MSI doesn’t begin for another week, but the first international competition of the year has already caused controversy. Due to COVID-19, the LPL representatives RNG are unable to travel to Busan and compete at the tournament in person. Though they are able to play remotely, Riot have decided every team at the tournament will play on the same latency of 35ms.
Sacrificing competitive integrity
This feels very unfair for the rest of the teams who are able to attend the tournament in person, as they are being forced to play games with substantially more lag than they are used to. Whenever pros play competitively on LAN, they play on servers with less than 10 ping and are able to make plays they wouldn’t normally be able to make in solo queue, such as quicker reaction Flashes. Therefore, they will be unable to do this in MSI this year.
Additionally, with RNG playing from their offices or the LPL stadium, they will be playing in familiar environments and won’t have to deal with the nerves of performing in front of a huge crowd. This may give them a competitive advantage, particularly as other teams have to overcome jet lag and any mental health difficulties that can arise from quarantining upon arriving in Busan.
Sadly, this decision will also leave a huge question mark looming over the tournament. Fans will always question whether the victorious team would have won if MSI were played under normal circumstances, and whether this team truly deserved their victory.
The best solution
On the other hand, this solution is undoubtedly the best way to handle such an unfortunate situation because the alternatives would compromise the tournament’s competitive integrity even more. With EDG winning Worlds last year, the LPL are currently the best region in the world. If they were to not send a representative to MSI, it would make the tournament dramatically less competitive and the eventual winner’s victory mean significantly less.
If RNG were the only team to play on 35 ping while the rest played on standard LAN ping, this would put them at a colossal disadvantage and make these games extremely unfair. Teams who are in Busan could play on normal LAN ping when playing against each other, but the experience of switching between two extremely different pings would be very jarring and difficult for players to adapt to.
The pandemic is still forcing us to adapt our ways of living and make the best out of bad situations. Making all teams play on the same ping evens the playing field as much as possible, and though it is far from ideal, it is the best way to maintain the tournament’s competitive integrity given all the possible options.