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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Love-Hate Relationship with ARAM (All Random All Mid)

So the budding craze among the MOBA scene is the new game-mode called ARAM, or All-Random All-Mid. Short version is that everyone picks a random hero, then everyone goes to the middle lane and dukes it out. Originally this came from DotA in which it was just a tacit agreement amongst the players to honor that rule, but now that it's sort of caught fire because of its emphasis on team-fights other MOBAs such as League of Legends and SMITE have adopted it. Both have created maps specifically for ARAM gameplay to help enforce the previously oral rules. Because the game is random and focuses more on team-fighting, I can stand it much more than the traditional MOBA gameplay. I'm not stuck in a lane alone or with a single other person and more or less entirely at fault if things go south. Lower stress = Happier Clockwork. The problem is ARAM is not without is issues...
 What are you whining about this time Clockwork?

In a game like SMITE or LoL, the big problem with ARAM is that they have large rosters, which can result in some odd team compositions. The problem with this is that sometimes game end up decided before they ever begin because of those random compositions. On one hand, I appreciate the randomness for encouraging people to avoid a meta and to make due with what they get. On the other, those games where it is clear that your team is screwed before the loading screen finishes are not fun, especially when the surrender timer is 10-20 minutes out.

Take this SMITE Assault (it's ARAM mode) game, not mine, but one a friend was involved in. If you had shown me the roster at the beginning I would have told you exactly which team was going to win:

Balance v. Squish, round 1....FIGHT!
The team on the left, the winners, have two melee carry/assassins, a mage, a support, and a tank/initiator. The team on the right has two mages and three ranged carries. Right side is basically the definition of "squishy". Certainly by the end of the game they could dish out massive amounts of damage, but the other team had the advantage in initiation and sustain. The advantage of those ranged carries is entirely eliminated if they have to put themselves on the front line to do their damage.

You'll even notice that the team on the right had more kills, a better spread of kills, more assists, and almost as much gold. They were overall higher in almost every stat except damage taken and healing. The 88,000 damage that Sobek took and Aphrodite healed meant that he could be pushing forward while their three damage dealers mopped up the other team; who's only real recourse would be to try and avoid Sobek and go for the rest of the team. The problem is that Sobek is very good at throwing people around and making himself the only target.

League of Legends has a similar problem; because the ELO system tries to put evenly matched teams together, you can usually tell which team is going to win based on the composition. A redditor named emachel created a rather interesting infographic regarding champion win rates in LoL's ARAM. Reposted below:
ARAM II - Heimerdinger's Revenge
Although it only shows a month worth of play, keep in mind just how many LoL games get played in a single month (answer: millions). The data paints a clear picture of how ARAM currently heavily favors mages and supports and is heavily biased against assassins and melee-carries. This isn't intrinsically bad, but it means if you see a Sona on the other team you can bet you are in for a rough match. Essentially, like in the SMITE match above, any team without a support is put at a disadvantage. want to nerf supports?

My preferential solution would be either changing how ARAM rolls for champions, or add a secondary, alternative mode called SRAM (Semi-Random All-Mid). In either case, the basic idea is that the game would instead first roll for "roles" in the game (tank, support, carry, mage, etc), and then makes sure each team gets champions that can fill those roles to some degree. I wouldn't mind if they were fairly generous with what counts as a "tank" or "support" so long as we're not sticking teams of 4 AD-Melee + Mage versus a balanced team of initiatior, support and Ranged-carry. This means that when the game is created, it randomly rolls up five roles...maybe it gets 5 mages, or 5 carries...its possible. Then it rolls for characters that fit those roles (seriously have I said "rolls" enough?).

I understand, and agree, that the run of ARAM is the element of randomness, the fact that you have to adapt to the situation and build appropriately. However, it seems all too common to me that you are instead given a 2x4 and told to hold back the tide.

Personally I think it would lead to a more enjoyable experience while preserving that sense of "random". Though I wouldn't mind if they also kept the old mode for players that like the true-random element.

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