Late last week, Riot revealed plans to relocate the North American servers for its popular online multiplayer game League of Legends from Portland to Chicago. The plan is to centralize the location of the servers, and thereby reduce lag for the greatest number of players possible. What could be the problem, you ask?
The only issue with the promising lag fix, the issue that’s begun to percolate on the League of Legends internet, involves the game’s burgeoning professional scene. Right now, the majority of professional League of Legends teams are based out of California.
There’s a good reason for this de facto migration of League of Legends eSports: being closer to the game’s servers means that you’ll suffer the least amount of lag—or have the smallest pings, in League-speak. And since high-stakes League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) games that are put on by Riot every year are decided by games played over local area networks (LAN), that means pros will now have to train on a quite possibly laggier version of League than the one they actually play on.
Many American League pros have been sounding off on Twitter over the past few days to express their concerns with Riot’s upcoming move:
As that last tweet from the League player Meteos suggests, many pro players now feel a pressure to consider relocating so they can play and practice the game under the best possible conditions, at least server-wise.
Even though pro League players are the League players most able to move across the country for the game, remember that eSports is still a relatively nascent industry. Most of these players’ careers as actual LCS players last two, maybe three years. Since many pros are also very young, a move could also mean they’d have to uproot their family as well. A the eSports journalist Tyler Erzberger wryly observed on Twitter, the relocation of League’s servers is even more frustrating for pro players because last week Riot also denied them the practice-friendly sandbox mode:
While pro League plays have legitimate grievances, the problem is that they only represent the interests and experience of a tiny, tiny fraction of the game’s actual player base. So while moving to Chicago might slightly inconvenience them, it will only do so for a very utilitarian reason: in order to make the game better for loads more other people. If anything, what’s really nice to see here is that Riot is clearly making a decision for the majority of its normal players, rather than privileging the professional ones the way that many critics (sometimes unfairly) accuse them of doing.
Pro player I Will Dominate had the most measured take on the situation that I’ve seen so far, saying that the real problem isn’t with one group of players getting better or worse lag compared to another group. Really, the problem is the “inconsistency” of League’s servers across geographic distance (emphasis added):
As a player that went pro with 100 ping from Miami I guess i’ll give some insight into why LCS players are upset about the relocation and increase in ping for West Coast Players. As a solo queue player ping doesnt really matter that much. Many solo queue players have went pro with 80-200 ping because once you get used to your ping it is stable and you can start playing around your ping. You can select a champ pool that is easy to play with 80-100 ping as well as learn when you generally have to use your abilities to compensate for the ping itself. The reason that this is such a big deal for professional players is because going from 0 ping at the studio to 10 ping on tournament realm to 90 ping in solo queue makes it extremely hard to adapt to your ping and will show a definite decrease in your performance. The most important thing that you have to remember in regards to latency is that it is stable. You would much rather have 80 ping flat then jump from 45-65 at random. With the live server ping increase LCS players will be forced to adapt to multiple latency numbers at different points throughout the day and throughout the week making it difficult to play at an optimal level. A higher stable ping is not the issue. The issue is the inconsistency of ping across all different playing realms.
IWD’s take is fair and reasonable, but it’s worth noting that many video games—let alone ones as popular as League of Legends—suffer minor connectivity issues when trying to support servers that cover a chunk of earth as large as the United States. Until Riot’s pie-in-the-sky vision for a lag-killing network comes to fruition, tradeoffs like the one Riot just made are going to keep happening.