League of Legends is a very well-established game in its own right, having a solid hold on the esports space with multiple leagues around the world, while also enticing millions of more casual players into the mix as well, and now fans are getting something new in the form of Clash. We were recently invited to a roundtable with senior producer and product manager Leanne Loombe to talk about this mode and to learn about why these weekend-long tournaments are all of a sudden coming into the game.
For developer Riot Games, the whole philosophy behind Clash is that the game is always better with friends, and that with solo queue sometimes the motivation to actually work as a cohesive unit with your teammates isn't always there. By assembling a squad, Riot hopes to offer an incentive for everyone to work together to try and compete and be the best, and Loombe best describes this as "an opportunity space we're missing in League right now".
"We really want players to come away with the thought that Clash is the way League is meant to be played with my friends," Loombe added, and although the teamplay experience is the number one driving goal, the team also want intensity, and since this is the highest form of team-centric competition League has, it's not too far-fetched to think this could become a reality. There's also the added aim of encouraging players of all skill levels to compete, not just the pros that may well be aiming for the professional circuit.
But how does it work? Well, Clash is always a three-day tournament (Friday to Sunday) which runs every two weeks, and on the first day you can enter the four-team bracket, but what's important to note is that even though it's a three-day competition you can enter it on any of the days, even if you've lost the day before. If you win the two games in the four-team bracket, you then move onto the eight-team bracket, before then moving onto the finals, the 16-team bracket. As you can see in the summary video below, this basically works like any other tournament; you win, you progress, except this time losses don't mean total elimination. It's important to note, though, that you won't get to the 16-team bracket if you enter on any day other than the first.
Customisation and making your team your own is really important too, as you can choose your team and logo as you assemble it on the Clash tag. Once that's done, you can build a team that'll stay with you throughout the tournament, which can include anyone that has a rank on Summoner's Rift and is at least Honor Level 2. The combined skill level of your team then places you into a Tier, with higher-ranking players pushing the Tiers up.
Riot anticipated questions regarding smurfing (which, for those of you who don't know, means highly skilled players moving to a new account with a low level to get easy wins), and to try and avoid this the tournaments require SMS verification for your account, and once a number is used it can't be used on another account within six months. "We are taking a pretty tough approach generally with smurfing, because of the competitive nature of Clash," Loombe explained, before adding that those caught will get their rewards removed (and they'll get a ban from Clash on top of that too). AFK players also won't get shown any love either, as you'll miss your slot in the tournament if one of you are absent during the 30-minute lock-in window. Riot is doing everything it can to make it a pleasant experience for the vast majority of players.
After locking in there's a scouting phase, which provides interesting insights into team composition, showing the statistics like top picks for your opponents, as well as the KDA (kills, deaths, assists) score. Speaking of picks, all the champions are unlocked too, so don't worry about grinding to get the Champion you need. This is only about skill, which means that no player has any advantage over anyone else other than what goes on in-game.
Once you get past the character selection and your teams are ready to go, the games themselves are single-elimination, but if you lose, not only do you have the chance to re-enter but you also get consolation prizes from lower brackets. In terms of the real prizes though, these are obviously earned from winning and tasting sweet glory. For instance, you can earn nice rewards from entering with one Ticket (the currency needed to enter Clash), but if you wager five and put them on the line, you can earn even better rewards.
How do you get Tickets though? Well, it won't shock you to hear that you can purchase them with Blue Essence or RP, but you can also get gifted them and earn them in other ways like missions. You don't get Tickets in return for winning, but you do get Victory Points (Clash's own XP system), which unlock unique logos and banners, and Clash Capsules are also awarded at the end of your run, with Trophies earned for winning brackets, which will stand proudly at the Nexus of their Summoner's Rift games for a fortnight after their win.
Loombe also went into more detail about rewards, as there are three types, the first being these Clash Capsules, where if you bid one Ticket, you get loot boxes from a Clash Orb, while bidding five gives you Clash Capsule rewards. These upgrade as you win, so if you keep being victorious day after day there will be a stack of stuff to open at the end.
The banners, on the other hand, are split into three tiers for each tournament cup, with three banners available across two weekends. They show up in every Summoner's Rift game in League of Legends as well as on your profile, a status symbol as it were, just like the trophies, themed around the cup you're playing in (Demacia, for example). You get one of these per player for winning each bracket, which also shows in Summoner's Rift games for two weeks, although it's on your profile forever.
While Clash as a whole is a brand new feature designed to encourage team progression, it's not looking to replace anything, as Loombe explains:
"I think there is always going to be a world where players are obsessed with solo queue - I don't think that's going to go away any time soon, and that's definitely not our goal. Our goal is for Clash and solo ranked to live together in unison. I think they both serve very different purposes. Solo is specifically for me on my own to prove how good I am and people get really into that climb. Clash is very different because it is focused on that teamplay, playing with your friends, and getting the progression together. Our goal for the world is that they would live together, and not that Clash would supersede ranked in any way."
So when can we expect Clash to get underway? Well, very soon it turns out, as we were reminded after the roundtable that team creation opens on May 21 (Riot's partnership with op.gg, who are creating a team-building website, starts at launch too), giving you a couple of days to assemble the squad before the first Clash tournament starts on May 25, which is next Friday. Here we'll see how the community as a whole takes to the tournament format, but going from what we've seen and heard so far, we can't see any reason why League fans won't have a lot of fun with it.