Hey, Good LoLookin’: League of Legends Map Makeover

By Alice O'Connor on June 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

That's much better!

League of Legends, you may know, is popular. Like, really popular. Massively so. Riot boasted in January that their free-to-play Dote ‘em up had 27 million players daily, and last weekend a pro LoL tournament sold out London’s Wembley Arena. However, its growth as a game and as a digital sport is still hindered by the genre’s inherent complexity–made worse by its garish graphics.

The LoL look is overloaded with distracting details and over-saturated colours, making my eyes beg to look away and, worse, covering up important information. So riot are now giving the map and its monsters a makeover, keeping the same layout but adding lots of visual clues so spectators and new players can better understand what’s going on.

They’re working on the usual sort of visual signposting: each part of the map is unique and recognisable without glancing at the minimap, neutral monsters’ animations reflect their behaviour (tanky ones hunker down while aggressive ones stomp about), the two teams are more distinct, and so on. They’re also sweeping away all those distracting details too: the intricate cracked ground, those eye-catching but pointless decorations, and that foliage which obscures where exactly characters can move. It’s all a lot smoother, more painterly, more–dare I say–Dota 2-ish.

“We’re aiming to depict all gameplay-impacting effects clearly and visually,” Riot explained in a recent blog post. They’re tweaking the camera too, just because.

While it looks far nicer, the new map will have “near-identical” performance to the old, Riot say.

It’s a testament to how much Riot have done right that LoL has grown so big with such an off-putting look. I tried watching a professional match recently but even as a Dota player was overwhelmed by the mess of neon colours and details blasted into my eyes–made worse by the livestream’s compression. Striking a balance between prettiness and readability is crucial for a competitive game. Quake players don’t turn levels into smooth block lands purely to boost their FPS.

Here’s a new video going over the Summoner’s Rift changes and why they’re important:

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31 Comments »

  1. captain lust says:

    And they say the titles aren’t what they used to be…

    • kwyjibo says:

      This is the developer’s commentary video, which is new, but they don’t discuss anything particularly novel. There’s a reason Dota’s map looks like it does, and now LoL is going to look a bit more like it too.

      • misterT0AST says:

        The spawn animations are nice though, I’m eagerly waiting for Valve to do something similar.

        • Falcon says:

          Unfortunately, it may be impossible to do a similar thing for jungle creeps in Dota 2 since it is unknown until the exact second whether the creeps will spawn. Thus, any spawn animations couldn’t have any length (unlike in LoL since creeps spawn at the next time unconditionally). They could produce animations for creeps spawning in lanes since those are guaranteed to happen, but any change in behavior (for example, the RTZ block no longer working…or a rax going down during the spawn animation so the creeps would need to change mid-spawn animation which would be weird) would be sure to cause a mini-uproar in the community.

          • Ringwraith says:

            Actually, there’s a bigger problem with giving neutral creeps spawn animations in Dota 2…
            If you can see them; they probably won’t spawn.
            The mechanics of spawning are written that if there’s any unit (including wards) within a certain ‘box’ surrounding each camp they won’t respawn. This is how blocking camps and camp-stacking works, by obstructing/emptying the spawn box so that the camps don’t/forcibly respawn.
            The spawn times are always known, as the spawn ‘checks’ every thirty seconds on the game timer. Which is why these manipulations are so consistent to pull off.

            League of Legends on the other hand ‘only’ has spawn timers which only start when the entire camp is dead, and you can’t mess with this except by delaying respawns by not completely clearing camps. Plus they’re not randomised like Dota’s camps.

  2. kevinspell says:

    Anyone (else) care to explain why are some of mine LoL playing “mumble friends” complaining that LoL is starting to look more and more like Dota 2? Is it true? Why is that bad? And are they just a bunch of whining crybabies?

    • Falcon says:

      They’re just being crybabies. It is true that this update does go more in the direction of the look of Dota 2, but I’m not sure why that would be a bad thing other than the whole “us vs. them” mentality; clearly, everything that would make the game more like that evil Dota 2 would be a bad thing and must not happen because reasons. Summoner’s Rift in LoL has never looked particularly great and this update is a much needed refresh. (Valve has been big on clarity and easily reading characters/classes at least since TF2 when I remember them talking about it in the in-game commentary, so Riot increasing clarity on their map and coming to a similar spot as Dota 2′s map makes a certain kind of sense).

    • RedViv says:

      If anything, Riot is going more for the concept look that the art team had before, instead of bright and blinding colours that are all over the place once adapted into 3D. That DotA2, LoL, Dawngate too, end up with a very similar palette might just be natural progression towards a more eye-pleasing and readable look.

      Now that I think about it, even Blizzard’s adaption of their Sons of the Storms’ works into garish models and textures in WoW progressed to a more subdued and clear style later as well, the upcoming character upgrades probably the most quickly recognisable change there. Diablo 3 as well changed to these lovely pastels while still remaining distinct in flavour.

      I guess the bottom line is that people have been continuously inspired by WarCraft and similar during the last decade, and now are discovering how nice it looks in pastel. Nothing more.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Moba players are a fickle bunch and don’t seem to like change. Just look at the blowup every time Valve change something even *slightly* from the original Dota. People go absolutely batshit crazy about it, this is no different.

  3. Hydraulic Meerkat says:

    Inherent complexity? Really?

    I know most LoL fans probably like to think that, but the game is really just terribly boring to watch for anyone who isn’t obsessed.

    • Xocrates says:

      I’m not sure I follow.

      The game has over a hundred champions, each with 4+ skills, plus all the items and builds. The game IS complex, and that complexity is WHY it’s boring to watch to anyone who doesn’t know the game since it means it’s borderline impossible to follow (this is generally true of any game in the genre).

      Whether that complexity is inherent to the genre, or whether than complexity translates into depth, is a different discussion.

      • Hydraulic Meerkat says:

        That’s average complexity for video games. It’s really nothing extreme.

        • Xocrates says:

          Average complexity?

          What games are you considering average here?

        • AngelTear says:

          I’d argue that MOBAs, together with RTS, are the most complex games out there, when played at adequately high level.

          This is a pro doing coaching for a very, very high level player. You can appreciate how many things one is supposed to think about. (for instance, at 12.00) And he’s nothing going over the basics, obviously. (It’s actually not as impressive as some other bits, but I can’t find them anymore)

      • Stupoider says:

        “The game has over a hundred champions”

        Around 20 of which actually get pro-play.

      • Suicidaljim says:

        There’s nothing complex in memorization, which is what most games of this type are about.

        • Xocrates says:

          So is molecular biology.

          • Suicidaljim says:

            If you didn’t bother to pay attention in high school, thats your problem.
            But don’t go around comparing chemistry or biology to a fucking videogame.
            Lol is not complex, you just memorize attacks, builds and follow the meta.

          • Xocrates says:

            I have a master degree in the field. I did not pick that example by chance.

            You can absolutely memorize every metabolic pathway and cellular behaviour, this does not mean it’s either straightforward or easily predictable.

            It’s an extreme example, yes, but I’m just pointing out that anything can be dismissed as “not complex” if you’re willing to ignore half of what makes it complex.

    • cyrenic says:

      Whenever someone tries to call a MOBA not complex it’s a good sign they’re trolling.

    • NothingFunny says:

      I would say any Dota clone is boring to watch, if you dont understand whats going on. Leauge is probably more boring and confusing due its messy visuals and limiting mechanics. And asian farming playstyle is unberable to watch in either game.

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  5. DrGonzo says:

    But I like colour, now it looks a bit bland and less defined to me.

    • Zyrusticae says:

      They’re pretty much reserving the splashes of color for the champions themselves and their abilities, in the interests of preserving clarity, since it adds contrast between them and the background.

      Personally, I’m really hoping they do a similar makeover for the Crystal Scar. That map looks REALLY dated now.

    • 2helix4u says:

      Yeah I have to agree a bit, I never really found it hard to follow and now it looks sort of boring.
      After spending probably hundreds if not thousands of hours on LoL I think me and my friends may be done, not because of the map changes but they just seem to have generally lost some steam after a really good run of big changes since dominion was added. I’ll probably come back once they introduce a new game mode but who knows, I suppose you can’t play the same game forever after all.

      e: I should probably badmouth DotA2 here, it is a regressive game that looks like grey doody.

  6. hideinlight says:

    I think most of the times I went to troll the LoL forums, was due to outdated map and horrible props not being near the quality of the champions.

    With all the new “competition” having much more appealing environments, I guess they finally took note.