Table of Contents
No Tie-breaking Surprises
Balancing the Artillery
Check out the LCS schedule and matchups at lolesports.com
With the League of Legends Championship Series looming on the horizon, TeamLiquid scored an opportunity to sit down with Riot's Vice President of eSports to ask him some questions about the intricacies of LCS as well as where Riot stands on the current state of the competitive scene.
No Tie-breaking Surprises
On LoL Championship Series
Dustin sees your League of Warmog's and raises you with Bio-Arcane Barrage
NeoIllusions: Hey Dustin, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do for Riot Games.
Dustin Beck: My pleasure - always happy to make time for our friends at TeamLiquid! I'm Dustin Beck, and I am the Vice-President of eSports. I do a lot of things over here, we have our hands full recently! We are building out a team dedicated on creating a healthy ecosystem for our sport, so we have people focused on the LCS (execution, video, rules and guidelines, player management, etc), just released a new website, have people looped in with our design team that have been helping with our new league system, and so forth.
NeoIllusions: With LCS commencing tomorrow, let's go into the details about the league for fans and critics alike. What was the specific motivation in creating regional leagues for the LCS? What do you want to say to fans who want to see even more intra-regional competition in Season 3?
Dustin Beck: The regional/global structure already exists in many traditionally popular sports, other eSports and even LoL eSports. For example, soccer has regional leagues which roll up to epic international competitions like UEFA Champions League and the World Cup. In League of Legends eSports, regional leagues already exist – Korea has OGN Champions and Southeast Asia + Taiwan has the Garena Premier League. We like this model of regional league play rolling up into international competitions and decided to continue using it in Season 3.
NeoIllusions: While eSports is a global phenomenon but it seems like with the LCS will divide NA and EU. Korea, China and SEA have leagues previously mentioned. How does Riot plan to advance international competition this season? How will Riot promote the various leagues to foreign audiences? (for example OGN to an NA/EU viewership and vice versa)
Dustin Beck: eSports fans interested in international competition can still get that before the World Championship. Our partner events such as IPL, MLG and Dreamhack will have international exhibitions showcasing top-notch competition. Furthermore, the best players in each region – as elected by the fans – will compete in an All Star competition in Shanghai during the break between halves of the LCS. With this structure, fans will get a taste of international competition during the year and storylines between regions will build up, culminating in the World Championship.
There is awesome League of Legends eSports competition going on across the globe, and fans in each region deserve to see more of it than they did during Season 2. In most cases, the lack of exposure to foreign competition is due to time zone differences, lack of native language casting or low production quality. Over the course of Season 3, we hope to showcase rebroadcasts of foreign competition in a variety of languages. Furthermore, we’ll be broadcasting LCS matches abroad in foreign languages. The ultimate goal is to help fans to learn about the teams and playstyles they will see at the World Championship.
NeoIllusions: Are they any eSports aspects of other leagues, companies, or games you think are missing from LoL (gameplay features, tournament setups, etc.)? What would you want/hope to add, if anything?
Dustin Beck: While I’m pretty happy with the direction we’re heading in now, we constantly look at different leagues and sports for inspiration on how we can do better. One thing I’ve mentioned before is that we need to focus on the entire competitive ecosystem to ensure long-term success. We’ve started that with the launch of the League System, but I think there is still more we can do at the grassroots competitive level.
NeoIllusions: Why did you decide to prevent brother teams from existing in the LCS? Korean organizations have proven it is possible to have this and still retain competitive integrity (Azubu Frost/Flame, KT Rolster A/B, etc.)
Dustin Beck: We prevented brother teams from existing in the LCS because we think that in the long run, this is a positive decision for the eSports ecosystem. One positive aspect from the new LCS structure is that we will see these teams grow into franchises – you can already see that with SoloMid or Counter Logic Gaming. With only eight teams in each regional division, it’s better for the long term health of the ecosystem to have more of these franchises around. LCS teams will be able to support challenger teams for the purpose of developing future stars, and you already see that happening, such as Dignitas picking up Pulse.
NeoIllusions: How does the LCS handle tiebreaks? Will it be time based? Will it be penalty point based like StarCraft Proleague?
Dustin Beck: I can tell you one thing... we heard the community loud and clear, and it won't be time based. We know fans like ties being resolved, so any ties will be played out until there is a winner. If you want to compare it to baseball, they have a tiebreaker game before the playoffs start.
NeoIllusions: With a number of Asian tournaments (OGN, Stars War League, G-League) as well as Dota2’s The International using Bo2 during group stages, why did Riot decide to use Bo1 format for LCS? Even though all the matchups between teams are four a piece, isn’t it a concern that team A has to play Blue side on one patch and purple side on a different patch?
Dustin Beck: We have four games a night, so we wanted to create more diversity over the evening for a better viewing experience. Plus, there will be four of the games over the course of our first split season instead of two, so that's also compelling for the viewers.
NeoIllusions: Riot is pushing LoL to new heights in Season 3, even aiming to mimic mainstream sports in NA like baseball and basketball. However, with such ambition, there are also mainstream risks. In recent news, a corruption scandal was uncovered involving match fixing. Even perennial eSports titles like Brood War have not been immune to match fixing. Is this a concern for Riot going into Season 3 where more and more teams are seeing money involved with pro gaming?
Dustin Beck: Obviously there is heightened risk with the amount of money and fame involved, but Riot is laser focused on maintaining the integrity of our sport. We've gone to great lengths to ensure there will be no cheating, or match fixing. To give an example, at the World Championship we tested all of the peripherals brought in by the players on devices used to see if any malware was installed on their devices. We take this very seriously.
Balancing the Artillery
On Game Balance and the Competitive Scene
Nika (RiotNikasaur), Dustin (RiotRedBeard), and Jeffrey (RiotLyte)
NeoIllusions: Moving on to Game Balance: How does Riot view the current overall state of the competitive game? Various designers have commented about specific aspects of the game (jungle design, champ balance, etc.), but how does Riot feel about where the game as a whole stands, at least in relation to competitive play?
Dustin Beck: So these answers are coming from our design team, if you want someone to quote it would be Kevin O'Brien (RiotGeeves), better known as the man, the myth and the legend.
The game is playing pretty well competitively right now. We are happy to see the return of assassins to the competitive scene and the changes in team compositions to fit with them. Cohesive teams are using lane swaps and other strategies to try to outplay specific enemies with better success than Season 2. There are a few things that we are looking into, such as health stacking and mass consumable starts early with wards, but overall we like the way the competitive game is trending from the preseason changes.
NeoIllusions: Are there any plans to balance first ban/pick with blue purple side? While it was not as drastic at the EU LCS, in both OGN and NA LCS, blue side is victorious over 65% of the time.
Dustin Beck: We are still trying to let things settle in with the changes that we made for Season 3. The sample is still pretty small for competitive games in Season 3 and in many instances, a higher seeded team has choice of side, but if we see bad trends we’ll look more into it.
NeoIllusions: We have seen a number of very common bans or picks going into S3. For example, Kha'zix, Olaf, Shen, Eve, Elise, etc) Does Riot think that these heroes are balanced or do they need more tweaking? Zileas was rather against on the LoL forums about adding additional bans. Is Riot still standing on that opinion?
Dustin Beck: There are different reasons that these characters are being picked currently. In some cases, combinations of characters are quite powerful, such as Miss Fortune’s ultimate with area damage compositions. For Elise, it’s because she scales so well in the current health stacking meta. For the rest, they are just strong all-around champions that we have been investigating and adjusting.
Regarding bans, the approach we take is balancing out the # of bans against the strategic options that we want teams to be able to have as well as having a natural stop if some champions become S tier in power. We want to maximize the amount of in game strategy and not sway too far into the direction of deterministic results based on champ selection. Some number of bans keeps the competitive game fresh, but too many may prevent some players from showcasing their skill on champions they are particularly good at. Watching MadLife play Blitzcrank for example is always a treat to watch.
The theory that we run under is that we attempt to stay on top of characters that are trending out of line through direct adjustments to those characters, adjustments to the environments under which they flourish (health stacking), or buffing up other characters to be in line with them. If this becomes too difficult to maintain then we will consider increasing the number of bans.
NeoIllusions: Lastly, Season 3 brought another change to the Jungle, similar to Season 2. Riot has made several statements about their goals with the Jungle as well. Do you feel as if the current Jungle is meeting your goals? What do you consider to be the point of jungling and how well does that mesh with games you're seeing in the current professional setting?
Dustin Beck: To rehash the stated goals of the preseason jungle changes, we wanted to increase jungler diversity, reduce very early pressure they were putting on lanes, and give them a bigger presence in team fights. We have seen results thus far that are positive towards this end, as well as a few things that are detrimental to them from other changes. Ward usage seems to be lowering gank potential early, so we have looked into Sightstone as a potential cause and are currently investigating the sharp rise of mass consumable starts with wards.
NeoIllusions: With that, we conclude our interview with Dustin! Thank you for your time. Do you have any last words to your fans?
Dustin Beck: Thanks to all of the fans, they are awesome and we can't wait to deliver new and cool eSport content to them every week. Also a big thanks to my team, they work so hard and are the people behind the scenes making all this stuff happen. Legit stuff ahead, stay tuned!