Vague Patch Notes: Why in the world do you want the Riot MMO to be a thing?

Well, points for effort.

Let’s make something clear right up front: If you came into this column eager to head for the comments section to say, “Well, I don’t want a Riot MMO,” this is already not about you. Yes, you’re very clever, but the general “you” is a well-established rhetorical device in the English language. When I see commercials advertising dog food, I do not get angry at them for saying “you should feed your dog this food” when I do not own a dog. Chill.

Now that we’ve got that sorted out, to those of you who are still invested in the Riot MMO… why?

I don’t mean that in the sense of “why do you want a thing I don’t want”; that’s not really the point. I may not enjoy League of Legends myself, but I understand why people do even without sharing that enthusiasm. This is not a question of taste. This is a question of the company you are choosing to metaphorically hang your hopes upon, and it provokes a whole lot of questions.

To start with the obvious one, the Riot MMO doesn’t exist.

I don’t meant that in the sense that they’ve cancelled it or it’s never happening, although I think all things considered that’s probably the more likely outcome in a couple of years, in spite of all the pivots and reboots. I mean that this game currently does not even have a title. If you can’t even give your game a title, even a title you might expect to be a placeholder, you do not have an actual product at all, and I do not consider you to be seriously promoting something.

But even beyond that, like… you remember that Riot is terrible, right? Riot, as a company, is out-and-out an awful place that got slapped with a gigantic sexual harassment settlement for being an awful, toxic place from the top to the bottom… quite a bit at the top, actually. Not that this is exactly surprising because the studio also is in no small part built around empowering awful, toxic players. A whole lot of people are willing to overlook that because the company made some gestures toward investigating why that is (which struck me as not very committed or useful, but that’s neither here nor there) and because…

Well, let’s not mince words here: It’s because Blizzard Entertainment went and sucked all of the air out of the room and made Riot look better by comparison.

Someone must have had fun with this at some point, right?

Don’t get me wrong; the scale of how terrible Blizzard is could best be described as mind-boggling. It’s just that Blizzard can be worse while Riot is still bad. We’ve all been watching Blizzard scoring own-goals on itself for a while now when it comes to its corporate behavior, but it seems kind of best if we remember that Riot is not somehow a place full of sunshine and lollipops. Heck, it kind of tracks; Riot’s whole gaming ethos has basically been copied off of Blizzard’s existing ethos, which is “find popular thing, change it enough to be its own thing, now give us some money for it.”

I find the announcement that the existing vision wasn’t sufficiently different from the games that are already on the market a really weird one coming from a company that makes League of Legends, Valorant, and Legends of Runeterra. That’s not a patch on people who like those games; it’s just a clear indication that Riot is not actually fussed if its games are similar to other titles already on the market. Heck, it actually shows a degree of confidence since it means that Riot’s developers are confident that doing familiar stuff better than other studios is a winning formula. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s just also incompatible with saying that your current prototype is too similar to existing offerings.

Of course, if you instead read it as Riot bosses throwing shade, it starts to make a lot more sense. My suspicion is that before he left Riot, Greg Street was not actually making World of Warcraft 2, a highly amorphous concept that people attach to a number of weird concepts based on what they liked and has as much foundation as a house built on a Jell-O mold. I think he was making WildStar 2: 2 Raid 2 Die. That would line up with his statements about the vision from back then, and it would also explain why leadership might say “uh, hold up just one second” after he left.

But none of this actually means that the current state of affairs actually has, like… a design. If anything, it sounds more like they have an idea of what they want the game not to be, but that isn’t actually an affirmative direction. It’s like someone feels locked into making this game that nobody actually wants to make, and no one yet has an idea of what will draw in big numbers or appeal to players who aren’t hyper-competitive – something that you absolutely need to draw for an MMORPG to really take off, as Blizzard keeps demonstrating.


We’ve been watching Riot’s efforts to rehabilitate its image for years now, pushing back against the lack of narrative in its flagship game and really trying to build out a world that people might care about retroactively. It seems clear to me that Riot kind of wants to be New Blizzard, and that makes a certain amount of sense (especially since its toxicity was less prominent before that aspiration) even if it does run into some problems with order of operations. (Even the first games from Silicon & Synapse like Blackthorne obviously had a whole lot of world-building aspiration underpinning them.)

But as of right now, the Riot MMO does not have a title. It does not have a design. It doesn’t have anything beyond a studio and a genre. And that isn’t a game. It’s not even a philosophy that you can agree with. Or argue with.

Maybe there are things you’ve liked about the company’s games that you would like to see expanded into a world and a space to explore. That is a perfectly valid place to start building a game you want to play. But you – the person reading this – are not building a game you want to play. You are a customer who is currently looking at a blank bill of goods and saying that you bet it’s going to be so awesome when it finally gets here.

And you don’t have to do that. It’s probably better if you don’t because then you’re building an idea and hoping the eventual reveal looks like that idea. Down that road lies Star Citizen and a whole lot of nonsense. When Riot actually has a game to show, a title, ideas, principles, and something more than the promise of maybe building an actual MMORPG you can play, that will be the time to evaluate that and potentially get excited. Not before.

Seriously, right now we know more about Greg Street’s next project than this one, and that’s also still a whole pile of promises with no actual product. And he’s the guy who had previously been helming this project. If this is the hill you want to die on, there’s another much more plausible hill like two valleys over, you feel me?

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
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