Quick Tips: League of Sona - Use Sounds to Your Advantage
BY IAm Marvin - March 28, 2016
Before you proceed, I have a challenge: Play one normal game with all sounds turned off. Did you do it? I’d bet you didn’t but that’s okay, if somebody else told me to play any game with the sounds turned off, I wouldn’t follow him either because that is just insane.
Aside from setting the mood, sounds convey a lot of information. And that is especially true in League of Legends. I first noticed it when I was listening to my brother’s game. Without looking at the screen, I was able to ‘spectate’ the game with just my ears. I can name the champions in thegame and I can tell when and what skills they’ve used. Only then did I appreciate the effort of the sound team at Riot. Every item, every skill, every objective and almost every action has an accompanying sound. Also, here’s a little bit of scientific trivia I’m pretty sure the Riot sound team is familiar with: vision is our primary sense but our brains process, identify and respond to sound a lot faster. Our brain devotes a lot of its power to process what our eyes are seeing but, even though the part of the brain that process sounds is smaller and older, we react to sounds so fast that it is almost instantaneous. That’s why we usually countdown with our voice rather than our fingers, why starting pistols are used to signal the start of a track and field or aswimming race, why firetrucks and ambulances use that loud and obnoxious, but very distinct-sounding, siren and why we can hear our name being mentioned in a crowd.
You don’t believe me? Then try it for yourself with these tests.
In a team game like League of Legends, teamwork and constant communication is needed but how do you talk to your teammates without taking your hands off the mouse and the QWER keys? Pings. Smart pings.
Smart pings are a pretty old feature of the game added way back Patch 3.03 in 2013. It is a simple radial menu that complements the standard (but ambiguous) ping in-game. These smart pings are four (4) quick messages: “I need help”, “Enemy missing from lane”, “I’m on my way”, and, perhaps the most important, “Danger”. All these pings have a slightly different sound and, even without looking at your map, the sound itself says a lot.
Quick question: Out of all the sounds, which is the most nagging? Was it the ‘Danger’ ping? ‘Shrillness’, or the quality of a sound to induce some kind of psychological pain, is a possible explanation how Riot chose the sound for the ‘Danger’ ping. Hearing a high-pitched sound, like a human scream or a tire screech,immediately puts us in high alert. In the context of League of Legends, the irritating pingsounds are intended to warn you about something and, hopefully, make you look at the minimap to gain more information.
I’ve prepared a 2-minute video to illustrate my next points. It is actually the same 1-minute clip from a random game. It is played twice, first without the video and then the whole, complete clip.
Abilities are cast all the time and sometimes, they happen outside of your immediate visual range. Just like in real life, this is where auditory information comes in. If you listened to the video and was able to identify all the abilities cast in that 1-minute clip then kudos to you, you know the soundscape of the game very well. If you missed some abilities, that’s fine because you can improve with practice.I previously mentioned that every skill has a sound associated with it but how do you use this information to your advantage?
First, let’s focus on one specific skill in the clip: Red Blitzcrank’s first Rocket Grab. We can conclude that the Blue Zed reacted when he heard that distinctive hook sound and decided to Flash away on the (wrong) side of the brush he was in. He then activated his Youmuu’s Ghostblade for the additional 20% movement speed in the hopes of escaping the chasing enemy team but Lee Sin’s Sonic Wave hit him for the kill. If he failed to dodge that hook, he will still die, albeit earlier, and Blitz will most probably get the kill.
These sound cues, when you know what skills they represent, enable you to react almost instantly. This is designed so that you get a split-second window to make a decision and possibly a counterplay. Whether you are able to sidestep, use Flash, use a shield or activate an item is dependent on your reaction time. You can’t cry foul or say that the enemy just got lucky because one of tne of the main reasons behind sound effects is relaying information to players.
Now, let’s focus on another use of sound effects: possible opportunities. We’ll now focus on Blitz’ third hook, the one where he caught Mastery Yi. A successful hook has a different sound from a missed hook and most players instinctively know that. In the clip, you can see how Viktor cast his Chaos Storm in Blitz’ position. Trying to recreate that player’s thoughts is easy: he heard Blitz catching someone, he looked where Blitz is and cast his skill at his location.
Other possible examples would be hearing Malphite’s Unstoppable Force and your whole team following-up after him. Or maybe you heard Shen’s Stand United and, instead of running to base, you stayed and fought. And, my personal favorite, hearing Cassiopeia’s Petrifying Gaze and then going all-in knowing that the enemies are most probably stunned or slowed by 60%. I could go on and on and on and mention every champion but, basically, my point is skill sound effects provide a ton of information if you can train yourself to listen carefully. They could save your life or help you kill the enemy team if you can react appropriately.
Are you still there? Good. I’m almost done, I just have to talk about two more things: item and map sound effects. I’m skipping the announcer because what she says are words and, technically, words aren’t the same as sound effects.
There are two types of items: activated and passive items. Most activated items, like a cookie/health pot, Zhonya’s Ring or Frost Queen's Claim, have an audible effect to notify all nearby champions, both friendly and hostile, they were just activated. Passive items, on the other hand, doesn’t have this kind of audible feedback since they are active all the time. And, lastly, the map sound effects. This include sound effects made by structures and, my most recent happy discovery, the reaction of neutral monsters. Honestly, I was amazed when I noticed these reactions and my favorite is Red Brambleback’s fiery reaction. While, gameplay-wise I can’t find a reason for their reaction (other than maybe giving the player a sense of where they are in the jungle), it is still amazing how much detail Riot is giving the game.
As a reward for (hopefully) reading this whole thing, I’m gonna give you a tip that saved my life a dozen of times in The Rift: When you hear a Jax with full Relentless Assault stacks, you run. You don’t try to fight him, you run!