Dear Riot Games,
i would consider myself a rather seasoned player, having started playing the game during the beta, shortly after Garen was released. His release date is April, 2010, which means i've been with you guys for more than 8 years now. During season 3 i've managed to get to Diamond 3 in the ladder and right now im at Platinum 1. Which currently makes me higher ranked than 97% of ranked League players, making me think i have at least _some_ comprehension on the game.
As far as i can remember, i never took a break longer than two months from playing your game. We've come a long way together, but i would like to address issues in this post that have been troubling me in the recent years.
First, i'm telling everything that's going great. In terms of graphics and design, League is constantly improving. I can remember how amazed i was by the new design of summoners rift, in time, updates hit every part of the game. You're not leaving old content to be old content like other big companys (World of..*cough*), but rather attempt to keep every content on the same, visual level. And it is working well.
Another great feat, in my opinion, is that every champion is distinct from the others, playing each and everyone feels unique to me. This is especially impressive with a roster of 141 (i think?) champions now. I can't emphasize this enough, it is incredibly hard to come up with fresh ideas again and again and again. And yet you have managed to create a huge pool of champions that differ more than enough in gameplay, that each of them is worth playing. Again, i've seen other games with a far smaller pool of characters, where abilities feel repetetive. (Of course there are some similarities of champions in League, but in my opinion that is unavoidable.)
Your reluctance to leave old (mostly less used) content as it is, is something i appreciatey very highly. No mechanics in the game are set in stone for you, if you think you can improve it, you do it. And the results are amazing.
Over the years, the reworks of the warding and vision system, small things like adjustment of the bushes and especially the runes. These are all changes that improve the game, making it feel different and impactful, aswell as engaging.
I am a huge fan of the removal of runes and mastiers altogether and the implentation of the new runes, no minor, irrelevant stats anymore, but rather a wide choice of different, unique traits, where every single pick feels impactful.
This applies to champions awell, the overhaul of Ashe's kit is a great proof of that, making a more complex champion out of a very simple one.
Overall, compared to about 7 years ago, items, runes and champion picks not only feel more impactful, but there is also much, much more room to individualize.
You guys excel at keeping **everything** up to date in your game. Your visual and musical teams (Dear Lord, the K/DA song is a damn masterpiece, and that's coming from someone who usually listens to metal exclusively) can't be valued high enough. Every new release is presented in a exciting manner, every change transparently displayed and explained. (Wether or not people agree or disagree with the changes are an entirely different topic and not relevant for this.) Of course with that came a few mistakes, it's unavoidable. But compared to how much you improved the game, these mistakes seem almost insignificant.
And yet, during the last two to three years, i've been trying to stop playing Leauge, having deleted the game four times already, but never able to stay away from it longer than two months. At some point during that phase, it made me wonder, why is that the case when the game is constantly improving and i approve 95% of the changes done?
The answer (i think) is frustration. When i compared myself as a player now, to how i was in, let's say Season 3 (because it was my best season C: ). One major difference immediately came to my mind. Especially during Season 3, i was one of those edgy, never-surrender players. The game was only over when your nexus gets destroyed, i felt like i could always be impactful on the outcome of the game.
Today? Today, the 15 minute mark can't come fast enough.
It is difficult for me to grasp and explain why this i think this is the case, because it is hard to make out with everything about League looking so good nowadays.
The general direction is, the snowballing is too extreme. Early leads are insanely impactful. Matchups that seem almost unplayable. Overall, it has become much, much harder to turn a lead around. One team wins the early, keeps map control, rotates and takes turrets because they win the fights, then takes baron because the other team can't contest it and tear down inhibs with the buff or just straight up the nexus. Of course it rarely looks that clean in League, it can easily become very messy. But when you are behind, mistakes are made more easily and bear much higher consequences. When you are ahead and make a mistake that doesn't get compensated by your lead, all it does mostly, is to decrease your lead.
And that is, what i feel, where the frustration comes from. It even works both ways, when i am behind, i don't feel like i can do anything anymore. All there is to do is wait for the enemy to make mistakes, so you can maybe come back. If not? Well gg. One misstep from your side, one moment of being unaware gets you dumped further down.
Being on the winning side is very similar, got a few kills in lane, take turret because they are made out of paper, then use your gold lead somewhere else which causes you to get even more gold. At that point, i don't feel like i need to do much at all anymore, just run around the map, if you encounter someone you are almost guaranteed to win the fight. With that map control dragons and baron are usually almost free and tearing down the enemy base with baron is easy enough. It feels like there is thig giant globe of stone on a hill, on a very small, plain surface. You push from one side and the other one from the other side, once the globe starts rolling down on one side, both can step aside and just watch it happen.
Part of the cause for this, is the health to damage ratio. Especially in the first seasons of league, the game was much slower paced, oneshots a thing that were a rarity. Since then the game has evolved to be much faster paced, much less calculated and overall just explosive, marginal errors meaning certain death. And with every newly introduced champion or rework, it keeps getting worse.
For example, taking a skillshot back then meant you took some damage or cc. Today? If you take a skillshot, from most champions it means certain death.
At this point i would like to preemptively avoid comparison being made to professional play and how things are very different there:
At professional level, it may look like it, but they are not even playing the same game as we do. It is on such a different level, that comparison just straight up make no sense.
I know Riot, that you are aware of the growing frustration, seeing how you addressed that issue in the past. Like the "Pro Player stays calm"-series or the guidelines on how to deal with League's most hated champions. If you felt the need to produce something like that, isn't that already a confession of failure?
Especially on how those guidelines were written, mostly with quotes from pro-players, just shows the issues so clearly. I remember the one for Katarina for example, where one of the first 'helpful' quotes was to play passive and wait for a gank.
That's your strategy against this champion? A strategy that works independantly from any champion?
It was almost hilarious, the developer of the game suggesting that you can't wing that lane on your own and have to rely on your team. Especially the part about playing passive, telling people to not even try to win the lane versus champions like that seems just plainly wrong to me. In addition to that when you handle the lane like that, it gives your opponent massive lane pressure, causing them to follow up on any nearby fights much faster or just roam the map and probably demolish your team.
I'm not sure if others feel that way, but when i opened the guidelines on how to play versus these champions, i expected advices on how to win versus these champions and not on how to not loose too hard.
A main issue is, there are so many champions on which it is just too easy to get kills. And to transition that lead into a win, is easier than ever before. This is what causes frustration, knowing that no matter how you play things, the enemy champion can just straight up kill you. Most of the times even under your turret. Not like these provide meaningful protection anyway. So you either put yourself at constant risk of dying and possibly snowballing the enemy or you give up lane pressure and cs or even experience. And even then, with the arrival of the enemy jungler you're probably easily diveable anyway.
Again, i would like to remind at this point, it usually never works so cleanly, but in 90% of the occassions, it doesn't change the outcome.
Not all games are like this of course. As a competetive, player vs player videogame, frustration is unavoidable. Though the question is, to what extent. I most certainly had frustrating games in the Season i love to name in this article, but they were much, much less common.
To make clear what i'm trying to say, i am going to use Zoe as a prime example. The concept of a champion like this is in terms of balance a huge problem in my opinion. And i am not talking about winrates here. (A champion that for example automatically wins you the game in 40% of the cases right at the start, but looses it in the other 60% would be considered underpowered by winrates alone. And yet i dare to say a champion like that would be a huge problem.)
There are a lot of numbers on Zoe that can be adjusted and have been in the past. If you're playing a squishy champion, eating the sleepy bubble skillshot almost always means death for you. Since it can be rather quick and come from very unexpected angles through terrain and unexpected times, it can be particulary hard to dodge at all.
Now, just tuning down her numbers causes Zoe to be less frequently able to do these kind of things efficiently in less games. Maybe later in the game or only if she gets a substantial lead. All this does, is to decrease the chance for Zoe to work in a game. That chance could be 10% or 90%. All it changes is how much Zoe is being played, the easier this task is to accomplish, the more people are going to use her.
But no matter how her chances of working are, if she is getting to that point, it's insanely frustrating. There is too much fog of war to cover, you can't always have teammates blocking for you, since Zoe has a team too, leaving a very bitter taste.
This concept is applicable to all champions that work similarly, how often they can do what they are designed to do just influences pick- and winrate, the frustration about playing versus them remains equally high in every case they can.
While this sounds like Assassin hate, it is not restricted to them, in their cases my point is just easier to explain. People like to call them skill-champions, the more movement and burst damage a champion has, the more they count as a skill-champion apparently. I'd like to disagree at this point and rather call them practice-champion, because what these kind of champions demand is a high familiarity with their kit. To play them efficiently, you need to react fast and be able to use their abilities properly. An average player that plays Xerath or Lux for the first time will probably perform better than playing Yasuo or Zed. While this is an obvious disadvantage to other champions, once you're past that point, the payoff is much higher than from regular champions. Therefore it is unsurprising, that champions with high mobility and damage are the highest in pickrate. For EUW in Gold Ranking and higher for example, the 15 most used champions have this high mobility, with Thresh, Sivir and Jhin beging the exception. Thresh probably because he is good at shutting down other mobile champions and Sivir and Jhin can especially lateron get high movementspeed anyway.
The more mobile you are, the better you can compensate for mistakes, easier to get out of bad positioning or away from a gank you didn't see coming. This is why i don't consider them so called skill-champions, their mobility lets you play around a lot of stuff. What i would call a skill-champion? Sona. While this may sound silly at first, every mistake you do is so much worse. While her kit may be easy to understand and very straight-forward, she has the lowest base health of all champions and among the lowest armor. Any CC landing on you, even the very early, kills you and/or makes you burn all defensive summoners. At every point in the game, every enemy champion is likely able to cause your sudden demise, in addition that in the early and midgame, Sona has a weak all-in. Pre Level 6, her all-in capabilities are basically non-existant. With the high moblity on most other champions played and Sona having no escape whatsoever, it is very easy to force fights on her. Playing her, forces you to be aware of enemy champions and their potential location at all times, a single misstep causing you to die quickly and immediately. Eating a hook from Thresh on level 1 for example, can cause you to die in about 2,1 seconds (This is an actual scenario that happened to me versus Thresh, Lucian, without any minion aggro). With every mistake being so punishing on Sona, the amount proficiency needed to make more of an impact on the game, which are often decided early, is higher than of any other champion i know.
Situations like this show, how easily it is to get very frustrated in League, furthermore if you don't conform to the peak of mobility champions. Sadly, i don't have any non-radical solutions for this piling frustration, maybe it is needed to bring every champion on the same level of mobility, which will be an almost impossible feat of balancing.
I'm sure there are more than enough people that will disagree with me, but if i have learned one thing on the vast realms of the internet, it is that you are never alone with the opinion you have.
So, dear Riot. I loved your game. I spent a lot of dedication (and money) towards it. And while it objectively constantly improves, you have left something behind. I have no idea what precisely that is, but something is missing.
It makes me woeful to tie so many negative emotions to this amazing game, this amazing world you've created.
I'd love to do something to change that, but i can't see how.