League of Legends: things to do in heaven when you’re dead

, | Game diaries

When you die in Demigod, you get put in a penalty box. You’re looking down from heaven, inert and wistful, while cool stuff happens underneath you, without you. It’s like The Lovely Bones.

After the jump, League of Legends is like A Beautiful Mind meets Confessions of a Shopaholic

I like numbers not because I’m a mathy kind of guy — I’m not — but because they’re reassuring. If I can check the books at any time, so to speak, I know there aren’t any under-the-hood shenanigans going on. I trust the game. That’s why I love the death recap in League of Legends. It breaks down for me exactly how I died by spelling out every point of damage I sustained in the last several seconds. It’s basically saying, “You have no one to blame but yourself. Look. See?”

But what’s also cool about the death recap is that it’s presented to me at precisely the time I have nothing better to do than consider where I went wrong and got my fool self killed again. I’ve been known to watch RTS replays, but seeing a whole game lends it a certain remoteness, almost as if it happened to someone else, complete with the long boring parts. But the death recap is like being fed the highlights immediately after they happen, when they’re most relevant. You probably have something like that in sports, don’t you? A playover, or some such thing, right?

Furthermore, the death recap teaches me a bit about the other 77 characters by letting me mouse over the names of the spells that killed me to read their tooltips. So that’s what that spinning blade is!

Of course, you can also shop while you’re in heaven. That’s a canny bit of convenience, since you’re just going to reappear at the store when you respawn. In effect, you get to phone ahead with your order. “Yeah, okay, so I’ll have that health crystal and that +20 ability point book, and maybe those boots if I have enough money when I get there, which will only happen if my slacker team kills a turret in the next 20 seconds.”

One of the amazing accomplishments in League of Legends — I believe this is true of all Defense of the Ancients clones — is the fantastic pacing. Pacing is a crucial part of all types of games. Unlike story, graphics, AI, interface, and the traditional elements people talk about when they talk about whether a game is good, there isn’t a single genre where pacing isn’t a crucial consideration.

Although you’re only controlling one unit, there is always something to do, somewhere to be, something about to happen. There is almost never any waiting in a Defense of the Ancients game, Demigod’s inert interlife excepted. There are no slow parts. Other RTSs accomplish this by compressing a lot of stuff: scouting, opening build, micro, macro, teching up, hurry, hurry, multitask, hurry, faster, hurry, more multitasking, micro, macro, micro, micro, and you’re done in 15 minutes. 20 tops. But League of Legends manages to sustain a wonderful sense of pacing for games that can take up to an hour. And ironically, it does this by giving you less to do rather than more.

Up next: Christien Murawski issues a bromance alert
Click here for the previous League of Legends game diary entry.