First off I'll make it clear that I'm not here to talk about how good or bad this game is. As an experienced gamer, I just want to point out what I think this game lacks and how these things can be improved. I know a lot of people would want to yell at me, that's fine. Keep in mind though I would only respond to those who have a good reason to yell.
Speaking of experience, I've had a long history playing RTS type games. I started on Age of Empires when I was back in grade two. I got stuck with the series until DotA came out. I played DotA until Heroes of Newerth and LoL came out, and I started playing them both. Then I switched over to Starcraft 2. Now I am a decent Starcraft player and I play HoN or LoL when I don't feel like playing Starcraft. With a ton of experience of all these games, I believe my advices would be worth while.
And if you don't like reading, go to the end where I summarize all the suggestions that I've made.
I will also update this post if I come up with any new stuff.
To figure out how to make a good game for esports, we should take a look at the king of esports -- Starcraft. Why is Starcraft a better game for esports? The simple answer is accessibility. By that I don't mean LoL haven't done enough advertisements, what I mean is that it's easier to participate in a good ladder game in Starcraft than it is in LoL. There are many reason for this. The biggest reason is the game style; competitive Starcraft is 1v1 while LoL is 5v5. This means that in Starcraft, how well you do in every single game is purely dependant on you, not anyone else, while in LoL, it's very easy to match up with less skilled players and lose the game because of that.
I'm not saying that LoL should change to a 1v1 game, but I think there are ways to improve the system. For example, the matchmaking system can improved. A pre-made team should be matched with a random team with a higher average elo, because when two teams have the same skill calibre, the random team always loses because of the lack of teamwork. Or even better, have two separate ladder systems for random teams and pre-made teams, with each pre-made team having their own elo score (Starcraft II already does this).
Another change that can be made to improve is to have more end game systems and better leaver-protection system. I think HoN is doing very well with this. A "rematch" option should be available, since if one person leaves in the beginning then the game is pretty much pointless, twenty minutes would be wasted for nothing. For the same reason, change the minimal concede time from 20 minutes to 10 or 15 minutes. I would prefer 10 becasue LoL is generally a faster paced game than HoN, and HoN uses 15 minutes as their minimum concede time. Lastly, have a drop leaver option. A leaver should not be able to come back to the game after 5 minutes, because if they come back, they would be useless anyways. The current situation is if someone quits, the whole team suffers with no gain. A leaver should be kicked and should be unable to rejoin the game after 5 minutes, and all items should be distributed to the rest of the team. This way one leaver won't be an "auto-loss".
You might think that the above suggestions are just complaints from a random gamer, and it has nothing to do with competitive gaming and thus nothing to do with esports. If you think that way, you are wrong. Esports isn't all about the competitive aspects, what's more important is the spectator, aka the average gamer. I agree now LoL is a fun game to play with friends, but that's not enough. A fun game doesn't make esports, like Brawl, it's fun, but it's nowhere close to being esports. A good ladder system is ESSENTIAL to a good esports game. Without it, spectators won't be allowed to enrol in their own version of "competitive gaming", and the result is nobody cares about the top 0.1% who play really well.
Speaking of spectators, please add a spectator option in games and a replay option. These are pretty much the backbone to esport games, audience and replays.
Now let's compare LoL to a game that has more similarities to it-- Heroes of Newerth. I'm not saying that LoL is bad compared to Heroes of Newerth, LoL is more fun to play and I actually play more LoL than HoN because LoL is generally faster paced. But in all honesty, from a esports perspective, LoL is far worst than HoN. There are two main reasons for this (other than the accessibility issue discussed before; HoN is doing just slightly better), game phase structure and "legacy" worthiness.
A good game phase structure is a MUST in all RTS games. In fact, a huge part of why Age of Empires III was not very successful comes down to this (AOEIII lacks good transitions between phases). The game play needs to clearly have three major parts-- early game, mid game, and end game. Let's take a look at HoN/DotA for what each phase should look like.
Early game (lv 1-11), mostly laning and farming, some ganking, the goal is to accumulate as much as exp and gold and deny the opponent from gaining.
Mid game (lv 11-17) everyone has their core items ready and core skill combo ready, the game comes down to a lot more ganking.
End game (level 18+) players are working towards their luxury items, the game comes down to a lot of pushing and epic team fights.
What league of legends lacks is the end game phase. The level cap is 18, so once the end of the mid game phase hits, the game gets stuck. Whichever side had the advantage in the early/mid game will start to lose their advantage, simply because they cannot improve anymore. The other team can just catch up during that phase, and there's nothing you can do. This happens with items too. An average "good" item in HoN costs around 4k, while 2~3k is about the average price for a finished item in LoL. An end game item in HoN can easily go up to 6k, while the most expensive item in LoL is a little over 4k. Considering the gpm in both games are not that different (both 1g/sec, HoN creeps give more gold but LoL offers dragon and items and skills that give gold, and LoL doesn't lose gold upon death), you will find yourself with maxed out items in LoL a lot of times, while an average HoN game ends with finishing 2~3 items, leaving a lot of room for end game to continue.
Another suggestion is enabling buyback. Pot effects are non-stackable and a full set is <1k gold, it only delays the inevitable end game by a short amount. A lot of times people will have about 5k in their bank and there is nothing they can do with it. This should never happen. The buyback option would be expensive (100gold x level sounds about right), but it prevents a team with more gold from having WTF loses.
"Legacy" is all about flavour. League of Legends lacks flavour in hero designs.
Let me give you an example of what "flavour" means. The Starcraft unit carrier, probably one of the most well known unit. In Starcraft 2, it sucks. It's simply too expensive for what it does. However, there is a "legacy" surround that capital ship, no matter how bad it actually is. In a tournament, if someone tries to build carriers, the audience would be like "oooooooh sh*t he's going for carriers", an no matter what the outcome of the game is, that game would be considered an epic game.
In HoN, there are many heroes that deserve the legacy status (HoN cheated because most of the legacy heroes are from DotA, but DotA has the best hero designs hands down). What I'm talking about are famous heroes like Pudge/Devourer, Lion/Witch Slayer, Anti-Mage/Magebane, etc. In general, these heroes are heroes that people know even if they don't play DotA or HoN.
Other than the "legacy" heroes, there are many DotA, HoN heroes that have such a clean design that make them so infinitely flavourful to play. My favourite is Blood Hunter, whose role fits the name exactly. His first skill silences the target, makes the target bleed, but gives the target bonus attack damage, second skill heals Blood Hunter by 40% health whenever he kills a hero or 20% if he kills something else, third skill detects any enemy below 40% health and gives crazy bonus speed if an enemy is detected, the ultimate bleeds the enemy so that they get damaged whenever they move. All of his skills are based around chasing down an enemy hero. Clean, crisp, and that's what makes a good hero design.
I have a hard time coming up with LoL champions that can fit the "legacy" status. The main reason is that the majority of the LoL heroes are very bland. Countless champions ones have skill sets that follow the model of "nuke nuke support AOE-nuke". Morgana, Wukong, Fiddlesticks, Miss Fortune, and Katarina are just a few examples off the top of my head. These heroes are of course different from each other, but not different enough to make them interesting.
What's even worse is that some of the interesting heroes have gone through nerfs that completely killed their original design. For example: Tryndamere used to be one of my favourite heroes because all of his skills work so nicely together. Bloodlust gave bonus damage and can be consumed to heal, and it is obtained from hitting crit or killing something. The ultimate would give bloodlust stacks therefore the ultimate would increase Tryn's attack damage also. Everything worked perfectly together. But now, they changed bloodlust, now it gives fury with each attack, and consuming fury increases health. HOWEVER, FURY DOES NOT INCREASE DAMAGE. Now you have to get hurt before you can deal your maximum damage, and the ultimate does not increase your damage anymore. I think this is a horrible change, and I think that generally completely changing how a champion works is a bad idea.
Another example: Warwick (spin off of Blood Hunter and Wild Soul). His skills worked so nicely together. Hunter's Call increases attack speed and the ultimate allowed him to attack five times super fast, this combos with his passive skill which gave attack stacks, and also combos with many items that gives bonus effect for each attack. Now they changed Warwick, attack stacks is gone, ulti does a fixed amount of damage...It just sucks...This is never how you should change a champion, you can lower the champion's damage, health, his skill's damage, cool down, and small tweakings like that to make them balanced. If you are messing with the designs of a champion, you might as well just make a new champion instead.
Again, I'm not saying all of the heroes in LoL are boring. There are a few interesting ones. Some of the ones I like are Cho'Gath, Ezreal, Kog'Maw, Mordekaiser, Ryze, and Teemo.
Now I'll start talking about some of the smaller things that can be improved.
Patch notes- LoL is pretty bad at putting out patch notes. As a gamer, I want to know what's been changed to the game. I know the patch notes are somewhere, but I want to see the title "Patch x.xx.xx Launched Date xxxxxxxx" on the patcher every time I download a patch. It's way too painful to go on google to search up LoL patch notes and not end up getting the most recent one. Also, for the champion spot lights, have a written description of the new champion's stats and skills. The video is fancy but it doesn't really give much info.
AI- this is a pretty big thing. I think the major problem that I have is re-targeting after casting a spell. For example, if you are Akali or any champion with a low CD AOE attack, you will use that a lot when farming. Consider this situation, 2 creeps are around you each with 100 health. Your auto attacks will do 20 damage each and your AOE will do 70. You auto attack one creep, use your AOE, and guess what, your next auto attack is re-targeted and it lands on the other creep. Both creeps end up with 10% health and get killed by allied creeps, and you get no gold. I understand that if you have a high enough APM you can compensate this by clicking very had on the creep that you want to kill, but this is not possible for some champions that involve targeting for casting a spell, and it's even more impossible for champions that don't have their auto-attacks interrupted while casting a spell (the spell has no cast time therefore the auto-attack comes out the same time the spell comes out, hitting different targets).
Another thing about the AI is that this is so far the only RTS game I've played in something like 8 years where there is no shift queue. WHY IS THERE NO SHIFT QUEUE. It is useful and there is absolutely no reason not to have it.
Creep deny- ok, ok I know that LoL is trying to be different with this and I understand that. Not having creep deny is fine, but some of the laning problems created by this have to be fixed. For example, without creep deny there is absolutely no advantage for a melee champion laning against a ranged champion. This creates many coin toss situations in early game: "Do I go mid? Or do I go bottom? Where is their ranged guy at?" It is fine for a better laner to completely overwhelm a weaker laner (in terms of champion not skill), but it is not fine when tower hugging isn't a valid strategy. In LoL falling back to the tower means you lose most of the gold and your tower takes damage. In most cases it's impossible to last hit under your tower because the tower deals 5 times as much damage as you do (not even kidding). There is also no way to pull the creeps back so that the tower doesn't take damage. In HoN or DotA, you can lure the creeps to the back of your tower to connect with your next creep wave, then you can last hit the creeps while behind the tower. Even though it's harder to last hit with the tower attacks, but it is possible to last hit the majority of the creeps. Your opponent actually loses gold for pushing too far, because some of your creeps will be killed behind the tower, leaving your opponent no chance to last hit them for gold. I'm not sure how to fix this yet, but the problem needs to be addressed. I think lowering the tower attack damage and having creeps prioritize creeps and champions over towers are changes to be considered.
Lag- I know this is an issue for any game and this is impossible to fix. However, LoL lag seems a little different from the other games I've played. The game play is still smooth during lag, and that is actually bad. For example, if you click in front of you then click behind you, if there is lag, you will continue to walk forward smoothly and turn around much later. When there is lag, I would like to know that my commands will have a delay, so in the above situation, I would rather to see my frame freeze and have everything re-appear somewhere else a second later.. Instead of thinking "holy **** I lagged", I would much prefer "holy **** I'm lagging" because in the second situation I would still have a chance to fix my play.
So, to summarize all my changes and suggestions:
-have different ladder systems for solo and pre-made teams (or just a better algorithm for matchmaking)
-lowering the fastest surrender time to 10 minutes (down from 20)
-remake option in the beginning of the game
-drop leaver after 5 minutes, all leaver items and money would be distributed to the rest of the team (can be in the form of money rather than actual items)
-save/watch replay option
-have higher level cap
-enable buy-back option
-MAKE MORE INTERSING HEROES. I DON'T CARE IF THEY SUCK I JUST WANT THEM TO BE FUN
-display patch notes on the patcher whenever there is a patch.
-no retargeting with auto attacks after casting a spell
-enable shift queue
-have creeps prioritize champions and other creeps over towers and other structures
-show lag rather than hide it
I know that Riot cares about this game, since they sent a whole team to IPL just to make sure the tournament goes smoothly. However, there is more that you need to do. With HoN doing better than ever and DotA2 coming out in the near future, LoL will quickly lose the race and drop out of esports if nothing gets changed.
A Hard-Core Gamer.