As a region, North America has historically failed to perform in international tournaments. When faced against disciplined and meta-setting giants like Korea or China, those of the North America League of Legends Championship Series falter or choke, and fans within the region are consistently disappointed. The players in North America face many different challenges compared to their other region counterparts. These issues need to be addressed or North America may never be a formidable competitor in international tournaments.
Addressing the Ping Issues
The Server Move
On August 25, 2015, Riot moved their servers from the West Coast to Chicago, Illinois. Many players complained about the move, but more importantly, the move affected professional players. The NA LCS is held in Riot’s studio in Los Angeles. Therefore, teams are located around Los Angeles, in the West Coast area. Professional players would have to play Solo Queue with the subpar ping, from 5-10 ms to 60 ms. To a casual player, this jump in ping is a nonissue. However, for professionals, every split second affects the outcome of a duel or a team fight.
At the time, professional player Christian “IWillDominate” Rivera explained how this move changes the competitive scene: “With the live server ping increase[,] LCS players will be forced to adapt to multiple latency numbers at different points throughout the day and throughout the week[,] making it difficult to play at an optimal level. A higher stable ping is not the issue. The issue is the inconsistency of ping across all different playing realms.”
The Continued Problem with Ping
The ping difference between competitive and Solo Queue is not a new issue. However, North America has not yet consistently performed at an international tournament. This handicap needs to be addressed if North American players desire to become competitive.
Recently, North America faced against Europe in Rift Rivals. In an interview with Travis Gafford, G2 Esports jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski said, “NA has way worse mechanics: I don’t know if it’s because of the ping so they don’t get good practice, or they don’t play enough, or they just suck.” The ping issue made its way back to the forefront of the League community.
A Competitive Server for Professional Players
Nick “LS” De Cesare, a former coach, took to Twitter to describe a possible solution for the ping issues. He explains that Riot could host a private server for professional players. The players in the server would be current players in the LCS or academy players. Other players could access the server by invitation and/or application. A server like this would facilitate a better competitive environment for North American players. Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, the jungler for Echo Fox, showed his support in a tweet, saying he wished he could retweet it more than once.
One of the Founders of FACEIT’s Pro League, Milos Nedeljkovic, asked the League community on Twitter if players would be interested in setting up an FPL Circuit for League. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive uses a FPL Circuit. According to FACEIT Pro League’s website, the FPL Circuit is “the place where the top players of the scene play in a solo queue against each other.” Having a similar environment for the NA LCS can help grow NA talent, whilst allowing players to practice in an environment similar to the one on stage.
Mark “MarkZ” Zimmerman posted on Twitter about professional teams already having access to a low ping server called the Tourney Realm. Teams could create the environment whenever they want with relative ease. Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, the midlaner for Team SoloMid, replied to MarkZ. According to Bjergsen, teams tried to set up something similar two years ago. However, players did not want to participate because it was not as easy to queue up as regular Solo Queue. Furthermore, Riot does allow streaming in the Tourney Realm, and players want to continue streaming. Streaming provides a lot of money and helps promote a team.
North America participated in competitive League of Legends tournaments starting in the beginning in 2009. Since then, players have faced many problems unique to the region. Many North American fans care about players more than the teams they are on. The fans of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng follow him from team to team, whether it is Counter Logic Gaming, Team SoloMid, or, most recently, Team Liquid. Streaming allows players to better interact with their fan base. There is more incentive to stream than to build a more competitive server.
In contrast, Korea displays a different culture. Fans there follow teams, not players. At any moment, coaches substitute out players that are under performing. Players continue to play their best in Solo Queue in order to maintain their position on the roster. Korea consistently has little to no latency, which allows for better mechanics. Korea’s mindset focuses on results and discipline to reach the highest level of League of Legends.
North America turns to Korea for many answers. From the meta to champion picks, North America tries to emulate Korea to reach greatness. However, particular issues that plague North America need to be addressed as a region. North America needs to respond to its unique challenges and adopt the Korean mindset, instead of emulating Korea, if they want to become a threatening, competitive force on the international stage.
Featured image courtesy of LoL Esports.