As the follow-up to my previous article, Does LoL Have Hardcores?, today I’ll be discussing a few features Riot could add to League of Legends to create unity, competition, recognition, and ultimately a sense of community within its player base. If you recall, I cited the following reasons for the lack of community in-game:
- No visible difference
- No functional difference
- Automatic segregation
- I also postulated that the high IP cost of new champions was the main vehicle Riot currently uses to keep hardcore players logging game hours on a regular basis.
After considering the core game structures of League of Legends, I came to the conclusion that it would be nearly impossible to ameliorate the second and especially the third issues above without creating glaring balance issues. The first, however, is open to a wide variety of solutions. I created a mock-up of a new loading screen to demonstrate several that came to mind:
To facilitate discussion of the new format I’m envisioning, here’s just one of the player cards:
Starting from the left, the biggest change is the inclusion of the player’s avatar in a prominent box next to the champion portrait. Currently, every single player from level 1 to level 30 has access to the same generic avatars. In my opinion, Avatars hold the most potential out of any currently-existing feature to reward player milestones. Off the top of my head, I can think of a wealth of easily trackable achievements. Some of my favorites include:
- Win a normal or ranked match with every playable champion
- Play a total of 100 matches with one champion
- Earn a total of 100,000 enemy champion kills or assists
- Play 5 consecutive normal or ranked matches without dying once
- During a single game, kill every neutral monster at least once.
Avatars can be prestigious or fun, rewarding skill or completion. They dovetail nicely with the next new feature, indicated directly below the avatar:
A staple of the MMO experience, I’m surprised Riot hasn’t implemented guilds already. My best guess is that implementing a guild tab in the LoL client could be a time-consuming process, but I honestly have no programming experience that would give me even the slightest idea as to what that requires.
Guilds don’t have to be synonymous with teams, nor do teams have to draw exclusively from one guild’s membership. Their primary function would simply be to give a group of friends something to call themselves. I see this occasionally with naming conventions – if the names of every single member begin with PK, it’s a fair bet that they’re a premade that plays together regularly.
Such ‘formal’ organizations mechanically offer the opportunity to reward gameplay on a team level. An incredibly difficult achievement like “Allow only one member of your team to earn any kills” is so close to impossible that it actually becomes impossible because no serious player would even bother to bring it up in a matchmade group. If, however, a team of five guildmates plans their champion selection, runes, masteries, and spells around this achievement, it starts to enter the realm of possibility.
Scroll back up a bit – notice the blue team’s Ryze has no guild. It’s just the way of things that some people would prefer to play without one. Perhaps they have strange schedules or only play League when they have no other form of entertainment. That’s their choice to make, and I think Riot would be running with too much momentum if guilds were ever made mandatory, either through policy or through severe comparative disadvantages for remaining guildless.
This feature admittedly has little direct relation with today’s theme of community. Indirectly, however, the tiny act of displaying someone’s summoner level next to their name may lead to new friendships. A level 27 might notice that his teammate is level 12 and offer helpful advice throughout the match, aiding his fellow whenever he can.
Frankly, though… my intent for this feature is just to highlight the newer players so the team as a whole has an idea of who needs a bit more supervision. You can’t help someone if you don’t know they need it.
What About Skins?
The biggest drawback of my new layout is that player skins are greatly diminished. Riot’s official loading screen features large portraits of all ten champions, but my layout has reduced them to strips. My solution? Mouseovers.
On mousing over the champion banner, the screen will dim and the banner will expand to its full portrait in a display far larger than what currently exists. I believe this actually increases the prestige of rare skins, as mousing over really highlights that skin as opposed to anything else on the screen.
Also notice that the avatar box of the player whose champion is displayed remains bright. This is again to emphasize the role I hope avatars one day take. Seeing the “100 matches” avatar next to Yi’s portrait suggests a different player than the “monster killer” avatar – 100 matches Yi will really, really know the ins and outs of his champion.
The image is unfortunately too small to see, but if you look closely, Billy’s guild name has been replaced by his summoner name in his avatar box. The subtle effect is to maintain the suggestion that all of that – both the avatar and the champion – belong to Billy.
Another Visibility Solution
The in-progress Spectator Mode is a great source of community dynamic. If you log on and all your friends are in a game, just sit in on their match. You’ll be able to participate in their after-game banter, having seen any crazy kills or massive upsets with your own eyes. One additional tool Riot could implement is a ticker in the main client that advertises games with top-ranked player participants. This would bring LoL as an e-sport a bit more in line with how society enjoys actual sports: you can at any time tune in to a game and cheer for your favorite team or player. “Celebrity” summoners could post match schedules on their guild pages, taking things even further.
A Mechanical Solution??
My final thought is actually a mix of visual and mechanical. Returning to my first point regarding the steep IP cost of new champions, I think one very innovative technique Riot could use to create a sense of prestige is a “Champion Token”. Players would only be able to hold one at a time, but using the token would unlock every existing champion for one game. Tokens would be earned sparingly – definitely one for hitting level 30, in my opinion, and maybe every 500th game. For ranked play, perhaps the top 5% at the end of each month are granted tokens.
To ensure the proper “wow” factor, Riot would also have to set aside at least one day at the beginning of a champion’s availability during which that champion cannot be purchased. I believe this is something the community would accept, as one day is a very short amount of time and it really would be cool to play a game with a champion that isn’t public yet.
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Though the infrastructure would need some work, the spirit of League of Legends is extremely amenable to community building. A lot of the necessary resources are built in, while others have a long line of precedence within the MMO industry. Riot only stands to benefit from giving players the tools they need to build these communities.