Late last week, Riot Games announced an onslaught of exciting updates for their premier MOBA League of Legends that promised to revitalise the game in 2024. However, while the vast majority of these additions will undoubtedly entice players back into the rift, one may spell the death of a passionate community of modders and creatives who have been messing around with the game for years.
The announcement in question is Riot Games’ intention to use its very own anti-cheat software VANGUARD in League of Legends. First implemented in Valorant when the FPS launched in 2020, the software has proven controversial to some due to its intrusive nature, running in the background and checking for any potential cheating programs to block, even when Valorant is not being played. The benefits of this are clear however, with a noticably lower number of cheaters in popping up in Valorant comnpared to other FPS titles.
The problem is, Vanguard will catch anything that’s messing around with the guts of any game it protects. This includes cheats, scripts (a term that – in layman’s terms – refers to tool that assists in-game for hitting and dodging abilities), and harmless client-side mods.
These mods vary vastly in terms of what they affect. There are mods for custom champion skins, voice-over packs for champions and in-game announcers, full map reskins, and more. Vanguard will seemingly put a stop to these passion projects – pushing the barrel against the head of the christmas summoner’s rift skin and Shrek Gragas alike. The creators of these mods have natually been left to lament their fate in the days leading up to Vanguard’s addition.
“I’m so sad rn dude. Season 14 was going to be a banger, but it’s so sad.” writes user Edelweiss in reaction to the news on the KillerSkins Discord server, expressing a sentiment that’s widely shared among the community of creators and mod-enjoyers. “Let’s go to Riot HQ and do something. If I don’t get to use my Raiden yone skin I will freak out. Protest outside Riot HQ,” writes another. A cocktail of sadness, frustration, confusion, and solemn fairwells have populated the server ever since the news dropped.
In response to it, one of the owner of the mod sharing platform has stated that while things currently looks dire for the future of modding, there may be a slim hope. “RuneForge 2.0 will have a code signature. Vanguard has a history of allowing those. But we hope to get it completely whitelisted with Riot. But until then, like with the 2016 petition for WADv2, we have the #SaveCustomSkins because there’s a really low chance we’ll make it through this.” We’ve reached out to Runeforge for comment, and have not recieved a response as of writing.
It’s worth noting that custom skins and similar mods have existed in this vague grey area within League of Legend’s terms of service. Permitted, but very much with an asterisk saying “use at your own risk”. While there have been account bans for the use of custom skins on Korean servers, the practice has essentially been given the go-ahead on Western servers. There is no better proof of this than Polish streamer Druttut, who has been using and promoting custom skins like a Devil May Cry’s Dante skin for Samira, and a Michael Jackson skin for Talon. In spite of this, the murky area surrounding whether or not this is allowed doesn’t spell good news for those hoping that custom skin services get whitelisted.
So obviously, it is sad that this group of players are being negatively impacted by Vanguard’s imminent addition. However, will the sacrifice be worth it? To answer that, it’s worth looking into the current state of League of Legends and the prominance of cheaters and scripters. The fact is that while Riot Games have been pushing out ban waves, as is the norm for online games, the scourge of cheaters has remained present in-game, especially within the upper echelons of ranked play. The fact is that for years now, if you wanted to cheat in League of Legends, it hasn’t been super hard to do so. While we don’t have hard statistics for bans, anecdotal evidence from prominent players is plentiful.
Ultimately, this is a tragic case of collateral damage, and one we’re likely going to see become more widespread as the ongoing industry-wide battle between game developers and cheat software creators continues. There’s a real market for illicit software. If a company has to choose between fending off that stuff with intrusive anti-cheat, making it less accessible to any dodgy Dave looking for an easy way out of silver, while also potentially torpedoing a relatively small community of creatives they make no money on in the process, the choice will be obvious.
Even so, this likely marks the end of a honest-to-god harmless scene of people just trying to have a bit of fun, messing around with in-game assets and spicing up their own gaming experience. It really is tragic that community-made mods are being caught in the blast here. Why it’s happening makes sense – but that doesn’t blunt the sharpness of what’s being lost here.
So, if this is the end of League of Legends mods and custom skins, lets pour one out to Michael Jackons and Shrek. Oh, and also that skin that swapped Draven with his axes. Special condolences go to the Initial D Toyota skin for Hecarim – one of the best.