A part of me feels as though incredible, sweeping changes such as what Riot is proposing for Patch 13.10 are indicative of a business mindset the company acts on that emphasizes novelty over consistency. This is in great contrast to Valve’s methodology of balancing / game development with DOTA 2, which favors an extremely long-form basis of balance and sees heroes and respective items altered very, very slowly with big changes coming once every few years, at the most.
What does all that mean, and what the hell am I talking about?
League of Legends goes through patches just like any other game. These changes consist of character alterations, items changes, and content introduced or removed. And because it’s the biggest esport in the world, League’s patch notes are seen as far more important than just a method of game balance, instead being treated like things that can, and will, upset or help a game with nearly 2 billion dollars of annual revenue. The developers, artists, professionals, and casual players alike all rely on the balance team to do their job in a safe manner so as to not flip the tables on something they all rely on as a job and a hobby.
13.10 is the kind of patch that I like: New items introduced, old items brought back, existing items reworked, champion changes, map changes, the whole 9 yards. That said, it upsets me quite a bit that these changes weren’t introduced during pre-season, when most changes to the game are supposed to take place. To be completely fair to Riot, I don’t think the changes being introduced could have been completely foreseen as helpful or needed during pre-season simply because the problems they fix didn’t exist until pre-season had already passed. That said, it does feel like Riot is holding out on big changes for the sake of creating a manufactured sense of novelty instead of a natural one. That is to say that Riot holds out on sweeping changes for longer periods of time than they need to so that the player base sees any changes at all as the cleanest breath of fresh air they’ve ever had the pleasure of sucking up.
The truth is, I believe Riot would actually stand to gain from being far, far more aggressive early in the year and during preseason more often than they are. I mean why couldn’t Statikk Shyv exist right from the get go this season, huh? To quote a Douglas Robb,
“…the reason is you.”
You, the league player, are seen as a product that ripens with a measured amount of exposure to your addiction. Too big of a hit too quickly, and you overdose, leaving behind the dealer with what’s tantamount to pocket change. Think of the effect URF has on casuals and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Too small of a hit, and you find a new dealer outright because you need a better fix. And Riot’s methodology of patch changes follows the guidelines of making sure their player-base gets just enough of a kick to stick around while also being just mildly upset with XYZ aspects of the game, which Riot themselves created, intentionally or otherwise, just so that they can save the day by making the necessary alterations after enough teasing and bam, another successful deal (and you’ll be back for more.)
I’m not anti-business, and I understand money trumps all in a business as big as Riot Games, but as stated, I believe they have more to gain by approaching their patch notes with aggression and fervor moving forward as opposed to the limp wristed half-measures they’ve been exhibiting this past year. And if that sounds too harsh, remember to ask yourself this question: “Why couldn’t Static Shyv have been here the whole time?” There’s no reason it couldn’t have. Riot could have nerfed it if it was a problem, but chose to remove a fun item instead. They made that choice, just like they did with Ohmwrecker and Banner of Command.
Riot Games, I beg of you, take the leash off and let League have a wealth of niche, strange items for players to further identify their play-styles in. And for fuck’s sake, don’t remove Statikk Shyv ever again or I’m changing dealers.