Wednesday, May 22, 2013

League of Legends and Gaming Theory... Unite!

"Captain Teemo on duty!!!"
   Every time I start to make a post on this blog I think  "What game should I discuss? What is something I want to write about?" and I give myself the same answer every time, League of Legends. Yet I always decide that I should avoid it because Half-Real doesn't apply to League (<---Very wrong), but after essentially looking for any excuse to geek over League and flipping through the book again I realized it could have actually been the ideal example to so many parts of the book, and a near perfect example in many cases. It was as if Teemo had Q'd me with his Blinding Shot and I could not see how this book had anything to do with a no narrative unconventional game like League of Legends

Typical League gameplay near the blue nexus.
    League of Legends is a part of a insanely fast growing sub-genre of Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games called Multiplayer Online Battle Arena or MOBA's and is currently the most played video game in the world. The basics of League can be summarized by using Juul's three rules for defining gameplay which consist of:
  1.  The rules of the game
  2. The player(s)' pursuit of the goal. The player seeks strategies that work due to the emergent properties of the game.
  3. The player's competence and repertoire of strategies and playing methods.
    LoL's rules in their simplest state are that you must defend your nexus, while also trying to destroy the enemies' nexus that stands on the opposite side of the map.
LoL map showing blue and purple nexus locations.
There are many rules governing how you can and can not achieve this goal but the means in which you can accomplish the objective are nearly infinite. This leads to the second point as having a lot of options to pursue in trying to accomplish the goal means that no one option is the best and keeps players seeking out that strategy that usually works. This could include teamwork or being a one man wolf pack, whichever the player decides to do. Lastly we have the the player skill level which is a massive part of LoL as it was created with the intentions of being a competition based game with a focus on Esports.

    Anyone who read Half-Real knows that there are few things more fun than definitions and rules, and as much as I would love to spend a couple thousand words on them I am no Jesper Juul. With LoL gameplay at least vaguely defined I have some key points as to why League fits into this book so well, even perfectly in many cases. Juul states in chapter three that when players search for that effective strategy in multiplayer games you will usually see a common theme of teamwork even though teamwork is not necessary as stated by the games' rules. The reoccurring  pattern of teamwork and successful strategies are casually referred to as the "meta" in LoL. The meta is the base to whatever style of play is currently considered the most effective strategy to win the game and almost always places a heavy emphasis on teamwork just as Juul suggested multiplayer games with teammates.
Teamwork is the only way to accomplish certain objectives
 in LoL such as slaying the Baron Nashor.
   Later in the chapter Juul discusses what makes quality gameplay and concludes that it is being able to make a series of interesting choices and defines them as:
  1. No single option should be the best.
  2. The options should not be equally good.
  3. The player must be able to make an informed choice.
League could not possibly fit this better. The constant shifting of the current meta-game demonstrates how no option is best for any reasonable amount of time and that some options will be better than others at any given time.
Playing the game and understanding when to choose one method of play over another revolves around knowing the game thoroughly. With how well League fits these three points it should be considered a definitive example of "quality gameplay". Gameplay is a large part of enjoyment according to the book but still relies on many other factors that League is a prime example of. One such factor is improvement and challenge. This is where many games usually fall flat for me by being too easy once I have reached a set skill level. League combats this with an ELO matchmaking system which essentially rates your skill and as you improve you will begin playing better players. This avoids any one person being so skilled that they game does not provide enough challenge to be fun. 
   While these are some of the more dominate themes of the book that LoL represents there were also many smaller ideas present in League that were mentioned in the book such as choke points, the game world, and the presence of time.
The three lanes of League.
Choke points are map locations where team combat is likely to occur, such as the middle of the lanes in LoL. The game world is only ever shown in the form of one map, yet there is tons of lore in the form of text describing an entire universe that is never actually seen. A timer is present and plays a large role in keeping track of spawning, when to make a certain move, and keeping track of performance yet there is no in-game sense of time such as night. 
 




It is hard to think that my first time venturing through Half-Real I kept telling myself that none of this applied to League and how unfortunate it was that I could not tie in my mild League addiction with my gaming theory class, but a few weeks later and it finally hit me about just how off I was.
SuperCow7 just laid down a wicked sick penta-kill on the
other team. You should probably add him on League.
Just because LoL does not have a narrative or typical gameplay does not mean that it abides by different rules and definitions. Juul really did write a book covering every type of game in some manner or another leaving no exception. It is a book that I will not easily forget since the content pertains to something I love and is part of my every day routine. I can't engage in a team fight as Fiddle without thinking about how the rules leave me the option to not help my team, yet I always find myself diving into combat due to an unspoken set of rules that give me a better chance of winning if I do work as a team. Rules, gotta love 'em.


- SuperCow7

2 comments:

  1. I got some nice and cool pictures of cosplay from elohell it is good site to know more about Cassiopeia AP build champion League of legends.

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  2. Hi Trey,

    Nice blog, im playing league of legends from past 1month most of the time i play with Fiddlesticks, i think he is one of the best support champions in lol i won many game with fiddlesticks, this champion can be played by noob or pro you dnt need to research on his gameplay its simply & that make him a better supporter

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