Fighting games are one of esports' most storied genres. The fighting game community has been supporting this scene for decades and elevated it to the highest levels of competition. Despite all this, on the grand stage of international esports, fighting games remained niche for a long time. Thankfully this has begun to change. Developer support and sponsored events have increased the production value and presence of fighting games in the esports scene. Thanks to this FGC renaissance, it was only a matter of time before a real heavy hitter took a swing at competitive Fighting games. This is Project L.
Developed by Riot Games, the team behind League of Legends, Project L is being hailed as a savior. Although the FGC doesn't necessarily need to be saved, it’s hard to argue that a title with developer backing and a massive fan base wouldn't be a huge boost for the genre.
The League of Legends IP is an exciting prospect for a genre that traditionally has a small, tight knit playerbase. An influx of new players and a developer with experience with esports are all a huge step in the right direction.
But the question on everyone's mind now is: What is the game like? News surrounding the development process has been quiet with small drops of info being fed to fans over the past year. The initial reveal back in November of 2021 gave us a lot to look forward to, and hinted at some interesting gameplay quirks.
With a follow up Developer Diary being released this August, now is a good time to breakdown all the information we have so far. Hopefully this will help piece together how Project L is taking shape.
Watch both developer Diaries here:
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Project L will be free-to-play. What was probably the biggest announcement from the latest developer diary should come as no surprise to those familiar with other Riot titles. The topic of a free-to-play model for fighting games has begun to pick up steam in recent years and has divided some parts of the community. Obviously nothing is really free, and it remains to be seen how Riot will implement monetization. Speculation about purchasing individual champs and cosmetics are all unconfirmed, but would fall in line with the League of Legends model.
When it comes to fighting games in 2022, there is one thing that matters: Does the game have good online play? With Project L not yet released it’s impossible to judge the functionality of the games matchmaking. That being said, the development team has confirmed that the game will feature rollback netcode which is a great sign for the future. At this point rollback netcode has become the industry standard, but it's good to see that Riot has chosen to continue the trend. Riot is no stranger to online gaming, so it should come at no surprise that solid netplay is at the heart of the development process.
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Project L is based on the legendary League of Legends universe and is taking the FGC into the land of Runeterra. It’s hard to judge the game aesthetically while it is still under development. However, it seems Project L is taking a lot of inspiration from League of Legends and its various spin offs. The 3D models are clean and well-animated despite still being in their early stages. The color palettes and character designs are reminiscent of the Riots hit Netflix animation Arcane, but scaled down in detail and shading.
Accessibility is at the core of Riots design philosophy and similar to Valorant, it seems the team wants Project L to run smoothly for everyone. From the footage shown we can confirm that Echo, Jinx, Darius, and Ahri will all appear in-game. A new character, Illaoi, was also revealed. It’s a pleasure to see the unique character designs of our favorite Champions on a large scale and fighting with style.
Check out these reactions from FGC content creators:
Project L has been confirmed to be a two vs two fighter with assists. This means that each player will be able to select their two favorite champs and run them both at the same time.
From the gameplay shown it seems that Project L features a fluid tag system that allows players to swap between champs freely. The sequences shown in the developer diaries were reminiscent of Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite. The game looked fast and the characters were flying across the screen with the kind of pace one would expect from a tag-fighter.
With no indication of how the UI is going to look it's hard to get a complete grasp of how a match will unfold.
Fighting games can be complex. If the thought of having to learn two champs is a little overwhelming, don't worry! The Project L development team has said that they are building the game with the goal of removing as many barriers as possible. This means that the game is implementing a simple input system that will allow new players to get a grasp of a champions kit quickly.
Simple controls are a contentious topic in the FGC and only time will tell if Riot can walk the line between accessibility and depth needed to create a successful fighting game.
Project L is an exciting prospect for FGC esports. The chance to finally break into the mainstream market with a strong IP and developer support leaves a lot to be optimistic about. It remains to be seen if a studio with no history in the genre is able to capture the magic that makes a great fighting game. As the release date draws nearer, we can all look forward to more info.
Learn more about Project L here:
By: Simon Mancuso