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League of Legends Retiring Dominion: an Answer – StrategyZero
Feb 132016
Dominion Header
The Battle for the Crystal Scar

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.

Source: League of Legends News: Retiring Dominion

  12 Responses to “League of Legends Retiring Dominion: an Answer”

  1. I agree with your opinion but I never really cared about dominion which is the reason I never cared about it’s state or if its going to get removed…

    • We understand that Dominion isn’t a mode that everyone likes; the same applies to Summoner’s Rift. One is preferred by the majority but each has a dedicated player-base.

      Actually, the worst part is probably Riot’s attitude. It’s as if they add insult to injury while hiding behind the big wall of company policy. Surely, it might all be an impression but it does leave a sour taste. Besides, if this is the concern they give to casual players, even if it’s only a niche, then things aren’t looking good for other casual modes and things in general. As Einstein said: “whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

      When you get into the mindset of increasing profit everything is subjective to be sacrificed in the name of increasing revenue. There are already enough examples in the world of gaming of how such things work for players, developers and publishers. It’s something that can be avoided but it seems too easy or attractive an approach to look at everything with a business mindset. Then come the giveaways and promotions to try to salvage a sullied reputation but it seldom removes the stains.

      As the saying goes: “trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.” Riot already has far from a good record on promises so we are getting to the point where backs start to break.

  2. I read every single word of this. I have to admit, this was done wonderfully with many key points and facts that I agree upon. If only Riot could read this…
    5 stars! Keep up the awesome work strategyzero

    • Thanks for the kind words, we’ll surely keep working hard.

      We thought that the view of Dominion players, even if subjective and biased, should be expressed. In the past we would’ve trusted Riot to listen to players, nowadays we don’t know. Things have surely changed. We can’t always change what happens but we can often, if not always, leave plainly clear that we think something is wrong.

      Van Gogh said that “great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” A great disaster probably starts the same way. The removal of Dominion is bad but if we also consider the string of unfortunate incidents that Riot seems to have time after time it all adds up to a rather pretty mess. It’s only a matter of time before it all adds up to a major cockup from which there could be no return.

      A Turkish proverb says: “no matter how far you’ve gone on a wrong road, turn back.” However, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences. Still, the sooner you steer towards the right direction, the better.

  3. Holy moly i play only dominion and have to say one thing: I laugh so hard when i red “we have to concentrate on Sumoner Rift etc etc” HOLY FK RIOT YOU DO THIS SINCE BEGINING OF THIS GAME SINCE SEASON ONE, EVEN SINCE BETA OMFG!!! All you do is RIFT! You did nothing for dominion! So dont bullshit me about you wanna make rift main game cuz thats what u care only from begining not only now! Its just stupid excuse, same as nerfing zed’s ulti cuz new item dusk…If domi is done I’m donzo too cuz dominion is only mode that keeps me in League, not that RIFT full of flamers! Ty for good alternate mode for all those years!

    Cheers Black Magic…

    • We understand that Riot has their vision for the game but that’s not one that everyone shares as the numbers demonstrate. After all, not everybody wants a stressful competitive experience all the time. When you just want to relax and have fun that’s when casual game modes should be available. Besides, they could support an alternate competitive base for those that get tired of doing always the same in Summoner’s Rift.

      Restricting choice is not the same as focusing on a single vision. In fact, that could end up degrading the main experience because if there’s no alternative inside the game for Summoner’s Rift then players will find it outside. Therefore, instead of playing something with some overlap to the main game-play they’ll simply play something completely different which reduces the engagement with the overall League of Legends experience.

      Truth be told, there are so many negatives to this focused approach that it makes one wonder. The saying does advice not to put all your eggs in one basket.

  4. Dominion is a game mode that I actually play quite a bit. I often find that when I need a first win of the day that a 10 minute game is a preferable experience to a 20 minute summoners rift game. I also like that it is the only mode where you get a buff where you can instantly recall and be playing instead of watching dead screen as punishment when you die.

    Additionally, 2 years ago, Riot changed summoners rift from a bright airy crisp full color look to a map that has muted and dusty colors that dull the look on champion skins. I spent a small fortune on skins and often enjoy going to Dominion to get to see them in their full vibrancy and color and sometimes the warmer tones of the map allow me to enjoy my skins from a healthy sanguine point of view rather than cold dullness.

    Clarity was still available on Dominion and it allowed me to play extremely mana hungry champions that I would never play on Summoners rift anymore. I invested quite a bit in those champions and you do not get guaranteed champions on ARAM.

    The real reason that Riot is removing Dominion is that it is a place where many people use scripting and bot leveling. It can be a frustrating experience when you see 2, 3, or even 4 bots that are not actively playing well.

    Riot is quickly becoming an arrogant in your face ruin your fun company that thinks they know best how to dictate to their player base exactly how they allow people to have fun. You want fun then you do it our way and play by our rules and we do not care anything about your opinion or if you enjoy our game or if you do not.

    They started it with the terrible Rugged Garen remodel and then dulled the colors of their entire map on Summoners Rift, then removed clarity and the ability for support characters to add mana to their adcs, and have nerfed or removed many things in the game that used to make it actually fun to play. It should not come as any surprise that they are removing entire modes.

    I always thought that riot could have and should have done more with Dominion. For instance in pro play, they easily could have had the teams play a warm up game in Dominion with the winner of the match getting their choice of blue or red. It would have been fun for the fans to see pros compete on a different map. They easily could have added rank play in Dominion with those getting to gold getting a ward or Dominion skin or some other goodie should they have made gold.

    But what Riot did do is that they showed they just dont care. They give Dominion absolutely no love or oversight while rushing out more champions and more skins that the game just does not need.;

    Tryndamere is a champion with 8 skins now and Beast Hunter wasnt even needed. He is a poor champ for Summoners rift because when teams position for Team Fights Tryndamere loses his rage and is worthless. Its not uncommon to see teams lose 4 v 5 fights while a Tryndamere is off split pushing. Beast Mode Tryndamere looks crappy on Summoners Rift where Riot has chosen to use dusty colors that mute, bore, and dull down champion skins. Beast Mode Tryndamere does not have new particles, animations or sounds and as a skin on summoners rift it is very much inferior to Nightmare Tryndamere which sells for the same price and already has dark cold colors which go with the boring and dusty dull look of summoners rift.

    However Tryndamere is actually a good champion and fun to play on Dominion. And his ult letting him take no damage from a turret is a major impact on the battle for it. And Beast Hunter Tryndamere looks a lot better on Dominion than it does on the Rift. On Dominion its a superior skin to Nightmare.

    Honestly, Im so bored with League of Legends these days. Riot caters to pro players and tries to nerf and equalize and push everyone into their opinion of how a game should be played. Supporting an adc that uses up his mana in 30 seconds and wont recall until he dies is a good reason for a support to take clarity but now you cant. Riot doesnt care and they are like … well good players dont need it. But trying to support one not so good is a case for the fact that its a good option. I cant play a single game these days without seeing the acronym oom pop up in chat.

    The Rift is dull, it casts a damper over skins and their colors and it isn’t really all that fun to play anymore. Team play is discouraged against the ever increasing backdrop of landing skill shots and making plays. Riot is putting all of their eggs into one basket of making their game less beautiful, less fun, and less varied in experience. It used to be that there were only 2 serious Moba games to play and now there are 2 dozen or more. As Riot retreats into an ugly capture the flag 5 v 5 rather than Team v Team experience the others might very well gain a toe hold and take over a large share of those billions of revenues.

    I personally have cut down purchase of riot points by 95% and I am playing it less than half as much as I did 2 years ago. Even coming to get my first win of the day seems a grind and not all that fun and now that Dominion is gone, it will become less interesting. There will probably be days and weeks that I do not even show up. Many will say good bye gone. But I was a Riots dream customer and bought tons of skins. Now I can barely stand to play their game.

    And you know what, Riot doesnt even care. Someday, a solid quality company is going to arrive that puts out a more fun game. It already might be here. New players will smile at having to buy 2 dozen champions and 35 or 40 skins rather than 130 champions and 700 skins. And they will enjoy a more varied gameplay with more options of champion customization and more strategic maps other than merely choosing between one, two, or three lane capture the flag maps.

    Riot is boring.

    And they dont even care.

    Guess how many riot points I plan to buy this year…. Its <1,


    • Since Riot changed from being a small company trying to make it big with their game to a big company with access to millions of dollars the approach to the game changed. The example with Rugged Garen can actually be noticed in all recent visual upgrades: they became standarized. They create a new base and then make variations of the same base for each skin. Lately, they are trying to offer more variety in the modifications to better reflect each skins’ theme but the base is noticeable nonetheless; consider Shen’s VU for instance. Garen’s VU, being one of the first when the standarization took place, more or less, was a great example of how things changed. The fact that many VU take away features, like Headhunter Master Yi’s unique particles, is another nail in the coffin.

      The attitude of ‘Riot knows best’ has been felt for some time now. They always advertised that they didn’t have clients, they had players and so ‘player support’. Nowadays, it all seems empty words. They did use to discuss in the forums about changes to be made, features to be added and it always gave the impression that they listened to feedback. It no longer holds true. Perhaps they are there, lurking, but the impression you get from their decisions is the complete opposite. They do their thing because they know best and that shift in attitude does little to keep veteran players that have invested quite a bit on the game. It also puts in perspective how much you should spend in the future.

      Perhaps it’s scripted bots that Riot is having trouble with on Dominion but there is always a solution if you have the resources or ingenuity; Riot does. Besides, as many have said, bots won’t disappear if you take Dominion away. They’ll simply migrate to another mode. They need a more general approach to it. We don’t think that’s the only reason Dominion is going but it definitely added to the pool of issues.

      Your idea of promoting Dominion in pro-play is great. It would also work for other modes and gives a more relaxed and alternative view of the abilities of the pros. It would make for something different and interesting to see the pros using all their skill in your favourite mode instead of always the same Summoner’s Rift. As with many other things that have been ignored, like hybrid builds, it adds variety and choice to the game which prevents it from growing stale.

      One thing that is evident about Summoner’s Rift is that it’s saturated with details, elements, animated decoration. Therefore, it’s difficult to spot your own champion let alone appreciate subtle characteristics of a skin. There’s so much going on everywhere that it tires the eyes and the pressure to do good doesn’t make it a fun game. If we were taking about ranked fine but there’s no casual in SR, there’s a meta-game to respect. Concentrating all their effort on one single experience may have its benefits but alternatives are necessary to relieve from game-play that is so structured and focused on winning. A game is to have fun and there always comes the time when you are done with competition and want to relax. Competing should be an option not an imposition. If a player gets tired of SR then it’ll have to look outside LOL if all that is left is SR. Additionally, with only Summoner’s Rift to rely on there’s no alternative to keep players invested if anything goes wrong with it.

      Something that should be worrying is that Riot now has the luxury of ignoring thousands of players because they have millions. They weren’t always be able to do so and, with so much comeptition going on, they may not be able to do so in the future. Casual players always outnumber the competitive scene and there are many, like Blizzard, that have learned that lesson and are capitalizing on what’s left after the competitive scene; the bigger market of casual players. Take into account the streamlined and accessible approach of Hearthstone or Heroes of the Storm.

      As you mention the size of League of Legends is ridiculous. It poses a huge wall to new players with so many champions and an overloaded market of skins. Even if they have reduced the amount of champions and skins released per year it’s still a lot. Also, with so much terrain covered over the years both champions and skins struggle to differentiate themselves and often appear familiar in certain aspects or merely offering a different adaptation of a known concept.

      Maybe Riot knows best and the choice of ignoring thousands is not a decision they end up regretting. We think that losing players, no matter how many, is a bad choice that could potentially have a cascade effect. As things are nowadays in the gaming world it’s all to easy to lose a player to the competition with so many options available. Besides, it’s known that it’s always easier to keep an existing customer than to make a new one. Perhaps Riot knows best though.

  5. As a game developer, I believe that trying to appeal to every single player you have is an exhausting and never-ending endeavor, for many are ungrateful regardless. It’s a thankless job, and many consumers don’t realize that.

    However, my own question to Riot is: If all the assets and resources for Dominion’s map and queue remain on the servers, as Riot has stated it will for the rotating special game mode queue… how do they gain profit from removing players’ bridge to it?

    In a coding sense, it’s basically like buying two large islands, both with bridges to the mainland. After buying the second island, you burn its bridge so mainlanders can’t access it easily. However, you’re still paying all the property taxes on that island.


    • We understand your point that you just can’t make everyone happy. However, by removing Dominion there’re only players that are negatively affected. The global player base doesn’t get any real advantages as there won’t be more resources available for Summoner’s Rift or a saving on costs by removing Dominion because, as Riot admitted, it just wasn’t being supported.

      On top of it all, there’s the fact that you mention: Dominion is a viable option for the rotaing game mode queue which means that the assets remain. Therefore, it has to still be minimally supported and so, where’s the advantage in removing access to it?

      You’re right, we need an explanation on why things are being done they way they are. Riot’s decisions are difficult to understand. From the look of things, it doesn’t make logical sense. It gives the impression that decisions are taken and then patched up to reduce the effect of the consequences.

  6. I wonder if any Riot employee actually gonna come here and read this. Would like to hear an answer to all those points brought up.

    Here is a fun take on Dominion:



    • We’d also like to know more about the thinking process behind the removal of Dominion and elligibility for the rotating game queue. So far, the only thing that’s clear is that Dominion is gone despite the player-base that remained even in the abandoned state it was left.

      That video brings back a lot of memories. The good, old days: they sure don’t make them like that anymore. Now we’ll go rest these old bones of ours.

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