After five years, Riot Games is shutting down one of its most controversial game modes.
Dominion, a capture-and-hold style game mode revealed in August 2011, provided a different take on League of Legends—forsaking the laning style of play favored on the Summoner’s Rift and Twisted Treeline. Set on a new map called the Crystal Scar, two teams of five players battled to control five different control points located evenly around the circular map. Controlling those points deals damage over time to the enemy nexus, meaning the team that maintains control longest eventually wins the game. It offered players a unique take on League gameplay.
Today, though, Riot Games has decided to retire the long-standing alternative to lane-based gameplay. Less than 0.5 percent of the League of Legends playerbase still participates in Dominion, and a significant number of those players are bots. For most, this change means little. For those devoted Dominion fans, this has to be a disappointment, but Riot Games has good reason to snip the aging mode, especially in a game that relies on matchmaking.
In November 2014, Riot Games lead designer Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street emphatically stated that “Dominion isn’t going anywhere,” despite a small population that makes it difficult to implement solid matchmaking. Apparently, over the last year and a half, the company’s thinking has changed. The challenge of doing separate balance and support for a game with a shrinking base that leads to poor matchmaking became too much, and put the company in a pickle—Dominion can’t survive without more support, but spending more effort on support for it is in some ways wasted effort, due to the small number of players.
Riot Game designer “L4T3NCY” admits that is in large part their fault. If they had invested more resources in Dominion when it was a more popular mode, it might not be in the sorry state it’s in today. But by now, it’s too late.
“We might have been able to break out of that downward spiral with more dedicated resources, but we chose Summoner’s Rift as the core League of Legends experience with its depth of gameplay, match pacing, and path to mastery,” Riot Games designer “L4T3NCY” explained. “When it comes to the resources required to keep Dominion permanent and solve the inherent design problems and give it ongoing live balance support, we’ve consistently devoted them to Summoner’s Rift and related features because we felt they’d improve the overall League experience more.”
Of course, 0.5 percent of 27 million daily players is still 135,000 people, an audience that would rank as the No. 3 game on Steam on any given day, behind Counter-Strike and Dota 2. Plenty of developers provide ongoing support for audiences of smaller scale. But Riot Games wants to focus on other products instead of continuing an ongoing battle that it doesn’t think it can win.
That doesn’t mean Riot Games won’t implement alternate game modes or continue supporting other full-time alternatives to the Summoner’s Rift, like the three-versus-three arena, Twisted Treeline, or the popular all-random-all-mid game mode on Howling Abyss. It will likewise still implement new modes, like the U.R.F. and Hexakill introduced in 2014, on a temporary basis.
But Dominion will die on Feb. 22, leaving its fans less than two weeks to play on the Crystal Scar, or to experience it for the first and last time. For those devoted to Dominion, Riot Games is giving a bit of a parting gift—all players who won more than 100 games in Dominion matchmaking before the announcement will receive an exclusive Summoner Icon. That’s small consolation for those that loved the Crystal Scar, but with the way Dominion has been treated for years, this was likely inevitable.
Photo via Riot Games