Why League of Legends Is The World’s Greatest Game

leagueIn 2003, I was a very serious WarCraft III player. If I recall correctly, I have over 5,000 one-on-one ladder matches logged on my Battle.net account. I watched replays every day and even did some highly amateurish commentaries myself. It’s interesting to note that some of my first-ever “internet game design articles” were WarCraft III design/strategy analyses for sites like wcreplays.com. Continue reading

My League of Legends Suggestions

9otURYhI don’t usually do things like this(although I did do it once for American football), but I’ve been playing League of Legends for a couple of years now and I have a bunch of thoughts on the game. I myself am far from a good player, but I have watched a decent amount of pro games and commentary and I have friends who are much more serious than myself will will review these suggestions to make sure they aren’t just just silly “noob” ideas before I post!

Here are my “changes that they should make right now”. These are changes which I have a high level of certainty in and which Riot should do immediately. Continue reading

We Should Patch Our Games

I’ve been hearing more and more voices crying out against patching recently, and I wanted to unpack some of what people have said. I think this is one of the many designer-to-player communication issues that crops up in the games conversation, and so here is a designer trying to improve on(“patch”) that aspect, so that hopefully we can have better conversations in the future. Continue reading

Debunking Asymmetry


Note: I consider this article to be out-of-date. I have written a newer article on the subject which much better reflects my updated views. However, I’ve kept this article up, because of the excellent comments section (definitely check that out).

Like anyone else who grew up playing videogames, I have a great romance for “videogame-style asymmetry”.  What I’m referring to with “videogame-style asymmetry” is a quality that games such as StarCraft or Street Fighter have, where you “choose your character” or “choose your race” before the game even begins.

This kind of asymmetry is so beloved for a number of reasons, all of which I understand on a deep level, having experienced and immersed myself in it for my entire life.  However, after years of grappling with it, I’ve disappointingly come to realize that this kind of asymmetry is less than ideal for game design.  I am sad to have come to this conclusion, but I’m comforted by the fact that as always, I’m only talking about guidelines for ideal game design.  So, this doesn’t mean you can never make a game with videogame-style asymmetry, it just means that if you do, you should understand the costs.

I should qualify that this is distinct from “inherent asymmetry”, as is the case in the children’s game of “tag” (where one person is “it” and the other must escape), or even the popular videogame Counter-Strike.  To illustrate, in Counter-Strike, one team is always “the terrorists”, and they have a distinct objective.  The other team is always “the counter-terrorists”, and they always have a different objective than the terrorists.  It’s not as though teams select whether they’d like their team to be Terrorist or Counter-Terrorist and you could end up with a mirror match or something; there are no CS “matchups”.  And CS still has high levels of asymmetry due to the fact that you can choose your guns, which means it might be SMG versus Shotgun (although in practice, most of the time it’s M4 versus AK).

Beyond that, though, There aren’t many popular examples of more “strong” inherent asymmetry.  One that comes to mind is the boardgame 2 de Mayo, a two-player game wherein one player is the French, who have tons of forces pouring in from all directions on the map, and the Spanish, who have limited forces in the middle.  They have asymmetrical amounts of power, but also asymmetrical objectives: the Spanish simply have to survive at all until the last round in order to win.

Red are Spanish, Blue are French.

2 de Mayo: Red are Spanish, Blue are French.  Each have a roughly equal shot at winning due to asymmetrical win conditions.

The difference between “inherent asymmetry” and “videogame asymmetry” (maybe a better, albeit less-catchy term for it might be “componential asymmetry”) is that with inherent asymmetry, you don’t get to “configure the game”.  Sure, you can choose who will be the French/Spanish, or you can choose who will be “It” in tag, but it’s more like choosing who goes first than the process of selecting a character in Street Fighter. Continue reading

Surprises at the PRACTICE 2012: Game Design In Detail Conference

Note: This article was written a few months ago, right after the conference, but kinda got lost in the shuffle.  Anyway, it’s here now!  Enjoy!

This was the second year of the new NYC-based game design conference, run by NYU Game Center staff.  It was also my second year attending.  So, having been there once before, I went in with some kind of idea of what to expect from each of the list of speakers.

For those who don’t know anything about the conference, it’s kind of like a game designer’s dream-conference.  It’s not a game development or game business conference, it’s not a commercial expo – it’s merely a bunch (less than 100) game designers getting together and talking about their practice of game design.  There aren’t a lot of events in the world that focus so narrowly on my field of interest, so it’s something I’ll be attending every year, if I can.

Now, having attended the conference, I think I can pull everything together into a kind of theme of “surprise”, as almost all of the speakers did not quite match my expectations. That might automatically sound negative, but it actually was positive in a couple of cases where I didn’t expect much from the speaker.  For better or for worse, what I expected to hear was often subverted, and that fact in and of itself was probably of value.

Among the speakers were Richard Garfield (Magic: the Gathering), Dan Cook (Triple Town), Christina Norman (League of Legends), Stone Librande (Spore), Kjartan Emilsson (Eve Online), and many more. Continue reading