If you've been on the gaming parts of the internet over the past week, you've probably seen or heard something about the League of Legends World Championship. Having trouble grasping what's going on right now with the most popular video game in the world? Fear not, I'm here to help you understand.
I will continue to update this post as the 2015 World Championship games unfold.
Worlds is not the same thing as the League of Legends Championship Series that ended in August.
The World Championship is the biggest League of Legends eSports event of the year, but it's not the only one. Far from it, in fact. This might be confusing if you don't keep a close eye on League eSports, since developer and publisher Riot Games has a bad habit of naming things in confusing ways.
Worlds is the conclusion of the past year's regional League of Legends tournaments. Throughout the year, League teams compete in their own region to try and qualify to play in Worlds, since there are only a few spots available for each region. The five main regions that feed teams into worlds through their own tournament series are as follows:
- North America: North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS)
- Europe: European League of Legends Championship Series LCS (EU LCS)
- Korea: League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK)
- China: League of Legends Pro League (LPL)
- Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao: League Master Series (LMS)
All the League of Legends eSports stuff that you've heard about up until the beginning of October -- all the games and tournaments we covered here at Kotaku -- were leading up to Worlds. What makes the event exciting for many League of Legends fans is that it's one of the only chances they get to see the very best players from each region compete against one another. As with any international event, there's some jingoistic pride to this excitement. A lot of League eSports followers have speculated that this might be the first time since the original World Championship games back in 2011 that a Western team will win. Korean and Taiwanese teams have won the past three years.
This is a month-long event with 16 participating teams.
If you haven't been paying close attention to Worlds yet, don't panic. There's still a whole lot left to this thing! Technically, nobody's even been kicked out of the running yet -- though there are a few teams that are mostly likely not going to make it past the next round of the competition.
Currently, we're in the "Group Stage." This is a best-of-one round robin event where the teams are divided into groups of four. This format means that every team will end up playing two games against each of the other teams in its group. The two teams who come out on top of these games will continue on in Worlds, while the bottom two will be out.
Riot's LoL Esports site has a slick new look for the 2015 World Championship, complete with an up-to-date schedule that breaks down upcoming games by the day and even by the hour (approximately, some games will last longer than others). Here's how the teams are currently grouped:
- Counter Logic Gaming (North America)
- Flash Wolves (Taiwan)
- KOO Tigers (Korea)
- paIN Gaming (Brazil)
- ahq e-Sports Club (Taiwan)
- Cloud9 (North America)
- Fnatic (Europe)
- Invictus Gaming (China)
- Edward Gaming (China)
- SKTelecom T1 (Korea)
- H2K (Europe)
- Bangkok Titans (Thailand)
- LGD Gaming (China)
- KT Rolster (Korea)
- Team SoloMid (North America)
- Origen (Europe)
And here's the full schedule for Worlds:
- Dates: October 1-4 and 8-11
- Location: Paris, France
- Le Dock Pullman, bâtiment 137, 50 avenue du Président Wilson, 93200 La Plaine Saint-Denis, France
- Date: October 15-18
- Location: London, England
- SSE Arena Wembley, Arena Square, Engineers Way, London HA9 0AA, United Kingdom
- Date: October 24-25
- Location: Brussels, Belgium
- Brussels Expo, Place de Belgique 1, 1020 Ville de Bruxelles, Belgium
- Date: October 31
- Location: Berlin, Germany
- Mercedes-Benz Arena, Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin, Mercedes-Platz 1, 10243 Berlin, Germany
As you can see, the first half of the group stage games ended yesterday. The second half picks up again on Thursday. This means that nobody's totally out of the running quite yet. But a few teams, such as Bangkok Titans (BKT) and LGD Gaming, have lost all (or most) of the games they have played so far...meaning they'd have to win every game in the second half of the group stage to still have a chance to advance. Other teams like the 2013 World Champions SKT have trounced the competition so far, meaning that it's almost certain they will continue into the quarterfinals.
Here are the current standings, via SB Nation:
Teams will start to drop off of this list come the end of the group stage, which concludes on October 11.
There are four main ways to watch Worlds live.
If you want to keep up with the action as it's unfolding, here are your best options:
- The Riot Games' Twitch channel.
- Riot's LoL Esports YouTube channel. (Watch out for the dicks!)
- The LoL Esports Azubu channel.
- The LoL Esports website, which has a comment-less version of the Twitch stream.
Like the World Cup, following along with the League World Championship might mean you have to wake up early on the weekends or keep some odd hours, since they're all taking place in Europe. This Thursday and Friday's group stage games, for instance, start at 10:00 pm AEST, while Saturday's begin at 8:00 pm AEST, and Sunday's get started at 6:00 am AEST.
If you can't watch when you're at work or don't want to wake up at 3:50 on a Sunday morning to get your League of Legends eSports fix, don't worry. Riot does a rebroadcast of the entire day's stream a few hours after the original stream ends, which is super handy if you live in a place like New York City and want to organise a viewing party that doesn't begin at 6 in the morning on Saturday. The LoL Esports YouTube channel also posts the videos for individual games if you don't want to watch everything, and they're usually good about getting everything up by the next day.
Keep track of these eSports outlets, too.
Riot has a heavy hand in shaping the narrative and presentation of League of Legends eSports, so a lot of the World Championship games are being introduced and framed by the company's employees in a particular way -- emphasising a specific player-vs.-player rivalry, positioning one team as an underdog in comparison to another team, stuff like that. The drama Riot promotes in the Worlds matches is interesting, but bear in mind: it's not the only perspective people have on a humongous eSports event like this. If you're interested in learning more about Worlds as it's unfolding, I highly recommend going to some outside-of-Riot sources for additional analysis and breaking news. Here are my favourites:
- The Score's eSports section has a ton of excellent League of Legends coverage done by experienced beat reporters like Kelsey Moser, who covers League's Chinese eSports in great depth, and Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger. They cover breaking news but also have many great in-depth interviews and features, such as this pre-Worlds profile of the Chinese team LGD.
- Same goes for The Daily Dot's eSports section.
- The longtime League eSports journalist and commentator Travis Gafford produces a regular video series for GameSpot in which he interviews the top pro players -- often immediately after they have finished playing a game. Known as "State of the League," his videos are usually required viewing for many in the League of Legends community.
- The League of Legends subreddit is also a great place to go for up-to-the-minute information about Worlds Games, player and team drama, and -- of course -- dank memes. It might lack the slick presentation of its professional counterparts, but with almost 750,000 subscribers and a very vocal and active community of diehard eSports fans, you can find a lot of sharp analysis of match-ups and particular players there as well.
- There's also Kotaku, a website best known for its coverage of television shows and snacks, that's recently tried to branch out into League of Legends coverage as well.
Here's what's happened so far.
We're still at the very beginning of Worlds. The championship is only really going to start taking shape this Thursday, as we start to see teams drop out of the competition and others begin their rise to the top. But there are a few general trends to keep in mind as we go into this week. Here are my top three:
Western teams might actually have a shot this year.
Korean and Chinese teams have generally been considered the best of the best in League of Legends eSports. Thanks to a combination of factors such as increased investment in North American and European eSports and the resulting migration of top Asian players to other regions, that's started to change. Now a lot of League fans are saying this could very well be the first Worlds since 2011 that a Western team wins themselves the top spot -- or at least makes it into the finals on October 31st.
The American teams Counter-Logic Gaming (CLG) and Cloud9 (C9) both ended up at the top of their respective groups after their first three games, and the European team Fnatic (FNC) has had a strong showing. You should keep an eye on these three going forward.
China isn't as strong as everyone thought it'd be.
The biggest surprise of Worlds so far is the swift and unexpected downfall of the thought-to-be-great Chinese team LGD Gaming. Gu "Imp" Seung-bin, one of LGD's star players, is already a World Champion player, having won the final game in 2013 with his former team SKT. Going into Worlds this year, there was a lot of hype about Imp facing his former teammate Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, who's still on SKT and is considered to be the best League of Legends player in the world. But now that LGD is going into the second half of the group stage 0-3, it looks like Imp won't even get a chance to have that fateful showdown with Faker.
IGD's inauspicious debut has shocked a lot of League eSports followers because it runs against the grain of overarching trends that've been developing for years now. Korean teams ended up winning Worlds in 2013 and 2014, but by the second year Chinese teams were starting to make their way toward the top of the ladder as well. The country's sudden success was largely thanks to the fact that rich team owners poached top-level Korean players from their original teams. You can get an overview of this facet of League eSports history in this excellent profile of Faker done by the ESPN magazine.
SKT hasn't even broken a sweat yet.
League fans are keeping a close eye on the 2013 World Champions SKT and their star player Faker, with everyone wondering if this will be their triumphant comeback after their fall from grace in 2014. After winning worlds in 2013, SKT lost many of its top players and struggled through the season while their local rival Samsung Galaxy White (yes, a team named after a smartphone) rose to the top of the competition and won the whole thing. Nothing remarkable has happened with SKT this year... yet. They have won all three of their games so far, but those match-ups were barely even a contest. Faker hasn't pulled off any of the insane, seemingly inhuman plays that made him such a huge star in the League world in the first place, simply because he hasn't really had to. Lots of people are waiting to see what happens once SKT faces the other top contenders in the tournament.
All photos courtesy of Riot Games' Flickr.