[Updated] Red Post Collection: LtRandolph's hunt for Shen Bugs, Context on Nidalee PBE changes, Top Tier Champions & Tradeoffs, and more!

Posted on at 1:23 AM by Moobeat
[ Update : Stuffed in a few more posts about Lucian and Shen! Enjoy! ]

This morning's red post collection features Morello briefly touching on top tier champions that lack tradeoffs, ZenonTheStoic sharing his thoughts on Lucian's identity as a high mobility champion, LtRandolph sharing his journey into tracking down the notorious Shen ultimate bug, Riot Repertoir with context on the recent Nidalee PBE changes, and much more!
Continue reading for more information!

Top Tier Champions & Tradeoffs

In response to a very popular comment on the patch 4.10 notes regarding the same "top tier" picks wedging out the majority of the champion pool, Morello briefly commented on what the team is up to to edge away from the same picks in each game.
"Note: I'm am directing this to competitive gameplay and ranked games (especially Diamond) Dear Riot, The following was patch was great and I think the Riot team is heading the right direction, But! You should really focus on fixing the following REAL problem in the game. At least 5 or 6 of the following champions are played/banned in EVERY SINGLE GAME: Braum Irelia Jax Kassadin Kayle Le Blanc Lee Sin Lucian Lulu Nidalee Twich Yasuo ..The same champions are banned EVERY SINGLE GAME (usually Kass,Kayle,Jax,Braum,lb,Yasuo,Nid,) League really feels like there are 20 champions in it instead of 120... Why is this so? Because these champions are better than other champions in almost every way (aka Tier 1 champions) There are about 20 more champions after them that are just below tier 1 (Kha,Elise,Rengar,Evelyn, etc) You can see this for yourself really...Open league, go to the home-screen, and look at the 5 spectating matches that are going on...again same champions... look at LCS and pro matches...same champions... When I see a Cho Gath,Sion,Olaf,etc all of the sudden I get so happy to see something new in my game... my games are usually very dull; I want to see this dealt with...I have a dream that the fact that champions are divided into T1,T2,T3 champions will be no more. I want to see myself playing are game and having no idea what the enemy team and my team are going to pick. I want players to pick champions based on their very own style of gameplay and not based on how strong and useful a champion is. I wish to see this game really shine and this issue stands in the game over all Sincerely, a fan. ChilePerson -D1"
"Thanks - this is a big problem, we agree, but we've missed talking about our strategy on this stuff. 
The types of changes here are (as you note) how we move to a more sustainable and balanced state. This is about addressing underlying systems, overloaded champions (Champion Updates team and Live Gameplay are focusing big on this) and where too few tradeoffs exist. In fact, our clarification on our design values was a bit of a result of us determining what tradeoffs we'll be willing to make to fix these things. Change can be painful, so we need to be smart about how we deliver it. 
The problem with many short-term nerfs is it just creates a new class of OP - the "just below tier 1" you speak to. While we'll still need to do some reactive balance, I really want to get to a point to where champions have meaningful strengths AND weaknesses - and all the champions on the top of the pile are safe and have low tradeoffs. A pile of power.

Does this help explain a bit of our direction, and why we're being aggressive on things like Nidalee rework?"

With this in mind, Morello also answered a question about what the team's plans are for balancing high mobility champions such as Kassadin, Lee Sin, and Lucian:
"Proper tradeoffs would be my key - IE what do they give up for that mobility? 
Right now the answer is "not much."'
Speaking to Lucian specifically, ZenonTheStoic commented:
"Lucian is super high mobility. His dash is 425 units range with a max lookahead distance of 475 if 425 ends you in terrain (to guarantee certain wallhops). This is superior to Graves (425 with no lookahead). Quickdraw also has a movespeed of your MS + 850, whereas Lucian's Relentless Pursuit has a fixed 1350 dash speed. The slow cleanse is super important on it as well, as pointed out by I Arent David. 
On top of that, he has his W which he can proc repeatedly for flat MS (which scales super well with % MS from items) and of course his ult which allows him to move while attacking and ghosts him (oops did I fail to put that into the tooltip? Well now you know ;P) 
Lucian is all about mobility, and I want that to remain the case. I want mobility to be his one big strength. Currently, as Morello correctly points out, he has no weaknesses. During design we thought range would be his weakness. What can I say, we were young and foolish. 
Maybe he needs 500 attack range?"
He continued:
"The idea originally was that his meaningful damage should come from Q (cast range of 550) and his passive (AA range of 550). Compare to Jinx (Q range increase, meaningful damage on W), Caitlyn (err), Corki (Q and R spammable long range), Tristana (passive), Ezreal (constant Q poke at great range) etc. 
Obviously we were wrong! I'm just trying to explain our state of mind at the time."

ZenonTheStoic also noted:
"The feeling that anything less than 550 range is a HUGE feel hit on an ADC. With new targeting paradigms on Q and R and absolutely no confidence in how much players would feel the power from his passive we didn't want to set ourselves up for total failure with a E-tier aa range. 
Lucian had the second worst adoption rate in 2013. People really didn't like him at first. At 500 range on release? He would have tanked so hard."

When asked about nerfing Lucian's mobility, ZenonTheStoic noted:
"We prefer to nerf weaknesses and buff strengths. If we did what you suggested (tone down the champion-defining strengths) we'd end up with a roster of replaceable champs."

ZenonTheStoic also briefly mentioned Graves, saying:
"Scarizard is on the team that works on SRU right now, so he's not actively cooking any champion updates at the moment. I think our live design guys want to see how the itemization stuff shakes out before touching Graves. I also don't think they're done tweaking the new items, so keep your eyes peeled for what that might mean for Graves."

In search of Shen Bugs

In a thread asking why Shen has been disabled for play in the LCS for so long, LtRandolph, a software engineer, jumped in to share his experiences on trying to track down a bug that results in Shen's ult not always working correctly.
His ultimate sometimes don't teleport him just because.
It's an extraordinarily confusing and complicated bug. It doesn't help that it's extremely rare and we haven't been able to find a way to reliably cause it to happen. Over the past several patches (since I joined Riot) I've been adding logging when it happens on live, so that I can learn more about exactly what's going on. In addition, we've been putting in small attempts at fixing it as I've gathered data, but I can verify that they haven't yet fixed it completely. 
Griftrix and I spent several hours yesterday poring over the latest data, and I'm cautiously optimistic that we're approaching a reasonable theory."
He continued:
I'm confused as to why he's disabled when it is a drawback for the team picking him
I wasn't involved in that decision, but I'm going to take a stab at the rationale.

The bug is very rare and very unpredictable, which would lead teams to not weigh it heavily when considering Shen as a pick. In the case that it happens, though, (particularly at the pro level) it is quite likely to have a dramatic impact on what occurs immediately afterwards. There is a reasonable chance of it swinging the entire outcome of the game. Moreso than any other known bug that I'm aware of. Thus in those small handful of games where it does occur, the outcome of that game all of a sudden becomes "questionable" since a chancy, random bug caused one team to be in a 4v5 post level 6. Particularly in the high stakes world of eSports, I would assert that this sort of randomness is to be strongly avoided."

 In regards to the bug making LoL's codebase seem difficult to work with, LtRandolph commented:
"It has a lot of, shall we say, character, but we're always improving it to make it easier to work in, less likely to cause bugs, and quicker to get new features out. The trick is always to find ways to not throw the baby (LoL working the way it should) out with the bathwater (a confusing or poorly structured chunk of code).

I have worked in better and worse engines. I have not worked with better teammates."

As for devoting so much time to trying to fix it, he shared the upside:
"How valuable it is to spend time on this has certainly been part of our discussion. Three main considerations have led to the decision that it's worth several hours of my time each patch since I joined. 
1. I have learned a lot about our code base from chasing around a real-life problem, and since it's an as-yet unsolved problem, I'm learning about segments that no Rioter has complete mastery of. 
2. There are other unsolved bugs that I firmly believe may be related to the root cause of this, and the only way we'll know is to figure out what's causing this. 
3. As we improve the codebase, it is valuable to know what works, what doesn't work, and what has caused bugs in the past. Thus, I'm going to be more informed about what I should do as I add code in the future because of my time investigating this bug. 
That being said, I am limiting how much time I spend on this every week to make sure that I can keep delivering value elsewhere. I'm not the sort of person who does the type of work that's needed for the things you listed. I am extremely passionate about helping designers like Xyph and Pony keep bringing you awesome, and there's no way that I'm going to let this Shen bug hold me back from focusing on that most of the time. :-)"

When asked about a project to rewrite the "really clunky" parts of the code, LtRandolph noted:
"I am not aware of any game studios that aren't doing that all the time. It's pretty much a fact of life in game development that the engine is not perfect, you know which parts are the worst, and whenever you get a chance to improve those parts you do it.

I can say that we definitely talk a lot about how to improve the engine, and I feel like my time is well spent and valued fixing problems around what I'm working on, rather than just writing the minimal amount of code to get it working."

When asked what the bug is exactly, LtRandolph shared:
"Sorry, some other people had mentioned it. Shen's ult is not supposed to be cancelled without teleporting him unless he is cced or his target dies. 

Very very rarely, he decides "hmm, nevermind, I'd rather attack this minion" or "why don't I cast taunt where I am, rather than where I'm going like my Summoner intends". I can more or less tell in code when either of these happens, and when it does, I dump A LOT of information to a data collection server thingie. At the moment that information is pointing me to a fairly small chunk of code that is doing something that, to my eyes, looks impossible, leading me to talking to folks like Griftrix who have more experience in this codebase."

LtRandolph also shared how long he's been in the industry and at Riot:
"Thanks, yeah! I've been in the industry for about 6 years, and at Rito Pls for 2 months. Both of those are relatively short times, in the scheme of things. Still got a lot to learn! ;-)"

When asked if the team had considered just completely re-coding Shen's abilities to eliminate the bug and save time , LtRandolf explained:
"It's a good question. Every ability in the game is made of a bunch of "building blocks" that a designer will put together in order to make the ability happen. Some of them for Stand United include things like "put a glowy purple thing on Shen" and "make him play the animation where he crosses his chest". Others will be things like "check if the target has died" and "move him to next to his target when the channel ends". Actually some of these are made of a few blocks, but you get the idea. 
We have had some very smart designers attack things from this side, which is the closest to "recoding the ability" that is particularly feasible. Notably I believe that CertainlyT dramatically reduced or eliminated one of the cases that I was seeing earlier in my investigation, since I'm no longer seeing nearly as many logs of Shen attacking a minion to cancel the channel. 
The problem, though, is that I'm having a failure of something that's used to make one of those building blocks; the "channel for X seconds" block stuff. If I understand why the code that makes that block work is failing, then I can fix it, and potentially fix issues with other spells that use that block. 
If, instead, I attempted to rewrite that block, there's 2 different approaches: I can produce two different versions of "channel" which is going to make it more confusing for designers to make future champs, and likely lead to each version having its own set of bugs and limitations, since different people will use different ones. I've seen this pattern far too often in my short time in the industry to want to go down this path. Or I can rewrite the only channel block that exists; I imagine you can guess why I don't want to do that. Who knows what huge other bugs I'm going to introduce in all kinds of abilities that work fine now. 
Thus I feel like I either need to track down what's actually happening, or decide that it's not worth my time to keep trying. So far I feel like I'm still learning, and that I still have a reasonable chance of arriving at an answer. At the point where that stops being the case, we'll have to reevaluate things.

I hope this gives some insight to some of how we game engineers think about things."
He continued:
"Sorry that I don't have time to answer everything in this thread. I've read every post, and really appreciated all the good ideas you're all having! 
Here's the result of all this investigation over the past couple days: 
I added some new signalling that tells when the bug happens, and also added a switch that we can flip that I'm pretty sure stops the bug (although I'm not an enormous fan of how it does that). The idea is to ship 4.11, verify that the signalling is working, and flip the switch. If we see the signalling go silent at that point, theoretically the bug is stopped, even though the underlying cause isn't necessarily gone. I will still spend a small amount of time after that poking and prodding to get to that root cause, and do a better solution, but the urgency will be much lower if we can verify that the Shen bug at least isn't happening anymore.

Going back to the discussion from earlier, the way the switch works is a modification to that channeling block. When someone is using it and attempts to stop by moving, attacking, or casting, check if it's Shen casting Stand United. If so, say, "Seriously, no! You're not allowed to do that!" Eww."

Context on Nidalee PBE Changes

Earlier this week, we saw the PBE updated with several changes to Nidalee's kit. Her W and E Hunted functionality was changed, she was able to apply Hunt to neutral creeps, had lowered attack damage in return for passive magic damage, and gained armor / magic resist based on the amount of target's she was currently hunting.

In the most recent ( 6/24 ) PBE update, most of those changes were reverted and Riot Repertoir has whipped up a brief forum thread to explain the changes and what we can expect moving forward:

[ Note: The post has been updated with more changes to expect in the next PBE patch. Tense is a little off ]
"Hey everyone, 
Some Nidalee stuff went to PBE today without any word from us as to when/why it would release, so I just wanted to give everyone some details on that. 
First, not all of those changes are going to see the Live environment, and many won't be in patch 4.11 either. For the most part, I'm pretty happy with how Nidalee's doing in 4.10 at the moment, but there are a few main issues I will be looking into patching up in the near future. First, she is at the extreme of unreliability when it comes to teamfighting, so I want to give her a bit of help in that department. Second, her power level seems to be particularly high in early laning before it steadily goes down over game time. The changes on PBE today were aimed largely at addressing those issues, but with limited time before we finish our 4.11 patch cycle, we've decided to take on a less aggressive changelist for her. 
I will likely continue to investigate ways to improve her feel and balance her power curve over the next few patches, and that may include things like the 'AP to on-hit damage' and 'Swipe granting defenses' stuff you saw today, but for now we're going to stick to the above changes to test for 4.11. She's a hard character to pick up and master, so we don't want to overreact to early performance data that suggests she's dramatically on the weak side, since I think most of us (player and developer alike) get the feeling that's not completely true. 
Here's what you'll see on PBE on 6/24, relative to 4.10:
  • General
  • Base Health increased to 390 from 370
  • Base Armor increased to 17 from 15
  • Prowl
  • Nidalee now receives 10% Movement Speed in all directions while Hunting, increased to 30% toward Hunted targets. (Note: at any one time, Nidalee can never receive more than a total of 30% Movement Speed from the Hunt and Brush Movement Speed sources)
  • Javelin Toss
  • Missile width increased to 40 from 30
  • Bushwhack
  • Cooldown reduced to 13/12/11/10/9 from 17/16/15/14/13
  • Damage reduced to 10/12/14/16/18% from 12/14/16/18/20%
  • Pounce
  • Hunted Pounce activation range increased to 750 from 700
  • Hunted Pounce will now jump 75 units in front of where the target is facing at the time of jump rather than 150 units to the side of the target opposite Nidalee
  • Primal Surge
  • Mana Cost reduced to 50/65/80/95/110 from 60/80/100/120/140
  • Aspect of the Cougar
  • Triggering a Hunt resets the cooldown of Aspect of the Cougar when Nidalee is in human form

When asked about the fate of Nidalee being able to apply hunt to large jungle monsters, he noted:
"I agree this opens up options, but we would like a bit more time than just a few days to test this out before going through with it."

As far as letting Nidalee proc Hunt on her basic attacks, Repertoir commented:
"Triggering the Hunt via basic attack is something we've decided we probably won't ever do because it completely circumvents the reliability weakness she is supposed to have. Granted, I think we erred too much on the side of unreliability on her release, but that doesn't mean we want to eliminate it. I'd like to get Nidalee into a spot where she has a definitive advantage when Hunting and an equal disadvantage when not. That said, applying the Hunt tends to feel far too difficult later on in games at the moment, and that's what I'd like to address. Good play by Nidalee should result in effective Hunting, and good play by the enemy should result in avoiding Hunting. Right now, however, it feels more like any play by the enemy at all will avoid them getting Hunted.

The combination of difficulty, risk, and reward seem to be off at the moment, but I think we can get it sorted out."

Continued ] Summoner's Rift Update Discussion

We also have a few comments on the Summoner's Rift update, which is currently on the PBE for testing!

First up, RiotForScience clarified that he is still reading every post on the Summoner's Rift feedback thread, saying
"I am still monitoring this thread. I have talked about a lot of the issues that have been brought up here previously in this thread or in other threads; so I am not commenting as often"

When asked about the  theme and style for the updated nexus and inhibitors, RiotForScience explained:
After seeing the new SR a few times, I've kinda started wondering about something. I don't understand the Nexus and the Inhibitors at first glance. Sure, you can explain them to me through lore, text or a cinematic vid, but I can't read the idea behind it from the game. 
I don't see why they're thematically important other than being coloured crystals. So if you were to assume that I'm the kind of player that doesn't bother with the backstory, how do you visually show the importance that the inhibitors and nexi are supposed to represent?
All of our artistic decisions were built on cohesive narrative reasoning, but we are not ready to discuss that reasoning yet. Perhaps we can get into it a bit more as we get closer to going live."

As for Baron's claws and feet sticking out of the ground on the new map, RiotForScience explained:
"Baron was sitting in a built up crater when his claws were placed down. We couldn't get it to look decent before PBE so we pulled it. We will come up with some other solution to how the claws work before the map goes live."

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