How VG 5v5 Changed Everything… a UXers POV
I wanted to give a bit of an inner-narritive review on the game this patch, and especially the 5v5 mode, now that everyone has started to settle into their go-to mode of choice. The point of this review is to try to bring to light some user experience flow-orientated feedback that could be useful well beyond me and my skill level.
Speaking of skill level… interestingly, that’s a great topic to start this review! After all “skill” is really at the core of my focus today. But it’s not my skill or your skill that needs attention. It’s perceived skill that has catalized this review.
So you may by now be sitting somewhere thinking, “Yeah whatever Smash, wtf are you trying to say?!”
Let’s rip off that band-aid!
What’s changed in the game (especially due to the 5v5 mode) is that people‘s PERCEPTION of my ”skill” level has changed. And the main reason for this shift, has absolutely nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with three things:
- 2 more slots on a ranked match team (versus 3v3)
- Draft is standard in 5v5 ranked
- After locking-in, players can’t alter chosen positions aside from a swap
How UX REALLY Changes Games
Being a designer and developer by trade, I avoid conversations about the User Interface… because it makes a fun part of my life feel like work suddenly lol. But that’s fine, because tons of folks seem to like talking about UI.
But UI to me, both professionally and personally, is secondary to things like flow. Flow (in a digital product) is less about how you specify and control things, and more about how the system you are working within specifies and controls you.
Under this lens of flow, 5v5 is a radically different and ultimately superior experience overall compared to 3v3. The reasons for this are difficult to put into words, but I will try.
“Flow is less about how you specify
and control things, and more about
how the system you are working in
specifies and controls you.”
The 3v3 “Experience” (a la Smash)
It’s not that I ever DIS-liked ranked 3v3. That mode has just never been a real priority for me. I really couldn’t figure out why I didn‘t play it much. Come to think of it, I often found myself wishing I did play the mode more… if not just for the social acceptance in the community. After all, a scrub like me who hovers around T4 in 3v3 is almost considered a complete n00b on every social channel in the community.
Yet, I’ve been playing for a couple of years now! Maybe I completely suck!? Maybe I really should “kms” like all of the toxic screengrab posts demonstrate as a general sentiment against lower ranked players? But realistically, I rarely get flamed, generally have great Karma, and still often get friend requests from folks who thumbed me up following a match (what I personally consider the ultimate sign of playing decently). So, what gives?
”I really couldn’t figure out why
I didn’t play (3v3 ranked) much…”
The brutal truth, is that these questions are a complete disaster of a response to a digital product. It’s a backfire of epic proportions from a professional UX POV. Yet as a professional, it has very little to do with the product itself… and has very much to do with the way the product shapes the mentality/spirit of the community at large. In this way, 3v3 has been failing us (well… maybe just me, lol!)
The 3v3 ranked mode has been plagued by what boils down to something standard… eventually for all players… the draft! Being a player who’s spent money on the game, spent hours grinding, and overall has over 90% of the avilable content… I was excluded from the emotional impacts that draft mode allowed for other users. My ranked experiences (followed by a lack thereof) had completely shaped my entire behavior (and even my attitude towards the game.) It impacted every single mode and every single session I sat down to play for me. Who knew? lol
“I was excluded from the emotional impacts
that draft mode allowed for other users.”
It’s only now with 5v5 around, that I can see how this happened.
A UX-ish Analysis
I mentioned that “skill” was a key aspect of this review. I could only address that AFTER covering the basline 3v3 experience, though. By now, and due to being a “T4 scrub,” I’ve probably lost some readers. If youre still with me, thank you! The good part comes soon!
^5^ (high five!)
Anyway, in 5v5 and due to draft, the emotional dynamics are so different, that it’s really hard to compare them. What I can say though, is that in 3v3 ranked games it was VERY RARE to actually play the position(s) I’m best at. I’m talking quite a bit less than the theoretical 33.3% of the first pick time split evenly between my teammates.
“It was VERY RARE to actually
play the position(s) I’m best at.”
The answer from both the community & SEMC on this issue was, “Party up!” Understood. But sadly that didn’t solve my problem, because I didn‘t have reliable people to party up with. Much more importantly though, I didn’t get to play my role even when I was able to party up, because (brutal truth) there were only 3 roles. It simply wasn‘t enough.
Add a lack of draft to that factor, and realistically the 3v3 mode (from outside of the fish bowl) has an abnormally large and omnious barrier to entry… just to get to the point where you can actually focus on improvement… for said game mode!
It’s not that the game is hard per say… it’s more that the community’s attitude & criteria for n00b-ness is somehow dictated by the near-trauma response patterns climbing that barrier has given the community itself. Or in short, the 3v3 mode without a draft (emotionally speaking) acts as a hazing ritual.
“It’s more that the community’s
attitude & criteria for n00b-ness
is somehow dictated by the near-trauma
response patterns climbing that
barrier has given the community itself.”
As a professional, I can say with 100% confidence, that such a circumstance MUST be considered a priority to design a product away from or at least around.
How 5v5 Solved My Problem
I mentioned in the very beginning, that people’s perception of my skill has changed. This is very apparent in the context of the 5v5 mode.
For context and due to the issues above (with 3v3 ranked), I’ve typically played Battle Royale and Blitz. I’ve got over 2,000 BR wins. BR was my jam. Blitz became interesting for a bit, but it wasn‘t as rewarding as BR was to me.
What’s potentially unique about me as a user, was that IMO BR was a “training ground” for me to hone my skills with each hero in the game. What’s hilarious, is that I didnt have anything to train for! I avoided 3v3 ranked due mainly to drama about roles, and the inevitable trolling (etc.) that spawns from those early moments. So… wtf was I doing?
“I avoided 3v3 ranked
due mainly to drama
about roles, and the
BR in a nutshell, drastically reduced toxicity based on my experience with the mode. The combo of random heroes, and having to die to buy, made other players less “serious” and thus less prone to tilting. I personally did some maths, and calculated that in an hour of BR matches versus an hour of 3v3 ranked matches… I was actually (physically) teamfighting a whopping 85% more time overall in BR.
So in effect and as I’ve stated around here and there, Battle Royale is a freaking phenominal MECHANICS and TEAMFIGHT training mode. And that my friends, has only now seemed to be prove-able thanks to 5v5.
You see in 5v5 ranked, I almost always play a role I want to play. Not only does this make me more friendly and positive at game start, but it also makes me more flexible and forgiving by the game’s end… now that I actually can play a role enough to progress in rank in a way that seems and feels worth the investment/risk of time.
I learn faster now, and can self-assess mistakes better knowing that I had a real and genuinely impactful decision in the process. In 3v3 ranked, it was too easy to feel cornered, and therefore too easy to feel forced into a position/role that entitles me to blame outwardly at at least the same amplitude I should healthily blame inwardly.
“In 3v3 ranked, it was too
easy to feel cornered, and
therefore too easy to feel
forced into a position/role…”
5v5 draft is truly the key here, but that‘s only so due to the additional two roles per team. It’s an added bonus that once a player and role is “locked-in” they cannot change it without swapping with another player. That’s great forced behavior, because it forces each mind on the team to step at least a little outside of themselves and hopefully see the forest through the trees.
The only thing that still hangs up a draft (in mid and low 5v5 tiers) is a team without someone who soft-locks a captain… which can end up unbalenced. Those situations can tilt teams early game still. To my experience so far, this is a mere 10% of my matches. MUCH better than 3v3 for me.
Even with the rather rampant tendency for my teammates to surrender (I personally rarely surrender) in the current state of the 5v5 mode, the mode itself is IMO 1,000s of times better as far as an experience. When compared to 3v3, I have absolutely zero interest in playing that mode now. It wasn‘t fun or rewarding for me personally.
Blah, Blah TL;DR
In the end, I love 5v5. It’s given me a way to leverage all those hours of “training” in BR (and some Blitz) matches. Being comfortable with every hero kit and understanding each heroes mechanical disadvantages paired with a draft and 2 more players per team, has made the game fully approachable for me.
Although I’m clearly not a savant-vg player, I can hold my own on the fold… with almost every hero. But truth be told, 3v3 ranked and it’s lack of a draft, really segregated me away from the more hardcore players, which ironically 5v5 has shown me in less than 2 months that I am in fact a part of.
“3v3 ranked and it’s lack of a draft,
really segregated me away from
the more hardcore players…”
What’s interesting is to keep in mind that I haven‘t changed much at all in how I play. Or even why I play. It’s just that now with 5v5, I actually get to make decisions for myself in the context of the team and the game, thanks to how the draft democratizes the process. We now have elbow and breathing room… which means we all now have room for growth.