Your Daily McMaster: how do League of Legends?

Title Your Daily McMaster: how do League of Legends?
Author Jason McMaster
Posted in Features
When August 6, 2013

What is League of Legends? I've written about the game for years, but I've never thought about how to describe the game to an absolute newcomer. Until today. After the jump, I would like to introduce you to my friend Tibbers....

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As a total newb, I don't understand the controversy surrounding the "last hit" rule. I know some MOBA games require it and others don't, but I'm clueless as to why players so fiercely stand by on or the other rule.
Also, I love the name "jungler." I want that to be be my X-Men codename.

Well, last hit as you're describing it is probably the confusion. All of them, as far as I know, have last hit mechanics. People get hung up on "denying" more than that. Denying is the ability to kill your own troops to deny the gold to the enemy. It kind of sucks.

I'm pretty sure if denying weren't a co-incidental feature of the original dota, no one would really care about the issue. However, as it was there and provided a benefit, people have practiced / gotten good at it and its became a test of fidelity to the original game. While I'm not a particular fan of the feature (I'd rather focus on other things), I can understand that people want to keep something they've spent time at becoming good at. And given that people have a choice (want denying, you have dota 2 and HoN, if you don't want it, there's LoL and other smaller outfits), I'm not sure there's really too much to argue about.

I think the reason last hit's really controversial is because it's a twitch mechanic more than anything. It's really ancillary to the core of a MOBA, which is the direct interaction of the player characters. If that's what you like about League, last hit just looks like additional busywork that gets in the way of the player-versus-player action. It's also kind of counterintuitive -- you can beat a creep wave without earning any gold at all.

On the other side of things, last hit raises the skill ceiling for the game and provides a huge advantage to people who can consistently last hit while keeping the other side from doing the same. The latter aspect, in particular, adds a dynamic to the laning phase that ultimately encourages more player interaction; League might be a little boring in the early game without it.

For my money, a MOBA could probably be designed with or without last hit and be just fine. I think Smite has de-emphasized last hit, and that seems to be doing all right!

I'm glad to see you playing again, Jason! I look forward to more LoL articles.

I thought that denying was the stupidest mechanic ever until I switched from LOL to Dota 2. It still sounds dumb, but it makes a lot of sense gameplay-wise when both players in a lane fight over the same creeps. Constant low-level strategy between trying to last hit, harass the opponent(s), and deny your own creeps makes the laning phase a lot more fun, in my opinion.

Jason, as a player who had to figure much of this out without the explanation, I have to say I wish you wrote this years ago. Very succinct and informative. Riot Games should have you doing press releases. Well done, man!

I'd say this is the worst time to start getting into LoL.

I used to love this game. Started playing during the beta and to date have played roughly 2400 games (usually 30-45 minutes each!).

Used to be, this was the casual MOBA while all the hardcore people played DOTA or Heroes of Newerth. People would scream at you about EVERYTHING in the hardcore games while LoL just let you pick what you wanted, go where you wanted, and it was cool.

Sometime around the time the game went "pro" and started championship seasons, that all changed. Streaming and Twitch TV of the season finals suddenly turned everyone into a pro and the rise of the dreaded "meta" was upon us. The meta meant that everyone decrees there is a "correct" way to play the game. Currently the meta is sustained brawler top lane, jungler, AP burst damage mid lane, support + dps carry bottom lane.

Absolutely no other way will be tolerated. You will be shouted down, swore at, and rage quit on for deviating from this in the slightest right from the hero selection screen. The days of trying out double mid lane, no jungle, or dual lane, or Ashe in mid, or whatever you wanted to do for FUN are long gone.

The thing that gets me, is that I could understand this from serious top level competition, because right now it is the most optimal setup, but the advantage is slight enough that only about the top 10% of players can really capitalize on it. But in unranked bronze level games? Who are these people kidding? There are five hundred different more important things you could be doing at that level than worrying about lane composition. You see clueless amateur stuff like people geting ambushed ("ganked") by the enemy jungler three times in the first 10 minutes and never buying a wad, but those people will still lecture and cuss you out over lane composition.

If LoL was a Basketball game, lane composition would be what type of sneaker you're wearing; the edge it provides is slight and only perceptible at the professional level between players of equivalent shooting and passing ability. Freaking out over that in Bronze or unranked games is like being scolded for not wearing $300 sneakers to a local pickup game by a guy who can't even dribble.

At this point, League of Legends is as hardcore anal as Heroes of Newerth was. DotA 2 is now the official "casual" version despite having a more complicated laning phase, hero skills, line of site rules, and item shop. At least you can mostly pick whoever you want and go wherever you want without much harassment.

^ that should be getting ganked three times in the first 10 minutes and never buying a WARD. "wad" makes it sound like trading in gold for cold hard cash.

I understand completely. I think that the normal queue games aren't so terrible (blind pick) and bot games, but any ranked game is a total nightmare. I'm going to write about it pretty soon (within the next few weeks) but I've had a horrible time in Bronze after missing Silver by 1 placement game.

I'm no pro, but I'm better than my record in ranked. You get a lot of people who think they know the game that are just awful.

I'm kind of curious about your DOTA 2 comment. I haven't played in a while. I probably should, if nothing else to see what has changed.

Thanks for the primer, Mr. McMaster.

No one should be intimidated by Dota clones. They're no more complicated than a fighting game or an RTS. Sure, you may never achieve competition-level skill, but anyone can learn the basics after a few rounds and still have plenty of fun.

"to put into your character['s] three standard abilities"
"your character[']s passive power"
"the other team[']s base"
"the game[']s economy"
"destroy or [sic] a turret"
"one of the most integral part[s] of the game"
"the others team[']s avatars"
"Once a team has lost a few turrets and get[s] to a disadvantage"
"after being [at] a severe disadvantage"
"the other team[']s nexus"

Holy crap that's a lot. I think a lot of those special characters were swallowed by wordpress. I gotta go fix that.


I figured a lot of those missing apostrophes had to have been filtered out by the CMS. Either that, or you have a vendetta against apostrophes!

Yeah I kept missing getting to silver too. I can say with total confidence that none of the loses were my fault; some other lane threw the game in the first 15 minutes. Getting out of bronze was just a matter of playing enough games where your team gets less bumbler players than enemy team. It's kind of bunk that they lump together solo and duo ranked since two buddies will have an exponential advantage on reaching their true skill rank. If you want to get serious about ladder climbing it's mandatory to go duo and then be a jerk about always grabbing the carry and mid (it's just a rule that mid always has to be the team asshole). Got to be too much hassle/jerk to bother with.

What did you want to know about DOTA 2? It hasn't really changed, it's just that I hardly ever notice people screaming which lane each hero should go and most unranked games don't even bother with a jungler. The worst you get is two people squabbling over mid (team asshole) or someone saying "5 carries gg" in hero selection.

Tom called denying correctly when he said it was just another layer of distraction. To me it was like making a rule in Chess where players had to pat their head and rub their tummy all through the match. Technically it would increase the "skill" ceiling, but would it really be a better game?