Last summer, Riot declared that bringing a sandbox mode to League of Legends, so players could practice their skills outside the confines of a game, was "not the way to go." The studio said that playing the game "should be the unequivocal best way for a player to improve," and that while some skills can be developed in a standalone practice mode, "we never want that to be an expectation added onto an already high barrier to entry."
We called Riot's position "inarticulate and harmful" in our analysis, noting that there really are no good ways for novice players to pick up the finer points of the game or refine their play style. The tutorial is effectively useless, and learning in live games is hampered by cool-down timers, level limits, and experienced players who bury newbies in abuse if they miss a "basic" move. "While the full-immersion way of learning is certainly effective for some people, and is a recommended technique for picking up new languages, none of that actually addresses whether it's a pleasant or rewarding experience for new players," we opined. "Hint: it really isn't."
Earlier this year, Riot changed direction and agreed that a proper training tool was needed, but warned that work wouldn't begin until "one day" in the far-flung future because the team that would make it happen was wrapped up with other things. Today, however, it announced that "one day" has come: "Work’s just now kicking off on a practice tool," it said in a new update, "but we’re ready to talk broad notes."
The practice tool is going to be "low-scope, simple, and straightforward" at first, "close to a punching bag and weights for practicing execution." Players of all skill levels should get some value out of it, but multiplayer support for team drills or pro play isn't currently planned. The tool will give players access to infinite gold and enable them to reset cooldowns, lock their levels, and freeze minion spawns.
"Practice tool is League’s version of sparring with a punching bag: the extra training you can do with a mechanically unfamiliar champion so you can enter the Rift with more confidence," Riot said. "We’re still figuring out the full list of features, but future additions will be similarly focused on helping you practice more effectively by yourself and polish your mechanical abilities."
It's great that the wheels are turning, but it'll be awhile yet before the practice tool is ready to go live: Riot said that "prototype work" has just begun.