Riot just put out its 2016 Season Update for League of Legends and...I don't even know where to begin. They're changing everything, and then adding even more new stuff. I've never seen an update this big for the world's most popular game.
You can read about all the tweaks, fixes, and new content releases coming to League of Legends in 2016 over at the new popup site Riot made for its announcement. I'm going to need some time to process everything. We all are, really. Here's the top-line info about the most exciting and interesting changes:
They're introducing a whole new champion select system.
Champ select has always been a tricky part of playing League of Legends, and often an unpleasant one. Riot's kept promising to bring out a new and improved team builder eventually, but today's announcement makes it sound like they're doing a larger, more systemic overall of champion select in every available game mode. Well, except for the weird ones.
Here's how Riot describes it:
Break out your best champs in your favourite roles. With new champ select, everyone is on the same page before the draft even begins. Each player chooses two positions (or fill!) before queueing up to find a team. A new feature, "pick intent", helps everyone understand the champ you want to play and the contribution you want to make to your team's comp. With the draft underway, a new ban phase distributes one ban each to the players who receive the last three picks, while the top two have a shot at securing priority champs for the team. Put simply: champ select should leave every teammate - and every team - better placed to smash the enemy nexus.
The new system will let you choose two different preferred positions before you even start talking/thinking about a specific champion:
When exploring position select, we delved into how most people play the game and designed around what we found: most players feel strongest in two positions. So you now select two positions out of top, jungle, mid, bottom, support, and fill. You're guaranteed to land in one of the positions you select. And yes, support's now officially a position in addition to a role. Check out your options:
-Select a primary and secondary position and matchmaking weights your primary choice, making it more likely you land there; you're guaranteed to slot into one of the positions you select
-Select a primary position and "Fill" as your secondary, and matchmaking weights your primary choice, placing you in any other role if necessary
-Select "Fill" and join a team in any position
Requiring two positions ensures short queue times and that no one on your team gets stuck in a position they don't want to play. We know some options (*cough* support and jungle) aren't always quite as popular, and plan to incentivise these roles with IP bonuses if necessary.
We don't see position select impeding lane swaps or other emergent strategies in the future, and teams remain totally free to collaborate and experiment with different comps (double jungle 2016)!
This is far and above the feature I am most excited about. Yes, I know that being excited about an infrastructural change in a video game is extremely nerdy.
They're making ranked allow groups of any size.
Ranked mode won't just be about duo queuing with one other player anymore. Riot's adding "dynamic groups":
This upcoming season we're replacing the solo/duo queue with a dynamic group queue, where you'll be able to climb the ladder with any number of teammates, going from single participation all the way to a full team comp. There's no longer a penalty for players ranking together, so the benefits of grouping up will always prevail. You'll still need to be of similar rank to your queue-buddies, and the system is designed so that groups will almost always play against similarly grouped opponents (so if you're in a premade five, there's a 95% chance you'll run into another premade five), but now you'll be able to compete the way you want to.
Ranked teams will still be available for players who want to form a team of any skill level, as teams are judged on the skill of the static group rather than the sum total of the individuals. That said, this season we're also going to be improving the path to pro, with less ranked team grinding and more focus on performing when it counts. Details to come!
"Details to come." I love when it video game companies make humongous promises and then just say, "Just wait and see!"
Riot's encouraging group play even more strongly by offering bonuses for it:
For those of you yet to find your trusty battle-buddies, there's no better time than now to consult your friends list (or recruit that support who just carried you) - after dynamic groups go live, we'll be launching with a bonus IP promotion for all parties who play together. Additionally, with Clubs and Parties hitting the stage, maybe your ranked soulmates are just one social sphere away from that push to Challenger.
High ranked players have already been voicing concerns about the changes here, though Riot says that their matchmaking experience will also be improved:
Enduring thirty-minute queue times for reaching the top of the ladder isn't exactly a reward, but that's historically been the price paid when you're incredibly talented at League. We're optimising high-level matchmaking to identify epically skilled players faster and widen the MMR range for finding games.
This isn't the place to get too technical but, essentially, high-level players will be matchmade in the same games that would have happened after a thirty-minute wait, but at a much faster pace.
There's some sort of "loot" and "crafting" system coming in.
This is the most confusing part of the announcement for me. They're adding something called "Hexatech Crafting." Here's what they say:
We're introducing a new system called "Hextech Crafting" with two goals in mind: one, create a new way to pick up randomised loot at large discounts (we're tuning the drop stats here but, if you want something specific, a direct purchase will still be the most efficient), and two (this one may be more important for some of you), allow players to earn their way toward champions or skins for their in-game accomplishments. Free.
This will be introduced with a series of "chests":
Later in the new season, you'll be able to earn Mastery Chests and Keys as you team up and compete with your friends. Upon acquiring (and combining) the two, you'll be able to unlock the chest, earning loot items ranging from 7-day rentals to permanent skins and champions.
You'll have the chance to randomly pick up Keys and Key Fragments after each win. Playing with your friends will result in getting a few more keys than going solo and, if you've got the right kind of friends, wins should be easier to achieve as well! Once you pick up enough Key Fragments, you can convert them into full Keys at the crafting table.
Mastery Chests will be tied to your post-game grades, which have always been a combination of your personal and team performance for that game. We're still settling on the number of chests we'll give out this way over the year (so it's not a grind and we can get a clear view of the ecosystem we're creating), but we'll also be exploring ways to give out chests (and keys) for other modes and events.
For those who just want to pick up loot at a significant discount, we'll also be offering unique types of chests in the store that are guaranteed to be good deals! Finally, if the rewards you earn aren't something you see yourself ever using, you can swap them for other content via the crafting table.
You can also mess with your current inventory of loot by crafting and rerolling:
When it comes to content you plunder, you'll be able to redeem or modify it via the crafting table. Loot items you don't want can be disenchanted into essences. These essences are used to upgrade other items from shard rentals to permanent content. Alternatively, you can use the crafting table to reroll 3 of any permanent or rental item into a different permanent item of the same type (skin or champion).
There are a lot of proper nouns in this section, and League of Legends has never been forthright about how ridiculously expensive it is, so I'm not as inclined to trust the new monetisation stuff. Again, if you have any information or thoughts on it, don't hesitate to contact me.
They're adding a buttload of new social systems.
Riot really wants you to be able to play League of Legends with your friends, which is a wonderful thing to finally be prioritising! This year they're even adding a smartphone app to let you communicate with your in-game/client friends on your phone:
League is better when you play with friends; it should be as easy as possible to hit up your pals and organise a game. Enter the League of Legends Friends mobile app.
The app makes your League friends list truly mobile, so you can always yell at your ranked team's jungler — whether he's ganking bot lane from the river, or off fishing in an IRL river. Here's a few reasons to get excited:
Connect With Friends Whenever, Wherever
Use the League Friends app to hit up your buddies for a match any time they're available — even before they have booted up their rig. The app syncs your conversations from any device, so you can keep up the team trash talk long after smashing the enemy nexus.
Never Miss A Match
It's a lot easier to organise your team games when everybody is online. Optional push notifications ensure that you'll get the message when your squad feels a late-night itch for a 5v5.
They're also adding something called "clubs":
Clubbing it Up
Clubs are player-named (names must be unique), player-organised, and player-controlled social groups. The idea is to help you grow the amount of available friends at any given time so you can head to the Rift with the right teammates, every game.
Out the gate, each club provides a persistent chat room that lives across login sessions for all clubmates. This social hub facilitates friendships and naturally provides a place to organise games. Club leaders wield a full set of moderation tools, allowing them to invite or kick members at any time. Leaders can share the management burden, unlocking invite and kick powers for chosen officers. At launch, clubs max out at 100 members, but we'll likely increase that number over time.
Find the Right Friends
What's in a club? Well, that's entirely up to you. From esports fans to collegiate gamers, clubs can form around just about anything. And as a bonus, you can rep your club on the Rift with tags attached to your summoner name. Just as a note: because you can be a part of multiple clubs at the same time, there'll be a way to swap which tag you sport in-game.
Side note: I will be creating a Kotaku club in League of Legends eventually, assuming this thing makes it into the main game and works properly.
They're also tweaking parties, though in a less intense way than some other things:
Group Queue Faster
Parties simplify the way small groups of friends stick together between games. Have some basics:
One player hosts a party, inviting friends to a group chat that persists through games, but not login sessions. With a party set up, the party leader goes through the normal flow of starting a game and then every player in the party queues up together. After the game parties stick together, keep their group chat, and can easily hit the Rift all over again.
Open or Closed
Parties are open by default, meaning friends will see your party in their friends list, know you're looking for people to play with and be able to join you with just a few clicks. Party leaders can close parties too, making them invite-only.
I don't have much to say about this other than that it sounds alright.
Holy fuck, they're FINALLY making a new client
Jeeesus. They're even talking about making a new client. A new League of Legends client!! FINALLY!!!!! IS THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?!?! PLEASE ACTUALLY BE HAPPENING.
The League of Legends client has, in a word, sucked for a really long time now. They didn't say a ton about what'll actually be in the new client, but the fact that they're speaking about it at all makes it notable. And, more important: official. I'm going to hold you to this one, Riot!
Man, some of these changes have me feeling like I would never actually this day come. Now that it has, I think I need to sit down and take some deep breaths.