Land Of The Free: League Of Legends

By Phill Cameron on September 17th, 2010 at 1:35 pm.


This article is the first in an ongoing safari through a range of free-to-play games of all genres.

Relax. It’s ok. There’s nothing to worry about. Just take a seat, get acclimatised, perhaps browse the store for a little bit, we’ve got this. We’ll take care of everything, and the thing you’ve got to bear in mind is that this is about you; we’re here to make your life easier in every way, because hey, you’re the one playing the game, after all.

That’s League of Legends’ UI, talking to me in the sultry tones of an air stewardess that’s been in the job enough to learn how to get you comfortable, but not long enough to stop caring and grow embittered and cruel. More legroom, sir? Indeed. Except League of Legends, despite being Free to Play, isn’t the Easy Jet or Ryanair of DOTA clones. This is the premium service, right here, and it starts from the moment you first load the game up. All of the superfluous garbage has been torn away and rolled up into a ball, before being tossed into an bin, leaving you with a stripped down, super efficient experience that lets you just get on with playing the game.

Like it’s genre-brethren, League of Legends features the patented three-paths approach, each of them lined with turrets and fed an unending torrent of minions. It’s your job to accompany those minions and let them destroy the towers, before eventually attacking the enemy base. Of course, there’s just as many big bastards trying to do exactly the same thing. It’s all about managing priorities.

My main problem with Heroes of Newerth wasn’t so much the acidic community as the reason they were quite so affronted by anyone who didn’t know the ins and outs of the game. Because each game starts your champion at level 0, and they then level up through killing minions and other champions, every single one of your deaths is like a buff to the other team providing them with experience and money. So having a bad player on your team wasn’t so much hampering because of the lack of skill, but because they could be farmed by the other team, wildly unbalancing the game. It’s somewhat understandable why some people might have got angry with new players.


League of Legends has managed to sidestep this issue through a few startlingly clever moves. Firstly, they provide a decent tutorial, allowing you to understand the mechanics of the game without playing with anyone, so you can learn how to play without ruining anyone’s game. A marvel. Also, they’ve got a matchmaking system that actually works to keep experienced players away from those new to the game, meaning you never feel quite so actively negative in regards to your team’s progress.

And the game itself is undeniably charming. Each character has a few paragraphs of backstory if you care to dig that deep, but even ignoring that they all have a striking visual style, from the cute to the creepy, and everything in between. Somehow it doesn’t feel out of place to have a huge purple guy dressed like a CEO attacking people with a briefcase. Mainly because if you look at a fifty foot giant purple businessman with a militant briefcase the wrong way, you’re going to get crushed under the corporate heel.

Getting into the games themselves is as close to a joy as a lobby can ever be. Constantly windowed, the launcher allows you to team up with friends in a lobby while at the same time browsing the shop, tweaking your upgrades or spending points. It figures, correctly, that you only need to be in full screen when you’re, y’know, playing the game. The rest of the time, it’s there to be convenient. At no point does it bog you down with opening or reopening windows; move onto something else and the others will minimise, allowing you to open them back up at the click of a button.


What all this means is that you spend your time digging and exploring around the game, rather than being bored and waiting for a match. It’s useful, then, that League of Legends is quite so broad. When presented with a game of this sort, there’s often an utterly overwhelming flood of information. You’ve got your heroes, of which League of Legends has upwards of fifty, and then they’ve all got a unique set of powers. On top of that you’ve got a variety of skins for each hero, and runes and masteries, both of which have incremental effects on your passive stats like attack rate, mana regen, armour, health, health regen, ability power, ability cooldown, and ohgodsomanythings. Like I said, overwhelming.

But, without insufferable handholding, Riot Games have managed to make it so that you never feel frozen by choice. The champion select, for instance, provides you with about ten champions at any one time. They’re cycled on a weekly basis, with the champions getting selected based on ease of play and how often they’re picked. Eventually they all get a look in, meaning that you can find your favourites without having to lay down any cold hard cash.


Which all ties into the almost startlingly clever way they’ve implemented the microtransactions. The game has two currencies, Riot Points and Influence Points, with the former being the paid for variety, and the latter earned by playing matches. Almost everything can be bought with either, although the values are clearly skewed towards purchasing with Riot Points. Which is fine, because it means that you can work towards either goal, and you’re never going to feel like content is getting cut off from you because you’re not willing to pay. You’ve just got to earn it.

It seems like this would be one of the smartest ways to introduce microtransactions. Rather than giving paying customers outright better stuff, just allow them to jump the queue. Save them time rather than cutting off your dedicated players, and everyone is going to be happy. It removes the ‘us vs them’, and no one likes segregation.


It comes together to create an environment where you’re lusting after specific heroes more because of their character and aesthetic than their specific powers, because they’re all pretty well balanced against each other. Of course, some are more tank-oriented, and others support, with ranged and healers mixed in, but they can all hold their own, meaning that you’re free to allow yourself to be seduced by a character, rather than a stat. And, with none of them getting locked off outright without paying, you can work towards your goal of unlocking them permanently, and then their skins, and then everything else.

Since launch there’s been a near constant stream of new champions, new skins and new things to fiddle with, meaning that even if you could buy everything available right now, you’re not going to start earning points in vain. It’s gaming as a service rather than a product, and for Free to Play, that sounds like exactly the kind of thing that’s going to work. To match the steady trickle of money, they’re going to provide players with a steady trickle of content. Which is probably something I’m going to ask them about in the interview, due up next week.

League Of Legends is free-to-play, and out now.

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114 Comments »

  1. Garg says:

    I don’t think you can buy skins with the IP you earn from playing, only Riot points. Not that it matters, as it’s only aesthetics, but still read like they were earnable without real money.

    • radomaj says:

      Yup, Garg’s right.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      Yep, skins you can only buy for RP. We’re very very careful about this, actually. One of our central mantras is that we Do Not Sell Power. So the only thing we can really sell for money exclusively are skins, which are purely aesthetic. Champions you can buy for either money or influence (influence is what you get for simply playing games), and runes (upgrades that buff your character before the game even begins, giving you better base stats, which will then be affected by items as usual) you can ONLY buy for influence points.

    • Burningpet says:

      @ Daniel – But, you can buy ip with money, hence indirectly buying power boosts through runes with money.

    • Zyrxil says:

      No you can’t, buy IP that is. You can buy IP boosts though, which increase the amount of IP you receive for a Victory, which I guess you could call an indirect-indirect power boost.

    • Lilliput King says:

      You can buy ip with money?

    • Nallen says:

      This sounds like exactly same model as the game Godfinger on the iPhone…but this game looks a lot better :)

    • Daniel Klein says:

      Like Zyrxil said, you cannot buy IP for money. True, you can buy an IP boost, which will give you about twice the IP per game played, but that will give you exactly zero IP unless you play a game. It’s a convenience. We’re okay selling conveniences and aesthetics, but not power.

      Case in point, for a while we had the policy to reimburse people who bought the collector’s edition but already owned a few champions included in it with influence points. People, being players, quickly saw that that’s a pretty good way of buying IP, and we had to revoke the policy.

      Personally I *HATE* games where money gives you a real advantage. No quicker way to make me stop playing. So I’m very very happy that the general company policy here at Riot is that we will never sell power, and if in doubt err on the side of caution.

  2. Bluebreaker says:

    Does it work now or you still get:
    - terribly unbalanced games
    - two thirds of the games won’t even start and stay locked in ready
    ?

  3. Tei says:

    What a weird world we live.

    People looking to make clients to freebies (people that don’t want to pay for his games) and whales (people that use the 98% of his salary to pay for games). Maybe a % of the people that don’t want to pay for games in a F2P enviroment become whales. (?/?).

    I don’t understand this wave for F2P games, but Is a wave that was visible from 4 years ago.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Longer than that, I suspect. Second it proved it worked in Korea, I suspect it was only a matter of time. Of course, it’s much easier to say that with hindsight.

      KG

    • Daniel Klein says:

      Interestingly, what works for F2Ps in Asia doesn’t necessarily work in the west. A LOT of the Asian F2P MMOs flagrantly let you buy the Sword of Divine Facestomping +23 for real cash, and people are okay with that. I don’t think something like that could ever work over here.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      @Daniel : That’s precisely the reason I could ever get into any Asian mmo’s. I don’t have problems with grind really. I did it for years in Asheron’s Call. But the instant you have to pay cash to even compete or play the game properly, and that’s where I draw the line.

  4. DoublePLayer says:

    Um, I have a problem with this article not pointing out some of the flaws in this game.
    The most glaring one of all is that every time a new champion is out, that champion is too powerful.
    The other thing is, that when a champion is nerfed, most of the time that champion is unplayable because of how big the nerfs are. Give me back my Xin Zhao and Twisted Fate. =(

    • Bluebreaker says:

      the biggest flaw, of all dota games, is that a game that is decided in 5 minutes will last 1 hour

    • Evernight says:

      @Doubleplayer
      Balance is hard in a game like this, and most of the heroes are not so much OP as everyone thinks. Xin Zhao was OP but many of the others have not been. Most ppl just don’t understand how to play against them and like to bitch about it. The “over-nerfs” are a state of mind more than they are reality, since TF is still very strong and Xin can still carry very well.

      @Blubreaker
      That was DOTA – LoL is never decided like that. Watch the high ELO games and you will realize that the game is always decided by late game team fights – the skill, positioning, and proper skill use will easily trump a fed/farmed team. So giving up a few early towers or kills really have a minimal effect on the game. Ppl that ruin the game are ppl who give up after their team is down 5+ kills.

    • Zyrxil says:

      DoublePLayer-

      First, people who don’t play the game wouldn’t understand WTF was being talked about if that was brought up. Second, it’s hugely a matter of opinion, and the majority opinion says Xin is still very much the most powerful or one of the most powerful melee DPS characters.

      Blubreaker-

      As I understand it, LoL has a much gentler snowball curve to reduce the chances of this happening. By 20 mins, sure, but that’d still require a big skill gap between teams. There are lots of ways it’s much less punishing. You’re constantly getting 1 gold per second even if you never kill anything, characters who are on death streaks give less xp/gold to the enemy, characters who are on kill streaks give a gold bonus when their streak is interrupted, and you don’t lose anything for dying except respawn time.

    • DrGonzo says:

      @Bluebreaker

      That is so untrue. I won a game only a night ago where we lost all our inhibitors and we down to our last two towers and our base. We had around 15 kills to their 30 something. We wiped them out as they were being cocky and pushed all the way into their base and won.

      People don’t realise that late game in League of Legends you can wipe out their entire base in around 30 seconds. Also, unlike in Dota, it’s a pretty valid tactic to die a lot while pushing their towers, this is partly due to back-dooring being possible.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      Doubleplayer: I’ll add my voice to the choir of “that’s not LoL”. But instead of just telling you that this is so, why don’t I show you?

      Why not indeed!

      http://www.own3d.tv/video/32429/WCG_NA_Finals_-_CLG_vs._EPIK_-_Game_1
      http://www.own3d.tv/video/32432/WCG_NA_Finals_-_CLG_vs._EPIK_-_Game_2

      Look particularly at game 1, where team CL Gaming totally dominates the first 30 minutes or so of the game, with a lead in tower kills and (I think) three consecutive unopposed dragons. Then, bang, teamfight, superior positioning by team Epik, the two punch combo of Haemoplague into Absolute Zero and suddenly it’s a different game altogether.

      Same goes for game 2. This time team Epik are dominating the first half (or more), until team CLG show their hand with the ballsiest Kennen move in the history of mankind. (I’d give you the timestamp, but own3d.tv does not seem to like the idea of skipping forward very much. Just watch the whole thing. Watch both of them. Those were the two most enjoyable games of LoL I’ve ever seen, and I’ve so many).

    • Daniel Klein says:

      Okay, found it. Timestamp is 41:20. Watch CLG BigFatJiji singlehandedly win the WCG US nomination for his team.

  5. Captain Morgan says:

    “The Land of The Free” is a most excellent addition to RPS. I look forward to more!

    • Rich says:

      Seconded.

    • Frank says:

      Thirded.

      I didn’t realize this was free and had been playing Minions on Kong lately instead. Thanks for bringing this up again, Phil.

    • Arathain says:

      Fourthed. There are so many Free to Plays out there. Many of them must be pretty good. I don’t have enough time to find out which ones are.

      I hope this becomes a regular feature. Thanks, Mr Cameron. Thameron.

    • KillahMate says:

      Yes, definitely keep this as a regular thing, once a week would be wonderful. With the mod news and bargain bucket etc. you guys have some very useful features, and this would go along swimmingly with them.

  6. pissant says:

    my issue with f2p is that if you want to pay for additional content, it has to date always cost more in the long run for the player. The subscription model is almost always better value for the consumer. I think in LoL you’re literally looking at a few hundred euro to unlock everything (though a substantial amount of this is admittedly aesthetic content)

    that aside, this reads like an advertisement. Care to mention the horrendous server issues or badly implemented Adobe Air client, the level/rune grind (life starts at 30, you’ll be weeks getting there), or the tits-with-everything approach to champion design?

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Can I just point out the fallacy of ‘the grind’, that has surfaced lately. I remember back in the day when the grind actually meant something, as in, doing a repetitive joyless activity for the sole purpose of advancing.

      If you’re playing the game just to level up and not to actually play and enjoy the game, you are doing it wrong. The same way you are doing it wrong in CoD, in BC2 and in any other game with any form of progression system. Progression systems are not the same thing as grind, please get this into your head. The purpose of LoL is not to ‘grind’ to Level 30, it is to play LoL and enjoy playing LoL.

    • mrmud says:

      Agreed, many MMOs (like WoW) has a mindless grind that you have to participate in before you are able to play the parts that are fun (like raids). But there is pretty much nothing of that in this game.

    • Rich says:

      Diablo 2 was a game full of grind. Getting swamped every time you set foot outside the local town. It was impossible to do any exploring without hit hit hit hit potion hit hit hit hit hit hit spell hit hit hit.
      Having to do that every time you wanted to get anywhere you hadn’t already found sure as hell wasn’t fun, and so I’d call it grind.

      Funny that at the moment I’m just digging the deepest tunnel I can in Minecraft, hoping maybe to find some iron, but not really bothered either way. That’s certainly a mediocre task but I’m loving it, so not a grind.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      @Rich : I’m a bit perplexed as to what you expected Diablo 2 to be. Yeah there are a lot of enemies outside of a town, but killing things is kind of the point of the game. And I wouldn’t even say it’s swarmed. You don’t get attacked until you actually go after them first, so it’s not like you’re getting Zerg rushed. I can’t even begin to imagine a Diablo game where the main focus is exploring and not fighting. There really isn’t anything worth exploring, other than just winding around the randomly generated areas to get to the next one.

      Sure you could say doing Baal runs after you’ve played through the entire game for a chance of good loot dropping is grind I guess, but that’s kind of the whole reason anybody plays the Diablo games. The thrill of finding some rare really awesome loot. As for hitting max level, I never did that with a single character ever and still enjoyed the game. Nobody is forcing you to play the game a million times over to get to max level and Hell mode.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah, I would argue there is no grind in LoL as I enjoy it all. Also, I haven’t spent a penny on the game and I have unlocked around 15 or more champions and have two full rune books. I am now actually thinking of dropping some money on the game. Partly for convenience but mostly to support the developers.

      Oh and the recent EU server troubles seem to have completely disappeared now and we got given a free IP boost as compensation. I think it’s unfair to get angry at Riot for having a problem as that could happen to anyone, I think it’s the way they handle it that is important, and they have been very good about it in my opinion.

    • malkav11 says:

      Whereas I would say the grind in WoW starts at level 80, because while the 1-80 experience is a varied game full of exploration, story, and new things to play with, most of the goals available at 80 require an extreme amount of repetition. Even fairly trivial stuff like the current badge grind to get gear for raiding can still take a few dozen random heroics and you’re all but guaranteed to see the same dungeons enough that they become like the back of your own hand. Raiding is especially heavy on repeating the same content. And heaven help you if you want to go after reputation achievements or many of the rarer mounts or…

      Of course, this hasn’t stopped me from playing.

  7. Crusher says:

    Not always BB, after around 9 PA or so the server is really crowded and a bit lagging when the game starts, but beside that everything is ok.

    I play almost every day around 4-5 games, just enough to buy a T3 rune :)

  8. nicolo says:

    @ Burningpet

    Nope, you can’t buy IP with RP, that would not be fair ;-)

  9. Solcry says:

    This. I hate this thing so much. And all the new heroes come in at the 6200 ip mark so its not just like you can get them immediately.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love and play LoL almost religiously – but it seems kind of one-sided to not point out of any of the glaring wrongs of the game. Regarding the IP, at some point you’re essentially forced to buy heroes to stay competitive. I know, I know – grind for them and all. But 6200 ip is a lot of ip, especially because when you’re paying that IP for a hero its not going to runes, which are equally if not more important.

    The servers have been ridiculously unstable for the last few weeks, and the client that you’re so fond of the layout bugs out at a fairly common rate. For all HoN’s community fault’s, the actual game itself is far, far more streamlined than LoL’s. And HoN’s tutorial is essentially the same thing as LoL’s, so I’m not sure why you’re picking that out as a differential characteristic.

    With all that said though, LoL is a fun time. Its pretty casual, you can hop in the game and people (most of the time) aren’t going to crucify newbies. This genre does pull that sort of character, so I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if you ran into them at first. They’re actually getting more prevalent at the higher levels, which makes me a little sad honestly. But I love the system, I love the quirky graphics (which are apparently getting a much-needed revamp), I like the additional of summoner spells.

    *shrug* Its a good time.

  10. Solcry says:

    That was supposed to be a reply to DoublePlayer, whoops.

  11. pissant says:

    compare it to HoN or DoTA. All runes, heroes and spells have to be unlocked, and to be able to enjoy playing on a level field in ranked (as opposed to the result of each game being solely a negotiation of player skill and team composition) you have to be 30, you have to have at least one tailor-made rune page, and you have to have access to a small pool of god- or first- tier champons.

    ‘But it’s fun!’ doesn’t temper the fact that it takes a very, very long time for any aspiring player to reach this level in addition to the time it takes to become proficient in a dota-like anyway. It’s a grind. Sorry.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      You’re viewing this purely from the competitive standpoint, which LoL has almost none of. You can enjoy playing LoL without paying a cent, that’s the point. If you wish to min-max, play hardcore, ladder religiously, then yes, you will have to invest in it.

    • Anonymousity says:

      Yeah, I’m having a lot of fun playing at level 15 with a couple of friends and even managing to put the beatdown on lvl 30′s with rune pages. It’s not grind and I just play for fun, sure I don’t play it the 20+ hours a week I was playing dota at one point but I don’t play dota that much anymore either.

  12. MrWolf says:

    Thirdsies.

  13. Lagomorph says:

    What some players in the comments seem bitter about is that LoL is easy to get into casually for free, but difficult to reach competetive upper levels as free-only. Players are pointing out that if you aspire to play in the level 30 bracket competetively you may, at some point, need to spend some real money on the game. Not to unlock every single champ, rune, and skin in the game (as one poster suggested), but to unlock your best champ and get a set of runes that play to that champ’s strengths. At most, that would cost maybe $20 – $30 tops. I think the system is wonderful and by the time I reached level 30, I was more than glad to give a few bucks back to these developers for the many, many months of free gaming they had provided.

    • Lilliput King says:

      But you can’t buy runes with cash.

    • Lagomorph says:

      buy an IP boost then.

    • theleif says:

      Yeah. I don’t get the complains about having to pay if you want to play competitively. After all, they do have to earn money. And, if you do play this game at a competitive level, how can you complain that you’re better of of you give them some cash?
      I did play this game a lot some time ago, and i have reached lvl 30, having one maxed rune page. In that time i’ve payed 20$.
      20$ For the amount of great game time i’ve had is really nothing. Most importantly, that 20$ Was not something i had to pay to stay competitive, but just to buy some more champions i was curious of.

      At the end, i keep running around, farting and flinging with Singed.

      @Daniel Klein: When will you make a Nurse Singed? Or “train driver” Singed (is it called engine driver in english?)

    • Daniel Klein says:

      This sounds like such a lame marketing line, but since I know some of these players, I feel a little bit less lame (and marketing-y) saying it: some of our top players have never spent a cent on the game.

      (I know this for a fact with a whole bunch of players that are constantly in and out of the top 5 in the EU)

      If you want to learn the game to a level where you can actually compete, you’re going to have to play hundreds of games. In this, LoL is no different from SC2. Once you’ve played your 400-500 games or so that you need anyway to compete at a high level, you’ll have so much IP you won’t know what to do with it. Add to that that people typically only play a handful of champions, or at the very least restrict themselves to a certain role (carry, support, tank etc) and so really don’t need to unlock every single champion in the game (which, granted, would cost more IP than you could easily gain in 400-500 games).

    • Astorax says:

      @Daniel: You also probably want to mention that said players in the top 5 that don’t spend money on the game also don’t spend their IP on LOTS of heroes…they’re VERY VERY focused. Most of those top ELO players have a handful of champions that they’ve bought, and they play them religiously to get as good as possible at them.

      That’s another shift in mentality from the competition-minded, and the social minded. I buy lots of champions with my IP…as a result, I don’t have the ideal rune pages for “high level play” but I have a huge diversity of champion to play.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      @Astorax: My gut feeling was that you were wrong (ON THE INTERNET!!1) here, but I wanted to get some hard data before I said so, so I logged on and asked two top players what kind of money they spent on the game.

      Zylor (currently ranked 5 in 3v3 premade, in the 20s in the other two ladders, member of the first pro-gaming LoL Team from SK Gaming) told me he bought the Collector’s Edition for 15 Euro when the game was released and then never spent any money on it again. He owns all champions and has four runepages with different runesets.

      Play int its ok (currently ranked in the 30s in solo 5v5, peaked at rank 3 last week, winner of the gamescom LoL tournament) told me he has never spent a single cent on LoL. He owns all champions, has a full runebook (10 pages), and pretty much any rune you can think of.

      The thing is simply that in order to play at high level you need SO MUCH practice that you’ll always have more than enough IP to get anything. Most of these people have IP accumulating that they don’t know what to do with. You are right that they usually focus on a role and play a few champions very well that fit that role, but in order to compete at that level you MUST be able to play every single champion in the game simply because only then will you also know how to play AGAINST those champions. There’s a difference between knowing what skills Garen has and having a good feeling for how powerful each of those skills is, how much pressure Garen can put on an enemy safely, etc. So all top players will actually have all champions. (I do grant you that they only need to have runes for their chosen role: support/carry/tank/AP etc)

  14. LukeAllstar says:

    i’m glad i never payed a single cent to riot back when i played it, even if they improved the client, 2 or 3 months ago when i played it it was just a mess, servers were down all the time, it was really unplayable

    and i’m glad that i convinced most of my friends to buy HoN! It may be way harder but it also is way more fun and depends much more on skill rather than grinding or paying money.
    I don’t say LoL wasn’t fun to play, but it will never ever be nearly as competetive as HoN is.

    For the avarage gamer LoL is okay, but for the hardcore gamers its just not the right game.

  15. Lagomorph says:

    In comparing LoL to HoN, as everyone notes, unless you want to get raged on and told to kill yourself IRL by your teammates for making a mistake, I would avoid HoN. As others have noted, some of these types of players have migrated to LoL and are gaying up the community, but LoL’s mods have worked hard to cultivate a community that welcomes and nurtures noobs and punishes trolls and ragers. Thanks Pendragon!

    As for artistic direction, HoN is as bland and uninspired as you can get. Each HoN hero is a rehash of a boring, hackneyed fantasy archetype: “fairy” – “beefy dude with sword and helmet” – “ice wizard” – and the voice acting is the worst I’ve ever heard in a game (it sounds like the coders just grabbed a mic and started goofing off instead of a professional actor).

    LoL’s art direction seemed inspired at its inception – but has of late seemed to lapse into (as one poster noted above) “tits-with-everything” pattern. Meaning, LoL seems to have departed from the quirky and creative heroes like Annie (the pyromaniac little girl with the raping teddy bear) and the scarecrow dude who summons a murder of crows – and every recent hero for many months has been either a ninja, a badass dude, or tits-mcgee. Please, LoL, bring back the fun and quirky personality of the release heroes!

    • Fumarole says:

      [...]and are gaying up the community[...]

      That’s where I stopped reading.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I thought it was a good post. Mind you I often use the word gay. I can’t really see anything wrong with it to be honest.

    • Lagomorph says:

      I meant gay as in retarded, not gay as in homo

    • DrGonzo says:

      ….And now you’ve lost me.

    • Stenl says:

      >gay as in retarded
      This is even worse. Also, I prefer the HoN art style to LoL’s, because of the glaring, terrible aesthetic and proportional differences between heroes in LoL.

    • Arathain says:

      Oh dear. Look, using the word ‘gay’, a word which describes certain morally neutral behavioral tendencies exhibited my a societal minority, as synonymous with ‘bad’ is not cool. It’s insulting, disrespectful, and lord is it sloppy thinking. Incidentally, using ‘retarded’ as synonymous with ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’ is also not cool, for exactly the same reasons. Just… don’t. Find some other word. We’re using English, we have no shortage of alternate words.

      *sigh* Done now.

      Actually, I agree with Lagomorph about the ‘cleavage-in-metal-bikinis-with-everything’ design for female characters. It’s annoying, sexist, and artistically dull. When they step away from it they produce neat characters- Annie’s been mentioned, but I like Poppy and Tristana as well.

    • Arathain says:

      I actually really like that LoLs characters are so diverse in style. It may lack a certain coherence, but it makes up for it in eclectic, colourful style. I like that I can choose my character depending on my mood. It helps that the voice-acting manages to be pretty good at times, Katarina and Gangplank notwithstanding (boy, those ones are really bad though).

    • Weylund says:

      Gonzo:

      You’re using a term for a group of people as an epithet. You don’t see anything wrong with it? You use it often?

      That’s… hateful. Do you actually think that “gay” is inherently negative? Maybe you should think about what you mean when you use the term “gay”, and choose a more appropriate word.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I’m sure you don’t mean any real harm, but…

      “I meant gay as in retarded, not gay as in homo”

      I mean, that’s marvellous. Isn’t that marvellous?

    • Legionary says:

      Let me quote Simon Amstell here.
      Gaying up “sounds homophobic, but of course [he's] using the other, fashionable, sense of the word meaning ‘anything generally bad’, and anyone who thinks that sounds offensive should just Jew off… and stop being so bloody black about it.”

    • Dean says:

      While when people first started using “gay” to mean “bad” it was likely done in a homophobic sense, it’s pervaded modern culture to the point where it’s started to become an acknowledged *third* meaning of the word.

      “Gay” didn’t used to mean “homosexual” either. It’s an awkward point, but grammatically people using it to mean “homosexual” have no greater claim over the word than those using it to mean “rubbish”.

    • Stakhanov says:

      Last i Checked the “scarecrow guy” ie, Swain, is a fairly recent addition to the game…

  16. Gromit says:

    LoL is a fun game but add me to the group of people that believes this game would be better if it wasn’t “free to play”. Sure the rune system gives interesting choices but if you want a full rune page (that will only work at best for a specific champion role, at worst for a couple of champions) you will be left playing the same champions over and over (this might be what some people refered as grinding in LoL) until you finish that rune page and can again use the IP points on new champions. Not everyone can spend 20 euros everytime they want to buy 3-5 champions.
    If DotA wasn’t on a 10 year old engine (where the interface is even more outdated than the graphics) I probably wouldn’t have made the switch.

    My problem is with the “free to play” model but I have to admit Riot implemented it really well with LoL.

  17. Lagomorph says:

    And one final note, if anybody wants a glimpse at the future of these two games (LoL and HoN), take a look at the past 12 months on google trends for the two titles:

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=league+of+legends,+heroes+of+newerth&ctab=0&geo=all&date=ytd&sort=0

    While in October 2009 HoN had a considerable lead over LoL in google searches – interest in HoN has now almost bottomed-out, while interest in LoL is exploding – doubling HoN’s search volume index in July and blowing past it since then to ever greater heights.

    To anyone thinking of getting into HoN instead of LoL – I would say, don’t board a sinking ship!

  18. Nico says:

    So, interesting article, if you’re trying to sell LoL.
    i have to say, i’ve never liked it, for the reasons you point out here.
    i dont think it helps the game if you can start a match with stuff you bought before.
    thats what’s great about DotA and HoN. everyone starts the game in the same conditions, only skill, knowledge and wit set people apart.
    and the whole micro transaction thing, is to get money, its a business, so eventually one will end up buying something, which i feel (mind you its just me) like this constant pressure, aahh i have to grind or i could just pay up and be done with it, it feels like having a little guy over my shoulder whispering buy buy buy. for me having to pay 30 bucks once and get everything is a much better deal.

    but as always, its a pleasure reading you guys.

  19. jdawg says:

    As an avid Lol player, i was excited to see some recognition for the game in this article, however, as most people that play the game will tell you, the matchmaking system is not as good as this article says. In fact, its pretty abysmal. As a high ranking player that consistently plays with a buddy of mine, we have to grab a few pugs through the MM system to even play a game, and getting horrible teamates is not a problem that is side stepped by any supposed features or advantages of Lol over HoN. For a free game, this is understandable i suppose, but lavishing it with such praise seems a bit silly when it is unwarrented, and when anyone who has played lol for more than 3 games knows that the matchmaking system is just not their yet

    • Phill Cameron says:

      I’ve played about twenty games over the past week or so, and I’ve yet to be steamrollered or have an easy win. It might just be that the matchmaking is much better at lower levels, but I can only go on the experience that I’ve had, and that experience has been pretty much overwhelmingly positive.

    • Psychopomp says:

      In stark contrast to Phill, of the 20 or so games I’ve played over the past few months 4 have been easy wins, most have been horrendous steamrolls, and the rest have been destroyed by half my team leaving two minutes in.

    • Cyrenic says:

      @Phill Cameron

      The matchmaking is actually at its worst at low levels. People are still getting sorted into their skill bracket, new players are still learning the game sometimes, and players are more likely to leave if their account isn’t very high level (leaves stick with your account and punish you if you do leave a lot).

      I think it’s works pretty well once you’ve got some games under your belt though. It’s not perfect but it’s quick and provides really good matchups more often than not (at least in my experience).

  20. KJR says:

    Count me among those who love this game. I highly recommend it, as game design goes it rates very high in my book. A good game is tons of fun. The community, though, can be awful. I can’t imagine how bad the HON community is if it’s considered significantly worse. I understand that a bad early game means that at least 25 minutes could be wasted and that is frustrating, but it would be nice if people could have some class.

    In about 25% of my games some poor guy dies a couple times in the early game because he is outclassed by his opponent and is endlessly berated and insulted until the 25 minute surrender vote arrives. Now clearly the obnoxious guys are mostly trying to demoralize the team and convince that person to quit so that they can get a quick surrender and join a new game, but the situation still stinks. At least they implemented /ignore ally for this situation.

    I have been fortunate to play with some great people, but they are easier to forget than the toxic members.

  21. Toby says:

    Wasn’t this game P2P before? Either way, it sounds like some great fun can be had. Especially since you can earn everything without paying.

    • Toby says:

      I would also like to add that the downloader is very good compared to others. It’s maxing out my download speed. 2.4mb/s!

    • Polysynchronicity says:

      That’s because it uses Pando, which works a lot like Bittorrent… and which, notably, tends to start up when I don’t want it to and eat all my bandwidth. Kind of unhappy about that.

    • Cyrenic says:

      @Polysynchronicity

      Are you sure that’s LoL causing that? I’ve never had anything LoL related just start up and hog bandwith. And believe me, my internet is bad enough that I’d know if something was doing that :D.

    • Cyrenic says:

      @Ignorant Cyrenic

      Just found out new installs of LoL will install Pando now. Apparently this is something part of their new install package. I’ve never run it, and I can still patch the game just fine, so it’s optional. No idea why they’ve started installing it now. Be sure to remove it if you do install LoL.

  22. JuJuCam says:

    Reminds me of the model GunBound used circa 2006. In addition, you could also choose to play in a server where the statistical benefits of bought items were nullified. Seemed to work great for that game.

  23. Azradesh says:

    @ mrmud

    Actually I enjoyed WoW much more whilst leveling and exploring and get bored pretty quickly once I hit end game. I like to see new things and don’t give a toss about loot.

  24. WelpWelp says:

    “Thanks Pendragon!”

    That’s where I stopped reading. Pendragon rejects any constructive criticism towards LoL and will ban anyone that even mildly disagrees with him.

    If you think he’s a boon to the community you either don’t understand the concept of a civil argument or your a fanboy. Or an idiot.

  25. McKnight says:

    We have a mixed group of Qt3/OcUK denizens playing LoL every single night. If any of you guys are interested in playing you should look us up and we’ll help you get acquainted, etc. Add “mcknight27″ in-game and just let me know where you’re from and I can sort you out with more details.

  26. Tarqon says:

    I don’t play DOTA, but I watched the LoL US World Cyber Games finals last week and it was surprisingly entertaining.

  27. BaronWR says:

    Hmm, sounds like it might be worth a go: I liked the idea of HoN when I played it, but the lack of tolerance of the people I ended up playing with was pretty awful. Sounds like the F2P model is pretty well calibrated as well: systems which immediately disadvantage non-paying players are pretty infuriating to me…

  28. Stinson says:

    League of Legends is like a stepping stone to better DotA based games like Heroes of Newerth.
    Noobs who have no idea about the DBG genre or no experience whatsoever with DotA can start with free to play LoL then progress to the more polished HoN.

    I’d recommend HoN.

    • Kirian says:

      AAAGH!

      HoN players, keep your anti-LoL bullshit to yourselves.

      LoL players, keep your anti-HoN bullshit to yourselves.

      It’s tiresome. It’s like arguing between Counter-Strike and TF2. They’re far too different to be compared any more.

    • Anonymousity says:

      I personally prefer LoL to HoN because the interface is less muddy and instead of many of the heroes being direct clones they’re individuals. HoN and LoL also bare a significant difference in that you can’t deny in LoL which makes a huge difference as it changes the way you play. With denying being a huge part of my game when I was playing in dota clanmatches the change was a bit of a speedbump at first but now I prefer it.

  29. adonf says:

    having never heard of “DOTA” before, this article made no sense to me whatsoever

    also, what’s a “video game” ?

  30. StarDrowned says:

    Urgot would like a word with you.

    • StarDrowned says:

      Supposed to be a reply to lagomorph way up there.

    • StarDrowned says:

      Also, Kog’Maw.

      But yeah, this new “Miss Fortune” character is just horrible, and Riot’s character design team should be ashamed.

    • Lagomorph says:

      urgot and kog’maw are a continuation of LoL’s new “everything has tits or is badass” character design philosophy – again, a seeming departure from early champion designs like amumu annie corki and teemo.

  31. Cloudgazer says:

    I disagree with the statements about new heroes being OP. People always CRY OP because they haven’t figured out how to defend against the new champion yet, while the new champion has already been figured out by the user because the game has an item build system that is fairly intuitive.

    I’ve seen Xin go 20+ on Twisted Treeline and Summoner’s Rift. That being said, I’ve also seen Yi, Jax, Trynd, Twitch, Sion, Shaco and Cho’gath doing the same thing. These are not new characters.

    An OP character is a character that can either 1v1 at any level with similar items and beat the majority of champions, or one that can single-handedly turn the tide of a team battle. Hmm… that sounds like a lot of characters.

    Team composition is what matters, and not letting those new champions get FED by over zealous players. Because if they get fed (which they always do the first few days) you’re going to think they are OP.

    That’s just what I think, though.

  32. Butler` says:

    Incidentally I started playing this just this week, as a HoN veteran.

    After mumbling about how it is nothing but a “dumbed down HoN” and “HoN for retards” I’ve decided it’s actually a bit of alright.

  33. Polysynchronicity says:

    I play both HoN and LoL. They both have their niches.

    I like HoN for the good balance, the consistent, uncluttered art style (I can never tell WTF is going on in LoL team fights) and the “ladderiness” which makes me feel really satisfied when I win games. Plus my $30 got me everything the game has to offer AND everything new that gets added in the future. I hate the general community though and usually will only play when there’s some friends to team up with.

    I like LoL for the hero design (pretty much every hero has fun abilities and can be really powerful late game if played properly), and the more relaxed community (because there’s no PSR to worry about losing). Plus I haven’t had to spend a cent on it – although I hate the lack of a decent “full set” price (I’m pretty sure buying all the heroes would cost me more than $30, even without any extras). The game design generally makes team composition less important than in hon, which is nice for solo and casual team games, but picking the team is a bit of strategy that I always liked.

    When Valve comes out with whatever Icefrog is working on, I’ll probably play that too.

  34. Butler` says:

    “the biggest flaw, of all dota games, is that a game that is decided in 5 minutes will last 1 hour”

    This isn’t even nearly as true for LoL as it is for the invariably respected SC1/2.

    • noobnob says:

      Just like any other game where there are multiple characters/classes to choose, it’s very hard to balance them all, as you have to consider low to high-level skill players, and in LoL’s case, the synergy between champions, synergy with certain items/builds/runes, etc.

      LoL isn’t balanced at all, there are some champions that are just too situational and some champions that only work against newbies (such as Low-ELO pubstomper Evelynn, which is getting a rework), champions which will reward only the most skilled (try Anivia, Nidalee), and some that are just better than everything else that fit their role (Ezreal, Kog’maw, Garen).

      But what matters here is that, unlike other developers, Riot Games acknowledges that and is constantly in touch with the community though the forums, getting feedback from players, despite all the trolling. They’re constantly trying to balance this game, but again, I consider that an impossible task as they also have to constantly release new content to keep the game’s appeal, which will in turn add in even more factors that will make the game even harder to balance. But they are trying, and that’s good enough.

    • noobnob says:

      Eh, what? I didn’t mean to reply to your post OH GOD

  35. Dominic White says:

    One game that REALLY needs to get featured in Land Of The Free is Atlantica Online.

    A Turn-based, tactical-combat-based free MMO. Rather than just go around blatting random animals, you control a party of up to 9 characters on a 3×3 grid. It’s also really good, remarkably balanced, and very actively supported by its developers.

    http://atlantica.ndoorsgames.com/center/default.asp

    • Dominic White says:

      Okay, I’ve been out of the loop too long – yes, I’m replying to myself, but because I just found out that they’ve even added a whole new layer of gameplay to Atlantica lately. Large-scale strategic battles that look a bit like a traditional SRPG, rather than the usual grid-vs-grid style.

  36. Matt Knott says:

    We’ve been F2P from the start, like people say in other comments it’s a style that needs to be treated differently to how it works in Eastern countries, but we’ve always been behind the idea of people getting hold of LoL quick and easy and letting the gameplay make it hard to let go :)

  37. r0jer says:

    I didn’t knew this is free-to-play until now :D

  38. MUNDO says:

    This is mundo. Mundo like rabbit paper whatever whatever people for talking about mundo. Mundo wish mundo could throw cleaver like rabbit internet people could throw words at internet. This is hard. Mundo go kill screaming man in funny hat now. Bye.

  39. theleif says:

    Btw, i just finished a game where my team where loosing having 30-60-ish k-d ratio. Somehow we turned that around and won. So, yes, even if you get owned early, and even mid game, its not a given loss. I bet my opponents where raging mad. I would be :)

  40. Cyrenic says:

    As far as free games go, League of Legends is right there at the top of the pile. Micro transactions can really screw up a competitive game if you’re not careful, but by focusing on selling cosmetic stuff more than anything else, LoL does a good job with it.

  41. Lightbulb says:

    Great game but I haven’t been able to play it for about a week and a half because the servers limit the number of people logged on and its jammed from 3pm to late. :/

    I am rather pissed off with it to be honest. Its driven me to move on to harder stuff – Minecraft to be precise…

  42. darthmajor says:

    I downloaded it, played the tutorial (1.5 times, first time it crashed), played 2 matches with bots and prepared mentally for being laughed out of my first MP match. 5 min into the game i was shocked to see i’m doing actually well, 1 player (rage)quit on both sides, and we did a pretty equal back-and-forth for another 30ish minutes where it could have gone either way. After the game everyone was nice, said it was fun, added some friends and went our separate ways.

    A strategy/rpg that was fun for me and i didn’t suck horribly. Good job riot dudes, you have done the impossible!

    Cheers RPS, great idea about going through f2p games, there are some below-the-radar gems out there, and thanks for LoL, it can be a great passtime.

    • Redford says:

      For all that the LoL matchmaking system is bashed, it’s probably the best of all the DOTA clones. A newbie can join a random match and will be matched, automaigcally, with other newbies. Just remember that the matchmaking system is being the devil’s advocate. It’s attempting to match you against people which will result in a 50/50 ratio. This means that you will sometimes get easy wins, and sometimes you’ll get matched against people you don’t have a breath of beating. Take the good games with the bad, and learn from all of them and you’ll be in the 200 wins club before you know it.

  43. malkav11 says:

    I was skeptical that I’d enjoy this, partly because I tend to dislike competitive gaming as a rule and even more so against a random unwashed internet crowd that has (in my experience) tended to be full of horrible people, and partly because DOTA itself has a reputation as a game with tons of minutiae you need to master and a playerbase that will hate you for being new and I had assumed that like HoN, LoL had inherited these factors. But this article has convinced me to at least give it a whirl sometime. We’ll see how it goes.

  44. The Sombrero Kid says:

    it’s a great game but it’s pretty chroniclly arthritic meaning now and again the servers go down for a whole weekend or the games are laggy beyond playable for a week here and there, it is improving all the time and it’s really fun when everythings working.

  45. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Gah! Now look at what you made me do.. *downloading LoL*

    And yes, I’m a few days late. I tend to play games during the weekend, not read about ‘em. Doing a bit of catching up now.

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