Ask a question about League or Riot, and we’ll try to answer it. Answers go live every other Thursday at 1:30 pm (PT)
Let’s talk hiring fallacies, death recap, honor decay, and getting merch into different regions.
Can you go down in honor levels if you don’t play enough games?
Nope. There’s no decay on Honor levels. The only way you lose levels is through a penalty or through the seasonal reset.
Riot talks a lot about prioritization and resources when answering questions about features people want — if there aren’t enough people there to fix things like Death Recap or the old, out of date website, why not hire more? Are you really that limited on people?
Hiring is a powerful tool in the developer toolbox, but it isn’t the best tool for every problem that comes along.
For starters, hiring takes a very long time, especially for somewhere like Riot where we want to make really sure that any new Rioters are aligned to our company missions and values. If you want to spin up a new team to tackle a problem, and then you need to hire a lot to staff that team, my rule of thumb is to expect it to take 6-12 months (and sometimes much more) before that team is staffed.
Second, just because you can hire more people doesn’t mean you should. Having more developers requires more overhead. It requires a larger office space. It means changing your company processes and developing a deeper (and typically slower) hierarchy. Growing too quickly can put a huge strain on a company’s culture as you struggle to get all the newcomers to understand the way you think about things. For example, Riot strives to measure what we work on in terms of gamer impact. But what that means can be really open to interpretation — it’s not something that is easily summed up in an employee handbook. Instead, it has to be learned by working alongside folks who already get it. The faster you grow, the more that ratio of folks who already get it gets diluted.
More bodies just means that it requires more conversations to make sure all questions get answered. If you hire more junior folks, it means also hiring more senior folks who can manage them. I am a big believer that Dunbar’s Number is a thing, especially in an organization that eschews a conveyer-belt style development methodology and instead thrives when people collaborate quite a bit on gnarly problems with ambiguous solutions. You will almost never, in this business, find developers who love working on really large teams. Instead, they will all pine for the day when their dev team was 15 people because it’s just so much easier to stay in sync and to get shit done quickly when you’re small. I’m not offering some huge insight here — it’s the subject of tons of research into businesses and why they grow and how that often causes them to slow down.
Third, just because you have more people doesn’t mean that the priorities of what you would work on would change. If we had six competent engineers magically appear, that doesn’t mean that the best allocation of those folks would be on some neglected feature of potentially marginal value. It may make more sense to bite off a larger project or to make sure some big problem got solved faster. How we prioritize features or work is a larger question (and this is a long answer already), but suffice to say that we greatly value player impact, and we do try to make room for smaller quality-of-life requests and meme-killing things alongside major reworks, such as Runes Reforged.
Fourth, I should invoke the “mythical person month.” Throwing bodies at a problem isn’t a proven solution to make things happen faster. This gets into some of the points I already made above, but I just wanted to point out that business often acknowledge that more people isn’t the answer to everything. Related, you wouldn’t want to hire someone just for a three-month project and then fire them again. Some companies are fine with that approach (a lot of Hollywood still works that way), but Riot really wants to be a place staffed by lifers who want a long-term career here, not hired guns who jam out a project and then move on to the next gig.
Riot does not ship their goods to Latin America — why not put a store in Mexico and then make shipments to the rest of Latin America?
We initially tried direct stores in Latin America North and South but ran into a number of issues. We spun down those online stores because we weren’t able to provide a good experience for players, and it wasn’t a financially sustainable path.
Since then, we’ve been exploring different ways to tackle this better, including working with partners like Gameplanet (in Mexico), as well as Zmart and Microplay (in Chile) to bring merch to players through different channels.
But we’ve also run into a lot of roadblocks. Some countries in LAN and LAS don’t have stores that would be a fit for us to work with, or there are tax/importation challenges that can’t be readily resolved. Some countries have political situations going on that make bringing in merch and taking payment methods a no-go. We also did a deep dive exploration into whether we could manage an ecommerce store out of Mexico that would ship to every country in LAN. Unfortunately, it’s not viable given the cost, tax/customs, and shipping considerations, especially in trying to supply to all 29 countries in LAN.
We’re hoping to keep pushing forth with other partners and exploring other solutions for LAN and LAS, so we can continue to expand access to players. But the road is so challenging that we don’t want to make promises in terms of when, how, or even if it’ll be do-able.
We’ll do our best to read every question, but we can’t guarantee they’ll all get answers. Some questions may already be answered elsewhere, and some won’t be right for Ask Riot. This isn’t the best place to announce new features, for example, and we might skip conversations on issues we’ve talked about in depth before (though we can clarify individual points).
We are listening, though, so keep asking. We’ll make sure your questions are heard by the Rioters working on the stuff you’re curious about.