Developer/Publisher: Riot Games (2009)
Platform(s): PC only
Game Genre: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)
League of Legends is one of the most popular games in the world and by far the largest esport in the world, a designation that is well known and accepted by fans of all titles. LoL is the gold standard of what esports can grow into and already has the player base and fan following in esports to rival that of traditional sports.
League of Legends (also referred to as ‘LoL’ or League’) is a Free-to-Play downloadable game, making money through in-game microtransactions. The primary way to play the game is a 5v5 match, this is also the structure of professional matches and will be the mode that this guide focuses on.
League is played on a map named Summoner’s Rift (seen below). At its simplest, Summoner’s Rift is made up of two bases, Blue and Red, each of which belongs to a five-person team and destroying the opponent’s base results in winning the game. Bases are connected by three lanes; Top, Middle and Bottom. Splitting the area between the two bases in half is a river, known as, well, the River. Areas that are not included in the Base, Lanes or the River, is known as the Jungle (however the River is often included in the Jungle).
- There are three Lanes in LoL; Top, Middle (known as Mid) and Bottom (known as Bot). In order to get into the opponent’s base to win the game, players must travel down the lanes to get there. Pro teams will assign a Lane/area to each person to be as efficient as possible. However, there are plenty of obstacles in their way in each lane to make that very difficult.
- Towers (also called Turrets): The purpose of a Tower is to attack any opponents that come near, preventing them from entering their base. Towers are in fixed locations in the game as each team has three Towers in each lane and two Towers in their base. Sequencing from the center of the map, Towers cannot be destroyed until the further Tower has been destroyed. Towers can be destroyed by the opposing team and do not respawn once destroyed. Starting from the center of the map to the base, Towers are referred to as Outer Towers, Inner Towers, Inhibitor Towers and Nexus Towers.
Each Base is comprised of (4) main types of structures:
- Fountain: When the game begins, all players start at their respective Fountain, seen above in the outside corner. When players die or Recall (an ability all players have to teleport), they appear in the Fountain. While in the Fountain, players Health and Mana/Resource rejuvenate extremely quick. Also, the Fountain is the only spot where players can purchase Items when alive, which will be addressed later. Fountain’s will attack any opponents that try to enter, killing them quickly.
- Nexus: A team wins a game of LoL by destroying the opponent’s nexus. It has no purpose other than being the final objective of a team and will not attack opponents who come near. Once destroyed, the game ends instantly.
- Inhibitors: Along with the Nexus, Inhibitors are the only other structure that does not attack opponents when near. Instead, an Inhibitor’s role is to control the type of Minions that spawn in a lane. Minions will be discussed more, but they are small creatures that spawn from each base and fight through each lane for their respective team. When an Inhibitor in a lane is destroyed, the basic and small Minions in a lane are now replaced by Super Minions for the team who destroyed the Inhibitor. Once destroyed, Inhibitors respawn after 5 minutes.
- Towers: Explained above in ‘Lanes.’
(The Red Base is an exact replica of the Blue Base)
- The Jungle can be a scary place. Towers offer a player protection in Lane, but it is a free-for-all in the Jungle. However, the Jungle can prove very valuable as it is filled with a variety of Neutral Monsters, killable characters that are not associated with either team and are not controlled by any player, commonly known as an NPC (non-player controlled). These each give players Gold, Experience and sometimes even power-ups once killed.
2. How to Play
The Road to Victory
The only way to win a game of LoL is to destroy the opponent’s Nexus. However, there is no quick easy way to accomplish the tasks. Teams must work to build very small advantages by killing opponents, gaining more gold, killing more minions, etc. and use those advantage to continually push down a lane and into the opposing team’s base. A team must kill all the Towers in a lane along the way, Towers which can kill players very easily.
The concept of grabbing a small lead and using that to build a bigger and bigger lead is referred to as ‘Snowballing’ in LoL. Since players get stronger when they level up and spend gold on items, it is common to see whichever team gets the lead first to never lose the lead. However, there is an endless number of ways for events to happen, making LoL truly one of the most complex games ever made.
Being a game only playable on PC, all controls are on mouse and keyboard. Player Controls can be broken down into two major categories:
- Movement: Users play LoL with a birds-eye-view camera perspective on the game. The camera also does not have to be focused on their character, allowing them to see across the whole map. You have the ability to lock the camera on the character, but if it is not locked, the camera moves along with the mouse. You move your character by right-clicking on the screen, as your character will move to wherever you click. You often see player clicking constantly in order to make small movements in different directions.
- Spells/Abilities: Characters all possess special abilities to be used during the game (which will be discussed further below). Some are meant to attack others, some to teleport to a location, but all Spells/Abilities are triggered to be used by a key on the keyboard, known as a ‘Hotkey.’ Once the key is pressed, the spell or ability will be triggered automatically.
3. Playable Characters - Champions
When playing League of Legends, players each select and control a unique character, known in LoL as a Champion. There are over 140 unique champions available to be selected, with more being introduced each year. All Champions have their own unique Abilities, creating large differences between champions and each game of LoL. In professional play, no two players are allowed to use the same champion, resulting in 10 different champions being played.
All Champions have 5 unique abilities which cannot be changed. Additionally, each player selects two Summoner Spells to use for the duration of the game.
5 Champion Abilities
- 1. Passive: A Passive ability is one that cannot be triggered by a player, rather works in the background of the entire game.
- 2, 3, 4 & 5. Q/W/E/R: Each Champion Ability is labeled as and referred to by the hotkey that is used to trigger them. Each does something very different and function completely individual of each other. The ‘R’ Ability is a Champions ‘Ultimate Ability,’ which is the Champions signature move and their strongest by far.
- Summoner Spells: Before a game begins, each player selects two Summoner Spells. There are 10 total options and all players have access to the same Spells.
- Recall: Each player has to ability to teleport back to their respective base with their Recall ability. It takes 8 seconds to complete the move and the timer cancels out if the player moves, uses and ability or is attacked.
- Items: Some Items, which are explained in more detail below, provide a new ability to the champion. The Item can be used or consumed by a Hotkey to provide a benefit to the player or attack on an opponent.
Each Champion has two numerical bars of a rejuvenating capacity associated with them.
- Health: All champions have health. It decreases as they take damage and once it reaches zero, they die and have to wait a certain amount of time to respawn at their respective base.
- Resource Bar: Most Champions also have a second bar in which allows them to use their abilities. The most common resource is Mana, and each ability costs Mana to cost and if the Champion is out of Mana, they are unable to cast an ability. Other Champions use some kind of Resource to cast abilities, other including; Energy, their Health and a select few have no Resource.
4. NPC Characters
Although the game revolves around the two teams of five going head-to-head, Summoner’s Rifts is filled with lots of NPC Characters that have a significant role in the outcome of the game. Some are smaller and used more as resources and utility for players, while others provide major benefits to a team when slain.
- Starting 70 seconds into the game, Minions (also referred to as ‘Creeps’) spawn at the base of each team and travel down each lane to the opponents base. They fight whatever opposing force is in their way. Players look to kill Minions as they get gold and experience from whenever they are the last person to inflict damage on a Minion, known as a Last Hit. A new wave of Minions spawns every 2:30 in each lane for the entirety of the game
- Whenever a player kills a Minion, they are awarded one Creep Score. Creep Score serves as an overall tally of Neutral Monsters killed and is an important analytical stat for LoL
Dragons: Dragons (also called Drakes) are powerful Neutral Monsters that when killed by a team, provide a permanent power-up all team members. There are 5 different types of Dragons (seen below), each providing a different power-up. Dragons only spawn in one specific spot on the map, known as Dragon’s Pit. Only one Dragon is up at a time and it does not disappear until it is killed. Once killed, a Dragon of a random type will respawn in the same spot after five minutes.
- Cloud Dragon buffs movement speed
- Infernal Dragons buffs attack and ability damage
- Ocean Dragon buffs Health and Mana regeneration
- Mountain Dragon buffs damage to structures
- Elder Dragon buffs damage dealt and all other Dragon buffs
Referred to as ‘Baron,’ this is the most powerful creature on the map. It spawns in the Baron Pit at 20 minutes and offers the largest team buff in LoL. Once killed by a team, for the next 2:30, all members received buffs to bonus attack damage, ability power and quicker recall. The more significant buff provided is that all minions are greatly empowered, with more health, doing more damage and attacking from farther ranges. Once killed, Baron will respawn after 7 minutes. It often takes the majority of a team to kill the Baron and the buff is a popular way to try to end games.
Occupying the Baron Pit before the Baron, Rift Herald spawns at the 10-minute mark of the game and offers a much smaller benefit once slain. The player who kills Rift Herald gets bonus gold and also the ability to resummon the Rift Herald on the map, when summoned he fights against an enemy structure. Rift Herald goes away permanently once killed or at 20 minutes when it is replaced by Baron Nashor.
Jungle Monsters: Spread throughout the Jungle, the main purpose of killing Neutral Monsters are for Gold and Experience. There are specific types of Jungle Monsters and they all spawn in the same spot each time. They will not attack a player unless attacked and are much stronger than Minions.
5. Game Progression / Items
As the game lasts longer and longer, players, abilities and monster get stronger as well. Players gain experience constantly throughout the game, earning extra experience when killing enemies, Minions, Structures and Neutral Monsters. Starting at level 1, players can get to as high as level 18, and their champions get stronger with each level. Each level provides one Ability Point, which can be used to upgrade a current ability or unlock one of the remaining four. However, as players get stronger, they are also punished more for making mistakes. The later it is in the game, the longer it takes for players to respawn after dying.
The biggest contributing factor to Players getting more powerful as the game progresses is purchasing Items. Players gain gold automatically throughout the game, but get bonus gold when killed enemies, Minion, Structure and Neutral Monsters. The sole purpose for Gold is to purchase items from the shop that provide significant benefits to players, buffing everything from damage to total health. The biggest benefits come from the most expensive items. Players can build up to those items by purchasing smaller items that build into a larger item, providing a way to put money towards the strongest items while still getting an immediate benefit.
One unique type of item is a Ward. Wards allow a team to see in areas would they would otherwise not be able to. Summoner’s Rift is a shadowed map and a team is only able to see in areas in which that team has a unit, whether player, Minion or Ward. There are multiple kinds of Wards, some are unable to be seen by enemies, others can be attacked and destroyed, but Wards are temporary and will be placed consistently throughout the entire game. The act of using Wards to see more of the map is referred to as ‘Getting Vision.’
6. Competitive Structure
In professional LoL, organizations field a team of at five players, often more than five in order to have substitute players. Teams will compete head-to-head against other teams in 5v5 matches on Summoner’s Rift. Similar to traditional sports, professional LoL has established positions on their team that each has their own role.
- Top: Playing primarily in the Top Lane, the Top player mainly functions as the toughest person on the team to kill, known as a ‘Tank’ due to their high defense and health total.
- Jungler: Not bound to any lane, the Jungler looks to kill Neutral Monsters in the Jungle to gain Gold and Experience. The Jungler will also jump from lane to lane assisting their teammates in a ‘Gank,’ which is a surprise attack on an enemy with hopes of killing them.
- Mid: Playing in the Mid lane, a Mid is a very offensive player that looks to deal lots of damage of opponents. They are very isolated as they are in the center of the map by themselves, so they must be very aware of their surroundings.
- AD Carry (ADC): This player is primary damage dealer for a team. They choose a champion and purchase items that are both are very offensive-focused. They do not have great survivability, so they have the assistance of a Support. ADC always plays in the Bot lane.
- Support: Primary mission is to keep ADC alive and so the Support sacrifices themselves to benefit the ADC’s ability to get Gold and Experience. Supports also spend a significant of money on Wards to help supply their team with Vision. Support will stay with ADC in the Bot lane.
META: The above roles are determined by a concept called the META, which stands for Most Effective Tactic Available. Aside from roles, META refers to the champions, Items and strategies used in-game that evolve constantly as players advance, updates are made to the game and by regions. The above roles, however, have stayed very stable.
7. Professional LoL Scene
Pro LoL consists of major Leagues and Events that are participated in by professional esport teams/organizations. Being a professional LoL player is the career for the participants and they truly are the most talented players in the world. Some areas of the world are more passionate and produce more talented players than others, but regardless of region, League of Legends is the top esport in the region.
Top Professional LoL Leagues/Regions:
Players are not bound to any League based on their heritage, instead are signed to organizations across the world as free agents, identical to traditional sports.
- NA LCS (North American League): The most followed league in USA but also known as one of the weaker major regions
- EU LCS (European League): The 2nd most follower league in USA, EU is regarded as the other Western region in LoL.
- LCK (Korean League): Korea is regarded as the strongest region in LoL and is known for producing the best talent. In Korea, professional LoL players are regarded as highly as the USA treats professional traditional sport athletes.
- LPL (Chinese League): China has risen to the point where they have made a case for the strongest region.
- LMS (Taiwanese League): The lesser of the three major Eastern LoL regions
- Other Non-Major Regions with smaller Professional Leagues: CBLoL (Brazil), VCS (Vietnam), LCL (CIS), TCL (Turkey), LLA (Latin America), LJL (Japan), OPL (Oceania), SEA (Southeast Asia)
8. Game Statistics
There are a lot of statistics available to examine within a match of League of Legends. However, some are much more meaningful and utilized for game/player evaluation than others, seen below.
- Total Counts of Kills, Deaths and Assists (Assists are when a plays a role in an enemy dying without actually getting the last hit, which includes damaging champion or healing person who killed champion)
- KDA - A ratio of a player's Kills and Assists relative to their amount of Deaths (Kills + Assists / Deaths)
- Creep Score - Total count of Neutral Monster + Minions killed
- Gold per minute (GPM) - Game average of how much Gold player earned per minute (Total Gold divided by Game Time)
- Others include: Wards/min, Wards Cleared/min, Vision Score, Kill Participation, Damage/min, etc.
9. Patches / Updates
League of Legends has never released a sequel, and will never, instead it is continually updated upon through Patches. Patches will slightly change small and specific aspects of the game in order to prevent the game from becoming stale and overly repetitive. There is no specific pattern on Patch updates, but often times Champion strength is changed in the patch, causing potential large changes to competitive play.
10. Online Account
When a user download League of Legends, they create an account with a unique Summoner Name, their LoL specific Gamertag. Each person chooses one that is completely unique and it is the name other players see you as.
LoL is Free-to-Play, but the majority of their money made comes from Microtransactions. Users will spend money on things such as Champions, Champion Skins (which changes aesthetics of a Champion), Icons and more. Players will spend money on Riot Points and Blue Essence, which in turn purchases those in-game items.