Riot Games has created a storm of controversy with its Patch 6.15 for League of Legends (LoL) and it appears as if pro-players have had enough.
At the heart of the controversy is the ill-timed release of Patch 6.15 which has made a tactic known as “lane swapping” obsolete. For the everyday LoL player the change has little to no impact on the game according to Rock Paper Shotgun.
However, for professional players it eliminates a tactic that has been used by many as a surprise strategy and forces them to adapt their play style if they rely heavily on the lane swap meta game.
The trouble with the patch, as we mentioned, is its release timing. Patch 6.15 was released just before the League of Legends Champion Series (LCS) playoff series meaning that professional teams had to adapt or die.
Now, we aren’t saying that games like LoL and Counter Strike: Global Offensive shouldn’t be patched for balance or to add a bit of spice to the game. What we are saying is that when you release these patches just before a major esports event on your calendar, you might rub folks the wrong way – and that’s exactly what’s happened here.
Punishing the pros
The pro-gamers have apparently had enough and are speaking out about this habit Riot’s habit of issuing major game patches ahead of major tournaments.
One professional that’s been particularly vocal is Team SoloMid (TSM) owner, Andy “Reginald” Dinh, who slammed Riot’s recent patch in an interview with William “scarra” Li.
“We’re feeling [TSM] really uncomfortable with the patch when the patch was issued right before playoffs,” Dinh said. “A lot of our guys put so much work into the regular season and they practice 30 to 40 percent more than other teams so they were really burnt out at the end.”
Despite this burn out TSM was winning 70 to 80% of their games by the end of the season. That all changed at the start of the playoffs.
“From an owner perspective and a player perspective it’s honestly really discouraging playing in LCS when there are these major changes,” says Dinh.
…And then the Riot Games CEO spoke
Riot Games chief executive officer and co-founder, Marc Merrill saw the interview with Dinh and decided to speak to the community via reddit.
The original post linked to above was edited but Yahoo esports journalist, Travis Gafford, managed to screen grab the original posting which is controversial to say the least.
— Travis Gafford (@TravisGafford) August 22, 2016
In another situation we would applaud a CEO coming out to address an issue so promptly but its clear from the events that have transpired since this post that Merrill was out of touch with his own community.
For instance Merrill’s comments about organisations not paying their players enough were quickly edited. Dinh responded to this saying,”I think Marc realized quickly that this is not a helpful thing to say because he edited his post and removed it, but it’s important to be clear about economics here. It used to be true that we made money from LoL esports, but that was before LCS and the economic situation is getting progressively worse.”
“Most LCS teams lose money because stipends are stagnant, sponsorships for LCS team operations are shrinking and the cost of player salaries, content production, support staff and housing costs are spiraling up,” he said in a TwitLonger post.
The stipend Dinh mentions is a fee that Riot Games pays to pro-players so that they have a salary of sorts. This means that teams can fully commit to playing LoL without fear of not being able to pay the bills.
The trouble is that this fee hasn’t been looked at since 2013, a time when esports were still emerging and didn’t have the financial weight they have today. To add insult to this players are expected to play in longer seasons with more matches.
“The bottom line is that an LCS stipend only covers a fraction of the cost of an LCS team’s operations. As a result, revenue from team sponsors is absolutely necessary, but the current LCS system is leading team sponsors to reduce support or – much worse – consider shifting support to eSports other than LoL,” explains Dinh.
Riot is listening, apparently
After Dinh’s response, Merrill issued another response, this time on TwitLonger. Aside from admitting that his intial response was fuelled by emotion, the CEO addressed the issues of patching so close to major events.
“The Juggernaut patch last year was too close to Worlds. This year, our laneswap changes once again didn’t give teams much time to prepare, but we moved forward believing it will lead to better games and a better viewing experience for fans. We will do a better job of communicating sooner and will ensure that changes such as these that significantly impact esports happen earlier on in the split to give players more time to adjust,” said Merrill.
As to paying players Riot will address that as well according to the CEO. The company is exploring issues avenues such as team-specific items for the game, working with teams to sell player jerseys and more, all to pump more funds into the esport and, more importantly give pro gamers a way to earn a living.
On a personal note and as a Dota 2 player I’m rather impressed with how quickly Merrill is trying to find a solution to this problem the community has raised.
The real proof that Riot is listening however will be whether a massive patch drops just before another big event, and with The World Championship finals happening in October, we won’t have to wait long.