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League of Legends: F2P Can Be Addicting

Riot Games, makers of the massively popular, and intimidating, Massively Online Battle Arena (MOBA for short) game League of Legends reached out to setup an appointment back at E3 2012. I  gazed at their email and reluctantly hit the reply button to setup a meeting.

I had been wanting to try out League of Legends for over a year but fear kept me from actually playing it. The MOBA genre isn't exactly friendly to new players and I heard countless horror stories from fellow members of the press and other gamers that not knowing how to play League of Legends resulted in ridicule from your fellow team. 

Stepping in to the meeting room, I was almost immediately greeted with, "So, how familiar are you with League of Legends?" No, I wasn't able to hide my "newbie" status and had to admit I never had played. Instead of being beaten with a stick by the developers, I was thrown over into a nearby chair to create a Riot Account and start playing a computer-controlled BOT game with the help of Riot standing over my shoulder. 

The MOBA genre is a team-based PVP normally played from an isometric viewpoint. You are part of teams that consist of 5 people on each side. The goal is to take one of three paths, with two turrets blocking your progress, to get into the enemy base. Once in the base, you have three turrets blocking the end of each path, a inhibitor that spawns "super minions," when destroyed, for a limited time, and a base, called the Nexus, surrounded by two more turrets. Each side mirrors the other. You also spawn minions down each of the three paths every 30 seconds. There is also a jungle between each of the lanes that has special AI minions for EXP and temporary buffs.

Players can pick from a variety of different champions. League of Legends has over a hundred. Being a Free to Play game, they provide a new rotation of free Champions every week, the ability to permanently unlock them with a real money currency, called RP, or free currency you earn from playing, called IP. You can also unlock special skins that change the look and sounds of each champion with RP. Riot Games places a rotation of Skins and Champions on sale twice a week. These can be purchased with RP at reduced prices. 

Champions consist of Melee, Ranged, Support, and Tanks. Each of these Champions has strengths and weaknesses. While in a game, you may hear the phrase, "He/She is so OP!" or "Riot needs to nerf He/She." Players have a tendency to blame losses and/or the poor play of their teams on Champions that are Overpowered, or OP, or Champions that need to be nerfed. That is, have their abilities weakened.

Games typically run 20 to 45 minutes for a normal 5 vs 5 PVP game. This time can vary so when you sit down to play, make sure you have the time to invest in a game. Leaving a game or going Away From Keyboard (AFK) can result in a temporary or even a permanent ban from repeated offenses. Being short a player is a serious loss to the team and almost always results in a loss for the team with fewer people playing.

Every Champion has an ability mapped to the Q, W, E, and R keys. In addition, as the game progresses, you will be a level 1 character with only one ability and very little Gold available. As you play through the game, you can get up to Level 18, Level up your Q, W, and E skills 5 times each, and your R skill 3 times. You will also be able to buy equipment from the shop found at your base. Equipment allows you to customize your Champions abilities with different buffs. If you aren't sure what to buy or what skills to level up, ask a team mate or just get the recommended items and follow the R, then Q, then W, then E, path of upgrading skills.

Players earn gold by getting "last hits" (The final death blow) on enemy Minions (Known as CS or "Creep Score"), from team kills from special jungle minions such as Baron and Dragon, team takedowns of enemy Turrets and Inhibitors, and "last hit" kills on enemy players or assists in helping kill an enemy player.

It is recommended that you start off playing a few bot games. These are games where five live people square off against 5 random AI foes. This will help you get a feel for a Champion and how to play them. As you get more experienced, you can play new champions in normal PVP games.

As you graduate from PVP games and gain some a Level 30 character by winning games, you can participate in Ranked games. This puts you against players of equal skill types and leads you to be ranked against the best players in the world. Riot Games resets the rankings every year and the top players face off for big money in tournaments all over the world.

League of Legends is a lot like a real sport. You can get great satisfaction from watching a match and seeing how others play. This will help you increase your skills. But like real sports, just because you can dribble a ball doesn't mean you can beat Michael Jordan. There is a skill level that the best players have that few will ever reach. 

Over the past few months, I have found that this game is so fun and addictive but also frustrating. League of Legends is at its best when you play with a full group of friends and communicate over voice chat. Sadly, voice chat is not built into the client and players have to resort to using Skype, TeamSpeak, or other services for communication. 

While it is possible to have fun by yourself or with one or more friends, I have found that you are just asking for trouble when entering a game without a full party. Some players attempt to ruin the experience for others by intentionally dying to the enemy team and doing everything in their power to make sure their team loses. These people are referred to as "Trolls." Riot has tools in place to report such players and many of them will end up being permanently banned by repeatedly continuing the same actions. But as a Free to Play game, these people can create a new account as many times as they want, with a different email, and continue their "Troll" practices of ruining the game for others. Sadly, this is the biggest problem with League of Legends. 

At its best, League of Legends is the absolute most fun you can have in a multiplayer game. The MOBA genre is much more exciting and fun than any First Person Shooter or MMO deathmatch out there. 

I highly recommend you take a look at the game. You may soon be like me and not want to play any other games. Just be warned, this game is addictive and time consuming.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 09/06/12

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