Voyboy's Take on "The Problem With League"
Thoughts on DL's “The Problem With League” or "The Downsides of a Constantly Evolving Game" video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhI-QLG_DJU) Video:
Thank you Doublelift and NiceTryIan for putting this together. The editing and content was top notch and some of Doublelift's points resounded with myself and the community strongly. Since the video was meant to spark a discussion and potentially incite change for the better of League, I figured I'd take a few minutes to give my feedback on it as well since I didn't exactly agree with all of the points that were made.
I wanted to give some perspective from someone who derives a huge percent of my League of Legends enjoyment factor from the opposite of specialization, which is diversification. I LOVE that League has so many champions, play styles and ways to play the game. I thrive off of playing different roles and champions and finding new alternative play styles. This is one of my favorite aspects of League and is a huge reason I can still enjoy it after playing the game pretty much non stop every single day for over 10 years. Yes, there are definitely people who love specialization, one tricking, and mastering a champion archetype, but there are also tons of players who love diversification and being a jack of all trades.
There's tons of moving parts to this discussion but I would just suggest that we should be careful not to hyper focus on a vocal upset minority (AKA the Korean Challenger Aatrox that wrote the reddit post or Hashinshin about pretty much everything) when considering what the right direction to take League is. You can't please everyone, there will always be people upset or overjoyed with whatever changes Riot comes out with. Personally, I've overall enjoyed the direction the game has taken since the runes rework. My opinion is not that important though. The goal for Riot Games and the balance team should be to do the most good for the majority of the player base, with a watchful eye on the Pro Scene. Balancing completely around LCS is wrong, balancing completely around Solo Q is wrong, there has to be a happy medium, and that is the difficult task that Riot is constantly faced with. It's not an easy job, but we as a community and players should absolutely hold them to the highest standard within reason. If there is room for improvement, Riot needs to improve and step it up. At the same time, if we expect these things from Riot, we can't all collectively lose our marbles as soon as something is unexpectedly strong/weak or the meta shifts. The relationship between Riot and the players is a symbiotic system of checks and balances, and I think we as a community take advantage of that sometimes even when there are egregious missteps such as the recent Banner of Command going unchecked.
[8.11 ADC Doomsday]
I think most would agree that Riot of course dropped the ball hard here, however everything that came as a result of the patch was not bad. Riot wanted to nerf ADC's (who WERE overpowered in general and ran the state of League of Legends for years) but they did so heavy handily and pushed out the majority of the champions played in a single role for years while alienating a huge percent of the player base. This is one of the biggest missteps that I can remember Riot doing, and as a result of ADC items costing an insane amount, combined with fast game times due to Baron being a joke and a win condition in its own right, people just moved on from most ADC's (except Lucian/Kaisa/Ezreal) because they weren't a necessity to other “broken champions” (AKA Irelia, Yasuo, Vladimir, Brand, Heimerdinger) because they gave a better chance to win at a high level of play.
However, as we all found out, most players could not swiftly command Heimerdinger or Vladimir bot lane at a high level, so we'd see even LCS players looking like fools on mages while their ADC counterparts beat their heads in. I think that the ADC revolution was amazing for League (I think even Doublelift liked it initially until he had seen enough Heimerdinger), it showed people that you didn't have to play the game a certain way or with specific champions, and I generally feel like most people are much more open to innovation, eccentric picks, or just accepting that the game is never fully “solved”. I've always held this mentality while I search for off meta picks and play styles, but I'm glad its permeated to a larger portion of the player base after the ADC day of reckoning. It should be noted that I don't think Riot did a good job with the ADC changes, even though I am happy that people are more open minded and experimental with the game as a result. Additionally, the fact that LCS teams are constantly trying out new champions and strategies (FUDGE funneling though) is a breath of fresh air. I hope that this mentality does not stagnate when ADC's inevitably are strong again and players continue to look for opportunities to innovate and break the meta, both in Solo Q and on the LCS stage.
[On Nerfs and Reworks]
First of all, let's completely separate our feelings regarding nerfs and reworks (AKA removing a champion). They are not really the same thing. I'd imagine if I was a casual player and my favorite champion got nerfed within reason, I would probably keep playing them because I love them for their play style, not because they are inherently busted. However, if something that I love gets removed, that's a very different story. Naturally, no one wants their main champion or favorite picks to be nerfed. If you are performing well and having fun with Zoe (usually these concepts tie in together), you don't want her to be nerfed. However, for the people you are playing against, when the champion you enjoy is broken or overpowered, I think most people would agree it's perfectly fine for Riot to correctly distribute appropriate nerfs to bring them more in line with the rest of the League cast.
As someone who has always prided himself on being an innovator and discovered/popularized tons of alternative play styles and champions over the years, it does suck when Riot nerfs the stuff I enjoy. Did Riot need to gut Olaf? Tank akali / katarina? AP Tryndamere? Elise top? Lee sin top? E max Yasuo? Honestly, not in every case. But they did and you know what, I accepted it. I'm not saying everyone should be like me, to just play 50+ champions so you can never get bored and not care about 1 or 2 being nerfed, I'm just saying that constant nerfs and buffs are needed to keep the game fresh and relatively balanced for the majority of players.
I know Doublelift said he wasn't against nerfs, but preferred to buff weaker champions rather than nerf strong ones. He admits to this leading to power creep, which is a very real thing, but says he will address that later, which is fine. I actually just don't agree with this as a concept. Measurably overpowered champions should be nerfed, and pathetically weak/useless ones should be buffed. However, it's a tricky job because you can't just look at a champion's win rate and decide what to do. If that was the case, old 45% win rate Ryze/ Azir would be getting buffed while they were already broken in the hands of a skilled player. There is no right way to sum up the job the balancing team is tasked with. League is a huge dynamic game that is constantly evolving, which to me that is one of the main premises of League. I DON'T think League moving towards a more stagnant patch cycle with less changes would help the game in anyway. There have been tons of meta's and patches with insanely boring game play patterns (tank meta ResidentSleeper) while also many exciting ones (assassin meta faker vs Ryu ZED etc). If you have long drawn out patches, but still hotfix nerf or buff outliers, isn't that worse than the alternative of frequently planned patches, since those hotfixes could potentially take a player or team by surprise after investing practice into X champion? I think constant patches are good for the game, they keep things interesting, fresh, and introduce new champions or mechanics that usually make the game more fun and interesting to play. Never had a problem with the patch frequency before (except when Riot was releasing a new champion every 2 weeks LMAO) and I don't think now is much different. If anything, Riot has been very conservative with changes to most champs outside of the ADC rework.
[The Meta Must Change]
Doublelift brought up Starcraft and the Protoss vs Zerg match up, a situation where a game that had otherwise seen very little change over the years basically completely get flipped on its head thanks to an innovator (Bisu) who shocked the SC scene. This is awesome, and I think many games like Chess, Melee, and Starcraft, have enjoyed tons of popularity and success globally without a constant update cycle. But does that mean it's the right approach for League? League has enjoyed success and popularity for so long with its constant changes and freshening of the game / meta. Why was this not a problem during League's peak of success and popularity? I'm not saying we should not change anything just because the formula has worked well in the past, that's terrible thinking. But at the same time it's important to realize that there are a ton of beneficial aspects of a constantly evolving game as well. It keeps people interested, it keeps the game new and exciting, and it creates more incentive to play for the casual player because they have less reasons to get bored and discover new things. As a pro player, I enjoyed finding out the strongest picks and play styles before my competition after a patch. As a streamer, I enjoy trying out new play styles and figuring out meta breaking strategies in response to the patches and what is currently being played. Does it suck when a percentage of the player base get alienated or lose their sense of agency (8.11 ADC doomsday), yeah sure it does, but things like this have happened over the years and Riot usually manages to reach an equilibrium state over time where people are happy with the game and having fun, to suggest otherwise is unfair to League's success and staying power over the years.
[The Pro Player Conundrum]
Doublelift says that Riot pushing out a patch every two weeks forces players to practice more than they would otherwise, ergo not having any extra time to stream or create content. I agree with Doublelift in theory, as a pro player it sucked having full weeks booked with scrims and meetings and feeling like I had very little room to grow as a content creator or streamer. Unless you're Sneaky, who somehow has streamed consistently nearly every night over the years while being a top LCS player, almost no one is able to juggle LCS /streaming/ having a normal life successfully.
This was definitely a contributing factor in my considerations to retire back in 2014. I went on to continue being a successful content creator and streamer after that, but I do occasionally look back and reminisce about LCS/competitive play. I would never change my decision, it was the best thing for my career and future, but if I had more opportunity to pursue my streaming passions as a Pro player, then maybe I would have considered staying in the LCS. With all of that said, if teams wanted to push back on scrim blocks, and reduce the time that pros have to dedicate to their professional life, they could very well do so.
Would there be an opportunity cost to not practicing as a team as much and having other teams out work you? Yes, of course, that is why no team/player would dare to willingly practice significantly less than their competition. Especially when you consider the international stage, and how hard Korean teams are known to practice, I don't think NA wants to fall further behind than we already have been for years. I don't think stretching out patch cycles does much to solve the Pro /Streamer conundrum. I think that LCS players growing their brands/streams/youtubes is super important, but it's not an easy task for anyone and unless there is systematic push back by the players, teams will still schedule full blocks of scrims and practice regiments.
Another aspect to consider is this: For MOST LCS players (not Doublelift/Sneaky/Bjergsen), streaming is not a big priority because they just don't have the established audience and it takes an insane amount of work to get that built up, which you just can't really do as a full time LCS player for most people, and it ends up being more beneficial to just practice/grind on your own. If my LCS teammate wanted to sacrifice team practice time (aka falling behind the competition who will over work themselves), to build his personal stream / audience, while I wouldn't really be able to do the same with that free time, I would probably not be very happy about that. I know this situation very well, because back in the Curse days and would hope for opportunities for myself to stream a midst our busy schedules, but I always knew if my teammates thought it was costing them practice time that they wouldn't be happy about it, so I tried to avoid those situations from happening because I didn't want to hurt our team's success or the feelings of my teammates.
Doublelift is of course invested in this situation, as someone who wanted to take time off from LCS to be a full time streamer, but went back into competitive play, I'm sure he wishes he could balance doing both in a more meaningful way. Personally, I do too, I wish LCS player schedules allowed for more wiggle room, but I'm not sure if there is currently a healthy solution that does not start and end with the team's themselves, it's certainly not Riot's prerogative to change the patch cycle to potentially cater to this specific issue.
[League Is Dying]
The elephant in the room, AKA League's viewership has gone down overtime. League has been the most popular game in the world for the better part of the last 10 years since its inception. Riot has done many things right to get it so far and to this point. They have had tons of streamer /content creator support, built an esports phenomenon, rode a wave of momentum and even gotten very lucky.
League's success over the years is thanks to MANY factors. It's slow decline should also be considered as a result of many factors, and not any specific thing. Just because it's been on the decline by many of our measurable metrics (viewership / games played etc) recently doesn't mean the things we are currently upset about have contributed to this in a significant way. League is still immensely popular all around the world and will be for years to come, however League has had its fair share of periods of stagnation and ResidentSleeper over the years. Was the game still popular as all hell during those times? Yep. When tanks were busted for ages, did I really want to play Maokai/Nautilus every game? FUCK no. So I just didn't. I know many people out there, especially the casual player base, that just do whatever they want and have fun with the game. Of course people look towards the professional players/streamers for inspiration, education, and entertainment, but I guarantee out of the overall player base, most people don't care that much on a personal basis about specific mechanics/champions being nerfed/buffed/reworked/added. Most players don't study patch notes intently or care about win rates or what's broken that patch, I think most people just play the game and do what they want, sometimes with friends, and just try to have a good time playing League. We should remember that also when considering system changes to the League ecosystem.
Fortnite and the rise of other massively popular similar games has definitely “stolen” a percentage of the League player base/viewership, but that doesn't mean that League is necessarily doing something wrong to warrant that. The other games could simply be doing things better. If all my friends and celebrities I know are talking about Fortnite 24/7, wouldn't I be more prone to check it out and play with them? (Note: I've never played Fortnite). It's a global phenomenon that has captured a huge number of gamers around the world, and some of them probably play/watch less League nowadays because most people just don't have all the time in the world to go to work, go to school, keep up with league changes, and play Fortnite. At some point people move on or cut things out to make time for other things. Do I think this has happened to League? Definitely. It's just a matter of realizing even if Riot does everything right, it's still possible for League viewership/interest to wane over time. I hope this is not the end and we enter a League of Legends bull market and LCS viewership tops 300k every time again, but if it doesn't happen, well at least we all had a damn good run. With that said, I would totally be down for Riot to try to jump start the game by trying something new or interesting (No I don't have the solution right now, otherwise I would be calling up Marc and saving League of Legends) to try and reverse the trend. You best believe they have top people constantly trying to think of ways to increase interest in League, because that directly affects their bottom line and revenue as a company. I applaud Doublelift for voicing his opinion and giving his thoughts on the matter. I just don't think increasing the time between patch cycles and “buffing weak champions instead of nerfing strong ones philosophy” does much for the average players interest / enjoyment factor long term and does much to solve some of these issues mentioned.
[The OTHER Problem with League]
Listen up you little twerps who are reading this. I'm sneaking this in here because I've already spent ove an hour typing up my thoughts and I'm not about to stop here. This has nothing to do with Doublelift's points in the video directly, but you know the real problem with League of Legends? It's not Riot's balance team, or the patch cycle, or Fortnite blowing up. It's the attitude of the player base. I honestly don't know what happened over the years but I never remember the game being like this. People are so hostile and negative to their teammates and fellow players on Summoner's Rift. If you pick something people don't like, if you die one time in lane to a gank, if you don't vote to surrender in a completely winnable game, it just feels like people take every opportunity to jump on your neck and start a fight. I've played this game for nearly 10 years and I don't know what happened but it just seems like people are having less fun playing the game and don't enjoy it as much? I personally don't think this is due to any specific changes in League itself. People will blame fast game times / snowballing for toxicity towards teammates, but I think this is a cheap cop out that helps normalize the kind of negative behavior I'm talking about.
I obviously can't speak for the majority of the player base, and this is all purely based on my personal experiences in my solo Q games, but there was always something magical about playing League and coming together as a team and working hard (sometimes against all odds) to take out the enemy team. That sense of camaraderie and teamwork seems to have waned over the years and I just feel like every one is so quick to flame or pop off on anyone they can. I get laughed at everyday for believing my team can comeback and win a game in which we are behind in. Back in the day, if you were losing and you told your teammates “We can win this guys”, the majority of the time people would be inspired and rally with you to at least put up a good fight. Nowadays, if you say some thing like that people will generally just tell you it's over, they are going AFK to make a hot pocket, and that you're wasting your time. No one wants to waste time or lose in general, but it's the people that are usually most upset at these things happening that just contribute to the problem and create self fulfilling prophecies by giving up or flaming their teammates because they aren't performing absolutely perfectly.
I know this is a complicated problem but in case this gets read by a few people who find themselves behaving like this, just try to consider your actions and how it can affect your teammates and fellow human beings on the rift. We are all gamers just trying to have a good time. Everyone has different reasons for playing. Some of you have aspirations to go pro, or be a streamer, or get to Challenger to attract a sweet baby boo, or even just to have fun with your home boys. No one in general, is specifically out to grief you or ruin your experience playing League (of course there are exceptions) so don't become that towards someone else out of anger or spite.
Don't flame the 0/3 Teemo for being bad, he probably knows it, and even if it makes you feel better, it's not gonna help you or your team while you AFK and type an essay about how bad the Teemo player is and he shouldn't have picked the champion he has a 35% winrate with. Everyone has different reasons for playing and we'll never know what someone is going through on the other side of the keyboard, but we can all do our part to slowly make that experience more positive for everyone involved. I'm not saying don't rage or flame ever, sometimes it just feels good to vent and let that stuff out, but just try to reel it in and realize that there are more positive constructive ways and options to deliver feedback or be a teammate / League player available. Think about your words/actions, try to be a good human being and gamer, and don't be a dick. That's all I'm asking.
[Finally Done Typing]
I care about this game and the players so damn much, hence me getting involved in this discussion and giving my thoughts. I don't expect everyone to agree with all my points or even read everything I wrote but I just want the best for everyone involved, and I hope that if the community and Riot keeps the discussion rolling we can find some good solutions that make more players happy and improve the state and future of League of Legends as we know it.
Sorry about any typos / rambling. Note that I wasn't specifically trying to play devil's advocate in this although I know that's how it might seem, only in the sense that I want people to consider multiple perspectives and the sides of things that weren't stated in the video. These were just some of my thoughts I quickly typed up after watching DL's vid and to keep the discussion going. Nearly 3 hours, 6 pages and 4000 words on League of Legends later here I am having flashbacks to high school. Thanks for reading.
Joedat "Voyboy" Esfahani