League of Legends Ports and Other Riot Games

I can’t recall the actual day, but recently Riot Games had a 10th anniversary livestream featuring League of Legends and other stuff. First of all, what an accomplishment to keep LoL going for ten years and building the Esports community up around it. Professional play has gone from some nerds in back rooms of warehouses to huge arena-filling events with famous live performers and a quality of production rivaling ESPN and other mainstream outlets — all of this on what I’m sure is less income and all done over the Internet eschewing traditional TV outlets. I started playing LoL back in 2011 which was around the end of season 1 heading into season 2. I’ve seen the majority of the champions release, I’ve seen a ton of events and in-game happenings along with changes to the game, its launcher, the main maps/modes, and Riot itself. I’ve watched the World Championship nearly every year since I first heard about it. I’ve watched regular season games of each of the major regions, even participating in their Fantasy League (like Fantasy Football) for a couple of seasons. I’ve collected vinyl figures, owned T-shirts, and have a rather large poster hanging on my wall. You could say League became a major part of my life, despite the fact that I haven’t really played very regularly in the past couple of years. Still, when I heard the news coming out of this live stream, I knew I had to talk about it. To be fair, there’s even more that was announced that I’m not going to touch on, but IGN has a great article encapsulating all of the news.

What excited me the most out of all that was said during the live stream was that League of Legends will be ported to consoles and mobile. Called “Wild Rift,” this version of League is not a direct port, it’s the same game rebuilt from the ground up for these other devices. I’m not a huge fan of complex games on mobile phones because usually the screen isn’t big enough and touch controls can be pretty wonky… but on console, I’ll play the shit out of this. It’s not so much that I dislike the game on PC, no, I’d rather play it there. But I have friends who don’t own PCs and probably never will, along with having never played LoL before and I’d love to introduce it to them. Also, the potential for a nice long trophy list makes the trophy whore in me lick his lips. I did play a different MOBA on PS4 recently and it had some fairly intuitive controls, so I assume if they are anything like that, this version of the game will be very enjoyable even with a controller in lieu of keyboard/mouse.

Teamfight Tactics, which I wrote about when I first tried it (and I’m still not into this auto-battler genre) is getting ported to mobile now as well. This makes sense since their main competitor DOTA Underlords is also both on PC and mobile. I assume this would probably be more fun on a mobile device since you can be doing other things while playing it. I get bored too fast with this type of game so this news wasn’t particularly interesting to me.

Legends of Runeterra is new. It’s not an existing game getting ported to other devices. It’s free-to-play. It’s a card game. That’s really all I know. The above trailer will give more detail than I can. What I do know is that I do enjoy card games. I just haven’t really found a digital one that I can play for a long term. I did play Hearthstone for quite a while, but then it got stupid (as Blizzard games tend to do). I can’t get into any of the Magic: The Gathering digital versions because I simply like playing the paper version so much more. This is a world/lore that I enjoy, and depending on what they do to make this stand out from the competition, this could finally be the card game I play when I need a fix.

Project A, as it’s being call at this juncture, is Riot’s attempt at a tactical FPS, but also looks to be a hero shooter. So think games like Paladins or Overwatch. I’m intrigued by this one, mainly because it’s such a far cry from a MOBA and this company has only been known for one game for so long. A card game based on the world is great and all, but I’m a FPS player through and through, so this is very appealing. My hope is that they do something different enough to make this feel better than existing games on the market. Graphically it looks okay, but I think that will get bumped up a notch when it gets closer to release. Gameplay looks fine, but I want some heroes with crazy abilities and I want tight gunplay. I’d also like to see some objectives and things that are different from what’s out there, but time will tell. Keeping an eye on this one.

Project L was announced as a fighting game. If this is 2-D hand drawn and plays like a Street Fighter title, I’m all in. If we’re looking at more of a Tekken style fighter, I’m less excited. We’ll have to wait for more details but I love me a good fighting game and Riot has already developed so many cool characters I’d love to fight as them. It’s unknown if that’s what’s happening or if all of the characters would be original. Also keeping an eye on this one.

Lastly, stuff that isn’t game related. A documentary about LoL called “League of Legends: Origins” was released on Netflix the other day and I watched it. It was a really good look into the origin of the company via Ryze and Tryndamere, along with the rise of the game itself and Esports. Basically all stuff that I lived through, but fun to see it in a different context. If you haven’t paid attention to LoL or Esports, or just don’t “get it,” I’d recommend giving this a watch. Also, an animated series called “Arcane” is being developed and looks to deal with stories about LoL characters. You can watch the trailer above, it looks really cool and I’ll definitely watch it when the time comes.

That’s all I’m going to touch on today, but some exciting stuff coming down the pipeline. There were a few other tidbits in the article I linked at the beginning of this post, so if you haven’t had your fill you can read more there. What do you guys think about Riot Games finally branching out?

Thoughts on Genesis

Periodically I check out the free section of the Playstation Network just to see if anything catches my eye. I like trying new games for free, even if the free to play model isn’t the best way to go about doing things. It’s been a long while since I played a new MOBA, seeing as how Survival Sandboxes and Battle Royales took over that flavor of the month slot for a few years. I guess Auto Chess is a thing now, but it’s awful and that’s all I have to say. Enter Rampage Games and their new title, Genesis.

As MOBAs go, this one seems to fit the standard build. From the main menu you’ll have various sub-menus with stats about characters and weapons and things, along with leaderboards, a storefront with virtual currency and skins along with chat and mail systems. This is all pretty standard faire, and though its not revolutionary, it is pretty slick and intuitive.

Contrary to most MOBAs, there is a story of sorts. I know that League of Legends used to do various text-based story updates for a while, but I never really paid attention. Their cinematic videos were more well received but didn’t tell a story as much as they looked pretty. In the case of Genesis, it is said that our universe was basically expanding beyond the point of no return, a tear in space/time happens and probes are sent through. A whole new galaxy exists on the other side, so the best warriors of our universe are sent over to explore. From there, alien life forms are encountered and it doesn’t really explain how we get to a MOBA setup, but let’s be honest — story doesn’t really matter in this style of game.

What does matter is the gameplay, and as far as that goes, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from the genre. Like, the map isn’t exactly the same as in a game such as League of Legends or DOTA 2, but the general concept is the same. There are three lanes. There are neutral jungle creep camps. There are towers. One thing that’s a bit different is that there are specific places on the map where you can place wards (called “observers” here) and you can’t buy them from the store. Another twist is a variety of buffs that hang out on the battlefield such as healing packs, defensive shards and others. Otherwise we’re looking at staple concepts from the genre.

Another feature that LoL may not have but I have seen in other MOBAs, is the ability to purchase items for your character while still out on the map. Other games did it in a way that a critter would run off to buy and bring you back your items, in this case you can just straight up buy items while away from the home base. I don’t mind this, though it can lead to some unfair power spikes during a fight, but I guess the same thing goes for leveling up mid fight and getting a new ability, which I’ve seen happen many times in other games. The game defaults to automatically give you reminders when you have enough gold to buy something and a simple press on the d-pad will buy the item. I spent my time with the first few sessions focusing on the gameplay pros and cons rather than trying to learn new item builds. The game will automatically recommend items to you which is nice, especially being new to the genre. Skills are automatically leveled up as well by default, but these features can be turned off. Personally I’d recommend using the help until you have a better feel for the game. It can be a little wonky if you’re a PC MOBA player and now have to adjust to a controller. One stick controls movement, the other controls skill shots. Skills are used with various button presses, but it definitely feels different than other games I’ve played. Same difference?

Overall I think it’s a pretty fun title. I enjoyed myself for what little time I played. If nothing else it’s free (I do believe it is on PC as well) so you lose nothing by trying it out. Craving a new MOBA experience? This could be the one for you.

Thoughts on Battlerite Royale

The ever growing genre of Battle Royale games has seen quite a few entries in recent years, now overtaking the Survival Sandbox genre that came before it, and the wave of MOBAs before that. Starting with H1Z1 and culminating in popularity with Fortnite, the genre has no signs of slowing down as many studios are throwing their hats into the ring. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds was the game that saw the most success early on and was later eclipsed by Fortnite, who tacked on a BR mode to their survival game and hooked anyone with a pulse that’s under 18. Soon, other companies with established IPs have begun to try and jump on the bandwagon, but after playing a few of the first BR games, it was clear something would have to be done to change up the formula a bit. H1Z1 and PUBG are more straight forward shooters, while Fortnite has a cheesy building mechanic. Others that have come along like Realm Royale, attempted to change things up with classes and abilities that are picked up in chests on the battlefield rather than just weapons and I found this to be a suitable idea. They later scrapped the classes idea though, and I lost interest afterwards.

Enter Stunlock Studios and their foray in the BR world. These developers have been around for a while, creating a MOBA called Bloodline Champions back in the early 2010’s that fell a bit short on popularity but was an interesting enough concept. Instead of traditional lanes and towers with a base to destroy, they focused on purposely designed characters in a more arena style brawler. Skill shots and WASD movement powered the combat, and it was a good time but lacked a macro game. Later, the company essentially redesigned their game and called in Battlerite, a game that I picked up and played but apparently only wrote about once. I said then that the lack of a macro game would probably hurt the game’s longevity, and though I played it through Early Access and a time or two after release, I never really could get that into it. I enjoyed the character design and the combat was lovely but unless you dedicated serious amounts of time to it you weren’t going to progress far.

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Anyway, the company had been talking about adding a BR mode to the game, but then decided to create a spin-off title instead, calling it Battlerite Royale. I’ve known of the game’s existence for some time, but it was not free to play. The original Battlerite wasn’t either, you had to pay to get into the Early Access period but did release as a free to play title after version 1.0. I assume this game will follow the same pattern. I was interested but didn’t want to spend the money on it. However, this past weekend the game was free to play on Steam so I took the opportunity to check it out.

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As this genre grows it’s become clear that these types of games are made free to play so that they can monetize cosmetics and other account features that don’t really affect the gameplay but give people something to work towards. Battlerite Royale is no exception, but it seems that it is fairly monetized at this point. The various currencies are earned at a decent clip, with diamonds being the premium currency that essentially speeds up your purchasing power. Each round you play will net you some gold, which can be used to buy chests. Chests then contain outfits, mounts, poses and weapons for in-game use, along with avatars for your account. You’ll also earn chests as you level your account and the individual characters. I’ve earned a bunch of cosmetics by just playing the game, so I don’t feel like there is a need to buy diamonds but I’m sure there are people out there who would.

The gameplay is similar to that of Battlerite, in that there are some of the same characters along with the same sort of WASD movement and skill shots. I rather enjoy the control scheme, with abilities tacked onto both mouse buttons, Q, E, R, F and the space bar. This is similar to how I set up my hotkeys in League of Legends so it feels perfect. What’s different here is that you start with a set amount of gold and pop into a lobby. Here you can buy a couple of your abilities at their lowest rarity (green). Each ability can be leveled up to Legendary, a full three tiers higher than when you start. You’ll find your abilities throughout the world in orbs that have to be smashed to reveal their contents, along withe being able to buy the Legendary upgrades at vendors that are scattered around the map. It takes a bit to get your full loadout and then proceed to level up the skills. On top of this there are four items slots you can use, and these items will give you passive buffs, and each can be upgraded through the same four tiers. Lastly, there are consumables like health potions and traps that can be picked up and used in your battles. Games start as you expect, with a drop in method from a flying dragon, and you’ll use your mount to speed around the island, either avoiding others or fighting to the death, all the while trying to avoid the poison cloud that shrinks as time goes on. I’ve almost instantly died and have had my best finish at #3. I believe there are 40 players per round, so not as much as other BR games but there feels like more depth here as well. There are also daily quests and achievements that will get you more currency/chests that will keep you coming back for more.

I ended up enjoying the game so much that I picked it up. It was on sale for $13.99 and I already had some money on my account so I figured why not. I’ve been playing it daily and have moved up to the Silver league and feel like I’ll be playing it for a while to come. I’d recommend it if you like BR games or MOBAs as you’ll probably enjoy it too.

Thoughts on Worlds 2018

I’ve been following the League of Legends pro scene almost as long as I’ve been playing the game. I didn’t get in right when the game released though, my first game was played in 2011, and I didn’t start watching the pros play until 2012. Esports weren’t really a thing here in America yet; definitely not at the level of production that they are now. Being from the US myself, I’ve primarily kept up with the teams from the NALCS and have watched plenty of games throughout Spring and Summer splits that took place on our home turf. I do occassionally watch games from other regions as well, but my focus has always been on my region first, followed by international tournaments. Worlds has been something I’ve looked forward to for years, but always with baited breath. You see, there has only been one champion crowned in the west, and by west I mean NA and EU. Fnatic were the Season 1 champions, but Koreans weren’t even playing the game at that point (unless playing on western servers, with terrible ping). As such, the west has little credit when it comes to being “the best in the world.”

NA and EU have always had some standout performances at Worlds but outside of that first season they haven’t really gone too far. From my recollection, NA hasn’t made it past the group stage in all of the years I’ve been watching, and I don’t think EU has gone past the Quarterfinals — definitely not the Semis. Inevitably the top seed in NA would dominate their competition locally, but when they were at international tournaments they would fizzle out and simply look not good enough. Some EU teams looked a bit better but then still failed to come through. After season one, we’ve have Korean teams with five world championships, Taiwan came away with one, and now China has finally claimed their first crown.

But that’s not the whole story. What’s funny here is that there were Korean teams in the Quarterfinals. There were also two Chinese teams, two European and the lone North American representative in Cloud 9. The top seed from NA wasn’t even present, and many of us thought Team Liquid was the real deal after winning back-to-back splits at home. Admittedly I didn’t really watch the group stages. With the event being held in Asian countries, all of the matches occurred while I was asleep, but I managed to start catching up on the following day once we got to the playoffs. The first Korean team was knocked off by Invictus Gaming, while the European team G2 Esports took care of China’s RNG. Fnatic eliminated the other Chinese team, Edward Gaming. Most surprising was seeing Cloud 9 3-0 the last remaining Korean team, Afreeca Freecs. At this point, an NA team had gone further than any at Worlds, and there was a glimmer of hope that perhaps a western team might finally win a championship.

In the Semifinals, we had two matches that no one really saw coming. China’s Invictus Gaming vs. Europe’s G2 Esports, and Fnatic vs Cloud 9. Who would have thought? Seeing Invictus tear through G2 wasn’t much of a surprise to be honest, but I did not expect Cloud 9 to be 3-0’d by Fnatic — I was thinking it would have been a more competitive match up.

We came to the Finals this weekend. At 1 am this morning the tournament began to come to a close. Of course I was sleeping again, but I got caught up this morning and sadly, the western hopes were dashed once again. Invictus convincingly shut down Fnatic, just as they had done to G2 before them, and Fnatic had done to Cloud 9 before that. One the one hand, congrats to China for finally getting your World Championship! On the other hand, it was a bummer to see things end up the way they did. Had Cloud 9 made it to the finals I would have said they proved that NA isn’t a joke anymore, but they fell short. Had Fnatic taken it all, I would have been happier with the result, but less so than an NA crown. At the end of the day though, China takes it home and I’m still happier with this result than another Korean Champion. Time to let the other regions get some of the action.

State of the Game: Fall Update

I thought I would take today to write about some of the other little odds and ends that I’ve been dabbling with since I haven’t done a round-up post in a bit. The new Playstation Plus titles for October were pretty meh compared to the month prior when we got Destiny 2, but not every month can be amazing. There was one of those asymmetrical horror games, Friday the 13th, but I skipped playing that as I had played Dead by Daylight a few months ago and didn’t find it to be a fun experience. There were a couple of other so-so titles that I didn’t have interest in either, and then there was Rocketbirds 2: Evolution.

Rocketbirds 2:

I played the original Rocketbirds back on the PS3 and if I recall correctly, it was also a Plus freebie. I rather enjoyed it, played it to completion and even downloaded the soundtrack because it was pretty damn good. The sequel changes things up ever so slightly, but keeps the same general formula that made the original good. It’s a side-scrolling platforming shooter, similar to games like Metal Slug or Guns, Gore & Cannoli. It has more similarities to the latter though, a comparison I made when writing about GC&C. There’s a sense of humor here that I enjoy, the soundtrack rocks again, and the gameplay is similar though some new tricks were added. Graphically it looks a bit better but still has the same style. Overall it was a worthy addition to my library and I’m glad I finally got to try it out.

Titanfall 2:

A while back I wrote about a handful of games that I had picked up on sale for dirt cheap. Titanfall 2 was one of them. I worried that the game would have a dead multiplayer community but it turns out that it’s still alive and well. This title, unlike its predecessor, has a single player campaign as well, and it’s been a blast.

I always liked the concept of Titanfall, being a FPS game in the same vein as Call of Duty and others, but having that added element of jet packs, wall running and mechs you call down from the sky to pilot. This is still true in the sequel, though having the campaign to play through is an added benefit. Not only do you get to test out different weapons and mech load outs, it gets you re-familiarized with the controls (and since I played the first on PC, there was a small learning curve moving over to the console) before diving into multiplayer matches (of which I have done as well). I’ve put a handful of hours into it so far, and I look forward to seeing the conclusion of the story.

League of Legends:

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have been dabbling with League of Legends again. It’s been a fun experience, and though I felt rusty the first couple of matches I played, I am now feeling myself getting back to form. I was never a top tier player, only playing for fun and used to play ARAM and rotating game modes more often than not. When I played ranked I managed to make it into the Silver tier a few times but never any further as I didn’t dedicate that much time to it but imagine I could have made it into at least Gold if I put my mind to it. I still don’t really want to dedicate that time to it, and this season ends next month so perhaps after the reset I’ll try out some ranked again.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to catch up with the changes. Summoner’s Rift is a different place compared to when I last played. The Rune system seems good, but I also don’t like it as much as the old runes/masteries system. I made some generic pages for the different types of champions in the game, but they need to be honed in before I try and play anything more competitive. I’ve made a few purchases with essence (which used to be IP) for some of the champions that released since my hiatus. Of those, I’ve only played Kled, whom I like but was not very good with. Otherwise I’ve played Swain and Graves since their reworks, and they seem fine. Another big change is that they removed the Summoner Level cap, so I’ve rolled over level 30. I’m not sure if hitting a higher level rewards anything, but I’m sure I’ll find out.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!:

Lastly, I’ve played a bit of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! As I mentioned in my last post about it, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start fresh, or try and pick up where I left off. I should also note that I thought I had been playing Jack through that session, but it turns out I was actually playing Wilhelm, who is my highest level character at this point. Jack was only level 3.

I ended up starting fresh with Claptrap, but after playing for a bit I realized that I remembered what had been going on and didn’t feel the need for the refresher. At that point I loaded up Wilhelm and worked through a handful of quests before calling it a night. I plan to add this game to my active rotation and try to clear it out of the backlog!

That’s all for this round-up. I have a new deck idea I want to share sometime over the weekend, so stay tuned for that. Until then, Happy Gaming!