We’ve been thinking long about what to write at this sad news. After reading the comments in response to Riot’s announcement, with the expressed feelings of the community, we think that the simplest thing to do is to merely answer to what you, Riot, say in the announcement. We’ll go paragraph by paragraph over each major topic and give an answer to each statement we find relevant. Then, we’ll see where that leaves us. We don’t claim for this to be an objective answer: we like Dominion, it’s our preferred game mode. This means that without it there’ll be little reason to play and we definitely aren’t happy with how Dominion’s situation is being handled. With that stated, let’s start.
Riot, you say that Dominion’s release four years ago was to offer “fast-paced skirmishes, capture-and-hold game-play, and different skills to master”. Congratulations Riot because you did succeed at that. Games can last for as little as seven minutes but rarely over half an hour. Usually, a match takes from fifteen to twenty minutes. That’s ideal for when you don’t have much time or you want to play with many different champions in succession. The game mode was an initial success thanks to its unique game-play and less rigid meta-game. Dominion is surely a unique experience and something that no other mode, perhaps no game, can equate.
Riot, you also say “it’s clear today that alternative game modes work better in short cycles rather than as standalone queues.” How, Riot, do you know that if you never supported an alternative game mode as much as Summoner’s Rift in a permanent way? The fact that a featured game mode starts to lose its population isn’t necessarily because people lose interest. Perhaps as a temporary game mode with clear objectives to achieve, like icons instead of a rank, people leave after reaching the top. Also, players could be saturating themselves by playing the mode too much knowing that they have to make the most of it before it leaves, perhaps forever. Something to remember is that correlation does not imply causation.
“We want to support game modes delivering consistently engaging and competitive experiences.” Where’s the evidence of that? Featured games modes come and go regardless of the requests of players to keep some of them permanently, like URF mode. Twisted Treeline, ARAM and Dominion receive little support and updates while the first two even benefit from a similar game-play to Summoner’s Rift; which means that some of the balance changes for Summoner’s Rift can be directly applied to them. In addition to this, why do game modes have to be competitive? Isn’t it enough if they are just relaxing and fun? There’s ranked for competitive minded people so, why can’t there be modes for casual players? At any rate, each game mode could have a ranked queue for the most competitive players. It was never done with Dominion so, how can you be so sure it just won’t work?
According to the most recent numbers available in Riot’s website, from 2014, every month 67 million play the game. Additionally, 27 million play every day and at peak play time there’re 7.5 million players. Given those figures, if only 0.5% of players are active on Dominion then that means: 335 thousand play each month, 135 thousand each day and at the daily peak time there’s 37.5 thousand Dominion players on the Crystal Scar. Of course, if we are talking about millions a few thousand lose their impact. However, it’s quite a bit of people that are being ignored and Dominion’s player-base is one that many would envy.
Dominion may be in a vicious cycle of neglect but initially it did have a large community which was left to fade away. That’s done now but the only way to break such a cycle is to stop doing what keeps it going: in this case, doing nothing. Surely, the matchmaking has problems that can only be addressed by injecting life into Dominion. However, who says that Dominion players prefer the mode to be removed to playing in a flawed state? People keep playing Dominion according to the numbers, few people but a few thousand still do. Therefore, there’s a community that likes Dominion despite its major problems; that should amount to something.
“Unhealthy queues that force players to endure long waits with fluctuating match quality ultimately creates an overall poor experience — one we take responsibility for.” How? To take responsibility for something is to face the consequences of your actions. A phrase like ‘if you break it, then you fix it’ probably sounds familiar. Removing the game mode is not taking responsibility. Who’s paying the consequences of Dominion’s state? From what we read, only Dominion players whom lose their favourite game mode are affected.
Riot, you state that “we chose Summoner’s Rift as the core League of Legends experience with its depth of gameplay, match pacing, and path to mastery”. Firstly, that implies that ignoring Dominion was a deliberate act and one can even infer that other casual game modes would be treated similarly due to that choice. Also, there’s something we don’t understand. On the one hand you release Dominion to offer a fast-paced mode with a different set of skills to master; an alternative. However, on the other hand, Dominion is neglected because you centre on Summoner’s Rift exclusively. Dominion is supposed to be different and offer an alternative experience. Then why focusing on Summoner’s Rift means that it has to be at the expense of everything else? Focus is not the same as exclusivity. That makes the game loses variety and that can make it boring in the long term. It certainly doesn’t help to keep veteran players interested if the amount of choices is narrowed.
“When it comes to the resources required to keep Dominion permanent and solve the inherent design problems and give it ongoing live balance support, we’ve consistently devoted them to Summoner’s Rift and related features because we felt they’d improve the overall League experience more.” The press states some interesting numbers too about League of Legends. Destructoid reports that SuperData estimates a revenue on 2014 of one billion for League of Legends. On top of that, your e-sports side reaches to a viewer base of over 130 million. Are we to think that with those numbers you lack the resources to keep a handful of alternative game modes available? Worse yet, you mean to say that what is available of all that money goes to Summoner Rift and e-sports while not even a fraction can be used for Dominion? Even if the estimate is so wrong that you made half of that then, where does that half billion go to? Sorry, but with so many millions flying left and right it’s difficult to believe that resources are actually an issue. At the very least, clarification is needed to understand better the costs versus the revenue.
One more thing, League of Legends isn’t Summoner’s Rift for everyone despite what you may desire, Riot. Improving Summoner’s Rift doesn’t improve the overall League experience; it only improves Summoner’s Rift. If you neglect part of the game and only focus on a specific area then you may say that it improves on average but it only truly improves League of Summoner’s Rift. For those that prefer other game modes the game has, in fact, gotten worse. No matter how much Summoner’s Rift is improved it simply doesn’t affect them.
As compensation for the removal of Dominion you, Riot, are giving an exclusive Summoner Icon. How is an icon supposed to make up for the fact that the game mode you like the most is being removed? Who do you think your players are Riot? Is this what you mean for taking responsibility? We frankly don’t understand your reasoning. You seem oblivious to the desires of thousands of players that still play Dominion. As if that wasn’t enough, you seem to think that players will find more value in an icon than in a flawed yet fun game mode that thousand keep dedicating most if not all of their League of Legends time. For many people if Dominion is removed then League of Legends ceases to be a game for them.
“But if you want to stick around and join us on the Rift…” So the idea is that Dominion players move to Summoner’s Rift? It’s a subtle suggestion but probably expected nonetheless. Isn’t it clear that Dominion players prefer the Crystal Scar? Dominion players like to be led right into a team-fight from the very beginning instead of waiting over twenty minutes for one. They like not to worry so much about team composition, the meta-game and the most effective builds. They prefer to devote less than half an hour to a match instead of having to spend twenty minutes picking low-health minions before the good part of the game starts. Dominion is different to Summoner’s Rift so if a player prefers one they can perfectly dislike the other. It’s only a suggestion, sure, but the intention behind it doesn’t feel right.
“We’ve learned a lot from Dominion and the costs associated with maintaining a fully separate game mode…” What exactly have you learned if you state that you actually haven’t maintained Dominion? What you could’ve learned from featured game modes isn’t the same as what Dominion could’ve taught had it been a maintained permanent game mode. The only thing that seems clear is that if a game mode doesn’t work well on its own, despite not receiving proper support, then it gets removed.
Finally, “We’re retiring Dominion to focus on our vision for League moving forward: we’ll concentrate on the core League game while supporting alternative experiences which deliver consistent, competitive gameplay with healthy queues and appropriate matchmaking (ARAM and featured game modes are good examples of this).” If you, Riot, choose to concentrate on competitive Summoner’s Rift then that’s all that will remain. Casual players prefer more relaxing modes where they don’t have to face the stress of following the meta-game. Yet, you state again that you will concentrate on competitive game-play even on alternate game modes. That’s certainly not what casual players look for.
As the fighting game scene demonstrates, a game lives and dies by its casual players. Those that dress up as their favourite champions, make fan art, write stories, those that treat the game as what it is: a game, not a sport. It’s understandable that you want to offer a competitive scene for those that want to excel at the game. However, the majority of players always want to have fun with a game not to be at the top of the ladder. Without the support of casual players, the hardcore of pro players isn’t enough to keep a game running. It’s better to learn from the mistakes of others than your own but that’s seldom what humans do. So, history is always doomed to repeat itself.
Additionally, if featured game modes have healthy queues it’s because the mode is removed before it starts to get unhealthy instead of being supported not to get into such a state. ARAM is a healthy game mode because its random nature keeps its balance in check not because it receives much support. Besides, it does get tuned for Legend of the Poro King at least once a year, recently. Also, ARAM has quite a few similarities with Summoner’s Rift game-play: it’s all about pushing forward through towers to get to the enemy nexus. The capture-and-hold game-play of Dominion is unique so the other game modes aren’t a substitute. Last but not least, you don’t mention Twisted Treeline as a healthy game mode. What are we to think about this?
In the end, Riot’s decision is taken. It could be changed, we still hope for it, but once you see the numbers it’s evident that thousands amount to little against millions. What really feels bad is how Riot keeps their player-focused slogan. Perhaps becoming a big company and being bought by Tencent has changed the way Riot works. In the past they made an effort to listen to the community and did what they could to make everyone happy with what they had. Now it doesn’t give that impression any more.
Surely, profit is essential but that doesn’t seem to be the problem with Riot. When all is said and done it’s each developer’s decision how they approach making a game. Some give it all to make players happy, many indie developers are a great example of that. The big companies, well, we know quite well by now how they operate. We shouldn’t let them get away with it. Does that mean to try to boycott their games? Not necessarily, it’s not the only way. However, they should know that we, as players, realise that what they are doing isn’t right and that we don’t like it. At the very least, we should voice our opinion loud and clear lest they think that they can know better than us what we like to do with our time.