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: