The 2015 "League of Legends" pro season has come to an end, meaning it's the offseason for the massively popular game. But, much like the NFL, NBA or MLB, this time of year is perhaps the busiest as new rules are implemented or teams chase after free agents to ensure success next season. "League of Legends" unveiled a huge patch to the game that affects champions and gameplay in equal measure. For Greg Street, game design director at Riot Games, "League of Legends" is a game that's difficult to learn and impossible to master.
"League of Legends," on the surface, is easy enough to explain. Two teams of five select their champions from a roster of over 100 characters. Each of these champions have unique personalities, skills and abilities that can be deployed in battle. Victory is achieved by destroying the other team's "nexus" located within the defensive heart of their base. In reality, it's a whirlwind of action that would be appear to a chaotic free-for-all but, in fact, it's a highly coordinated strategic dance.
Each champion gains strength over the course of the game, items, gold and other strategies are all implemented for offensive or defensive purposes. Traps can be set up, melee fighters could deal damage in close range combat while marksmen work from afar.
With the South Korean team SKTelecom T1 claiming the 2015 World Championships Oct. 31, it was time for Riot Games to look ahead to next season. Patch 5.22 has the standard bug fixes, but it also brings big game changes to "League of Legends." "It's our big opportunity to shake things up a bit," Street said to International Business Times. "This is the time where players can tolerate a little more disruption by having to relearn some systems before they get back into the competitive games for the rest of the year."
Each change in the patch created a ripple effect that led to other revisions. Street said they focused on one class of characters, the Marksmen, which led to tweaks in items and gold. Part of it is an attempt to bolster depth once players figure out specific systems, Street notes. While Riot Games may have ideas in mind about what the patches should do to gameplay in "League of Legends," the actual results are determined by the players. With millions of active users, the end results is often unpredictable.
Streets gives an example of how players were able to develop a different build -- way to set up a champion -- for Ezreal that emphasizes his magic abilities. The increased Ability damage was so powerful that there needed to be a readjustment to balance gameplay.
All of these changes create a game that's constantly evolving. In many ways, the success of "League of Legends" could be boiled down to its ability to grow with gamers. The patches changes the game in such a way that even players who have not played for a year or two would have the same growing pains as a player who logged on last week.
"The secret sauce of 'League of Legends' is what we call the never-ending route to mastery. Learning to get better at something is very satisfying. We have players who played thousands of games and there's always something more they could do," Street said.