Riot's New Replay Tool Could Seriously Affect League Matches

After a bug halted a match in last week's League of Legends Championship Series matches, Riot Games casually unveiled a new resume-from-replay feature. In a blog post, the company goes into detail on how this will affect officiating the league's weekly matches moving forward.

In a series between FlyQuest and Cloud 9, Johnny "Altec" Ru teleported forward and attacked a vulnerable Cloud 9 player with his ultimate. His champion, Miss Fortune, is a pirate queen whose ultimate unleashes a barrage of bullets in a cone in front of her; only, that didn't happen this time.

It may be difficult to notice if you haven't played League of Legends before, so I've highlighted the relevant portion below. Miss Fortune's ultimate not only appears to not go off, but it gets blocked by an enemy minion. The ultimate is intended to deal damage to everything in a cone, not just the first person hit, and so FlyQuest missed out on a potential kill.

The tool that rolled back the game has been dubbed "Chronobreak" by Riot, and in a post on the company-run LoL Esports website, the team delves into how exactly it works and when it will be employed.

The program saves a running server replay, recording all inputs sent to the game server by players. In the event of a crash or bug, the replay can then be used to effectively "re-play" the events of the game up to a point in time, then turn control of the game back over to the 10 players competing in the match.

No harm, no foul is the lasting sentiment here, and in the blog post, Riot stresses that any use of the Chronobreak rule will have to adhere to two guidelines: It must have been caused by something out of a player's control, and the bug must be considered to have a significant effect on the outcome of the match.

In a sense, this is booth replay for esports, effectively allowing Riot Games to fix an issue on the field by rolling back the game and pretending nothing happened. Past matches that have been remade or decided by code inconsistencies have caused numerous controversies, from a team winning using an exploitative strategy to a favourite pick for a player being banned for an entire series due to a visual bug.

An immediate issue raised is: What kind of bugs does Riot consider significant enough to reset the game? While missing an important kill due to a blank-firing ultimate can be considered an important event, the above situation with a visual glitch causing a team to play more cautious is incredibly ambiguous and presumptive.

It also raises concern over what interest Riot Games may have in rolling games back to avoid controversy over the state of the game. Anytime a bug is shown in the LCS, it paints a poor perception of the game itself, and doubly so if a team has to remake or take a loss due to an issue out of any player's control.

Esports is difficult to officiate in a sense, because it's based on binary 1's and 0's that can, from time to time, break or malfunction for unforeseen reasons. The ability to roll back a game can be huge, depending on where the "spot of the foul" was, potentially eliminating an advantage a team might have had if it rolls back before a significant manoeuvre or event.

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There's some level of precedent set, as games like StarCraft 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 all have similar features. Riot's unique stance as both arbiter and proprietor of its own esport distorts the veil though, and especially regarding the relative amount of remakes in the LCS compared to other competitions, this tool may not be used as sparingly as Riot seems to imply.

Rolling back a replay because the field moved of its own accord is one thing, but hopefully it doesn't turn into remakes due to a slight drizzle.


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