Thursday, October 13, 2011

A 'League of Legends' Balancing Act

My latest PopMatters article is now live: A League of Legends Balancing Act

I have written about League of Legends a startling amount of times. This is partly because I still play the game, getting in at least two or three matches a week (and sometimes a lot more), and partly because the game is always changing. I admire Riot's commitment to not only adapting and growing their product, but making their community feel like an integral part of the experience. It's not just the frequent videos where they highlight fan art, or the champion highlights and "how-to"s, but also their apparent respect to their fan base. The player judgement system is a perfect example of Riot recognizing the community's complaints and concerns about griefers and their willingness to create a system that acts on this need by tapping the very community it serves.

Riot's pro-level circuit and livestreams are also fascinating to watch, and always offer accessible and entertaining commentary. Riot has also shown support for indy devs, and after talking with a few of the devs at a hackathon they supported in New York last summer, I get the sense this admiration for player and indy ingenuity is genuine for the entire team. For those interested in community relations, particularly in competitive multiplayer environments, Riot is the company to watch.

This is precisely why I find 'Dominion' so interesting in relation to game balance. The new launch is just a reminder of how quickly Riot has grown since launch, both their game and their design team (for which they are still hiring). When I compare their community efforts with Blizzard or CCP, I wonder if there are inevitable growing pains for companies working in the multiplayer sphere. Players always demand more content, but more content bloats a product and makes is harder to wrangle. I'm certain Riot will do just fine, but I certainly consider their work to be an experiment in balancing design goals and community expectations.

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