Aug 24 2016 - 11:09 pm

Riot president addresses controversy as owners promise proposal to fix problems

On Monday, the founder and president of Riot Games, Marc “Tryndamere” Merrill, caused a firestorm in the League of Legends esports community with comments directed at the owner of Team SoloMid, Andy Dinh, regarding the state of the League ecosystem and te
Samuel Lingle
Dot Esports

On Monday, the founder and president of Riot Games, Marc “Tryndamere” Merrill, caused a firestorm in the League of Legends esports community with comments directed at the owner of Team SoloMid, Andy Dinh, regarding the state of the League ecosystem and team owners and Riot’s place in it. The comments came off as out of touch and petty, leading to a vehement response from team owners, journalists, and other community members wondering if Riot really understands the current state of the esports industry.

Today it looks like there’s a silver lining to the controversy: it’s at least producing results. Merrill’s statement has served as a lightningrod for criticism, bringing to light important concerns many of the biggest figures in League esports have with the direction of Riot Games esports. Rival team owners and players have banded together in unified response, producing a detailed proposal for Merrill presumably addressing addressing many of the crucial issues that became talking points thanks to Merrill’s misguided communication, which Dinh states will be in Merrill’s inbox later today.

That’s encouraging considering that Merrill and Riot Games’ response to the community’s concerns left a lot to be desired. Merrill released a new statement today on Twitlonger—hardly the platform for the president of a multi-billion dollar company to address important issues of a multi-million dollar industry—apologizing to Dinh for his tone and admitting a Reddit post addressing a topic as complex as the esports landscape was a mistake.

The Twitlonger, titled “Continuing the Conversation on Esports Sustainability,” at least addresses many of the important concerns the community had with Merrill’s seemingly flippant comments on Monday, like stating Riot plans to foster more revenue streams from esports in 2017, but it’s clear that’s not enough from a company that’s seized control of every aspect of esports development for their title, but now seems to be rudderless shepherding it.

Merrill’s new statement backtracks on a couple key points while clarifying a more reasonable position on many of the issues he brought up in his previous post. But it’s going to take more from Riot Games to satisfy a community that’s clearly become fed up with Riot’s seeming lack of direction with regards to esports.

League esports (in its current form) doesn't provide the long term security and sustainability that we ultimately aspire to for teams and pros,” he wrote. “Team costs are rising faster (and in some cases are higher) than team revenues, and while this may be the short-term reality of growing a young sport (particularly as the value of teams grow), it's not what we believe the long-term state of League esports will be.”

One of the biggest criticisms levied against Merrill’s initial statements was the hypocrisy of calling out Dinh, a team owner who invests more money into League than any other, for hoarding millions he’s made from League of Legends and investing it into other esports instead of back into League. Riot Games reportedly brings in $1.6 billion in revenue each year, and while it continues to claim that its professional League offerings are run at a loss, that’s essentially by their prerogative or ineptitude. Companies like Valve, with Counter-Strike and Dota 2, and even HiRez Studios with Smite have managed to create massive revenue streams from esports that sustain growth and ensure teams, players, and the developer make money. Ultimately it’s up to Riot Games to foster those revenue streams or, if it's worried about the level of players salaries, directly invest some of the billion plus they earn every year into growing the scene, something it seems opposed to doing considering it hasn't increased the stipend they give to teams to cover minimum compensation for players since the league’s inception in 2013.

Merrill admitted today that he agrees with Dinh on many of the points he brought up in his initial response, and said that Riot needs to do a better job at revenue generation for itself, the teams competing in their leagues, and players. He outlined a few specific ways they aim to improve in that regard next year.

“Our 2017 plans include new in-game team-specific items with revenue-sharing for teams and pros, as well as smaller steps like working with teams to sell more jerseys - currently in the NA LCS studio store and at the summer finals in Toronto - and with the cooperation of teams, we hope to bring them to our online store as well,” he wrote. “These are just a couple of examples and we’re exploring a lot more major steps, like league sponsorships, franchising, media rights, etc.”

League sponsorships and media rights are the primary driver of revenue in professional sports and League of Legends must activate those streams to continue its massive growth as an esport. At the same time, we’ve seen the power of crowdfunding and in-game item sales at work in games like Dota 2, Counter-Strike, and Smite, and Riot Games certainly needs to capitalize better on the opportunity in-game merchandising presents for teams and the league.

In Merrill’s first statement, he said that League teams investing money earned through League into other esports was hindering growth of the esport, but many current and former LCS owners stated that there were better investment opportunities in other games, and noted that League’s current growth is sustained by money earned in other esports or industries thanks to the increase in venture capital pouring into the scene. Today Merrill took a step back from that stance, laying that problem as more of a future issue: If Riot creates more lucrative revenue streams for League of Legends, how will it ensure enough of that revenue reaches the players, and should Riot influence where that revenue goes?

Many professional sports leagues have mechanisms to do that, like a salary floor tied to league revenue. To implement a similar system in league, though, would likely require a much stronger relationship between players, owners, and Riot itself.

While the primary discussion seemed to land on esports sustainability and revenue, it all started with Dinh’s initial statement in an interview with theScore that Riot’s patch timings negatively affect the careers of pro players, forcing them to practice an unhealthy amount of time to maintain their prowess when every patch chance could mean the end of their career if they can’t adjust faster than their peers.

Merrill started a new League meme by calling last year’s release of the juggernaut patch just before the World Championship “sub-optimal.” He then tried to paint Dinh’s criticism as an owner looking out for his own interests, annoyed that removing lane swaps, as a recent League patch did, blocks owners from hiding weaker players. Merrill also backtracked on this angle, admitting that the recent lane swap patch timing was also sub-optimal, but said that it will improve the game and Riot will better communicate patch timing in the future.

“We still have a long way to go and we are committed to being a more effective partner with teams and owners to help navigate through all of the future challenges we will inevitably continue to face together,” Merrill concluded.

Better communication is certainly a start, but that won’t satisfy teams and players who are clearly worried about the direction Riot’s leadership has led League of Legends esports. League is still the biggest esport on the planet—even if games like Counter-Strike may be close to surpassing it. But it’s going to take a better and more cooperative effort from Riot Games to keep it that way and support the rapid growth many expect of the esports industry.

Today - 1:25 am

Get your Red Envelopes ready—the Lunar Revel event in League starts today

Riot is kicking off the 2017 Lunar Revel with some slick new skins.
Aaron Mickunas
League of Legends Writer
Image via Riot Games

The Lunar New Year is a sacred, historic holiday that is celebrated by nations in the far east. It marks the beginning of the year based on the cycles of the moon. There’s dancing, festivals, parades, but much more importantly: A special League of Legends event. Why is that so important? Because you can get sweet new skins, of course!

The Lunar Revel Event is a yearly occurrence in League that features shiny new goodies to buy in-game. The event was announced and started today, so after you update the client, you’ll be able to take part in the festivities.

1) Free Icon

That’s right, for the small cost of going to the official Lunar Revel web page, you can claim a free Summoner Icon! The interactive home page acts as the hub for the Lunar Revel event, and you can click through the menu to see all the features. There’s even some lore tying each of this year’s Lunar Revel skins to their respective champions.

2) Champion Skins

There are three skins coming out for the Lunar Revel event this year: Garen, Azir, and Vi. Each has a matching Summoner Icon available in the store.

Garen’s sword and rad man-bun make this skin what it is: Awesome. When he spins to win, a green dragon swirls around him. When he ults, the giant sword that falls from the heavens... well, it’s green.

Azir seems to be more of a themed skin specific to this year, as it’s the Year of the Rooster—and Azir is as rooster-like as any League champion gets. His soldiers are also made to match his skin, sporting golden armor.

Vi’s theme is “the green demon” and when she ults, a big green dragon swirls up into the air and slams back into the ground as she does. This one’s our favorite, but mostly because it’s the only time we’re ever going to see Vi in a ponytail.

Not only are those three new skins available now, but past Lunar Revel skins and bundles are in the shop as well.

3) Crafting

A brand new Lunar Revel crafting system will also be in the client until the end of the event. It uses the same crafting page as usual, where you open chests with keys you earn from playing games and combine shards to form skins and champions. You can buy a Revel Red Envelope for 250 RP and visit the crafting page in your client to turn it into a skin shard and one random relic.

The relics come in three types: the Pauldron Relic, the Golden Relic, and the Gauntlet Relic. Once you have all three, you can combine them into Epic Skin Shards (1350 RP skins), random skin permanents, Gemstones, or Hextech Chests and Keys.

4) Merch

Finally, you can visit the Lunar Revel merch store to check out some IRL event goodies. Want a shirt featuring each Chinese Zodiac with League champions instead of the usual animals? Well it’s in the merch store, as well as a collectible figurine of Lunar Revel Azir.

The event is running from now until Feb. 2, so be sure to log into the game and check it out!

Jan 19 2017 - 9:07 pm

After pre-season updates made the Jungle worse, Riot says ‘oops’ and promises to fix it

Riot’s dev team explains why the state of the jungle is so broken and how they plan on dealing with it.
Aaron Mickunas
League of Legends Writer
Image via Riot Games

During the League of Legends pre-season, Riot made big changes to address some glaring issues within the Jungle. But it only made the situation worse.

In somewhat of a “My bad!” moment, Lead Champion Designer Andrei 'Meddler' van Roon explained what backfired with the jungler role. In his post, he comprehensively lists all of the reasons that the jungler might just be the most broken role in the game (sorry ADCs!).

The community has been complaining about the state of the jungler for a while now, but this is the first official answer we’ve seen from Riot on the matter. Riot said it very simply, and very directly in the Nexus post.

“We believe jungler influence over game outcome is too high.”

So what exactly is wrong with the jungler?

Impact

Perhaps the most significant issue with junglers before the pre-season was that farm-obsessed junglers became much too powerful. Monsters were too easy to kill relative to how great the rewards of gold and experience were. The dominant tactic for junglers became out-farming the enemy jungler, and whoever fell behind ended up hindering their team dramatically.

Back then, the rest of the team would attempt to help their jungler get ahead by getting an early kill on the enemy jungler, setting back their progress considerably. The team began to revolve around the jungler. This was a contradiction to how the jungler had been perceived in earlier seasons—as a supporting role designed to gank and help their teammates in lanes do well.

Riot wanted to fix that, so it lengthened spawn times on monster camps and made them harder to kill (but increased the rewards the camps give to compensate). The idea to push junglers to gank more than they farmed worked a little too well.

Not only are junglers ganking too much, but they also survive way too long. With new tools like the Honeyfruit plant and gaining health back with every smite, junglers just won’t die. They are able to farm more camps for more rewards and gank more lanes without losing enough health to warrant going back to base. This led to junglers gaining too much experience—with level advantages on lanes that they’ve never had before.

Game agency

The term “game agency” has been tossed around a lot lately. First, with the current feelings that ADCs are going through, and now, with junglers.

In a basic sense, the term “game agency” in this case is just another term for a role’s identity within the game. What purpose do they serve, and is it unique enough to feel important? The issue with ADCs right now is that they don’t feel important enough to the state of the game to have a unique identity (aside from being Lee Sin’s punching bag).

Junglers, however, have the opposite issue. Junglers and jungle champions have an identity, but it’s such a strong, outstanding identity that it overshadows the unique strengths and weaknesses of the other roles. They have too much raw power. It’s to the point that laners have become afraid of making moves on their lane opponents unless their jungler is preparing to gank, when normally they would only hold back if they knew they were outmatched.

This has something to do with the extreme rate at which junglers gank now, but combining that with the high sustainability, high damage items, and high level scaling makes for a frightening amount of power for one role to have.

Plans to reduce the overall power of the jungle have yet to be announced, but Riot did confirm that the plan is to knock the role down a few pegs.


So what can be done?

Well, Riot is taking responsibility for all the power it’s given the jungle role.

It is administering some short-term solutions, including lowering jungle experience rewards, cutting sustain across the board, and increasing the damage that jungle monsters deal.

Junglers won’t be able to live in the jungle for the first 10 minutes of the game without heading back to base, they won’t hit a huge power spike by leveling harder than laners can on jungle camps alone, and they won’t be able to gank quite as much.

These solutions likely aren’t the long-term solution. There will still be junglers that can clear the jungle faster, and we may just end up where we were before the pre-season—Farming Simulator: Jungle Edition. Farm-frenzy junglers could rise to the top, but luckily, it likely wouldn’t be quite as bad this time.

A long-term plan is in the works, and hopefully Riot maintains its clear and open communication as the situation progresses.