LoL Arena: Future Of The Game Mode - Interview With Art Lead Ben Skutt

LoL Arena is a fresh new experience for League of Legends players, and after a successful launch everyone wants to know what the future holds for this game mode. We got to interview Ben Skutt, Art Lead of Soul Fighter, to answer our burning questions.

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LoL Arena is off to a great start, but what else can we expect? | © Riot Games

LoL Arena was released in Patch 13.14 and finally, League of Legends players got the chance to experience their favorite game in a whole new way. It's felt like eons since players and fans have received a new game mode, so this had been a much-anticipated feature.

We had the chance to talk to Ben Skutt, Art Lead on Soul Fighter. We talked Arena and the future of the game mode. Oh, and of course, we asked whether Nexus Blitz is coming back soon.

LoL Arena: Initial Design Ideas

LoL Arena features small TFT-like arenas, with 2 players going up against 2 others in a skirmish. The game mode also has unique augments which will enhance the champions picked to even out the playing field.

This resembles Teamfight Tactics so we were wondering how close the game mode's team worked with the TFT team and whether there even was any collaboration.

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Was the TFT team involved with Arena? | © Riot Games

Skutt explained that the modes team took "heavy inspiration from the TFT team in a lot of our systems" and that some people from TFT even playtested Arena early on, but that other than that it was generally the LoL Modes team that was behind the Augments.

This is due to the different experiences of the mode, with Arena being a League of Legends game mode, which plays completely different from an auto-battler like TFT.

Soul Fighter and the Arena game mode also feel like they were made for one another. When the initial ideas of Arena were being explored, the events team was already creating concepts for the event.

[Arena] was a proposal being explored while the event details were coming together last year and we felt like this was our best idea that really could drive home a new gameplay experience that also happened to tie into the Soul Fighter thematic!

Future Of Arena: Potential Features And Ideas

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Who is winning the tournament of souls? | © Riot Games

Of course, we also have to look ahead at Arena. One thing we love about Arena are the different maps and how you have to adapt your playstyle to them. When asked about the map design's Skutt explained that three key points were looked at when making them:

  1. Make sure all types of champions felt playable on any particular map
  2. Create compelling objectives and chokepoints to strategize around
  3. Ensure there was enough variety to keep things interesting

If Arena does make a return, then we could even see more map variants be added to the mode with Skutt stating that, "there are a ton of reasons to consider new maps, whether it’s to bring thematic cohesion to an event or to explore new gameplay opportunities with different objectives."

Whether we'd get elemental maps though that change, similar to the elemental rift is still up in the air, but nothing is being ruled out by the modes team, "we don’t currently have plans for [elemental maps/rift] in mind, but everything is on the table!"

Not just maps could be added, but with the Soul Fighter event, Riot perfectly added in the new Soul Fighter skin line to the game mode with the cameos. To spice things up in the future, we could see other cameos or other systems even that will fit future thematics with the game mode according to Skutt.

We will definitely explore potential other cameos, but we also want to leave the door open for other gameplay systems that might be better suited to future thematic opportunities.

We also touched upon the lack of custom games in the current state of the mode. When asked about the time frame for adding a custom mode to Arena, Skutt explained that due to League being a "pretty old game" the schedule for Arena would have substantially been set back.

League is a pretty old game, meaning certain areas have received less work [..], and custom games are one of them. The scale of work here is measured in months, meaning that it was immediately out of the question for this release because it would’ve put us in a fall/winter timeframe, or even pushed us back to 2024.

He also added on that adding custom mode wasn't a question of manpower either, since that wouldn't have made much of a difference in the release timeframe of the game mode.

Whether Arena will come back again is in the hands of the players. Previous game modes quickly fell off in popularity, hence why Riot did not bother keeping them around.

That's why right now the modes team is focusing on player sentiment, "[the team] want[s] to understand how [the] players feel about the mode and see where we might need to clean up."

One thing that has happened to previous modes is that they simply don’t see enough engagement over a longer period of time. There are many reasons why that was the case [...], so for Arena we’re taking a different approach, purposefully using this release to learn where to re-invest into the mode should there be enough interest!

Elephant In The Room: Nexus Blitz

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Players are wondering when Nexus Blitz is going to come back. | © Riot Games

Of course, we also had to ask about Nexus Blitz. It was promised to return in 2022, which did not happen and left some fans pretty disappointed. With Arena being out, some fans have wondered if this means that a return of Nexus Blitz is imminent.

Unfortunately, Skutt wasn't able to give any details on the next release of Nexus Blitz. He did state that the modes team is working on the next steps and that "Nexus Blitz is up for consideration" but he "can't confirm an expected timeframe" due to the previous time they let players down with wrong expectations. So once they're sure they'll let players know when Nexus Blitz is returning.

But with Arena just out, and being one of the best new ways to try out League of Legends, it's time to try out every single possible combination to see what works best for you, before worrying over any other game mode, right?

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