It’s finally happening, y’all! League of Legends is getting an MMO! And boy howdy am I excited. While I didn’t follow the game in its infancy, over the past three years I’ve slowly become a fan of the scene, the world, and the lore. I am by no means a MOBA loyalist; I’ve spent more time in Teamfight Tactics and Legends of Runeterra more than League of Legends. And I know there’s people out there who wouldn’t touch the game with a 10-foot pole just because of the studio’s reputation and the community being one of the worst online.
But we cannot deny the power of the League of Legends IP and the love that’s been put into the game’s lore in the last half-decade. Back in 2014, Riot decided to do away with the game’s original story of the players taking the role of summoners using heroes from Runeterra’s history to solve disputes. The writers wrote themselves into a corner with the original lore, and thus they decided to change it up. Players were upset at first. But the game’s lore has grown into a chronicle spanning many eons and a variety of parallel universes.
With the franchise reaching 11 years, this is a prime time to put that lore to work in an MMO. The Warcraft franchise was about 10 years when World of Warcraft came out. And the League franchise is now in an excellent position to jump into the genre.
Will Riot show us how modern MMOs should be done? With the game still quite possibly years away, the only thing its future playerbase can do now is speculate on how the game will play. I really want this game to succeed. So I want to sound off on what I would love to see in a League of Legends MMO.
The story should focus on the world and its heroes
Runeterra is a beautiful yet terrifying world. Within the walls of Ehrenmount, kids grow up under the protection of Demacia’s powerful army and mighty heroes. Yet beyond the walls, creatures of unspeakable terror haunt the dense forests. Ionia has its bountiful fields under protection of spirits, yet on the other side of the planet are the mysterious Shadow Isles where the dead, known as The Lost, reside. It’s a vibrant world filled with mysteries and legends shaped by the actions of gods, heroes, and whole nations.
Much of the lore has been revealed piecemeal through the Legends of Runeterra card game and surprising loredrops hidden in the instructions of the Tellstones boardgame, of all places. But the MMO will most certainly be the best way to show the world in all its glory. Just as Azeroth’s true potential was realized in World of Warcraft, this new MMO can do the same for Runeterra.
With that said, the storytelling needs to be focused on the world and must be shaped by many, not just a privileged few. As messy as World of Warcraft’s lore can get, it does a great job at putting Azeroth and its champions front and center. Case in point: the Lich King. He wasn’t taken down by a single hero; it was a concerted effort between the Horde and Alliance. And it wasn’t the players who donned the helm of domination; it was another hero of Azeroth. It was a collaboration between mighty heroes, not some hyper-powered murder-hobo.
There’s a practical angle to this form of storytelling as well: It will make it easy to bring in new classes for expansions. It could also make the game far more approachable for new players who won’t need to trudge through a story to play the latest expansion.
Consider another example from WoW in the Demon Hunter class. The Demon Hunter’s intro sequence takes place during The Burning Crusade and ends when Illidan is taken down at the Black Temple. Your character is then imprisoned for however long four expansions is and is freed at the beginning of Legion. For me, this was the perfect class for me since I literally just started playing WoW in 2020. I was just as clueless about the lore as my Demon Hunter was, but the objective was clear: kill the demons. Now that’s MMO storytelling.
I would love for Riot to double down on this. Maybe even refine it a bit even. Add different ways to level to max. Players who want to level up through questing will have that opportunity, and players who want to do it through PvP and arena battles can do so as well. Let players experience the world through their playstyle and preference, not how the story wants them to.
Make it easily accessible
A major contribution to League’s success is how easy it is to access the game. It was free-to-play and can run on a potato. The MMO needs to be the same way. Riot is pretty good at making some beautiful games while still keeping the system requirements low. And keeping the MMO free-to-play is a no-brainer to me, or if it wanted a hybrid model, why not emulate Elder Scrolls Online free-to-play/pay-to-play options? I wouldn’t mind throwing in a little extra cash the studio’s way with some nice outfits either.
I think they should also aim for a younger crowd too. I teach freshman, and only one of my students plays MMOs. The other kids know about MMOs too, but get this: It’s because their parents play them. Look, Crowfall and Final Fantasy XIV are awesome games, but I highly doubt a pack of 14-year-olds would want to play them when they could play Apex Legends or Roblox. I would not be upset if this game came out for consoles too. The more the merrier, I say!
Aside from specs and business, I think it would be best to keep player skills between at least 8, but no more than 15. A limited skill set similar to Guild Wars 2‘s would keep skills impactful. Heck, if the devs want to maintain that League of Legends feel, keep it at four skills that can’t be swapped outside towns, a single passive, and six “item slots” that can be filled with items that provide passive benefits or ones that need to be activated and can be changed while outside of combat. We want to keep it simple when piloting our characters because in any Riot game I want and expect competitive play.
Avenues for competition
This is Riot Games we’re talking about. This company knows esports, so any MMO it built would be lacking without a variety of competition. PvP is obvious. It needs to be there, and it needs to be good. I know the company will knock that out of the park.
But I would love to see its take on competitive PvE as well. Of course I’m talking about competitive raiding. I’m a fan of watching world first races, and I can imagine just how heated Riot could make them. I’d love to see how it can interpret its own version of Mythic+ dungeons as well. That would be my jam! I think this might end up being the main selling point too: opportunities to get to the top through high-end content for all party sizes for all types of players. Heck, I would not be against some kind of Riot-supported home-decor competition either.
Of course, this would bring into question what kind of players Riot “wants” to play the game. Just because I’d like the studio to do what it’s best at doesn’t mean I want to see other playstyles left in the dust. Ironically, for all of League’s accessibility, there will be some players who can’t engage with the franchise simply because they don’t want anything to do with competition. A good MMOs needs to learn how to accommodate all types of players. And that leads me to my final point.
Don’t just reinvent the wheel
This isn’t a knock on Riot, but it’s always been best when it refines something that’s already there. League of Legends at its core is a DOTA clone. Valorant is Counter-Strike with a dash of Overwatch. And Legends of Runeterra is a TCG without typical monetization. The MMO genre is filled with great and terrible examples to learn from! Riot should take notes on how each of the big five succeeded, adopt those systems, and add so much more.
Riot. Please. Include dungeons, instanced content, fun quests, side activities, crafting, gathering, a housing system (that doesn’t suffer from a never ending shortage), challenging small party content, world quests, dailies (but not too many), awesome festivals, and inviting visuals. Focus on precise snappy controls and attacks that hit with weight and a certain je ne sais quoi.
Don’t include autoplay, a gacha system, overt pay-to-win mechanics, or excessive RNG. Stick with what works, don’t be controversial, and let the world you spent the last decade building shine in this upcoming MMO. Runeterra is already a rich world, and I believe that the game will succeed on the merit of the game world and its lore, not some out-of-this-world mechanic that’ll “innovate the genre.” Focus on great execution.
I’ve got a lot to say and have high hopes for this game. What about you? What would you like to see in this upcoming League of Legends MMO?