It does look like League of Legends is slowly but surely taking over the media landscape. Riot Games’ extremely successful multiplayer online battle arena is still one of the hottest video games in the world. League of Legends tournaments are still incredibly huge and thousands, if not millions, of viewers tune in to see the best in their regions compete to see who is actually the best in the world. That wasn’t enough for Riot Games, though, because they wanted more.
Arcane, an animated series on Netflix was recently released and has been met with critical acclaim from both critics and viewers. What makes this even more amazing is how Arcane manages to draw in viewers who, like me, don’t know anything about League of Legends, the characters and the lore of the franchise. I have yet to watch it as I was afraid I’d get lost. However, the reviews have reassured me it’s easy to comprehend and Arcane will ease me into the story.
Even with a hit with Arcane, Riot Games isn’t done yet because, even though they rule the multiplayer online battle arena games, they want to dip their toes in another genre: the fighting game. This is why they’re developing Project L. They recently dropped a few tidbits of information with what Project L is going to be like and I am interested with what they have to say. In fact, you can even say it’s pure marketing genius to put together Project L.
I’m not saying Project L will be good. I’m more cautiously optimistic with it, in all honesty. The people behind Project L do come with a pedigree as they’re the people behind GGPO, the netcode used for rollback netcode in fighting games. What I’m saying is the guys behind Project L know their fighting games so I do have faith they know what they’re doing.
What I’m more interested in is the implications of League of Legends trying to make a fighting game. After all, League of Legends and something like, say, Capcom’s Vs. series, which Project L, seems to be mirroring, are totally different beasts. I’m also pretty sure the hardcore fanbases, while not exactly at odds with each other, don’t really have a lot of crossover between them. Project L might be the bridge to bring a lot more people to play League of Legends than you might think.
That sounds odd for me to say since I did just state League of Legends is already a big hit. It’s much bigger than any fighting game out there, period! However, they can always get bigger and I can potentially see Project L drawing in some fighting game fanatics into their fold.
In fact, this transition has kind of begun already. After the Riot Games presentation of Project L, some fighting game streamers were enthused enough by what they saw. Some of the hardcore pros even loved the idea of a “pick up and play” fighter like Project L, which is how the game is shaping up to be. The gameplay mechanics of some of the characters, like Ekko’s ability to rewind time or Ahri’s ability to float around the screen to perform air combos, were unique to them but probably not to someone who’s been playing League of Legends for a long time.
Of course, the main draw are actually the characters and League of Legends has a very, very, very deep roster of playable avatars. Right now, there is some curiosity as to who will be making the transition to Project L as, so far, only 4 characters have officially been confirmed. That hasn’t stopped some fighting game streamer from going to the League of Legends website and picking who they would want to see… despite not knowing anything about the game!
Also, fighting game fans are happy Project L is going to be using a form of GGPO for their netcode. I mean, that was practically assured because the people who developed GGPO are making the game. It’s still reassuring to see that a fighting game is taking their online seriously and, seeing it’s one of the most reliable netcode for almost lag-free fighting, it’s good to know it’s there.
The only real contention I’ve seen with Project L from the fighting game community is the perceived lack of execution skill needed to get good. This is because Project L is going to use simplified inputs to execute special moves. I can see where these guys are coming from. Performing a joystick motion coupled with a button may come off as easy in practice but you can fumble it during the excitement of battle. This does make things more tense and more hype to see a perfectly executed combo that requires precise timing.
However, I also see the simplified inputs as a boon to Project L because, while the game may be there to attract fighting game fans to League of Legends, Project L still has its foot planted in the League of Legends fanbase. As I said, the hardcore League of Legends player probably hasn’t played a whole lot of fighting games or really put in the time to really master all the complicated inputs. So simplifying how specials are done would make it easy for League of Legends players, the people who are probably going to gobble the game up when it’s released, to play it. It’s a League of Legends game, after all!
What does this mean for the fighting game community, though? Command inputs is something “real” fighting games have, right? Well, I’m not exactly of that mindset but I do get the idea behind it. However, there are fighting games that use simplified inputs nowadays. Even Street Fighter V dabbled with this with characters like Ed and Falke so I definitely see room in the fighting game world for “easy to pick up” games like this. Besides, if the base game of Project L is good and the mechanics allows for some amazing combo strings, it won’t matter if it uses simplified inputs. It just has to look good doing it.
With all of that being said, I don’t think Project L will be a massive hit. It won’t exactly set the fighting game community on fire nor will it completely draw the League of Legends audience as it’s too different from what they expect. What I do think Project L will be successful at is being a bridge between the two communities. It’s going to be good enough to attract some players from the fighting game community to League of Legends and, in this weird symbiotic relationship, will get some League of Legends players check out the fighting game scene. It’s a win-win for everyone and that’s why it’s marketing genius.
What do you think of Project L so far? Let me know in the comments section below!