Red Post Collection: Discussion on Zed / Morgana / Xerath PBE changes, IronStylus on Zyra, skins, & Champ Creation, and MORE!

Posted on at 4:43 AM by Moobeat
The red posts keep comin' in! This red post collection features Scarizard chatting about the recent Zed PBE changes,  Morello discussing plans to increase support gold flow, ricklessabandon with more context on his Morgana W changes, ZenonTheStoic with the next installment of Xerath changes, and a nice chunk of posts from IronStylus - he discusses the complexity of Zyra skins, the champion creation process, and a few other general skin bits ( SE Renekton! )
Continue reading for... more reading!

IronStylus on Zyra skins, Champion Creation Process, and skins

IronStylus jumped into a discussion on why Zyra is difficult to make skins for, some problems with the forums, a note on a few skins that have popped up and disappeared, and an overview of what goes into champion creation.

He kicked things off by responding to criticism that Zyra's takes TOO long to make skins for:
"Quick, straight from the mouth of our Lead Character Artist: 
"Zyra is probably the most work-intensive and challenging champion to make skins for."

Now, back to me.

Zyra is.. no pun intended on the new Harrowing skin for her.. a nightmare to make skins for. Every single plant, vine, spell, etc, is a new particle, which in and of itself is a new model, with new animations. That's.. what.. like 5 models with 5 animation sets/effect on them at least? I'm not sure how many assets are in her file.

We have a pile of concepts sitting around for Zyra, there are also great community skin ideas, but they area daunting task to be made.

I'm not a pricing guy at all but I will speak for Art when it comes to how intensive a skin is to make. Other characters which constitute big challenges are champions with different states, transformations, etc. So, Udyr, Swain, Shyvanna, etc, are basically two champions in one. If we want to make the transformation, or other states be a different animal, or creature or whatever, we have to model that, animate it, do a VFX pass, all that. 
VFX alone has had huge scope creep in the recent years because now instead of just being a static effect, we have huge animations coupled with whatever the effect might be, whether it's a spell like Zyra's orbs, or animating spirit models like SG Udyr. 
I'm not belittling the issue of price, but I do want to provide a peek into what sort of production goes into skins like these. It's basically a Legendary skin amount of work.
Hope that clarifies things. 
Side note: I'm sort of transitioning away from the old forums here in GD, and am becoming more active on the community beta site. I probably won't be back into this thread to follow up or answer questions, so if you'd like to discuss subjects like this, make your way over to and transition the conversation.

He continued, expanding on his comments about moving towards using the community beta more
"And I say I won't be checking this thread anymore..

Sorry, it's become hard to mitigate some of the negative feedback to address questions about process and whatnot. On the beta site I can more easily see which questions rise to the top. I can only go through so many pages in one day. It's easier to have people upvote the question/comment, have it rise to the top, and answer it when it has some momentum. Just an easier way to give as much info as I can in relation to a question a lot of people would like to see addressed."

On Scorched Earth Renekton, IronStylus commented:
"Re-prioritized because of Pool Party Renekton being an opportunity we wanted to jump on. Fan inspired, seasonal, etc.

SER is around I think, we don't just chuck good content away like that, he'll probably need a once over in terms of QA and touchup depending on when his release will be, which I'm not sure of."

On the way-way-way old, incomplete Cyber Katarina textures found on the PBE long ago, he commented:
"Not sure on her status, but I'm pretty sure we weren't really pleased with the outcome, and we felt there were better themes to use on her."
Expanding to the Crimson Elite Katarina from the same post, he noted:
"Very much not up to par. It was my work and I totally admit it."

Responding to comments that the team should stop scrapping "near completed" models, IronStylus replied:
"Models are very different than rigged models with animation sets. Models are a different kind of work comparatively depending on the complexity of the character to the process of rigging and animating. They're not "easier" but they're earlier on in the pipeline. It's easier to throw them away than something that's had a lot more production time in it. 
Models alone also come in various stages of development. We threw out work on Sivir in the sculpting phase, the high-poly Zbrush sculpt, no texture, no re-topo, none of the actual work to make it a game asset. Quinn was iterated on but nothing was thrown away. I'm not sure what Viktor skin you're referring to other than one way back in the day that just wasn't up to quality, not nearly as cool as Maker Viktor is at least, and the Battlemage Soraka felt sub-par to us when we completed it. I was dissapointed because I worked on it, but it was the team's call and I reached the same conclusion once we all reviewed it. Soraka however.. at least I don't think.. was fully animated and rigged. I could be mistaken though.

It's not normal at all for something to reach that level of completion (low-poly model, rigged, animated, etc) and then to throw it out. It has happened, but it's very rare."

He also shared an interesting looking into what sort of work goes into champion creation:
"Design? No. Produce? Depends. It's a lot of steps.  
Champion creation:

- Concept (Art, Creative & Design iterate on the idea of the champion)
- (potential prototyping)
- Approval
- Exploration (mechanics, tech requirements, production side of prototyping)

Production - Art
- Proxy modelling (enables exploration)
- High-rez modelling
- Retopo/AO/Texturing (lots of adjustments happen here)
- Rigging (done using the proxy)
- Animation
- Sound
- Splash
- Motion graphics 
Production - Design
- Mechanics exploration
- Mechanics solidifying
- Tuning
- Balance
- QA 
Production - Design
- Personality/Character fleshing
- Bio writing
- VO scriptwriting
- VO recording
- Promotional exploration 
- QA
- Promotion
- eCommerce
- Community
- Tons of technical team stuff that I have no idea on how it functions.
- Release/deploy 
That's off the top of my head for champions alone. Each team has a similar process from Skins to Relaunch. It's truncated in certain areas, as in skin concepting phase is much shorter than Champion or Relaunch. Skin production can be on a tighter timeline as well. Relaunch has a general timeline, but we operate our concepting differently and we have a much smaller team. 
Challenges in the general sense are technical limitations of the engine, tech that might have to be created for a champion/skin/relaunch, IP considerations and a lot of crafting around making robust characters. Teams are also not huge, by design. We're sort of like strike teams, lots of stuff operating at one time, cranking on different stuff. Not everyone is interchangeable. Someone making assets for a CG trailer isn't necessarily appropriate for in-game asset creation, that's a specialty thing.

We're a big game, with a lot of moving parts, which are all moving at different speeds sometimes. We're also a growing company, looking to streamline processes and iterate. These challenges are not unique. We're also not a boxed title, the game is always evolving. We essentially ship a new game with each patch in some sense depending on content and balance. 
Anyway, that's a very general laundry list. Boils down to there just a lot to be done, with a lot of steps."

Scarizard on Zed PBE changes

Scarizard's been over on reddit discussing the recent change to Zed's ult - Zed now spawns a shadow at his starting location rather than once he teleports to his target - that popped up in the 10/16 PBE Update.
"While i've had input, feedback and brainstorming with him on this - i have to hand it to Statikk for implementing and driving these changes to Zed. As a Zed main/Zed's signoff from the Live Balance team, i had more fun playtesting him today than perhaps any game of Zed previously. As a team, we've done a lot of thinking on how to retain he and others as fun and staple Assassin champions without crippling their ability to function.

My biggest problem with Zed is that past a certain point mid-late, he has what i like to call 'Training Wheels' boosters in the form of Living Shadow's Passive AD boost and Death Mark's generous rank 3 scaling - which give him a lot of insurance and far less reliance on precision/clutch plays. While these changes don't directly address the training wheels, they give imo a very interesting decision with the W. Previously, it's been 'Use R for guaranteed double strikes, then W freely away' which playing against can be incredibly frustrating. (e.g he just dove on me -and- was able to just escape?) Now, Zed still has 'Damage' and 'Escape' options - but his Escape in this case is bound to a single, defined location. Do i use the W to double strike at the cost of a safe out? Do i hold it and attempt to finish the kill without it? Do i just throw it in a random direction and make some 'all-planned' faker senpai plays? 
It might not seem huge to some of you, and to some of you it might seem much larger - but to me, it seems like a really interesting direction that hopefully makes Zed feel all the more slippery. Statikk and i will likely be posting on the General forums as well about these changes in the coming days, but if any of you have feedback after testing it on PBE i'd love to hear your thoughts!"
He continued, mentioning the changes came with an increased on the range of his swap:
"Trust me - my personal gripes about them are less about IMPENDING CHANGES and more my playstyle. I like flashy plays and narrow escapes (Riven, Kha'Zix, Lee Sin all appeal to me) and i feel like Zed's Endgame is kind of 'fire and forget' for my personal tastes because it's less thrilling and showing when i get ze kills. I slightly disagree with you on 'AD Casters having a worse endgame' however - you're far less spell reliant than mages due to building AD. Even the strongest burst mage requires spells to kill you - Zed's basic attacks all scale 1:1 with AD, and for a champion that has a above average base AS% and builds BotRK as a core item i'd hardly say he feels limp in that regard. Agreed on him having a much riskier end-game compared to most mild-mannered mids, but there's the rub when it comes to all-in assassin champions.

As for increasing the range of his shadow swap, we've (quite generously) increased the shadow swap cast to his R Clone, now that starts behind him and is a much more important escape tool. It's tunable, and while i don't have the number here with me it's quite massive.

On buffing E and nerfing Q, i think we're unlikely to make that happen - E scales quite well with AD already, and point-blank AoE spells don't have a whole ton of gameplay - the Q being especially stronger/higher moments when hit is fully intended. E doesn't have a fall-off for targets hit, so a zed just tossing Q's out is going to be lower on energy and not as high on farm as a Zed that manages to be in a position to E the wave repeatedly. 
Agreed with you on mobility > damage - we feel Zed actually has far more counterplay and much less Raw facemelting damage than our other assassins, and i'd love to keep him that way. :D"
He continued, sharing that Zed's Living Shadow ( W ) missle speed also got reduced and the untargetable duration of his ult weut up:
"It is, actually! We've slowed the missile speed on Zed's W as well (iirc, the missile speed went from 2500->1500). A lot of the focus of these changes are more for increasing the kill window/ability to react from Zed's opponents when he makes his slick moves - slowing down his W and changing his R are just some steps to make this happen. 
As an aside, a change some of you may not be fully noticing is that Zed goes untargetable now for 2x the time as he does on Live (.32 Delay -> .75 Delay). We actually like that he can 'deaggro' with it and make cool plays, but this also increases the window of time for you to 'Maokai' someone. I ulted SmashGizmo's Aatrox today, and he actually used Dark Flight to bring me under a tower D: Thankfully, i had my R clone to escape and both of us just yelled NOPENOPENOPENOPENOPE the whole time"

"We're Buffing Support Gold a lot"

Following up on an earlier discussion about supports, Morello posted a few comments on Riot's plans to buff support gold flow:
"We've never done gold flow work on them before, directly. Understandable though.

We're buffing support gold a lot - we're going to have to do a lot of champ-specific changes (and yes, some nerfs) because they've never been balanced to scale at all. If they get to scale, then it needs to be reasonable in how and why. More on this soon."

Context on Morgana W changes

ricklessabandon popped back up to continue his previous discussion the PBE Morgana's W changes, this time providing insight on his goals for the changes and the near future!
"it's 'soon' now, which means i'm finally getting around to a proper morgana post. 
"so, what's going on with morgana? why the sudden attention?"
no major event or anything. in our patch planning meeting i said i wanted to try to get in a buff/update for morgana if i could find the time. 
"morgana is fine and/or has a good win rate, why would you change her now?"
although she's cool and strong, there are a few things holding morgana back right now. some players find her to be clunky, some of her mechanics are obscure/unappreciated, and she has an atypical power curve. ideally, i wanted to use some of my spare time this patch to give her updates that address at least some of these issues without much disruption to them. 
"why are you trying to kill morgana's wave clear? she needs that to function!"
that's totally not even a goal. truth be told, if we were doing a morgana rework we'd probably try to add more play to her laning (for both sides) but the scope of these changes isn't anywhere near that so i'm not looking to kick that hornet's nest. the furthest i'd go is something like require morgana to 'spec' into getting her early wave clear, but that would be more of a cost paid than an immediate design objective.

that's basically it for the preface. i think she's awesome and could benefit from a little love/attention. no secret agenda or anything—if i can't get the changes to something i'm comfortable with before it's time for the patch to ship, then i'm just going to pull them and not think too much on it until the next time i have a small pocket of free time. 
as for the specifics, i wanted to mostly focus on 'modernization' changes like making her basic attack not awful/archaic, making the tormented soil ticks more responsive, and trying to add clarity to some of her sources of power. the last part is the trickiest since there's two things that are most obviously in need of improvement: her passive, and the magic resist shred on tormented soil.
  • the passive is pretty straightforward to people that understand spell vamp, but even then it's not clear to most players just how much health you're getting from the passive. might do something with the tooltip(s) but otherwise not looking to do much this patch regarding the passive.
  • addressing her magic shred is easily the biggest gain to be made. it dramatically complicates her highs/lows, and requires too much awkward 'gaming' of a mechanic that isn't directly tied to the really cool and visible aspects of her play patterns. dark binding and soul shackles do pretty well in this regard—morgana's opponents are able to pretty easily figure out what the ability does and what they should do in response to it. tormented soil should also be clear since the response should just be 'don't stand in the puddle' but a lot of the ability's power is indirect, and that doesn't come across as strongly as it should—tormented soil should command a lot more respect as a pvp ability than it currently does. anyway, the theory here is to make it such that if tormented soil is getting you killed, it should be tormented soil killing you. this should be super clear to both a first-time morgana player and first-time morgana opponent.

so yeah, that's the long and short of it. things i'm looking to do in the near future: 
-implement those changes i mentioned before (basic attack improvements, riven-esque execute mechanic)
-get more 'feel' feedback (do basic attacks feel better? how does tick rate on soil feel?)
-make sure her core functions are in tact (can reasonably wave clear compared to live)
-answer any followup questions you guys might have. 
sadly i don't have a ton of time left to work on this stuff (getting 'pass out' feverish in the midst of iteration cycles is the worst by the way), which means we're getting relatively close to the final hurrah before i decide whether or not to pull the changes. hopefully we're able to get something done for morgana by patch time—i'd much appreciate any collaborative efforts. ♥"

Upcoming changes to Xerath v4

Building off the discussions from this post, ZenonTheStoic has tossed up a small changelog for more upcoming Xerath changes!
"Hey guys, heading out now, but before I do I'll copy paste my changelog mail that I send around nightly to the rest of our design team. Sorry about the lingo; my target audience here is the other designers, but I thought you guys might enjoy this peek behind the curtain: 
* High level: Getting there. Continuing to observe the passive. Slight changes to reliability on his Q, E and R mostly in this update. 
* Passive:
-- Will now consume the buff and restore mana on champ hit even if it would overfill mana (and thus lose the remainder) so long as Xerath is missing at least a minion hit’s worth of mana.
-- Getting consistently positive feedback on the mana restore VFX. Nice! 
* Q:
-- Self-slow while charging up to 35% from 30%
-- THOUGHTS: May need to speed up time to full charge. This is mostly so the charge and hold window is a real vulnerability, which it isn’t currently. 
* W:
-- No change 
* E:
-- Decreased missile width to 60 from 70
-- Increased missile speed to 2300 from 2200
-- Changed stun duration scaling to 0.5-2s from 1-2s
-- Updated placeholder particle to better indicate cast duration
-- THOUGHTS: we’re getting to a good place here both in terms of dodgeability and safety. Decreased missile width a little to make dodging in the cast time more feasible, but also gave it a little more speed. I like seeing the offensive use case (at the cost of Xerath’s only true safety) and want to see if that comes out a little more. Point blank stun of 1s was excessive, but liked the full duration stun, so only dropped the floor for now. 
* R:
-- Decreased the size of the impact to 175/200/225 from 200/225/250
-- Decreased fixed travel time of the shots to 0.5 from 0.65
-- Dropped vision gained. Want to test with no vision for a bit before I put the radar back in (if necessary)
-- THOUGHTS: This iteration should make it clear that the ulti is less about the AoE damage and more about hitting that one high value target. May need to adjust AoE size further down to get this point across. I don’t want players to spend time thinking about “do I use this to AoE a bunch of dudes or do I snipe down Ashe?” You always snipe down the Ashe. Adjusted travel speed to match, should feel about the same to dodge/hit, but particle work next week should make play/counterplay clearer. Additionally, your next shot now becomes ready the instant your last shot landed. Should lead to overall smoother feeling.

Testing focus: please focus on hit/dodge play of E and R. I am interested in aggressive use cases of the E as well as personal safety against heavy divers without move blocks such as Udyr and Volibear."

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