[7 April 2014]
On the internet April Fools’ Day is a true spectacle. Most tech companies release strange new “products” that are obviously meant to be taken as satirical jokes. Part of the reason this day is so special is because it only happens once a year. The ridiculous nature of Google Pokemon competitions or web browsers for Cats is only funny every once in awhile, if these hoaxes were presented everyday of the year they would get old.
Riot Games, creators of the massively popular League of Legends also play pranks on their users on April Fool’s Day. This year they released a new mode for their flagship game called “Ultra Rapid Fire” (URF), in which players have infinite mana, extremely short cooldowns on abilities, and more gold among many buffs to make the game faster and more twitch based, as the name “Ultra Rapid Fire” might suggest.
The results were hilarious at first. Without cooldowns or mana most abilities could just be cast over and over again, and nearly every champion became “OP” or overpowered. It felt like playing with cheat codes enabled. Just a brief perusal of online forums shows that users who hadn’t played League of Legends in awhile, but still followed its scene, were getting back into playing due to this new game mode. But as an April Fools’ Day joke, the mode is temporal in nature and would only be around for a week. After a few days, the community realized this and began to beg Riot and to generate petitions asking for URF to become permanent.
While no one can deny that URF is a lot of fun, if it were to become a normal mode of play like ARAM or Dominion, it would lose its appeal, or worse, undermine the main component of League of Legends, Summoner’s Rift. URF, just like other April Fools’ Day pranks, needs to be temporal in nature and leave. Otherwise it will just exacerbate problems within the community by being unbalanced, making the Summoner’s Rift feel slow, teach bad mechanics, and get old.
One thing users like about URF is that it is significantly less competitive than the traditional game. Players can easily be turned off by “try-hard” players who have negative attitudes and blame their teammates for setbacks. When URF dropped, players didn’t care if they won or lost; they were mostly interested in having fun and trying out new characters with extreme abilities. I played an URF match less than an hour after the mode was released, and there was a general air of discovery and excitement that made losing seem incidental if not fun. However, as I’ve continued playing through the week, attitudes have changed. I’ve been flamed at for picking “bad champions” or dying too much to my opponents, despite the fact that the entire mode is a joke. If URF became a normal game mode this problem would only get worse and one of the best things about the mode, its fun non-competitiveness, would disappear.
Also, as URF week went on, the same champions began to be played in every match because they were so overpowered. Champions like Sona (who Riot took out of the mode), Soraka, or Alistar, who have heals, can continually cast them and become almost unkillable if played correctly. Other characters become so powerful they nullify 75% of the other champions in the game. In games that I have played where one team has an “overpowered” character like Soraka and the other team does not, Soraka’s team almost always wins. If URF became a normal game mode, the same 15 to 20 champions would probably be played every game, killing variety and the fun of the mode even more.
Another problem with URF mode is that it undermines and makes Summoner’s Rift feel less fun. I’m sure many gamers have experienced this phenomenon, where they put cheat codes for infinite ammo or faster cars on and then the normal game feels grueling. Players have already began creating threads about how they can’t go back to Summoner’s Rift after playing URF, because it feels too slow. If URF mode becomes a regular mode, Summoner’s Rift will feel inferior and limited in comparison to itself on steroids.
Along with this, while URF mode can teach the player better dodging and spacing skills (as my time in midlane against ranged pokers taught me). It also teaches the player poor mechanics that translate to the main game. Players have humorously talked about how they waste their mana quickly and become impatient going from URF to Summoner’s Rift. This is similar to how playing The Sims without cheats is no longer fun once you have been provided infinite money through cheat codes. If URF mode becomes a regular part of the game, players will become impatient when transitioning between URF and Summoner’s Rift.
And perhaps most importantly, URF mode will get old. The novelty of playing with cheat codes wears off and loses its appeal. While URF can make Summoner’s Rift seem less enjoyable by comparison, it does not have the depth to stay relevant or interesting. Players could theoretically play URF until they get bored with it, and then not want to transition back into Summoner’s Rift because it isn’t as fast paced and punishes the player for being reckless. Ultimately, Riot Games could lose some users this way.
While URF was insanely fun for a few days, the negatives of permanence far outweigh the positives of keeping it around. Like all April Fools’ Day jokes, URF mode needs to end, as it is only enjoyable because it offers a change of pace, but that change of pace is only needed once in awhile, not all the time.