Due to my dislike of the meta-game and communities in MOBAs I ended up stepping away from League of Legends for a long time. It took the introduction of ARAM (All-Random All middle) mode for me to enjoy them again. Randomized characters destroy the idea of a meta, and it brings the game back to focusing on having a character and fighting enemies rather than placing the importance on arcane jungling routes, last-hit numbers, and team composition.* It is by far my favorite mode because its very design helps reduce much of the stress of being in a typical MOBA game; players can't expect you to know every champion when you had no control over who you got and with the amount of chaos going on things like creep-score have diminished importance.
But for all its perks ARAM still has some points I find unduly frustrating that could deal with a little tweaking.
Beaten by the composition
ARAM’s selling point was the increased focus on team fights that would be slightly more interesting than the typical Summoner’s Rift battle because of the randomized compositions. Ideally teams would work together to adapt their team’s particular strengths to defeat their enemy. But in League of Legends the character design process has become incredibly streamlined; certain characters will get certain abilities so they can fulfill a certain role. Much as I love LoL, it’s competitive-balance centered design philosophy means that the characters are somewhat predictable, in contrast to a game like DotA 2 whose philosophy is more akin to “counter the overpowered with overpowered” thus making the random teams in ARAM more viable. The irony is not lost on me that DotA 2 has yet to institute a true “ARAM” mode.
This formulaic and role specific design results in is the occasional ARAM game where it feels more like your team was defeated by superior composition than by skill. This is not to say that every loss I have ever suffered is a result of getting a bad team, but when one side ends up with all magic-damage or melee assassins against a well balanced team that includes a mix of damage types and/or tank and support, the outcome tends to be fairly predictable. Sometimes the underdog team does manage to pull out a win, but I have found that to be the exception.
So my recommended remedy, and they could add this as an alternative rather than replace “true” random, is the semi-random that SMITE ended up moving to. In a semi-random game, the game would first roll characters secretly, then check to see what roles appear on either side. If one side gets a support and the other does not, it rerolls a support for the other side. All this does is ensure some similarity; it is not intended to make each team the composition mirror of each other. For example, if one team has two supports and the other has none, the game rerolls so that the team with none gets at least one but does not necessarily ensure two. The same can be said for tanks; I would not include mages, carries, assassins, and bruisers here simply because they are fairly interchangeable, while a tank/support can strongly tip the scales.
Even though this pokes at the “All-Random” element of the name, I think it will create more balanced and more fun matches in which players do not feel like they were defeated more due to bad RNG than better play.
ARAM shouldn't require a separate account
The other negative behavior I see ARAM causing is players feeling as though they need to make an “ARAM account” because the plain truth is that some characters were designed around having the larger Summoner’s Rift map. For example, many players try to limit the number of Assassins in their ARAM account because while they are strong 1v1 they tend to be designed so that a group can shut them down easily; and in ARAM group encounters are much more common.
I’m sure every ARAM player has been there; I certainly have lamented the days it sticks me with Poppy, who has potential (and I have done well with her) but she requires a step up in play to perform even close to the level of some others. The same is true for other characters that have been outclassed or are currently sub-par; in Summoner’s Rift I can solve the problem by not picking them, but in ARAM I might get stuck with a dud.
So my recommendation, either in lieu of or in addition to the reroll system would be to allow a “blacklist” for every 10-25 characters a player has, allowing me to ensure that I won’t get characters that I just don’t enjoy playing or that are so woefully disadvantaged in ARAM that I’ll wish I’d never bought them.
These of course are not the only rough edges ARAM has; I would love to see variety in the maps (perhaps a few more that spice up the layout a bit), or for Riot to address how near endgame a single death can mean victory or defeat (which is understandable, but it can make early game accomplishments feel hollow and disadvantages characters/teams with early game strength).
*If you enjoy these elements, great! More power to you! Have fun in Summoner’s Rift and I’ll have fun in ARAM!