This is an essay I'm turning in describing basically the tactics that Riot uses to get people in their game. It has nothing to do with whether they succeed or not. You are more than welcome to disagree, but I'd like not to be called retarded just for having something called an opinion. So let's keep it civil and intelligent guys. Hope that's not too much to ask.
Would love to get a Red to key in on this.
And hi Mr. Reimer.
League of Legends wants to tell you something, and that is, “Come try us, you won't regret it”. Riot Games, the studio that designed Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game League of Legends, has a compelling reason to sell that argument to you. League of Legends was one of the first games to ride the surge of popularity that MOBAs enjoyed in these past few years, and they are swimming in competitors right now. There are at least a dozen other games right now that could be described as MOBAs in their own right, running on platforms from the Xbox 360 to the iOS. MOBAs are becoming increasingly more prevalent in today’s world, and that will crowd the market for a limited amount of customers. Being centered on player versus player arena battles, MOBAs are inherently reliant on having a healthy volume of people to support its product, and much like social networking websites, the game with the most people will draw more people, and more people will draw even more people and the advantage snowballs. Therefore the game that retains the lion’s share of the market will undoubtedly continue their dominance for many years to come, while competitors are is left to either an inglorious second place or fighting over what scraps of the customer base are left and eventual death. Thus League of Legends’ argument to you is one of unabashed advertising. From the League of Legends’ inclusive design to its graphics style, to its built-in efforts to control its unruly community, everything about the League of Legends’ argument is that it is trying to convince you that out of the plethora of MOBAs out there for you, they by far are the most accessible.
So how are Riot Games and their League of Legends getting their message of accessibility to you? First is their effort to ease you into its gameplay compared to the archaic learning curve of its predecessor. The original DotA Allstars mod, the one that League of Legends and nearly every other MOBA was based, was famous for the complexity of its gameplay, and infamous for the steep learning curve essential to understand it. There were close to a hundred different heroes in DotA, and diving into the game without a familiarity with a majority of the heroes’ capabilities was like playing Ro-Sham-Bo while not knowing that Rock actually beat Scissors. To make things worse, the arena you fought in was vast and often random, mistakes by design were harshly punished, and many items you could obtain while playing drastically altered play-styles. Overall, it was a monstrously daunting game that front-loaded a huge burden of knowledge onto players and was brutal break into. Yet here is where League of Legends immediately starts to shift from its parent. First of all, the company rotates champions that are available for free to anyone to perhaps a dozen per week. Whether or not this is a clever marketing ploy to urge people to purchase champions for real currency, or a gameplay oriented design choice, one of its biggest benefits is that it lifts huge amounts of the burden of knowledge on new players off of them. Every week, new players largely only have to familiarize themselves with champions that are free at that time. Instead of having to learn one hundred heroes all at once, new players can take it easy and introduce themselves to the game at the pace that the weekly free champion rotation sets. A thorough tutorial guides you through the basic steps of the game, while you can test your skills against computer-controlled AI opponents if you still are not comfortable playing against other people yet. No matter how sparse in terms of expertise in the game of League of Legends, it is clear that the game designers made it a priority to communicate to anyone playing it, “This is the game for you, welcome”.
Yet all of the tutorials and the warm welcomes in the world will not convince the player if they just don’t like the look of the game. Clear, informative visuals are the next part in League of Legends’ argument of making sure that players always feel comfortable to play. When you move your cursor over a target, an outline colored green or red if the target is an ally or enemy respectively, lights up. Team color coded health bars representing both teams are constantly above everyone’s head, giving instant information of the status of all players in the field. Pressing an ability button once brings up a simple targeted reticule that tells you immediately how far your reach is. The mini-map lights up with team color bordered portraits that tells you at a glance, where everyone, anytime, is. The champion designs from the models to the look of their abilities are geared to give you a clue to what they are supposed to do without even knowing the details. All visuals are designed to be functional, efficient, and informative. In fact, their entire user interface is a big fat visual rhetoric that screams, “Ease!” and that feeds into their accessibility argument. With their clear visuals and rounded edges, it feels like the Apple product of MOBAs. Clearly they are trying to tell new players that they will never be limited by the game design; that your ability to perform will be tied to your skill, not how well you can wrestle with the interface. Once again, that argument of accessibility is bolstered if they present an extremely usable interface to go with the shallower learning curve.
League of Legends did a lot to make the gameplay itself more accessible, but they didn’t stop there. They actually reached out, and started changing one thing beyond the game itself, and one of the biggest problems keeping MOBAs from going completely main-stream accessible: the community. You see, the game is almost all players versus players. This means that much of the game’s experience is tied to the community playing it, which is unfortunate, since the genre’s greatest weakness is perhaps its tendency to bring out the worst in people. How this happens is when playing a MOBA you are often grouped with four other total strangers to achieve a victory, and a single person can drag the entire team down, miss advantages, or even end up being a detriment by gifting power to the enemy team by dying a lot to them. This provokes heated responses from some players as they vent their frustration on factors in their game that are out of their control, i.e., their teammates. Thus a culture of toxic attitudes is born. League of Legends started out with a fairly standard set of obnoxious players that other MOBAs long took for granted. How can you police good behavior, competitors thought, between thousands of matches, millions of people and billions of hours of gameplay a day? Yet once again, Riot steps in to try and say to you, “We want this game to fit you, not the other way around”. They opened an ambitious player-driven reporting system called Tribunal designed to overwhelm the toxics with the silent majority of normal people that were fed up with them. According to Riot, the Tribunal does a highly efficient job of weeding out the bad eggs in the community, making games overall more enjoyable. More relevantly, the presence of such a system itself makes a constant argument to the player that even if they had a bad experience with someone else, the Tribunal is a reason to believe the next game will be better. Just by making such a system known, they can argue once more that League of Legends is the most accessible MOBA because of it. And by now, after all of that, you are hopefully hooked.
This is how League of Legends persuades you to try, love, and then stick with the game. From the moment a new player steps into League of Legends, that person is are first eased into an environment that lowers that burden of knowledge on them and the stress of being unprepared. They are given a small piece of the whole game to work with, and progress from a set pace from there. Then they are treated with one of the clearest, most intuitive user interfaces in MOBAs. And once they do start playing, their frequency of running into the worst of the community drops with Tribunal. The Tribunal even encourages future games after toxic ones by making the possibility of another toxic game less likely in a player’s mind. These all make League of Legends wonderfully accessible. All of the closed doors that kept the original DotA and MOBAs in general away from the main stream of video games are being thrown open by League of Legends, if you would accept the game’s argument. And seeing how Riot is now celebrating reaching a monthly active user population of 32 million, the approximate size of Canada? Seeing how every two months, League of Legends users play the same amount of hours as the legendary Halo: Combat Evolved has been played since 2004? Seeing how League of Legends on a peak day had 5 times as many users as the combined top 100 games on Steam last Friday? The people? They’re convinced.
TIMES UPDATED: III