Video game company Riot Games changed the industry back in 2009 when they released League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game.
The total player count for the free-to-play title is into the millions and Riot itself hosts international tournaments that has given millions of dollars to professional players.
For those unfamiliar with the game, League consists of gladiator-style battles across a large map between two teams.
Each team contains five players controlling “champions.” There are five roles in the game that fulfill various strategic positions that must work together in complex tactics.
The game is notoriously difficult for newcomers. Those who stick with it, however, often find themselves attached to the addictive gameplay.
The game has a large following here at Tech. It sees one of the largest outcomes for each semester’s GameFest, and it is not uncommon to witness someone playing a quick match in the student center or in class. Tech has an official League of Legends club, which is lead by Benjamin Sauk.
Sauk is also captain of Tech’s League of Legends team, which is currently competing in three national tournaments.
The team comprises Sauk (Deadjo, AD carry), Manu Bansal (Shizoli, Jungler), Christian Pugh (Probo, Mid), Max Kim (Crysanthos, Top) and Kevin Xu (Xumasts, Support).
Since the tournament matches are played against colleges from across the country, the matches tend to be played online. This allows the Tech team to challenge out-of-state colleges from the comfort of their dorms without worrying about flying every week around the country. If there are local tournaments, such as GameFest, they are usually hosted in Klaus.
The Tech team has done well in the past, even getting second place in an Ivy Tournament hosted in Austin, Tex. As of Feb. 22, they were ranked in Diamond IV.
It was during this tournament that the team had one of their fiercest set of matches. They were underdogs against the University of California, San Diego, but overcame the team, which consisted of players who went on to play professionally.
The Technique discussed the game with Sauk and got his personal impressions and thoughts on the still-expanding monolith that is League.
Sauk is a third-year ChBE Engineering major. He inherited the leadership role for the League club. Growing up just outside Philadelphia, Penn., Sauk chose to attend Tech based on its reputation and because his uncle attended the school.
An Ivy tournament in Fall 2011 got Sauk serious about playing League. From the team he scrambled together to compete in it, one player, Christian Pugh, remains. Pugh plays mid, and his main champion is Anivia, who he played from level 18 to 30.
Sauk’s favorite champion to play in his preferred position, AD carry, is Caitlyn because she is relatively easy, but fun, to play. He likes Nami best as support for Caitlyn.
His least favorite champion overall is Poppy. Sauk owns all the champions, but Poppy was forced on him because a friend gifted the champ to him. If he had his way, he would never own her.
Season 4 of League, which just began, has already caused a stir in the community. A renewed focus on support champions and a re-working of the turrets has altered team compositions and item builds.
As AD carry, Sauk’s main concern with the changes was the empowerment of supports because they “make it easier to kill the AD carry.”
Arguing that the turret changes are for the best, Sauk argues, “it encourages 2v2 matches on the bot lane, which was going away in professional games and I feel it’s more fun as 2v2.”
Overall, Sauk said, “At first I thought it was a step back, but now I’m not so sure. It seemed they were countering early snowballs but teams can still win quickly.”
When asked if he would continue to play League after college, Sauk said, “I’m really competitive. I played the Pokémon card game for 14 years. I was flown out to Hawaii for a tournament in that. I’d like to keep playing, I just have to find a team wherever I end up.”
The one aspect Sauk wishes could be better is the League community’s “toxicity.”
“The minority is toxic, which reflects poorly on the majority,” Sauk said. “Most of the time it’s perfectly fine. If the honor system was better, it might help fix the problem. It worked well initially but has died away because the novelty has worn off.”
Giving a final thought on the impact of League on the video game industry, Sauk said, “I think it’s [League of Legends] establishing a new world order in eSports. I can only see it dying if something different comes out or Riot really messes up. I think what they’re doing in LCS is cool because it’s setting up eSports as a major, legitimate sport.”