An inhouse league is a community, either public or private, where the members play matches among themselves. Sometimes inhouse leagues have rankings and prizes for top-performing players at the end of a season, but many of them don’t.
They’re kind of like scrims (private practices between two teams) but on a much larger scale. Anyone in the league can start a game, and anyone else in the league can join to play. Usually they’re held on Discord. Sounds like a great idea, right?
The Pros of Inhouse Leagues
Better quality matches. We all know how shoddy matchmaking can be. You can get matches where all players are in different leagues, and matches are often balanced as “best player plus worst players versus the rest.” In an inhouse, players are vetted so matches are usually pretty even. And not just for pros! Newbie-friendly inhouse leagues can result in fairer matches for beginners too.
Teamwork opportunities. When inhouses are hosted through Discord, hopping into a voice channel is easy. Those on the same team can communicate, which allows for better teamplay. Not only does this help further elevate the quality of matches, but gaming with voice is arguably more enjoyable (assuming the others on voice aren’t annoying or immature).
Matches can be chained. It’s common for multiple inhouse matches to be hosted one right after another, which means minimal wait time between matches. If there is a wait, it’s often still faster than sitting in queue — and you can chat with everyone else while waiting, which helps to pass the time.
Play unpopular modes. As long as both 2v2 and 3v3 remain, the game will suffer. Unfortunately, Stunlock recently announced that they have no plans to designate an official mode so we’re stuck. Anyone who prefers 3v3 is left in the dust because the queues heavily favor 2v2. An inhouse league, however, makes room for modes where matchmaking takes too long or never pops, including 3v3 and even 1v1.
Develop player relationships. When queuing in Battlerite, it’s common to see the same faces over and over again — yet it’s rare to develop relationships with those faces. You may never even say Hi. But because inhouse leagues often involve using Discord or IRC or something else, you end up spending time with players both in game AND out of game, and relationships naturally form.
Reduce smurfing. Why do players smurf? Mainly to avoid slow queues due to high rank. Smurfing can also be a way to play seriously without the risk of affecting a main account’s rank. Would-be smurfs can play in inhouse matches (which are faster than queue and provide a competitive environment without risk of rating loss) instead of smurfing in queue, resulting in a better experience for everyone involved.
The Cons of Inhouse Leagues
Queuing is easier. Matchmaking is as easy as it gets: just click a button and wait. Inhouses involve checking into the community, waiting for enough players, loading up the game and hosting a lobby, making sure the teams are right, and in some cases reporting the score after a match ends. It does get easier over time, but never quite as easy as ingame matchmaking.
Inhouses cannibalize queues. The best reason to disapprove of inhouses is that they pull players away from ingame queues. Every player in an inhouse is a player who could be adding to queue numbers. Fewer players in queue equals longer queue times, which leads to even fewer players, then even longer queue times, etc. Not much of a problem in massive games like Dota 2, but a huge risk for games like Battlerite.
Artificial skill disparity. “Pro inhouses” are especially bad because they tend to siphon off the best players, which prevents up-and-coming players from facing them in queue, and without that experience those up-and-comers stop improving. Meanwhile the top players keep playing among themselves, learning and getting better. This can cause the competitive scene to stagnate with the same faces winning all the time.
Hidden and exclusive. One could argue that up-and-coming queue players should just hop over and start inhousing, but it’s not so easy. First, a lot of players may be unaware that inhouse leagues exist. How can they join something they don’t know about? Second, many inhouse leagues have a kind of vouching system: existing members must recommend you in order to join. Not friends with the right people? Forget it then.
Admin abuse and elitism. If you play against an inhouse league admin and beat him when he’s having a bad day, he might ban you. If you have bad blood with one of the admin’s friends, he might be convinced to ban you. And inhouse communities generally tend to be elitist — or if not elitist, then isolated. They like to hang with their own and it can be tough for outsiders to break in.
The Time for a 3v3 Inhouse League
While Stunlock did acknowledge that 3v3 is objectively better than 2v2 for competition, it doesn’t seem like they’re going to do anything about 2v2 being the more popular mode — and I don’t blame them. They need to make money, after all. But it does leave 3v3 players in a sad spot.
Are inhouse leagues the only option, then?
The minor downsides, like admin abuse and exclusivity, can be addressed with smart leadership. And yes, the major downsides, mainly that it’ll pull players out of queues and into private games, will have a negative impact. But if the developers aren’t going to do anything to push forward the most balanced and competitive format, then perhaps it’s up to the players to do something about it.
At the end of the day, we want to have fun. If someone thinks 3v3 is the most fun mode, who can blame them for wanting to play it? And if they can’t play it in queues with regularity, then they are well within their rights to start an inhouse league. As for the fallout that comes from it? Well, Stunlock will have to handle it one way or another.
What do you think? Would you join a 3v3 inhouse league? Or do you think they would be too much of a detriment? I’d love to hear your thoughts.