Riot’s
Balancing Future

By Jason Kearney
Coach at Microcoaching

Recently, professional player Doublelift—who has been part of the League of Legends scene since pretty much day one—made an incredibly interesting video about the downsides of the game. His video was posted on his channel and is entitled, The Downsides of a Constantly Evolving Game. There have been many reaction videos from other big figures in the community, including folks like Tyler1 . Instead of an audio/visual format, I chose to write my reaction out here to just go over what was really discussed in Doublelift’s video and add my thoughts on this issue.

1. Are changes to League every two to three weeks too often?

I agree with this fact—110%. One of the main reasons we all players simply in general is that we are always looking for new and fun ways to do challenge ourselves. If the game changes drastically every few weeks, then it fails to give people enough time to evolve and grow with the game and discover novel and exciting ways of playing it. Instead, we are just locked into the first real build that comes out for a champion after a buff, nerf, rework, or release. The concept of human creativity feels non-existent in these circumstances. In reality, there may be numerous ways to build a champ. However, the concept of “meta” hinders any unique champ builds, fearing harassment by teammates.

2. Is it best to “specialize” in one or two champs, especially when you first start?

Again, I agree 110% with this fact. I find this strategy is one of the most overlooked concepts at almost every elo. People generally tend to try and do too much, spreading their chap selection out. For example, a new player to the game with a bronze ranking will see much greater success climbing by mastering one or two champs in various ways than trying numerous different champs. The one to two champ “specialization” strategy will allow you to become mechanically better than other players at your elo. Further, it allows you to notice other concepts of the game and not just focus pure skill when you become mechanically sound in the game. Eventually, you will learn how to snowball your lead, generate a lead in other lanes for your teammates, and gain an overall sense of how to efficiently play the game. The primary reason you should stick to one to two champs is because it will help you climb, which as stated in Doublelift’s video the fun in League comes from being skilled at it.

3. Why is League of Legends only fun if you are skilled?

The community around the game is unfortunately regarded as being one of the most toxic communities in all of video games. There are incredibly few games where both teams are friendly or with very little flaming going on. Most people flame because their own LP is at risk if they lose due to a teammate’s poor play, which happens to all us (at the end of the day we all make mistakes). Now, throw in the fact that a person’s rank is often held as an icon for their own personal skill. For example, a demotion from master to diamond would frustrate and annoy anyone. And, not merely because it makes us feel like we are failing to improve, but we also fear the judgement from our friends or even random people in the game.

Despite being the reality, It is a sad truth that the main reason we play this game is because we feel good when we are skilled at it. There is no doubt that we all tend to have fun playing League when we win and have a good game. Accordingly, every game there are only four to six people having fun while the rest hate the fact that they even queued up for a ranked game. In my eyes, this is a fundamental flaw in League of Legends, because video games are (usually) meant to be fun for everyone involved.

4. Why must Riot always nerf everything?

his is the one point in the video in which I personally do not agree with Doublelift. I try to give “game balance” a great deal of thought in almost all my games. The one game I like to always base this balance off of was Cataclysm World of Warcraft. In that game, there were ten classes or characters with each having three separate specs. Therefore, in total 30 specs of what may be considered the equivalent of a single character/champ. League has over 140 champions. During that time, Blizzard—the owners of World of Warcraft—simply could not manage to maintain the strength of those specs. Each class primarily had one or two quality specs, but in general most of the classes were just garbage while others were ungodly strong. This misbalance would incredibly annoy me and I never understood why Blizzard struggled so much with this problem until I really got into coaching and achieved a higher elo in League. I have learned to accept the fact that some characters are going to stink and others will need to be nerfed to be brought down.

With 140 champions in the game, Riot has no chance of creating 140 strong champions. Adding more champions like Doublelift suggesting, I believe would just cause a greater imbalance between champs. Any game with more than five characters will likely be impossible to balance, because each champion or character has inherent counters or weaknesses in their kit. For example, Poppy will always be strong against a Lee Sin Jungle (always!!!). Poppy has an ability in her kit that shuts down two abilities in Lee Sin’s kit. This is one example of the hundreds of counters incorporated into League.

In the past, it appeared that Riot understood this issue and would every three to four weeks rotate roughly 20 strong and weak champs. An attempt apparently to try and make everyone happy even for a small amount of time. However, recently it feels like Riot has given into the pressure and starting strengthening as many champs as possible. Nevertheless, it is all relative to us as players. Assuming a scale of one to five, one being weak and five being op. If you are trying to take champions that normally would be rated a three such as Akali or Aatrox recently and push them up to a four or five, then you merely create an unequal balance to where it feels like champions are either ones and twos or fours and fives. In essence, all that you would accomplish is a displacement of the middle ground of playable but not OP champions, which would only cause more people to either be happy or hate the game. The middle ground of strong champions is the compromise that often keeps a majority of people mediocrely happy. But, it seems that Riot plans to continue on the path of balancing by making as many champs as strong as possible. A strategy that I do not agree with and in my opinion will lead to a greater decline in League’s viewership and player-base.

If you have not had the chance to watch Doublelift’s video or even the reactions of it, then I highly recommend you do. Doublelift not only has a solid message, but the video is also incredibly well done. And, many of the reactions are pretty amazing because you get to see opinions from the people—who play League constantly at a high level—on the game and where the game is potentially or should be going in the future.

Hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts! If you want to chat with me about League or need some help to improve, feel free to reach out at microcoaching.net.