This evening's red post collection includes an official preview of the updated Summoner's Rift and a new dev blog on gameplay clarity, one of League of Legend's core core design pillars. We also have a ton of discussion on the new in-game jungle timers announced in the dev blog!
- Champion and Skin Sale 6/24 - 6/27: Ice Drake Shyvana, Tyrant Swain, Marble Malphite, Renekton, Zyra, Malphite.
- Free Champion Rotation 2014 Season Week 24
- 6/23 PBE Update: Hazmat Heimerdinger Splash, In-Game Jungle Timers, Headhunter Caitlyn sound effects, tentative Nidalee balance changes.
Summoner's Rift PreviewAlong with the Summoner's Rift update hitting the PBE and the Summoner's Rift hub, Riot has released an official preview of the map updates!
"Take five with the Summoner’s Rift preview and soak up the latest information on the map’s evolution."Curious about the voice? It's none other than Riot Ms Pudding!
LoL Design Values: In-depth with ClarityNome is heading up our next developer blog by expanding on gameplay clarity, one of League of Legends core design values. Within the dev blog he examines what clarity means in-game, announces the addition of jungle timers for Baron, Dragon, and the two monster buffs, and more.
"Welcome to the first deep-dive entry in our ongoing League of Legends design values! A few weeks ago we spoke about our core design pillars in League, and we promised additional entries that would go in-depth with each particular one.
Up today we’ve got Richard ‘Nome’ Liu, an environment and clarity designer for League of Legends. In addition to talking at length about gameplay clarity, Nome’s also going to be talking about the decision-making that went into the development of jungle timers. So read on to hear Nome’s thoughts on clarity and why it’s so important to League of Legends as a whole!"
Chris ‘Pwyff’ Tom
What is Clarity?
[ This article is written by clarity and environment designer Richard "Nome" Liu ]
Can you spot exactly where you are in a teamfight?
When you glance at the scoreboard, can you figure out whether you or your opponent has a higher minion score in less than three seconds?
On first use - without reading the tooltip - can you understand the full effects of an ability?
On a deeper level, how much information does a player need to make a meaningful choice, and how many more layers can be added before that choice turns into bookkeeping of obscure information?
Where information is presented is important. When Shyvana was updated, her melee attack effects were moved to their affected ability tooltips -- since that's where they're most relevant!
These are the kind of challenges – and more – that the gameplay clarity team tackles on a daily basis, and they're ones that we firmly believe can be improved in League of Legends. As mentioned in our design values dev blog, gameplay clarity is incredibly important for the evolution of League of Legends and our mission is to ensure that players are fighting their opponents, not the game.
But what is gameplay clarity? Clarity is pervasive. It's in visuals, gameplay, design, art, and everything in-between. In League of Legends, gameplay clarity relates to the availability of information as well as the intentional obfuscation of it. We can make clear gains – like updating minion particles to be more accurate in their direction – but these aren’t what we’re here to discuss.
So what are we here for? Well, with the push of Jungle Timers to the PBE, we felt this would be a good time to discuss gameplay clarity in spaces yet to be explored as well as how we're aiming to improve your gameplay experience.
Jungle Timers: Putting the Focus on Mastery
Boiling down what we talked about in our design values, League of Legends provides three basic paths to mastery: personal expertise, teamwork, and adaptability – our focus will be on the first. Personal expertise is a complex soup of skills but we can generally agree that elements like mechanical mastery, situational awareness, and game knowledge are vital ingredients.
Most of these are universal to the League of Legends experience and are agnostic to the map, mode, or champion you play – though a few of them can be overloaded based on your preferences. Regardless, we’ve also declared that a few things aren’t part of the experience, like hardcore multi-unit micromanagement, rote memorization of patterns, or bookkeeping.
The new jungle timers are nestled at the top of the screen. They won't be presenting any new or hidden information. Rather, they present existing information in a visual display.
Jungle timers fall into that last case, and serve as an example of important information being presented in an impractical manner. Looking back, there was a lot of internal debate over whether this level of information should be exposed.
On one side, a case could be made that map-level objective awareness is a significant aspect of skill – and to that, we wholeheartedly agree. We would not, for example, alert you when an opponent entered your immediate radius from fog, nor would we ever track enemy cooldowns for you. Your interactions with your opponents are sacred and we will always leave those interactions alone.
On the other side – and here's what finally changed our minds – the jungle is a constant environment; unlike champions, monsters will always be where you expect them to be; unlike cooldowns, there is no variability in respawn rates. With timestamps available in the team chat window, timing of jungle monsters often came down to whoever remembered to type it out. We also don’t want to beat around the bush here: the emergence of third party applications put fuel on the fire, but they only increased our confidence that such a feature was in line with our values.
Ultimately, the question we asked was whether bookkeeping of jungle timers (which, as I mentioned before, was often solved by doing quick math in the chat box) contributed satisfaction of the play experience and we realized it was just too much of a routine task to be of significant value.
Turrets: How Clarity is Applied
But this dev blog isn't all about jungle timers (although they're the most contextually relevant), and I'd like to highlight other uses of clarity. We're not always about displaying all information – clarity is about intentionality: a game that makes every piece of knowledge available creates information paralysis, while a game that hides all information promotes mental archiving rather than rewarding moment-to-moment mastery. The job of design is to use informational clarity (or the lack thereof) to create interesting situations.
It's extremely important for players to understand when they're being targeted by a turret. At the same time, it's important to leave space where players can be baited into taking turret shots as well.
To provide an example in which clarity is important in limited scope, we can look at turrets. It’s incredibly important to understand when you’re targeted by a turret, as their attacks are especially impactful and feature a unique set of rules: they ignore a portion of your armor and deal increased damage with each successive hit. To this end, turrets utilize exaggerated ceremony: there’s a persistent targeting laser, a distinct sound alerts you when you’re targeted, and it fires bright balls of energy. Now here’s something turrets don’t feature: a persistent range indicator (outside of Co-Op vs AI and beginner games).
Certainly a range indicator would improve clarity around the turret – no one denies this. A scenario where one player harasses another under the turret is rife for plays to be made, and this contributes heavily to our decision-making. When an indicator is present, the play is between the aggressor and the indicator rather than the aggressor and the defender. If we were to make turret range indicators permanent, then aggression would be boiled down to who can toe the line better, which ultimately decreases the potential for interesting plays to arise.
The Sanctity of Clarity
For my final point, we’ve covered when information should be exposed and when it should be hidden. Now, I want to briefly touch on when information is available but inaccessible.
A good example here would be the visual update to Karthus’ Lay Waste. The previous particle grossly misrepresented the ability’s area of effect, while the new particle is far more functionally accurate. In approaching a change like this, the argument could be made that inaccurate particles create gameplay through deception, but this collides directly with clarity as a core value: the game should never deceive players. The player should deceive other players!
It was easy to hide the old particle, but the resulting gameplay was deceptive. The new particle communicates the gameplay clearly.
On this point, creating gameplay through intentional miscommunication doesn’t actually add depth or personal mastery. One Karthus may be strategically and tactically superior to the other, but if the better Karthus loses because he didn’t know the skittle extended beyond its indicated hitbox, that’s not a victory that can be chalked up to skill. The job of clarity is to refine knowledge such that both parties can make intelligent choices. If one player makes a fatal error (either due to a lack of knowledge or mechanical skill), they should lose due to their opponent's superior skill, not the inconsistency of a game rule (that all particles accurately represent their hitboxes).
We’re passionate about pushing League of Legends to be more readable, understandable, and usable – all so that we can put the focus back on personal mastery. On that note, while clarity is a design value we've been pursuing for some time, it's also one where we have great opportunities to grow. Our hope is that as we continue to add more clarity to League of Legends, we'll also be pushing the envelope of player skill.
Either way, we absolutely welcome your feedback on all of these points – and call us out when we fall flat! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on how we can improve the game from a clarity standpoint, be sure to leave them in the comments.
Jungle Timers discussionAfter the announcement of in-game Jungle timers included in the dev blog, the forums and social media quickly lit up with questions and concerns on the new timers.
In a reddit thread on the dev blog, Nome commented:
"Hey guys--we know this will be a controversial feature, but want to stand behind our design choices. That said, like everything else we do, we're still open to feedback on implementation and featureset. If you have access to the PBE, definitely go and try it out yourself!"He continued, replying to a comment that even LCS teams mistime objectives:
"Good catch! We were aware of this incident when we began the project. It comes down to what we want to consider "skill" in the game and what we don't--but we've run through that argument many times in the dev blog and elsewhere, so I won't bore you with it here.
Rather, consider this--do we want to use this as an example of why we shouldn't make a change? Various things have historically caused players to slip up; do we really want poor UI feedback to be one of them? Looking retrospectively is one of the best ways to make these evaluations--what if we didn't tell you allied ultimate cooldowns? Should you know how many minions your opponents have killed? At some point, you have to draw a line between skill and tedium. With timing, that line is drawn somewhere between enemy cooldowns and jungle timers. The skill in timing objectives is a binary--you either do it right or you don't; there's not varying degrees of success. Where the skill comes out, and what we want to emphasize, is how you utilize that information. Hope this is insightful!"When asked about why these were added over other features, Nome explained:
"Different teams! We have different teams working under different initiatives. I work on two teams: Environments and Clarity. Environments put out the update to Summoner's Rift, and Clarity has been working on jungle timers. I am the only resource shared between the two, and otherwise our priorities and resource utilization are determined separately. Champion, Live Gameplay (balance), and Relaunches are also under the gameplay initiative umbrella along with Environments and Clarity, and likewise they do not share resources with us. For Clarity, this just happened to be something we were passionate about."
Regarding "clearing a camp" that had died when you weren't around, RoboLions noted:
"You will only see that the buff is not alive. Since you missed the actual time of death you don't get a respawn timer, it'll show -:-- for the timer instead. When the camp respawns it'll show up as alive, just like the minimap on live. :)"RoboLions continued:
"They will not get the exact timer for observing the camp after the fact. The HUD will show that Dragon is dead but the timer will read -:--.
Once Dragon respawns the alive icon will show, just like on the minimap currently."As for if you had the area warded and observed the death, RoboLions noted:
"Good question: Since you saw the death, thanks to your ward, you'll have the timer."
Meddler also mentioned that the timers have the same functionality as the current minimap icons, saying:
Will the new timers include blue and red?
If you steal the enemy's buffs will you see a timer for those?
Yes, blue and red are tracked. You'll get the timer for a camp if you have vision of the camp when it's cleared, if not you'll just know that it's not up, but not when it will come back (same functionality as the current minimap icons)."He continued:
"Same functionality for all camps yes, each team has easier access to one red and one blue buff, but there's nothing that inherently binds either of them to a specific team beyond that."
When asked about the thought process behind adding the timers, Meddler summarized:
What's exactly Riot thought process to add jungle timers? I don't see any but to help out those that find it too hard to type down timers.
Nome's got a detailed right up of our thought process that can be found here:
http://na.leagueoflegends.com/en/new...-depth-clarityIn response to a sarcastic remark suggesting CSing be removed to continue to "make the game easier", Meddler explained the differences between CSing and timing minions:
Short version is that we want to support players showing skill through their play against other players, rather than via a somewhat book keeping like exercise. Thinking about and assessing different objectives while handling moment to moment actions as well? Cool, generates interesting play with a great mastery curve. Remembering to type '15:30 drag' into chat? Mainly just an administrative task once you've gotten into the habit."
"Last hitting offers a lot of gameplay. When to go for a last hit, how to balance CSing against harassing your opponent, how quickly to push or not push a wave, when it's worth passing on CS, when to shove versus stall, whether to use resources (mana, ammo, CDs etc) to get CS you'd otherwise miss etc. Farming well has a very high skill curve, assuming you're against an opponent of at least broadly similar skill, with a lot of time pressure and some requirement for mechanical skill in addition to decision making. Tracking a buff by contrast requires typing a message into chat when you've got a free moment with little potential to be a better buff tracker than any other player performing the same action."
Over on Twitter, Nome also commented:
"There are some pros who play in windowed mode so they can run Notepad timers on the side. That's the sort of inconvenience we don't want!"He continued:
"Perspective: if we don't want 3rd party timers, but acknowledge the need for timing, it would be irresponsible for the UI to not support it!"
When asked why the timers have a countdown instead of listing the respawn time, Nome explained:
"For jungle timers, why do we use a countdown instead of an absolute game time? The answer: cognitive load.
Let's walk through the mental steps in how we utilize a time stamp (absolute game time).
1. We look at the timer, 24:00 Baron.
2. We look at the current time, 22:00.
3. We perform the mental math, 2 minutes until Baron.
4. We formulate a plan: "2 minutes until Baron, I should be in position."
Now let's see how we utilize a countdown (relative game time).In a PBE feedback thread, Nome continued:
1. We look at the timer (2:00 to Baron)
2. We formulate a plan: "2 minutes until Baron, I should be in position."
With absolute time, we need two points of reference: current time and spawn time, and using that we perform the mental math necessary to complete the task. With relative time, the countdown itself is the actionable information. That said, players have become accustomed to using absolute times--and we acknowledge that. Our initial implementation will be countdown-early; we don't want to rule out an absolute timing option, but let's see how players adapt first!"
"There's a dialogue to be had over what information should be exposed, and how it should be available. The key of timers is that all the information the provide is already available; it's just not presented in a clear fashion. Here's a mental exercise to try--if we always had timers, then chose to take them out, how would players feel? If we took out the chat log notification on objective kills, that would also "increase the skill" of jungling (or at least objective awareness)--but that's not how we want players to interact with the game. We don't want you to go through unnecessary steps, or inconvenience yourself here."
Phreak also commented on the "learning aspect" of recording timers manually in chat, saying:
"You still have to keep track of them yourself. But typing "12:20 tb" and pressing Z to check up on it is really no different from pressing Tab and looking at the top of the screen. In fact, inferring your opponents' timers based on their buffs' remaining duration even though you didn't see them is still a skill you're going to have to retain."
When asked about opposing Curse Voice, a third party mod, for having built in timers then adding them by default, Phreak commented:
"Yep, that's the major distinction.
We do not want third-party mods directly affecting in individual player experience. We don't want League to be a game where you say to your friend, "Hey come try out this game... But if you actually want to win, make sure you download these five additional programs.""Sargonas added in:
"The issue was not with Curse Voice creating the functionality (it was cool!). It was the fact that people who elected to use CV had an advantage over those who did not. It is both information we felt you DID deserve to have BUT caused an imbalance when one team had the information at hand and the other did not. We don't care if people have this information, but we want it to be uniformly available to ALL players "out of the box"."*Nome also commented on the 3rd party apps vs base implementation argument, noting:
"Timing is definitely important--and it will affect a lot of players. The issue for us as developers is that if we acknowledge the importance of timing and timers, and are even willing to go out of our way to ban the use of explicit timing mechanisms in 3rd party applications, then it makes us incredibly irresponsible as developers to then come back around and say "We know that there's something better out there. But you have to use this worse version." We thought a lot about this, and debated a lot--and this is Real Talk™ debating, not PR-speak "we thought about it wink-wink", but decided that this was the solution that best fit our design values."
[ The discussion is still raging on! I'll be sure to update with more posts as the night continues. ]
[ Want a better look at the new timers? Check out their PBE debut! ]
Doors of Fate Q&A - Skins Team Concept Artists underway!The Q&A session with the Skins Team Concept artists is underway over on the community site!
Be sure to get your art related questions in for The Bravo Ray, RiotPenguin, RiotZeronis, RoadkillsRevenge, Paulewog, and more!
I'll have a summary of all the skintastic questions and answers in the next red post collection!