I’m sure most WoW players have at least heard of Defense of the Ancients (DotA), if not dabbled in it themselves. The Warcraft 3 mod is a popular post- and pre-raid activity for many guilds. The popularity of the mod, combined with the limitations of the WCIII engine lead numerous companies to create their own DotA clones. League of Legends is the current champion of the bunch (Heroes of Newerth just released), wooing critics and fans alike. Now that we have the pre-cursor information complete, we can jump into the true discussion. Playing the game versus how you’re supposed to play the game.
Any game that attracts a ravenous community is plagued by this issue. Players become so entranced by the depth that each and every detail is scrutinized. StarCraft players build their bases to the pixel, fighting game champions know when to counter at the exact frame between animations, and WoW players reverse-engineer the mathematical formulas that drive characters. These players, to put it mildly, take gaming to the extreme. The problem arises when these “facts” become the standard, neigh, the required way to play in the eyes of the community.
The design of LoL incorporates randomness into play through item choice, the timing of the items created, ability builds and summoner specialization (a spec tree that’s persistent). This is why Riot Games labels characters with multiple build adjectives. Taric can be an effective tank, Ashe can be a carry toon (useless until late game), Udyr can be DPS, a tank or a carry. Any character created in any of the labeled variables can be effective on the field of battle. It all depends on how they’re built, which items are chosen and who they are facing.
Perhaps more important than that short list is team synergy. The ability for a team to work together. I don’t mean well-timed ganks and sticking close late game. I am referring to a combination of champions that are built with the specific purpose of complimenting each other to the fullest. For instance, if playing on a tank-heavy team, then Ashe as straight DPS is recommended. However, if the arrow queen is on a DPS-centric team, then she should be specced in her carry build for the added benefit of stun spamming. Keeping everyone on the same page, with the same expectations is crucial, making communication a key component to team synergy.
Don’t get me wrong, each character has its optimum build, but League of Legends, and games like it, are far closer to fighting games than the franchise they spawned from. Optimum does not lead one to a victory. Players cannot rely on the template they read online and expect their win column to climb. The randomness means we need to learn on the fly. We have to react to the situation. Refinements need to be made throughout the match, from the loading screen and the discovery of the opponents to late lane pushes. Victory is a string of choices. Focus on making them smart. Don’t worry if “You’re doing it wrong.”
Above all else, play whatever way makes League of Legends enjoyable.