How Did This Happen: The instant Recall bug that shut down ranked play for 28 hours

by Daniel Rosen Jul 12 2017
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

There are some glitches that leave an impact on a game beyond just one patch. Maybe they get hot-fixed quickly, or they turn out to be not nearly as broken as they look, but they stick. They do something so hilariously busted, at least in theory, that the game grinds to a halt as people stop and stare at the disaster.

In 2015, Riot accidentally put one of those game-changing, history-altering glitches into League of Legends. It was a glitch so potent, so powerful, Riot actually had to disable ranked play until they fixed it.

This is the story of the instant Recall bug.

How did it work?

On July 15, 2015, a handful of League players discovered something interesting. If they rapidly buffered channeled abilities targeting an enemy in melee range and overwrote it with Recall, they would cut Recall's eight second timer down to less than one.

It started with Riven and by about 3 p.m. that day, Riot disabled her globally. But the problem wasn't over. All of a sudden more champions could pull off the glitch. Shen, Yasuo, Graves, Nidalee, Draven—any champion with a channeled, melee ability. What's worse, any character could have a melee ability if they bought Tiamat, which deals melee area of effect damage around your character with every basic attack. All of a sudden it wasn't just Riven popping back to base instantly, it was almost every champion in the game.

By 5:30 p.m., Riot Games disabled the ranked queue in the League of Legends client. The bug got so bad that Riot had to turn off an entire part of the game to contain it.


Think of all the things you could do with an instant Recall. You could split-push without any worry you'd get caught out, just popping back to base as soon as you thought the rest of the enemy team was about to collapse on you. You could escape any gank, so long as you had something you could target in melee range. If you could do it and your opponent couldn't, you had a comically unfair advantage over them.

According to Riot's official posts about the disaster, it was as big a mess behind the scenes too. It took multiple hours to even figure out what was wrong with the code, and more than a day to fix it. The first fix didn't work, and as more and more champions fell under the scope of the glitch, the problem got harder and harder to solve.

By the sixth iteration of the fix, most champions were working as normal, but testing persisted until all problems were found, which kept ranked down even longer. Riot kept putting out statements, people kept getting mad, but the final fix came at 8 p.m. on July 16.

What Happened?

Twenty-eight hours is a very long time to disable the game's most important mode and, at least according to Riot, it wasn't a decision they made lightly.

Containing and solving this massive glitch in just over a day is a testament to how quickly the League of Legends developer works. This wasn't just a single character problem, it was an issue with how League worked, right down to the spaghetti code at its core.

LoL probably won't ever see a glitch as insane as the instant Recall bug ever again. But if it does, rest assured, Riot will fix it. Even if it does reveal how League's code is held together by chewing gum and hope in some places.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.