League of Legends is an online multiplayer video game developed and published by Riot Games for Windows and MacOS in 2009. The title is currently in its tenth season, which is speculated to last until November 2020.
A short piece of background
The game was originally conceived in Los Angeles by Brandon “Ryze” Beck and Marc “Tryndamere” Merrill. After quitting business school at the University of Southern California, the emerging entrepreneurs decided to start their own video game company. The premise for this idea was simple: the releases would be free-to-play and focused on community feedback. This is how Riot Games was born.
Why does League Of Legends occupy the position it does?
Nowadays, League of Legends is the most played title by PC users, reaching the record of more than 100 million players per month. Also, despite being a free game, it is an enormous commercial success: in the year 2018, it surpassed the revenue of $1.4 billion annually.
On the other hand, League of Legends has a strong presence as an eSport. First of all, Riot Games carries out constant regional tournaments. Once the top teams from each continent have been chosen, the League of Legends World Championship is held, an event that leaves a minimum of US$2.5 million in prizes. Likewise, in 2019 it obtained the mark of more than 100 million unique users watching the streaming and obtaining a peak of 44 million people watching it at the same time.
The fact that this title is currently the most played MOBA is no coincidence. After analyzing contemporary installations such as DOTA, the developers thought of the title with the idea of keeping similar game mechanics and thus attract its players. But on the other hand, they also made it easier so that they could get the attention of the casual gamer. This was achieved with clear and concise adjustments, like giving more color to the game or reducing the amount of controls in the interface.
The game modes
The installment has several game modes that adapt both to the number of users who want to play together and to their level. First, the player is introduced to the mechanics of the game in the training mode. In this way, the most basic elements that compose each match and the bases of the use of the characters are learned.
After training, the next natural choice is Co-op vs AI. Here, several players join and play a game against a team made up of computer-controlled characters, which displays a balanced difficulty. This is the first interaction they have with the full game experience. In this way, they get ready to understand it and be able to play against other humans.
Later, the neophyte user is prepared for the two most popular modes: Normal and Ranked Matchmaking. In the first one, the levels of the two teams are balanced, facing against each other in a match. On the other hand, when reaching level 30, ranked games are unlocked. Here, the only map available is the Summoners Rift. In addition, levels are no longer criteria for balancing players. Therefore, the teams are equalized according to a league system that accommodates them based on their Elo. Also, the pre-designed teams must have a similar league in order to avoid more experienced players to encounter others who have just joined the game.
Apart from this, there is also the option to create custom games. Here, all inhibitions of the other modes are removed. Thus, players can play with allies controlled by an AI or even build teams that are disproportionate in a number of players and Elo its contestants. On the other hand, at the end of the game you get neither experience to level up nor PI, the game currency used to buy new characters.
On the other hand, the game occasionally features several time-limited modes. In 2014 Riot Games launched for April Fools’ Day the URF Mode, where the players received many improvements and were able to launch excessive skills without a cooldown. Then, in 2019 Teamfight Tactics was released. Very similar to DOTA 2’s Dota Auto Chess, the user must strategically place characters on board to face other players’ characters and win battles until they are defeated.
Roles and champions for all
One of the most popular features of the League of Legends is the number of characters available, named in the game as champions. There are currently 148 different champions in the game, each with their own characteristics and mechanics that set them apart from the rest. Furthermore, they are separated by roles in the game, which are: marksman, mage, assassin, tank, fighter, and support.
First is the marksman, also known as Attack Damage Carry (ADC). With long-range attacks, it is the type of champion that does the most damage in the game without using skills. It is used to finish off rival champions and targets but has a minimal defense.
Next, there are mages, also called Ability Power Carries (APC). Unlike the ADC, these characters have huge burst damage but lack basic attack damage like the previous ones. They are mostly used to damage multiple enemies at the same time, but always at a moderate distance due to their lack of defense and mobility.
Assassins are champions with much greater mobility. They have massive damage against an individual target. Their function is to eliminate the ADC (or the APC if it can) from the rival team and escape as fast as possible, due to their lack of defense. Otherwise, Support’s duty is to prevent this from happening. Their damage is minimal and the defining feature is a set of skills that rotate between status effects and team utilities.
Regarding the champions with the most defense, the Tanks lose a lot of mobility and damage, but they compensate with their resistance level and attacks with status effects. Their primary role is to form the front line of attack. They absorb enemy attacks and offer themselves as a barrier to protect the champions with the most damage. Similarly, Fighters possess moderate defense and attack damage. This allows them to assist in the first line of survival while doing some damage.
In graphics, less is more
League of Legends is not known for having overwhelming graphics. In fact, the game’s graphics engine has not changed since 2014 and has only received minor improvements since then. Aware of these limitations, developers are not trying to achieve a realistic design, but a more cartoonish one oriented to appeal to a more heterogeneous audience.
The color palette is really quite diverse. The maps are separated by different themes and each color used seeks to be faithful to them. Also, each champion has a very characteristic design and some intense colors that fit the theme that everyone tries to convey. More than a creative decision, this is part of the construction of the characters. With custom designs, skins and even lores, they follow the rule that each must have their own identity. This keeps them from being generic characters.
Maps are repetitive, but not boring
Instead of releasing maps, developers focus more on keeping a few that are made to not lose relevance over time. In this way, there is a consistency in terms of the scenarios that the game includes over the years. Each has its own rules and game styles designed to fit them. With the recent removal of Twisted Treeline, there are currently two active maps. With a capacity in both of 5 players per team, they are Summoner’s Rift and Howling Abyss.
Summoner’s Rift is the main map of the game, on which normal and ranked games are played at amateur and professional levels. This scenario oriented in a forest biome is composed by 3 lines per side and two sectors of jungle between them. Each line is integrated with 3 towers, an inhibitor, two nexus towers, and the nexus, which must be destroyed to win the game.
When the game starts, the players of each team choose a line according to their role and advance to the middle of the map, where they meet their respective opponents. On the other hand, some champions are designed to go into the jungle, where they can walk the three lines to help their peers. Then, the players must advance on the map destroying towers with the help of the minions, very weak characters that appear in waves for each team. By destroying the first three towers and breaking the inhibitor, the minions of the allied team gain more strength temporarily. Then, after a few minutes the inhibitor is rebuilt. Finally, the progress along the line ends at the nexus in the center of a team’ base, where the game ends when the nexus is destroyed.
Howling Abyss is an arctic map generally used for leisure. It has a single line with 2 towers, an inhibitor and the nexus. Experience and gold are automatically earned and the option to buy is disabled unless the game has just started or the user’s champion has just been killed. On the other hand, the characters are chosen randomly before the start of the game. This very particular game style of this map is commonly called ARAM.
Servers around the world
In over ten years of activity, Riot Games launched several servers distributed around the world. They are named Brazil, Northern, and Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Japan, North Latin America, South Latin America, North America, Oceania, Russia, Turkey, Southeast Asia, Korea, China, and Beta Public Environment, designated by the area they cover. There are plans to build an African server and another one in Southeast Asia. Users can also pay to change servers at their convenience. In this way, the company usually has the servers with very little lag and working properly.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that the developers often present new content. Recently, the company filtered the maintenance dates, stipulated for approximately every 15 days. The content is usually related to character balancing and bug fixing. But in the same way, new champions, skins, or events with several prizes and incentives for the players are regularly announced.
In conclusion, League of Legends has earned its place as the most played MOBA today. The cartoon-like graphics give the title a fresh feeling and the constant expansion of the champions’ history, relevance. On the other hand, thanks to the important presence as an e-sport, its popularity continues to grow. Despite the fact that the gameplay is repetitive, the constant incentive that Riot Games gives to players is enough to keep them interested. In addition, with the company’s expanding interaction with the world of cinema, comics, and its recent arrival in mobile devices, this franchise seems only to keep evolving over time.