The Necessity of Replays
Mon 9th Apr 2012 - 6:23pm: League of Legends
The importance of replays is not to be understated.
While watching livestreams, playing matches, and theorycrafting are all elements one can use to improve, replays serve as a reference point that you can always look back to; a textbook you study from before a big test. In the general sporting world, coaches analyze replays to look for strategies employed by opposing teams before they face off, or particular players that can be isolated as to minimize scoring efficiency.
In the world of eSports, the same ideas remain: replays of matches show item builds, positioning habits, player tendencies, and much more. What is more, such replays can be rewound to any point, replayed (duh), and re-evaluated in multiple different ways, with new ideas, new counter-strategies and new insight that various from person to person.
League of Legends has exploded in popularity, dominating both in-person and online viewership at big-name events such as the Intel Extreme Masters or Major League Gaming. Professional teams and companies play for, and sink in, large amounts of money to the MOBA, and an increasing playerbase will only aid in solidifying LoL as a pillar in the current eSports scene.
Two of the three are part of LoL already. But where's the replay system Riot?
Think back to numerous large-scale PC eSports titles. From Quake, to Counter Strike, to Starcraft, almost all had at least two of three things: a spectator mode, easy to understand but hard to master mechanics, and a replay system. While the first two cater primarily to a mix between casual and hardcore players, a replay system caters largely to hardcore players bent on improving their in-game skills and performance.
The community has been quick to create programs documenting replays. LoLReplay is a tool that has gained widespread popularity, and though it lacks certain features, does allow for active recording of gameplay for review. Livestreamers often record their gaming sessions as well, and though it is hard to estimate how many review their livestream recordings, there is undoubtedly a particular segment that use past livestreams as a means to an end with this matter.
While programs such as LoLReplay do exist, nothing has yet officially been developed by Riot.
As receptive as Riot usually is to community feedback, this feature has been asked for as far back as I can remember, and no action (thus far) has been taken. While I am understanding that a large component of the playerbase may not really care for such a feature, the addition of replays would be beneficial in the long run. Professional players could record matches more easily, shoutcasters could obtain replays and give insightful commentaries, and average Joe teams could download replays and use them to become the next big-name powerhouse team.
Replays, in conjunction with livestreaming and commentary, would also help transition a small segment of the casual community into the eSports realm, growing an already thriving competitive scene surrounding League of Legends. Though in the ideal situation Riot develops an in-client replay system for both recording and playing replay files, possibly even a database of some sort unto which replays could be uploaded/downloaded would suffice. Heck, if the recent usage of replay files to indict and fire a Riot employee for inappropriate conduct wasn't enough, I don't know what is.
Professional players such as Team SoloMid's Dyrus would find a replay system beneficial for commentaries.
So please Riot, help your community in continuing to grow competitive League of Legends. From the casual, once-a-week player all the way to the professionals depending on game improvements to support their livelihoods, replays would be one large step in the right direction.