Ooh – in the excitement of whatever I was excited about last week I didn’t see Riot had finally announced their League of Legends All-Star event information – it’s in Los Angeles from 10-13 December.
All-Star events are a very particular kind of fan service and hype which I find really invigorating. They tend to involve weird game modes, dream teams composed of fan favourites, in-jokes, show matches, skill and silliness because it’s not part of the route to the World Championships and you get to cut loose.
In this specific instance there will be five regional dream teams (North America, Europe, Korea, China, and the region which covers Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau) each composed of players voted for by fans. There will also be a sixth team determined by an International Wild Card tournament in Australia in November. The six teams will then be assigned to either Team Fire or Team Ice in order to compete (as they have been at previous LoL All-Star events) and also to try to earn player rewards for their region.
Generally All-Star events that I’ve seen have been folded into larger tournaments. There was the All-Star match at The International 2015 where the Dota 2 players BigDaddy and ChuaN commanded teams of professionals and players from the crowd in a chaotic 10 v 10 brawl. You probably get an idea for the seriousness of the situation when I tell you that the prize was a block of cheese and that at one point a dude in cosplay turned out to be a famous (and by that point incredibly sweaty) mid-laner.
The All-Star in Paris was my first ever League of Legends [official site] event so I wasn’t particularly familiar with the pro players but the shift in atmosphere between the more serious competition segments and the showboating/dream team stuff was really charming. It was pro players teasing the audience by hovering over their most famed champions on the select screen and tense skill demonstrations and just a lot of grinning and cheering.
At that point the All-Star was part of a mid-season event to sort of act as a way of keeping the pro scene interesting between the spring and summer seasons but this year they decided to separate it out into a Mid-Season Invitational which was SRS BSNS and a more irreverant/light-hearted All-Star in the off-season. (The off-season is the bit between the World Championships at the end of October and the start of the spring season.)
I’m wondering whether this separation into a solo event will be a good change. I think a lot of the enjoyment of All-Star games or modes is because they act as a kind of pressure release valve. Pro players who are there for a tournament get some moments to goof around or to enjoy the crowd. For the viewers there’s a chance to switch off from following team progress or freaking out over a tense series and enjoy the silly or weird bits of the scene, knowing the in-jokes or rivalries. I wonder how the mood will change when that pressure has already abated.