Note: This is meant as a guide to people who are new to viewing League of Legends as an esport and want to better comprehend what’s happening on the screen. There are numerous things not touched on here, but the topics selected are the best mix of high impact and low difficulty to understand.
League of Legends has been one of the largest esports in terms of both viewership and player base for many years. For those watching for the first time though, it can look a bit like a rugby scrum seen through an airplane cockpit. With just a few tips though, that daunting collection of colors and numbers can provide the key to understanding the basics of what’s happening on screen.
The first step to enjoying this Experience is understanding the basics of the game. Two teams of five face off, each aiming to destroy the Nexus, or base, of the other. Along with the Champions controlled by the opposing teams, an army of automated Minions and a network of defensive Towers stand in the way. As the game progresses, the members from each team grow in power at a rate determined by how fast they can earn Experience as well as Gold to purchase Items. While there are many intricacies, every game of League of Legends comes down to one thing: whichever team destroys the enemy Nexus first, wins.
With that ultimate goal in mind, this guide will highlight some things to watch for that can give an indication of who is likely to win the game, as well as the basics of what is happening at any given moment. Equipped with these basics, new viewers can grasp the essential part of the game without getting too bogged down in details that aren’t essential.
The Team Game
As mentioned above, the two things that really determine the power of each team are Gold and Experience. Since in general, the larger power difference comes from being ahead in Gold, the total Gold earned by each team (Figure 1) is typically the best indicator for which team is ahead in the game. Things that earn Gold and thereby factor into this total are Minions/Monsters slain, enemies killed and towers destroyed.
The first thing that many people notice when checking out a game of League is the Kill Score (Figure 2) in the top center of the screen. This shows the total times that each team has killed a player-controlled Champion from the opposing team. While this does matter of course, it is often less indicative of the actual power balance in the game, and often can be quite misleading.
Also at the top of the screen is the count of how many opposing Towers each team has destroyed (Figure 3). Along with each Tower granting Gold to the team destroying it, it also provides the benefit of taking away part of the enemies’ control of that area, since they provide significant protection while still standing. Additionally, since structures must be destroyed sequentially in a lane, a team must take down a minimum of five towers in order to get to the enemy Nexus and win the game.
Throughout the game, large Dragons spawn in a designated area near the middle of the map. The teams fight for these, as killing one grants a buff or benefit for your team for the remainder of the game. If one team has a large advantage in number of Dragons taken, as is the case in Figure 4, then they will likely have the upper hand in fights due to these buffs.
With five members on each team, there will be a lot of time in games where they are too spread out to all be on the screen at the same time. While the production team usually does a great job of keeping the most important action in focus, viewers may want to get an idea of what else is going on. Both players and viewers alike can use the Mini Map (Figure 5) to get a general idea of where the players are on the Rift.
While League is mainly a team game, it is also greatly influenced by how well the individuals perform. There are many nuances that determine this as well, but their general strength is often determined by their farm (also known as CS) and kills, and in the moment, their status depends on how much health they have.
Each player has a K/D/A, which shows the ratio of Kills, Deaths and Assists. In a basic sense, a player is doing well if the numbers go High/Low/High, and the opposite is true if they are reversed. The KDA of each player can usually be seen at the bottom of the screen as shown in Figure 6.
Things keep coming back to Gold, and with good reason. The items that can be bought with said Gold and have a huge impact on the players’ power level. While the amount of items available in the game are far too great for someone new to the game to know comprehensively, it can be safely assumed that the professional players purchase the best ones they can. Instead of worrying about the exact items, more attention should be paid to the individual Gold, which is based on their Farm (Figure 7) as well as their K/D/A.
This Farm number is simply the numbers of Minions or Monsters they have slain, and the higher the number, the more Gold earned. Higher Farm numbers means more Gold (there it is again) and thus more power.
While this power is important, when the teams come together in a big battle, what matters is who lives and who dies. The characters’ remaining health is indicated by their Health bars positioned above their heads. The red or blue colors are used to show which team the character belongs to, and how full the bar is shows how healthy they are. When the red or blue disappears, the character dies, and is sent back to the base where they must wait for a set amount of time (which increases as the game goes on) before returning to play.
As the teams fight, they try to take down their opponent’s health as far as they can, with the goal of sending as many back to their base as possible. Later in the game, fights often involve all five players from both teams, and the resulting mayhem can be difficult for new viewers to decipher. If things get a bit too crazy, one can always refer to the team information on the sides of the screen. While this shows several pieces of information, the most important are their health bars and death timers.
The green bars below each picture is simply another representation of their health bars. If they drop all the way and the character dies, red numbers will show up over their image, counting down the seconds before they can rejoin the fight. Late in the game, too many dead for too long can spell defeat.
League of Legends is an incredibly complex game, and it can take years of watching and playing to truly understand all aspects of what is happening in each match, and what everything on the screen means. This is not by any means a comprehensive guide to everything the game has to offer, but it is a good way to know what to focus on for people who are just starting their esports viewing journey.