FG LoL Mondays are off this week (but feel free to group up in my absence)

I mentioned this to a few of you during the week this week but I wanted to make sure to let everyone know. Fearless Gamer LoL Mondays will be off this week. I’m moving the majority of my apartment tomorrow evening and finishing up on Tuesday. As such, I’m out for this week.

Of course, you guys are welcome to get together as you please, and I’d actually recommend it. The last two weeks have been a lot of fun and I think we’ve had a solid mix of veteran players and young blood alike. So please, fire up your own games and keep the (still new) tradition alive. If you can’t get enough players together, I’ll be back the following week for a night of fun.

Riot responds to server instability concerns (right here on FG!)

Riot Games logo.A few days ago I made a post regarding the recent instability issues with Riot servers, a post that seemed to resonate with a lot of you. In case you missed it, RiotChris dropped by this very blog to respond to some of those concerns, and he was followed shortly by Marc Merrill, the president of Riot Games, who linked his own response to the situation from the League of Legends forums.

Here’s what RiotChris (who is Chris Enock, the company’s Director of Marketing) had to say:

We are sorry that we have been having server stability issues and growing pains recently. Fixing them and making a better player experience is our company’s top priority.

We are as frustrated by the server issues, and we will be taking time to bring everyone up to speed on what we are doing to make the issues better. I know it doesn’t help you play the game, but I can tell you that all the problems are due to the growth – if it was just a matter of buying more servers we would do so instantly – and the cause of the problem is rarely the same issue twice because we fix the problems. Of course none of that makes LoL available to play, but our top men are also working on improving the server stability night and day.

- RiotChris

First of all, I want offer my thanks for your response, Chris. On the official forums it’s one thing – players either go there or they don’t, and it doesn’t exactly feel personal when that’s the only place we see an official response. You guys (meaning the readers, not Riot) have chosen this blog and continually choose to come back, which has made the time I spend writing here infinitely worthwhile and interesting, and the fact that Chris not only reads here, but decided to comment does feel personal, sounds informed, and seems empathetic. Despite a few blunders, I do think Riot is among best developers around in terms of community involvement and outreach, and anyone who has spent time in the customer service industry knows what a horrible, mad bitch of a task it is to keep people happy.

President Marc Merrill’s response further edified the good vibrations RiotChris delivered with a detailed look at the source of the recent issues and the efforts currently underway to resolve those issues (make sure you read his post as well as the service post he links). I had a good feeling that LoL was growing fast. I had no idea it was more than doubling the game’s audience every three months (which could mean a lot of things, but empirically means the game is exploding). That kind of growth would be hard for any young developer to keep up with, and it would be unfair to Riot to not bear in mind the company’s youth.

The takeaway message here is “stick with it.” I think we can all agree that the game is a lot of fun – it’s complex, exhilarating, and interesting enough that I can write about it every single day, and often in a positive light. Though the current stability issues are frustrating, even infuriating at times, there are “top men” working on them, and those top men really are invested and interested in what we, as a community, have to say.

N.B. – I’m really sorry about the delays on posts this past week. Moving in North Carolina in late August is horrible, but it will be done by the middle of next week. Things will return to normal. I will be my typically witty, charming, and timely self, soon.

Servers go down again

Top 10 forum postsYesterday afternoon we lost servers for a brief restart period, which is kind of expected after a decent patch day. Tonight, though, they’re down again, and I don’t know how you feel about it, but I’m fed up.

One of the most infuriating pieces of the server instability is Riot’s constant crowing about the quality of the free game they provide. For me, the game isn’t free – I’ve paid more than retail price for an average game for skins over the past nine months – and it’s a big slap in the face to say that the game is good for being free. It’s also frustrating that there’s been no word about the leaves people get from server disconnects. On a macro level, I think it’s safe to say most players don’t experience those problems. On an individual level, though, I think Riot isn’t delivering a quality experience. For every five players with a fine experience I’d bet you can find one with a terrible experience at some point during a given week.

The worst part of it all, of course, is that Riot has made a great game. It’s so good that it will likely continue to grow at the pace that’s causing the problems – it’s just more players than the servers can handle. For now, I’m here to stay. It would actually take a lot to pull me away from a game I enjoy so immensely when it’s working. For a lot of players, though, I can see the downtime and Riot’s attitude regarding it as the final straw.

The great Heimerdinger nerf

HeimerdingerSince the debut of ranked games, Heimerdinger has topped nearly every player’s ban list. His pushing power, anti-pushing, and ability to shackle another team to its base while slowly ripping down turrets with his grenade, made him a menace against just about any team comp.

Yesterday changed that. Heimer caught a string of minimal nerfs over the last several months that amounted to very little, but this latest patch was a huge nerf. Heimer now casts one less turret. The rank that perviously gave him three turrets now adds 100 hp to the turrets. Honestly, 100 hp is a joke. I laned against a Ryze today and he just laughed at my extra 100 hp. Heimer’s grenades no longer deal damage to turrets as well.

It’s a short list of nerfs, but the difference is huge. Having just one turret left when one gets killed can actually make it hard to control a lane. Heimer is also a pretty squishy toon without a lot of escape options. Three turrets allowed you to roam around the map a little bit with the security of a couple turrets you could use to slow enemies if you extended too far.

I do agree that Heimer’s damage needed a nerf, but removing a damage source wasn’t the way to do it. It would have been more appropriate to nerf the damage of each turret or reduce their AP scaling, rather than eliminating one of his options.

I think we’ll be seeing very little from Heimer over the next few weeks.

The great Shaco nerf

Shaco.

This most recent patch brought with it the bane of Shaco players everywhere – nerfs that warrant pulling him off your ban list. Before we get into the nerfs, though, let’s take a look at some history.

For a long time, Shaco was one of the most feared champions at any tier of the game. If a player had invested IP in crit damage runes, you could bet he was going to two-shot the closest caster, thanks in part to strong fortitude elixirs and the bug that allowed his Deceive to hit as a crit plus a mountain of bonus damage.

Once that Shaco disappeared, we started to see the emergence of something a bit closer to today’s Shaco. It was usually Madred’s, though the occasional Sheen/Infinity Shaco still popped up. Players were relying on Shaco’s clone to provide a lot of their damage during a gank or teamfight, so Sunfire Shaco seemed to also do well. Much of Shaco’s strength lies in his ability to get behind players undetected, get a kill, and get out. Riot nerfed his Deceive several patches ago to help with this, but apparently it wasn’t enough.

Yesterday’s Shaco nerf was a nerf across the board. Deceive has a longer cooldown, doesn’t last as long, and breaks any time you cast anything, including Jack in the Box. Two Shiv Poison no longer puts a partial blind on the target, his passive bonus damage is down to 20 percent from 25, and his ultimate caught a massive nerf. Hallucinate now has a 33 percent longer cooldown at max rank and lasts 60 percent as long as it previously has. If it sounds like a lot, that’s because it is.

While some people might argue that he’s more in line with other melee, remember that position is the most important part of playing Shaco. Shaco has very poor base stats, so you need to make sure you’re behind your target with a box in place in order to do the best damage. The Deceive nerf makes this hard, but the Jack in the Box nerf makes it harder. It’s very easy to walk away from JitBs as they are placed, and almost laughable to avoid them mid fight. There’s also very little now to keep players from just blowing you up when you pop out. While I do think the partial blind on Shaco’s attacks was a bit much, why not leave it on the active. That would at least give him some damage mitigation after he’s visible.

The bright light in all of this is that Shaco will still be an excellent jungler. Despite the fat nerf, his JitBs still fear creeps, providing a nice damage buffer when you need to get lizard. When thinking about Shaco as a jungler, it does seem that he is being balanced around having both buffs at all times. While I understand the idea (because it is so easy for him to get buffs), it’s going to be very frustrating for Shaco players who fall behind or those whose team falls behind.

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