League of Legends Q+A with Marc Merrill, President of Riot Games

League of Legends Q+A with Marc Merrill, President of Riot Games
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What is League of Legends?

League of Legends is a next generation Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA, for short) created by the great minds at Riot Games. If you like Defense of the Ancients, Heroes of Newerth, Demigod, or other titles in the genre, this is one game you can’t miss and is scheduled for a (free!) release in September 2009.

How League of Legends Came to be

Dan: What is everyone’s favorite Warcraft 3 use map settings map? (besides DOTA)

Marc: The team has a variety of favorites – from Enfo’s Team Survival to Pudge Wars and Tower Defense type games. I personally always was a big fan of footman frenzy too.

Dan: What influence did DOTA have on LoL? What do you think besides graphical improvements the major differences are between DOTA and LoL?

Marc: Dota had a profound influence on League of Legends and has greatly informed the design of the game. In the same way that early genre pioneering games inform the creation of games that seek to evolve the genre – i.e. Everquest was a major influence on World of Warcraft. When Guinsoo was originally designing DotA-Allstars, there were a lot of core mechanics and problems that were a legacy of Warcraft III that couldn’t be adjusted – he’s thrilled to be able to finally be able to solve those problems by creating more effective mechanics from scratch.

From a gameplay perspective, League of Legends will certainly feel familiar to DotA players, but League of Legends was designed to be easier for new players to pick up and more fun for advanced players to play over time by substantially increasing the depth. As an example, an in-game tutorial will exist that will teach new players how to get into League of Legends, and will have very efficient automated matchmaking that will align players of appropriate skill – both new or advanced players. The gameplay is also more team oriented than Dota and tends to focus less on “farming up a carry” and instead of effective teamwork, winning team battles and pushing effectively. Between the core gameplay improvements and the metagame Summoner system which allows players to track their progress and achievements across the game sessions, League of Legends will both feel familiar, yet excitingly different to fans of Dota.

Dan: The DOTA playing community is often thought to be one of the most unforgiving, nerd raging groups on the internet - what can we expect from the LoL community?

Marc: Everyone has heard the horror stories of the DotA community and how it prevents a lot of new players from getting into the game. A lot of this is due to anonymity and the lack of incentives to behave positively, which our Summoner system and the currency systems really help solve. Players of League of Legends will be rewarded for engaging in positive, community building behavior – which is something we’re really excited about. Additionally, establishing industry leading best practices around community engagement is a major goal for us and if early indicators from our testers are any indication, we’re doing a great job at this thus far.

We look forward to helping to change a lot of people’s minds about the best ways to deliver value to our users. Online games are services – we should be focusing on delivering an amazing experience with all customer touch points – in the game and out of the game!


Dan: What can players expect to see added over the course of the game as far as heroes, spells, runes?

Marc: We have an extremely rich content pipeline, and one of the perks of our game being free is that we can always add new Champions and items and change and improve the gameplay experience of our users. Players should expect a game that is constantly evolving and constantly introducing new stuff, and we hope that they will never grow tired of playing League of Legends!

One other tease is that there will be lots of other game modes in the future – what we have at launch is just a taste of how we’ll grow and evolve League of Legends.

Dan: DOTA is known for having a steep learning curve - hundreds of items and heroes to learn, game mechanics, etc - will LoL be the same?

Marc: Our goal for League of Legends is the age old mantra of “easy to learn, difficult to master”, although we would go one step farther and say we want it to be VERY easy to learn and EXTREMELY difficult to master. It is why we spend so much time on usability – making a game intuitive is just good game design – as is making it extremely deep. League of Legends will have dozens of Champions, hundreds of items, multiple maps, and huge amounts of depth in summoner spells, runes and masteries – the numerous intricacies and combinations that exist are mind boggling.

Dan: With the game being free, is there any concern about “leavers” just creating new accounts to avoid punishment?

Marc: The single biggest problem with any sessions-based multiplayer online game is leavers quitting and ruining a game for everyone else involved in the game. Our Summoner system will act as a user’s persistent identity and it will track everything from the win-loss record of a player to the number of times a player has quit a game. Players who leave games primarily do so because they want to hop into another game quickly – and we have ways to mitigate this, so leaving really won’t be advantageous or save someone time. Additionally, players who leave games will not receive any Influence Points, the currency earned through gameplay and used to unlock new content within the game. We are also building in a few tricks on the tech side that will hopefully discourage people from rage-quitting matches, stay tuned to learn more! As to people making smurf accounts – that would be like people ditching their level 80 WoW character to start up a level 1 if their reputation got damaged because they were a ninja looter or something. They’d be giving up an awful lot of work and need to unlock everything all over again. Most gamers take the path of least resistance and that path has a lot of resistance!

Dan: What other games, movies, books have influenced the creation of LoL?

Marc: Great question – really a huge variety. To list just a handful: D&D, Ninja Scroll, WoW, Everquest, Warcraft III, Team Fortress II, CoD 4, Rifts, Magic the Gathering, Warhammer 40k, Final Fantasy, Star Controll II, a ton


of anime… the list goes on. One of the coolest things about League of Legends is how flexible the story and intellectual property is and how it “works” to have bazooka toting Yordles (little people) fighting against rune covered wizards or insanely badass ninjas (which we haven’t revealed yet…)