mark myself as the tank and the healer so I can easily tell “Am I too far ahead?” That way, I don’t get myself killed from pulling too far forward and can more easily keep track of the distance between us. The same does not exist in League of Legends. Yes, there’s new “smart ping” features which are absolutely excellent, but there have been times that I haven’t noticed my lane partner go to base and that change in position was not communicated, and I have, as a result, run in expecting back up and gotten killed.
Really, then, what WoW provides that LoL doesn’t as smoothly offer is lack-of-communication tools. If my healer doesn’t tell me he’s stopping for mana, not seeing his mark anywhere on my screen is much easier than noticing it on the mini-map, which is all that LoL really provides. Sure, the information’s available, but how readily and how easy is it to spot? That’s what add-ons are all about, really – making information more easily accessed, and LoL could use some more of that easy access to help strangers lane together more smoothly.
Honestly, though, I think it comes down to confidence and knowledge. I’m pretty confident in WoW of my game play (tanking and healing more so than dps, which I have little confidence in) and my metagame (from raid leading and doing RBGs), but in LoL, I feel confident in a handful of characters, but not so much in my understanding of the metagame. I get the basic adc/support/solo top/jungler/apc mid stuff, but beyond that, I’m often a little lost. I wonder if it’s as simple an issue as time put in; obviously I’ve many factors more of time put in to WoW than LoL, or whether there’s a deeper level of understanding – grokking, as Koster would call it – that I’m missing.
That’s what scares – or, rather, irritates, perhaps – me about LoL. It’s a pure PvP game. The playing field is mostly flat (with the exception of runes and masteries). If I’m not seeing something, I’m not sure what it is that I should be seeing. To go with our former Secretary of War (yes, he was, even if that position hasn’t existed in a long time) Donnie R, “There are known knowns” (my primary characters), “known unknowns” (other characters and the human factor), “and unknown unknowns” (which of course I don’t know). It can drive an analytical soul a little crazy. I’m one of those people who’ll pick up a manipulable puzzle (like these) and not put it down until I finish it. That’s one reason I like games so much; the act of learning to master them is often a beautifully complex puzzle. It’s also part of the reason I sometimes just stop playing a game when I’m near the end (which makes my completionist friend crazy): I know I can beat it. I’ve mastered the gameplay. I don’t need it any more.
That’s also part of what has killed WoW for me, of course, which is why League of Legends is taking up more of my game time and interest. The human factor, too, means that often even a “mastered” game can have surprises from other players. I just hope that I can better learn how to work with my lane partner and counter my lane competitors, because right now I think I’m struggling.
Then again, maybe they just sucked.
Stubborn (who’ll do anything but jungle)