Wednesday, 25 January 2012

“Tis Better to Have Loved and Lost” - My Five Days with League of Legends.

I’ve recently been playing MOBA craze League of Legends, a Massively Online Battle Arena which pits teams (typically five-a-side) against each other in a race to destroy their opponent’s base. While I’ve had great fun with the system, I’m hear to blog about why I’m unlikely to go back to the game.

Firstly, I’d like to point out that League of Legends is by no means a bad game - quite the opposite, in fact. For those unfamiliar with the game, I’ll give a quick rundown of how the game is played. Each player controls a champion, a powerful being which grows more powerful as a single match plays out, learning new abilities but resetting its stats once a match is over. Each champion plays a different role on the battlefield, but they typically fall into one or two of five categories: melee fighters for close quarters combat, ranged fighters for attacking from a distance, mages for casting spells on opponents, assassins for ambushing opponent’s champions, and finally support for bolstering allies. Each team also have 18 minions; low-level creatures who march towards the enemies base and, along the way encounter both opponent’s champions and the opposing team’s own 18 minions.

Annie and her bear, Tibbers:
one of my champions of choice
for the week.
Combat itself takes place over three ‘lanes’ linking the two bases. Six of the team’s minions march down each lane, which are populated by turrets capable of destroying said minions and even champions (albeit at a slower rate) unless players help destroy them, thus allowing their forces to advance further towards their goal. It’s a very simple system, yet one which allows for a lot of tactical variation. Bases themselves contain a number of turrets as well as machines called inhibitors which, once destroyed, allow minions to become stronger, giving a team the upper-hand. While there are other mechanics, such as bushes for catching players unaware, the goal is simple: destroy your opponent’s base before they destroy yours.

So why have I decided to leave League of Legends behind? Well, I’ve managed to boil my reasoning down to two very simple points. Firstly, there is my lack of skill at the game. Anyone who I’ve discussed gaming preferences with knows that I greatly prefer console gaming over PC gaming. I find using a controller to be far more comfortable than a keyboard and mouse, in part due to my lack of hand-eye co-ordination and in part due to the latter often using key configurations which are less-than-friendly towards left-handed players, even after adjusting controls. Because of this, I have never been great at the genres which lend themselves towards a keyboard and mouse control scheme such as real-time strategy. League of Legends is one such game, and I can put my lack of skill down to this ineptitude at the genre. While I would gladly put the time into getting better at the game, this desire is somewhat dampened by my second point, namely the game’s community.

Before I began playing League of Legends, I had heard terrible things about the online community: reports were rife about hostility towards newcomers, and this was something which made me hesitant to play the game at first. Eventually I decided that it was better to try the game out for myself and test whether these reports were accurate or just horror stories. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that it was not, with “n00b” and similar insults being flung around from my first match. Even when I made it clear that I was a newcomer this didn’t prevent both opponents and allies alike from shooting down any efforts I made to play or to improve myself. Honing one’s skills is only made more difficult by ‘bots’ - computer-controlled champions - which struggle to reflect the varied play styles one can encounter online (just over half a dozen champions can be selected as ‘bots’, a miniscule number when compared to nearly 100 champions which are available for players to select). Although I found a group focused about helping new players advice, it was hard to ignore the fact that unskilled players severely weighed down the group - effectively removing 20% of the team’s power - and that this was frustrating fellow players. It makes League of Legends a joyless experience for those just starting out, especially genre rookies who are faced with a slow and unwelcoming slog to prove themselves among not only elitists but what feels like the vast majority of the game’s players.

So, for those two reasons, I’ve decided to leave League of Legends in my rear-view mirror and look forward to the new influx of console games. The combination of my lack of skills and the communities attitude has relegated the game from my most-played list to the dark corner on my Steam library, unlikely to be fired up unless I get a large number of friends who’re interested in a friendly match or two.