For my final Critical Play I played League of Legends, by Riot Games, on PC. The target audience for LoL is experienced gamers ages 13 and up looking for a fun competitive experience. LoL is a pretty complicated game so usually kids under 13 don’t understand or enjoy it fully. The game is a 5 on 5 MOBA, where the objective is to use your character’s skills and strategy to get a lead and force the enemy lines back and destroy the enemy base. The most important element of the game is minions, but other elements are champions, towers, inhibitors, jungle monsters, the nexus, and purchasable items. All of these combine in billions of different ways, creating a new experience every game.
This factors into why League is so difficult to balance. When there are so many formal elements that can be combined in so many different ways, some strategies will rise to the top as more effective. This is at once unavoidable and good, because it keeps the game fresh as players develop new strategies to adapt to a given meta. Yesterday, patch 12.10 of League dropped, which is important because it made changes to every single champion in the game, making them all harder to kill and lowering healing in the game. It is hard to understate how huge these changes are. Despite looking almost exactly the same and having all the same content as the day before, League is a completely different game, with a completely different balance, dictating which champions and items will be most effective. Basically, players have only theories about what is stronger in the game right now, but despite the massive changes, they are happy with the direction Riot is going in. Players often complained about too much damage in the game so now they are happy. Unfortunately, the complaints won’t stop after this patch, as players will soon find that certain picks are excessively strong under the conditions this patch has introduced. For one, I played a couple games of a champion called Vayne yesterday, and did my best to play as poorly as I could with a massive headache induced from little sleep. Because of this new patch, i knew Vayne would be very strong for the coming months until she gets nerfed. And lo and behold, I got extremely far ahead and won both games, through no fault of my own. Simply due to stats diff I was the strongest player in any given game.
Despite the predictable disruptions to game balance that will no doubt be ironed out in time, I think this patch, and League generally, achieves its type of fun effectively. It is going for a highly competitive and difficult type of fun with as high a skill ceiling as possible, and it does that quite effectively. Despite what certain players believe, focus and learning is all it takes to feel the rush of winning. I think this patch went in the right direction for the game, and it is what I would have done to make the game better. We’ll see what’s next in the future but I am optimistic that people will enjoy this version of League’s balance.