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League of Legends to receive its biggest update in six years

League of Legends developer Riot Games is changing its massively popular online battle arena game next season, the studio has announced. In 2016, Riot will release a large set of new features for the MOBA title.

Preseason will receive a number of updates, including a ton of new items and more customization options for marksmen. The game's mastery system will also receive a series of "focused, high-impact choices" to create an optimized set of pathways for players to choose from in developing their characters.

The champ select is getting an overhaul, too: Players will now select two positions to ensure "short queue times and that no one gets stuck in a position they don't want to play." Players will also choose characters one at a time, and bans and picks "now require everyone to lock in their choice" or risk returning to the queue.

A dynamic group queue will replace the solo and duo queues, so that players will no longer be penalized for ranking together. This is en effort to make the competitive ranking system more collaborative than before. Parties who play together will receive a bonus as a promotion to encourage group gaming.

Matchmaking is getting an update, too, for higher-leveled players who want to find appropriately challenging matches. The wait time will be much less than it is now, Riot assures.

New social features, crafting and more

Loot gets an upgrade courtesy of Hextech Crafting, which is a "new way to pick up randomized loot at large discounts" as well as giving players the chance to earn new champions and skins. This will be available for free.

More random item drops come in the form of new keys that players can grab after a victory. In accordance with the increased focus on group play, League players are more likely to pick up these items, which can later be used for crafting, when playing together.

A big part of all of this is creating more viable social platforms for League of Legends, which Riot Games is addressing with a new app as well as clubs and parties. Clubs are "player-controlled social groups" which allow you to organize teammates so that you can play and chat with them as a group at will. Parties work similarly, albeit on a smaller scale and are less exclusive than the members-only clubs.

Finally, an alpha version of the game's updated client will be made available to a select number of the game's community. The test build will give League players the chance to try out the client's biggest features, which Riot Games boils down to three major changes.

The studio is rebuilding the client to create a new, "more reliable" tech framework for the game. This will allow the developer to more readily release new features.

The client will feature a more streamlined design, as well, promising a "visually consistent theme."

Finally, the team is looking to include new social features, such as a friends list that will be accessible without opening up the full game program itself. It will also allow you to hop into matches. This feature is meant to mirror the forthcoming mobile app, with which players can keep tabs on their Parties, Clubs, and Friends.

The alpha build represents the first major change to the client in "the past six years," according to the developer.

This news comes on the heels of the recent 2015 League of Legends World Championship, which was livestreamed in theaters this past weekend. Competitive League gamers belonging to the pre-college set should also take note: A Missouri college just announced plans to offer scholarships to the most formidable pro-gaming scholars as it builds its burgeoning collegiate eSports team.

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