E3 2011: League of Legends Interview With Paul Bellezza

By Darryl Kaye on June 23, 2011, 10:25AM EDT

League of Legends has taken the video games industry by storm, something which can easily be seen by its recent success at Dreamhack in Sweden.

We managed to catch up with Paul Bellezza, one of the game's producers, and Blake Shuster, who's in charge of PR for Riot Games, to talk about things like: how they're going to continue this momentum and when are they going to release Magma Chamber.

GamingUnion.net: League of Legends has been a massive success since it launched, but now Valve and Blizzard are muscling in on the genre. Do you think there are enough players to support four big DotA games?

Paul Bellezza: I believe so. I mean, every one of those games has its own flavour. Heroes of Newerth has a different flavour from us and DotA has a different flavour from Heroes of Newerth. I really feel it's going to be about what the player wants, what the player expects. We offer a different experience, they offer a different experience.

We took our inspiration from DotA and we decided we wanted to take certain elements from that and push it in a certain direction; streamline the interface in a different direction. We wanted to put our resource into ramping up new players, creating an experience which is more positive and fostering a community that's nurturing in that way. We've all been in games where we get trolled, where we get yelled at and nobody wants to feel that way. That's why we've created things like the Tribunal, that's why we've created Co-Op vs AI, that's why we've created Battle Training - because we have a different take on it.

So, is there going to be room for everyone? Absolutely. We believe in what we're doing, and we believe we have a fan base who believes in what we're doing. And as long as we continue to make the best game possible for those players, for new players, for old players, I think we're going to do well. And I'm sure those other games will do just fine as well.

Blake Shuster: Also, we don't really see those other games as competition. This genre is still relatively new to most of the gaming community. Before League of Legends existed, there was a mod called DotA, but the masses didn't know what that was. We see all of this as a way to reach all of the gaming community and we're happy to be a part of that. We're happy that other companies are joining up and helping to develop this as a new big genre players can get into.

GamingUnion.net: On that note, how long do you think it will be until you need to start thinking about a new iteration?

Paul Bellezza: You know, I think there's a lot of things we can still do. Part of that is new content, which we do with our heroes. In the past we've learned our lessons with regards to announcing things too soon - like calling out Magma Chamber right off the bat. It's still something we want to do, we want to deliver new types of experiences. But it's got to be quality, it's got to be play tested, it's got to feel ready and it's got to feel right. We will keep our finger on the pulse in terms of what our player base wants and how far we want to push ourselves. I think that when we feel internally that it's time to move on, that's part of the plan. We'll see. Maybe it will go on for a crazy long time - look at EverQuest, it's still going.

GamingUnion.net: Speaking of Magma Chamber, what's taking so long?

Paul Bellezza: It's got to be right. We probably announced it too soon and we learned our lesson from that. As soon as you announce something, your player base wants it right away. It was a work in progress then and it's a work in progress now. The whole company wants it out there when we feel it gives that awesome experience to the players. But balancing a whole new map takes time, it takes iteration. It'll come, it'll come.

GamingUnion.net: On the map select screen, there are still a ton of different options. Do you still aim to fill all of those?

Paul Bellezza: We've learned a lot, we're still a very new company. But that interface you see in the game, that's a hint to our ambitions. But we're only going to deliver when we feel it's right.

Blake Shuster: We've got a lot in store, let's just say that.

Paul Bellezza: Exactly. Did anyone really expect us to suddenly whip out Spectator mode? You should expect the unexpected. We said that at the start of this year and you should continue to do that. We want to deliver on the promises we've made to our players and we're so thankful for the support.

GamingUnion.net: You yourself are heavily involved with champions, do you envision a time where there will just be too many champions?

Paul Bellezza: That's a good question, we think about that a lot. At the moment I think we're fine. And the reason I think that, is because people still expect champions. When we had a little bit of a delay with Orianna, everyone was complaining. If we get to a point where we and the community feel there's too much, we'll figure out ways to do things differently. Maybe we retire champions, maybe we slow down the cadence. But at the moment it doesn't feel like there's any need to slow down.

GamingUnion.net: Do you still find there are champions that people just don't use?

Paul Bellezza: There's definitely some play styles that are more fun to play than others. Not everyone likes to play support, not everybody wants to be a tank. Some people like to play the more heroic characters, like Master Yi, the carry. You're always going to have to deal with that and yea, there are some characters that are way more popular than others. But we look at them as a whole, we look at the new characters and the old and we balance and remake according. We've recently done a remake to Alistair. We constantly look at everything we've done and everything we're going to do.

Blake Shuster: Nothing is really ever finished. We're always constantly learning, both from ourselves and from the community. It's a mutual relationship that way, there's a lot of transparency. It helps us to realise certain things like 'maybe we could have tweaked Alistair a little this way?' As we make new champions, as the game evolves and as we get more players, we can see that more easily and go back to help improve things.

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