Year after year, thousands of players, analysts, coaches, and staff members around the globe push themselves to the limit in pursuit of one dream: sending their squad to the League of Legends World Championship. While the number of teams that can qualify is severely limited, the professionals can operate valiantly with the knowledge that all they have to do are ignore the odds, prepare their best, and fight it out until the end. After all, the best teams should prevail. But do they?
Last year, Ghostcrawler provided Riot's definition of competitive integrity here:
"It means that we have a contract with players. They have expectations about game balance (both champion balance and things like matchmaking). Players understandably want for their skill (which includes mechanical clicking skills and knowledge of the game) to be the primary factor for whether they won or lost."
In recent years, Riot Games' balance team has repeatedly fallen under fire for inconsiderately implementing cataclysmic patches right before major tournaments. While many players and spectators do appreciate the patches' intent to force fresh drafts and strategies, a serious competitive title would never force players to play premier tournaments and/or the qualifiers for said tournaments on a new, alien metagame. Such a move not only guarantees a lower level of play for the most important games of the year, but also instantly nullifies a large part of the research and refinement teams worked so hard on during the regular season.
Releasing Patch 6.15 to the Tournament Realm to coincide with the start of the LCK Postseason was the latest example of such an indirect violation of competitive integrity. Heavily disincentivizing laneswaps may have been for the best in the long term from a spectator experience perspective, but at what cost? Some teams excel at quickly adapting to new patches but fail to maintain their initial advantage; other teams excel at steadily improving on a set patch but have hit-or-miss judgment in the first few weeks of change. Is it really in the competitive interests of anyone to shake up the game in this fashion right before the most important matches of the year?
It is undeniable that Riot Games' heavy-handed approach to keeping the game fresh is one of the factors behind League of Legends' success as an eSport. However, it is time for the developers to remind themselves that an equal if not larger amount of work was put in on part of the players and teams. Without the level of competitive integrity that League of Legends maintained at those points in time, the timeless, enthralling games throughout the years that still linger in our hearts would never have unfolded.
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