Utilizing the RIOT Games API for Education.

Part One: An introduction

Image courtesy of RIOT Games.

The computer games phenomenon has reached an unprecedented scale of popularity over the past few years. Specifically, online games of various genres such as First Person Shooters (FPS), Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) and Massive Online Battle Arena (MOBA), comprise of tens of millions of players globally. Specifically to MOBA, the most recognized title of them all is League of Legends (a.k.a. LoL) from RIOT Games.

RIOT Games has taken the world by storm and has thus strengthened another gaming phenomenon called esports that has in turn become an industry on its own right. One may wonder what is the connection to the sector of Education and the answer is that the majority of online games provide a wealth of information that a programmer or an informatics enthusiast could utilize to provide a series of applications, websites or metrics, just to name a few. The latter can also be called as ‘meta-products’.

This is a new trend line that has been based on the Application Programming Interface (API) of a computer game and can establish a bridge between various parts of the online systems of the game’s infrastructure that can be used to gather valuable information in a non-destructive manner for the game itself. For example, such a process could inform the player that a specific in-game action has been finished or statistics about a game asset can be viewed and analyzed.

Every League of Legends player is also eligible for a RIOT API key. Thus, a LoL player can also be an API user. Albeit the simplicity of this really clever idea is actually shocking, the gaming community is mostly focused on playing the game itself, rather than discovering the game through its data or at least give it a try just to get familiar with the concept. In terms of what it is and stands for, the API itself is actually neatly organized, categorized and documented for most parts. There is also a number of people that form the programming community behind it, thus online help can be found in a multitude of ways. Furthermore, static data provided by the Data Dragon dedicated server offers the majority of the game’s graphics content and avatars, providing better content management and less frustration with the look and feel of the future project that is based on the API.

As an engineer and an academic I have been teaching software and hardware engineering modules for thirteen years and it has to be noted that when RIOT API was introduced to myself and then conveyed to my students, my courses became much more vibrant. This was quite a revelation, as academically speaking there are major aspects of web programming, software engineering and web management that can be covered through it. Furthermore, a lecturer delivering these courses is suddenly the coolest guy in the faculty as he can talk right through contemporary material that impacts the students and advances their portfolio upon their graduation; now they know how to use Object Oriented Programming, deal with RESTful APIs, how to use JSON (JavaScript Object-oriented Notation), advance their skills in LoL — if they so wish — and heighten their chances to appeal to the illustrious computers games / esports industry.

An academic leap of faith towards the computer games industry can prove to be a significant milestone in improving the commitment and the upkeep of the class enthusiasm while delivering courses that can advance the programming culture of the students, let alone provide them with transferrable skills that they can deploy on a variety of future projects. Furthermore, delving into the structure of popular titles can also be very useful to the vendors themselves as strong ties between the academia and the industry are almost guaranteed to be successful.

To conclude, the aforementioned are just a small indication as to how two unseeingly different worlds can converge and while keeping the academic side of things rich in content and the QAA officers of the University happy, the students can be engaged and happy as well. There is absolutely no reason at all, as to why the infrastructure of a computer game (software and/or otherwise) cannot be studied and passed on as knowledge that will shape the future software engineering.

A series of articles will follow with more details on how to use, deploy and deliver such courses and some quality of life tips. You can also visit the RIOT games API (https://developer.riotgames.com/) and League of Legends (http://eune.leagueoflegends.com/en/)

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