Red Post Collection: Morello on Soraka and Cassiopeia gameplay updates, PAX Panels, and more!

Posted on at 2:44 AM by Moobeat
This morning's red post collection features Morello discussing the Soraka and Cassiopeia gameplay reworks, L4T3NCY offering context on some of the design decisions for Ascension, and more! As a bonus, I've also included recording of the two League of Legends panels from PAX Prime - "Deep Dive into Design Depth in LoL" and "Reimagining the Community Manager: A Day in the Life of Riot's Community Team"!
Continue reading for more information!

Soraka Rework Discussion

Morello also strolled on to the forums earlier today to chat about the upcoming Soraka gameplay update, which hopes to push her into the role of League's dedicated support healer.

As for Soraka's W having a small mana cost in addition to costing Soraka a % of her Maximum health, Morello commented on the concept of "mana gating":
"I think there's validity in "how does one use mana?" as a conversation. It's true mana's not exciting - but mana is a good tradeoff to control lane pacing or large fights; and good decision-making through tradeoffs is good design (even if not from a directly "exciting" source).

For example, let's look at Annie's Q and passive. Without a mana gate, midlane Annie's lane minigame is completely removed (and is a pretty fun lane minigame), and is likely to spam Q on cooldown to harass an enemy champion. The mana limitation controls this interaction from being "just go swat that guy" into a simple but important decision-tree in how you manage your mana.

Anivia has a great use of mana as a gate via her R, also.

We have marginalized mana a lot - I tend to think that's a mistake, even if it feels good. Resourcesless champs don't cause problems because thy're weaker than mana champions, they cause problems because there's no pacing aside from range and cooldown to manage their ability flow"

Morello also commented on Soraka's tentative new passive, which reduces her bonus Armor / MR and gives her AP instead:
"Yes - this is the first time we've done that. My expectation is not that people get super excited about this, but instead it makes it so she can function and not get kneecapped as soon as she's good
This design technique acts as a release valve for bullshit scenarios without requiring us to murder the core functions and unique abilities of the character. A Critical Guideline of Soraka is that she must be vulnerable to being killed while healing to allow her to be an insane health-refiller. This means we have to put preventative measures in there to ensure she stays what way - especially as items will be buffed/nerfed/added/removed long after Soraka's out. 
So Soraka can't get tanky. That's the whole point."
He continued, highlighting a few points on the passive and how it is used to keep Soraka's role as a dedicated healer in check:

"It's definitely scary - on this we agree. I think there's three conversation points:

1) I fundamentally believe if Soraka is allowed to get tanky, we'll have to gut her. This release valve is there to prevent this and allow her to be good.

2) New Soraka is both more narrow and more unique. Picking Soraka is very different than picking another support. If we want champions to have a unique strategic identity and have a reason "to be played," this is important.

3) The current passive can be tuned into obliteration if it's actually a problem, but we need a release valve. I know Soraka wants AR/MR/HP - that's why we have to discourage it or it will run afoul of 1), and Soraka will be gutted, and we might as well have not done anything and left her in the dumpster.

Tradeoffs are a huge component of good design, and sustainable champions. We've chosen these ones because we believe it will allow us to actually make a real healer character."
He continued:
"That's basically how insane her HPS and saving gets. It's unline anything we have on heals...2s Cooldown, high AP ratio, and big gains. You NEED to kill Soraka or a fight is unwinnable in this model."

Morello also commented on his general thoughts of how to make a healer work within LoL:
"Oh Linna, I'm glad to see that some thing never change. Our war shall never resolve!

On a serious note, I'm excited to crack open how to make a healer with gameplay in a PvP game. Vesh has worked very hard to try to make this a reality, and the previoust costs/downsides with things like blue healers or even other LoL champions don't do well when you give a character bonkers haling to friends.

I've been against healing as a role a long time - I've learned my problems are with its execution and lack of decisions (for themselves or enemies) that's problematic. So, we've take a stab at fixing that.

You should be scared as Soraka. You're trying to heal people who should kill people and protect people for you. You can still buy GA and have 80% of the value in defense. You're not going to have 4000 HP and 200 armor/100MR on Soraka. As a healer, being tanky WOULD be the natural build, so we have to prevent that case.

THIS can let us make a character who SUPPORTS by HEALING to an unprecendented degree in LoL. No one else can do this. You want support to change a game? You want new reasons to pick a character? I hear you - super clearly.

It's not all buffs. It's hard ass choices."
He also noted:
"Agreed on both. This is to, for lack of a better phrase, "stop the cycle of abuse" on Soraka. We want her to be a premier, unique healer. That's hard!"

Additional Smart Pings discussion

In a thread asking about the possibility of adding more smart pings in the future ( such as "ult up in", "enemy ult down", and "warded" ), Riot Reinboom darted in to share:
"During the development of the radial menu, it become pretty clear that many people had issues with any more than 4. You couldn't reliably hit the action you want and describing the motion became difficult. 
I also fear that this is taking advantage of the menu in ways that could better fit in a different form. 
The ping wheel offers quick communication and positional communication. It's also a pretty big stick at the problem space it's solving. 
A different direction to look at this is: 
What if there was a different way of using chat to quickly communicate these other ideas? Does placing it on the radial menu offer any benefits over that route?
What if there was just a binding that let you communicate some of these ideas in a directional manner? One neat idea that other MOBA games have done is being able to modifier + click on an ability to post the cooldown of it into chat.
Fo' reals though: 
We've poked at different ideas before (in experimentation, not anything that can be player delivered), and there's definitely a lot of great opportunities here. I don't think anyone is looking at the problem space at the moment however." 
Reinboom continued:
"Oops! Most of my post was focused at the "Ult up in..." (mainly). 
I actually like "Warded", it's very positional, very informative, and difficult to describe in current tools. It's exactly the type of problem that the radial menu would be perfect to solve. 
For that I think the issue there is more "Where do we put this?". Which is solvable (Another radial menu perhaps?).

If a team looks at the problemspace in more depth, I think that'll be the real difficulty, thinking out in the blue."

When suggested that another ping be removed or even moved around to make room for a new one, Reinboom cautioned:
"That's a consideration that's been passed around quite a bit.
My worry there is that of familiarity.

Anecdotal case: When we were first developing the radial menu, the left and right were actually swapped.
We actually had it internally for nearly 9 months before we released it IIRC (the team prioritized the then new HUD and the item shop above the radial menu so it got set aside for awhile). That's a LOT of time to get familiar to something in play behavior.

Even now, personally, I will accidentally ping as though it was what it used to be because the menu optimized around muscle memory. We flipped it for good reasons, but it's still quite disruptive as an individual.

That's a type of disruption I would rather avoid if possible for other players. Again, muscle memory is super significant here.

That said, a few of us have played with the idea of other types of ping as well. Establishing a different input behavior rather than replacing an existing one could open us up to do more. (And it means we don't let you guys sink in to the muscle memory case in the replacement version)."

Cassiopeia Gameplay Update Discussion

In a thread discussing the upcoming gameplay update for Cassiopeia, Morello stopped in to comment on why exactly Cassiopeia is being changed:
Cassiopeia is a well-known lane bully when she was competitively viable. It may be that in her current state, if Riot were to have buffed her to viability, her lane bully may have resurfaced. In fact, if I am not mistaken, she was recently nerfed on TT because of her power! 
They do reworks to put champions in more tunable positions exactly so they can expand champion versatility. In Cassiopeia's case, they are accomplishing this by making her kit even more thematically consistent than she previously was, so I don't get this outlandish conspiracy claim that Riot is trying to eliminate out-of-the-ordinary champions. Some more examples that Riot supports out-of-the-ordinary:
Very true - Casseopia - WHEN powerful - is a lane bully only. That's why you pick her and what she does. 
While we were doing a little texture update, we had a really fast, low-scope idea to help fix her up and make her into something other than a "remove ability to lane champion" and focus on the other identity she does have; AP super-carry. 
We don't balance around alternate maps. That's why I don't like the idea of more maps, because they erode the game for low benefit. I do think the proper way to FIGHT stagnation and staleness is to add identities to "why do I pick this champion instead of X?" Cass's low-scope changes are an attempt to address that, as opposed to "I take her to beat the shit out of people when they can't fight me."

Ascension Feedback

In a thread where a summoner was comparing the upcoming Ascension featured gameplay mode to Dominion and offering his feedback, L4T3NCY popped in to give context on a few of the decisions they made for ASCENSION.
"Heya dude. ^_^/ Your Wukong was real. GG.

Thanks for this well articulated post, and it's super cool to see you guys are digging some of the Ascension specific mechanics. So I'm not equipped to speak directly to your Dominion queries, but I can certainly add extra context to your Ascension ones and give you an idea of what we're thinking. Onwards!


Levels and gold:
The current iteration has way too much passive gold gain. 5/s is a little high considering in a 20 minute game you will be level 15-16 with 12k. The gold gen needs to be lowered or XP buffed to compensate. Currently champions with gold will scale alot faster while champions who scale with levels will be hurting. If this is try to help endgame champs like ADC's who scale with gold it wont, because while they can get more items champions like Talon/Jayce/Fizz/Jarvan/Yasuo/Jax are all getting more gold and will be better off.
We laboured for a long time over finding the right balance here. As you pointed out, different champions spike in power with Gold and/or XP at different times. This is true even on SR (arguably the map to which most balancing is aimed at). So no matter what numbers we settled on for Ascension, particular champions would be just hitting their sweet spots in comparison to others. The current Gold / XP has most players finishing around Lv17 with 5 items and building their 6th for an average 20min game. This still gives players room for close to max item builds and guarantees the Lv3 ultimate for everyone. We've found this leads to maximum fireworks, which is what we're looking forward to the most in Ascension.


Add the "Resource Regen Aura" in:
AP champions already struggle slightly on Dominion even with the mana buff (hence Athenes/Morello rush). Champions like Shyvana/Renekton/Tryn will suffer even more. As a normal Dominion player it felt horrible sitting oom and having to bail from fights to run to relics (speaking of, bottom right relic is misplaced and doesnt spawn on the platform). In a game mode focused purely on PvP having the extra regen cant hurt.
Ascension is not Dominion, so I see little need for parity between experiences here. With the shorter life expectancy and being unable to return home to shop, the "Resource Regen Aura" would just exacerbate abuse cases for sustain/poke champs. Even if we did include one, ala Dominion, you're unable to go back and shop, meaning power creep from itemised enemies would shortly pile up and end your run anyway. Anecdotal data so far also suggests that Shyvana and Renekton have been doing VERY well in Ascension. Those bruisers. :)

Featured Game Modes often produce certain 'groups' of champions that feel much stronger than others. AP Mages & Poke have had their time in the sun, and I'm excited to see another champion group get their chance to shine. ^.^


Starting gold:
Would it hurt to have the basic Dominion starting gold? It would open up more starting options for items such as Phage/Brut over Boots+ProBlade
Ascension starting gold was set to 1300 as we removed potions and wanted to flatten the difference. Your starting options are still the same. If you really want a Phage/Brut, you can buy mid teleport and still make it in time. :)


Tons of extra gold on top of the massive extra stats you gain from these? I could see them being in if the ascension buff was a tad bit stronger but right now you could easily overkill on some champions with the power those give. Also do these stack with the ascension buff? Granted with levels being lower than they should be for gold gain, you wont be getting a huge amount from it.
I'm yet to see the ichors produce any stunning abuse cases, although it may be that their latent power is yet still uncovered. We'll keep an eye on them.


Scoring system or Personal score:
Thank you. I want this.
We currently have this in Ascension now. Your personal score is always visible in the top right corner of the HUD, or on the far right when hitting TAB. Currently your personal score is:

Ascension Personal score = Objective score (Relics) + Combat score (Kills)"

PAX Prime 2014 LoL Panels

As a bonus, here are recording of both of Riot's panels from last weekend's PAX Prime!

First up is "Deep Dive into Design Depth in LoL", which features Ghostcrawler, Riot Scruffy, Riot Wrekz, FeralPony, and Jag taking a deeper look at design choices in League of Legends.

Next up is the"Reimagining the Community Manager: A Day in the Life of Riot's Community Team" panel, featuring Ilja Rotelli, Christ Heintz, Jordan Schmidt, J Eckert, and Adam Shelter.

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