Game Design

league of legends challenges: a flawed achievement system

In May 2022, Riot Games released a new achievement system for League of Legends.  “Challenges” launched with over 300 goals.  Each of these challenges has multiple tiers that level up from Iron to Master.

Frankly, League of Legends has needed an achievement system for a long time.  Prior to Challenges, there was little to motivate players besides ranking up.  For chumps like me who prefer other game modes (notably ARAM), simply increasing player level and getting random champion chests is not enticing, especially if you own most or all of the champions.

Indeed, the introduction of Challenges has increased my game engagement.  Since it was released, I think I’ve spent more hours in League of Legends games than I have in the last two years combined.  I’ve even dipped my toe into non-ARAM waters, despite my abysmal skill level.

But while the idea of Challenges is sound, its implementation leaves a lot to be desired.  In this blog post, I will critique the League of Legends Challenges achievement system.

League of Legends Challenges is Designed Like a Ranked System, not an Achievement System

The first paragraph of Riot’s “Challenges Walkthrough” describes the new system.

Challenges are designed to provide meaningful progression to all League players—so not just Ranked ravagers, but ARAM aficionados, Clash contenders, and cosmetic collectors too. You can level up individual challenges from Iron all the way to Master. And if that’s not enough, once you’ve hit Master, many challenges also have their own Grandmaster and Challenger tiers. Just like Ranked, only a certain number of players per region can be in these tiers at any given time. If you’ve ever wanted to be known as the person with the most pentakills on the server this is your chance.

— Riot Games1

Inadvertently, this paragraph highlights the most egregious problem with the League of Legends Challenges system.  It reveals a failure to understand players who do not fit the mould of the ranked MoBA player that is League‘s core audience.


The Whole Point of an Achievement System is to Encourage Players who Want to Get 100%

Achievement systems appeal to players who enjoy accomplishment and completion.  Progress in this sense means being able to check items off a list, or levelling up as many challenges as possible to reach 100% completion.

But while Riot claims to provide “meaningful progression to all League players”, it does not support the achievers who want to get to 100%.  Instead, it has embedded a ranked system into achievement, which is the opposite of what theses sort of players want.

Just like Ranked, only a certain number of players per region can be in these tiers at any given time.

— Riot Games1

The value of Challenges is determined by direct competition with other players rather than self-fulfillment of completing the challenges.  This makes the point value of your achievements meaningless unless compared with other players’ scores.

This means that my 4,725 achievement points will not mean the same thing from day to day.  4,725 points may rank as silver today, but could drop to bronze once more people gain achievements.  Because challenges are linked to your skill level and time commitment to the game, it’s likely that the achievement system will reach a saturation point.

Highly ranked players will be in the top spot and everyone else will not be able to advance.  This is exactly the same as ranked play.  A moving target of where you rank does not serve players who are not competitive.  Because rankings can fluctuate, the amount of points such a player has worked hard to attain is devalued when they are inevitably bumped down the ladder.


Some of League of Legends Challenges are Unattainable, and 100% is Out of Reach

The impossibility of reaching 100% is not just a problem because of the ranking system within achievements.  It’s also impossible because some challenges are actually not achievable.  For example, challenges that require you to collect a certain number of champions cannot be completed.  There are not currently enough champions in the game to do so!

When designing these challenges, Riot simply should not have released ones with goals that could not be attained.

Putting aside motivation, League of Legends challenges themselves are difficult to understand and navigate.  This is due to the confusing user experience and interface.

Players who are interested in achievements will want to know:

  1. What challenges are available?
  2. How can I achieve those challenges?
  3. How much have I progressed in the challenges I’m working towards?
  4. What challenges am I close to completing?

However, the answers to all these questions are hidden behind layers of fancy rather than functional UI.


What League of Legends Challenges are Available?

Here is a list of all League of Legends challenges and how to achieve them, sorted into more intuitive categories than the Riot UI.

Overall, the Challenges UI suffers from a navigation problem.  Instead of grouping challenges by easy-to-find, well-named categories, it lists them under interchangeable names that often have nothing to do with how to achieve them.

For example, the Challenge categories are:

  1. Expertise
    • “Skillfully crushing your opponents is the way to earn big in this category”
  2. Imagination
    • “Modes and innovative plays make this category the home for those who dare to dream”
  3. Teamwork & Strategy
    • “Working together with your team to dominate the Rift is the focus here”
  4. Veterancy
    • “Putting up big lifetime numbers in kills, gold earned, and other stats will help boost this bucket”
  5. Collection
    • “It’s in the name. Collecting cosmetics and engaging in loot fills the bars here”
  6. Legacy
    • “Time-limited challenges live in this category to commemorate season-based accomplishments and past achievements others can no longer obtain. They don’t contribute to your overall progress, nor can you level up Legacy as a category.”

Of these, only “Collection” makes sense with the goals of those challenges.  The others are ambiguous, with nebulous descriptions, which makes finding the sort of challenge you want to complete a pain.

For example, as an ARAM player, I’d want to find achievements that are ARAM-specific.  The search function, however, brings up nothing when I try to search for “ARAM”.  And these challenges are buried deep in the “Imagination” category instead of having their own well-named section.

The titles for each group of challenges within the categories are also fairly opaque.  For example, within the Expertise category:

  1. Adept
  2. Domination
  3. Unrivaled
  4. Perfection
  5. Flair
  6. Behemoth
  7. Slayer
  8. Predator
  9. Cornerstone
  10. Visionary
  11. Magnum Opus

These names aren’t descriptive of the challenges within their respective groups, and unlike challenges are sometimes grouped together.

Moreover, there is no way to search through all the challenges.  You have to click on each category separately.


How Can I Complete League of Legends Challenges?

Players who are interested in achievements will want to know how to achieve them.  However, this is also hidden from the players.  Challenge names are not descriptive, so the user has to mouse over to see the detailed requirements.  This is especially true when the achievements after a game are shown as icons with symbols on them.

How Much Have I Progressed in the Challenges I’m Working Towards?

Another important part of an achievement system is displaying progress.  While League of Legends indicates this progress by a circular progress bar around the icon, it is not the main focus of the UI, as it should be.  In order to see a detailed progress bar or know how close you are to completing a challenge, you have to mouse over the icon.

Compare this to the Hearthstone achievements panel, which lets you know at a glance how close you are to completing any given challenge.

Additionally, the UI isn’t good at providing details for more intricate challenges.  For example, a Veterancy Challenge entitled “Multi-Weapon Master” can be achieved if you “win with different mythic items.”  However, the game does not display which items you have already used, or need to use in the future.

Compare this to “The Great Revival”, an achievement in Diablo 3 for resurrecting a player of each class in co-op games.  The user interface clearly shows which of the subtasks have been completed and which are yet to be done to complete this achievement.

What Challenges Am I Close to Completing?

If you’re motivated by achievements in games, it’s likely that you want to know what challenges you are close to finishing in League of Legends.  This will influence what mode you play, or what you do in game.  However, League does nothing at all to surface this information to the player, which is a missed opportunity.

League of Legends Challenges Falls Short as an Achievement System

To conclude, while the challenges system has good intent, its design makes it a fundamentally flawed achievement system.  In particular, it shows a lack of understanding of players who thrive on an achievement system and devote more hours to the game because of it.  Instead, it’s a replica of the ranked system that could soon push out those players in favour of the same players who already excel in the League of Legends ranked mode.


Also, although achievements are varied and numerous, they are very badly organised and displayed in the user interface.  Categories and titles are hard to parse.  Progress bars and information on how to achieve certain goals are out of sight.  The search box does not work.  All of these things make the system difficult to understand and navigate.

Challenges will no doubt draw players like me into playing League of Legends more, especially right now since it’s brand new.  But if not addressed, these major flaws will prevent it from being a long-lasting strategy to keep non-competitive, achievement-orientated players in the game.

References Cited

  1. BARACKPROBAMA, RIOTAETHER. “Challenges Walkthrough: Build your League legacy by ranking up across more than 300 Challenges!.” League of Legends. Game Updates, 6 May 2022. Web. 30 May 2022.