No matter how many MOBAs come about, there is still one name that is synonymous with the genre: League of Legends. If there is one thing Riot Games prides itself on above all else, it is the major impact the interaction and communication with their players and fans has had on the game. I recently had a chance to chat with Omar Kendall, a producer for the Riot’s gameplay team, about this interaction, and how it has shaped League of Legends over the years.
Nerdist: What are some of the biggest contributions your player community has made thus far?
Omar Kendall: I work with the gameplay team, which oversees the champion team and the balance/game systems teams mostly, so I can only really speak that to that mostly. On our champion side we have Braum, who we made a couple of years ago. Braum came about in response to a lot of players voicing a desire for a stereotypically, over-the-top manly Support champion. Most of the supports in the game are female, actually.
There was a comic drawn by one of our players of a character they called “Angus the Manly Support,” and he was this super-burly dude in a flannel shirt that would go around punching beards onto characters as an ability. [Laughs] We saw it, and thought “can we make something for players that scratches this itch for a manly support champion?” So, we made Braum in response to that. He is this big, super positive, support champ with this crazy mustache. He is a very over-the-top manly man.
N: Your forums hold a section in which players pitch their own ideas for champions they would like to see added into the game. Has there ever been a champion you added that was legitimately created by players instead of just inspired by them?
OK: Not on the champion side, no. That tends to happen with a fair amount of regularity when it comes to skins and designs like that. We have seen tons of amazing artists that are also players of the game, or know of the game and want to put their own spin on the property. A skin we made for Thresh, the Blood Moon skin, was designed as fan art by one of the players and we liked it so much we wanted to add it to the game. That happens quite a lot actually. [Laughs]
On the champion side, though, we try to shield ourselves a little bit from player contributions. We love finding ways to be inspired by player feedback, but we tend to be a little more worried about player perception that we stole any idea from someone else. We have a dedicated place on the website where players submit ideas all the time, and I know a lot of guys on the team make an effort to look through that and tweak what we are doing so as not to suddenly have someone think we took their idea and used it as our own. We just don’t want to end up in that position at some point.
N: Do you have any personal favorites in term of skins that were community inspired?
OK: The Pool Party skins [pictured at top] are certainly some of my favorites. The Project line of skins, with the robotic samurai concept, was player inspired as well. I just remember seeing those and immediately thinking that it was the perfect idea for the champion, Yasuo. I love when an artist or a player just knows a champion so well that they can create something that immediately resonates and feels like such an obvious choice, you know you have to make that skin. The Project skin was like that for me.
N: Any new community inspired things coming down the line?
OK: Our team builder, which allows players to choose both which champion and position they would like to play, was one of the most frequently requested changes made to the game. Another one we’ve been kicking around is called Early Surrender. The feature would give players the option to back out of a game early if it seems someone is not participating and players won’t have to worry about any kind of penalty for it.
The game balancing, and how we do that, is strongly influenced by player feedback too.When players queue for a game they have the ability to ban champions they don’t want to play against, and it is usually based on a perceived notion that a champion is stronger than they are. There are a myriad of reasons outside of power that people have for banning a champion. So, when that happens we have to go in and discover why that is. We are far more likely to pay attention to a champion that gets banned a lot, even if they tend to have a lower win percentage than others, than a champion that players are not banning at all.
N: What else has the community shaped in terms of gameplay and game modes?
OK: ARAM [All Random, All Mid] was completely created by players. A few years ago we had a feature added into custom games where players could pick a random champion at the selection screen. So, players started taking it upon themselves to all pick random champions and then all head down the middle lane at each other on Summoner’s Rift. It had existed as this DIY game mode for a long time until we decided to build the Howling Abyss map that was entirely dedicated to ARAM play and ARAM queues.
N: What difficulties do you guys usually run into when trying to find a balance between your competitive player community and the more casual set of gamers?
OK: There is a phenomenon that has been happening over the past few years, especially as eSports has gotten more and more popular, where the players on the solo queue, or the live service, would see what the pros were doing in the eSports realm and then adopt that sort of play very quickly. I think a great example was when Lucian first came out. A lot of the players didn’t care for him and he just existed as a very unpopular champion for months. Then, he got picked up in the pro scene, pretty rapidly, and was suddenly one of the most popular champions in the game. We have seen this bond between the pro scene and the live service scene, and we work to keep both of those ecosystems as healthy as possible.
N: Do you have anything you really wanted to address on your end about the community interaction with League and Riot that we did not touch on yet?
OK: I think another important aspect would be our champion updates. For several years now when we release a champion you will have certain ones that will just fall into disrepair. It’s just a part of the natural aging of the game as it evolves over time. So, over the past couple of years we have been updating a lot of our champions, and the prioritization of which champion is updated and when is yet another thing that is driven almost entirely by our players.
Images- Riot Games