Today is a good day to be a League of Legends fan. It started with the full reveal of new champion ZAC and also Karma's rework, but Riot Games has saved the best for last. Just moments ago Technical Designer Brackhar revealed a new map named the "Howling Abyss" and Riot's plans to create an "All Random, All Mid" matchmaking queue paired with it. It's the final form of the popular "Proving Grounds" map and while it's still a few weeks away from official release, it'll be hitting the Public Beta Environment "soon."
Why not just launch the Proving Grounds with a matchmaking queue? Well, here's what Brackhar had to say on the issue:
"For the past few months I’ve been working with an exceptional team of artists to create a space that’s an appropriate setting for both the epic battles that occur in ARAM and within the world of Runeterra at large. As a result, we’ve completely reworked the Proving Grounds and, in effect, created something entirely new.
Now, instead of fighting on a random bridge over a black void, you’ll be fighting on the Howling Abyss, an ancient landmark in Freljord where the Iceborn finally overthrew their oppressors and sent them tumbling into the chasm below. As you might have guessed from these mysterious journals, there’s more (a lot more!) our story team would love to tell you Freljord – but for now, you’ll have to wait."
In short, Riot Games isn't satisfied with just putting out some simple map that meets the bare requirements of the community -- they've got standards of their own. The Howling Abyss is not just some bridge, it's a Freljordian landmark with a significant amount of history behind it. Just as the 3v3 map Twisted Treeline was reinvented from two paths between the trees into a haunted expanse of the Shadow Isles, the Howling Abyss is more than just a bridge -- it's a fully realized location in the world of Runeterra.
Details on the map are currently scant, though it's likely similar to Proving Grounds in most regards -- bushes, some health totems, a few towers, an inhibitor and the nexus itself. The Howling Abyss does look to be a bit more precisely mirrored in its design, at least. Brackhar is asking for a few weeks of thorough testing and feedback before Riot's happy with it, but we're likely looking at a near-final product.
League of Legends is a free multiplayer online battle arena (so free), though access to the public beta environment comes at a cost. As such, us plebeians will likely have to wait a few weeks, maybe more, before the Howling Abyss goes live. Still, it's great to hear we'll finally get official support for the All Random, All Mid (ARAM) game type with matchmaking to boot. Maybe if we asked for ranked nicely enough, Brackhar will do that too. Stay tuned.
Update: One quick note, the map is already up on the PBE! Go check it out if you've got access.