What are the challenges Riot faces with improving the game?
Tryndamere: Riot has grown from 60 to over 1000 in 4 years and a lot of our staff are not developers – they are publishing staff that work on “publishing” (aka delivering) League of Legends to players around the world.
That is why we have so many regional offices and why we can do cool things like run global tournaments.
Additionally, League of Legends is many orders of magnitude larger than the biggest online game ever – this is not a boast (we really don’t care about size, we care about delivering great experiences) but this DOES add huge complexity and makes every mistake a big deal since it impacts millions upon millions of players.
Additionally, Blizzard has been around for nearly 20 years – Riot built League of Legends in 3 years on a not great tech foundation (very long story) so we’ve had to improve the underlying infrastructure and foundation WHILE the game was growing like crazy. That is hard to do.
The reason we didn’t have a great tech foundation is because LOL was our first game and we had limited capital and the inability to attract the type of great talent we have now. So our capabilities NOW are WAY stronger than ever which is why the game keeps improving across every dimension.
But it’s like building a CITY and then saying, “we need a suburb”. It takes time to transition your millions of people from the city into a suburb and you need to build the suburb and all the roads, power infrastructure, sewers, houses, strip malls, etc – all in parallel while maintaining your city.
These aren’t excuses, it is simple fact and I am explaining the reasons for why things are how they are.
The good news is is that there is an awful lot of light at the end of the tunnel and everything we have been doing for the last year or so and will do in the future will leverage our much better infrastructure (both ops hardware and software tech) to make things easier to maintain and improve over time.
You guys will continue to notice a lot of little improvements – we just won’t go about thumping our chests and talking about how proud we are of those things because they are largely behind the scenes – and the thing that matters most is having a really fun game.
How does Riot assign priority to current projects / community requests?
Tryndamere: We’re laying the foundation now to enable us to do the types of things you are highlighting.
There are always trade-offs between invest up front in the infrastructure to make later changes easier, or deliver cool stuff now, with the implication that it will “cost” more total developer time, but will get out faster.
We do our best to strike the balance – and I’m hopeful that you guys will see a lot of this efficiency investment bear fruit in 2014 and beyond. We’re in this for the long term.
Is Riot still catching up to technology standards to improve LoL’s aging platform?
Tryndamere: The point with highlighting that other stuff is that while we’re working on core engineering adjustments, we are also working on lots of cool things with our other team members (like the jinx video).
Building core technology takes years (literally) before you can even see triangles render on screen, or have a tool that improves another developers work flow.
Blizzard and Valve have very mature tools that they have iterated on for years and they keep updating.
We started without that luxury, so have had to play catch up.
The good news though, is we are indeed catching up, so the lives of our devs will continue to get easier, which means more cool stuff for you guys faster.
Why not hire more people so you can push more features out quicker?
Tryndamere: Because PEOPLE are the key to Riot. And we can’t just go hire 100 engineers in a month or buy companies with a bunch of developers and expect them to magically do a good job.
We need to spend a lot of time “onboarding” Rioters to learn about our culture, who we are and how we work, because most other companies are vastly different and we have to teach people to “unlearn” a lot of the bad habits they bring from other companies.
This is a slower approach, but it is worth it.
Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships. And Riot must continue to be a great team for us to deliver the awesome stuff you guys expect from us.
Is Riot doing enough to help new players?
Tryndamere: We think we do have a lot of opportunity to improve here and have a team spun up to work on this.
We historically have not really focused on the new player experience because we wanted to focus on our core players. We are OK with lots of people bouncing off the game because it’s too hardcore and not for them – if it means that the people who this game IS for will stick around.
We’re reaching a point now though where a little bit of love will go a long way. So you may have noticed things like the range indicators on towers for co-op vs AI, and the new login screens new players see to help with education, etc.
Have you considered weekly hotfixes over monthly patches to address serious issues?
Tryndamere: Yah and it irks me we don’t do this yet.
How would you go about fixing Dominion?
Tryndamere: The real fix would probably be to spin up a small team dedicated to managing Dominion. Focus = results.
The issue there is the trade-offs with other things. If we do that, then what else do we give up?
It’s worth raising though, so I’ll discuss internally. Thx for the reminder.
Why are you not working with the independent developers making you custom clients?
Tryndamere: Just to follow up on this:
We have talked to the author of Wintermint (and other cool client projects) and our first thought is to collaborate and potentially hire these creative, talented and passionate LOL players who want to help us develop great things for our players. These discussions continue.
We are very motivated to continue to improve all aspects of League of Legends to deliver a better experience for you all, which of course, includes the client itself. When you are Riot though, there are lots of additional considerations that need to be managed such as: a) Building a client that works in 15 different languages and in regions around the world (oftentimes that requires different UI’s) b) Balancing the work on the “client of the future” vs. supporting the current development efforts in the old technology as we continue to develop and release new stuff every patch. c) The above bullets are solvable and are things we are actively working on.
Surely you can all appreciate our position which Astralfoxy discusses above: our front-end client is very important to the overall game experience and there is major risk involved for us to enable different 3rd party clients to offer entry points into LOL through these channels. That being said, we are (of course), always excited to help the community develop cool things which is why we released things like our API portal (http://developer.riotgames.com/sign-in) and why our first instinct is to collaborate with these talented authors who want to help.
We appreciate all of your patience as we continue to improve League across every dimension – and while sometimes things take longer than we all want (oftentimes the last 10% takes the longest because “shipping” something to tens of millions of gamers across the entire world is quite complex) please do rest assured that we are never “done” and never satisfied with the way things are. We will always strive to improve and we listen to and appreciate all of your feedback.
Why is it so crucial that changes are gradual, that you don’t scrap the client in one day?
Tryndamere: We chose to do things other than re-build the client from scratch at that point, such as:
Expand internationally (it takes engineers to support us launching in Korea as an example because we need to build custom software to support the PC Bang owners and how they manage their business). We think having a more global LOL community was a good thing for our players since it enables cool international competitions, gives us the numbers to attract sponsors like Coke, Nissan, AMEX, etc – and enables our pros and their teams to build real, viable careers around the game. It’s also simply awesome to expand the community globally as LOL can become a unifying language for people. Walk around Taipei with a Teemo hat and you’ll be stopped on the street and highfived without speaking a word of Mandarin. That is cool.
Focus on the backend platform to enable it to scale. Each shard of LOL supports multiple hundreds of thousands of simultaneous players. That is hard to do and we have a demanding game (matchmaking, chat, etc). It takes a LOT of time to stabilize, optimize and scale something so massive. This is a constant focus and must be and we’re always improving here.
We wanted to build features – things like the Tribunal, spectator mode, and new game modes like ARAM we believed were more important to add to the game at the time than replacing the client.
We are at a different point now though, and are actively working on migrating, per some of the previous posts.
So can we expect a new client soon?
Tryndamere: No new client that you can tell the difference for for season 4.
But, we’re actively stripping out the underlying libraries and components of the front end and replacing them and have been for a while.
Change will be incremental and positive until one day, it’s totally F’ing different in an entirely new tech stack.
Why was Wintermint shut down?
(Long explanation of Wintermint and why it was shut down, from the creator herself.)
Tryndamere: The issue is that we’ve just been too silent on this issue so you guys are having to fill in the gaps with guesses. Well, we can fix that so hopefully some of my posts in this thread are a positive step in that direction.
Why are in-client Replays still not a thing?
Tryndamere: Replays are a great example of why “shipping” something to tens of millions (literally) of players is hard.
From a software standpoint, replays are essentially shippable, which is why it is on the PBE and being refined in a live state. But, the hardware to enable us to operate replays in the super sexy state you guys desire (and that allows us to do REALLY cool things with replay technology in the future) means that we need to deploy special hardware in our many data centers all around the world and do a lot of complex hardware configuration adjustments to make it all work.
The problem is that even though we are hiring the best network operational professionals all around the world as fast as we can, we STILL can’t keep up with the growth of League of Legends around the world from a hardware standpoint – and we prioritize that over shipping a new feature like replays, because we treat things like our EUW service stability as a higher priority than adding a new feature (that while cool, is not mission critical).
We had the fortunate and unfortunate situation of being a no-name company with very limited capital (money) and immature technology build a great game that people really loved. This means we grew extremely rapidly and continue to grow extremely rapidly. This creates a situation where it is very hard to scale both the technology and the organization to keep up with all of the demands of our players across all the different dimensions we need to keep doing a great job at: – Gameplay balance (constant tweaks / season updates) – Features (replays, new client, etc) – eSports around the world with ground up TV show capabilities that we built (because no one else could help us – we can’t really go ask ESPN to cover us since they’re like “wtf is League of Legends?”) – Service stability issues (millions upon millions of simultaneous concurrent players) – Player support issues (millions of tickets) – Player behavior / community engagement funtimes – Security (omg hax) – API / partner support – Additional polish / game improvements (new maps, modes, art, graphical improvements, etc)
Oh yah, and we need to build a company (organization) made up of amazingly passionate, creative people who can collaborate very effectively with each other and who are passionate about delivering all this cool stuff to you guys.
That’s why we try to focus so much on “talent and team” and build a company culture that people WANT to work for and that wins awards (http://www.riotgames.com/articles/20130919/918/riot-scores-3-great-place-work-best-medium-workplaces-list).
This isn’t even to mention our intentional expansion to bring League of Legends to other players around the world where we open new offices that also need to be fully aligned with our mission and culture – which adds even more complexity. Also not to mention how we need to plan for the long term and think about being Riot GameS rather than Riot Game.
We really do try our best to deliver great experiences for you guys all the time – and when we let you down, no one takes it harder than we do, trust me. We know we can be better and we are working on it day and night.
We appreciate you guys bearing with us as we continue to get even better, but hopefully you guys recognize and appreciate that we DO do a lot of things pretty well and really do try to always keep your best interest in mind. When we make mistakes, it is more likely due to an execution failure, rather than through poor motivations.
If you want to hear more about this stuff, peep my blog where I’ve touched on this in the past. http://tryndamere.blogspot.com/
Why are Replays difficult to implement?
RoboLions: Any implementation of replays requires extra resources. Your client is only aware of the information that is exposed to it, nothing in fog of war, off screen health bars, etc. This is so that you cannot use a third party app to get that info and hack it into your game to get an advantage. So to get everything you need for a replay file that information has to either get stored on our servers to be downloaded later or we create another stream with the complete information that has to be piped in on a delay (like LoLReplay).
Each of these solutions requires extra resources and to do it right we’d need both server hardware and added bandwidth. And there would be considerations for any alternative solutions that we haven’t accounted for in our current infrastructure or UI which would take time to develop and troubleshoot.
Are there any jobs spaces available at Riot?
Tryndamere: We’re trying to hire writers – know any, please send em our way.
Why didn’t we get a Winter theme for SR?
Tryndamere: You’ll see why in Q1 of 2014.
Any plans for an MMO universe based on LoL?
Tryndamere: I personally love MMO’s, but they are quite a pain in the ass to build.
We think the LOL IP is quite extensible and do think there will be more games that leverage it, but the fit has to be really strong.
Will Riot sell more physical merchanise this year?
Tryndamere: Yup – we finally have a head of Merch – and can’t wait to unleash the crazy.
Is Riot being greedy with their payment model?
Tryndamere: It’s pretty frustrating when people try to position us as greedy, because look at it from our perspective:
- We build pretty much the first successful free online game in the west that core gamers actually really like and play
- We did this by building a really fun game, constantly investing over and over to grow and improve this game and by NOT selling power of being money hungry. If you compare the price of League of Legends entertainment per hour to every other form of media, we’re the lowest around (we should probably commission a study to explain this), but the easiest examples to think of are: movies, magazines, books, box games, etc. $60 for 10 hours, woo!
- Millions upon millions of our players spend zero dollars on league and enjoy it endlessly. We’re COMPLETELY OK with this. Greedy how? You do not have to spend money, it is completely opt-in.
- We spend tens of millions of dollars building a pro-esports scene to help some of our best players become global superstars who make hundreds of thousands of dollars (or a million like Ocelote:http://www.gamespot.com/articles/league-of-legends-player-makes-close-to-1m-per-year/1100-6415722/)
- We build a TV show that also costs millions and we run ZERO ads on it to deliver a great experience to our players, entirely free
We do all this because Ryze and I are gamers. Always have been, always will be. We play the shit out of League of Legends. When servers go down, we flip out. When we don’t deliver on something we promised, we flip out (Magma chamber where?) and change the world internally. When we overreach on legal language with eSports contracts to prevent competitors from paying our pros to promote their games, we acknowledge the error and change it immediately.
And guess what else? Most game businesses focus on metrics like ARPU (average revenue per user) and try to build their entire companies and organizations around optimizing for driving to a sale (think Zynga). We do the OPPOSITE.
We train our entire company to drive towards ENGAGEMENT. Meaning, MAKE COOL SHIT and deliver VALUE and if people PLAY enough because they love what we do, then they will WANT to spend money. Our focus is entirely different.
So, no offense – but I completely disagree with your greed accusation and yes, it pisses me off because I’ve spent the last 8 years of my life building this company, game and team to deliver great value and to treat players well – and largely because the Rioter to player ratio has changed from like 1:5,000 to 1:50,000, our core message and passion is being diluted.
So, thanks for the additional reminder we need to do better at explaining who we are. But FUCK me if I don’t allow a little emotion to slip in when the takeaway is so utterly wrong for who we are as a company.
How many people are on the skins development team?
Tryndamere: Less than 10% of our devs work on skins. Monetization and content is the least prioritized “initiative” we have actually, it is just a lot higher visibility than a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that we will release over the coming months or that goes to improving our underlying tech, infrastructure, etc.
Why did you decide to sell “Limited Skins” this year?
Tryndamere: That was not a decision that was made lightly and there has been a lot of debate about it.
The reality is though, is that less than 2% of our players were even around at the time to have an opportunity to get those skins – and the ultimate consensus was that it wasn’t very player focused to them to have many of the skins that they wanted the most to never be available.
Thus, we still made rules about how these skins will be handled, plus gave everyone who owned them previously refunds, plus the special icon.
I think we did our best to reach a happy compromise – and if that isn’t enough for you, well I apologize and respect your perspective.
What’s your take on Runes? How do they fit the Free-to-Play model?
Tryndamere: We’re evaluating runes. Not sure where we’ll end up, but that is definitely an area we’re not happy with.
Re: bang for the buck – my point isn’t about skin purchases, those are vanity items. You do not need it, just like you don’t need those sunglasses from Chanel.
To PLAY League of Legends infinitely is entirely free. That is tremendous value.
Is Riot only focusing on LCS?
Tryndamere: We have many leagues going on around the world, so the assumption that we’re only focused on LCS is wrong.
There is the OGN in Korea (a partner we work with rather than doing our own league) There is the Garena league in SEA Tencent has a league, in fact multiple leagues (starting up) in China.
We’re also working on building the Challenger tier and building other leagues in different regions.
We’d love to work with more partners, but the eSports ecosystem is still very immature. Glad that Gamespot is trying to get involved on the journalism side, glad that MLG and IEM exist, etc – but there is no OGN in the west, so we had to build our own.
Did Riot fold to pressure from critics when reworking the LCS contracts?
Tryndamere: And how would you know we wouldn’t have changed anything? It was a LEAK of a DRAFT contract. If the teams were like, “hey guys, let’s discuss this” – we are always reasonable, and our teams will attest to that. If any of the owners would like to say otherwise, well, I’d be happy to have a public discussion.
Follow-up: Was it your company’s intention to hurt the competition with these contracts?
Tryndamere: Our goal is not to harm other titles – and in fact, we think that if we help motivate other companies with eSports titles to step up THEIR support, that will be a good thing.
Blizzard bought IPL – right? That bodes well for SC players.
Valve historically hasn’t really done much to directly support eSports, partially because their 330 employees (as often quoted) are focused on building core, scalable tech and not sending dozens of people to events and coordinating with partner organizations around the world.
Different companies have different approaches, and that’s OK.
How would you respond to criticism that you’re only trying to grow League instead of the E-sport scene as a whole?
Tryndamere: I saw it, and of course, completely disagree.
Also, we’re not “all about” boosting eSports overall, we’re about boosting League of Legends as an eSport. BUT, we do think this has an overall halo effect on eSports and the ecosystem.
When national press covers the event at Staples, that is a positive step forward overall.
Similarly, when pro players make hundreds of thousands of dollars (and there are a LOT of LOL pros making a ton of money, instead of just a handful of people in other games), that is also a good thing. When big sponsors get involved, that is also good and other sponsors take note.
Why do we do LCS and all that? Because it is our players (the League community) wants. That’s it. That’s pretty much the reason we do anything – because you guys will be into it. We don’t want to pretend we’re the savior of eSports – we’re not and don’t aspire to be.
Re: international competitions being mandatory before the tournament finals – that’s a silly argument and I’m surprised a guy from the UK (who presumably watches soccer) would argue that. The Champions League in Europe is the number one sporting tournament in the world and MOST soccer (football) teams never even make it into the Champions League and when they do, all the teams don’t even play every other team.
Also, the “drama” can persist over years – IE – if Fnatic makes it back to the world finals, damn right there will be drama if they go up against C9 again, etc.
Tryndamere: People are misconstruing our goals. We don’t care about what the “mainstream” thinks aside from the fact that it can help potential advertisers and sponsors support the ecosystem.
We do eSports for LOL players.
We don’t do it for other games and we’re not trying to save the world.
When we say that we think LOL is a sport, we simply mean THAT. We think Starcraft and CS are sports too. But we don’t really care about the public debate about the difference between an eSport and a Sport – the point is, we know they’re sports which is why we are building this sporting infrastructure the way we are.
Our players know it to – and that’s what matters to us.
Why can LCS teams only participate in events hosted by Riot?
Tryndamere: We want more teams involved, that’s why. If all the top teams are the only teams that play over and over, well that doesn’t really create a very cool eSports ecosystem in our opinion.
We very much look forward to building out the Challenger tier – if you guys haven’t watched those games, these dudes are awesome and the real up and coming talent.
We’re focused on the long term here guys, but with things like BOTA, we’re trying to satisfy both.
Are the new Behavioral alerts and the Suspended Chat option a method of preventing bans?
It works though, trust me.
Best of all, it actually reforms people too. A lot of players “learn” to not be dicks from the tribunal due to the report cards, etc.
What steps have you taken / are taking to improve Player Behavior and the community in general?
Lyte: Last year, we started experimenting with a lot of ideas to improve the player experience. We do agree that a large part of player behavior is rooted in player psychology and perception; however, when we talk about behavior in online games we’re talking about something bigger than just games–the internet is like an infant society that’s still developing and figuring out its own culture. When the first online communities and games were born, there were no social structures, or expectations about how interactions should be.
When we first started looking into player behavior, it was a pretty new space. A lot of developers said that we should just ban players and move on, but we quickly realized that that wasn’t a great solution for League; after all, you mentioned that players can just make new accounts. So, we buckled down and started doing research. We learned that we have a pretty awesome community, and players aren’t innately bad–it was all about context. All of us have our bad days IRL, and sometimes we get frustrated in-game and lash out at others–that doesn’t make us a bad people, it makes us human. But when a typical player is in a game with someone having a bad day… the bad days can spread. So we started building features like Reform Cards (which show players exactly what behaviors were deemed unacceptable by other players) and Honor (which gave players little high fives to help reinforce and highlight awesome behavior). We were inspired when we saw that when players got Reform Cards, up to 70%-75% of the players improved their behaviors and never got another Reform Card; but like you said, we started to change perception in online games that some of these behaviors were just not OK. A player once wrote Riot and mentioned that “in other games, it was OK to say f*g, but now they know it’s not cool.” It shows that improving sportsmanship and player behavior is a collaboration between Riot and the players, and it starts from the ground up–changing our own perceptions and showing the world who gamers really are.
In 2014, we’ve decided to focus on a few different pillars of behavior. One of our mottos internally is to “make being awesome the path of least resistance” and “just make it easy to be sportsmanlike.” When it comes down to it, players want to just have an awesome experience in League. They want to jump in a few games, play a few hours, and log off thinking, “Arghhhh I just want to play one more game.” Playing in an extremely lopsided match, or having a DC can all ruin this experience, and we know we have a lot of areas to work on; in fact, we could work on League for 100 years and never complete all the great ideas out there. We have to pick and choose the features that will have the biggest impact.
As some players might know, our first focus is Team Builder. This is a new feature that we hope will re-define the experience of League, and gives all the power to the players–we want you to play League however you and your friends want, and this feature will do that by allowing you to define the meta you want to play, and choose the exact champion and role you want to play in that meta. The reason we’re focusing on this feature is because all the research points to the pre-game lobby as the source of many problems. Conflicts typically start in Champion Select, and regardless of winning or losing, that lobby can kill all the fun of a match. Team Builder will completely re-make the Champion Select experience, and so far, players seem to love it (especially when they are running 2-jungle strats on the PBE
We’re also going to focus a lot more on positive reinforcement. We want to show players what awesome teamwork looks like, and highlight positive behavior. First, we want to finish expanding the Honor Initiative and have some great experiments lined up to really boost the system. But in the future of League, what if players had access to content or features IF they were a positive force in League? What would such a world look like and would players love or hate it?
Finally, we know we’re a bit behind on social features. We know that playing with friends is the best experience in League, but it’s not as fun or easy as it could be–we’re going to start fixing that.
Anyways, I’ve gone on long enough, we hope you stick around to check some of the new stuff out in 2014!
What issues prevent you from properly communicating with players?
Tryndamere: Part of why I think we’ve also been not optimal at communicating relates to internal management structures as well.
Ryze and I have attempted to “create space” for many other Rioters to step up in certain areas and to drive on various topics that they oftentimes own and are responsible for. This is important, especially as we scale, but we probably need to do a better job of ensuring that we still are communicating sufficiently in the interim.
This is the same issue internationally, where we try to empower our local teams to “own” the messaging and build the relationship directly.
Is it true Riot has sold out to a Chinese company?
Tryndamere: We didn’t lose control to a foreign entity – where did you ever hear that?
Tencent is simply an investor and the guys who publish LOL in China. They bough out our previous investors (VC’s) that’s it and they have ZERO operational influence.
Brandon and I run Riot and that has never changed.
“Why are you making skins instead of fixing the servers?”
Tryndamere: Artists work on skins – they don’t work on the client, engineers do that.
So, we do stuff in parallel – otherwise we’d just have our artists do nothing.
Why does Valve have more features in their front end?
Tryndamere: More mature tech, less international reach / less focus on localizing the experience.
Why not build a new front end?
Tryndamere: We are. But it’s a lot more complicated to be responsible for building the whole stack and to enable it to serve the whole world than it is to build a skin that doesn’t need 100% full functionality for every region.
Why change champions that I can spend money for?
Tryndamere: Well, this is because we don’t really focus on money. We focus on the game. And if a character isn’t super-healthy for the game, well then we’ll change it. Typically though, our remakes are still very much within the spirit of the champion – Karma & Heimer jump to mind as recent examples. If you don’t trust that we will continue to optimize for a very balanced game, well, I think that’s a deeper issue than one tied to payment.
Why should I continue playing if I don’t like your philosophy / direction?
Tryndamere: Only stay if you enjoy the experience. If you don’t and would rather be part of a different community, than we respect that. We actually fire (ban), 1% of our a players every month through the tribunal – and we think that is a good thing. We build League of Legends for core gamers who love healthy, friendly competitive experiences with an awesome community. If you think someone else does that better, well, I’d disagree, but I’d respect your choice.
Do you focus on security / making sure you don’t get hacked?
Tryndamere: Most important thing for us is to continue to fortify our infrastructure. We are attacked daily and most of the time you guys don’t notice. We’d like that to be true 100% of the time.
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Happy New Years from the team!