You don’t have to play League of Legends (or LOL, as it’s more commonly known) to know that it’s a big deal. With tens of millions of monthly players, it’s no wonder that the competitive scene for LOL is one that Riot Games is watching closely. I recently had a talk with Daniel Ringland, head of eSports & competitive in Australia about plans for the future, the challenges that Oceanic players face on the world stage, and meta differences between regions. Read on for the full interview.
PC PowerPlay: I actually just wanted to start with a bit of a general question, more for framing than anything, but I was wondering what’s involved in your role in the day to day?
Daniel Ringland: I guess my role is pretty much divided into two things at the moment. We’re really trying to look ahead and plan a few years down the road for eSports because it’s growing really quickly, so we’ve got to make sure that we’re kind of channelling that growth in the right directions and setting up for the future, and not making decisions now that we’re going to regret in a year or two’s time sort of thing. So we spend a lot of time on the long-term vision, I suppose. And then the other part would be your day-to-day stuff. We run two different leagues and many different games and a broadcast, and the team is growing and getting nice and big. Managing the day-to-day activities of the teams, as well. It’s kind of partially looking forward and partially making sure that we get to where we’re hoping to be by looking at what we’re doing at the moment.
PC PowerPlay: What are the challenges with making long-term projections, years in advance, and have you been able to make predictions in the past, say, year or so, where you’ve been able to track where they have been accurate or maybe they’ve been off?
Daniel Ringland: What I guess I would say is that some of the strategies we put in place when we kind of sat down and rebooted what we were doing in Oceania the year before last, we’re really happy with how they worked out. So an example is that we decided we wanted to have three different tiers of leagues. We’ve got, obviously, the pro league and that’s the one that everybody wants to watch with the teams with sponsors and the best players and all that sort of thing, and then under that you’ve got your second tier, what we call the challenger league, that’s the next generation of players or perhaps it’s players who’ve had a bad run and they’ve kind of dropped off form a bit.
That league is kind of there to make sure we’ve got new players coming in to replace the guys that retire or age out. And then our third league is kind of like… it’s called the open ladder, it’s your amateur league, so that anybody who’s aspiring to one day be a pro has somewhere where they can pretty easily get started, and that’s accessible to literally anybody who wants to give it a go. That was something a bit different when we put it in play, and it’s worked out really well to the point where we’re expanding both the secondary and third tier, we’re putting a lot more effort into those this year.
PC PowerPlay: Just expanding on that idea of the open ladder and anyone being able to come in and rise through the ranks, I was thinking earlier that the MOBA is a hardcore genre and I was wondering about what, outside of that league, are there any things that you’ve been able to do in terms of teaching people maybe how to, not necessarily get into the game, but how to go from casual play to perhaps more towards the pro side?
Daniel Ringland: We’ve got other programs we work on that are a bit more for the, I won’t say casual, but casual compared to the pro, the kind of more on the grass roots side of things. We run, like, university… we’ve got a university tournament system that we’ve built out, as well, and then anyone from the community can register their tournament with us and have prizing and that sort of thing. That’s kind of, I guess, those sorts of leagues are the any-man league sort of things. Literally anybody no matter what your skill level is can jump in and find a tournament to participate in.
But the open ladder is kind of… the people who are very good. When we designed the open ladder we thought, perhaps, it would be something that everybody would participate in, but very quickly we realised that there are a lot of players out there who are very good at the game, not quite good enough to be pro, but they really want to try hard. These open ladder teams, they’re practicing, they’re training a couple of times a week, so it’s getting quite competitive, even down on that third tier, which is good, because the more players that obviously come into any sporting infrastructure, the better the quality will be at the top and the more fun it is to watch.