PC gaming supergiant Valve has been teasing out ever-more exciting details about Dota 2 Reborn, a comprehensive overhaul of its MOBA. Snazzy features like a new client, new custom game modes, even a whole new engine for the game thrilled Dota 2 players. They’ve also left another group of people very, very unhappy.
Watching all of their rival’s big news unfold over the past few days, League of Legends fans have turned to developer Riot Games and said: Hey, how come they get to have all the cool stuff? Or, as plenty of posts on the popular Dota 2 subreddit have shown, they’ve simply crossed over the MOBA border:
A makeover of a popular game like Dota 2 is more than enough to pique many gamers’ interest. So why all the references to League of Legends in particular? There aren’t that many MOBAs out there, and League and Dota 2 are the two biggest ones—that’s certainly part of it. But the reason some gamers are treating Dota 2 Reborn like a mass exodus from League specifically is because all the fancy new stuff Valve is announcing has struck a long-dormant nerve with the game’s community.
Since League of Legends launched back in 2009, the game has grown astronomically—both in the size of its player base, and in the sheer amount of stuff (playable characters, in-game items, etc.) that’s in the game itself. Riot has taken a piecemeal approach to updating and fine-tuning its game throughout the past six years in turn: adjusting the stats and abilities of characters, releasing new batches of character models and animations bit by bit.
The problem is, these changes occur at such a granular level and incremental rate that certain aspects of the game have begun to seem woefully archaic. I mean, it was only last year that Riot completed a makeover of Summoner’s Rift, the most popular map in League of Legends. Summoner’s Rift is definitely the most important map in the game, but still: it’s just one map. Almost exactly a year after the Rift update, Riot finally began talking about updating League’s in-game HUD. Lord knows when they’re going to brush up the game’s client again.
At the same time, Riot is still producing new characters for League of Legends at a regular rate (albeit a much slower one than 2 or 3 years ago), and releasing lots of other premium content like character skins as well.
The game’s community has been questioning Riot’s priorities for a while now because of this apparent dichotomy—asking why the developer is dragging its feet for basic quality-of-life changes when it seems more than able to pump out new content at a rapid clip. I noticed one small example of this sentiment on the League of Legends forums shortly after Riot released the new champion Ekko. A player argued that the developer should take a break and focus on patching up other areas of the game instead:
Seeing Dota 2 drop a number of game-changing improvements all at once, then, has left loyal League players feeling like Riot is “sitting on their hands,” to quote Reddit’s thomjrob.
Citing another popular post from the League of Legends subreddit that was later removed, thomjrob got to the core of these League fans’ concerns: they’re worried that “Riot isn’t doing anything with their manpower at all and DOTA2 is streaking ahead to become best MOBA.” He went on to spell out many popular player demands that haven’t been met by Riot:
Off the top of my head, here’s a bunch of things they’ve spoken about that have just flown off the radar and met with radio silence or “we’re working on it, TBA soontm”:
-Replays <- on PBE forever, apparently no network capacity to implement properly?
-Various champion reworks
-Death recap rework
-Client update - this is the big one, because we get dribs and drabs and it feels frustrating to get, say, the Match History update alongside “this is just the first step towards a new client!” and then n o t h i n g.
I remember when players were finally able to save mastery pages server-side, so we wouldn’t have to rebuild our masteries every time we used a new computer. Riot was super open about it - something like, “Yeah, we want it, it’s being engineered, requires a bit of tuning to our servers, but it should be up properly in 3 months or so.” And it was. Nowadays, it’s just radio silence. Feels like they have nothing to talk about, because they won’t talk about it. Riot just reveals and pushes to PBE. It feels like a slap in the face when most of that content is just skins.
Criticisms like this sound more like pleas to Riot to improve League of Legends, rather than any sort of “fuck it, I’m going to Dota 2” type message. And that’s the point: regardless of how sincere many League players are in their frustrations with the game and Riot, or even their threats to leave the game behind, will Dota 2 Reborn actually trigger some mass exodus from one of the biggest games in the world?
The satirical eSports site called League players’ bluff today in an article titled “New Dota 2 Players Quickly Switch Back To LoL.” The article plays on the popular conception that Dota 2 is a more complex and difficult game than League...difficult enough that disaffected League players will come crawling back soon enough:
After two threads and nearly ten thousand comments about the new Dota 2 “Reborn” updates, League of Legends players appeared to be deserting en masse for Valve’s moba which they believed received more frequent and better developer support.
However, 80% of converts never made it past their first few games, turning back immediately because of the confusing and complex range shifts of the Blink Dagger item. Studies have shown that the overwhelming majority of Blink Daggers purchased were discarded with their last 20% entirely unused.
If Riot only bases its development decisions for League of Legends on the number of people coming into the game or leaving it, then the recent blowback from fans might end up being nothing more than a bunch of empty threats. But that would be a real shame, because many of the self-identified defectors and critics make great points about how League can and should be improved.