Project L – the 2v2 fighting game lined up as the next big release from industry giant Riot Games – is yet another way out. There’s no release date yet, only a handful of characters, and via our latest major update we know the team just locked down core gameplay and moved into full character creation. features and characters. The reality of people jumping on stage to play Project L for money is still a distant sight. However, does this mean that Riot Games has not prepared the ground? No way mate – I sure didn’t mean it.
As such, since I was in Sweden for the LEC Summer Finals where Europe’s top teams competed in the best of League of Legends, I thought it best to dig in. Sitting across from me in a curtained interview room was Senior Director of Esports for EU, Alberto Guerrero, who was the perfect person to ask about their plans for the upcoming fighting game of Riot, what they did in that all-important pre-release stage, and what special things they had in mind for the fighting game community (FGC).
But why should we care? Sure, Riot Games is currently working on its fighting game, but why is its future vision for esports actually important to those playing fighting games right now? Well, it doesn’t take a fortune teller to predict that Project L will send shockwaves through the genre. It’s free-to-play, which means it’ll have a strong initial base, and with Riot Games’ pre-existing fans – and Riot Games money – behind it, how it stacks up on the big stage will likely influence or alter downright how other developers and publishers approach their own titles.
Not slapping a damper on the play early on, but Alberto made it clear that it’s “too early” to talk about specific rulesets, competitive structures, or how they would tackle quirks like the Open Bracket, a bring your own gear culture, and yes, controller vs stick vs hitbox. However, that doesn’t mean they haven’t looked at the scene from a competitive angle. For many, open bracket in particular (which literally means anyone can enter a tournament and fight their way to the top) is a crucial part of fighting game culture. It’s also something Riot hasn’t touched in over a decade.
“I can’t share much more than is already known to the public. We don’t have a date and the only thing I can say is that we will be ready. Project L is a fighting game. Yes, the fighting game community is different. Competing in fighting games is different from competing in FPS or mobile titles. Everyone knows we hire and partner with amazing professionals to develop the game – we do the equivalent on the esports side…”
“…We will understand what the fighting community is looking for. How they are used to organizing tournaments and competitions. I think we will give an appropriate answer. It’s too early to share how we’re going to produce it, but you can imagine we’re not going to do a separate season and roadshow. We will adapt the way we provide the opportunity to compete and watch players. »
One question I definitely wanted to ask Alberto is if he’s ventured into certain events to see how they go in person. Events like VsFighting, Celtic Throwdown, and a whole host of Central European tournaments have been going on for quite some time – and ever since we know Riot has met numerous key members of the global FGC – have they also taken the time to see the fruits produced by decades of grassroots effort. There are concerns that despite Riot hiring massive names into the FGC pantheon, they’re ignoring many long-standing aspects of the scene, replacing them with something entirely different.
“Not me. I would say that three members of my team traveled this year to learn and prepare, but not only my team: in all regions. Globally, even years ago, we were doing this research Remember we announced it externally on the tenth anniversary, but we as a company knew [about it] before. So [throughout] this period, I can tell you, we knew we had to be there. Evo is a good example, but there are many other examples.
Although Alberto doesn’t comment – even hypothetically – on things like how to approach an open parenthesis, he made sure to mention that people were looking at it carefully. “I have experts who will know much better than me, won’t they? But for the moment, it is too early to talk about it. But it will for sure be different from what we do with League of Legends or Counter Strike and much closer to what is happening today with the fighting game community.
“That’s why the FGC is already established because it’s a community used to specific things, so we’ll have to adapt to that and follow most of that. Of course, we’ll try to innovate and to do something a little different, but that aspect will be appreciated. We’re not going to apply the same [approach] that we use for our FPS, like Valorant or League of Legends.
Closing the subject, I wanted to ask Alberto how convinced he was that the L project would cause a stir. It was, admittedly, a bit of a bait thing to try to squeeze in some juicy detail, but since Riot Games has always aimed to leapfrog current leaders in the genre, I was curious how this mission statement would be defended in an esports sense. How do you create a 2D fighter that, despite its mainstream appeal, never reached the heights of competitive FPS or MOBA, Riot Games’ next star game?
“That’s our goal. Our goal is always to improve being an esports fan from all angles, the watch experience and the competition experience. So I don’t know how we going to do it but that will be our focus for sure. Our focus right now is to understand the fighting game community, what they are doing now and what they expect. Then we will see how we will convert that into our proposal.