League of Legends is intractably tied to its esports scene, for obvious reasons. When the biggest marketing aspect of your game happens to have screen names called "Faker," "Bjergsen," or "xPeke," and BAMtech's knocking on your door for a nine-figure multi-year deal, it's a little late to pretend that the game isn't extremely heavily built around its competitive scene. And it's no surprise, then, to learn that its developers and designers keep that in mind when balancing and creating new content for the game.
In the most recent Ask Riot, design director Greg 'Ghostcrawler' Street addressed a question that's been an occasional controversy over the last couple years: are low-kill professional games perceived as a problem? Sure, the pro scene's gravitation towards low-risk/high-reward scenarios necessarily means fewer deaths than you'd see in your latest Bronze-tier games, but there had been eras were games were fulfilled with under 10 deaths overall between both teams -- especially back when macro-play and laneswap strategies were a huge part of the game's overall tactical nature.
Ultimately, esports is a spectator sport. It has to be interesting to watch or folks will tune out. That doesn’t mean you should totally sacrifice strategy and good shot-calling in the name of bloodiness, but we all expect some amount of action.
It’s fine if the occasional game has low deaths, because that rarity makes it unusual and therefore interesting. But if low deaths become the norm and the audience is disengaged then we’ll almost certainly step in.
We strive for a balance, where the game is competitive and enjoyable for pros to play while also being awesome to watch and cheer along to.
That, then, explains a few of the recent more obscure design decisions -- like the upcoming Rift Herald change to make it a one-unit lanestomper. Elements in the game that forces conflict -- that encourages both teams to show up in the same place and duke it out -- make for intrinsically spectator-friendly action. It's hard to get newbies engaged in the chesslike complexities of laneswap timings.
It's easy enough for them to recognize what a boss Bjergsen is if he grabs an easy triple kill out of a hat, and saunters off as the tower explodes.
Do you agree with Ghostcrawler's stance for League of Legends design? Let us know in the comments below.
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