I miss the Season One reward grind

I was worried this would happen. As the end of Season One drew to a close, I had a goal in mind: I wanted to get gold rating. There wasn’t really a personal reason, either. There was a reward; a reward that I wouldn’t use very much, but still, it was something I could point to and say, “I got that because I did X.”

It was a grind, too. I had to play a lot of games to hit gold. The grind pretty much killed any desire I had to play Lee Sin beyond the finish. I got incredibly close to the 1520 mark and then dropped ELO several times. But still, it was a goal. It was something to shoot for. It was a lot of fun.

Fast forward six weeks or so and I’m having a little trouble enjoying the game like I used to. There aren’t any in-game goals for me to strive for. I could try to rank up my solo queue ELO, but to what end? More ranking up? Not exactly a compelling sales pitch.

I know League can’t always be my number one game, but I do think there’s a lot more to be done to keep veteran players interested in the game. The Jarvan skin was a great idea – why not produce more skins that could be tied to certain achievements. Win 250/500/1000 ranked games, get a cool skin. Play 10 ranked games, get a one-time, one-day IP boost. These kind of things don’t cost a lot of money to put into the game and encourage more players to try more things. My assumption, which I suppose could be totally wrong, is that the more time players spend enjoying games, the more likely they are to spend on content.

Even if that assumption can’t be backed by data, it certainly breeds goodwill with the playerbase. Why not reward players for spending time with the game?

What are your thoughts? Are you still going strong with LoL or are other games starting to steal your attention. Has Dominion been enough to keep you coming back?

Xerath skill list announced

Xerath.

Late last night Riot posted the skillset for Xerath, the next champion to be added to the League. As I mentioned previously, Riot has scrapped the “increased-mana-cost/power-per-cast” model for Xerath and instead turned him into a sort of mini-turret.

Let’s take a look at the skills:

Ascended Form (Passive): Xerath feeds on arcane power, making him increasingly resilient to physical harm. He converts a percentage of his Ability Power into Armor.

Arcanopulse: Fires a long-range beam of energy, dealing magic damage to all targets hit.

Locus of Power: Xerath anchors himself to source of magical power, increasing the range of all spells and granting him bonus % Magic Penetration. Although he is immobilized while Locus of Power is active, his movement speed increases upon disabling the ability.

Mage Chains: Deals magic damage to an enemy and marks them with Unstable Magic. The next spell Xerath strikes this enemy with stuns them.

Arcane Barrage: Calls down a blast of arcane energy, dealing magic damage to all enemies in an area. May be cast up to three times before going on cooldown.

It’s a little strange to see a return to the gold-multiplier passive that we’ve seen on so many other characters, but hopefully the fact that he’s converting AP to armor will be better than the AP to HP we’ve seen in the past. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on this once I actually get my hands on him.

Actually, that’s how I feel about essentially all of his skills. The descriptions are, as usual, a little vague. All we know at this point is that he’ll be highly durable and able to attack from extreme range. I’m definitely interested to see how Riot keeps it balanced, if it can be. I can see Rod of Ages being absolutely devastating on Xerath. If his base damage while outside of Locus of Power is too high, he’ll smash enemy DPS while still competing with enemy casters by using Locus of Power to avoid their spells. It’s a strange mix of abilities to give a caster.

We should know more next week.

Are you playing Summoner’s Rift?

Summoner's Rift.

This may seem like a foolish question to ask, but there’s a reason I ask. When Dominion first launched to beta I was playing the hell out of it. Part of my fascination was obviously the fact that we finally had something new in front of our faces to play with. The other part, which actually took a couple play sessions to recognize, was that I always had a full group of people to play with. It was never hard to find four other people who would get on voice chat and try a little capture and hold.

Just three days since the new mode launched, though, I’m already having trouble putting together a Dominion group and frankly, Dominion just isn’t that fun without a premade group. It can often be particularly unfun, even more so than Summoner’s Rift. So I’m bouncing back and forth a bit. I’m playing ranked games here and there with some friends in duo queue. I’m hitting Dominion when I have three or more friends ready to play.

What about you? Are you still playing Summoner’s Rift? Are you totally wrapped up in Dominion? Are you boycotting Dominion for some reason? Do you play Dominion with less than three people? Let me know in the comments.

DotA 2 originally scheduled for year-long beta

The release of League of Legends: Dominion made me wonder what the other big players in the MOBA world have been up to, particularly the good people at Valve. Valve has always been known for the glacial pace of its development, but the word on the street was that DotA 2 would be out this year. Apparently that was never Valve’s plan.

According to an official blog post made late last week, DotA 2 was originally slated for a year-long beta, beginning this fall. During that time, Valve was planning to slowly increase the number of available heroes until it matched the original title and only then would the game be released.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which releasing DotA 2 a year from now would make any kind of sense. Granted, DotA players are a loyal breed, but the options for filling the MOBA need are ever-increasing. As Dominion has shown us, there are also emerging models for arena-style gameplay that stray from conventional base-killing. Also, why hold a high profile tournament for a game that won’t release for a full year? In short, DotA can’t keep MOBA players interested forever. Pushing that interest for another 12 months seems like a surefire way to kill the game.

Luckily, Valve has changed its plans. The new schedule has DotA 2 coming out as soon as possible with the set of heroes that were playable in the International tourney. From there, Valve will be rolling out updates with more heroes along the way.

Weirdly enough, I think their terrible initial plan will turn into a really smart release cycle. DotA 2 will be a tough change of pace for players who never played the original. Even veteran DotA players, like myself, might have trouble adjusting after being away from the game so long. That adjustment period is only compounded by the number of new champions and mechanics a player has to learn. By launching with a limited set of champions, DotA 2 will probably be much more approachable than the version we would otherwise see a year from now.

Xerath mechanics preview different from PC Gamer

The Xerath preview in the latest PC Gamer made him out to be a resource-management champion. Based on the latest info from Riot, though, it sounds like he’s really more of a hyper-range champion than anything else.

Morello posted a mechanics preview of the new mage yesterday, which included a description of several of his skills. Xerath was described as a “howitzer” designed for “long barrages and sieging.” Anyone remember the days of sieging? Remember when it was called poking? Yeah, baby, those days are back.

I think the design concept for Xerath sounds pretty cool, provided it takes a reasonable amount of skill to land and effectively use his spells. It’s always a great feeling to snipe a player with a cross-map Ashe or Ezreal ult, a feeling I’m hoping Xerath can recreate.

From the sound of things, he’ll be dealing big AoE damage from afar. That could easily be something of a problem if his range/damage are too good. Even with the spell Locus of Power, which locks him in place for extended range and defensive penetration, I think we could see too many easy snipes without really sacrificing much in terms of mobility. Also, consider the kind of zoning a character with long-range burst could perform on Summoner’s Rift. If he’s the Caitlyn of AP carries, I think he’s probably going to have some balance issues.

I would be interested to see a character with Xerath’s mechanics have a minimum cast range. Imagine if you couldn’t hit players that were right on top of you, but had to play from a distance. That could be a very cool mechanic. With the prevalence of dash/mobility mechanics in the game, though, it could be really frustrating.

I’m definitely intrigued by Xerath’s design direction so far. I’m hopeful he won’t be instaban OP, but it’s hard to imagine a way to make a character with his described skillset feel balanced. We’ll have to wait and see.

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