League of Legends: Interview with Riot Games
While I haven't written about it that much on my blog since my initial review, League of Legends seems to be the game that has been eating the vast majority of my gaming time over the last 6+ months. I can honestly say that Riot has produced a game that I think is absolutely fantastic, especially for a free-to-play title.
I decided to reach out to the people over at Riot Games to see if they would be willing to do an exclusive interview with me for the readers of MMORPG.com, and they have accepted my invitation. So today I am joined by Riot's senior design director Tom "Zileas" Cadwell.
1) Numerous Riot posts on the official forums seems to indicate that Riot Games is in a period of expansion to keep up with the increasing demand the game has seen. How much growth in terms of new accounts and active players have you guys seen since the launch of Season 1?
Our number of registrations has increased since Season One started, and we are very happy at the reception we’ve enjoyed from gamers around the world who have picked up our game and chosen to spend their valuable gaming hours with us. As you can imagine, we have put a big effort into scaling up our tech to support everyone who wants to play League of Legends.
2) League of Legends follows a free to play model with the option to pay real life money for skins and some other items that don't directly affect the in-game experience. Tell us a bit about the success you have had with this model, and how much money have some of your biggest paying customers spent for this sort of content for their accounts?
One of our core beliefs has been that if we create a great and fun experience and give it away for free, then players will ultimately reward us by becoming fans of our game. This has worked out really well so far and our players love the fact that they never have to spend any money unless they want to. We have some players who have been generous with their spending, and it’s great to see their enthusiasm over our high quality champions and skins. However, many of our top players have never spent any money in the game despite having logged over 1,000 games played and we are happy for their continued engagement and advocacy.
3) A while back Riot Games released information about a new map you guys have been working on for 5v5 called "Magma Chamber". With so much of the community anxiously awaiting the release of this map, where are you at in terms of working on it and what sort of time frame is Riot hoping to have it go live?
Giving our players new ways to play League of Legends is a big priority for 2011. We've recently introduced the new Battle Training and we will be releasing the upcoming Co-op vs AI mode shortly. Putting out a new map has taken a long time because we were faced with a difficult choice. We are also in the middle of upgrading our graphics engine, which means we need to also upgrade our existing maps. We decided that rather than build Magma Chamber with the old graphics, then have to upgrade it shortly thereafter, we would build it on the new graphics engine. However, that also means it won't be finished until after the graphics update.
4) Two features that are constantly asked about by the community are the inclusion of an observer mode and replay functionality, and I've read Riot posts on the forums that hint to the fact that it's something you guys want to get done as well. Where are you guys in terms of development of both of these and do you expect that either of them will be seeing the light of day in the next 6 months or end of 2011?
We definitely value observer mode and replays, as they benefit both our newest players who want to learn the game as well as pro players looking for avenues to show off their skills and strategies. One challenge we faced with this feature is that the combination of our original patching tech combined with our 2 week patch cycle made this a major technical challenge. However, we are replacing our patching client with an upgraded PVP.net patcher that is the first step in allowing observer mode and replay functions. It is one of our priorities and something that we are committed to delivering to our fans.
5) Riot seems to be adding a new champion and patching the game every 2 weeks consistently. How many champions do you guys have in development and any idea on when the community might be seeing a new tank champion since there hasn't been one released since Galio?
It takes months of design, art, and testing to get a quality champion to release so we have quite a few in development at any given time . We do have a tank in development and expect to release it in the next few patches, but our most popular Champions have been the damage dealing Champions. Our top priority is to create champs that have a unique role in the LoL universe.
6) Ranked Solo Queue seems to be one of more passionately argued topics on the community forums. You recently introduced a Leave Buster system that takes corrective action against serial leavers who ruin games. Tell us a bit about the results you guys have seen on your end so far since this system has been put into place.
The LeaverBuster program has a good impact on instances of leaving. Leaving is down 25% in normal games, and 20% in ranked games. As of now, only 3% of ranked games have a leaver. Interestingly, many players who were habitual leavers stopped leaving upon receiving a warning – 50% of players who receive a warning do not end up receiving a ban for repeated offenses.
7) In addition to leavers, AFK'ers and deliberate feeders are other issues that can ruin the competitive atmosphere. What is Riot's plan to deal with these issues to help reduce the number of games that get ruined?
Overall, we feel that League of Legends actually has a very healthy community of players, especially for a competitive, team based online game. We believe that the vast majority of our players have a good sense of what’s unacceptable behavior in a game, whether that’s harassment, AFK-ing, or deliberate feeding. The community has been asking us to help them enforce standards of behavior. Because of this, we are introducing The Tribunal which is a system that allows our community to moderate player behavior and effectively stand by its own standards of conduct.
Through The Tribunal, experienced players will get the opportunity to peer review reported cases of negative behavior and vote on whether the player in question is guilty or not. Guilty players can be punished through temporary bans from the League of Legends service.
8) Currently during the ranked draft mode if a player does not pick before the time runs out he or she is assigned a randomly selected character and the game proceeds. Some people in the community would argue that this usually happens because a person is AFK, and that the AFK person should be given a queue dodge with penalties and the game should not go forward. What is Riot's take on dealing with people AFK during draft mode or removing the "random" option in ranked all together?
This issue bothers us as well, and we are currently investigating a fix to this.
9) There is movement among your community that thinks that weekly free champions from should not be allowed in ranked play unless the players own them. This is based on the premise that it promotes people playing characters they don't know well enough in a competitive atmosphere at the expense of others. Does Riot have any plans to consider going this route?
We are considering a feature like that would disallow free Champions in ranked games. Like we did when we raised the level-requirement for someone organizing a Ranked Game to level 30, we will look at play patterns to see what the impact of the free Champions actually are. Then the feature will have to be prioritized against other features in development.
10) Are there any plans to introduce Mastery pages akin to the current Rune page system so that players can quickly and easily toggle between different mastery layouts at character select?
This is also something we are considering adding to the game, and again, it's just a matter or prioritizing the feature against other things we want to work on.
11) The 25 minute surrender timer has been a point of debate among some people in the community, especially in the event that one or more people leave the game, AFK, or never connect. Does Riot have any plans to take a look at the surrender timer in general or in the event someone leaves so players do not have to spend 25 minutes in a game they have little chance to win?
Yes. At the moment the IP and XP rewards are balanced for full games. The last thing we want to do is encourage people to simply surrender at the first sign of difficulty. Some of the most memorable experiences among players we have talked to have been when teams have come back against tough odds. We don't want to discourage players who are willing to fight it out to just abandon their game as quickly as possible. One of the things we want to do is look at the IP and XP rewards and relate them more closely to game time. That will allow us to bring earlier surrenders into the game without actually making early surrenders the best way to earn XP and IP.
12) Any plans for a Ranked 3v3 Solo Queue?
At the moment there are no plans for a Ranked 3v3 Solo Queue, but if the 3v3 game play becomes overwhelmingly popular, we will certainly add it.
13) Before Season 1 began, player profiles contained stats for their normal games. Any plans down the road to bring back stat tracking for normal games to mimic what is currently in place for ranked?
For our players normal games and ranked games serve different purposes. Ranked Games are for trying your hardest and really trying to win. Normal games are a little less intense. Our thoughts were that competitive players in Ranked Games should be focused on their stats and trying to get every ounce of performance out of themselves. However, in Normal Games, we didn't want part of the population trying to boost their stats while the rest were more interested in having a fun game; that is why we made the stats for Ranked Games deeper and more robust than the ones available for Normal Games.
I want to thank Zileas for taking the time to talk with us today. If you're not familiar with League of Legends and are looking for something to play, I'd highly recommend giving it a try. The game is completely free to download, free to play, very addictive, and has held the attention of Inquisition members longer than most MMORPGs in the last few years. If you're interested in checking the game out, you can do so via my referral link HERE, or swing by the official site. You can also check out my livestream if you'd like to see the game in action (or just hear some good nerd rage) almost daily after 5:30 PM EST over at own3d.tv.
If you're already an active player, feel free to drop your name in the comment section along with your feedback.
Co-Leader of Inquisition