My take on Riot’s LoL development timeline

Riot didn’t make much of a stink about the League of Legends birthday last year, but it seems this year there’s going to be something of a celebration. As part of the festivities, Riot put together a timeline that follows the development of the game since October of 2009.

I think this is a pretty cool tribute to the development of the game, but I hope Riot sees the timeline like I do: a reminder that they can do better. When I look down the list of developments I see several things that I never use, a couple things that were hyped up and underwhelmed, and one real thing that has the potential to extend the life of the platform for a player.

Twisted Treeline

Twisted Treeline started out strong but quickly dried up when players realized that only so many champs are actually viable on the map. With the rise of Tanky DPS I’ve been playing Treeline again, mostly because there’s more variety there, but Riot stopped worrying about balance for that map a long time ago. This one doesn’t add any life to League of Legends. It’s an occasional diversion from the big show.

Season One

Season One also looked pretty cool at the beginning. Ranked play brought us draft mode, a feature that I had really been missing prior to its release. But Season One went on so long I forgot it was even happening. In that time the game remained relatively unchanged, seeing just a few meta-shifts along the way.

Riot did start to develop a spectator mode for the game, which helped the visibility of the larger tournaments. This would be a nice injection of life for the platform, giving each player more ways to learn how to improve at the game. On the whole, though, Season One doesn’t add much to the platform for the average player.

Battle Training & Co-Op vs. AI

I have never used Battle Training and never will. I’d also say chances are good that once a player has seen the mode a couple times, they won’t be going back either.

As for Co-Op vs. AI, my experience with the mode was poor enough that I haven’t gone back. My allies constantly flamed me for any and every decision I made. I’d rather have the ragers from ranked than the trolls from this game mode. That said, I know some players enjoy it and it’s certainly kid friendly. This one seems okay for a very small subset of the player base. I would love to see more data on who is playing Co-Op vs. AI.

The Tribunal

I’m still surprised the Tribunal made it to the live feature list before things like achievements or spectator mode. I realize Riot must have been swamped in complaints about player behavior, but for me, the Tribunal just isn’t worth the time. I can’t even imagine the amount of management it takes on the back end. And frankly, my games haven’t improved dramatically since the Tribunal released. People are still rude. People still afk. There are just too many players for this kind of system to effect dramatic change that we can see on a player by player basis.

Dominion

This is the big, shiny pot of gold at the end of Riot’s timeline. When Dominion launched I played it like a fiend. I haven’t played a ton in the past couple weeks, but a few games here and there have still been fun. It’s obvious that Riot is committed to keeping this game mode balanced, which puts it ahead of Twisted Treeline as far as diversions are concerned. I don’t think Dominion is perfect, but it’s something new with totally new gameplay and I think a lot of players are enjoying it.

None of this is to say that I don’t like League of Legends. I love it. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on it, both in playing and in writing for this blog. The day is coming, though, when some shiny new toy will steal me away from LoL. When I look at this list, I don’t see much that will pull me back should my new toy grow stale. I hope Riot has a few tricks up its sleeve.

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?

Riven Patch Delayed

I know this is going to come as a shock, but the Riven patch has been officially delayed by 24 hours. It remains unclear what caused the delay, whether or not this will affect the end of Season One (though I would bet it will), and whether or not there’s a plan in place if ELOs decay tomorrow.

Here’s the official quote from RiotRara in a post made late Monday night/early Tuesday morning:

Our release team has confirmed that an extra 24 hours is needed to ensure quality release. There will be no downtime tonight for the Riven patch. We are sorry for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

Needless to say the forums are displeased, as I think they have every right to be. This is incredibly late notice for what was supposed to be a substantial patch. Hopefully we’ll hear more from Riot tomorrow.

Dominion potentially delayed until October

Things have been extremely quiet at Riot headquarters of late. The forums have been utterly devoid of red posts concerning Dominion, the end of Season One, and the beginning of Season Two in the last week or so. This wouldn’t be all that shocking – Riot has always struggled to provide good communication about timing – but we had been hearing about those things and in quantity for the three weeks or so prior.

From the time Dominion was announced until about three weeks ago, Riot was pumping the Dominion hype. We got the Dominion minisite, gameplay vids at the major gaming news outlets, plenty of screenshots, and chances to play the game at several industry events. We saw Rioters play pros, Rioters play Rioters. We got excited.

Next we were told about the end of Season One and the rewards that end entailed. For the first time since the launch of Season One players had something more than just winning/losing/farming IP to worry about. It was a great announcement, and hopefully a challenge a few people enjoyed as much as I did.

This past week, though, it was dead silent. I thought that meant Dominion was on the way. I thought that meant we’d see it before Q4 of this year, which is when every other game I’ve been excited about for the past several years is coming out. Sadly, that’s probably not the case. RiotRara finally posted in the forums today regarding the timing of Riven and the patch that follows her.

Here’s the quote:

Riven, and the changes within her patch, will be coming next week. As we previously announced, Season One will conclude with our next scheduled game update. Therefore we will also be calculating the Season One Ladder rankings and rewards during downtime for this patch.

Additionally, there will be an extra week (3 weeks total) between the Riven patch and the patch to follow. This extra time will ensure we bring you the best content possible in League of Legends.

I can’t imagine “best content possible” is code for anything other than Dominion. Three weeks from next Tuesday is October 4th. I’m not impressed, Riot. Not at all.

Season 1 Rewards and the Importance of Achievemnts

As the end of Season One approaches, players have been scrambling to rank up for rewards. I’ve been in the mix myself, finally pushing through and securing gold late last night. It was challenging, but that also made it fun, and as a result I’m going to get some rewards. The funny thing, for me anyway, is that I don’t care much about the rewards. I’m not a Jarvan player. I don’t post on the forums much, if at all, but the simple fact that there is a reward associated with a tangible goal made the journey toward that goal a lot more compelling.

There was also an interesting side effect, which is where the whole “importance of achievements” thing comes in. As my rating edged closer to the 1520 mark for gold status, players were more helpful and level-headed. Granted, this is some circumstantial evidence, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that the attitude adjustment is due to the fact that players have a common goal beyond just winning.

It’s rare that I play with people who don’t want to win, but there’s really very little incentive to winning beyond, well, just winning. The ELO grind really didn’t mean anything. Players at every ELO rank complain that the players in that bracket are noobs and trolls. There’s also the fact that ELO is an endless grind. I can hit 1800 but what then? More games? Maybe make it to 1900? Maybe fall back down to 1600? There is no tangible reward other than bragging rights to make the ELO grind interesting.

This Season One reward is nothing more than an achievement system, and for me it worked pretty well. I know there are still a lot of players struggling with ELO hell, but let me reiterate this – getting out of ELO hell won’t make your games that much better. There will still be trolls. There will still be feeders. There will still be games you just can’t carry. I don’t think you’ll see a real shift in player attitude until Riot gives us something more than just a win and a ranking to worry about.

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