Riot Games, delays and their growth

I just started playing League of Legends, a game I wanted to play for awhile and I enjoy watching others play. I avoided it because the community is known to be very toxic and I do not have the patience for that type of immature behavior. In the end, it is a game. Rage at the game, not at other players. Reading that Riot has made significant efforts to stop the toxic nature of the community, I decided to play the game.

Introducing…Lucian

Lucian, pictured above, is a new champion I look forward to playing. He has not been released and his release has been delayed again.

When will Lucian be ready to go live?
Morello: Sorry for going dark on it, just getting on the forums a bit again;

I don’t have a good ETA currently, but it’s taking a bit longer than we’d hoped. There’s some outstanding issues remaining we need to get cleaned up before we can turn him on, and some are hairier than others.

In a game like League of Legends, it is important that the champions are as balanced as possible. From time to time, they re-work champions to improve their play stats. There are some champions that are rarely used, have low win rates, etc. and Riot tries to improve their viability by redoing the champion’s abilities. This is inevitable as they release new champions. Master Yi was recently redone and the statistics on his performance, based on how players played him, are being compiled. It seems they missed the mark on making Master Yi balanced.

Morello: We’re looking at some Yi fixes currently and want to get them in for 3.11 – I’d like to have some direction locked by Monday.

Unfortunately, we did not meet one goal we’d hoped to – better in high-ranked games, and not as stompy in low-ranked ones. This is still occurring, which means Yi is in beast mode for a vast majority of players.

Will you remove the reset mechanic on his ultimate in favor of balance?

Morello: We don’t need to nerf Yi flat-out, but it’s likely he needs more serious tuning to make it so he doesn’t tear through people who can’t deal with him, then allowing us to buff things that might be needed for stronger competitive play.

Master Yi was recently reworked and it seems he is over-powered in low-ranked games and under-powered in high-ranked games. Their public beta server is not accepting new applications at this time (and hasn’t for months), so how well was the re-worked Master Yi tested? If there are champions being re-worked consistently, why doesn’t the public beta server stay open so players can properly test these champions before they are released? For Master Yi to be over-powered in low-ranked games, it implies not enough low level players (making new player mistakes), played him before he was released.

Time to grow up?

If League of Legends is considered an eSport, isn’t it time to implement policies so the company can properly scale? Being able to, for example, employ the right people for the new positions they will need to keep company operations smooth, is important if they want to continue to be successful. Riot has the challenge of making a game that high-ranked players can play for eSports and an enjoyable game for casual players who might embrace the game and try to climb the ladder to ensure a fresh rotation of ranking players. It is, by no means, an easy task. Having qualified employees who can rise to upcoming challenges, meet and anticipate deadlines, etc. is very important to keep things running smoothly.

The delays are problems that need to be resolved. Often companies see these signs, do not resolve them, and they snowball. Riot is a relatively young company and this growth spurt they are experiencing can snowball to the point they have a hard time keeping up.

According to USA Today, Riot has ~1000 employees. When a company grows quickly to a size Riot is seeing today, there is often a large amount of inefficiency that was in place when the company was smaller. While they have investors and advisers (and ~1000 employees), they still have delays and have a hard time finding quality employees as they admitted in the explanation as to why they are having issues releasing champions. Zynga had similar growth issues and look how that turned out.

Back to Lucian

While I am excited to play Lucian, I understand why Riot is taking their time releasing him. I hope they properly test him so the community will have a new champion that is balanced and they can learn to play and work into their teams without fear of having to re-learn him because he was not properly tested. The community is excited to test him. Yes, operating a public server that could handle the loads of people that would play on it is challenging but, with 1000 employees, a well-funded company should be able to do it, especially since the traffic will die down once the initial excitement of it being open wears off.

I hope Riot has much success but maintaining success is much harder than many people realize.