Who is League of Legends balanced for?

A few months ago I interviewed at Riot Games to become part of their in house balance team. Over the course of two separate interviews, lasting thirty and forty-five minutes, I was thrown through what I can only describe as the gauntlet of game health adjudication. In this interview, I trash talked Nasus, roasted Janna mains like myself and complained avidly about Azir, all to my interviewer’s delight. The aforementioned interviewer was none other than Gleebglarbu.

Rolling through question after question about various “toxic” champions, champions whose design create frustrating experiences for players, we finally got to the big one. I’m not talking about Corki’s package here, but instead a question that left me more perplexed than a drunkard watching Inception for the first time. Here, Gleebglarbu, and later another interviewer by the name of Trevor asked me what demographic of skill would I balance League of Legends for. More specifically, they asked me if I would balance champions for professional play or the average Silver player. The dialogue went something like this:

 

Gleeb: In situations where you can either balance for LCS levels of play or Silver levels of play, which one do you choose and why?

Me: Do the two situations have to be mutually exclusive?

Gleeb: For champions like Azir (a champion I had complained about laning against earlier in the interview) the perfect player will make him seem frustratingly overpowered. But then you see a Bronze II player pick the champion up and all the sudden his team is missing a mid laner.

 

I continued to fumble around with this question, attempting to find some middle ground balance between pro and casual play, but alas with Azir and champions like him, there was no middle ground. I had to pick a side within this dualistic paradigm, and if you know me, you know that I hate dualistic systems more than anything.

Ultimately I suggested that Riot had to first and foremost balance for the competitive scene, a decision I still do not entirely believe in, but I had to choose one or the other. I chose to balance around the professional level of play, pulling data from Masters through LCS to make balancing decisions due to the fact that League of Legends as a Spectator Sport, is for everyone. While it is impossible to balance a game for everyone with the sheer amount of player skill diversity and champion kit variety, it is possible to balance it for just the professional scene.

Ryze is one of the champions whispered about through the halls of Riot games. They speak of him not by name, but as the Rework King. Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

Balancing for the LCS

Whether you are in promos to Diamond I or someone who has never played ranked, you can watch your favorite players fail flash into the thick part of the wall on side lanes. And most importantly, you can do so on the big screen of the LCS stage. League of Legends has established itself as the pinnacle of Esports and will continue to do so through their constant reinvestment into the competitive scene. It’s paid off too. The production value of Worlds, Rift Rivals and even weekly LCS keep viewers returning week after week, season after season.

Professional League of Legends as a spectator sport is for everyone and not balancing around this level of play cheats both the pros and the viewers out of a dynamic viewing experience. Riot tries their best to make the viewing experience as close to perfect as possible, but there have been long periods of pro play imbalance that have made League of Legends a stale viewing experience.

If you remember the times of lane swaps, where top laners had less farm to their name than the average Cannon minion, you remember a time of darkness and boredom. While this lasted for far too long, changes were made to towers in order to make the viewing experience one worthy of the viewers’ time.

This change had little impact on the solo queue experience for the majority of players and was an all around success, but there have been other dark times on the competitive stage that have bled into casual play. I know I have seen one Shurima Shuffle and several machine gun Ryze plays too many and the repetitive nature of these picks were answered in a timely fashion by Riot’s balancing team. However, the costs of these changes left League of Legends with two champions that when picked in ranked would ensue dodges from those trying to safeguard their LP.

Who can forget this play? TL Fenix takes down almost all of CLG all by himself. Courtesy of lolesports

This is a real drag for players who enjoy playing those champions that are gutted in such an extreme fashion simply because they cannot be balanced in professional play. I am sure Riot has learned a lot from their trouble making Azir and each failed variation of Ryze. The problem with those champions doesn’t entirely run in the power of the numbers in their kit, a problem that champions with more simplistic kits run into a lot of the time. The problem instead lies in the nature of a kit that relies on low ping and insane amounts of team coordination. The fact that getting my team to leave the base before thirty seconds in the game is a problem makes using a champion that requires everyone to hop in a designated zone that’s only available for two seconds even more problematic.

And while I can go on and on about Ryze, that should really be saved for a different piece entirely (hire me Riot I got ideas for the next six Ryze reworks). What Ryze represents at Riot Games is something completely different. The failure of Ryze is Riot making a statement. A statement that Gleebglarbu would have never told me in the interview: League of Legends balances around professional play over all else.

And while this statement does not sound great for the player base, it is one that I ultimately agreed with in my interview. As I have explained earlier, balancing around professional play is not a bad strategy. But there is a better way. Yes, the viewing experience must come first and the sanctity of League of Legends as THE competitive Esport is Riot’s most prized possession. But there is a way to avoid the dualism of champion balance that I have struggled so much with, and that answer comes in the Champion design.

You wouldn’t hop in this van would you? Then why are you going in that Ryze ultimate as Caitlin? Courtesy of imgflip

 

So before you patch with small buffs and incremental nerfs, the design of each champion must come under the highest level of scrutiny. Remember that we are communicating with pings and we are also communicating with strangers, who have no more reason to trust us than we have to trust them. I’m not going to hop in my mid lane Ryze’s ultimate anymore than I’m going to hop in a stranger’s Van. So let’s continue with the Rakans and Kayns whose kits rely upon communication that can easily be done through our five ping options. Let’s stick with champion designs that do not rely upon the blind trust of strangers asking for you to get in the blacked out Van covered in Runes.

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Rodger Caudill 

Feature image courtesy of lolesports flickr

Cho'Gath is meta in patch 7.14

Cho’Gath returns to feast on the EU LCS

Cho’Gath has spiked in popularity in the EU LCS, following Riot’s implementation of patch 7.14. He was played in six games as a jungler and three games as a top laner in week seven. Cho’Gath was also banned in eight games, maintaining an 89.5 percent overall presence. All three top lane performances resulted in wins, while only three of the six jungle games were wins. This champion’s lack of reliable crowd control hinders his ability to affect the game early from the jungle.

Prior to this patch, Cho had not been on the EU LCS stage for quite a while. The most recent memory of a professional Cho’Gath was Immortal’s Huni in the 2016 NA LCS Spring Split. Other than that, the Terror of the Void has remained out of the hands of LCS pros since at least the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational. Week seven has shown his resurgence into the EU LCS.

Cho’Gath Strategy

Played in the top lane or in the jungle, Cho’Gath acts as an AP-scaling tank with huge nuking potential. As a juggernaut, Cho’Gath’s main weakness is his mobility, as squishy targets can easily kite away from him. The ability to stack Feast has a huge synergy with Gargoyle Stoneplate, due to interactions surrounding bonus health. Patch 7.14 buffed his ability to slow and knock up his enemies, which is the main catalyst for Cho’Gath’s jump in play rate.

In week seven, eight different EU LCS players locked in the Terror of the Void on stage. They generally built items such as Gargoyle Stoneplate, Enchantment: Cinderhulk, Righteous Glory and Warmog’s Armor, and they upgraded boots to Mercury Treads or Ninja Tabi. Many players chose the Bond of Stone keystone mastery, while others chose Grasp of the Undying.

These builds attempt to cover up Cho’s weaknesses. The items provide high amounts of health and mana, increased movement speed and damage resistances. Notice that two major items built on Cho’Gath come with “Active” abilities that go on cooldowns after being used. This further pushes Cho’Gath’s do-or-die playstyle. Once the Gargoyle Stoneplate, Righteous Glory, crowd control and Feast abilities are blown, there is little recourse. A failed engage is a failed fight.

Splyce drafted a composition around Cho'Gath

Image from GamesofLegends.com

Cho’Gath also synergizes best with champions possessing heavy engage, movement speed increases and healing or immunity. Players draft Jarvan IV top lane or Maokai jungle to provide reliable crowd control. Syndra or Orianna mid brings damage and zoning. Ashe and Taric, Rakan or Thresh support compliment him, as well. All of these champions have some way to enable Cho’Gath to enter a fight and do a ton of damage.

His team looks to lock down targets with knock-ups or stuns. Cho’Gath activates Righteous Glory and blows his knock-up and silence for area-of-effect damage. Vorpal Spikes continues to slow the target. Finally, he looks to Feast on a low health victim to finish the fight. Even if enemies limp away from a lost fight, Cho’Gath’s team will generally remain healthy and pressure objectives to snowball the game.

playing against cho’gath

While applying proper response damage, if the enemy is able to survive all of this through kiting and peeling, then Cho’Gath is in trouble. He has no way to escape or run away. His teammates have blown all of their crowd control for the engage, and there is no turning back.

UOL drafted an anti Cho'Gath composition

Image from GamesofLegends.com

Most EU LCS teams answer by drafting Kalista or Xayah, AD carries that can kite well and have an escape tool built into their kit. While throwing Threaded Volleys, Taliyah in the mid lane is good at kiting away, as well. By isolating enemy squishies from Cho’Gath, zoning him away, and soaking crowd control and damage for their carries, Thresh, Braum and Alistar help keep allies alive. Games played around Cho’Gath present clear objectives and win conditions for both teams, which result in five-versus-five team fights.

eu lcs cho’gath highlights

Some highlights of Cho’s entrance into the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split are below. H2K’s Jankos, Splyce’s Wunder, Vitality’s Cabochard, Unicorns of Love’s Vizicsacsi and Fnatic’s Broxah are featured. These are all clips from Cho’Gath wins, showing how his current state allows him to succeed. Enjoy it while it lasts, as Riot promises nerfs to the champion in patch 7.15. It may be years before he is on stage professionally again.


Featured Image: Surrenderat20.net

Other Images: Games of Legends

Video Highlights: Game Haus Vibby

Champion Statistics: Games of Legends

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Cho'Gath is trending up in week seven

Trending in the EU LCS: Week seven

Week seven of the EU LCS saw patch 7.14 in full force. It was apparent that the teams were still getting a read on the meta. The drafts and gameplay were unpolished. Prioritizing power picks was different between series. How those picks were used in-game shifted throughout the weekend. Here are some elements that are currently trending in the EU LCS.

Trending Up

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing after week seven of the EU LCS. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put the team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

G2 are trending up in week seven

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2

G2 continues its climb in the standings with a 2-0 week seven, beating H2K and Vitality. Granted, both series ended 2-1, but wins are wins. This week moves G2 up to a 6-3 record to secure second place alone. G2 had a lead over 2,000 gold in all but one game. Even in their losses, they did not go down without a proper fight. This is a good sign for G2 fans. With these last few weeks having playoffs and Worlds implications, G2 should continue on this upward trajectory.

Cho’Gath

The Terror of the Void holds a 100 percent win rate in top, and a 60 percent win rate as a jungler in the EU LCS. Pair that with a 61 percent draft presence for top lane, and a 72 percent presence for jungle, and it is clear this champion is a high priority on 7.14. His recent buffs allow him to clear the jungle easily, while maintaining high health without directly building health items. Unless Riot nerfs this Cho’Gath soon, expect him to stay in the meta.

Maokai is trending up in week seven

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Maokai jungle

Another tank who did well in week seven, Maokai jungle has caught on in the EU LCS. Zac, Elise, Sejuani, Cho’Gath and Gragas were all prioritized higher than Maokai. However, only Kha’Zix had a higher winrate with three or more games. Maokai was picked or banned in 39 percent of games, and had a 67 percent win rate. His saplings can be a nuisance when sprinkled throughout the jungle. Maokai’s ultimate, Vengeful Maelstrom, can be a powerful initiation or disengage tool. It also aids around objectives by zoning the enemy team. Maokai has been flexed into the top lane in other regions, but not this week in the EU LCS.

“ARAM compositions”

The 7.14 meta has developed into what casters and analysts are calling “ARAM compositions.” EU LCS teams are drafting champions that will thrive in five-versus-five team-fighting environments. Tanks are becoming common in top lane, jungle and support positions. Teams generally strategize around powerful engage tools. Mid laners preferred area-of-effect mages. Caitlyn, Kalista, Varus and Tristana were the highest priority AD carries. Most wins this week came from whichever team could initiate and execute the best fights against their opponents.

Trending Down

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing after week seven of the EU LCS. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past. These elements are downward trending in the EU LCS.

UOL is trending down in week seven

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unicorns of Love

Strangely enough, Unicorns of Love have not benefited from this new “ARAM” meta. They lost both series in week seven to Roccat and Fnatic. Both series were lost 2-1, which is not the worst case scenario, but the Unicorns did not look good. They opted into fights over and over without giving proper respect to their opponents. Fabian “Exileh” Schubert was an inconsistent element for the team. One game he finished 10-5-10 as Talon against Fnatic. Another game he finished 0-6-2 as Vladimir against Roccat. There was a particularly peculiar solo death under Roccat’s mid lane turret that garnered attention. With every series coming closer to playoffs and Worlds qualifications, the Unicorns will need to shore up these weaknesses.

Shen

Shen’s priority was disproportional to his impact in week seven. While he was picked and banned in 39 percent of games, he lost all three games where he was picked. Shen players seemed to fall far behind in the top lane, and then have limited utility through the end. Gnar, Jarvan IV, Cho’Gath and Renekton looked much more useful. Since the nerf to Shen’s ultimate, he seems a bit lackluster. It is much more difficult to pull off the “submarine” strategy with divers and Orianna. This pick should lose priority moving forward.

Zyra is trending down in week seven

Image from na.leagueoflegends.com

Enchanter and mage supports

With the rise of tanks comes the fall of enchanters. In 7.12, the EU LCS saw Rakan, Zyra and Lulu have decent priority and win rates. After one week of 7.14, Zyra and Lulu have fallen off. Braum has risen to number one priority (94 percent pick-ban rate). Alistar has seen some play (17 percent pick-ban rate), as well as Taric and Trundle (one game each). Moving forward, this may change as the meta takes shape. Knight’s Vow, Righteous Glory and Locket of the Iron Solari are all popular support picks right now.

Top lane Rumble

Another pick that has fallen off, Rumble was only played two games this week. In 7.12, Rumble had a 79 percent draft phase presence, highest of all top laners. This week on 7.14, he dropped to 17 percent pick-ban. Rumble is simply unable to compete with the teamfight durability of tanks or early game damage of lethality builders. He may come back into prominence as the novelty of new top lane picks wears off. It is unclear at this time. However, he was also trending down in week five, due to a low win rate.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, LeagueofLegends.comSurrenderat20.net

Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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Franchising in the World of Esports Part 1

According to multiple sources, Riot has decided to scrap the relegation model and move to franchising in 2018. The first taste of this will be in the LPL where they will officially move to the new model this summer. All of this came after Blizzard similarly announced that they would be franchising for 2018 as well. Now that we got the old news out of the way, let me tell you why franchising is the best thing for League of Legends and Esports as a whole.

Many people have given reactions and opinions to this news. In this three-part series, I will also be putting my opinion out there. I plan to tell you how I envision the new structure could work and some of the realities of it all.

Academy Teams…

To start, I have been asking for Riot to do this since around this time last year. After owning GameHausGG for a few months, I could already see the struggle of even attempting to get a team into Challenger, let alone LCS. The amount of money it would cost was unreasonable (unless you had a lot of backing), and players were and have always been extremely flaky. There is no set system or organization to the whole thing. Players, coaches, and even owners are still as unreliable as ever. (We wrote about the recent Blue Rose debacle)

Image by: Yahooesports.com

With all that in mind, I have personally found that there needs to be a real structure in place. Trying to get to Challenger is what every amateur team strives for, yet many of the best never reach it because of “Academy” teams, or as I like to call them, “ways for their mother teams to get more money by selling off their LCS spot.” Academy teams are a major reason why the Challenger league is not only boring, but also a waste of time.

Normally these teams consist of four reject vets and a rookie, Flyquest being the outlier. The mother teams take a chance because they know it wont cost them much, and it gives these players a chance. Then they normally win due to better backing and they are sold to the highest bidder.

For those of you who may argue that this is a common practice, please look at the closest comparison, the EPL. Relegation happens all the time, but teams do not create sister or ‘Academy’ teams and then sell their spots.

While I understand that many of the owners are losing money, this system will help them short term, but may hurt them long term. Luckily it is rumored that Riot has decided to ban Academy teams.

So far Overwatch has not had this problem, but they also have not been established as long. For now I think that Academy teams will not be something that plagues the new Overwatch league.

CHALLENGER TURNS INTO THE MINORS?

Luckily I believe franchising will end and fix all of these problems in Challenger.

Challenger is the perfect opportunity to develop League of Legends’ next stars. While it has done that to a certain degree, it needs to be an established minor league. They can model it after the minor leagues in baseball, or an even better comparison would be the D-League in the NBA.

Image by: http://faculty.de

This developmental league would allow for players to hone their skills. Every team could be associated with a pro team where they could call up or send down players.

It would be its own league that could be promoted as such. The players would get their chances to shine, and those of us who watch League of Legends religiously could have a new thing to complain about, teams not making certain call-ups and sending certain players down.

Overwatch could very easily institute a similar approach. A developmental league of some type for Overwatch would be extremely beneficial as we barely have any established players, teams, or even styles to the game yet.

So what would adding minor leagues solve?

To start, it would allow for the player pool to grow immensely. People could actually have a better chance of being picked up by orgs to be developed in the Minors just like they do in traditional sports. This could have a huge trickle down effect as well.

Colleges could groom the players thus adding another league, again similarly to traditional sports. Then teams could have scouting departments that could either pick players up or they could even do a developmental draft. That would be the dream. Tell me you wouldn’t watch a League of Legends or Overwatch developmental draft? Your favorite team could pick the next big star and the hype would be all too real. But, I must remind myself, one step at a time.

Also these minor leagues would give players more of a chance to go professional and build their own brand. For now it is all about players trying to grind in solo queue and hope that they get picked up. All the while they are still living at home with no guarantees of a potential career.

Lastly, this would give the players at all levels some real stability and organization. Signing with a team and being in their minor league system allows for these players to get a good contract and know that they could be called up at anytime. They would not have to wait and hope that their team would play into the main league. Also they would know that they are affiliated with an established brand. They would not have to create their own, the fan base would already be there for them.

The Fans

So why would you, as a fan, want this minor league or Challenger system?

Courtesy of: Polygon.com

I will start with the most obvious answer, more games and players for you to watch. There would be series of your favorite game being played more often. You could watch these lower leagues to try and see if your team has some good potential talent to bring up and help the roster, or if they need to bring in different talent. Also you could just watch good gaming all the time.

Another reason is that this system would help the established teams quite a bit. Sponsors would be way more likely to invest in this type of system. You know why? Because they have seen it work with traditional sports. Investors and sponsors are more likely to give their money and time if they know something works.

Lastly, this would also create the possibility of even more teams in the league. League of Legends for example, only has 10 teams in NA and EU. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they had more? With an established minor league system, more people would want to be owners. They would understand the organization better and feel better about establishing a new team. With that, they would establish more minor league teams.

Conclusion

I feel as though I have opened Pandora’s Box with all the possibilities of a minor league system. The new franchising could offer all of this and more.

It also could not solve anything with regards to Challenger and the amateur scene of esports.

Honestly, it will depend heavily on the owners and the companies like Riot and Blizzard.

I understand that many people want esports to be different than traditional sports and they are against the ideas of franchising. My only response is, who cares? They will model it after these traditional sports because that model works. In my opinion, doing it like this will ensure that esports is more than a fad. It can last for decades and people can feel comfortable growing up watching Bjerg or Faker and knowing their legend will continue like Babe Ruth’s or Michael Jordan’s.

Wow, this is only Part 1! Tomorrow I will be looking at how franchising will grow each esport and their individual leagues.

CLG’s Playoff Profile: United They Stand, Or Divided They Will Fall

Setting the Stage

Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), the perennial contenders (or pretenders) of the NA LCS. They’re (almost) always in contention for playoffs every split. There is always some kind of hype behind them, but they often do the exact opposite of what everyone expects. They were the only NA LCS roster to leave the off season intact, retaining all the same five starters from over a year ago. Top lane held down by the one called Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, veteran long time LCS Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, hot and cold Mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, zero to hero ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, and team captain on and off the Rift, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. It’s the same squad that brought North America some pride at MSI, and then proceeded to lose both games against Wildcard Cinderella story Albus NoX Luna.

Even his teachers call him… Darshan? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s path to the playoffs was one that could’ve (or should’ve), gone very differently. They had a rough start to the split, where other teams could draw on new players as an excuse. A strong surge in the middle and a wonky, long game three against EnVy make this CLG roster very… CLGesque. But they’re in the playoffs, and up against the hot and cold Flyquest. The record between these two doesn’t really help us in favouring a side. Both have beat each other in a 2-0 series. While CLG’s win was more recent, Flyquest looked stronger in their last week of games.

 

The Players in the Jerseys

What about the players themselves? Darshan hasn’t had quite the split he had last year, often winning his lane and split pushing CLG to victory. Oftentimes he looks as if he’s trying too hard to be too much for the team. Whether it’s the increased skill in the Top lane, a decline in mechanics, or a massive meta shift (the last one being quite likely), Darshan doesn’t seem to be as solid of a rock for CLG as he used to be. The bright side? Darshan has looked a lot more comfortable in the recent meta than in the first half of the split. If he can temper his aggression, become slightly more calculated in his 1 vs 1’s, or contribute otherwise, he can still be the Top laner CLG need. But that’s quite a few ifs.

Xmithie, the constantly underrated Jungler to the point of being overratedly underrated, has looked… uninspiring this split. Statistically speaking, his KDA is the lowest in the league for Junglers at a startling 2.4 (relative to, say, the highest being 3.8 on Galen “Moon” Holgate). He also ranks at the bottom for Kill Particpation, a vital stat for Junglers at a measly 63.1%. It could be the reason that CLG started so slow. Rookies like Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Juan “Contractz” Garcia were on hot streaks, single handedly taking their teams to wins; but as these rookies have cooled down, and the meta shifts away from carry Junglers, we may see the steadier Xmithie return.

Stats aren’t everything, though, and Xmithie is still a strong player for CLG. He has experience and always seems to be where he needs to be. If it makes any CLG fan feel better, Svenskeren ranks only one place above Xmithie. That’s saying something. A Jungler’s role in League of Legends is one of tacticians, making plays to get your teammates ahead and out-thinking the other Jungler. This is something Xmithie has had multiple seasons of practice with.

There are a lot of stats to look at when thinking about Mid laners. Huhi is one of those players that isn’t necessarily understood through his stats. He often looks unstoppable on certain champs, and utterly lost on others. His stats are interesting, though. When you think of Mid laners, you want two things: damage output and CS difference at 15. On the first point, Huhi does pretty well. He places fourth among starting Mid laners with a Damage Per Minute of 559 (28.1% of CLG’s overall damage), putting him third overall for Mid laners.

On the second part, Huhi was dead last, only higher than the much maligned changing Liquid Mid laners of Goldenglue and Piglet. You can never count him out though. He can come up big for the team on certain champions, like Syndra and Aurlieon Sol. His damage output, even while behind in lane, is impressive. He also will play a vital role against Flyquest in (trying) to shut down Hai and possibly get inside the head of the veteran shotcaller.

From zero to hero, Stixxay’s journey with CLG has gone from fans criticizing him to praising him. Can he lead them into another Spring finals? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s botlane duo seems to be almost always the stable foundation for the whole roster. This is the case now more than ever. While the rest of the team fell flat some games, or looked completely bewildered, Stixxay and Aphromoo found consistency. It has put Stixxay in the spotlight. From a harshly criticized player, to challenging Aphromoo as CLG’s strongest laner, Stixxay has come alive this split. He is tied with Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi for second in Damage Per Minute at 546, and third in Damage percent at 26.9%. Remember, that’s all coming out of a split that was half dominated by Utility Ult ADC’s, too.

On the other hand, Aphromoo’s contribution to the team isn’t just on the Rift. Stats for Supports are always hard to read. His presence is known inside and out of the Rift, as a team leader and cool head for the squad overall. There’s a lot to be said for that, and a lot to be said about a Support’s ability to bring out the best in their ADC. Stixxay is performing up there among the greats of the league, like newcomer No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon, and long time staple, Sneaky.

 

The X Factor

So what does all this mean for CLG? Well, pretty much the same as always. CLG aren’t expected to take it all, and a deep drive into the playoffs will give some hope to the Faithful. It’s a position they’re all too accustomed to, though. So what needs to happen for CLG here? What’s their X factor? Well, as lame as it sounds, they need to stand as a team again. That was this roster’s strength last year. Stixxay didn’t out-mechanic any ADC in NA of note. Darshan was great for splitpushing, yes, and Aphromoo was always Aphromoo, but it was the team that won that playoff. The X factor is for that team to reappear in this playoff run. Not just the strong talent that each player has shown off at times, but for them as a team to move and work together again.

This is a different CLG than last Spring though. Stixxay, as many have pointed out, has grown into one of the strongest ADCs in the region. Aphromoo is still hailed for his strength as a player and a leader. When Huhi is playing his best, he’s an absolute monster. Darshan can still pull off some insane plays. Xmithie still shows up and performs for his team. It was the roster that looked good as a whole, not as individual units. Some part of me wonders if that is for better or worse.

Can Huhi step up to the plate for CLG when they need him? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

As Piltover’s Sherrif says, “The whole is better than the sum of its parts.” CLG fans will need to see that team play again. The macro and teamwork-oriented style of play, while picking each other up. CLG seems too much like a team trying to always make a play. From greedy 1 vs 1’s for Darshan to awkward engages in the bot lane, CLG needs to get themselves back to their position of working as a team and thinking rather than just hoping the plan of attack works. While the obvious players to watch are Stixxay and Huhi, CLG haven’t relied on solo carries since the Doublelift days. They will win as a team.

 

Predictions

3-2 CLG over Flyquest, 3-1 loss against TSM.

I’m not convinced that Flyquest is back to winning. I wonder more if it was the similar phenomena where teams just can’t seem to handle the ‘new kids on the block’ or not. That being said, you can’t bat an eyelash at Hai “Hai” Du Lam and his boys. They’re a strong roster, and whether that’s more off the back of Hai’s magic touch at shotcalling or as a genuine threat, they’re still tough and always a team that can show up and take the win. CLG seemed to play to the level of their opponents this split though, which might mean they’ll be firing on all cylinders against the mind of Hai.

Nonetheless, I think CLG will pull it out in the end. I just think they have it in them to take down Flyquest, but it really depends which CLG and which Flyquest show up. Hence my 3-2 win. I highly doubt we’d see a complete blow out either way. However, if either team comes to these games playing at their lowest, we might. If each team comes performing at their best, it’ll be a back and forth series. Both teams are underdogs to make it deep into the playoffs and will have that underdog identity hanging over their heads. For CLG, this will be old news. For the new (old?) Flyquest boys, this may be a new feeling.

TSM, on the other hand, I don’t see CLG standing much of a chance against. They looked absolutely horrendous against TSM (I would know, I had Huhi, Aphro, and Xmithie on my Fantasy team…). They didn’t seem to put up much of a fight in their most recent meeting. TSM had control the entire time, and with that in mind, I really can’t see this series going CLG’s way. I’m generous and thinking, hey, maybe they can squeeze one game out. If they do manage to pull out a win, it would possibly be an even bigger upset than their past two wins in playoffs against TSM.

Champion Rework: Galio (old)

Which is More Satisfying: New Champions or Reworks?

One key element of League of Legends is the constant change. Patches release every two weeks, causing certain champions and items to raise or fall in the power tier. In the middle of the season, and between seasons, Riot releases major updates to classes of champions, neutral objectives, or the map itself. Game designers may redo entire systems, such as runes or masteries. One of the most exciting changes in the game, however, is the introduction of new and reworked champions.

Riot introduces new champions into the game throughout each season. These champions try to fill unique gameplay, design, and lore niches that may not have existed in the game or universe previously. A champion may start with an impactful new ability and build from there. He may start as a previously unexplored mixture of roles. She might be a cool character within the League of Legends story that gets fleshed out with abilities based on her personality or position within the world.

Other times, Riot decides to take an outdated champion and perform a Visual Gameplay Update (VGU). This involves choosing which champions in the game are not fun to play, unhealthy for the game, visually inconsistent with the updated design, or a combination of these factors. Reworking the chosen champion generally begins with designers establishing what parts of it are working, and which are not. What is this champion’s gameplay fantasy? Which abilities are iconic? What is inconsistent between the gameplay, visuals, and lore of this champion? Once Riot has defined what pieces they want to keep, and which they want to lose, they get to work editing the art, lore, abilities, personality, etc.

Aurelion Sol new champion concepts

courtesy of LeagueofLegends.com

New and reworked champions are under enormous amounts of player base scrutiny throughout the process; from the announcement to release. Fans of certain champions chime in through online forums to discuss what they enjoy about a champion, or where it falls short. This is especially true of reworks. In some cases, Riot barely changes a champion. They may polish the in-game model. They may tweak certain abilities to allow for more counterplay or different windows of strength and weakness. The personality may remain the same as before. But other times, a champion comes out looking and feeling very different.

With new releases, there is a lot less player input prior to release. Riot does a good job keeping new releases secret until Easter eggs or teasers are released to announce the arrival of a new champion to Summoner’s Rift. Between the teaser and the Champion Spotlight, there is generally wild speculation as to who this champion is. What abilities will she have? Will he be a bruiser or assassin? Does it even have a gender? Is she shy? Is he from Demacia or Noxus? Conversations go pretty far to hypothesize just where this new character will fit within the 130+ roster.

Nonetheless, new personalities and playstyles cause old ones to shuffle around in priority. New or reworked champions may come in overpowered within the meta. They may have a game-breaking ultimate that forces them to be picked or banned. They may fit into a new gameplay niche that allows them to flex between lanes or positions. An item may synergize extremely well with them that provides an early power-spike that no other champion can match. But, which one is more fulfilling for players: new champions or reworks?

NEW CHAMPIONS

New Champion: Camille, The Steel Shadow

courtesy of LeagueofLegends.com

Camille is the newest champion release to hit the Rift. She is a Piltovian assassin with augmented swords for legs. She makes it her mission to maintain order within the aristocratic class by killing those who would want to change the establishment. Strutting with her nose to the sky, her title is “The Steel Shadow.”

On Summoner’s Rift, Camille is a mobile fighter-assassin. Her Hookshot ability allows her to grapple into and off of a wall to catch enemies out of position. Her ultimate, Hextech Ultimatum, isolates a target within an inescapable field. The enemy stuck within must fight or die.

Upon release, Camille was very strong. Lead Designer, Mark “RiotScruffy” Yetter, reflected last month “Her ban rate has been pretty high in the last few weeks, and she definitely released too strong.” Her ability to swing across the map, jump on a squishy target, and secure a kill seemed to be virtually unmatchable. In lane, she created plenty of pressure. She was able to easily trade and push waves, allowing for a roam. Players primarily take Camille top lane, but pros have utilized her in jungle, mid, and even support.

New Champion: Ivern, The Green Father

courtesy of LeagueofLegends.com

Ivern, ”The Green Father,” was Riot’s second most recent release. His early concept came from experimenting with a jungler who does not kill the camps. His secondary role is support. Ivern is a tall, lanky, goofy tree man who roams through Runeterra’s forests, protecting and producing living things.

Ivern’s gameplay is unique. He is the only champion in the game who can take jungle camps without physically killing them. His passive, Friend of the Forest, allows him to receive gold and XP by freeing the monsters. Ivern uses shields and roots to provide utility to his laners. Daisy! Is his ultimate ability, which summons his large, pounding stone sentinel to tank damage.

While Ivern was not too popular in professional play initially, his appeal has slowly developed. More and more pros across most regions have picked up Ivern in the jungle. RiotScruffy commented “The sheer amount of unique things on his kit is pretty staggering (team dash, brush, jungle farm) and this is the high end of how ‘weird’ we think we can take a new champion.” Ivern has introduced a new perspective for champion development that League may see more in the future.

New Champion: Kled, The Cantankerous Cavalier

courtesy of LeagueofLegends.com

Kled is the third most recent champion release. Designers produced early iterations of Kled to create a Noxian meme. He represents the spirit of militant Noxus, a fearless cavalier who runs in and tries to take everyone out. A scarred eye, jagged teeth, an oversized battle hat, Kled appears to be a war-tested creature. He is also one of only two animal-mounted champions, joined by his reptilian steed, Skaarl. Finally, Kled’s voice-over is violent and crass, which has been popular with his fans.

Within the game, Kled only uses offensive abilities. Beartrap on a Rope, Pocket Pistol, and CHAAAAAAAARGE!!! are examples. He pulls enemies in close, shoots them, jousts them, and when all else fails, he creates a large speed path for his entire team to engage. Arguably, the most interesting part of his kit is his passive: Skaarl the Cowardly Lizard. Skaarl and Kled share a health bar. When it is low enough, Skaarl retreats to leave Kled to fight for himself, and only comes back when Kled attacks enough.

Although he has not seen much professional play, each of the five major regions have at least one Kled game this Spring Split. He has only been in top lane. Kled boasts a 53% winrate, and a middling playrate (5%) in Platinum+ ranks. He truly is a pocket pick for most players, but can bring success into his games. Kled represents a semi-joke of a champion with minimal focus on his story or place in the lore, and more about pursuing an abstract idea. RiotScruffy’s thoughts on Kled included “This ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ type approach leads to a very sharp type of champion that some players love, but others will hate.”

CHAMPION REWORKS

Champion Rework: Warwick, the Uncaged Wrath of Zaun

courtesy of LeagueofLegends.com

Warwick transformed from the typical trope of a wolfman into “The Uncaged Wrath of Zaun.” Sporting some new green fluid injectors, this champion got a significant upgrade. Warwick’s visuals, gameplay, and story are meant to execute on the out-of-control-werewolf fantasy. Riot designed him as an introductory jungle champion with enough sustain to get through early stages of the game self-sufficiently.

Riot tweaked Warwick’s abilities to be more impactful earlier in the game. His prior design required the jungler to farm the jungle until his ultimate was unlocked at level 6. Warwick players also suffered from extreme highs and lows of power between ultimate cooldowns. His VGU brought more early utility, such as the fear on Primal Howl, or the lunge on Jaws of the Beast. Lastly, the ultimate, Infinite Duress, became a leaping skillshot that scales with movement speed.

If nothing else, Warwick’s teaser has been one of the most well-received pieces of media from Riot. The video perfectly played up the new Warwick changes. He is currently played in 6% of games in Platinum+, and 12% of games in Bronze; professionally, however, he has only seen six games worldwide. Warwick has been a successful delivery of a specific gameplay fantasy.

Champion Rework: Yorick, Shepherd of Lost Souls

courtesy of LeagueofLegends.com

Yorick mains had been begging for his VGU for a long time. When Riot finally decided to take a crack at him, they cited “the three things we thought were the core of Yorick were that he summons Ghouls, that he is a beefy juggernaut with a shovel, and that he is kind of the ‘good guy’ of the Shadow Isles.” His appearance, gameplay, and story arc changed to a large degree. Rather than an ugly, hunched gravedigger hobbling with his face completely covered, now Yorick is a muscular, veiled monk-type character. His ghouls and the Maiden of the Mist have updated visuals and programming.

Yorick is still a juggernaut. He struggles to close the distance on squishier targets, but he does build health and damage items. His biggest use is split-pushing with his minions and ultimate, Eulogy of the Isles. He is able to trap enemies within the destructible Dark Procession wall, as well. Yorick moves slowly, and bashes opponents with his shovel while soaking large amounts of damage.

With his new visuals, gameplay, and story, Yorick definitely fits into the League of Legends roster more than ever before. He heavily benefited from his VGU for any new players to the game. However, many of his fans seemed to have mixed reviews upon release. Riot dropped aspects of Yorick’s art, mechanics, and personality that attracted some players to the champion in the first place. Also, Yorick’s playrate in Platinum+ is just 1.7%, and his winrate is 48%. Yorick has only seen one game in the LMS and one game in CBLoL so far this split.

Champion Rework: Ryze, the Rune Mage

courtesy of LeagueofLegends.com

Ryze was the VGU released prior to Yorick. This most recent rework is actually not his first. Riot outlined his issues this way: “The Rune Mage had three major problems: he’s too difficult to learn, too strong once you’ve mastered him, and too confusing to lane against for players who haven’t memorized the nitty gritty details of Ryze’s stacking and spell-combo gameplay.” They added a proper storyline to his character. Ryze is an extremely old and powerful mage who scours Runeterra looking for magical runes to keep them out of the hands of evil-doers. His in-game model and all nine of his skins (including the base) got visual updates.

Riot designed Ryze as a “machine-gun” mage with low cooldowns and high damage potential. Based on the order of abilities, his current iteration allows him to combo to create the effects the player wants. Waveclear, roots, Realm Warp; all tools to allow Ryze’s team to play around him. One problem with Ryze historically was his difficulty to balance. Ryze was generally either too strong or too weak for different levels of play. He was picked or banned one patch, and ignored in others. His rework is meant to fix that issue, as well.

Ryze has seen a ton of professional play. His utility, damage, and waveclear allow high level players to hone in on his strengths. Well-coordinated Realm Warps can make or break games. His playrates float between 4%-6% across all elos. Most players see Ryze in a much healthier state than before, but he does suffer from low winrates outside of Challenger tier.

CONCLUSION

Champion Rework: Galio, the Colossus

courtesy of LeagueofLegends.com

Even when some champions turn out to be disappointing in one aspect or another, leading up to the release is always an exhilarating time for League of Legends players. Introducing new stories, new personalities, and new abilities to the game to keep it fresh. These introductions fuel constant adaptations to playstyles, metas, and strategies.

League has seen new champions develop from abstract ideas, innovative role combinations, and powerful gameplay mechanics. The game has also recycled old characters and abilities into more modern representatives of Summoner’s Rift. Whether it is redeveloping a champion around a gameplay fantasy, redesigning unique play patterns, or simply creating a fully fleshed character with healthier balancing opportunities. Each of these releases comes with its fair share of praises and complaints.

So, what do you think? Have new releases, such as Camille, Ivern, and Kled, satisfied you more? Or have you enjoyed the transformations of Warwick, Yorick, and Ryze? Are you more excited to try your hand at Galio’s new kit, or maybe hoping for something better in the next new champion? Feel free to cast your vote in my Twitter poll here.

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Thomas!

Amateur Coach Diaries: Practice Habits Part 4

Courtesy of, www.pinterest.com

Courtesy of, www.pinterest.com

Albeit what was said in previous articles about League being a different sport from other traditional sports, you can draw some similarities. A player has to be well-practiced, conditioned, and has to have studied up on new trends. But the number 1 thing that all sports share is that the game always starts with a clean slate. At the start of a new game, no matter the sport, the game is always basically zero to zero. For League, this leads into the early game which is where a lot of games can be decided. The elements of the early game never really changes. Monster camps will always spawn at their same time, minions will make it to lane at the same usual time, and everyone will have a yellow trinket up at the start of the game. And to be honest, a lot of amateur teams don’t know how to go back, back to the beginning.

One of the hardest things about coaching is talking about a level 1 invade 45 minutes after it has actually happened. Telling a team that they lost at 10 minutes into the game doesn’t help them at all. The next game is just going to be a different comp with different early game goals. How can we make practicing the early game more efficient? We play 15-minute scrims. Here’s how the scrims work out. You go through your picks and bans and then use your drafted comps to play the first 15 minutes of the game a couple of times through. That means, after you pause at 15 minutes, you remake the game with the same comp and talk about what you need to do differently against their team. It’s a very simple practice drill that no amateur teams (at least to my knowledge) are doing.

logo v3

This does not mean that you pick Leblanc, Corki, and every other early game one item power spike champions you can pick. Scrims are not for winning. This goes double for early game scrims. You need to set goals for your scrims, early or full games. A goal for an early-mid game team is win the game by 15 minutes, while the goal for a double scaling game could be don’t lose the game by 15 minutes. Also, if you’re scrim partner is trying to practice a level 1 invade, don’t try to set up a trap for them to counter the same exact level 1. This completely defeats the purpose of practicing a level 1, because the same invade won’t be used twice in a row in the same best of series (if it is, the other team might have issues?).
There’s a lot a team can get out of playing a lot of early games. Yes, you sacrifice practicing the ability in closing out a game, but once you figure out how to play your certain comp in the early game, then you can practice closing out the game. It’s hard to talk about the early game when the last thing in the player’s minds is that teamfight they got aced or the baron steal your jungler just made to win the game you shouldn’t have won at all. Sometimes to improve our team’s play overall, we just all need to start back at the beginning, over and over again. Hell, you might even need to go back farther than the start of the game, maybe to what goals you set for your team for that game. The early game gives the foundation for the rest of the game, so let’s build a better foundation within the amateur scene. The next article will be on the most important thing we can do as a scene. See you then!

Amateur Coach Diaries: Practice Habits Part 3

Courtesy of, Seth Varner and Pintrest

Courtesy of, Seth Varner and Pintrest

When I was about 12 years old, I wanted to be a pitcher for my little league team. My dad was one of the coaches of this team. We had one of those pitch-back net devices in the backyard, so he made a 18in by 18in square in the netting with a rope and then put a stick 50 feet away from the net. He told me I had to hit the square 25 times in a row before he would let me pitch. He told me how my grandfather did the same thing with my uncle and I would have to do the same. I can’t remember if I got it or not, to be honest I only remember that I took a pitch to the head while at bat during fall ball that year. Anyways, the morale of the story is that Baseball takes 10 players on the field to play the game. 9 people in the field, and 1 at bat. But when I was practicing that one aspect of the game, just myself and the net, it only took 1 person and a practice device. This is exactly the same as having players practice in a custom game. Custom games can be useful in many different ways: jungle clears, lvl 1’s, CSing, warming up, and lane swaps.

One of the first practices I had with my team was a lane swapping practice. We pulled up LCS vods of lane swaps and grinded out the timing. I’m not going to go into the logistics, but basically we spent that night,  practicing lane swaps. I could tell through vod reviews of even the best amateur teams, we had the best lane swap timing in all the amateur scene. We were getting 30-second tempo swings off the first turret and sometimes it would lead into a sub 15-minute inhib turret. The thing that confused me was that teams we played our lane swap against, still had a slow lane swap a week after we played them. logo v3

In a meta that relies on tempo and getting the turret down the fastest, you’d think teams would want to figure out how to replicate it. It comes down to players not wanting to go into custom game after custom game. So instead, the team just scrims with the same slow lane swap they ran the week before. Obviously there is more to do in customs then lane swaps, but that is a great way to use them. The other night, one of our junglers and I were working on a new jungle pick. We played maybe 20-30 custom games of the jungle pick with different runes/masteries/skill orders/ camp orders. You can also practice timing for a level 1 invade. Sometimes what you draw on rift kit won’t translate on to the game field when the pressure is on. Customs are also a great way to try out new match-ups or train a player in a certain match-up. Maybe they need to work on their Ahri into Zed or their Cass into Ryze.

There are so many uses for customs, and a lot of amateur teams just refuse to use them. Well, surprise, this is the closest we are getting to sandbox mode for now. “Why would we go into customs when we could have a scrim block?” Because if you want to make something game ready, you need to practice it before the scrim for it to be effective. I mean, I’m not saying make your team practice a lane swap to their point where they can get sub 3:30 times 25 times in a row. But hell, you do you, coach. You do you. The next article will be about spamming the restart button. See you then!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Part 1

And so our tale begins... Courtesy of Amazon.uk and Leaguepedia.

And so our tale begins… Courtesy of Amazon.uk and Leaguepedia.

Well folks, let it not be said that the offseason in League of Legends is anything less than filled with drama, roster changes, and, well, some new faces. As many of our readers will already be aware of, Riot dropped probably the biggest (and most historic) competitive ruling in LCS history. The short of it? TiP (the organization) is banned from ever playing again for not paying their players on time and contract shadiness, and Renegades and TDK are caught in an awkward dance of player trades that look suspicious to Riot, while the former is banned for having ‘ex’-owner Chris Badawi still involved in the organization following a one year ban due to poaching allegations.

Now that the dust has (largely) settled around the issue, and many pundits within the scene have staked their claim, either in defense of Riot’s actions or decrying them as tyrannical, I thought I’d wager not only my opinion but some alternative views to the rather prevalent feeling. In this three part series, we’ll look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of what very well could be Riot’s defining move outside of its forming of the LCS. For our first installment, let’s look at the Good that Riot has done with this move.

 

TiP just couldn’t get the tip…

Socially Awkward... Team Organization? Courtesy of memegenerator.

Socially Awkward… Team Organization? Courtesy of memegenerator.

Alright, so let’s look at the probably only uncontestable point of Riot’s recent ban hammer swinging: TiP getting the boot for not paying their players properly or on time. This absolutely sickens me as a fan of the NA LCS, and is something that, sadly, I almost wish Riot would’ve done earlier (but I think I understand why they didn’t.) This is completely unacceptable behaviour in any workforce, particularly one as young and, well, with as young of workers as you get in esports. It’s completely abhorrent, abusive, and not at all what we want as a representative of one of the premier esports leagues in the world, particularly contrasted to the other top teams who have never had this problem.

What’s worse is that not only did this happen multiple times, Riot had to personally intervene into the situation upon finding out players had not been paid yet to see that they were. To clarify this too, we’re (sadly) not even talking about full salaries here. Riot has a Minimum Player Compensation (MPC), which requires that players are paid a salary of at least $12,000 per split. While we cannot know exactly what player salaries look like for top teams, we imagine (and hope) that they are far beyond this with salaries that the organizations pay to the players per split, which we could call their Full Player Compensation (FPC) to keep with the nice short forms.

An unfortunate aspect of this is that while Riot is essentially banning TiP for not paying their Players their MPC, Riot is unable to act on the FPC because the players never entered into formal, written contracts with the organization (more on this in our next section.) This, sadly, is both a good and bad move from Riot, but I have to favour the former for purely ‘legal’ reasons. Without any actual amounts known, players might, not that they probably would, attempt to extort extra salary from the shamed organization who Riot would be truly tested to believe against the earnest players. If, for instance, Gate was promised a salary of $35,000, he might, the logic goes, say it was $40,000. Riot would then be put in a situation of ‘their voice against ours,’ where it is difficult to objectively see which side is correct. Still, the action stands, and it is easily the most uncontentious of all of Riot’s rulings. I’ve not heard a single person come to TiP’s defense in this issue, and I think that is because there is no reason to do so. Good riddance to ‘em.

 

TiP of the Iceberg…

Courtesy of worldartsme.

Courtesy of worldartsme.

We hinted at in our last paragraph the other major problem with TiP, and a problem in esports in general, that is, of contracts. Contracts are the bane (and boon) of many a pro player, and equally of many an organization. While Counter Strike: Global Offensive offers for much more exciting examples, (Screams contract being bought out from G2 for $150,000 to transfer to Titan as an example,) it is relatively more hush hush or not allowed in Riot’s settings. Players tend to have much more power and places to turn to get ‘out of’ contracts, and I cannot think of a player being ‘held back’ from moving onto a better team in recent memory (although I’m assured there have been examples…) However, contract buyouts have been a major issue recently, but it’s hard to find a fair compromise: without them, poaching and players leaving for greener pastures would leave orgs in their dust, while them being there prevents players (and regions overall) from forming possibly the best teams for that region.

The other main reason TiP was banned, and arguably why they were perma-banned rather than given a certain limited sentence, is that they did not sign, create, or seem to encourage written contracts with their players (until Riot intervention.) This means that, essentially, the players have no written, objective case for what is rightfully ‘promised’ to them in a contract, and equally what they have promised to the organization itself. A verbal contract is shakey business and there is a lot to be said of such a young industry needing clear, concise and accessible contracts. Contracts bind an organization to do what they say they will do, and can make that organization legally bound to do so (and if they don’t, there is, again, formal legal groundwork to take them to court.) Without these written documents, however, players are hard pressed to pressure their team to actually fulfil their promises.

However, there is one point to be made about this: some of TiP’s players (reportedly) did have contracts with TiP, just not all. Riot conducted a League wide audit to ensure contracts were in fact signed, and found that TiP had not done so for this split nor the last. TiP eventually did sign contracts with some of their starting roster, but not all. Actual names are not given either, so we can only assume who it might’ve been (maybe import players, so that they felt security in staying in NA?) This just isn’t a satisfactory process in a scene struggling so hard to standardize itself and, through that, legitimatize itself to the world. Working without a contract makes no sense in a scene whose behind door dealings are relatively unknown to those outside of it. Without public knowledge, there cannot be public outcry, and unless a leak happens (as is the case with the recent incarnation of WESA,) fans, who have the most power in the whole equation of esports, have no way to boycott a team or demand their dismantling. Needless to say, Riot made an excellent choice in banning TiP here; if an organization can’t guarantee their players these two basic needs then surely another can, and with the growth of esports there is no need to allow such shadey organizations to continue operations that abuse their players.

 

Competitve rulings are the law, ye Renegades…

"I'm the Sheriff round these parts," said a Riot Games, before he shot his six shooter of Bans. Courtesy of freepik and wikipedia.

“I’m the Sheriff round these parts,” said a Riot Games, before he shot his six shooter of Bans. Courtesy of freepik and wikipedia.

Now onto the stuff that will either make you hate me or not. Renegades and TDK’s situation is a much more… murky one. Sure, on the one hand, the reasons Riot has given to ban the two organizations seems reasonable (taken as an isolated case without any outside information or opinions on the matter and taking the Riot report as fact.) As I’ve said, this part of the series deals solely with the decisions I think were Good from Riot, so I won’t focus too much on the complexities, nuances and counter-points made by sources close to the organizations themselves. I’ll deal with that in the articles to come, so hold onto your butts because I’m going to try and save at least a bit of this sinking ship.

Riot banned Chris Badawi on charges of attempting to poach players Quas and KEITHMCBREIF from Team Liquid, to which he was given a one year ban from having any dealings with and ownership over Renegades as an organization. It seemed a kind of harsh ban, but that seems to be Riot’s style: ban harshly so to set an example. The problem, then? Well, Renegades broke this ruling, kind of. There was an arrangement in place with ‘current’ owner of Renegades, Christopher Mykles, that, essentially, guaranteed Badawi a 50% stake in the company come the end of his year ban. Not bad right? I mean, he’s technically not owner of Renegades that way… right?

Well, not so much. Apparently that contracted agreement to give 50% ownership to Badawi in a year’s time boils down to… him having 50% ownership at the time of signing. The logic follows that any agreement to ownership, regardless of the actual time, is an agreement to current ownership of some kind. This (kind of?) makes sense. If I am guaranteed half an organization in a year’s time, I have a considerable stake in that organization and its preservation, but also, in a way, in its development. I am a part of it (kind of.) And, therefore, Badawi was still associated with Renegades during his ban time. Yes, this seems a slightly obscure ruling, but I feel like, in a way, it’s still something one should make sure to consult prior to making it a written document.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

But perma-banned from all Riot sanctioned tournaments over this seems to be harsher than even Riot tends to be. I think this is because we cannot isolated this fact from the other multiple infractions that Renegades was found to have done. I have a hard time coming to Renegades aid here. Riot’s rulebook is only 58 pages, and it’s in a neato PDF thing so you can, y’know, Ctrl+F to find sections that might be important… like whether you’re involving a banned party who is not supposed to be associated with your organization or not. I think it was an oversight on the side of Renegades, and I can’t much blame them for that, but I also find it hard to say that they should be forgiven for it because of that. It’s sad, really, because Renegades was such a storied organizations for its relative infancy. Great PR gimmicks, bringing in the first female LCS player in history, these were the starts of a branding that you can’t buy folks. But I think they took the Renegades moniker a little too seriously with their disregard for rules, and it bit them hard(er than it should’ve.)

 

‘Suspicious’ trades and the Balance of Power…

 

While our last Good thing was contentious on the issue of strange legalities (who needs temporality, anyways?) I think this is another one where a serious amount more of information and evidence needs to be made public. Still, if the allegations are correct, well, then I can see it be a problem. What is this allegation then? Well, the Good portion of it, in my opinion, is to do with the strange trade the two organizations made with each other. We could, in a way, say that the balance of power given to Renegades over other LCS teams was skewed (and TDK over other CS teams.)

Why is this? Well, it essentially that the ‘relationship’ between the two organizations wasn’t as clear cut as it is between, say, CLG and TSM. We’ll take the example of Doublelift going to TSM from CLG: we can assume that in this trade/him being dropped/whatever, that there was a kind of contractual agreement between the two that was Riot approved. This prevents a few things: players being traded in a bad way, organizations being ‘shafted,’ unfair deals etc. Well, it appears, according to the official Riot ruling, this was not as clear cut of a case, and certain conditions, like the payment for players and housing of players a month after the trade, was not made explicit, and could be argued to skew the balance of power of those teams against their rivals in their respective leagues.

In other words, Riot had been under the impression that, to quote the report, “Both teams assured officials that their businesses were not linked in any fashion, and that the trade was in the mutual interest of both teams independent of any additional relationship or agreement.” But why is paying a player’s salary (for a months,) such a bad thing? Even some took to twitter saying this was a regular thing in the realm of sports. I think the reason that Riot is still doing a (shade of) Good here is that the teams weren’t frank about this arrangement, and it stinks of financial pooling.

By keeping it all hidden, and because Riot got, it appears, conflicting answers on the topic, I do side with Riot on this occasion again. This is something that, while I will show that I do not like this fact, Riot needs to be the judge, jury and executioner of whether it maintains competitive integrity. The reason I say this is that, unlike teams (think the recent move by Cloud 9) who field, and thus also fund, their own Challenger team, Renegades was given a similar advantage (talent farming,) without having to pay those players. On the flip side, TDK was given the advantage of receiving some valuable, experienced players (whether they really made a difference is questionable…) in the process without needing to buy out contracts or scout for that talent in unsigned players. It puts other teams at a disadvantage who might’ve tried to do the same but go through the proper channels to do so.

Courtesy of all-free-download and Leaguepedia.

Courtesy of all-free-download and Leaguepedia.

Conclusion

 

I think it’s still a hard thing to come out in complete favour of Riot given the nature and context of the situation, but for the reasons I’ve stated I do think Riot is in the right side of history for making some of their decisions. You can’t have things like this happening in a professional sports league, and similarly harsh actions would be taken outside of the LCS if such a case were found. However, Riot occupies a strange field in a way in esports so far: they have an exclusive League in which they, essentially, have complete power over. This is unseen in other esports, as Leagues have existed in, say, CSGO, but these are run by third party entities from Valve (the owner of the IP for CSGO.) This will lead into my later discussions on the issue, but for now we’ll say that I am concerned if Riot does not make the proper moves to distance itself from its (albeit mostly benevolent) despotic ways.

Should Riot have been more ambitious selecting venues?

Riot was in charge of the process of selecting the venues for Worlds and I am sure they selected a group of people that their sole objective was to organize the S6 World Championships. That being said, one of the most important aspects was to select the locations that the matches would take place in. This team from Riot had access to a lot more information that I  do, therefore, will be omitting information because quite frankly, I do not have access to it. Nonetheless, I will offer a critique as an outsider as whether or not Riot chose the best locations that were available. Riot probably looked at dozens of locations and venues, and the venues they chose had a lot of thinking and logical reasoning that I am ignorant of, our job is to evaluate why Riot chose the venues it did, and whether they could have done a better job at it.
Even though Riot has no doubt chosen good venues for Worlds, it leaves a feeling of disappointment that the venues exclude an extensive part of the NA population. The southestern, the central portion of the US, and Canada were all left out without the chance of attending our favorite event of the year. Once again Riot probably took this into account, and for one reason or another decided that those were not ideal locations. However, one still wishes that the world championships would have hit areas that have never had access to competitive League.

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I was highly disappointment to find out that the venues are small, and that two of the venues have already been used before. The finals will be a the Staple Center and the semifinals will be at Madison Square Garden. The disappointment comes from the fact that it seems that Riot is unwilling to try new venues and new places for this World Championships, there is an added mystery and excitement to having the Worlds championships at a new place. In the case of selecting the venues it is useful to draw insight from traditional sports. When the FIFA soccer World Cup was held in South Korea and South Africa, those were much more exciting venues than Germany and Brazil because they had already held a World Cup, even though it was more than 30 years ago.
S3 Finals were in the Staple Center and S5 Na LCS spring finals were in Madison Square Garden, these venues have recently been used for competitive League, and it seems that S6 Worlds should have been in different locations. There are hundreds of great venues in the U.S that are of equal or better quality for such event. The only time that I think a venue is exciting when it holds an event of this magnitude more than once is when it is an anniversary. The Olympics originated in Olympia, Therefore commemorating Greece with the 100th anniversary of the Olympic games could be exciting for spectators. The Soccer World Cup was first played in Uruguay in 1930, there has been talks about having the final in the same stadium in 2030 to commemorate such occasion. Even though Uruguay is not developed enough to organize a FIFA world Cup, it would be great if the final was played in the same stadium it was played a 100 years ago.
League of Legends is a young game, it probably will not last 100 years, but it is still a young game. I do not think there is any added excitement to having the finals played in the same stadium that it was played 3 years ago. That being said, there is added excitement to having the Finals venue located in a city that has not had access to League like Austin or Boston. Therefore, it was disappointing to find out that Riot did not get out of its comfort zone and chose venues that have recently been used.

olympia
I particularly love big stadiums. When I was a kid, managing a big stadium, or perhaps owning one was my dream. Riot has stated that they like smaller and closed venues because the atmosphere of the venue can be better transferred to the online stream. After S4 worlds finals were held in a stadium with a capacity for forty thousand people in South Korea, Riot realized that even though the atmosphere was good, it was hard to transfer that energy to the stream. Therefore, ever since then, Riot have chosen smaller and closed venues. I completely understand and agree with their observations, however, my criticism would be that a big venue that is closed, could transfer the energy just as well as a smaller one. I can be biased here, but it seems one of the factors that influenced S4 worlds being so low in energy was the crowd. We have learned that Westerners are much louder when it comes to fanaticism for traditional sports and Esports than their Korean counterparts. There are too may great options in America that would make for a great live and online experience. Even though the Cowboys stadium is a little ambitious, I am sure League could fill that stadium and provide for an awesome online experience.

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The Chicago Theater only has capacity for four thousand people and it was chosen as the venue for the quarterfinals. I am having a hard time compromising so much capacity for the idea of a great online stream. The NA LCS holds about four hundred people and even though is in a studio setting, it just does not provide the energy one wishes it did because it just does not have enough people. I know for a fact that if I was in charge of selecting the venues I would have rejected anything that had less a capacity of ten thousand people, even for group stages. I just do not think that as great as a venue can be, if it does not have people in it, it just cannot have a great atmosphere.
The fact that worlds will be held in the West is a positive because I think NA and EU have shown that they are better live audiences than the Korean ones. I am even happier it will be held in NA and that the finals are on a Saturday because that means that you will see me at the Staples Center on October 29th.
I wish Riot would have been more ambitious with the capacity of the venues they chose. I wish Riot would have been more willing to explore different options in different locations, and I really wish NA wins Worlds this year.

Facts and photos courtesy of riotgames.com, tripadvisor.com and chicagolakefrontcarnivalmuscfestival.com

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