Riot Korea’s Fall from Grace

“Solo Queue is Just Around the Corner”

League of Legends Inven is by far the largest online LoL community in Korea. Unlike what can sadly be said of its Western counterpart, /r/leagueoflegends, Inven’s moderation team refrains from issuing sweeping bans of extremely topical criticism. If such an atrocity were to be committed, the majority of LoL Inven’s users would swiftly head for less flagrant pastures; the website could very well start dying within a month.

Ever since the introduction of dynamic queue, at least one post decrying it would reach Inven’s “first page” every day, and the vitriol was duly echoed in the comments. This fire kept hot for well over a few months. Countless threatened to quit the game without the return of solo queue, and when Riot finally confirmed its death after two months of lies, the truly resolute responded by uploading confirmation screenshots of permanent account deletion. All such farewells were graced with sendoff applause until the fad grew old.

The Golden Age of Scripting

Happening at the same time was a new and noticeable influx of scripting into all tiers of ranked play. Of course, LoL had long suffered from scripts small and large; but excluding several instances of exploits breaking the game by definition, the most infamous being the Dr Terrible farce, rarely did abusing a script virtually guarantee a victory. Many players will well remember the old Xerath and Karthus scripts that made ordinary laning infuriating but still had plenty of room to beat. Despite being very annoying to face, skillshot accuracy alone would rarely win games on its own. Few abusers could reach a truly competitive tier purely by merit of the script, or so it seemed, at least to public perception.

The new generation of scripts introduced a whole new different terror, however.

Contrary to what the blessed innocent may imagine scripts to do, even for a script it is literally impossible to dodge every skillshot. If an Essence Flux, Bouncing Bomb, and Enchanted Crystal Arrow were shot at slightly different angles to a script user, at least one of them would end up hitting. But therein lay the power of the new scripts: if an Essence Flux, Bouncing Bomb, and Enchanted Crystal Arrow were incoming at slightly different angles, one could choose what to step into, in this case quite obviously the Essence Flux.

The new scripts offered mind-boggling levels of customization: once a game loaded, the user could assign evasion and target priority to literally every enemy skill and target in the game. How much should I prioritize dodging Mystic Shots over last hitting minions? If both a pink ward and the enemy Malzahar are within autoattack range, which one should I hit? How much should I prioritize Rocket Jump over Flash when I need to use one to dodge Finales Funkeln? (Yes, I still hold this grudge.)

With properly “tuned” scriptsalready mobile champions became near invulnerable; even the less mobile champions would still feel as slippery as SKT T1 Bang’s Kalista. Perhaps more importantly, all champions would perform frame perfect autoattack kiting throughout their superhuman weaving and dodging. It did not try to maximize DPS; it maximized DPS.

In games with such abusers, the entire concept of diving and peeling for the ADC would be instantly rendered irrelevant. The opposing team would only hope for the scripting ADC to manually misposition and thus “outplay” its own script; the allied team would look to force open teamfights in every situation, knowing that the ADC would win it for them anyway. Kog’maw scripts were the worst of the bunch; when paired with a Lulu or Soraka, there was usually nothing an enemy team could do to a Kog’maw kiting perfectly with 5.0 attack speed. A deluge of new accounts skyrocketed to high Diamond, Master, and even Challenger with absurd 80%+ winrates. Most of their games were on Kog’maw.

It was not as if obtaining such scripts were a hassle, either. One could instantly access a whole array of script merchants simply by typing in “LoL Helper” into Korea’s foremost search engine, Naver. One company would hand out crude but effective F2P scripts and advertise upgrade options; another company would offer cutting edge products at high prices. It was just like being at a shopping mall.

Riot Games Korea knew about this shopping mall, of course. Hundreds of users sent in support tickets asking for a shutdown of the mall, fully knowing Naver’s policies allowed companies to request sweeping keyword blackouts related to their intellectual property. But Riot Games Korea budged not the slightest. The mall continued to rake in mad cash.

With tens of thousands of games being utterly ruined by blatant scripting but seemingly nothing being done, users flooded both Inven and the official boards, uploading massive amounts of posts and support tickets with ample evidence, pleading desperately for Riot Games Korea to do something. Still, nothing was done. Not even one official statement on the matter, only a few informal and vague half-promises dropped here and there on Inven by Riot Games Korea’s community interaction team.

Met with such infuriating indifference from Riot Games Korea, the majority of users came to feel they were being treated as a wholly dismissable rabble, an easily manipulable bunch of hopelessly addicted chumps who would keep playing and spending no matter how much they grumbled. Many admitted to as much in self-deprecative irony.

Amidst this already venomous atmosphere erupted the Kyahaha controversy.

The Kyahaha Controversy

At one point in time Kyahaha was considered one of Korea’s best up-and-coming AD carry talents, making a name for himself on the ladder and qualifying for 2013 OGN Champions Winter with an amateur team. After his aspiration of going pro dissipated after a while, he chose to become a full-time LoL streamer on Afreeca. He soon gathered a large following through explaining his play to his viewers in a cheerfully narcissistic manner. Keeping a diligent schedule, he eventually became one of Korea’s most popular LoL streamers.

No longer playing to beat the best but primarily to entertain and showboat, it was only natural that Kyahaha’s skill deteriorated slowly but surely. One of Korea’s best rookies soon became an ordinary Masters player, then an ordinary Diamond player. When he tried to turn it on again after the long descent, he found – to his surprise, perhaps – he could no longer do so. After repeatedly failing to break back into Masters alone, he eventually was carried to and through his promotion series by duo queuing with Challenger supports. Presumably ashamed, he switched almost entirely to playing on low Diamond smurfs. He knew he no longer had it, if at least for the time being.

This was early February.

Around March, a number of posts appeared on Inven accusing Kyahaha of using scripts. With so much of Kyahaha’s gameplay being open to research on Youtube, more and more video evidence was unearthed, some being logically faulty but many being persuasive. One of the most damning pieces was this particular bit of superhuman mouse movement.

As the controversy blew up in size, many in the industry started revealing their thoughts on the matter. Professionals that expressed their belief in Kyahaha having used scripts included LGD Imp, EDG Deft, QG Dade, Longzhu Cpt. Jack, Jin Air Chei, ROX Peanut, ROX Pray, Afreeca Sangyoon, KT Ignar, NiceGameTV commentators Bitdol and Hols, and OGN commentator Cloudtemplar.

Cloudtemplar in particular publicly pleaded Riot Games Korea to take firm action in very strong words, firmly declaring “KR’s widespread scripting problem will never be solved if the most obvious and famous scripter of all is allowed to walk free” and “I used to be one of Riot’s most loyal defenders but even I am losing faith in Riot and League right now.”

Much less honorable figures also went out of their way to argue for his guilt, including “legendary” script writers HTTF and xcsoft: both infamous characters were so absolutely sure of Kyahaha being a script user that they made lighthearted bets to commit suicide if they were wrong.

With the entire Korean community confidently and desperately waiting for something similar to the fabled Lyte Smite, Riot Games and Riot Games Korea allowed the absolute worst to happen: they publicly surrendered, saying they would prefer to consider the case closed as their team had failed so far to detect script use from Kyahaha’s account.

Immediately following the announcement, KR’s ranked environment deteriorated even further. Knowing they would be immune to punishment at least in the near future, script use increased to such a degree that nearly every ranked game would contain at least one scripter.

Venomous and earnest consumer reviews of various script products started to flood Inven, their comment sections free of beratement. Derision against Riot was the prevalent sentiment, and users expressed their frustration through pointed jokes such as “remember, this third-party program has been officially endorsed by Riot!”

Additional controversy was lit when a user proved Riot Games did not have any kind of automated script detection at all. After ordering a number of high-quality scripts from a famous script retailer and using them extensively in a custom game on NA, he sent in a support ticket, clearly stating he had used third party programs to script, then asked Riot if his actions were against the Summoner’s Code. He received a copy-and-paste answer about Riot’s policy on third party programs, and his account was never banned.

But the worst was still yet to come.

And the Faithful Shall Be Devastated

Shortly after Riot Games simultaneously confirmed their tentative pardon of Kyahaha and the death of solo queue, a lengthy reveal of apocalyptic proportions was posted on Inven: for over two years, Riot Games Korea had actually been protecting and encouraging script developers and retailers to continue their operations. Nearly every accusation was confirmed by Riot Korea Runeterra through his comments on said post; and as if it could get any worse, the employee’s frantic attempts at damage control were ridiculed to oblivion as the OP produced additional evidence to expose most of them as flimsy lies.

Highlights from the shocking account:

  • Riot Games Korea cordially invited script developers and retailers to visit Riot Korea HQ to have a nice friendly chat, kindly offering to instead visit their location if that would be more convenient. Upon their visit, the guests were offered coke and cider on the house. Rainbows and butterflies.
  • In their invitation letter, Riot Games Korea wrote: “We believe that script developers and retailers are players that really enjoy and love our game.”
  • At the nice friendly chat, Riot Games Korea reassured the invited script developers and retailers that the company would never, ever press legal charges against them.
  • At said chat, Riot Games Korea also dismissed the gravity of the issue by saying “good players will climb anyway regardless of whether they use scripts or not.”
  • After the day of said chat, the original poster asked if such a meeting had taken place through a support ticket. Riot Games Korea flatly denied their having ever invited any script developers and retailers. The original poster, of course, knew the truth.
  • Certain script retail websites that Riot Games Korea had claimed to have shut down over the years were actually not shut down at all.

This nauseating and despicable truth was the last straw for many.

The Perfect Storm

With the aforementioned incidents fatally undermining the integrity of Riot Games and its Korean branch, many players felt they could no longer stomach being a customer for Riot, but still wanted to play something similar to their beloved League of Legends. At the same time, Blizzard was earning praise on the boards for being an antithesis to Riot, a company not afraid to take crack down on scripting and take hard legal action against distributors. Whether this perception was justified is unclear: a topic worthy of another article.

As such, a meme initially created to ridicule Heroes of the Storm – “High-End Restaurant” – took on new life with an altered connotation as LoL players questioned themselves: hey, maybe we were actually ‘silly juveniles playing a cheesy low-quality game’ as that idiot said long ago. At least Blizzard wouldn’t show hospitality towards, lavish praise upon, and protect script-selling bastards while lying about everything to those who actually love and enjoy the game.

Everything was coming together in a perfect storm to give birth to the Restaurance. Lonely HotS veterans with all of their friends playing LoL sensed the perfect opportunity to finally persuade them to move; migrants fresh off the boat wanted to encourage others to follow them across; and even players with still no intent to leave LoL were in agreement that its monopoly share of the Korean gaming market needed to take a blow if they were to be not treated as addicted chumps who would keep playing and spending no matter what.

So did the Restaurance manage to leave a dent in League of Legends’ Korean market share? As one would expect, the only metric available to the public says no, and this writer has no desire to indulge in utterly baseless guesswork. For Heroes of the Storm, however, a small but respectable and noticeable bump in popularity occurred.

Everything changed when the Overwatch nation attacked, however…

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