In which Pat tries to unravels the mysteries of the world’s most popular MOBA. He’ll soon be pro! Or not.
Yes, I know I’m not the first person to write a diary about learning to play League of Legends, and no, I won’t be the last. Regardless, pure ignorance of a core computer game enjoyed by nearly 30 million people every day is hardly acceptable considering who we are, so I’m going to document the journey from “utterly clueless” to “marginally clued”. And off we go.
League of Legends! A week ago, I know fuck all about it other than the following things:
- It’s a MOBA.
- It’s really, really popular.
- You can win loads of money playing it if your name’s D3FiL3r_2w398i457632.
- It’s notoriously difficult to become an accomplished player.
In an effort to shovel quick-setting concrete into my gaming knowledge’s most embarrassing gap, I’m going to learn how to play it. I started last week. Here’s the sum total of my knowledge so far.
Before we get going, let’s clarify what these articles are. They’re supposed to be more diary than tutorial (if you’re looking to raise your game, maybe check out the excellent ImproveYourLeague.com), and hopefully they’ll encourage you to play if you’ve stayed away until now. You really should try it. League of Legends is huge for a reason. Even now, after only a few matches, I’ve experienced a taste of the the tension that keeps players returning daily in their millions. It’s a great game. It’s also free-to-play, so go ahead and grab the client. You have nothing to lose but some disc space.
I’d also like to begin by dispelling a myth: League of Legends isn’t difficult to play, if by “play” we mean “participate in a game and win,” and by “game” we mean “group with other beginners against some bots”. Anyone with even a cursory history in PC gaming can easily play LoL at a basic level. D3FiL3r_2w398i457632 isn’t the only person with a League party invite. This is a fact. If I can play it, so can you.
Now that’s out of the way, some explanations. If you’ve ever watched people playing League of Legends and sat there thinking “what the fuck,” this is what it is. Please bear in mind I know next to nothing about LoL right now, so everything in these articles is based purely on my early experiences. What I’m saying is that I’m going to say wrong stuff. I don’t care. Neither should you. Everything in this first piece comes from running the tutorials, playing with randoms against bots three times and doing a bit of research.
Welcome to Summoner’s Rift
League of Legends is usually a 5v5 PvP PC game. There’s a 3v3 map (Twisted Treeline) available from the start, and solo modes are included, but whatever. The Classic mode is 5v5 and played on a level called Summoner’s Rift, on which there are three lanes – referred to as “top,” “mid” and “bot” – and two large jungle areas. The general play concept is very simple. Your team has to push from one side of the map to the other and destroy the opponent’s “nexus” (base).
The beginner experience starts by playing the tutorial, and you’ll immediately see concepts familiar to ARPG and RTS controls. Right click moves and attacks, left click performs an action. There’s a bar at the bottom containing key-activated buffs and skills, the content of which will obviously depend on your champion. The explanatory level does a good job of introducing the basic concepts without being overwhelming. You pick a champion, choose two spells, get dumped in the walkthrough.
Once you’re out of the tutorial you play with bots against bots, and then you’re into grouping with randoms against AI. You’re playing the game here, and you certainly can lose, but there’s an Intro level of difficulty before the trickier Beginner. Start with the former.
Play happens like this. You start at your nexus along with the rest of your team. You’ll usually see a little chat between players at the start of the match in which they’ll pick a lane. You have 90 seconds before minions (NPC grunts) start spawning, equal amounts of which will start running up the three lanes. You have to wait for them until you engage the opposing team. You’ll die if you don’t, and dying is bad (see below). While you’re waiting, you can buy stuff from your team’s shop to fill up six available inventory slots with passive and active items. In the first instance you’ll probably be buying health and mana potions, but there are tons of other bits to boost speed, attack, defense and so on.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll probably run up your lane and wait for your minions to arrive before beginning your campaign against the opposing team’s towers. League of Legends is games within the game, the main one, at least in the early stages, being the combat surrounding the destruction of towers. The way towers work is explained in good detail in the tutorial, but, basically, they attack nearby opponents and must be destroyed to gain access to the Nexus and win the match. You can only attack towers when accompanied by minions, because you’ll die if you try alone. Honestly, playing the game is the best way to understand how towers work, but if you’ve ever played a tower defense game you’ll already have a decent understanding of the concept.
Once the opposing towers are destroyed, you smash the enemy nexus and every has a little cheer. And that, in horrifically simplistic terms, is the game. Easy, right?
You’ll get beyond the basics quickly. This is the report from my latest match. I’ve played three Classic matches in the Beginner category against AI in the last week, and this is what I’ve learned.
- There’s always an idiot calling other players “noobs”. You will see players, in the Intro and Beginner levels of Co-op vs AI, calling people “noobs”. In case you’re unfamiliar with these terms, these are the settings for brand new players. They’re full of noobs. These are noobs calling noobs noobs. Just ignore it. Don’t let idiots spoil your game.
- Dying is bad. The time it takes to respawn lengthens every time you die. Late on in the match, a death could put you out of play for as much as a minute. That’s a long time, especially considering you have to run back to the action after you respawn at the nexus. If you see you’re taking damage, run away. If you’re acutely low on health, retreat from the frontline and hit “B”. This, after a brief cooldown, teleports you back to the nexus and refills your health. The tutorial repeats this routine many times. Allow it to be drummed into your head.
- You must stay behind your minions. You’ll keep dying if you don’t. I’ve been playing a ranged champion (Ashe: she’s awesome), so I’m not sure how this works if you’re using a melee character, but you have to hang back. The chat window will be 90% full of messages telling players to stop charging forward.
- Unless you really know what you’re doing (you don’t), stick to your lane. Don’t be tempted to wander off if you’re a newbie. Things will likely go badly for the rest of your crew if you go running into the jungle without a solid plan. League is a team game, remember. Think of your fellow players.
- Pick a champion and stick with it. I was advised to stay with one of the starter champions until I properly understood League’s basics. Each champion is different, so it’s best not to confuse matters until you have a solid grasp of what’s going on.
- The shop isn’t as complicated as it looks. The first time you boot the shop up it’ll look like a mess. It’s honestly simple. Just play the game a few times and you’ll soon understand the UI’s basics. Also, you can use the shop while you’re waiting to respawn. You don’t have to be in the game to buy stuff.
There. That was my first week with League of Legends. An experienced friend of mine has very kindly offered to hold my hand a little this week, so I’ll be playing with people I know for the first time. Hooray for that.