With the Worlds now well and truly concluded and the end of Season 3 now in sight, (And with tens of thousands of high silver and unranked players beginning their spring for gold,) The question must now be asked.
What will Season 4 hold? How will riot shake up the game this time around? What will those weeks after the Snowdown Showdown have in store for all the summoners across the world. Well, other people are asking those questions, and they’re substantially better informed than I am, So i’m going to ask a question i’m reasonably sure that most other people haven’t yet bothered to ask, or at least haven’t given much thought.
What will Season 4 hold for the competitive scenes in the emerging servers?
Riot’s solution this year was clutch, to say the least. Within weeks of Oceania going live, the opening rounds of the Oceania regional championships began, the birthing pains of the new server. Riot didn’t handle the regionals directly, instead passing the baton to the Australian Cyber League, an organisation that I am proud to say had no idea that it existed before Pax Melbourne back in July. ACL seems to have made the championships open for any team to register and enter, and so a great deal of new, amateur teams filled in the slack.
A few things need to be noted here. First of all these are the teams that emerged from the several rounds of online, sudden death random elimination that ACL ran before the tournament in order to weed the men from the boys. That said because the pro scene before this tournament was virtually non-existant no one knew exactly who the men were. It’s highly possible that several good teams got eliminated just because they had the misfortune to draw Team Immunity or HSD.
In fact, you’ll note that Team Immunity went 8-1 throughout this tournament. They lost their only game in the first round.
The Second thing that needs to be noted here is he sheer size of this bloody tournament. More teams were involved in the regional championship for OCE than any of the major region, including Worlds itself. This is especially poignant because while 6 NA teams were competing for 3 positions to get through to Worlds, 16 teams plus were competing to get a ticket to Turkey where they would have the privilege of attempting to win the International Wild Card tournament.
The acceptable margin of error in this kind of situation is tiny.
Thirdly, is only Five out of the sixteen teams were even Semi-pro, Team Immunity, the two Team Exile5 teams, Eclipse and Lunar, and the two Avant-Garde teams, Fear and Redemption. Two of the semi-finalists, and the eventual runner up, FIGJAM and HSD were both casual amateur teams.
Now this year, Riot was able to chuck all the newer servers into the “International Wildcard Tournament” whose virtues I have covered in previous posts.
And this year, they were perfectly justified in doing so. Both the Oceanic Championship and the International Wild Card tournament demonstrated that the vast majority of teams lacked the co-ordination, teamwork and tight gameplay required to perform on an international level, and that within teams, skill levels could be dramatically different.
Team Immunity and HSD are both prime examples, with HSD’s easy star player being I Will Decimate (His Blue Ezrael Hypercarry is something to watch), and Team Immunity’s Bot lane of Raydere and Rosey (Who won nearly lane in the IWCT, regardless of match up) providing an insight to the problem.
The Team that won the IWCT was the one that showed the best discipline, early game gold leads and co-ordination, qualities that pratically define Korean teams in comparison to NA and European ones. And that was Gaming Gear.
The fact that Gaming Gear got royally stomped in the actual world’s isn’t the point. Putting it into perspective, It would have been remarkable if the brand new Lithuanian team would have been able to beat the veteran teams from NA and EU who have been competing for years together and actually pursue this game as their occupation (many of GG’s members are still in highschool).
And well as for the Korean and Chinese teams… they’re Korean and Chinese. Nuff said.
If GG would have beaten Team Mineski remains a mystery, because for some strange reason they were never matched against each other (that owuld have been an interesting game). All that aside, they still beat TSM. Granted, they were kinda of trolling in terms of positions and picks, but TSM was certainly still trying.
Even with Regi Teemo.
Riot won’t be able to simply throw an increasing number of regions, that now equipped with their own servers will show a pro-scene that will steadily mature as it gains a higher profile. Even if Raydere and Rosey are on par with a lot of the bot lane pairs at the highest level, finding a team that matches them and making it work will take time.
If SEA has not one, but two tickets to the Worlds, including one precious Seed position, then it’s hard justifying why Australia, Brazil, South America, Turkey, Russia and Eastern Europe should have one between all of them, especially when SEA failed to secure a single game win between them (Although to be fair, the Gamania Bears went up against SKT in the Finals straight up, and that’s never a pleasant position to be in).
This leaves Riot with two real options. Firstly it can simply increase the number of Worlds Tickets offered to the winners of the IWCT. This solves the problems offered by relatively small servers such as Turkey.
The other would be to give virtually all of these minor regions a single ticket to the worlds, which would probably result in an increase of the number of teams in the worlds by 50%. Now on one hand, this made the Worlds a tad more descriptive, you really would have the best of each region represented.
But then again, you’d have the likes of the Aussie pro scene going up against the best of Korea and China. The IWCT acts as a kind of quality control, and without it things change. It would create a larger tournament, and one where there would really be two or even three classes of teams competing, but for Riot that tries to keep the Worlds relatively compact and the fans that would be insulted by having to watch more games which are more dramatically one sided.
But even so Riot needs to formalise something and take charge of their own servers rather than delegating it out to the local tournament scene of ACL. Oceania has a Challenger Tier, and I presume the other new regions do as well. If Riot wants that to mean anything, then it needs to make them mean something.
Season 4 looks like it’s going to be an interesting Season for Oceania.