So, I have a confession. I watch esports. It’s not a big thing, but I’m not a sports person. I never have been. My brother is the one who does all the sporty stuff. Nothing to do with me. I just didn’t get the genes.
I don’t even watch sports. Well, apart from Formula 1. Which is my jam, completely. For reasons I won’t go into here. Apart from F1 I don’t watch much in terms of sports. I’ll watch them to be sociable but that’s all. However, esports…. Gaming. As a sport. This might be something I can get behind. So I gave it a shot.
I stumbled upon a Twitch stream of League of Legends about a year ago and became pretty hooked very quickly. So, the basics…
League of Legends is what we gamers call a MOBA (details about MOBAs can be found HERE) but basically you have 3 lanes with bases at each end.
Each base is manned by a team of 5 players who control individual characters. These characters then run around the map killing each other and destroying towers, and eventually destroying the enemy base.
So far so basic. It’s a game, people play it. I watch them.
But the company behind the game have done a brilliant job of creating a proper production where they have (football style) ex-players doing commentary and analysis complete with replays and slo-motion.
The games start with each team picking characters to ban, then select the characters they want to use in this match. In turn. So basically the plan is to ban the characters the other team like to play, but keep those you like to play. This adds an element of strategy to the selection of characters. Do some support characters do better than others in situation X, how does this character compete against Y and so on. I’ve still not got to grips with all the characters, but some of them are clearly more suited to different roles within the game.
The 3 different lanes (Top, middle and Bottom – shortened to Top, Mid, and Bot – Simples!) tend to lend themselves to specific roles, with top generally being the main damage dealer, and the support classes tending to run around the bot lane.
The game then releases “creeps” which are small computer controlled bots that are relatively weak, they’ll head for the towers in each lane or the player controlled characters if they detect one nearby. The players job is to kill these “creeps” meaning they can level their character up, gaining gold and bonuses in the process. The gold can be spent on upgrades and/or wards that clear the fog-of-war from a specific section of the map. But the other team can destroy your wards and place their own. Making for an interesting game of cat and mouse sometimes.
So the match generally splits into 3 phases.
1st Phase – Early game.
This is where the players are killing “creeps ” (sometimes called minions) and trying to gain gold and experience (XP) to level up. If you can score a kill on another player or destroy a tower then that’s a bonus as you’ll gain even more gold and XP. Even a small gold/XP lead at this point can snowball if the players can work together.
2nd Phase – Mid game.
This is where things begin to transition into more of a battle for supremacy on the map. With towers falling and player killings become more the name of the game. Vying for objectives on the map becomes more of the order of the day and often can swing a game.
3rd Phase – End game.
This is the point where most of the lane towers have been destroyed and the players have reached high enough levels to do massive damage or healing (depending on role) and suddenly objectives and team fights become the order of the day. With more of the opposition out of action you have more chance to invade their base and aim to win the game.
So, I mentioned objectives there… On the map are a couple of objectives that appear after specific times. That can help out the teams that take them.
The Baron Nashor.
The Baron is a giant serpent thingy. That appears at certain points in the game. The team that kills him gains a bonus that can be applied to their minions making them do super damage. Thus meaning that they can destroy enemy towers quicker. The extra gold gained through doing this means that a team can rapidly outspend their opponents and the Baron is often an area where teams regularly fight each other to gain superiority.
The Baron can allow a team to gain a huge lead, but it can allow a losing team to gain a huge amount of momentum and sniping the Baron can often lead to a swing in gameplay that can even out a relatively one sided match. (It is worth noting here that any bonuses granted by the Baron are lost when a player dies – meaning in a hard fought battle often only one or two players can create super powered minions)
The Dragon. Well, it’s a dragon. Obvs. The dragon grants a bonus to move speed and can be applied incrementally, so killing 2 dragons grants double the buff etc… (At least, that’s my understanding) meaning that a team killing 5 dragons would be able to avoid so much damage and move around the map so quickly that it pretty much amounts to a win condition.
Again, there are often battles around the dragon, but because the individual bonus is less than the baron it is less fought over.
The Rift Herald.
Appears where the Baron would normally appear and is kind of a giant crab type thing. This grants a single player the ability to create powered up creeps/minions and is relatively new to the game..but can help to rebalance a game that is starting to become one sided.
This is what brings out so much of the strategy in the game. Positioning for these objectives and moving around the map trying to out-manoeuvre the opposition can mean the difference between failing and wining.
I really enjoy the changes to a match that come from unexpected character bans or picks, or through swapping lanes, so that the two support players can attempt to overpower the single top later (if you don’t get noticed and everyone swaps cancelling it out). It’s all so much more strategic that you would think at fist glance.
That I guess is the appeal. I tried to play the game, but couldn’t get my head around most of the mechanics (I guess I’m just too old for this kind of game) and I *really* don’t have the time to dedicate to getting even half good. The idea of playing with random people every time and having no idea what I should be doing kind of put me off too…
But put the game on TV and show me others playing it and I’m there. There is the usual team rivalries and players move around between teams in the off season. With leagues in North America and Europe and Korea there are always games to watch and learn more about different strategies.
Teams play within their leagues and at the end of the season have a playoff for both relegation and championship decides.
The top teams play in a knockout system for the championship and the bottom teams play off with the winners of the lower league (I know!?) for promotion. They do this twice a year, spring and summer with points allocated and those with the most points after summer go to the world tournament to represent their individual leagues. At this point all local rivalries go out the window and it’s EU v NA or KOR or CHI to prove they are the best in the world.
Okay, so I’ve probably rambled on about this for long enough now. Here is a link to the YouTube channel which includes previous matches, if you have a spare hour do go and check them out.
Right, back soon with more rambling posts (Promise or threat? You decide)