Editor-in-Chief Chris "Pwyff" Tom spoke with Riot Games' Travis George on the past, present, and future of League of Legends.
The Riot Games staff is always a whirlwind of activity, with constantly shifting goals and projects that inevitably pick up more momentum as they go along. It's hard to believe that it was only two and a half (well, a little bit less) years ago when League of Legends and Riot Games were the new kids on the block, eager to carve a place for themselves in the industry. Now League of Legends is pretty much the face of the microtransaction & MOBA industry, and they've been making incredible gains within the eSports community. To bring in another year of League of Legends and last month's launch of Season Two, I decided to catch up with Riot Games to talk a little about the past of League of Legends and what might be on the horizon for future projects. Read on!
ZAM: Hello and thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions!
Travis George: Thanks! We're glad to chat.
ZAM: This is a bit of a mind-boggling statistic, but in just over two years League of Legends has hit 11.5 million active players. That's… quite a lot of players! Back when the game was still in its closed beta stages (and we were all whining about Annie with Mejai's Soulstealer…), did Riot expect to grow this much? Any growing pains?
George: We're endlessly grateful for the dedication and passion of our community, and - like you - we're impressed by just how many people are playing League of Legends today. Riot had ambitious plans and we were confident that League of Legends could be a sensation, but the sheer velocity of our community's growth surpassed any and all expectations.
The biggest growing pains, truthfully, have been involved with keeping up with that rapid growth by providing a consistent, stable service for our millions of players, which has been a top priority for the company since launch. Every new milestone carries new engineering challenges to overcome-but we're proud of the team we've built, and we believe players are reaping the benefits today with much shorter patch downtimes and stable service.
ZAM: With the launch of season two just last month what were the most important things you learned from Season One that you're hoping to change this time around? Biggest successes?
George: We learned a lot during our first competitive season. We learned just how popular live broadcasts of professional League of Legends could be, with millions of players tuning in to our Season One Championship, not to mention dozens of competitive events like the Intel Extreme Masters series. Beyond that, the sheer number of viewers tuning into live streams from pro players on a daily basis is astonishing.
Those things have certainly helped inform our approach to Season Two, and it's why we're working hard on features like Spectator Mode to improve the viewing experience.
We've also implemented features like Pause for tournament games to help improve the competitive experience, and we learned a lot from Season One that will help Season Two be the best experience it can be for competitors and spectators alike.
The biggest change is that we've created a Challenger's Circuit which will include only the highest level of League of Legends tournaments today for fans to spectate. The best teams will be competing to secure their spot in the regional Championships. In North America, CLG has taken an early lead, but Team Solo Mid is closing the gap.
ZAM: With season two came LoL's new competitive site for all sorts of coverage on LoL's eSports scene. Along with the introduction of ranked teams, it seems like Riot really wants players to get into the competitive scene. Just to play the devil's advocate, why is the eSports scene so important to Riot Games?
George: League of Legends is - at its core - a competitive experience. And beyond that, it's a competitive team experience. Ranked Teams, in that regard, is a slam dunk.
There are 11.5 million people playing League of Legends, and plenty of them are playing at an extremely high level. We want to provide incentives for talented players to compete-and not just for the top .0001% of players who are at the Challenger Circuit level. Competition is even more fun and exhilarating when there are tangible rewards on the line, and we recognize that.
ZAM: Just recently, a big mastery overhaul came in an effort to increase player customization. Was it simply coincidental that these changes came close to the beginning of season two? Or can players expect moderate gameplay shifts like these to come during preseason so that we can get used to them for the oncoming season?
George: To an extent, yes - we launched our mastery and summoner spell overhaul at the start of Season Two, but that doesn't mean we won't be making balance changes to the game iteratively moving forward. The jungle rework we launched with this latest patch is an example of that. We have a lot of plans for Season Two, and not all of them will come to fruition right at the beginning.
ZAM: Fans have been going rabid for an armored bear champion for quite some time now, and just recently you announced the coming of Volibear, the Thunder's Roar. Isn't that a bit like negotiating with terrorists? What spurred the development of Volibear?
George: Ha! It's not uncommon for our community to rally around particularly awesome ideas - and many of them end up in the game. Take a look at Lee Sin and Surprise Party Fiddlesticks - they both owe their existences to the vocal enthusiasm of our community.
That said, our goal with every champion is to ensure they are a quality addition to the League. They must be fun, iconic characters with a unique design hook - and we think Volibear certainly accomplishes that! Although I might be a little biased here, as I'm Volibar in the Riot Community, and I was the Rioter behind the armored bear campaign!
ZAM: It's been a few months since the launch of Dominion and, judging from recent patch notes, a lot of work has gone into monitoring and ensuring Dominion is as balanced as Summoner's Rift. Were there any trends or surprises in how the player population approached this new game mode?
George: Dominion has been very well received by League of Legends fans, and our players have recognized that we're pushing forward the MOBA genre. However, like Classic League of Legends, our plan is to continue to update and evolve the experience on Dominion. You are absolutely right that we've been devoting energy to monitoring and tweaking Dominion.
ZAM: Finally, feel free to get creative with this one, but what's one surprising fact or statistic about League of Legends that nobody really knows?
George: On average, around 30 games of League of Legends start every second of every day. That's staggering to think about!
ZAM: Well that's all we have for now! Thanks for your time! I'm looking forward to how well Season Two does for the world of eSports!
George: We can't wait to see the level of competition in Season Two. Better get practicing! Thanks for your time.
Christopher "Pwyff" Tom, Editor-in-Chief.