Morello on Aatrox/Sustain, Xypherous on Power Creep, and More

Posted on at 10:41 PM by Moobeat
What's one more post to cap off this eventful day?
Continue reading for a discussion on Aatrox & Sustain, Xypherous discussing power creep, and more!

Aatrox and Sustain
A heated discussion on Aatrox and sustain is currently brewing over on the general forums. The just of the arguement is: Why nerf sustain so hard on other fighters, such as Irelia, then turn around and make someone like Aatrox.

Morello weighed in, saying:
"This is a confusing issue because it's being oversimplified that the mechanic is bad in all cases. Let me shed light on why Aatrox's healing paradigm is OK, and what the issues are. 
First - and a bunch of you guys have picked this one up - Aatrox has real, meaningful health costs to access any of his power. This means instead of something like Vlad who just steals health and has minimal health costs, Aatrox's sustain is his resource management. An Aatrox who just sits and sustains is woefully weak at getting anything done. 
Second, being modal (stance-based) means you're balancing damage output and sustain. When compared to say Irelia or Vlad, this is not true - you're doing it all at the same time and never opening windows of opportunity or weakness. 
Third, because of the costs on his damage, Aatrox never just sits there at close to full health and sustains unless he's just trying to farm. He's always bouncing his health around the ~60% mark from paying costs, eating harass, and getting health back. This is different than being at 100% and instantly erasing harass (while those champs probably being as powerful as other characters on other fronts). 
Fourth, fighter sustain and Soraka are unrelated in why they're problems. I probably have 500 posts on why dedicated healers are poisonous design, but we still have health potions, lifesteal, spell vamp and things like Nidalee heal, Kayle heal, etc. We've clearly delineated this issue.

In a lot of ways, this is the original design intent we had with Vlad but never achieved - big health costs, but a way to recover those costs. If you just sit and sustain with Aatrox, you're not going to be good. If you just attack without managing your health income and costs, then you'll die. Melee also introduces more risk on the kit than a caster would (and so it easier to make actually work correctly).

I understand the confusion, but this is not an inconsistency of "sustain is bad on my favorite champ, but is OK here" - this is a good example of how otherwise scary mechanics can be used with the appropriate tradeoffs. I think, personally, the better critiques on Aatrox are about how his E and Q are not really cohesive with his other skills, and are a bit flat. His sustain/cost paradigm and auto-attack focus is exactly what this character is meant to."

Sticking on Irelia, someone asked: "So if we got rid of Irelia's mana costs and made her abilities cost health, could we buff her?", to which Morello replied:
"And made her squishy and not have CC and CC reduction and a ranged ult and...

Irelia's a bad comparison because sustain is a problem she has, but much of it is what else she has. Vlad, however, I think could benefit from this."
Continuing on Irelia, another summoner asked why is "too much everything" bad on Irelia but not on people like Kha'Zix and Zac. Morello's response:
"Because they're not comparable. Kha'Zix's nerfs were to remove his ability to be an amazing harass/poker. Zac's damage is in line with other tanks. Aatrox has a bunch of AA stats because you need big steroids to be an auto-attacker. If Aatrox has too much, it's in his Q.

I'll admit I'm not totally happy with the Q overall for this reason, but I think it's not even in the same ballpark as Xin, Irelia or Jax - characters who have every type of stat and power we could ever use."

When asked specifically about Aatrox's passive, Morello responded:
"We have our eye on the passive - this one has been tough, I agree. Some of it is the longer revive time that allows you to disengage, or set up a follow-up, but I'm not sure that's enough."
When asked what Aatrox was originally designed as, Morello commented:
"Originally, he was Melee ADC, but moved to "light fighter" in some balance testing."

When asked why Aatrox's ult feels so stale, Morello replied:
"It's a functional ult - IE it's there to encourage the core pattern and make him have the stats he needs. This is why steroid ults always are really strong and never "feel' good.

This is a problem I agree with."
Power Creep
Earlier today, Xypherous visited the forums to dive into a discussion on power creep,  " the gradual unbalancing of a game due to successive releases of new content."
"Power creep comes from a wide variety of sources - some of which are unrelated to champions nerfs or buffs. 
For example, let's say we made 5 exact copies of Amumu. This is a form of power creep due to the fact that what once was restrained in terms of power due to limited availability is now widely available - AoE CC, as a whole, is a lot more powerful because now a chain case exists where it didn't before. A more recent example would be Thresh - who has enabled a lot of other characters to do more powerful actions. The existence of Thresh grants other characters access to powers that were limited or had to be champion specific before.

The power level of support characters and their direct impact on other characters also shifts the power level of the game - Lulu as a mainstream support radically increases the power level of most Fighters in the game due to her synergies with them. 
You can also point to the gold income streams of the game - there is, on average, much more gold available in the game than there has been historically. This is a form of power creep as every champion scales with gold to a certain degree.

Other forms of power creep comes in the availability of items that can augment your strengths or mitigate your weaknesses. Liandry's Torment, for example, vastly increases the power of damage over time champions or control champions. Boot enchantments have increased the mobility potential of various champions.

Getting down to the meat of the issue though, is that generally, most people feel nerfs a lot harder than they appreciate buffs. Nerfs to your characters are a direct hit to your power level and your impact as a player. Buffs to other characters are also a direct hit to your power level and your impact as a player. Only buffs to your character makes you feel stronger - and thus it's very easy to feel like everything you care about continuously gets nerfed - even as the power level of the game rises above you."
He continued:
"Luckily, power creep tends to be a "slow" problem compared to most other problems - and thus patch maintenance can slow the problem down enough and then large system sized changes can scale back the relative power of things. 
For example, a large portion of season 3 was reducing the gold premiums on upgraded items - this indirectly hit the power level of all champions by changing the relative power increase they get via gold.

As for items - I'm a little worried about the Nashor's change we just made but for the most part, I'm focused on trying to fill in some gaps in itemization and making the existing ones feel better. Currently trying to smooth out some effectiveness vs. feel stuff on some subsystems."
He continued on, replying to a summoner's concerns that new champions are severely outclassing old ones.
"You can tackle goals on various levels, but overall - I think our shared goal is how do we make League of Legends a better game? 
Over time, designs like Mordekaiser or Gangplank have fallen out of favor, not because they don't work or they're not effective but for other purposes such as the game is simply not a whole lot of fun when those characters are the norm or balanced. 
If you stop at the sub goal of 'All champions should be balanced' - you reach an odd set of statements where you strip out fun mechanics from other characters for that goal, which hurts the overall goal of making league of legends a better experience. Conceptual gap closers don't increase mobility creep - I completely agree with you, but most conceptual gap closers add a host of other problems to the game - they frequently have very little play, they're frequently more boring, they frequently require less skill or timing and are less satisfying, etc. 
The question to ask is whether 'hurting older people' is the priority here - or is making a better game the priority? Gap closers and mobility creep have issues when they aren't gated or controlled but older characters only intrinsically have value if they already have value to begin with. Gangplank, in his time, has either been toxic, neutral or frustrating.

I agree with you that significant mobility creep has happened - especially on delays on spellcasting spells - but I disagree with you that the harm here is that we cause some older characters to be irrelevant - but that the game is overall worse because it puts much more emphasis on execution and champion picks rather than strategic play in the context of the game that you're in. Reframing the question in terms of 'how do we make the game better' rather than 'how do we help gangplank' helps you to get to a better answer in terms of what to do about mobility and gap closers - such as respecting gates to ability spam, attaching meaningful costs or making their power relevant late game rather than early game.

Going back to the Amumu example, once you have 5 Amumu's in the game, making a 6th Amumu doesn't increase the power level much at all, because functionally - you've reached the limit of abuse. We're pretty much already at that point currently - and there's no way to put the genie back in the bottle metaphorically - so the recourse here is to balance and learn how to better restrict or use the mechanics that are already in the game."
He elaborated further, this time discussing the balance of things in relation to other champions or abilities:
"There are a lot of effects that in the singular, are balanced - but stacked together, rapidly become unbalanced. 
Amusingly, in the current game, we actually do have 5 Amumu'esque ults in the game. Sona, Morgana, Amumu, Galio, Sejuani, etc
And we have balanced them accordingly by lowering the total CC duration of each of them.

In a world where only Amumu's ult exists and nothing else like it - we could certainly afford to make it 3 or 4 seconds long. In a world where you can play Amumu with Sona or Sejuani - we've retuned their ultimates to be of a balanced duration."

Continuing the discussion, one summoner asked Xypherous what his thoughts on removing the cast time from things like Vlad's E or Gangplank's E. He replied:
"This does increase the power levels of the characters by quite a bit - but not one that most players can use or appreciate well. Power in quick reaction scales directly with ELO and changes like these typically have a huge power implication for higher level play while not being much for lower level play. 
This tends to lead to the characters becoming problematic and requiring changes or nerfs in things that players actually appreciate. 
The other portion of this is that - while it is a good QoL change - the question to ask is why don't we just buff Vladimir or Gangplank? It's because the frustration of playing against these characters and the core problems these characters have isn't their lack of mobility - it's the feeling of the opponent that there is a significant lack of options to play cleverly against them or that their opponent played cleverly or used that character well.

This is especially true for Gangplank whose core problem is that outside of being a better league of legends player as a whole - there's just not a whole lot of intricacy or skill required to use Gangplank's kit - outside of just knowing the game better. Almost the entirety of being a good Gangplank player is just being a really awesome league of legends player as a whole (outside of some intricacies of being Bankplank.)"

When asked how the balance team defines someone as needing attention, Xypherous commented:
"We look at a wide variety of sources to determine whether champions should be looked at more closely.

A high banrate on a champion often signifies frustration from a high ELO setting more than power level - I.E. Why do you ban Shaco?"
Elaborating further:
"If we have an explanation for a relatively low pickrate - we might not look at the character often. For example, Orianna's visual aesthetics and playstyle are going to be niche. A low pick rate for Orianna in normal play is expected and probably healthy. 
If Orianna's pick rate is moderate or high - it probably signifies that people are being forced to play her - which justifies looking into.

Basically, think about the context of that pick rate and what could influence people picking them - it's not all based on power."
In regards to the aesthetics comment, he continued:
"Different players have different motivations for why they love a champion. 
You prefer the kit and the playstyle more than the looks - but if I were to replace Tryndamere's sword with a Giant Flyswatter, you could see how that might affect people who like playing Tryndamere currently.
Also keep in mind how players purchase champions and how the unlock system works - a champion typically has to appeal on multiple fronts - otherwise, why not pick the character who is both more visually appealing and has a kit that is also appealing in a different way?"
Lastly, we have a few miscellaneous comments and posts from several different threads.

When asked for updates on Heimerdinger's kit, Morello commented:
"There's nothing new to report on Heimer - still working on him. It's taking awhile, and many of the tougher reworks do. Much of this is due to limited testing bandwidth."
Regarding OlafMorello noted:
"We are going to fix Olaf, but it's a more complex problem. Honestly, why Olaf is too strong is unrelated to why Aatrox works."
He also made several comments about Vlad's current design:
"Originally, he actually healed OTHERS with his E (! ! !). He was supposed to do the Aatrox pattern by having E cost a lot of health, and Q being weak but refilling his HP. 
I think he was a panic to release (before my time, but I've heard stories) because he had a lot flying around.

I think the choice is either to leave him as is (he's good in some comps) or rework him quite a bit. Vlad is really popular - the player impact of making this a good design is high.

I don't think Vlad's gameplay is great, but I think it's balanceable and not inherantly harmful if kept in check. I don't like it myself, but counter-play does not equate fun to play (hence metagolem popularity)."

Morello dropped off a few comments on the Rengar changes that were mentioned a few days ago, reminding summoners that complicated balance changes don't just pop up overnight.
"I posted about this literally a few days ago. 
I understand no one can follow the forums all the time, it moves fast, but this isn't like "there's a scandal with Rengar, and the people demand answers!"

The work has been larger than anticipated. It's going to not be out until we get it in check, and we have some other priorities.

Should we not hint to us working on these things? There's no way I can update them in the level of real time on everything we do."

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