In the recent Clutch Gaming vs Echo Fox match, a bug centered around Taliyah caused the game to crash. While Riot implemented tools to respond to bugs, their technology failed in this case. This led Riot to award the game victory to Echo Fox. This is the first time in the NA LCS that a game ending in a crash has been awarded as a win. In previous cases, Riot offered teams a remake.
The game came to an abrupt end when Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon used Taliyah’s ultimate, Weaver’s Wall, towards bot lane. Echo Fox paused the game, and Riot immediately investigated the bug. Typically, teams are penalized if they talk during pauses, but due to the length and unknown nature of this lull, players were allowed to converse and leave the stage.
According to the 2018 Official Rules for the NA LCS, under 13.1.5, Chronobreak should be utilized because the server crashed. This was an unintentional hardware failure and a fault on Riot’s part. However, Chronobreak failed, and Riot was unable to create a game that encapsulated the play of both teams at the point before the game crashed.
As they were unable to bring back the game, Riot had to make a tough decision. On one hand, they could remake the game and disregard the lead that Echo Fox had accumulated over 32 minutes. Otherwise, they could reward the win to Echo Fox because of how large their lead was. Both outcomes would be met with harsh criticism.
In the end, Riot decided to award Echo Fox the win. The 2018 Official Rules for the NA LCS state under 14.1 that “in the event of a technical difficulty which leads League officials to declare a restart, the LCS may instead award a game victory to a team.” League officials could use their sole discretion to decide whether a team deserves a victory if the game lasted more than twenty minutes.
The rules list three criteria when analyzing whether a team deserves to be awarded the win. However, it should be noted that the criteria “may be used” and is not considered binding. First, the gold differential should be more than 33%. In the case of Echo Fox, they had a 19% gold lead at 10,000 gold ahead. Second, the difference between remaining turrets should be more than seven. Echo Fox had exactly seven turrets ahead of Clutch Gaming. Third, the difference between the remaining inhibitors should be more than two. Clutch Gaming only had one inhibitor missing.
Fans criticized Riot for awarding Echo Fox the victory when the game did not fulfill any of the criteria listed in the rules. Furthermore, the wording of the rules is misleading. It states that “League officials, in their sole discretion, may determine that a team cannot avoid defeat to a degree of certainty.” The key words are “cannot avoid defeat.” Clutch Gaming, while behind, could avoid defeat by winning a key teamfight, and their win condition was still capable of being met.
Riot’s official ruling and post on Twitter states “CG did not have a reasonable chance to come back in this game” as part of the reasoning of why Echo Fox gained the victory. However, coming back into a game is different that being unable to avoid defeat. Bryce Blum, founder of ESG Law, a law firm dealing with esports, criticized this wording because Clutch Gaming had the potential to avoid defeat, but was unlikely to come back.
On February 15, 2017, Riot released an article entitled “Deconstructing Chronobreak”. The article outlined a tool called the Deterministic Disaster Recovery Tool, or Chronobreak. By saving all the inputs received by the server in a Server Replay of a game, the new technology would allow Riot to recover the game right before the bug appeared. This new tool allows Riot to maintain competitive integrity caused by a fault on their end.
Prior to Chronobreak, Riot would offer remakes to games that had been affected by a bug. Having Chronobreak as an option decreases the calamity of a bug appearing on the live stage. In order for Chronobreak to be utilized, it is necessary for the bug to be both verifiable and critical. First, that means the bug has to be a bug and not player error. Second, the bug has to significantly influence the outcome of the game in some way.
Originally, according to the article, the goal has been to test Chronobreak on the NA LCS before replicating the system on other servers. Chronobreak should be available in other regions by Summer Split of this year. However, in only week one of the NA LCS Summer Split, Taliyah’s ultimate caused a bug, and Chronobreak could not be used.
According to Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, a member of Echo Fox, Riot officials told the teams that Chronobreak could not be used because the game had ended server side. While every player was disconnected, the minions played out the end of the game. With Echo Fox’s lead, their minions were able to eventually bring down Clutch’s Nexus due to this bug.
Riot have used Chronobreak in the past with success, such as having used it multiple times at Worlds 2017. However, the failure of the technology to work properly on stage had major ramifications in the Echo Fox vs Clutch Gaming series.
The game between Clutch Gaming and Echo Fox felt very close. While Echo Fox did have a substantial gold lead, four dragons, and an inhibitor advantage, every teamfight ended in seemingly even trades. In a 32 minute game, there were 30 kills, split even at 15-15. This sense that Clutch Gaming was one favorable teamfight off from winning the game led to fan outrage. With the chaotic meta, it is unfair to determine at that point that Clutch Gaming had no way to come back into the game. While Clutch Gaming had no turrets, if they won a single teamfight, they could collect the standing gold the turrets provide. It was entirely possible for Clutch Gaming to avoid defeat.
Echo Fox had decisively destroyed Clutch Gaming 3-0 the last time the teams played against each other. Clutch Gaming had an opportunity of revenge in this game, only to have Echo Fox awarded the victory.
Fans who support the decision respect Riot Game’s decision to maintain the competitive integrity to the best of their ability. The company was stuck in between two very difficult positions and had to choose the best with what they had. They compared the situation to baseball. At five innings, if the conditions are unplayable, the umpiring crew may declare victory to one side.
Overall, Riot had to make a very difficult decision concerning what happens when they could not remake a game with a game-breaking bug. Taliyah is disabled for upcoming LCS games to prevent further bugs. With Chronobreak failing in this case, it is paramount for Riot to revamp their system so an error like this cannot happen again.
Luckily, it was only one game in the NA LCS Summer Split. Riot still has time to reconsider their rules and plans should another error hit the big stage.
Featured image via LoL Esports.