Posts by "Amine Issa"

Deep Dive for TL: Challenger ADC Analysis

Preface

Steve Arhancet of Team Liquid (TL) has been a long time friend and believer in my work since Season 2 when Curse was rocking the legendary Voy, Saint, and Nyjacky lineup. He was the first person to give me an opportunity to showcase some of the research I had been doing and how it could potentially be applied in the Esports field to help increase the team’s performance.

Mobalytics had been blessed with recent success thanks to TechCrunch and Steve and I were already talking about future potential work together. Up until now, Mobalytics had been focused on our own product, with plans to seriously engage the professional gaming analytics world after our open beta release. However, things changed.

TL was in a precarious position and I was absolutely determined to do whatever we could to help them. We didn’t have much time at all. We had to figure out what resources we could divert to provide the most value in the least amount of time possible. The whole team got together and we wracked our brains on how best to approach the problem.

Truth be told, we played a minor role in the selection of the players. Player performance is a multifaceted problem to solve, and there are so many important factors that you must consider before recruiting a player into a 5 man team. In an attempt to simplify our approach, let’s break performance down into 4 major parts: Psychological, Physiological, Long Term Game Performance, and Instantaneous Performance.

For this project, the only part we looked at with our numbers based approach was a small window in the Long Term Performance department. For the rest, the TL team would have to rely on other established techniques, mainly intuitive, to gauge the right fit for them. Now here is what makes the problem infinitely more complex: You have to gauge performance within the team construct, and then evaluate overall team performance. That’s a whole other story that we will go into some other time, but you can see how small the impact of our analysis is in the grand scheme of things.

What Did We Do?

To help TL find the right ADC fit for the team, we had to understand what type of Challenger player(s) they were looking for to fill the hole left by Piglet’s shift to mid. The clearest sentiment voiced was that they wanted someone who could just “do their job in most circumstances”. With an understanding of the needs, we structured our thinking to start from a macro view and move into a more detailed dissection of contextual game elements.

To evaluate players on a macro level, we used our Gamer Performance Index (GPI). The entire design of the GPI’s 8 major skills (and attributes within each skill) revolves precisely around determining a player’s unique play-style, strengths, and weaknesses. Each of the attributes and skills are scored from 0-100 based on a combination of game expertise and sample data gathered across the entire ranked solo queue spectrum.

Even though we are only looking at solo queue, it is important to remember that a player’s style is something consistent across games. Sure they can be more cautious and pace themselves for the slower play style in LCS, but a reckless player’s very blood boils with aggression. He won’t suddenly change to a riskless “do my job” ADC overnight. Since you don’t want to see me ramble about data forever, I am only going to use two distinct examples of what we put together to illustrate the story.

Disclaimer: To protect player privacy, we have de-identified all player data.

skills breakdown league of legends doubleliftskill breakdown league of legends pros doublelift
Case 1: Player A
Takeaways: All-rounder, extremely low deaths, safest bet
Player A is an incredibly sturdy player who is safe, reliable, does his job and stands out for just how infrequently he dies. Trust us when we say a Deaths score of 2.5 is EXTREMELY low. Definitely seems like a guy who can do his job, so we suggested when trying this player out, look to measure his capability of carrying games when given resources and have confidence that he won’t be a lost sheep when someone isn’t holding his hand.

 

skills breakdown league of legends doubleliftskills breakdown league of legends doublelift
Case 2: Player B
Takeaways: Hyper aggression compared to most peers, heavy focus on winning lane and CS’ing, needs to be the carry
Player B is a completely different beast. He is extremely aggressive with a heavy focus on winning his lane (potentially drawing a lot of attention from the enemy jungler as a result) and carrying the game. As such, compared to Player A, Player B dies much more frequently. In our opinion, this style would have made for a much harder and time-consuming transition from solo queue to the LCS. We suggested paying close attention to how he handles himself when he’s not given all the resources during tryouts.

The Devil is in the Details

There are probably a ton of questions being juggled in your head right now if you are the overly analytical type. What about differences in ADC champions played? What about games in different divisions? The questions go on and on, as there are a lot more issues than just numbers in games, it’s easy to misrepresent our findings. In an attempt to isolate the signal from the noise, we took several factors into consideration and worked to eliminate as many variables as possible:

  1. We understood that we were under time and resource constraints, and no matter how much filtering we did, we would not be able to achieve a perfect data set. Either our sample size or our data would suffer somehow.
  2. We understood that different ADC champions would lead to fundamentally different numbers between players, but luckily most players are playing the same carry type in this meta, so we decided to ignore any minor differences because of this.
  3. Looking at all games was too noisy, so we only included games that were longer than 25 minutes in our sample size. In our opinion, short ROFLstomp games polluted our data pool without providing valuable information and needed to go.
  4. We identified the most significant questions we could ask and answer in a short time frame:
    • How do you perform when you are not the main resource focus of your team? Can you hold your own when behind and deprived?
    • How do you perform when you are the main resource focus, the carry? Can you deliver when ahead and fed?
    • What are the key performance time zones you excel at or are weak at?

Let’s take a look at some of the information we presented to TL to help them make a decision. Taking the above constraints into consideration, we looked at a range of 65-85 games for every player. Again, for the sake of brevity, I will only show two complementary graphs to illustrate our point.

performance during low gold situations
Graph A: Player Performance during Low Gold %
We scored how well five different players fared with Low Gold Share (empirically determined threshold by the analytical team) across four different metrics: Damage Per Minute (DPM), Deaths, Kill Participation, and Win %. On the y-axis, scores range from 0 to 1 with 1 being the best and 0 the worst, except for Deaths where the scores are reversed. A few things to note:

  1. The five individual players are being benchmarked against the average Diamond+ player.
  2. Total games played with Low Gold Share can be found to the right of the graph. Players C and D don’t have enough total games played with Low Gold Share to make an informed conclusion.

So what can we tell from this graph?

  1. Player A is relatively awesome at playing with Low Gold Share.
  2. Players C and D almost never have any games with Low Gold Share. They are the carry and will do whatever it takes to be one. This is crucial information in its own right.
  3. Due to conclusion 2, we cannot judge their play with Low Gold Share well. However, we can say that not having experience with Low Gold Share could be detrimental to performance.
  4. Player D seems to just not like playing with Low Gold Share (deaths through the roof, a possible sign of tilting) and Player E doesn’t fare so well either.

There are other things one can discern, but let’s move on to Graph B.

performance during high gold situations
Graph B: Player Performance during High Gold %
Graph B features the same metrics as Graph A but for High Gold Share games. Immediately noteworthy is that there are enough games to make informed conclusions for all the individual players, but far fewer total games for the average Diamond+ player, but still more than enough for our purposes. Keeping in mind that there is another bracket for Medium Gold Share games, here’s what we found:

  1. What immediately jumps out is there are not that many differences in performance between players when they have High Gold Share.
  2. Because of conclusion 1, it is plausible to suggest that when it’s all sunshine and rainbows, unless you’re a stellar team carry (Hi Doublelift!), you are not doing too much better than an OK one. On a star-packed LCS team with resources going to other players, this is very important.
  3. Because of conclusion 1 and 2, we draw a more clear picture of each player’s tendencies and playstyles. Out of 70 games, Player D played over 50% of his games with a High Gold % whereas Player A has less than 20% of his games with a High Gold Share %. This gives teams looking to try out players an idea of what situations they’re most comfortable in.

In the End

While we evaluated as many metrics and players as we could in the above fashion, given the time constraints, we did not get to dive into nearly as many as we would have liked. Ideally, we would have also analyzed champion-only stats and more than a few others to provide more contextual background. However, if we’re keeping everything in perspective, all the metrics in the world regarding an individual’s performance may not accurately reflect how they perform on stage in a team environment. This is where human elements like instinct and resilience come into play to make pro gaming all the more interesting.

For us, this project demonstrated that we could efficiently create insightful analytics for professional teams and provide real value. This was a great litmus test and we are very excited to continue working with TL to push the envelope for player performance assessment in esports.

Thanks again to all the members of TL for the opportunity, and a huge shoutout to our awesome team, especially Data Architect Ryan “Geei” Dean and Lead Analyst Hewitt “Prohibit” Benson for going into crunch mode on this incredible project.

Mobalytics was designed to help every gamer unlock their full potential, not just professional teams. If you’re curious about what we can do for you, sign up for our private beta and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more thoughtful content like this. We’ll see you on the rift!

Climbing the League of Legends ladder with Deep Practice

If you’ve ever wondered what makes the best in the world so good at what they do, you’re not alone. Here at Mobalytics, we have invested a huge amount of time researching, discussing, and disseminating knowledge to try to answer that question in the field of esports. In fact, I have spent the majority of my academic career focused on human performance, and my whole life understanding gamers, myself included. Don’t worry, much like you, I am still confused, but I’d like to share what I do know!

Modern science and performance psychology have produced incredible research on this topic in recent years, and it turns out there’s an answer that isn’t just “get gud kid”. Greatness is a result of multiple factors, but there are specific characteristics shared across the board. In this article, we will talk about one specific methodology you can apply to anything you do to maximize your time, especially improving at League of Legends, or any other video game.

What is Greatness?


To satisfy his curiosity around greatness, author of 
“The Talent Code” and researcher, Martin Coyle,talent code esports book coyle spent two years visiting the world’s most renowned “talent hotbeds” – very small places that produce very large numbers of top-tier performers. Some of the places he visited include:

  • A tiny tennis club in Russia responsible for more world top-20 players than all of the US combined.
  • A classical-music academy in upstate New York where students achieve one year’s worth of curriculum in seven weeks.
  • One family in a tiny village in the United Kingdom responsible for producing three world-class writers.

After visiting nine such places, Coyle started to notice striking patterns. The most prominent of these patterns manifested in how practice was conducted at these hotbeds.

Coyle’s findings revealed that certain practice methodologies help develop what he describes as a “fast, accurate brain”. If you have ever heard the statement, “Practice makes perfect” or better yet “Perfect practice makes perfect”, then you will understand what we are talking about.

Your brain learns new skills by cultivating and developing the necessary neural pathways to be able to execute that foundation of knowledge. It happens when you learn a new language, video game, or even a subject in school. The reason you learn some things “better” is because that pathway gets more developed. No, you don’t have genes that make you prefer development of that pathway, but rather the time spent practicing and using it (similar to muscle development) makes it stronger.

The main biological phenomenon here is the speed of the specific neuronal pathway, and a substance called myelin which determines that. Myelin’s superpower is it’s ability to insulate neurons for faster communication speeds. As stated by Coyle, research experts have shown that professionals in a field have heavy myelination in the involved neural pathways when compared to their peers.

Thanks for the biology lesson (enough seriously) but I thought this article was about  “Deep Practice”?

Alright , Alright, I will get to it… Applicable to any and all skills, “Deep Practice” is a methodical and progressive approach to practice designed to encourage the development of optimal neuronal circuitry. Much like focused and properly executed physical training develops the optimal musculature, Deep Practice develops the optimal neuronal circuitry to execute the skill in demand. It involves learning how to find the edge of your ability comfort zone – and stepping over it. In a gaming context, Deep Practice is the exact opposite of repeatedly queueing up without critically assessing your habits.

If you only play using techniques and routines that you’re already comfortable with, you will never advance past your current skill plateau. In other words, prepare to make mistakes and fail. Play just outside of your comfort level, focus there for as long as possible, and take note of the mistakes that happen before you rinse and repeat the process. I don’t think anyone describes the process better than David Sirlin does in this piece. In general, I highly recommend his Playing to Win, as one of my all time favorites for stepping up your game, and your entire journey to becoming a better you.

michael jordan esports

Deep Practice is something that is easily said, but hard to execute. It’s difficult enough to push your limits and likely fail more than you’re accustomed to and even harder to do so while getting flamed by your teammates in the process. However, much like resistance training in the gym to build muscle, research has shown that this kind of struggle is a vital, biological requirement to build myelin. The above  Michael Jordan quote really hits that message home… If the greatest of all time failed so much, don’t you think you do too?

Finding the Sweet Spot

Of course, we’re not suggesting you take a champion you’ve never played before into the Rift and throw yourself at enemy towers. Coyle describes the Deep Practice sweet spot as a fine balance between your comfort level and well-beyond-your-skill-range in the quote below:

“They are purposely operating at the edges of their ability, so they will screw up. And somehow screwing up is making them better…It was as if the herd of deer suddenly encountered a hillside coated with ice. They slammed to a halt; they stopped, looked, and thought carefully before taking each step. Making progress became a matter of small failures…”

Here is what Deep Practice looks like when broken down methodically:

  • Identify your problem.
    • What is the problem? Is it multifaceted?
    • Why is it coming up?
  • Create a solution that targets the problem in separate chunks:
    • Target the actual mechanical exercise.
    • Target the rules and circumstances around the problem.
  • Repetition:
    • Nothing is more important than repetition.
    • Makes execution things automatic and effortless.
  • Push yourself:
    • If you don’t who will?

Let’s apply this to a LOL example designed by our lead analyst Prohibit.

  • The problem is: last hitting during the laning phase.
    • Due to: bad timing or mechanics.
    • Due to: a definite lack of focus.
  • I am going to solve this by using the new practice tool… Yup, I’m that cool!
    • First, play without bots.
    • To remove any time constraint, make towers invulnerable, which will allow focus on early game lane control.
    • Then spend 10 minutes hard pushing creeps with auto attacks until they hit the tower then switch to only last hitting as the creeps push back towards my tower.
    • Repeat.
  • Make this a routine
    • Dedicate a time slot every day to repeat this practice.
    • Or practice multiple times a day. Not for the faint of heart…
  • Push yourself
    • Keep setting better and better CS goals.
    • Switch sides!
    • Try locking yourself at level 1.
    • Try taking 0 AD runes or damage masteries.
    • Try the exercise with a bot in the game.

A lot of the above constraints are designed around playing with small thresholds that may NEVER happen in a real game, but hone your skills beyond the baseline requirements. Larry Bird grew up shooting on a tiny hoop. Tennis players practice hitting shots at cans from ridiculous distances to hone their precision. You can read about Steph Curry’s practice routines here if you are still doubtful. If you’re still not willing to believe, then this guy will make you believe.

The whole point of stretching your limits is to forge intrinsic skills to master the feel of the game. This diagram below explains the concept very well.

mobalytics-1

When you hear a player interviewed, and they say something along the lines of “I can’t remember what I did or why, but I just did it”, you can understand the significance of Stage 4 in the diagram above: Unconscious Mastery. When you reach it through mind-numbing hours of extreme practice, it will all be worth it when you pull off sweet combos or position into uncannily prescient tactical positions during skirmishes without even a moment’s hesitation. You just do it.

Renounce the Quick Fix

There are no true shortcuts to mastering a complex game like LoL and as a result, it takes time. Coyle also discusses a study where the largest single factor in success was a long-term commitment to learning. The people who had committed to learning the skill outperformed the short-term committers by a factor of 400%.

“We instinctively think of each new student as a blank slate, but the ideas they bring to that first lesson are probably far more important than anything a teacher can do, or any amount of practice,” McPherson said. “It’s all about their perception of self. At some point very early on they had a crystallizing experience that brings the idea to the fore, that says, I am a musician. That idea is like a snowball rolling downhill.”

That’s something worth thinking about if you have aspirations for the shiny Challenger badge. How much do you love the game? Remember it’s about the journey and not the destination. If you enjoy the grind and possess a deep love or obsession of the game, you’ll have infinite motivation to improve!

Applying eSports Science to Optimize Game Performance

Long before myself or anyone else dreamed of something called  “eSports Science”, my life had been dedicated to understanding optimal performance.

Video games were always a haven for me. A place where my overly active mind, which many of us gamers share, could be quiet and completely focus on the task at hand. Ever since I took up video games competitively as a young boy, I was hungry to cultivate the perfect mentality for winning.  I immersed myself into the principles of martial arts fascinated by the concept of the perfect fighting mind… The empty mind. The zone. The state of optimal flow…

All names for the same thing.

The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus.
Robert Greene, Mastery

Look at the field of sports, for example. Humans have been competing in feats of physical prowess since ancient times, knowingly attributing the wins to mental discipline over all else. Right now, the field of sports science is so refined that many disciplines have evolved to the point where they’re barely recognizable from a few decades ago. Check out this video:

This being the case, imagine what professional gaming and eSports science might look like 80 years from now.

I have been fortunate enough to spend my life studying people who are high performers. Every time I get to spend quality time with someone who’s worked their whole life to be in the upper echelons of athletic performance, similar permutations of the same conversation take place.

We discuss the importance of:

  1. Mental vs. physical attributes in excellence
  2. The power of inherent gifts (i.e. genetics, a topic The Sports Gene explores comprehensively and excellently)

The answers are usually the same, too. Hard work and a good mental attitude are vital. So is a keen awareness of the rapid progression of the discipline you’re involved with.
Let’s pause there for a second to consider the previous video and how rapidly the field of sports has progressed.

Basketball and football players are faster and stronger than ever, and competitors need to keep up. You know what other field progresses quickly?

eSports Rate of Growth is Phenomenal

Between the time a video game goes from beta to the mass market, to the first tournament, both the meta and the gameplay have evolved so rapidly that the ranks are saturated and only the truly dedicated shine at the top.

Several factors that cause this to happen:

  1. The rapid proliferation of knowledge in online games. Forums, replays, YouTube videos, and Reddit are all tools gamers use to discuss and share information. Keeping things a secret is tough for people in eSports, and Korean teams rely on harsh rules such as no streaming and vows of secrecy regarding team strategies.
  2. The ease of playing. People can play 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and everyone in the world shares the same battlefield. In traditional sports, this simply isn’t possible due to geographical and physiologic limitations on the human body.
  3. The progression and tournament structure make it so that it’s anybody’s game and there are multiple chances to prove yourself the best. In traditional sports, these events are typically yearly and limited opportunities arise to prove dominance.

The sheer amount of science, tracking, and performance assessment available to eSports teams and competitors is almost frightening. And that’s before we take into consideration that measuring and analyzing gaming physiology data, a field that is only just starting to get explored.

Here’s an example of an eSports science video I made in collaboration with Curse and Alienware:

It’s Time for eSports Science to Take Off

With so much data available and with such rapid progression in the video game scene, you might expect lots of self-evaluation tools available to help gamers get better. But that simply isn’t the case. And Mobalytics is our first step towards filling this gap.

We want to expand on what others like LOLking and DOTAbuff have done. We want to take it to the next level. We want to use every scientific tool available to give you the best performance assessment and arm you with the insights you need to become a better gamer with each passing week you play. Because hard data should be every bit as much a foundation of eSports science as biometrics and other technology.

In traditional sports, athletes go through mental and physical training regimen so they can improve their performance rapidly. The progress in the quality of those training regimens comes from several different places:

  • Efficacy of training techniques
  • Nutrition
  • Environment
  • Habits
  • Equipment
  • (And potentially) Drugs

The final progress barrier that affects all of the above is financial resources. Although money won’t prevent a great athlete from emerging, it can truly springboard their training progress.
It’s not uncommon for aspiring athletes to visit facilities like EXOS for intense boot camp training; a phenomenon that’s seen some traction for aspiring eSports pros.

image shows athletes at training facility, EXOS

Pro gamers sometimes use high-tech eSports science training facilities such as EXOS

Evolving training tools used by such facilities include state of the art biometric monitoring to obtain objective physiological data on athlete limitations, strengths, and weaknesses.
Rigorous and precise testing methods are used to determine the exact training techniques that will create the optimum gains in performance. Finally, judicious use of film and visual data are standard practices, too.

To get an idea of the depth athletic managers will go to get data, you can watch Moneyball or read this article about using missile tracking systems to track basketball shot patterns and court positioning.

The future of competitive gaming

Here’s the kicker: The field of eSports has a much easier time accessing this type of information due to the stationary nature of the players and the ease of monitoring them. After all, everything is electronic.

Since all events take place on a computer, data is registered, and film is automatically recorded. Pro teams go to great lengths to get every facet of information they can, but very few have the resources, time, or expertise to develop techniques that take advantage of biometrics. With eSports science about to pick up, that’s about to change.

So with this wealth of information available why are only the pros taking advantage of it? The Mobalytics team is bringing these data-drive insights to everyone who wants to amp up their performance.

Even at my relatively ancient age of 31, I play competitively and will scour the internet for every competitive advantage that I can get. Still, there’s no tool for me that I’d be inspired to invest in because of its capability to take all of these multifaceted aspects of training and integrate them into a platform designed for optimizing gamer performance.

And that’s exactly what we’re making to share with the rest of the world.