Today Riot announced two big changes to the way it runs pro League of Legends.
The most significant is that the company has now introduced a "penalty index" for pro players to abide by -- with standardized punishments for infractions across the board.
The second is that the company is formally adopting the LCS Pro Player Panel -- a forum for pro teams to nominate one representative to officially interface with Riot and give feedback to the company. Riot had launched it as a pilot program last year.
The Penalty Index
Let's walk through the penalty index news, first.
In the past, Riot had meted out punishments to players who broke the rules -- for behavior like excessive toxicity -- on a case-by-case basis. Now, the company is standardizing its regulations and penalties.
"Our goal for League of Legends eSports is to showcase the highest quality of play and sportsmanship in competitive League of of Legends. To meet that standard, we need to establish and uphold goalposts to ensure a fair and stable ecosystem for players, teams, and the league," the company's director of eSports, Whalen Rozelle, wrote in a blog post detailing the changes.
"The goal of both regional and global rules is very simple: to deter and penalize behavior which is at odds with the health of the league."
Infractions are broken down into two categories: an LCS penalty index of "common or minor offenses" that warrant suspensions of fewer than three months, which applies only to the European and North American LCS leagues, and a global penalty index of offenses that call for more severe punishments, which will be standardized across the world.
It's worth noting that the regulations don't just cover player behavior, but also that of team management -- for example, if a starter isn't under contract, that's a fine of between $5,000 and $10,000 under these regulations.
By and large, the guidelines are more aimed at cheating and fair play rather than preventing toxic behavior -- the cleanup of which has been a major priority for Riot, and which grabs a lot of headlines. However, such behavior is covered under both guidelines, with penalties for "extreme misconduct" of suspensions between three and 10 months in the global index.
"To be clear, our intent in streamlining our disciplinary process isn’t to penalize more frequently. Instead, we hope that clearer communication about league discipline sets expectations, disincentivizes misconduct, and educates teams and players," Rozelle wrote.
"Moving forward we’ll be using a public-facing penalty tracker which will document all penalties levied during the LCS season," wrote Rozelle, which should make finding out which teams and players are complaint much simpler.
LCS Pro Player Panel
The company launched a pilot program in the last season to get feedback from pro players, and has apparently judged it a success -- as it's formally being introduced in 2016 as the LCS Pro Player Panel.
One player representative of each team will meet with Riot on a yearly basis; the fruits of these discussions will be policy and format changes. Rozelle wrotes that the pilot program influenced the creation of the penalty index, changes to pro player contracts, and tournament format changes.
"We’ll proactively discuss league rules and best practices (amongst other things) regularly with this group, as well as meet individually with players who’ve been penalized to make sure they have an opportunity to ask for clarification about potential penalties and how they can avoid them in the future," Rozelle wrote.
The company also plans to more frequently meet with team owners.