The Lol organization desgined to excel

TL;DR

  • This is the first of a multiple part article where I analyze Lol organizational structure and propose an org structure designed to excel at hiring, developing and retaining talent.

Lol at the highest competitive levels is not about who has the better Lol Players. All rosters are already good enough. It’s about who manages their talent better.

You need to create an environment where the team and individuals can grow. And you need to have the correct staff to guide them through the path.

The problem is that Lol teams are flawed by design – they have structural issues.

Structural issues

Structural issues are something ingrained in esports culture, organizations or even game design. The only way of solving them is by having the whole org buying into “a vision”.

For example, having a 5 man roster is a consequence of structural issues. It’s really common that during the season players start slacking or have conflicts with each other and staff members. It’s also pretty common that scrims become a clown fiesta.

Having a 10 man rosters solves both problems. Players are competing on daily basis for their spot so the scrim quality raises. They’re also aware that if they severely misbehave they can be benched.

But properly managing a 10 man roster requires an organization that buys into the vision and qualified staff. Just having 10 players won’t make conflicts magically disappear.

Why structural issues must be solved

A clown fiesta scrim set from an LCS team happens because the players aren’t good enough? It’s because they don’t care enough? Or it’s because a player is mad with another and is not willing to follow his calls?

Structural issues create scenarios where growing as a team becomes a quest. As a coach, analyst or player, you can put huge amounts of time and effort on solving in-game problems but it won’t matter. The root of the problem is outside of the game.

It doesn’t matter how talented a roster is, if the org doesn’t know how to solve this issue, the team has a slim chance of succeeding.

 

The 3 main structural issues

You could argue that there are more but I think they all come from these three:

  1. Lack of money
  2. Immature Industry
  3. Lol technical limitations

Lack of money

When I joined Fnatic in January 2015 I asked for the team: several analysts, a sport psychologist, a physiotherapist and a chef. I got one analyst. Simply put, there was not enough money.

At the time, orgs spent until the last penny on players and everything else was secondary. This way of allocating their budget was also a consequence of the industry’s immaturity – we’ll talk about it later.

Today, the lack of money is about to stop being an issue. The constant influx of venture capital and NBA teams getting into esports has created a really interesting situation. We are entering an age in esports where money is not the limiting factor anymore, now the limiting factor is knowledge.

Immature Industry

Most orgs pre 2013 started being just a team of 5 players. That team got really good, developed a big fanbase and the founder retired as a player to focus on the business side. Some founders successfully transitioned while others didn’t, but all orgs from that era where player centric.

Most players who transitioned to owners of orgs started playing young. They spent their life playing games, don’t have degrees or years of working experience. Esports just happened to explode while they were good players, outgrew them and they didn’t have time to properly transition to business people.

When these owners thought about their orgs, they did it from the point of view of a player. They didn’t try creating systems to ensure growth, they didn’t create a structure so that winning was the consequence of the process. It’s not they didn’t care, it was just completely outside of their area of expertise.

Historically, lack of money was a big problem. Highly qualified professional’s salaries were 5x to 10x higher than in esports. Using myself as an example, in my last year as a poker pro I made 7x more money than in my first year in Fnatic. I didn’t care because I wanted to be a successful LCS coach but it’s not a move I’d recommend anyone.

In the current esports landscape, salaries aren’t an issue anymore. Teams can hire top talent from other fields and can compete with the sports or tech industry.

Another consequence of esports being such a young industry is that there are few specialists. There are no doctors specialized in esports, nor esports psychologists. There’s no degree on esports coaching, no academic path and no coaches in the west with 10+ years of coaching experience in esports.

With all the professionals coming from other fields and esports being acknowledged by governments this is changing too. Professionals can transition into esports and academic esports degrees are being developed.

Even though esports as an industry is growing at an incredible speed, I think the lack of knowledge will be the main issue for big orgs in the upcoming years. Right now there’s very few people that have enough esports knowledge and have also been at an elite level in other fields.

Lol technical limitations

When I transitioned from poker to Lol I couldn’t believe there was no Lol Analysis software. As an online poker pro; data is everything. I assumed that Lol being such a popular game, there would be multiple analytical tools.

Later I discovered that the issue was the Lol API – it barely gives any information. To be honest, this blew my mind and I always tried to find a work around.

In 2015, for our worlds prep we used web scraping techniques to get data from all the world’s teams to analyze the metagame. With Tableau we did the visualization but to be honest, it wasn’t that useful. The combination of low quality data plus frequents patch changes was a nightmare for data analysis. The sample was too small to reach meaningful conclusions.

In 2016 we tried to go one step further and extract data from our scrims. We played 25-30 scrims a week but just a few stage games. We had no info about our scrims, not even the match history. Not being able to capture and analyze all this scrim data felt like a crime.

We extracted data from scrims using computer vision and analyzed it afterwards. But again, it was very unreliable. We couldn’t see the whole map from every angle every second and a lot of data got lost.

To summarize, the Lol API sucks. The amount of information that you can capture is tiny.

The other critical Lol technical flaw is the lack of training tool. Not long ago Riot released a training tool, but it’s borderline useless for teams, you can only train alone and versus dummies.

In Lol you can’t drill. If your team is weak snowballing mid game, you can’t just practice from 15 to 22 minutes with all tier 1 towers down. You have to play a whole game to practice just the mid game.

The lack of training tool also makes developing subs a challenge. Any amount of players between 5 and 10 is suboptimal because you can’t give them all the same quality of training.

In regular sports, all players train at the same time. In Lol, if you substitute a player, the other doesn’t scrim, missing precious practice time.

 

Esports Organizations goals

To properly understand the structure of an esports org we also need to understand what their goals are.

Having enough sponsor deals and creating a fanbase is critical for the long term success but for the sake of simplicity, we will only focus on sports goals:

  1. Hiring the best talent available
  2. Developing the hired talent
  3. Retaining the developed talent

By talent I mean both players and staff members.

Hiring and retaining talent

If we accept that money is not a problem, hiring the best talent available and retaining it is a matter of how interesting the project is. Things like chances of winning titles, being able to grow professionally and increasing personal brand value are critical factors.

Hiring is also influenced by scouting, but scouting doesn’t really exist. There are no junior or online leagues to scout. Riots API limitations make it difficult to scout SoloQ too.

Developing talent

Developing the hired talent is the area where I feel Lol orgs are going to struggle most. It totally depends on the structure of the org and their staff member’s knowledge. It’s critical for three reasons:

  1. Increasing the knowledge of your players increases the org chances of winning.
  2. When players feel they are learning and progressing they feel fulfilled and are happier.
  3. When a new hire enters a structured system they will integrate, grow and perform faster.

Developing a team is a big challenge. Players development highly depends on the staff members knowledge but who’s in charge of the staff development? In the same way that players need to improve, the whole stuff needs to too. Everyone that makes important decisions should be in a constant learning environment.

There’s no clear path to become a coach or analyst. Staff member functions and skills tend to overlap. Analysts are mini-coaches with less coaching skills and more focused in-game analysis. Coaches are in charge of too many areas (draft, communication, macro, micro, individual and team growth plans, solving conflict between players, etc.) They are the main source of knowledge but their teachings aren’t structured or part of a system.

What can’t be measured can’t be improved. What is not tracked can’t be measured. If the coach’s teachings aren’t documented and structured they are difficult to replicate or evaluate.

Teaching the players is the coach’s responsibility but creating the system is the org’s responsibility. The org needs to understand how important it is and give coaches the tools to create it.

The competitive Lol environment also complicates creating this system. In most teams coaches don’t last longer than two splits. The regular season is packed with games too, making it impossible to create a system without the org pushing for it.

 

An org designed to excel

Now that we know that an org must:

  1. Be able to solve structural issues or avoid their consequences
  2. Excel at hiring, developing and retaining talent

This is my org proposal:

 

 

In the second part of this article series I’ll talk about what are the responsibilities of every role and how they interact between each other.

8 responses to “The Lol organization desgined to excel”

  1. José de Matías says:

    En primer lugar me disculpo por contestar en castellano pero dado que sé que usted habla castellano perfectamente utilizaré mi lengua materna para este menester. He leído su artículo y me parece muy interesante, le felicito, muy poca gente se anima a escribir sobre estos aspectos tan importantes. Me gustaría si me lo permite hacer algunas apreciaciones.

    Lo que conocemos como “clown fiesta” en una scrim o un partido ya sucedía en los deportes tradicionales antaño y se cataloga como “práctica colectiva ineficiente”. Han sido muchos los entrenadores que a lo largo de los años han escrito sobre este fenómeno y la teoría más aceptada del motivo por el cual sucede es que es fruto de una combinación entre:

    A-Mala planificación del entrenamiento.
    B-No incluir los aspectos psicológicos dentro de la planificación del trabajo.
    C-Falta de educación en la disciplina deportiva por parte del jugador.

    Las dos primeras responden a una mala inclusión de la psicología deportiva dentro del entrenamiento ya que erróneamente se tiende a sentir la psicología deportiva como un factor externo al entrenamiento. La psicología la queremos para que el psicólogo hable con el jugador que está deprimido, desmotivado o enfadado y poco más.

    La psicología de tus jugadores debe estar incluida en la propia planificación del método de entrenamiento y eso rara vez se hace en deporte electrónico. Una mera sucesión de scrims inconexas y sin objetivo claro no es la mejor manera de evitar que tus prácticas se vuelvan ineficientes. Planificar integrando las motivaciones de tus jugadores y haciéndoles conscientes de los objetivos de cada entrenamiento es fundamental para mantenerlos en un estado “de alerta” constante que es el que logra que los jugadores entrenen eficientemente y que al terminar estos sepan con certeza que la práctica sirvió para algo. A esto se le suele conocer como “buscar el estado de flow desde la planificación”.

    Otra solución, que usted ya apunta en su artículo, es que los jugadores tengan la sensación de constate lucha por su puesto de titular para lo que un roster de 10 jugadores sería una respuesta ideal. La combinación de ambas es, en mi opinión, la respuesta más eficiente. La constante lucha por el puesto de titular combinada con entrenamientos variados alejados lo máximo posible de lo que son simples scrims consecutivas y sin objetivo claro. Le recomiendo el libro de José María Buceta “Psicología del entrenamiento deportivo” que habla de todos estos temas, estoy seguro de que lo encontrará interesante.

    Lo anteriormente citado se acentúa aun más en los deportes electrónicos debido al factor C, ya que los jugadores no crecen en un ambiente deportivo semiprofesional que les enseña los valores de la disciplina, la estrategia y el valor del cuerpo técnico que trabaja para ellos. Existen varios ensayos y artículos en los que se diserta sobre cómo se debe planificar el entrenamiento en las escuelas de los diferentes deportes colectivos y todos hablan de la necesidad primaria, por encima incluso de la del rendimiento, de que los jugadores sean aptos para el trabajo profesional y la ejecución de órdenes de equipo. Sin esto, el talento se vuelve en muchos casos imposible de gestionar.

    Aquí subyace la problemática de la falta de disciplina a la hora de entrenar o disputar una scrim en los deportes electrónicos. Toda esta infraestructura es inexistente en los esports donde los jugadores profesionales llegaron a su status actual fruto de su habilidad, sin pasar por todos estos estadios que pasan los deportistas semiprofesionales antes de dar el salto a la élite. Se convierten en grandes ejecutores pero carentes de toda educación o filosofía deportiva. Eso se refleja a la hora de trabajar con ellos. Un símil podría ser el del muchacho que ha jugado en el parque del barrio con amigos y es buenísimo. Un ojeador lo ve ya con 19 años y debido a su excepcional calidad técnica decide meterlo en un club profesional. La calidad del jugador es indiscutible pero se presentarán problemas de disciplina, de educación y de ética deportiva a la hora de superar obstáculos o enfrentar los entrenamientos de forma profesional, ya que nunca nadie le enseñó que no entrenar correctamente acarrea consecuencias y que hacerlo aporta unos beneficios. Como también apuntas, todo esto es fruto de la inmadurez del sector.

    Por último respecto a su propuesta de cuerpo técnico “ideal” discrepo ligeramente. No voy a desarrollar mucho estas ya que esta no es la mejor vía pero en resumen creo que peca un poco en la aplicación directa de un “split task” a la hora de decidir los implicados en el cuerpo técnico y que fruto de eso su propuesta es extremadamente extensa lo que puede acarrear problemas de coordinación y pérdida de información como ya mencionan José Luis Delgado y Xavier Omar en varios artículos y estudios. Además el entrenador personal específico a cada rol tendría sentido si fuera orientado al gesto técnico del jugador que actualmente, en mi opinión, no representa el verdadero talón de Aquiles de los jugadores.

    Nada más que agradecerle que comparta su visión con los que le seguimos ya que usted es de las pocas personas que han experimentado lo que es ser entrenador de deporte electrónico a nivel mundial. Muchos tenemos experiencia en deporte tradicional a varias escalas o estudios en este campo pero el punto de vista de quien ha vivido de cerca la competición al más alto nivel siempre nos es muy útil, gracias.

    • Luis Deilor says:

      Hola José,

      Gracias por tu aporte.

      En la segunda parte de este artículo explicare las necesidades del cuerpo técnico. No hace falta que X personas haga Y, lo que es necesario es que se cubran esas necesidades. Si tu visión está basada en los deportes tradicionales es normal que difieras. Esto es una propuesta que cubre esas necesidades, pero no es la ideal. La ideal es la que pueda ser ejecutada, y eso depende del personal que tiene cada org y sus conocimientos.

      • Hola Luis, me parece muy puntual lo expresado por Matias, primero déjame presentarme soy el dueño de la Organización LoL Academia y nosotros practicamos la estructura que tu propuestas desde hace mucho tiempo.

        Me gustaría conversar con usted en privado, si me podrías enviar un correo electrónico.

        Muchas gracias por su tiempo.

  2. Alexandru Daniel says:

    Hi Deilor, looking forward to the next part of this. Something that caught my eye but shouldn’t the Scrim & Meta analyst be reporting to the Development Coach based on your structure ? I may have a different understanding of what a Development Coach is but it seems at 1st glance that he would be the one with the more hands on approach in terms of team synergy, facilitating drafts, suggesting new picks/comps etc

    • Luis Deilor says:

      Hey Alexandru,

      Meta Analyst should report to the Head Coach because he’s the one in charge of draft and creating the main roster growth plans. The Scrim Analyst would report to both, but scrims are designed to make the main roster excel at stage games.

      In the followup article I’ll explain that all team has needs and someone has to cover them. X person doesn’t have to do Y. If those needs are covered, different structures are valid too.

  3. Maxim Lannoy says:

    Hey Luis!

    I absolutely adore your work and your thoughts on Esports in general. I’m a big fan of you. I’m currently in my second-to-last college year. I’m studying business management. Im planning and scheming to join the Esports business after my education. Do you have any tips entering the business? Next year I have to do my internship for school. I’m planning to apply for the FNATIC internship program. This is my favorite Esports brand. I’m also going to tell FNATIC that I want to invest into their company. Thoughts on my future decision? I recently heard you were planning to re-enter Esports and I’m very curious what your plans are. Is there anything I could do for you? I’m open to help. You can contact me on LinkedIn. My link is in the website box.

    • Luis Deilor says:

      Hey Maxim!

      Glad you liked it! I would advice to be proactive and stay open minded. Always do more than you are assigned or expected to do.

      Have no comments on investing in Fnatic. I’m not a professional investor 😀

      I never really left esports, just wasn’t on the spotlight. When I left Fnatic I said that I wanted to help professionalize esports, and that’s what I’m focusing on. I’m developing Dygma and working with Movistar Riders on creating a team structure to excel mid-long term.

      I’ve accepted you on Linkedin request. Write me when you’ve finished your business education 🙂

  4. Juan José Bernasconi Fresard says:

    Luis,

    Te comento desde Chile, primero para felicitarte por todo lo que haz logrado y decir que siempre he tenido una admiracion por tu forma de pensar y acercarte al juego.

    Tengo un par de dudas que si me puedes encaminar me seria de mucha ayuda;

    Pareciera ser que en Chile, los esports estan en pañales todavía, por lo que yo veo un nicho acá, ademas de una clara pasión por league of legends y el deseo de partir un equipo, pero como puedo yo crear un equipo desde cero sabiendo que no existe ni infraestructura ni cultura de esports acá en Chile.

    Como me mantengo motivado con lo que estoy haciendo y como puedo trabajar una organización desde cero.

    Que estés bien y te deseo lo mejor.

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