League of Legends: Project L
Well, it sure has been quiet on the news front for anything related to RIOT’s upcoming fighting game, currently, code-named Project L. To be fair, in their initial announcement, they did say they were going dark for a while, and we wouldn’t hear anything for some time. However, that doesn’t have to stop us from speculating about what’s coming and trying to reignite the conversation to continue to stir up some excitement around the game. Plus, I just love talking fighting games, and full disclosure I am really excited to see what they come up with.
What is Project L?
Project L, for those that don’t know, is an upcoming 2-D fighting game made by RIOT using the League of Legends cast of characters and will play like other 2-D fighters. For those most unfamiliar with fighting games, Street Fighter is the easiest comparison to make as it is the most easily recognizable. Project L developed by Tom and Tony Cannon: the former heads of Radiant entertainment, which was bought out by RIOT a few years back. Why is this significant?
The Cannon brothers have been instrumental in building the fighting game community (FGC) pretty much since its inception back in arcades. They developed the web forum Shoryuken.com (SRK), which was the only real place on the internet for fighting games. They started the biggest fighting game tournament on the globe: EVO. Finally, they developed this little thing called Good Game Peace Out (GGPO), which is a netcode tool to make fighting games playable online. They also happened to be working on a fighting game called Rising Thunder before being acquired by RIOT. There are some apparent similarities there even in the brief footage we have for Project L. Check out below at 33:38 in the reveal stream:
Let the Speculation Begin
League of legends hit it big because RIOT was in the right place at the right time with the right product and business model. I personally feel they are priming themselves to do the same with Project L. The Cannon brothers have the knowledge and experience to deliver the right product, and RIOT has the money to make sure the product is marketed and supported well. Also, League of legends brings a large community and character roster that people already know and love.
Accessibility and The Community
Building a community around Project L shouldn’t be a difficult feat if RIOT makes the right moves. The absolute number one thing they need is great online play to ensure good matches for players all over the globe. Good thing the Cannon brothers are the inventors of Rollback netcode, and this will be core to the Project L experience. So, little speculation is actually needed here. The online experience is likely to be absolutely seamless.
To bring players together, the game will need to be accessible to as many players as possible. RIOT is already an expert in this field as League of Legends can run on actual potatoes. Hence, I would expect the minimum system requirements to be on the low end. Aside from a system being able to run the game, how can players get their hands on it? The game will most likely use a similar launcher to League of Legends and will undoubtedly sport a free-to-play model. And just like League of Legends, monetization will likely be focused on cosmetics.
What else needs to be done to ensure accessibility to this game? The control scheme is key, and the game will likely support numerous control options. We have already seen in the reveal someone playing the game entirely on the keyboard. This will be a necessity as many players from League will be trying this game out, and you cannot expect them to go buy a peripheral to play the game. I firmly believe the game will support a lot of various control methods, which will maximize the accessibility to the player base.
Now let’s put on some tinfoil hats. What if (and it’s a big IF) Project L releases on consoles? Hear me out! This game is not just targeting League of Legends players it is also targeting the FGC. A lot of the FGC plays on console. A WHOLE LOT! RIOT has already expressed interest in releasing other titles onto console, specifically their League of Legends mobile port. I also think their shooter Valorant will target consoles at some point. So, it’s not crazy to think they might take a shot at a console release for Project L. I think it’s a really strong possibility because of how many FGC players play on console.
Now let’s ride off the deep end full throttle. Project L is still in an undisclosed stage of development. We don’t know when this will be released and its highly unlikely it will be this year. Let’s optimistically say Project L releases sometime in 2021. Do you know what else will be out in 2021? Next Gen Consoles! The PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X should be out and in many homes by that point. Why not target new consoles that you know will run your game with little to know issue? I know this is farfetched, so I might as well go all the way. RIOT also throws in cross play with PC and the next generation consoles. RIOT has the money, resources, and desire to do these things in an age where we see consoles and PCs melding together. Couple that with Sony and Microsoft warming up to the notion of cross play and they would both love to have RIOT games on their console. I know it is a bit of a wishlist, but I think there is just a fraction of a chance this could happen.
The Dream Can Happen
If RIOT can pull off all of the aforementioned items, they will already be in a strong spot in terms of building a community around the game. However, let’s talk actual numbers. I think a good number of FGC community personalities will give this game a real chance. I think many fighting game players will try it out and not all will stay but I think a good percentage will. The real numbers will come from the League of Legends community. League of Legends has crossed over 115 million players. Let’s take a really optimistic 1% of players try love it and stick with it. That’s over 1 million players right there not including the FGC players that will come over. This can really help the game grow and get big especially if RIOT delivers on the core game play experience. This means more internet personalities in the community, more guides and resources, and good successful product that forces other fighting game developers to compete with RIOT.
How will it play?
The game will have a core of 2-D fighting, but we can speculate to what mechanics it might include. The game has to be accessible in terms of inputs for non-fighting game players, but it needs to still reward players that can execute motion inputs and combos. I would anticipate one button specials in the game as well as cool-downs for special moves. This will feel very familiar to League players and you can add benefits to players that can do the inputs manually like reduced cooldowns or more damage. GranBlue Fantasy Versus does this somewhat well. I am still not a fan of auto-combos but you can probably do some basics to this without compromising the depth of the game.
Furthermore, the game will need deep mechanics and the characters will need to feel unique to play. We have already seen in the trailer footage that different characters have different meter usage and mechanics. Darius had a symbol showing half full that could maybe represent his bleed and Katarina had a set of daggers near her meter gauge. This is a good sign that the characters will operate in unique ways similar to Guilty Gear or Killer Instinct. I have faith that the Cannon brothers can deliver big here with their deep experience in the fighting game community.
The most fun part of all of the speculation about this game is the character roster. Who will make it in? I am particularly excited because I played League of Legends for years, and I grew up in arcades with the FGC. I have a lot of hope for this title to deliver on everything I have mentioned previously, and I am really excited to see characters I love so much in a new way. There is no doubt RIOT will likely start with some of the more popular characters so let’s start there.
The Stars of League
We already know Jinx, Darius, Ahri, and Katarina are confirmed from the existing footage. What other heavy hitters are likely to make it into the game early? Lee Sin, is there any question here? There is no doubt in my mind that Lee Sin will make it early. His popularity and character design will fit fighting games so well and could easily fit a frame trap or setup character archetype. Yasuo seems like another front runner due to popularity and there is likely a lot they can do with this character due to his mobility and gimmicks. Ezreal seems like an easy pick for a zoner keep-away character.
The good thing is there are so many diverse champions to choose from. I think Garen stands a strong chance of making it in early as a big bruising heavy hitter. Kai’Sa seems plausible as well due to overwhelming popularity. Ekko stands a good chance due to his own game currently in development and his time mechanic could be really cool in a fighting game. Several OGs and long time favorites stand a good chance like Annie, Evelyn, Caitlyn, Nautilus, Jax, Thresh, and Xin Zhao.
I have my own wish list I would love to see. Keep in mind I like big body brawlers. Dr. Mundo would be high on my list with Blitzcrank and Volibear. Olaf and Jarvan are some of my favorites along with my favorite punchy girl Vi. I have a soft spot for Lux and I think she is definitely popular enough to make it. Zac could have some really cool mechanics and I absolutely love Singed.
I could easily run on and on with characters I would love to see. Like many players, I love a lot of the cast. Many of the characters I have listed can fit a lot of different character archetypes and maybe even make some weird new ones. The game will need a healthy and diverse launch roster. I would argue with the budget and manpower RIOT has it is not unreasonable to think at least 25 characters. We already know they will likely release new characters steadily that you could buy or earn as is their typical free-to-play model. With over 100 characters to choose from that’s obviously too many but something like 16 feels like too few. I am also willing to bet they maintain a free-to-play character rotation, so more characters benefits that model.
We still don’t know when to expect the next update on Project L but there was a recent reveal for Valorant so we may not be too far away. With the beer virus going around it might delay some things that were planned for big events. I am not anticipating any news until the end of summer at the earliest. Hopefully by then things will calm down and we can get a reveal stream for more details. As of now it is still a giant questions mark. However, it has been a blast speculating and wish listing things that would be amazing to see in this game.
Keep locked in on Culture of Gaming for news on Project L as soon as it hits.