One of the things I decided to write about a bit this year in addition to analyzing the games I work on and make, I am going to analyze various games that I have played or currently play or that I enjoy watching played. The first game that I would like to review is League of Legends.
How I Know the Game
My first introduction to games like LOL was when a college friend of one of my brothers stayed with us for a couple weeks and had a copy of Warcraft III with the DOTA mod. It was one of the coolest things I had ever seen at that point and I really enjoyed it. Later I think I was searching for a way to play online against other people and stumbled across League. I have played off and on ever since.
I am by no means an overly skilled player, mostly because I do not devote very much time to playing. But I enjoy playing and I enjoy watching, especially at the tournament level.
The game is not perfect, no game is, but it is fun and has a world wide player base and has championship games every so often that thousands of people from around the world watch. One of my long term goals in game design is to make a game that has this kind of player base and community involvement.
On to Analysis
Even a super popular game like League of Legends has the 10 things every game needs. It was extremely easy to pick these things out as well. League has multiple actual game modes but most fall under the same analysis. This look will be at the primary 5 vs 5 mode on the main “Summoner’s Rift” map. I may analyze this game again from a different view point entirely in the future, but for now even a simple analysis of these 10 things is over 1000 words.
The goal of the game is extremely simple. Destroy the enemy “Nexus” (the big structure at the heart of the enemy team’s base). There are subgoals that you have to achieve to get there, but that is the only way to win the game (besides the other team surrendering).
LOL is a complex video game with tons of rules riding beneath the surface, but here are a few of them.
- You cannot destroy the enemy nexus until at least 1 lane of towers and its “Inhibitor” and the nexus protective turrets are destroyed
- You get gold for doing the last bit of damage that kills an enemy
- If your characters health drops to 0, you will be unable to play for a certain amount of time and will respawn back at your base
- You can buy items at the store that improve your stats
Several gigabytes of code go into making the rules of this came in how it looks and how it behaves.
The game has some built in things to encourage interaction amongst the players. The first is the reward for killing an opponent. When you defeat an opposing player, you get a reward of gold which you can use to buy items to make your character stronger and you get a reward of experience that takes your character closer to leveling up and getting stronger.
In addition, killing an opponent puts them back at their base and takes them out of the game for the length of the death timer. This allows you to try to get towards the goal of the game (destroying the “Nexus”) without them interfering with your character.
LOL does a fair job of avoiding lame duck game scenarios that we talked about last time by including a couple different catchup features. First, players who are at a lower level get a small experience bonus to allow them to catchup. Second, when a player is doing really well and getting a lot of kills they get a bounty on them, so that when they are killed the opposing player gets a large gold bonus for killing them.
The game designers undoubtedly have a few other catchup features but these are 2 of the main ones that I am aware of. There is also a couple mini objectives on the map that offer power ups to allow a weaker player to gain strength if they put in a little risk.
There are a few inertial forces in LOL. Two of them are the mini objective catchup features I just mentioned. The Dragon and Baron offer power ups that the winning team can get to give them even more of a lead to overpower the other team.
The most powerful inertia force is the death timers. As the game progresses, the death timers get longer. Near the end of the game, the team that is doing well and consistently killing the opposing teams characters can get a minute or more without the opponents on the map. This allows them to push their lead even further and often win the game.
Fog of war is the mechanic of choice in LOL for surprise. You can only see areas of the map that friendly characters, minions, or wards are at. This means that opponents could be anywhere. You don’t know when the enemy might appear out of the jungle and attack. It allows you to sneak around unaware opponents and attack from multiple sides.
Even in areas that you can see, there is a terrain feature of bushes or tall grass that allows a character to be invisible unless an opponent, enemy minion, or ward is in the same section of bushes with them.
In addition, some characters have stealth capabilities that allow them to go completely invisible unless they are near something or someone that has a special stealth detection ability.
The strategy is on several levels in this game. It starts before you actually start playing. Their is a meta game that determines whether your matchup will be easier or hard based on which characters your opponents choose.
When you are actually in the game, where you go, who kills certain minions and monsters, what items you buy, when you choose to use certain abilities and in what order are all large strategic choices. I would recommend watching some tournament play of this game to grasp the amount of strategy involved.
What is fun about this game? This is the major question I need to figure out how to answer and probably the main usefulness (at least to me) of doing these kinds of analysis.
Their are several things that I enjoy about the game personally. Teamwork is a big one. Being able to join 4 other random people and work towards a common goal together is awesome (one of the same reasons I like pickup basketball).
Another is being able to outsmart opponents. Figuring out what an opponent wants to do and stopping them, or turing around an ambush to our advantage.
Mastery is the final element of fun I want to talk about. Being able to learn and figure out different play styles that ultimately lead to victory is fun.
League went so far as to create their own universe (Runeterra) for flavor. It has tons of lore and story and character background and different races and nations and technology and magic. They have a large portion of the game’s website dedicated to lore.
One of the major hooks of LOL is that it is free to play. And it is completely free to play. All the actual stuff that matters in gameplay (characters, bonuses, stat increases) are available through gameplay.
It also has a huge community that enjoys creating derivative drawings, paintings, music, cosplay and tons of other things on top of enjoying playing the game.
League of Legends has all 10 of the things every game needs, and it does them all pretty well. I hope that you will use some of the examples from this game and others to improve your own games. Learn to learn from the games that you enjoy.
Go do some analysis on the games you play.