The folks at Riot Games want you to know that they are continuing to roll out new goodies for League of Legends and we got the chance to see what they had in store. Here's our interview that covers some of what they have in store for fans of the game.
Could you introduce yourself and talk about your role on League of Legends? How did you get into the game industry and what do you like most about your job?
I am Marc Merrill, the President of Riot Games and Executive Producer on League of Legends, which means that I supervise the development, marketing and live service operation of League of Legends. I got into the industry by co-founding Riot Games in 2006 to make League of Legends with the goal of creating the most gamer-centric video game company in the world.
Could you give us a high level overview of League of Legends for those who might not know much about the game?
League of Legends is a genre-bending game that combines the best elements of real time strategy games with MMO-style PvP to deliver really fun and interesting gameplay that we call the MOBA, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre. For a given game session, the player controls one of more than 60 unique and interesting characters to play for a given game session. The player’s goal is to work with a team of other players to defeat the opponent team. The game is completely free-to-play, and anyone can check it out instantly by visiting www.leagueoflegends.com
How has the free-to-play model worked for you so far? Have you had to make any changes to the pricing model since the game has launched?
One of our core beliefs has been that if we create a great and fun experience and give it away for free, then players will ultimately reward us by becoming fans of our game. This has worked out really well so far and our players love the fact that they never have to spend any money unless they want to. Many of our top players have never spent any money in the game. The primary adjustments we have made since launch really revolve around how much content we have added. We add a new playable champion every two weeks and constantly release other cool content for players to enjoy.
Is there any single player content available for the game or is it strictly an online multi-player experience?
Currently, the core of the game is the team-based, player vs player experience. You can play a tutorial alone, or matches against AI-controlled opponents, but those modes are really just for practice at the moment. League of Legends is most fun when playing with or against your friends.
What has surprised you the most since the game launched? Are there things that you were surprised to see people do? Have there been things you thought people would do but didn’t?
Our players are very creative in many ways, and we have continually been pleasantly surprised by them. First they are constantly figuring out new strategies and new ways to play League of Legends through different team combinations, using Champion abilities in new ways, and building up the characters differently than we had expected. The game is designed in such a way that those discoveries deepen the play experience, and other players come up with counter-strategies fairly quickly too.
Another thing that has surprised us is how talented and creative our players are. We recently held a pirate-themed fan art contest and the results were absolutely amazing. They have written in-depth strategy guides for all our Champions and they have really driven a lot of the development of the product with their ideas and passion for the game.
The game's popularity has also been incredible, and we greatly appreciate how much our players have done for us.Any update on the Mac version of the game? Will PC and Mac users be able to play head to head?
Development of the Mac version of the game is going well. It's currently in a Closed Beta test with some of our most dedicated players, who are helping us spot bugs and verify our fixes. Right now, we're also working to ensure the Mac version will be able to keep pace with the regular updates we do to League of Legends. The Mac version will be fully cross-platform, allowing PCs and Macs to play together. You won’t even be able to tell which OS people are using when you play with them.
Could you talk about the Season model of League of Legends? How did you come up with the concept? Is it possible for new players to join a season now or is it best to wait for the next one?
League of Legends is operated in seasons like a lot of professional sports. At the end of the season, there will be a world-wide tournament with the best players from around the world competing to become the champion of Season One and share in the $100,000 prize.
First, to clarify, not everyone who plays League of Legends has to compete for the Season One prize. Most players spend their time in normal games, leveling up their summoners, unlocking new content and having fun with their friends.
For the most competitive new players, it is still possible to join the season. Once they reach level 30, they can participate in our competitive mode, "Ranked Games." There are still enough upcoming tournaments where placing in and winning tournaments let players qualify for the end of Season One.
Do you have some recommended strategies or tactics for people who are just getting into the game? Anything for advanced players to add to their arsenal of tricks?
For people new to this genre, it's important to realize that unlike many shooters, in this game staying alive is as important as killing your opponent. It's best not to be too aggressive at first and level up your character until you have an advantage over your opponent - then go in for the kill. Also recognize that teamwork really wins games - if you can get a 2 on 1 situation against an opponent, you can afford to be more aggressive.
For advanced players, I would advise checking out some of the videos of the top players. There were some really great matches in the World Cyber Game Grand Finals where teams displayed some surprising tactics and strategies. Riot Games also creates Champion Spotlight videos on Youtube of every new Champion before they are released - that can help even advanced players learn a lot about a Champion ahead of playing him or her.
What’s been the hardest part about keeping the game going and alive? The easiest?
The hardest part has been keeping up with the growth of League of Legends - making sure the game works when masses of players connect at the same time. That's currently our top priority, and while many fans are happy with what we've been able to accomplish, we are constantly striving to deliver the best experience to our players.
The easiest has been getting new ideas for what to work on next. We have some of the most passionate developers in the industry, and every single person in the company has great ideas on how we can make League of Legends even better. Our players are also a great source of inspiration for ideas, and we talk with them a lot to help us determine what we should be focusing on and what they would like to see next.
Can you talk about your plans for the future? What kinds of things are you going to be adding to the game?
We're hard at work on a number of areas for League of Legends. Aside from improving our ability to handle all the players, we are working on multiple new maps, lots of new features, and a major graphics overhaul to keep improving the art and technology.
We also don't plan to stop there - we will keep working on League of Legends for many years to come. In fact, we have about twice as many people working on the game than when we shipped and are still looking to hire more! It’s a very exciting time for us and we’re really looking forward to releasing all of the awesome things that we have been working on in 2011.
Anything we missed?
I don't think we missed anything, but we'd like to thank all the League of Legends players who've helped bring this game to new heights.
I'd like to thank Marc for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Jean who helped coordinate everything.