On August 5th, Riot games announced that they won’t ever be making a sandbox mode in which you can test various aspects of League of Legends. Which is a very stupid thing to say. Much of the community, not to mention many of us Champions, are up in arms about it. A sandbox has been one of the most requested features that players have been asking for for years (after a replay feature, which is also not happening). But while we were given a somewhat suitable explanation as to why, their reasoning for not wanting to build a sandbox was insulting.
We’ve heard a number of player requests for a Sandbox Mode, with two main reasons: the first is trying out new content – which is something we value too. We want players to know what they’re getting and to be happy with the things they’re unlocking (we may investigate other ways to do this). The second is that players want to practice very specific skills without the constraints of a regular game. For this point, our stance is that sandbox mode is not the way to go. We want to make sure we’re clear: playing games of League of Legends should be the unequivocal best way for a player to improve. While there are very real skills one can develop in a hyperbolic time chamber, we never want that to be an expectation added onto an already high barrier to entry. On an individual level, we know this isn’t always true – some just want a space to practice flashing over walls without having to wait at least 3.6 minutes in between – but when that benefit is weighed against the risk of Sandbox mode ‘grinding’ becoming an expectation, we just can’t accept the tradeoff. We never want to see a day when a player wants to improve at League and their first obligation is to hop into a Sandbox. We do want to support your ability to grow in mastery, and there may be other avenues to do so, but not this.
For those of you who are too lazy (that would be all of you – not a single person assisted me in capturing Medic and Vel’Koz), basically Riot Games believes that the best and only way to practice skills is to play them in matches. Worse, they believe that if they created a sandbox, people would have to grind in it before they start playing.
The first reason is incredibly stupid. If I want my men to become better at blocking with their swords, I don’t just give them a sword and send them off, I make them train for hours on end against targets before sending them into battle. If a person wishes to improve their ability to throw a ball through a basket, they won’t play a whole game of this basketball sport, they’ll find their own basket and ball and practice solo. If a player wishes to practice the art of last-hitting, you don’t hold start up a game then hold your team up for hours on end because you need to practice.
As for their second belief, that this would lead to grinding, it clearly would not. Few players grinded through the Soldier tutorial and hundreds of bot games before they played against humans. They just jumped right in. It is only when players decide they want to test things that they start to ‘grind’. But in games such as Dota 2, SMITE and others, there’s a practice mode option, where you can test things out. In Team Fortress 2, using console commands, you can test whether you can charge and leap off a shack or not, without having to worry about an enemy Sniper shooting you out of the sky.
There are incredibly real skills that NEED to be tested and practiced in a sandbox before being taken into live gameplay. Let’s take myself as an example. It is common for someone like me to build the item Black Cleaver. It gives me a speed boost when I attack enemy champions. I want t experiment and see how Black Cleaver works with the item Frozen Mallet, which slows enemies down when you hit them. How well do they work together? I could join a queue and play a match, but then I’d have to finish the match, which could last up to an hour for all I know. I could play a bot game, but Coop VS AI is inadequate due the stupidity of bots, and either way, I’d still have to wait until I get the required gold (nearly 6k gold!). On top of that, if I decide to go for the option of playing a PvP match, I run the risk of ruining the game for everyone on my team if my testing doesn’t plan out.
Even in Riot’s very own argument did they manage to fuck up. Good use of the Summoner spell Flash is a BIG requirement to competitive play. You can use it to traverse huge distances, combo it with your Champion spells and even leap over some walls. Because it’s so powerful, it has a (as Riot stated above) 3.6 minute long cooldown. No one in their right mind is going to wait nearly 4 minutes over and over again to test how well they can leap over a wall. Yet Riot is perfectly happy to make us wait.
While a training mode is out of the question, Riot are still pushing the whole competitive aspect. They seem to have forgotten that practice makes perfect, and that a training mode gives people the ability to learn without having to worry about other players messing them around, so we can work on key skills in peace.
It’s not just Riot’s arguments about all this, it’s how little they seem to have thought their arguments though. It’s as if they simply do not care about how the players feel, to the point that they’re not even willing to make a decent argument.
Editor’s Edit: Turns out Riot added one in the end, alongside their new client in early 2017. The Practice Tool allows you to do basic things, like resetting cooldowns, giving you 10K gold and the ability to respawn dragons as much as you like.