The League of Legends preseason patch is always a little bit wild. With the yearly esports circuit done and dusted, Riot can go a little ham on changing up champions and how they play on Summoner’s Rift. This year, beneath all the marquee features, Riot added tons of quality-of-life features to test realms that make the game more accessible and, well, easier to play. Officially incorporating these features would be another massive step in Riot’s attempts to turn this opaque, inscrutable game into a welcoming experience — should the changes go through to the live game.
These changes include indicators that show how far a jungle monster will chase a player before they reset to their original position, a recommended route for jungle players to take around the map, timers above vision wards that easily show when they will expire, and recommended abilities and loadouts for champions. This removes a lot of the guesswork from playing a champion; instead of looking up guides and memorizing timers, the game handles that so the player can focus on their immediate, obvious priorities.
Some of League’s most ardent fans are worried about these changes. As one mainstay of the esports scene put it, “Please don’t turn League into all hands no brain.”
But this is the natural evolution of League — and an entirely logical one. League’s history is that of a dense game and competitive esport, and it will always have a high barrier to entry. There are over 160 champions, each of whom has their own set of five unique abilities. That’s a staggering amount of information to learn and retain. I can’t do long division anymore, but I sure can recite the strengths and weaknesses of the marksman roster on command. Even with a decade of investment into League and a wealth of knowledge, I still don’t know jungle pathing or timers!
And that’s from someone who’s been part of the League scene since its early days; Riot is courting a whole new set of fans with projects like the wildly successful animated show Arcane, the mobile adaptation of the game with the barrier to entry lowered, and fun, fluffy alternate universes like the Star Guardians. It’s entirely possible to be a fan of the League of Legends IP without playing a single game of League of Legends itself. That’s a good thing, because the game can be a nightmare carnival.
You may notice that listening to League players talk about the game is like hearing a whole new dialect or language. “I like to go mid and roam with a wombo combo comp, the teamfight potential is great for securing objectives and then we can use the dragon stacks to force a fight around Baron.” What is this? If anyone assures you this is a coherent sentence that any gamer can understand, they are playing you for a fool.
Even if these specific changes don’t go through — it is, after all, iterative content on a test realm — it makes sense that Riot would be considering such changes. League of Legends is a profoundly, intimidatingly complex game. There’s room to sand off some of the rough edges, and if Riot wants to keep expanding the IP, it’ll need to keep the metaphorical sandpaper at the ready.