(Thanks to community member Ranhert for the original idea and helping with the football text!)
While talking with Ranhert the other day, he mentioned that he had been listening to ESPN Radio. At that time, the hosts were discussing the NFL, as the divisional round of the playoffs are this weekend (it is kind of a big deal). Ranhert fancies himself a football enthusiast and started to draw comparisons between professional League of Legends and professional football.
At the basic level of football you have 11 players on the field at any one time. This doubles when you consider offense and defensive squads. This then increases when you consider packages and substitutes. What do all these players have in common besides freakish size, speed, and ability? They know the Playbook.
When you watch an NFL game the Quarterback calls the plays (we’ll forget coordinators). He does so with a series of quick phrases that reference a page in a playbook. These plays are complex and require perfect coordination. There are blocking assignments, pulling assignments, receiver routes, snap count, running gaps, etc that the QB communicates to his 10 associates in a matter of seconds. When that ball is snapped, all competency aside, the entire 11 man team functions as 1, knows their roles, and executes accordingly.
LoL competitive teams are comprised of 5 players; Less than half as many as there are on a football field. Yet miscommunication and lack of coordination breaks many of these teams just the same. Many times decisions are being made by the individual members of the team that affect the overall outcome. The team is relying on the fact that said members are cognizant enough to make the correct decisions. When the correct decision is not made then usually chaos and fighting ensues.
One of the most common examples I see in League of Legends is when one player makes a call but doesn’t follow through with the plan. The person who is playing in the Top lane will run an extra spell called Teleport which allows you to move to nearly any location on the map. This spell can be used once every couple of minutes and if used at the right time could turn the tide of the battle. Now, your Bottom lane is nearest to a global objective called Dragon, which grants your entire team gold when killed. If your Bottom lane engages Dragon and calls for the Top lane to come help, but backs off during the time Teleport is being used, the spell has been wasted because you are no longer going for that objective. In turn, you’ve had one of your members leave his position allowing the enemy team to freely farm gold while your Top lane has to run back across the map.
Teleport is just one example of coordination gaps that I have witnessed in professional play, but there are many more. This, however, is not the purpose of my article. Most of the pro LoL teams have 1 or 2 members that “make the calls” and the rest of the team follows without question. But these calls are generally lengthy or consist of repeated screaming of the same word/phrase over and over and over again. What if these teams had a playbook? What if the team’s QB had a short phrase they could use that clearly and concisely communicated the action required to the other 4 members of the squad? It couldn’t be that difficult, football does it with 11 people.
Let’s apply a rudimentary Pop Warner style playbook to LoL. We assign a number to each position, 1 is Mid, 2 is Top, 3 is Jungle, 4 is Carry, and 5 for Support. “ThreeFortyFive Drag” means Jungle, Carry, and Support are going to take Dragon with no need for Top or Mid help. Simply calling a number in a team fight could designate focus fire instead of yelling out the champ or player name which could have multiple syllables. “OneThreeFourFive Bot on my go” would mean Mid come to Bot, Bot be ready, the Jungler will initiate the fight. The possibilities are endless and would tighten communication! Additionally if the “QB” is having issues with play calling one week, then another member can call the same plays without the need for the team to adapt to that members style of communication.
This style of playbook does not conclude with League of Legends. Games such as Halo, Battlefield or even Call of Duty could easily apply the same theory to their play. Since you are playing as a team, you could once again assign each player a number, calling for backup at a location or moving as a squad. Taking it even further, places on each map could have either a number or a letter associated with them, so you could easily call out “One to A” or “OneTwo to B” to move quickly and quietly.
I have witnessed many professional teams become dismantled because of blown summoners, miscommunication, and slow reaction to calls. It seems as if most professional e-sport teams could take a page from professional football’s playbook — and it just might improve results and quality of competition. That’s a playoff win for us all.