Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why I don't play League of Legends anymore

In a funny turn of events, I spent $18.33 to buy the "League of Legends box" and then promptly stopped playing the game. The box is a decent deal compared to the individual micro-transaction prices for the items it includes and the main game is free to play.

I had all intentions of continuing to play LoL for a good long while. The game play is solid, the graphics excellent, and the community is not the nightmare it's been made out to be. I enjoyed playing LoL while I was active. LoL had all the action and player conflict that I was looking for in a game, wrapped in a pretty fantasy setting.

So why am I here writing up a post about why I no longer play League of Legends? Because I have a blog, that's why.

The main reason I don't play LoL anymore: the matches last way too damn long. The average match in LoL, for me, was approaching 45 minutes. Best case scenario is that one of the two teams dominates and the other forfeits at the 25 minute mark. Worst case scenario, it drags on for an hour. Fortunately going past the hour mark usually results in the dominos falling and one team becomes overwhelmed.

While I play plenty of games in one hour chunks, I don't think I've played any game that has as much "busy work" as LoL. Every second of a match past the first minute in LoL is important. Every action must be thought out and guided in execution. The players that take a back seat and auto hit creeps or lag behind getting to a team fight are the one's losing or getting farmed.

This is NOT a bad thing! LoL is popular because it DOES require constant attention and DOES require player skill. However, it directly adds to my non-enjoyment of the length of matches. Let’s break down a normal 35 minute match for a carry (aka a class that is "carried" to the end game before becoming important):

I have to maximize every creep wave for up to 25 minutes while on and off again harassing my opponent in my lane. However, I am not attacking the creeps unless I am going for a last hit. This means I have to constantly dance back and forth to prevent auto attack from screwing up last hits. At the same time I have to watch the health meters of each of the creeps to judge when to hit to get the kill.

In between creep waves I may be calling out missing champions in my lane or returning to the store to click through a half dozen windows to buy gear. When not returning to the store, I am probably diving in and out of the tall grass watching out for ganks.

Approaching the last 10 minutes of the game, team fights start to break out across the map and I have to be able to immediately drop what I'm doing and join in. Being a few seconds late to a team fight can be critical.

Approaching the end of the game I am now either in the opponent’s base pushing down the last towers/inhibitors or if we are losing, desperately trying to get out of the spawn area to maybe push a lane and make up some ground for the rare come-from-behind victory. However, this means I am back at step one optimizing the farming of creep waves.

If I find myself dead during any part of the match, one would think I could step away for a little breather. While I certainly could, its wasted time and I'm missing the golden opportunity to look at the opposing player's builds and also determining my gear path to counter my opponent.

This series of events only describes what I would be doing as a carry. There are different sequences of events for tanks, support, etc. Again, NONE OF THIS is a knock against LoL. This is what people love about the DotA-style game. My problem comes in at the length at which I need to keep up with the busy work and the fact that I can't look away for a brief intermission.

To add onto the problem of match length is the situations where teams are blatantly mis-matched and everyone is just waiting for the 25 minute forfeiture mark (or maybe its 20 minutes now). Nothing is more frustrating than waiting nearly 20 minute to just throw in the towel and gain little to nothing for the effort.

So LoL just doesn't fit my play style, but I still enjoyed the game while I played it. Being free to play, I will probably stop in every once and a while for a game or two. I think there are some definite improvements that could be made to help with match length, both in time and "busy work":

1. Decrease the length of the laning phase by allowing them to be pushed faster. Start by spawning creeps the second the match starts instead of half a minute later.

2. Encourage meaningful player combat instead of harassment. Harassment is annoying and can completely eliminate a player from the match early on leading to a "leaver" and lopsided match.

3. With 1 and 2 in mind I think team fights would increase in frequency and importance. Also the sooner team fights begin; the sooner teams are free to really push towards a win.

4. Automate the damn store. Let players set templates that they can 1-click for the next item. It’s terribly annoying having to manually click through the store.

With all of this said, I wanted to make it clear that these changes are recommended for MY enjoyment of the game. They are NOT an indictment against LoL. LoL may just not be the game for me and I need to be looking at something like Bloodline Champions where the matches are less than 5 minutes and focus only on team vs. team combat. I just wanted to get this posted for my sanity, as justification as to why I've abandoned LoL.

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