I remember the very first time I logged into League of Legends. It was back in the game’s beta stage, a time when not every studio on the face of the earth was trying to make a MOBA. League of Legends wanted to reward players who pushed their game for them, ultimately resulting in the insane success Riot has achieved in just five years. Some of those reward promises were kept, while one still has to materialise.
Namely, the creation of a new champion based on a fan’s design. League of Legends launched with a referral system that tracked how many players one person attracted to the game. These numbers were tallied and players who helped grow the game in a significant way were rewarded. High referral rates snagged you a plaque on Riot’s wall, permanent access to all of the game’s content and even some content named after you. The highest reward, however, was the chance to create your own champion for the game. And that’s one thing Riot is hoping to deliver on soon.
It seems like the promise was made a little too quickly, which is why it’s taken Riot so long to figure out how to deal with it. League of Legends is nothing without balance, making it difficult for Riot to just causally let someone muck around with it and alter a multi-million dollar title. But they also don’t want to break promises to their most loyal fans. That’s where the Thunderdome comes into play.
The Thunderdome sounds like something straight out of Borderlands, but it’s actually the name of Riot’s rapid design and prototype event that they undertake every year. All uber-referrers will be invited to the Riot studios and contribute to the Thunderdome process, teaming up with a champ designer, narrative writer and concept artist to bring their character to life. At the end, Riot will take all creations into consideration, which means some fans’ work could end up in the game.
Riot’s die-hard fans will also have the entire trip paid for, have the opportunity to have lunch with the developers and even get some game time in with the people behind their obsession. That’s a pretty awesome way to reward the fans that helped build the game, even if the designed champion never makes it past the prototype stage.
Last Updated: October 17, 2014