LoL's spring finals mark the end of a week of community unrest

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It’s been a big week for League of Legends. The developers released their second Riot Pls post, where they tackled the hot topics of sandbox mode, solo queue, and the future. The discussion died down just in time for the two LCS finals on opposite sides of the ocean: North America hosted the historic rivalry of Team SoloMid vs Counter Logic Gaming, and Europe bore witness to G2 Esports v Origen. In a way, these two events represented the absolute highs and lows of Riot Games, League, and how fans react to them.

Riot pls

The first Riot Pls, published in August of 2015, dropped two bombshells on fans: First, their tech debt was so immense that replays, promoted during the game’s launch in 2009, weren’t on the cards. While no one was pleased to hear this, you can’t argue with technical limitations. The second letdown was Riot’s announcement that they weren’t working on a Sandbox Mode, and, in fact, would not be working on a Sandbox Mode. James Chen penned an articulate piece at the time about why this was terrible for new players, pro players, and everyone in between.

You might think that when the second Riot Pls feature went live, players would celebrate. Riot admitted that player feedback had swayed them, and they had changed their mind accordingly. Great, right? Well, no. This time, players were furious that Solo Queue is being discarded in favor of the new Dynamic Queue system.

The Riot Pls pieces are a fascinating experiment in public relations. They’re clearly either earnestly penned and articulated, or so carefully calculated in order to come across that way, that your initial impression might be that they’d be a hit. The new trend of developers listening to player feedback and working accordingly has always been greeted with triumph—we did it, Reddit! And yet the response to the Riot Pls posts has been unrelentingly negative.

So what’s going on? Part of it is no doubt that players don’t like receiving bad news, even if it's delivered in a very careful way. Part of it is that Riot is trying so hard to make these posts accessible and friendly that it’s, ironically, leading to the opposite effect. Players are reacting like Riot are spinning a chair around and asking them if they want to “rap”. Even the title is a community meme!

Are the Riot Pls pieces a complete disaster? I don’t think so—it’s refreshing to see a company say they were straight out wrong. They’re valuable glimpses at the road map for the months to come. They provide a forum for players to offer feedback. So what can be improved?

Talk is cheap: Riot just penned over a thousand words, and while there are promises there, there’s not much in the way of concrete information or timelines.

Thinking too far ahead: When they say League of Legends is a game that they want to last for generations, that is a massively ambitious goal that comes across as a little foolhardy. Maybe our grandchildren will be playing League, but there’s little sense in announcing such a far reaching goal.

Give us something solid: Riot has been burned when announcing timelines before (a moment of silence for Ao Shin), but giving players absolutely no information beyond intent makes their statements look like fluff.

The controversy died down eventually—there were finals to watch, after all, and these were some of the most compelling ones yet.

Photo credit Riot Games

Photo credit: Riot Games

Crowning the champions

Each final was played back to back on Saturday, for a total of nine matches across Rotterdam and Vegas. First up was Europe, hosting G2 Esports up against Origen. G2 Esports is a classic new kid on the block story: the squad fought their way through the Promotion Tournament (unlike teams like Vitality or the Immortals, who purchased their spot), earned an impressive 15-3 record across the regular split, and picked up accolades.

Sure, three of the team aren’t rookies, and they have the backing of Carlos "ocelote" Rodríguez Santiago and Joey "YoungBuck" Steltenpool. But they didn’t enter the LCS with a star studded roster—instead they had two rookies, an import who had subbed for CJ Entus, a jungler who swapped to mid lane, and an older ADC who had struggled to find a team.

Not only did they silence any doubters with their first season, but they took the entire Split. Origen’s six-man roster had the win on paper: a squad of veterans who had made the semis in last year’s Worlds, an extra mid laner, the infamous Origen playoffs buff... but it simply wasn’t enough.

Happily enough, Origen are content with their split, with top laner Paul “SoaZ” Boyer tweeting that he was feeling renewed and ready to fight to go to Worlds.

Over in NA, it’s hard to say anything new about the CLG and TSM rivalry. They’re two of the oldest organizations in the region, they’ve fought tooth and nail for ages, and Doublelift infamously tossed his CLG jersey in the trash to switch over to TSM.

The real story of the NA playoffs is centered around the two rookies, Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and Choi "Huhi" Jae-hyun. Both of these players were considered downgrades from their predecessors, drawbacks, and disappointments all split long. The management and veterans of Counter Logic Gaming backed them the entire way, and their second Split victory in a row is a clear statement: we were right, you were wrong, and we’re the best in the region. Their next test will be competing internationally, and while the odds are stacked against them, their team based approach may just be what helps them advance past the benchmark set by their Western competitors.

As we head into a new week of League, it’s clear that neither the matters arising from Riot Pls or NA LoL have been truly laid to rest. Fans are going to continue to push for Solo Queue, as they did for Sandbox Mode. The rivalry between TSM and CLG is more alive than ever, only growing more intense in the aftermath of CLG’s skin-of-their-teeth victory.

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