“Hey, Rito, why haven’t you ever improved the tutorial for League of Legends?”
How many jokes have you heard about Ashe buying Thornmail? We’ve heard a lot.
Typically the onboarding experience in a game—the tutorial and other elements that try and teach you the basics of how to play—is one of the most important features for a game developer to get right.
League has been a really unusual case because it grew much faster than anyone anticipated, despite having a pretty lackluster onboarding experience. The typical way a lot of us learned how to play League was that our friends brought us in, told us what we needed to worry about now, and explained to us what we could safely ignore for the moment. Essentially, the community was League’s onboarding.
We want League to be a game that stands the test of time and is played around the world for many years, which means getting new players into the game has to be a part of the equation. We are grateful that the community has been able to carry the load for onboarding for a long time, but it’s time that we held up our end of the bargain. In the next few patches, you’re going to start to see some changes to the entire new player experience for League.
“Are you guys changing the target audience for League?”
Nope. I want to take extra effort to reassure you that we are not interested in fundamentally redefining the audience for League of Legends.
It’s you guys.
League has thrived because of a dedicated community that loves the game as much as we do, and we absolutely do not take you for granted. We aren’t interested in sacrificing the depth and replayability of League in order to make it more accessible, and we aren’t trying to broaden our audience or make League “more casual.” We just want to make it easier for players who we think will enjoy the game to discover it.
“Okay, so what’s different this time?”
I want to start by explaining our philosophy so that hopefully when you see the changes, they’ll make some sense to you all.
We think the games with the best tutorials do a clever job of hiding the fact that you’re learning the game, and instead focus on the fun.
League is a really complicated game, and you need to understand a lot of information before you can be even reasonably effective. However, we think it’s a mistake to bury new players under too many facts and features before they have even decided if League is a game they want to invest in.
Any reasonably dedicated League player never stops learning. If you want to get better at landing combos, you might head to Twitch or YouTube or watch a streamer to see what he or she does. If you are looking for item or rune builds, you might head to op.gg or Reddit to review common and pro builds. Because you’ve already chosen to play League, you invest the time to get better at it.
We want to take the same approach with new players. We want them to understand why the game is fun, and then hopefully they’ll spend the effort to learn the millions of things they need to learn in order to get better at playing.
If you were to ask me of a game that onboards players really well, I’d suggest almost any Nintendo Mario game. A side-scroller probably starts you on a level with no visible enemies and nowhere to go but forwards. The game is not popping up a bunch of intrusive instructions about push B to jump or whatever. You start trying out buttons and see what happens. Eventually you move forwards. Eventually you have to jump to continue. Eventually you encounter an enemy, and you might have to jump on it to defeat it.
I mention all of this because if you ever take a look at our new tutorial, you might be surprised at what it doesn’t include. It doesn’t tell you about last hitting. It doesn’t even teach you about buying items. We know how freaking complicated League is, so our urge is always to add more and more instructions, and I suspect many of you will feel the same way. But all of that will come in time.
We’ve already taken some steps to improve the download and sign up stages for League, and soon you’ll see some changes to the client for new player as well. What we are envisioning is something like three short tutorials that prepare a new player for intro bots, some co-op games, and ultimately PvP.
Work-in-progress of the first new tutorial, where control prompts appear when a player hasn’t progressed in a bit.
Long term, there’s a lot more we’d like to do, assuming these changes are even successful. We’d like to have an option to let experienced players skip over the tutorial, which has the added benefit of new players being placed with other new players in their earlier games. We’d like to make it easier for you to bring friends into the game. We’d like to delay steps like choosing a Summoner name. And we’d like to take on some really difficult problems, like decreasing the time it takes for an initial download.
Hopefully this provide some perspective. We’d love to get your thoughts, but keep in mind it’s really hard for those of us who are so close to the game (meaning both Rioters and you all) to be able to get into the new player mindset. Again, we’re not trying to add players to the game who will ultimately realize that it’s not for them. But we do want to help players who we think would love League to wade right in.