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The Glorification of the Group - BlackKnight's Blog #2

By Andybear - 25th June 2010 - 17:26 PM

League of Legends, and generally the whole of the MOBA genre, consistently punishes individuality in gameplay. The Game Environment is built entirely around five on five and has to be played as such. Even before the match starts, it is crucial to have a group mindset, team composition, team summoner spells; all need to be considered and thought through. A lopsided, inconsistent team will never be able to stand up to opposition consisting of an even, balanced team of competent opponents. Even if a team were made up of players that were as good in their own right as possible, five individuals who cannot or will not work cohesively will almost never win.

In other Genres, individuality, be it roaming solo in a shooter, or sticking to one on one in Real Time Strategy, the concept of a loner is much more than mystique, it's the only way to consistently gauge your own skill. You learn to know what you can and can't do, and lose or fail it's your own fault (well not really your fault, obviously lag or imbalance... but I digress). People glory in perceived one on one skill, those who consistently perform in one on one are the best type of gamer. All of the great Real Time Strategies have been designed to fulfill that itch in gamers to prove their individualism, or at least unintentionally did so.

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This is totally gonna be decided by host.

But let me tell you, this isn't your grandpa's RTS. If some have recollections of my previous ramblings, you should know that I regard "skill" as a very hollow term when used in relation to League of Legends. Not to imply that this game takes no thought or a term somewhat interchangeable with, even if due to the lack of better synonyms, "skill", it's just that the gamer's definition of that word is entirely irrelevant to the gameplay of League of legends. "Skill" in relation to video games is almost synonymous with another gamerism known as "micro". Micro is unit control and multitasking, and to be blunt, neither are definite requirements, you have to be competent with the control of your champion, but no other source requires diversion of attention, and multitasking simply doesn't exist. There is a deep analytical side, and that alone defines individual performance, but even that is absolutely useless if that patience and perception is only extended to yourself. Often it is very unfortunate that you cannot take control of all five of your team, in fact, that would constitute quite the Real Time Strategy... Oh shoot, I digress again.

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This, as it so happens, is your granddaddy's RTS, well at least your older brother's.

From the ground up, League of Legends is designed around a five man team working cohesively. A team of five needs to pick the balanced team composition, the balanced Summoner Spell spread, they need to balance their lanes out. Each member of the team is a specialist with a specific task, the tank needs to initiate, the mage needs to nuke people, the DPS needs to right click, and the support needs to keep the supply of pew pew alive. I, of course, over simplify so as to numb my pain over my perpetual strain of losses; they aren't actually good, this game is for noobs, there is a lot of room for error, and how well your team is reacting to each others' actions becomes crucial, having and building a synergy with your team is all important.

The balance team from Riot seems to want to maintain this environment as well, whether originally intended or not, certain champions have been able to attain levels of impact individually. Champions like Jax, Udyr, Shaco, Twitch, Poppy, have all existed at certain times with the ability to act individually entirely from the team and still impact the game significantly. They could ignore the necessity for allies to either get farmed, initiate a fight, push, or any role in the game. The norm for champions is that they are intentionally weak in several areas, but that they excel in their niche and their allies allow them to overcome their weaknesses. All the above listed champs could do their own thing, even in premades, and there wouldn't be any tangible repercussions. It is arguable that independent champions weren't overpowered, and many weren't widely considered too strong. Udyr and Shaco especially, but they were nerfed and rebalanced to the point that they now need their allies to complete their duty.

Jax hasn't been stupidly powerful in five on five for at least three patches now, but the nerfs and re-tweaks kept coming. He was notable for his ability to "solo", and while it was obviously an exaggeration that he alone could take on a team, he definitely didn't require allies to set him up. Now he still has some absurd damage output, without his former survivability. He still has more innate defense then standard carries, but he has need of a devoted healer or initiator so that he isn't the center of attention. Udyr, Shaco, and Poppy: same story.

Why would you do that exactly? Is that independence and self sufficiency necessarily overpowered? Or is it a deliberate attempt to maintain the glorification of the team? I would argue for the latter, though doubtless thousands of players with aching lamp post bruises will object, though at the same time I wouldn't exactly call him underpowered either. He wasn't individually game changing, but he did require a certain amount of coordination from multiple opponents to shut down. The effort was generally minimal, one stun, one rightclick, and maybe one nuke. If any of the champions behind those Key and Mouse clicks would have been alone, well, refer to the aforementioned lamp post shaped bruises. This isn't/wasn't a huge deal. That's what he's supposed to do, right? Jax is just being used as an example, other champs are the same story with different executions, but it was (generally) accepted that some champs excel individually.

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Nerf Jax! So OP! Riot nerf him or expect mass quits!

Do the various changes and nerfs ruin the champion? They have robbed Jax, Udyr, and others of their almost complete self sufficiency, but they still function as heavy set killers. Currently these champs perform a specialized task just like all other champion types in the game, that task can be tailored to fit the player's preference, but instead of being solid all around individual units that deliver pain to turrets, tanks, carries, and mages alike, we find the glorious members of the free-class pursuing their own niche like everybody else, dependent on their teammates for them to do their task.

Jax, Udyr, etc had the ability to enter team-fights when they chose, often from the start of the fight till the end, and being able to survive through it while being in on the majority of the kills. Now they too need a favor from their allies to survive, they need the Black Shield, they need to follow an initiator, they need focused heals from Soraka and Taric. Before they expedited the flurry of pain, but now they are darn near required a good portion of the time.

Is this the definition of being weak? No, they were previously accepted as balanced due to the many other similarly powerful champions, but the class itself got slightly over the top, they now are equivalent to all other characters in the game. People seem to have locked and unshakable perceptions of balance. It was only four months ago when everyone and their mother claimed that Janna was one of the absolute worst champions in the game. In response to her neglect, Riot gave her some moderate buffs, then some minor nerfs, and now shes essentially the same champ she was four months ago, but there are hundreds screaming for her nerfs! This is a recurring theme, Udyr, considered just above worthless after his nerf, then he finds himself organically being hailed as top tier. Ashe, again, was known as useless outside of Noobie Island, no change, and she's always mentioned in the lists of Top Tier, of overpowered. This will continue to happen, it's natural, balance is relative to many factors, the people playing, popular team compositions, blind pick, human stubbornness etc etc.

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The center is carrying his team at the moment, but the quarterback keeps feeding

Self Sufficient Co. has been remade, and many are again considered weak. It is my opinion that if let alone, they will each resurface in the ever changing world of League of Legends as crucial picks, people will change their doctrine of beliefs on balance to be more in line with the game that exists now. I for one am pleased with the changes implemented, League of Legends existing in a way that it can only be played competitively when played in unison by five people is attractive. The design of MOBAs is unique in the egotistically charged game world, and the zealous pursuit on Riot's part to preserve it as team-based as possible will set League of Legends apart.

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