First, the card game. It’s called Legends of Runeterra, and is a free-to-play strategy card game, ala Hearthstone. It’ll be out in 2020 on PC and mobile.
Next, the fighting game, which is currently called Project L, and is very early in development.
The shooter is called (for now) Project A, and is described as “a stylish, competitive, character-based tactical shooter for PC”. Unlike a lot of the other stuff shown off today it’s not based on the League of Legends universe. Here’s some early footage:
And finally, the animated series, due next year and called Arcane. It looks pretty good!
After a decade of dominating on PC, League of Legends is finally launching a version of the game on both home consoles and mobile devices.
It’s called League of Legends: Wild Rift, and makes some important changes to the PC version. It’s got a modified version of the map, a new user interface and dual-stick control scheme, with the idea that games can now be finished in 15-20 minutes as opposed to the longer bouts on PC.
Alphas and betas will start rolling out at the end of this year.
Teamfight Tactics, meanwhile, is also coming to phones, as a seperate and standalone app. It’ll feature crossplay with PC players, and will be out in 2020.
Ever since Hearthstone pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai got suspended for a year by Blizzard after making a declaration of support for Hong Kong earlier this week, the issue of politics during esports streams has been a hot topic. The head of Fortnite studio Epic Games, for example, said he supports players’ right to speak out about politics and human rights. Now, however, Riot has taken the opposite approach.
In a statement on Twitter, the League of Legends developer and publisher said that pro players and commentators have been told to keep their political thoughts to themselves during official broadcasts.
“We serve fans from many different countries and cultures, and we believe this opportunity comes with a responsibility to keep personal views on sensitive issues (political, religious, and otherwise) separate,” wrote Riot global head of esports John Needham. “These topics are often incredibly nuanced, require deep understanding and a willingness to listen, and cannot be fairly represented in the forum our broadcast provides. Therefore, we have reminded our casters and pro players to refrain from discussing any of these topics on air.”
He went on to say that Riot has fans in volatile places like Hong Kong, and as a result, “we have a responsibility to do our best to ensure that statements or actions on our official platforms (intended or not) do not escalate potentially sensitive situations.” In telling people to stay mum about politics, Needham said Riot hopes that League of Legends can be “a positive force that brings people together, no matter where they are in the world.”
As of 2015, Riot was fully owned by Chinese mega-company Tencent, who also owns portions of many other video game companies including Epic and Blizzard.
In this case, Riot clearly intends to remain neutral, but as Kotaku’s Joshua Rivera wrote earlier this week, video games are not neutral, and the furor surrounding Blizzard’s Hong Kong fiasco—which has led numerous players, commentators, and fans to protest—is proof of that. In making this decision, Riot is picking a side and, through its global influence, contributing to an oppressive and harmful status quo, even if it believes it’s just staying on the sidelines.
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With all the protests going on in Hong Kong, League of Legends casters appear to be avoiding saying the team name “Hong Kong Attitude” and seem to even be catching themselves when they do. Riot Games, however, says that it has not banned casters from saying “Hong Kong.”
Chinese conglomerate Tencent owns Riot and has a stake in Blizzard.
Below is a clip of recent instances in which casters appear to be correcting themselves before saying the team’s full name:
During the match, however, the team’s full name was clearly visible on stage. So is there an explanation for the awkward use of “HKA”?
League of Legends spokesperson Ryan Rigney issued this statement:
After months of internal strife following the news that one of its investors had called a fellow shareholder the n-word, the esports organization co-founded by Rick Fox has officially lost its coveted spot in the League of Legends Championship Series, Riot Games announced today.
“On August 13, the LCS and Echo Fox entered into an agreement that will terminate Echo Fox’s participation in the LCS,” said LCS Commissioner Chris Greeley. “As part of that agreement, the LCS will sell the now-vacant tenth slot in the LCS and will provide the bulk of the proceeds from the sale to Echo Fox.”
Echo Fox had previously arranged to sell its slot to Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke for $30.25 million, but last week it was announced that the deal had fallen through. “Due to circumstances unrelated to Echo Fox, Kroenke Sports and Entertainment was unable to meet Riot Games’ requirements for acquiring Echo Fox’s LCS slot,” a spokesperson for the organization told Kotaku in a statement at the time.
Today, Greenley simply said that the sale “did not come to fruition,” without elaborating on why it had fallen apart.
“The Echo Fox organization is proud to have worked so closely with Riot Games and the LCS these past few years, we made the decision to consent to the Riot process as it would allow a fair outcome for all parities involved,” a spokesperson for Echo fox told Kotaku in an email. “However, in addition to our support for our LCS team, we have long shown our commitment to growing and nurturing our teams in fighting games and battle royale games, and will continue to seek out and participate in the ever-expanding universe of esports competitions — both domestic and international. We would like to thank Riot and Chris Greeley in helping us through this transition.”
The loss of Echo Fox’s League of Legends franchise is the result of comments made by one of its investors, Amit Raizada, who was revealed in April to have called fellow Echo Fox business partner Jace Hall the n-word in an email. Following an official investigation, Riot Games announced in May that Echo Fox would be ousted from the LCS if it did not remove Raizada from the organization. “Hate speech, threats, and bigotry have no place in the LCS,” Greeley said at the time. “We have directed Echo Fox to take appropriate corrective action within 60 days.”
In July, Rick Fox accused Raizada of trying to “engineer a fire sale” of the organization’s League of Legends franchise, but Raizada has denied the charge, instead blaming the state of Echo Fox on Fox’s leadership.
Riot said it will be accepting applications for Echo Fox’s spot in the LCS for 30 days starting August 16 with the goal of expediting the process of finding a new owner for the franchise ahead of the league’s 2020 season.
Riot Games is developing a mobile version of League of Legends alongside Chinese tech company Tencent, Reuters said today in a report confirmed by Kotaku.
A source with knowledge of the upcoming mobile game told Kotaku that it “plays differently” from League of Legends, although it retains the hit MOBA’s general appearance. “The game is not a 1-to-1 port,” the source said, adding that it has different items and runes and, potentially, fewer characters. “The gameplay is built for mobile.”
According to Reuters, Riot and Tencent have been working on the game for over a year. Riot and Tencent did not return Kotaku’s request for comment by press time.
Tencent has owned Riot since 2015, and around then, the behemoth Chinese company allegedly initiated talks with Riot about making a mobile adaptation of League of Legends. Riot reportedly ended up declining. In addition to preferring their in-house designers to Tencent’s, a report from The Information alleges, “Riot’s founders didn’t want to water down the PC-based ‘League’ for smartphones.”
Afterward, Tencent published mobile strategy game Honor of Kings, which is reminiscent of League of Legends. The game was huge in China, earning the company alleged billions. Yet it looks like the version of Honor of Kings that made its way to the US app store—Arena of Valor—flopped.
Riot has published one video game in its 13 years of existing. And although League of Legends is still enormously popular on PC, a well-regarded mobile game could help sustain its dominance for years to come if it proves appealing in markets like China.
Despite a walkout of hundreds of its employees last week, League of Legends publisher Riot Games said last night that they will not change their stance on forced arbitration. Protesting employees had given the company until yesterday to make a change, threatening to escalate their efforts if it did not.
“We know not everyone agrees with this decision, but we also know everyone does want Riot to continue to improve,” the company said in a blog post last night.
The walkout was inspired by Riot’s motion to force arbitration in the case of two current employees who filed a lawsuit alleging Riot violated California’s Equal Pay Act, following a Kotaku report on endemic sexism at the company. By their first day of work, employees at Riot waive their right to get any lawsuit against the company in front of a jury. Recently, Google ended forced arbitration after 20,000 employees walked out. (Facebook, eBay and AirBnB followed suit.) The controversial practice has become a hot-button issue as employees at large tech companies argue that it prevents them from holding employers accountable for misbehavior.
Prior to the walkout, Riot said that it would allow new employees to opt out of the arbitration agreement. They continued that they would consider extending that to current employees “as soon as current litigation is resolved.” In a blog post last night, Riot announced that “Ultimately, given the complexities of ongoing litigation, we will not change our employee agreements while in active litigation.” That was essentially a reiteration of their prior position, though they left the door open for change: “We remain committed to having a firm answer around extending an opt-out to all Rioters when active litigation concludes.”
At the walkout, employees announced that if Riot didn’t make a commitment to end forced arbitration by May 16, they would escalate the issue. Reached for comment, one walkout organizer, Jocelyn Monahan, speaking on behalf of the group, said they will be taking further action. “We’re disappointed leadership doesn’t seem to be considering any major changes to their active policy. That said, we’re blown away by the passion, solidarity, and vulnerability that workers who support the walkout are showing,” she said in a message to Kotaku.
She continued, “As we continue to pressure Riot to end forced arbitration, we are leveraging that teamwork and solidarity by involving more coworkers in the effort.” Although Monahan was vague about their efforts’ next steps, it appears organizers will continue pushing Riot to end forced arbitration and come to a decision on how next week.
Yesterday, a League of Legends player posted on the game’s forums to complain that a new animation was causing problems for those suffering from epilepsy. One of the game’s designers then apologized, noting that they didn’t have “time or bandwidth” to implement a toggle so that players could turn it off. Now, Riot Games says the animation will be removed.
“We take photosensitive epilepsy issues extremely seriously. In the spirit of being abundantly cautious, we’re going to turn off all finishers ASAP today,” a spokesperson for Riot told Kotaku in an email, referring to new “finisher” animations that were added to the game this month. “If and when we bring finishers back, we’ll make sure players have the option to turn them off themselves. In the meantime, we’re going to follow up with the player who posted the original boards post to make sure we fully understand their situation.”
The animation, which was added as part of a new limited League event called Mid-Season Trials, includes strobe lighting effects that could potentially trigger epileptic seizures in players who suffer from the neurological disorder.
“I understand that epileptics are in the minority for those who play the game, but League has brought me a lot of joy these past few years and it’s heartbreaking that Riot doesn’t take epilepsy seriously when developing and designing new game mechanics,” wrote player Apricot Princess. “Riot, please, create a toggle off function for house animation finishers so epileptics can stay safe.”
One of the game’s designers, Justin ‘Xenogenic’ Hanson, immediately posted a response apologizing for the lack of a toggle.
“The tl;dr is: the way we are rewarding and utilizing the finishers is new for Summoner’s Rift/ARAM, and as such, we didn’t have the time or bandwidth to have engineers rework this so that a toggle could ship with the finishers,” Hanson wrote. “We chatted about it at-length and ultimately decided we would rather ship them with no toggle than not ship them because we couldn’t do a toggle, but we knew there would be some level of frustration and risk with that. So again, my apologies for making League less enjoyable for you in the meantime.”
In its email to Kotaku, Riot said the “risk” mentioned by Hanson was not related to potential issues for people with epilepsy. “To clarify the initial Rioter response, we’d never ship a product that we thought could even potentially harm players,” the spokesperson said. “Our initial internal discussion about including a ‘toggle’ for this feature was due to concerns that players might find Finishers too distracting—not because we thought Finishers could cause harm.”
This isn’t the first time Riot has done something like this. Back in May of 2017 the company removed a special Dark Star animated login screen after one player reported suffering a petit mal seizure.
The incident has sparked a larger debate within the forum over what measures Riot should take to make the game more accessible and safe for people who have photosensitive epilepsy. According to the University of Maryland’s Trace Research and Development Center, photosensitive seizures can be caused by stimuli ranging from strobe lights to the way sunlight flashes off windows. “Video content, whether on television, film, in computer games, or on the web, may include unsafe flicker, colors, or high-contrast patterns that induce seizure,” the center says.
League of Legends currently has a colorblind mode, but options for photosensitive players are less robust. In a follow-up response, Apricot Princess stressed the complexity of photosensitive epilepsy and the difficulty in knowing what will and won’t trigger a problem. “I only became epileptic a year after I started playing this game, and that’s when I realized only roughly 10 things in this game messed with me,” they wrote. “My doctor is aware I play and he’s also aware of how much joy this game brings me, especially as my health has gotten worse (outside of epilepsy), and has just told me to be as safe as possible. Ultimately, anyone with photosensitive epilepsy plays video games at their own risk.”
Riot said the rewards for participating in the game’s current limited-time event will need to be changed, and that the company is still figuring out how that will work.
On the heels of yesterday’s Riot Games walkout at the League of Legends publisher’s Los Angeles headquarters, Riot employees in Dublin are staging their own walkout today. Around 18 of the office’s employees stood by the street with several holding signs calling for the company to end forced arbitration.
Los Angeles-based Riot Games employees are preparing for a walkout this afternoon in protest of the company’s stance on forced arbitration in what appears to be the first walkout at a major gaming studio. Kotaku will be reporting live from the protest as it develops.
“I’m walking out as a symbolic action to signal to leadership that I care about this issue,” said one current employee. “I hope leadership takes the time to seriously listen to the issues.”
Since late last year, five current and former Riot Games employees have filed lawsuits against the League of Legends publisher alleging, among other things, that Riot violated the California Equal Pay Act. The lawsuits referenced an eight-month Kotaku investigation in which dozens of current and former employees reported a culture of widespread and endemic sexism at the company, manifesting in Riot’s hiring practices, promotion strategies, and wider culture.
In late April, Riot filed a motion to block two of those lawsuits, filed by current employees, from being brought in front of a jury. Riot’s lawyer contends that these employees signed arbitration agreements, which waived their rights to a jury trial against the company.
After news of the motion broke, some Riot employees channeled their anger into organizing a walkout. Riot attempted to address that anger in a companywide meeting late last week. One day later, Riot announced it would give incoming employees the ability to opt out of forced arbitration for harassment suits and consider extending that option to current employees “as soon as current litigation is resolved.” For many employees, that wasn’t enough.
“I think having executives get up for two hours and do the classic, roundabout series of denials helped other Rioters wake up to the fact that this is actually happening here,” one employee said of the meeting. “The impression most Rioters got is that [the executives] do care about it, a bit. They care about being publicly humiliated.”
Not all Riot workers agreed with the sentiments behind the walkout. According to two current employees, one person was allowed to pose a rare anonymous question to executives at last week’s company meeting. (Traditionally at these meetings, employees must ask questions by name.) The sources said that the anonymous question regarded employees who felt like they could not express opinions that dissented from those of frustrated employees walking out. “Maybe ten percent of us will walk out,” one source said while discussing a group of dissenting co-workers. “Normally the burden of defense is on scabs.”
One organizer estimates that 100 employees will be participating in today’s walkout, which appears to be the first in game dev history. In interviews with Kotaku, current employees’ reasoning varied. Several pointed specifically to Riot’s stance on forced arbitration. Others pointed at even bigger sources of discontentment. Said one, “It’s been eight months since the original [Kotaku] article was released and so far I haven’t seen a single outcome of our diversity and inclusion efforts at Riot. I haven’t seen a single metric or number to indicate things have improved and I haven’t seen a single project get finished.”
One other current employee, who previously told Kotaku that she would not be walking out, changed her mind because Riot has not yet fired the manager whom the two plaintiffs are accusing of sexist behavior. She said she’s actually satisfied with her bosses’ new stance on forced arbitration, as are two others who spoke with Kotaku, but adds, “That being said, I know the two women who are involved in this litigation, I work with them regularly, and I want to stand in solidarity with them.” (In a previous Kotaku story, four women accused that manager of verbally harassing them or thwarting their career progression.)
In an email, a Riot representative told Kotaku that the company is supporting employees walking out today. He continued, “We have asked all managers to make every accommodation to allow Rioters to participate during the 2-4pm window, including freeing up meeting times. We respect Rioters who choose to walkout today and will not tolerate retaliation of any kind as a result of participating (or not).”
When asked whether Riot will adjust their forced arbitration policy should a critical number of employees show up, the representative responded:
“While we will not make a change to our policies while in active litigation, last Thursday we announced that we’ve made the call to pivot our approach. As soon as active litigation is resolved, we will give all new Rioters the choice to opt-out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. At that time, we will also commit to have a firm answer on potentially expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters. We are working diligently to resolve all active litigation so that we can quickly take steps toward a solution. As we have been for the past week, we will continue to listen to Rioters regarding their thoughts on arbitration and we’re thankful for everyone that has taken the time to meet with leadership about this issue.”
Riot’s blog post last week explaining their new stance on arbitration included 30-, 60-, and 90-day plans to update their code of conduct, launch new training programs, offer anti-harassment training for new employees, analyze pay equity, and update the company’s recruitment practices.
A small contingent of volunteers from Game Workers Unite, a group trying to organize unions in the games industry, will be in attendance to hand out water and offer medical aid should it be necessary. A representative told Kotaku, “Our industry has seen strikes, work slowdowns, and other forms of direct action over the years, and we encourage workers in the industry to learn that history of folks standing up for themselves and their coworkers. The workers participating in the walkout at Riot today are evoking and building on a deep legacy of worker democracy and power in the tech industries.” Riot employees in Dublin will be hosting their own walkout on Tuesday in solidarity.
According to four Riot employees, the worst-case scenario for today’s walking isn’t getting fired, a common fear for protesting workers. That’s because Riot has said it will not retaliate against employees who participate. Their least-desired outcome is not feeling heard. “The worst-case scenario is that leadership does not budge from their current position and continues to maintain that there will be a ‘future commitment’ about current Rioters,” said one walkout organizer.
Kotaku will be reporting from the ground at today’s walkout. Check in later for updates.