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.

Checking in on League of Legends

League of Legends is probably my most played game of all time. If it isn’t, it’s a close second to EverQuest 2, but I imagine that I have spent more time playing LoL due to the fact that I started playing the game way back in 2011, and only took a couple of breaks here and there for short amounts of time outside of my most recent break from the game. Whereas with EQ2, my only regular play time was from about 2006-2008, and then it was very sporadic and for only a couple of months at a time. My most recent trek back to Norrath was through the end of last year into early this year and only lasted for that short amount of time. With LoL I played nearly every day for years, and then when I didn’t play for like a month I’d be sucked back in by some new champion or event.

If you take a look at my match history, you’ll see that the last game I had played was in August of 2016, until the other day when I played, a full two years and a couple of months later. I honestly don’t know where that time went, outside of the fact that I know what changes occurred in my life around that time. I met my girlfriend earlier in 2016, but we were officially “an item” by August, and from then on I spent less time gaming and more time with her. That’s not to say that gaming has fallen by the wayside, as clearly I have been plugging away at my backlog along with trying new things since then. It’s just at that point I sort of put LoL on the back burner after having played pretty seriously for years prior. And somehow or another, despite thinking about firing it up on multiple occasions, it took me til now to actual do so. But hey, my backlog thanks me for the break, I suppose.

Boy, things have changed. They redesigned the launcher at some point, and apparently I did log in sometime in 2017, as my launcher was already updated there were just the normal game patches to get through. I also earned a few icons that were applied to my account last year so I know I had to have logged in, but I didn’t play as my match history has shown. Now you can see your “collection” of champions, skins, icons, ward skins and more in a handy interface that is less convoluted than it was before. It’s also neat to learn how you earned said skins/icons and when that occurred, something that was missing from the prior version of the launcher. There’s now a season pass sort of option as well, something that we’ve seen in games like SMITE and other lobby games where you pay an upfront fee to access new cosmetic items and participate in a limited-time event. Speaking of limited events, there are also still those good ol’ rotating game modes, but the most recent that I participated in was a 5 player co-op map where you kill a bunch of NPC enemies and that was interesting! I’ve never played co-op in LoL before, and in this instance I feel like you could make a skill based isometric RPG/MMO in this vein and it would be a ton of fun! But that’s a thought for another day.

Another big change is how runes and masteries work. This was a big thing for me, I spent a lot of time trying to dial in rune and mastery pages for the champions I played regularly, and I also gave general advice for building these pages here on the blog. It seems now that runes and masteries are gone as we knew them, instead of being separate pages they are now consolidated into one. This also means that there are a ton of build paths, but you basically pick a major tree, which gives you a four sets of three choices to make, and then a secondary tree that you can pick two passives from. As such, I have made a few builds to test out, each representing the different types of characters you’ll play in the game. It appears that I did not get my tank build uploaded and I’m not at home so I’ll have to add that in later, but above you’ll see ADC, Assassin, Mage and Support builds. I know I built a tank page as well but I guess it’s not all that important. These are first draft builds, so your mileage may vary.

So far I’ve played a few nights now, but I’ve only played ARAM and the co-op mode because I felt like I would be super rusty. It turns out it is a bit like riding a bike, I still have the muscle memory to handle the controls and thus far I’ve performed okay, but as you know in ARAM you get a random character, so some I’ve done better with than others. There are probably a dozen new champions that were added to the game since I last played, along with several re-worked characters, though I am familiar with most of them due to watching pro esports despite not actually playing myself. I’m actually rather pleased with the experience and intend to play more in the coming weeks. I have another post in the works discussing my backlog and play time, and I’ll cover more of why I have time to play LoL again during that time.