Red Post Collection: On the Future of Cassiopeia, Singed updates on the way, Preseason discussion, and more!

Posted on at 5:43 AM by Moobeat
Following last nights massive PBE update, this morning's red post collection features Riot Stashu with an update on the future of Cassiopeia and backstory on her rework, discussion on the latest preseason changes, IronStylus on the artistic cohesion of yordles, Meddler confirming on a new Anivia bug in 4.18, and SmashGizmo with info on upcoming Singed updates.
Continue reading for more information!

On the Future of Cassiopeia

Riot Stashu slithered back to the forums to offer summoners a follow up on the recent Cassiopeia rework, a look at where the Serpent's Embrace is headed, and a bit of backstory on the project.

"Hey everyone! Sorry for not having the Cassiopeia discussion on Boards earlier. The discussion on GD has been going pretty strong for a while now, and I've learned a lot from it, but it's definitely about time I brought this over here. (Also, sorry for not posting there in the past week or two).

I'd love to discuss everybody's experience on Cassiopeia since the update, but I think I should first address the concerns about her identity and power level. Also, as it's come up a number of times, I'll include a more detailed background about what inspired this update and how we got to where we are today. It's quite long, so I'll throw that at the end of this post for those of you who are interested.

Let's start with the more pressing issue. On top problems from a balance perspective, Cassiopeia has lost a lot of her poison feel. This is the bigger pain point for most, and we definitely understand where everyone is coming from. Much of what has historically contributed to Cassiopeia feeling like the 'Snake Mage' is her poison DoT's, and, as these have been deemphasized, she's lost some of this -- well, to be more specific, we inadvertently took it away. It was never the intention to strip her Snake Mage identity, but we agree that we've done so in trying to meet other goals with the kit. This has left Cassiopeia in clear need of our attention, and we're really sorry about that.

Further, while she's statistically in line with several other champions in League (Twitch, Lee Sin, Elise), there are still some power concerns regarding her kit. That is, skilled players can take advantage of many of the challenging aspects of these champions' kits in order to overcome their inherent weaknesses (Lee Sin and Elise can overcome their lack of innate tankyness with mobility and cc, and Twitch can overcome his range disadvantage by using his stealth to get in range of his opponents). It has become abundantly clear that on top of being rather difficult to play, Cassiopeia has weaknesses which her kit can't answer. In isolation, this is okay or even good, champions should have clear weaknesses, but they should also have appropriately powerful and relevant strengths. Cassiopeia's strength, her damage, is gated sufficiently that despite how high it can be, it's not contributing enough to overcome her clear and often crippling weakness (namely a combination of range and mobility that just leave her terribly unsafe, particularly in lane).

With all this is mind, the primary reason why we had no changes for 4.18 is that we still haven't fully determined which tools to add to/bolster on Cassiopeia's kit. We know that we can buff her stats to a point where she's strong, but we're spending some extra time to ensure that our changes do everything we want them to (namely, reinforce her Snake Mage identity). We've been moving a bit more slowly than we (and I'm sure all of you) would like, but resources have been a little tight (we have a lot of awesome stuff in the works for pre-season! Coming to pbe soon :D).

That said, I plan on getting some Cassiopeia changes into testing with the target of finalizing them by the next patch or two. Our goals here are to preserve the direction Cassiopeia has gone in (high mechanical skill, combo-casting, late game carry mage), but add back some of the poison feeling that was lost along the way. These changes won't be on the scale of the original update, but we won't be hesitant to change mechanics/abilities more significantly where appropriate. The primary candidate here is Twin Fang-- we're considering having Twin Fang play into the DoT game somehow, perhaps through increasing poison damage to its target. Not sure if this is going to be what we ultimately land on, but that should give you an idea of how we're thinking here.

I know it may feel like we've abandoned or forgotten about Cassiopeia to some degree, but I promise you it's something I think about every day. I'm eager to bring Cassiopeia into a place where people are happy with her, especially those who used to love playing this Champion. While the GD discussion got a bit overwhelming, know that I've read the majority of your feedback and we're trying to figure out how to best respond to the problems you've all helped to identify.

Thanks to everyone who has been raising visibility on and contributing to the discussions surrounding Cassiopeia, and thanks for caring. We'll do our best to make her the best Champion she could be.

Main post: over. Detailed history of the project below for those who are interested. It's really long, so, sorry about that!
Background: Cassiopeia was in line for a texture/art update since she was a bit old-fashioned and could use a little work both in general but also for her appearance as it will fit on the new Summoners Rift. With this in mind, we saw a good opportunity to add some gameplay updates to Cassiopeia, so we decided to look into it and see if she could benefit from any. This led to some deep analysis, and after a lot of discussion, we identified some problems on the kit. Casseopia's damage profile (spamable, high damage, AoE DoT's) made her impossible to balance and fight against when strong and had some readability/satisfaction problems on top of that. Additionally, much of Cassiopeia's kit was nondistinct and, though she was unique in some ways, we felt she could be more interesting than a 'vanilla' mage than she already was.

Hence, our planned changes primarily revolved around identifying and clarifying her identity. Our results: Cassiopeia had good AoE damage, but she wasn't the AoE mage. She also had good control, but she wasn't the control mage. She used damage over time, but she wasn'tthe DoT mage-- Brand, Rumble, Swain, Zyra, Malzahar, and even Mordekaiser compete in many/all of these fields. However, it was quite clear that compared to other mages, Cassiopeia stood nearly alone when it came to consistent DPS output.

Even previously, those who knew her well feared Cassiopeia as the highest damage output mage in the game-- and this occasionally led to some very interesting strategies, even in the competitive scene, like the Yorick/Cassiopeia Zombie-Snake combo. Karthus admittedly was a close competitor here, but we recognized differences between him and Cassiopeia wanted to push them a bit further (have to mention Ryze as well, but his thing is tanky/reliable damage, more than the highest damage possible).

For Cassiopeia, this meant emphasizing her single target damage and her utility surrounding it. On the flip-side, this also meant de-emphasizing her AoE damage (and as a result, her DoT damage). In some ways, we were certainly happy about this, as there are some design problems surrounding the satisfaction/power ratio and readability of DoTs. In others, we were less happy. Poison has been an important part of Cassiopeia's thematic identity, and a part of it that many people have deeply enjoyed, so this direction was dampening that a bit and thus costly in that sense. However, truthfully the poison aspects of her kit were not integral to its gameplay even as it stood before--one could argue that Twin Fang depends on the target being poisined, but her Q/W could just as easily applied a non-poison marker which enabled E-resets and retained nearly identical gameplay. I could imagine a Champion's kit that depends on a thematic poison identity to work with its gameplay (a debuff-focused champion comes to mind), but Cassiopeia would likely have to change dramatically to become this. Our changes here were focused on driving Cassiopeia into a unique area which emphasized many of the things she already was doing, not switching her role entirely.

As a brief aside, I'd like to explain a bit about how why we decided to push Cassiopeia so far in one particular direction-- bare with me for a moment. Consider Cassiopeia, and, side-by-side, consider a nearly identical champion, except one who uses nukes instead of DoTs (imagine all the other mechanics stay the same, like her Q applies a 3 second marker to the target that resets her Twin Fang when it hits them). Do these champions bring anything different to a team? Of course, there are some differences between DoTs and Nukes that would likely result in minor number changes, but, overall these champions would be doing largely the same thing, with largely the same damage. Now consider Cassiopeia again, but with half her damage and twice the crowd control effects, and compare that to a Cassiopeia with twice the damage but no crowd control (forgetting for a moment whether or not these champions would be balanced). These two champions have clear strategic differences, as they bring dramatically different things to a team (in this case, general damage vs general crowd control). As the League roster grows and grows, Champions need to occupy more and more specific niches to be unique, and this general damage vs general crowd control difference is no longer meaningful.

This is the line of thinking that brought us to distilling Cassiopeia to the highest -- single target -- late game -- consistent damage -- mage. This is a particular space that Cassiopeia can maker her own, not shared with any other champion; unlike DoT mage, for example. It does have some differences compared to her pre-update identity, but it comes directly from the unique things about her that we identified and wanted to support. We may not have gotten the numbers right here for her to hit each of these aspects, but that's the goal and we're still working towards it.

Now, there may have been better ways to tie the poison thematic (or more importantly, the DoT feel) into this identity than the ones we landed on (the ones we settled on being certain aspects of her passive and Miasma slowing more). One idea that has arisen both internally and on the forums is something like making E into 'Corrosive Fang:' Deals some minor damage to the target and increases all poison damage to the target by x% for y seconds, stacks up to z times. This wouldn't change her gameplay at all (she would still mark targets with Q/W then hit them with a bunch of E's, and continue to try to land Qs, just as she does now and even before), and thus wouldn't add anything particularly poison-y to it, but it certainly goes some way towards amping up her poison thematics and adding back some poisony feel. While this particular version has some problems, I quite like the goals and direction and it's something I'd like to take a stab at.

In any case, that's a more detailed look into our thought processes and the story behind this update. Hope that helps/explains some stuff!
TLDR; We could meet our goals of keeping Cassioepeia's use case (namely, late game single target mage carry) unique and special while amping up her thematics and making it more of what everyone wants from the Snake Mage. And that's where we're going in the next set up updates!"

Figuring out Yordles

 When asked if the art team is still planing on working on the appearance of yordles as an entire race, IronStylus posted up a few comments about the "Yordle Unification Pass of 2014":
"A while back we stated the Yordle Unification Pass of 2014 (The Y.U.P.). This kicked off with Hiemerdinger. He followed some unintentional design decisions from Ziggs and Lulu. However, at the same time we sat down to do some comparisons of Yordles as a whole and are touching here and there upon a Yordle style guide of sorts. We haven't been able to yet to write in stone any hard and fast rules, but we have gotten general aspects decided upon. Such as Yordles needing actual ANATOMY, not just being potatoes with huge heads. Another touching on how we possibly want to explain the furry/non-furry aspects of some Yordles versus others. We're still scratching our heads on the finer points of that, but we've got the informal ideas settled. 
Either way, as we crunch along, you'll see Yordles becoming more coherent as a race, at least from a visual side of things where the Champion Update team is concerned. There are also larger discussions about background and other narrative stuff, but we deal mostly with visuals obviously. As we crank through these characters you'll see some consistency emerge. We have a couple that are in our sites currently which will be touched on in due time!"

Experimental Preseason Discussion

With the first round of experimental and tentative preseason changes hitting the PBE last night, several designers have been hanging around the forums to discuss and offer additional context on the changes.

Before we dive to far into this, take a look at once of these two posts to catch yourself up on our current round of changes

When asked about the purpose behind the changes to Stat Growth per levelSotere commented:
"Xypherous touched on it in his context a bit. Early level advantages create crazy power swings and we wanted to tone that down slightly. You can still create good opportunities for yourself by leveling up and having access to an extra or stronger spell, but no longer will you simply outstat your opponent(s) to the same degree."

Xypherous also added in
If I'm understanding it correctly, it means that at level 18, you will pretty much have the stats you should. At level one you will be slightly more buff, but each level you gain will grant you a little less in stats, meaning that a difference of level 4 and level 5 does not mean you automatically lose any trade or duel. Later in mid game your levels will give you more stats than usual to make up for the fact that you were getting fewer stats earlier. 
in short it's to reduce snowballing by level advantage.
"Exactly right - this reduces early snowballing by level advantage as levels are far easier to acquire earlier than later. If you can maintain a level lead, being 18 when your opponents are 17 will (relatively) matter more than on live. We've pulled back the really unpopular first kill gold rubberbanding stuff though. 
So, roughly speaking, level advantage from 1-9 is lessened but the harder it is to maintain a level advantage (due to the increase XP requirements per level) the more a level advantage will be worth."
When asked if this was akin to how Dominion and ARAM start champions at a higher level to even out early stat differences, Feral Pony noted:
"Way less extreme than that. Assuming a champion had 500 starting base health and 100 per level under the old system their stat growth would something like this. 
Level - Health
1 - 500
2 - 600
3 - 700
18 - 2200 
The new system might look more like this - 
1 - 550
2 - 625
3 - 700
18 - 2200 
There are a few advantages to this approach, but the biggest one is it allows to curb some of the really crazy snowballing power seen in level advantage from statistics - You'll still gain a ton from levels (lots of stats, new spell etc) but this allows us to keep the laning phase more in check which gave us the opportunity to remove some of the more heavy handed rubberband mechanics we weren't happy with but felt necessary to include like reduced first blood gold. First blood gold will be worth the full 400 gold regardless of how early you get the kill. Murder away!"

When asked about the new vision options in the Wolves smite bonus, new river monster, and the Still Waters powerup and if it is "too much", Xypherous commented:
"It is a lot of vision, but the uptime on these effects vs. the respawn time of these effects generally keep it down. There are periods of time when its down because the thing just hasn't respawned yet."
Sotere also added in:
"This is something we're excited to get feedback on and will be a careful tuning point as we continue testing. The number of ways to gain vision has increased. Gift of the Eagle Eye (Raptor smite reward) counteracts this to some degree by allowing vigilant junglers to remove vision but we're still feeling out the balance."
and Riot Axes also noted:
"There's a lot of vision on the map in the spots you're successfully controlling, which ends up making for more of a map control war through early/mid game than before. You do have to spend a pretty decent amount of time establishing all that vision if you want it - it isn't free (burn your smite on a wolf, spend a while hunting down crab is a lot of vision but also a lot of time spent getting it). 
It's different for sure, but we haven't generally been seeing teams that just have vision everywhere or anything like that unless they have a counterjungler who is just owning the map. And ganks still work."

When asked about the possibility of laners taking smite and investing into the new jungle specific items, Riot Axes commented:
"It's conceivable that a few laners might occasionally take smite with the intent of applying some jungle pressure, and use the item as an added bonus to that strategy, but yeah, I would be pretty surprised if taking Smite just for one of these items was ever worth it. 750 gold and a summoner spell until you spend that 750 gold is a STEEP price to pay, even if the gating is somehow a non-issue."
Xypherous also replied:
"While I don't think that pattern you've described is that good as it means that you essentially start with an item that has no value in lane - there's also the problem that the gank centric smite needs 3 large monster kills for you to be able to target players with it."

As for why the warding passives were removed from jungle items in the current round of preseason changes, FeralPony explained:
"The ability to place wards from the jungle items was a bit overkill with the addition and modification in the smite rewards several of which grant vision in various forms. The trinket system as a whole also goes a long way in covering for this need. 
I don't think anyone is opposed to adding these again if needed. Some of the elements of the older items - feral flare stacking etc could very well sneak back into either the items themselves or into the enchant system. I know it's been a topic of discussion recently. Feedback on what specifically you miss from either a functional or simply a fun perspective is always helpful."

When asked if the new health and mana regeneration changes that shift items from flat regen to % of base regen will merit retuning some champion base statsFeralPony replied:
"The short answer is yes. We'll be doing a pass on health and mana regeneration statistics."

Fun Facts about Diana

In a boards thread discussing different fun facts about champions, IronStylus shared a few about Diana!
"Diana is named so because the name Diana is derived from the Roman goddess of the moon and hunting.

Also! Diana's weapon, the Moonsilver Blade is a "reverse khopesh", making it a stylized scythe, alluding to it being a metaphorical reaping tool, alluding to the harvest, another aspect of the moon.. and also the murder of the Solari elders in her case whom she "reaped". 
Bonus art tidbits! Diana's character design utilizes forms and shape language which are antithetical and opposing of Leona's design language. While Leona's design flairs out in many aspects (the Solari symbol, her crest/crown/faceguards, dress, etc) Diana is comprised of inwardly converging circles or ovals (chest guard, gauntlets, dress, etc). 

Anivia Q bug in 4.18

Meddler swooped into the forums earlier today to comment on a bug in 4.18 that is causing Anivia's to walk into range to cast instead of casting in the desired direction.
"Thanks for the heads up, Anivia moving into range to cast rather than casting in a direction is a bug, not an intended change."
When asked about a similar bug with Kassadin's  E, Meddler noted:
"We're looking into that too at the moment, sounds like it might be the same underlying bug according to the people investigating it."

Upcoming Singed Updates

Here's SmashGizmo with context on a few upcoming changes for Singed, some of which have already hit the PBE!
"Hey guys, SmashGizmo here from the Live Gameplay team, and I'm here to just give you guys a little heads up on some Singed changes coming to PBE soon. We don't think Singed needs a big push to make his way back into the mix in top lane, so we're looking at some small scale changes, both to give him something new and cool to do and to give him a little nudge up in power. The main changes we're looking at here are: 
  • When Singed Flings an opponent into his Mega Adhesive, they are snared for 1 second
  • Slight buff to rank 3 Insanity Potion stats bonus 
The first change is about adding some cool thematic utility to Singed and opening up some big play-making potential when he gets creative with comboing his abilities. We like the core stuff that Singed is doing and we didn't really want to change that too much, but we wanted to give him some new ways to think about his E and W usage and reward players for using them well together. The second change is just a slight nudge up to his late game effectiveness, as Insanity Potion's rank 3 isn't quite as noticeable in the late game as the earlier ranks are in the early-mid game. 
Also, Singed is receiving these kit changes in tandem with some visual updates! The model and textures for all of his skins have been updated, so you can look all spiffy as you run by people and throw them onto disgusting puddles of goo." 

While the gameplay changes aren't up just yet, you can find a better look at the new Singed texture and model updates in over in the 10/9 PBE update coverage!

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