Red Post Collection: Featured Game Modes of 2014, Dark Horses: Top Lane Urgot, Explore Thunderdome, and more!

Posted on at 8:31 AM by Moobeat
This morning's red post collection includes L4T3NCY  with a dev blog on the featured game modes of 2014, Reinboom noting the recently reverted Hunter's Machete PBE changes will return, a Dark Horses article on Top Lane Urgot, a look at Riot's internal Thunderdome event, and much more!
Continue reading for more information!



Table of Contents


The Featured Game Modes of 2014

First up today we have L4T3NCY with a dev blog on the various featured game modes introduced in 2014, including how they were received, what the team learned from them, and more!

"2014 has come and gone, taking with it the creation of seven new featured game modes for League of Legends! Looking back, we had fun making each and every mode, tackling the unique challenges each one presented, and hope you guys had just as much fun playing them. This feels like a good time to look back at 2014’s Featured Game Modes, what we learned from some of them, and how we arrived at a variety of design decisions along the way. But first...

What makes a successful Featured Gameplay Mode? 

This is something we're continuously defining for ourselves as Featured Gameplay Modes evolve. We want to learn from previous modes to help us make even cooler new things, but it's not as simple as just which mode was played the most. What does “the most” even mean? Is it the highest single spike of concurrent players? The game you played for the longest? Modes also need to be unique in some way and not just replace or overwrite themselves and other permanent modes. As we’ve mentioned before, we have a few design pillars that help guide the creation of each mode, but we’d like you to discover new or interesting ways to engage with your favourite champions in League of Legends. We undoubtedly also want you to have FUN! :D 
Then there are modes which produce amazingly cool stuff from you guys in the community that we can't even measure with numbers. How do you measure fun? Or cool streams, videos, comics, fanart (the list goes on)? Sometimes it’s even nice for the mode to help you train in skills (team fights, skill shots) that are transferrable over to SR, but should that be a core pillar? We’ve said before how we like that each Featured Gameplay Mode feels like a wild west of meta for their duration. Anything goes initially and you guys theorycraft cool ideas about the most OP comps and champions for each mode, and surprise us every time. There's always a few sleeper champions that appear who we could NEVER forecast. So healthy champion pick diversity is also good, but is it something we should weigh the success of a mode on? These are all just some of the things we consider when both designing and then weighing an individual mode’s success. 

Why are Featured Gameplay Modes temporary? 

Featured Game Modes are designed from the ground up to be short-term engagement experiences. This transience is what gives us the creative space try new things and see what works, listen to your feedback, then improve a mode before re-releasing it. Trying to build a long-term sustainable game mode would actually constrain us from doing things like Doom Bots, URF, Legend of the Poro King, Ascension, etc. 
The main design concern (which is personally the most important as it = less fun) is that Featured Gameplay Modes are not designed to be long term engagement experiences. They’re designed to make a big splash, with the knowledge they will be removed shortly thereafter. Adding permanency would constrain the design wiggle room we have to make each mode as unique as possible. As we’ve since learned, it would also add additional balance and maintenance costs that we’ll share some examples of later in this retro. For now though, let’s get into the modes!

Hexakill

2014 started with a Featured Game Mode meta changeup. With the original Hexakill, we wanted to try exploring a new space that modes hadn’t really touched yet at that point. The end result was the closest we’d ever brushed up against the ‘regular Summoner’s Rift meta’, but with the twist of an extra player. Our goal was to still preserve the feel of Summoner’s Rift, but change up how you interacted with your champion and played within the map’s meta.

Ultra Rapid Fire (URF)

Originally planned as an April Fool’s Day joke intended only to last one day, we were blown away by the response Ultra Rapid Fire received. Based on the response from players around the world in multiple regions and languages, we extended the length of the mode (twice). Who doesn’t like making more plays?! URF also taught us a fantastic lesson about the novelty of game modes over time and the cost of ongoing maintenance. 
Featured Gameplay Modes have been shown to taper off in popularity sharply after a short period of time. People often forget that URF actually broke our golden rule of not touching Featured Gameplay Modes post-launch, but to try and keep it from becoming stale in the face of wildly toxic champion play patterns, we did anyway. And yet, despite our consecutive on the run tweaks to keep URF treading water balance-wise, we still saw the same declining engagement and burnout that we see with other modes. That doesn’t mean players don’t have a blast with each mode like this before they fade away. However, being designed as a can of whoopass in the first place ultimately means that the flame burns twice as bright and half as long. And that’s okay!

One For All: Mirror Mode

The original One For All was one of more heavily played modes we made in 2013. Before it was even released though, some enterprising players hacked their clients and were hosting ad-hoc games of One For All on Howling Abyss. After the mode’s first outing on Summoner’s Rift, many players heavily requested that we bring the mode back on Howling Abyss to replicate their ad-hoc games, so we got to work on the resurrection. In the end, One For All: Mirror Mode may have lost a lot of the strategic choice of Summoner’s Rift (naturally absent on Howling Abyss where your only option is to “push”). By homogenising both teams into the same champion, we also lost the nuance in gameplay between two champion’s kits. Engagement with the mode proved out that this maybe wasn’t the best experiment, but that’s what learning is for! 
We also learned a lesson about the cost of resurrecting a mode. Each time we bring a mode back, along with any improvements or additions we might want to make, time has to be spent QA'ing it against the latest patch release (one of the costs of having a game that evolves constantly). For example: The original One For All required about 80 champions to be hand edited to work with the mode's mechanics. When we wanted to bring it back as One For All: Mirror Mode, about 35 champions had changed since the last time (yay champ updates and improvements!) which required another whole round of editing, plus entirely new champions had been released. If we ever made a mode permanent, we’d need to weigh the impact this would have on the ability to create new modes VS maintaining existing modes. 
The map change isn’t always necessary though. Sometimes smoothing over the experience and some bug fixes could generate the original experience we were looking for. URF would be nice simply to not have 9 champions disabled. It always depends on the mode.

Doom Bots of Doom

The idea of building some ‘absurdly challenging’ AI bots had come up before, so when the AI team was updating what are now the intermediate bots, we saw a chance to do a cool collaboration with them. The Doom Bots of Doom became the first PvE mode we’d ever done, and it they were pretty fun to make. Unlike other modes though, the Doom Bots were extremely content heavy, as we hand-crafted 15 alternate kits (not mentioning the ones that got thrown out). It ended up being super rewarding though, watching player’s reactions the first time they see Doom Lux ult or try and 1v1 a Doom Galio or Doom Malzahar. As a bit of trivia, the Doom Bot with the highest winrate on 5 bombs actually turned out to be Doom Amumu. Too many tears.

Ascension

The goal of Ascension was to highlight the Shurima event and bring gameplay to some of the reigning lore themes like “power corrupts”. We wanted a scrappy, team deathmatch kind of feel right from the start, and it took some crazy prototypes before we landed on the right mix. In response to players asking for more ways to express their skill level visually, we also experimented with the Perfect Ascension icon; a true challenge mode icon rewarding exceptional play. For those of you who did earn it, it’s one of the rarest summoner icon’s in all of league. 
The making of Ascension has been discussed before in quite a bit of detail with a dev blog, which can be found here.

Hexakill: Twisted Treeline 

After the first outing of Hexakill and the warm reception it received, we felt like it was a good candidate to bring back. As with One For All: Mirror Mode though, we don’t want to just resurrect the exact same mode from last time. We wanted to turn up the volume on the design goals of the original Hexakill (being to shake up how you think about and execute on established meta on a given map). That led us to port the mode over to the Twisted Treeline. This is a good example of how we want to improve modes each time before we re-release them. 
What do you mean by “improve a mode before re-releasing it”? 
It depends on the mode, but it’s always heavily informed by player feedback. In the case of Hexakill, we wanted that exaggeration of the original design intention. Hexakill on SR just wasn’t different enough; going from 5 to only 6 players didn’t really make you change the way you played that much. Twisted Treeline felt much higher impact because we were essentially doubling the player count on the map.

Legend of the Poro King

Don’t worry, he lives on... inside of YOU! *little tear* Legend of the Poro King was seeking to change the way players thought about combat on the Howling Abyss. That we were able to introduce everyone to the grandest most splendiferous King of all the Poro’s himself was just an added bonus. 
I want to call out the Poro Toss summoner spell here as well, which gave an across-the-board bump in viability to some historically unpopular picks. Even with picking your champs, engage from the Poro Toss summoner spell was able to wing clip the power of some notoriously strong Howling Abyss champs. It was an overall healthier experience, seeing good champion diversity and lots of big plays.
^_^o
L4T3NCY"
When asked why a popular game mode like URF can not be a permanent addition to the game but the  capture the point game mode Dominion is still around, ZenonTheStoic chimed in:
"I think this is a very good question. Mostly it comes down to expectation setting: we rolled Dominion out as a permanent mode and promised our players it'll always be there. Also the amount of effort that went into Dominion -- fully animated new map, new capture types, new win conditions -- easily outstripped the effort or making a mode. That said, was it the right choice back in the day to launch Dominion as a permanent new mode? The perception was very much that there was demand for a new mode, but the problem with that is there is often demand for things that won't have legs. I think if we were faced with the decision again, we would have put Dominion into a rotation as a game mode. But there's way too much history and a small but strong community now. There's no way we'd remove it now."

Meddler on Blitzcrank

When asked if there are plans floating around to rework Blitzcrank or any balance changes in the immediate future, Meddler replied:

"We don't have any plans for a Blitz rework, we think he's in a good spot overall. Wouldn't mind making his W a little more interesting and giving him a little more interaction with his R passive someday, those are opportunities we might get to sometime rather than problems though. 
Balance wise he might be a little strong right now, we're keeping an eye on him but don't have any immediate plans at least."

Hunter's Machete PBE Changes Reverted but Returning

Following yesterday's reverts to the tentative Hunter's Machete changes (increased regen when champion is below 50% HP) introduced earlier this PBE cycle, Reinboom confirmed on twitter that the changes will return for more testing in the future:
"[1] It will return. We didn't finish testing the numbers thoroughly enough (we're being very careful with this) and we would like.. 1/2
[2]..to do some tweaks to all the upgraded machete lines."

Dark Horses : Top Lane Urgot 

Next up is Luqi with the latest in Dark Horse article series, which takes a look at unconventional or overlooked champions in certain roles.  Let's examine Urgot in the top lane!
"In the previous installments of Dark Horses, we covered Jungle Irelia and Support Brand. Now it’s time to go to the top and bomb your enemies with poison and rockets with Urgot, the Headsman's Pride.

Urgot's abilities are key

Urgot's strengths are largely due to the great ways his abilities complement each other. If Noxian Corrosive Charge (his E) hits its target, his Q will lock onto and hit his victim automatically. If Urgot pops his W on top of that, he'll also apply a slow. Once Urgot hits level 6, he can use his ultimate to give himself additional magic resistances and armor while swapping positions with his enemy, which means he can trade damage really well. Also, Urgot's mana usage is fairly low when he's in "passive farming mode," in part because his Q refunds half its cost when he last-hits a minion with it, making it easier to farm safely from a distance. This means when Urgot's against a tough matchup in lane, he still has ways to keep up. If Urgot has an advantage in lane, he's got a lot of tools to make his opponent have a hard time.

Win trade, win lane, win game

Urgot has the power to bully his enemies around during the laning phase, mostly because his passive reduces an enemy's damage by 15%, which helps him win trades and makes last-hitting harder for his opponent. Against melee champions, Urgot can easily land his W+E+Q+Q combo for big damage, and his shield will also give him the necessary resistance to trade damage safely. While this ends up beingvery mana intensive (more on that in the tradeoffs section!), Urgot is still very strong against squishy targets, and his ultimate can put an enemy under an ally tower or make a gank easier for his jungler.

When do I pick Urgot top?

In general, Urgot is especially strong against squishy or melee enemies; he can use his ranged attacks to zone his opponent out of farm and experience, and he has the potential in early levels to go for an all-in trade at level 3-4 due to his high damage, or at level 6 when his ult will grant him the necessary resistances to engage. He does rely on Summoner Spells like Ghost and Flash to help him reach his targets, so if his team is on board for aggressive initiation and picks he'll be better off grabbing these over Ignite and Teleport.

(Re)building Urgot

Even though Urgot is an excellent bully, he needs some offensive items to really make a difference in the mid-game phase – Armor Penetration and Attack Damage are his key stats. Considering his recentchanges, Manamune/Muramana can give you the power you need and also improve the power of your shield. Black Cleaver also helps a lot by granting you Armor Pen and CDR, allowing you to spam abilities to do a nice amount of damage. 
Once you hit the mid-game phase, his power declines and he becomes kind of fragile, so in order to stay relevant and set up engages using his ult, build defensive items like Randuin's Omen or Frozen Heart to help Urgot engage/disengage and kite, or even a Sunfire Cape or Spirit Visage.

Breaking Urgot down

I know you're all excited to take Urgot to the top, but before you queue up for your first game, let's go over some of the challenges he'll run into up there.
  • Lack of sustain in the laning phase: Even though Urgot is mana-efficient while farming and his shield can deny tons of damage, if he loses too much health it will be really hard to stay in the lane because none of his abilities will help him get it back. Additionally, if Urgot spams too many abilities trying to harass his opponents, he may run out of mana very quickly.
  • Lack of movement speed: Urgot also has limited mobility, making him an easy target for ganks or hard-engages. His ult also has a short range at level 6, making it harder to follow up on team fights or picks if his Flash or Ghost are down.
  • Needs the right team: Urgot benefits heavily from a team that can aid him in getting to the enemies faster or follow up on his engages (Morgana, Zyra, Annie, Syndra and Lissandra) or from poke-heavy partners like Xerath, Caitlyn, Zilean and Janna. 
Got your own Urgot tips or other Dark Horse picks? Share them in the comments!"
Not in the mood for the UrGOD? Check out the previous Dark Horses articles

LeBlanc Clone WILL DANCE

In a reddit thread requesting that Tibbers should dance when Annie dances, Vesh replied to a poster instead asking if LeBlanc's passive clone could be made to dance when she dances:
"this can be done.... i will see if i have some free time later. no promises though hehe." 
He later posted an update that he had got it hooked up and working:
"Ok, this now works for all of her emotes. This won't be in the next patch but in the one after that. 
Pics:"

As for making Tibbers dance and emote when Annie does, Vesh noted that would be a more involved process and not one he thinks will happen:
"i just did it over lunch. leblanc already has emote animations so it was pretty trivial to just listen for them and then play that same animation on the clone (since the model/rig is literally the same). 
tibbers doesn't actually -have- a dance anim though, so it would take an animator taking a much larger amount of time to make one. animators' time is pretty tight as it is so I'm not sure if that one will be able to happen unfortunately :(."
When asked if he could do the same for Shaco and his R's clone, Vesh added:
"give an inch... 
just kidding. i will see if i can find another free lunch time for that one"

Explore Thunderdome: Riot's Play on a Hackathon

Riot has posted up a promotion page and set of videos highlighting Thunderdome, an internal event where Riot's split up into teams and work on whatever sort of project they can imagine for three days. The stylish page includes several videos and stories detailing things that have been born out of the Thunderdome over the years, including ARAM as a supported game type.

Check it out for yourself here: http://thunderdome.riotgames.com/


In the corresponding reddit thread on the new promotional page, Riot Gradius explained:
"This is all about a hackathon at Riot that we run every so often. Rioters are given about 3 days to create a project that they're passionate about. This is everything from new maps/gamemodes to internal tools that we think could help make a Rioter's life easier. 
Lots of the stuff seen at Thunderdome never sees the public, but some things are iterated on for actual public release. This is all about working on cool projects for our players and for Rioters. 
It's intended to help explain a cool part of working at Riot for those that are going through the application process (hence the link to our careers page at the end). :)"

When asked if everyone works in teams or if people can work on solo projects during this Thunderdome, Riot Gradius noted:
"Myself and many others actually use this as a chance to work with people that we don't typically get to work with. Meeting people outside your discipline helps increase your work contacts, and teaches you new things :D 
Projects can be teams of any size though, and I've seen some cool things come out of 1 and 2 person teams."
ZenonTheStoic also chimed in:
"You could, but that's no fun! People propose projects (anyone can propose anything!) and lists are sent round. You can sign up for any of one these projects. You either huddle in the big meeting room you saw with all the screens (that's the Urf Memorial Cafeteria) or you grab a meeting room which you then live in for the weekend. 
Almost nothing ever sees the light of day, but that's fine! I was in a team that made a pretty fun card game based on League at one point. Some things DO see the light of day--I think the biggest is ARAM, which started as a thunderdome project."
Danker also added:
"Participating in Thunderdome is completely optional. It would be antithetical to the spirit of Thunderdome otherwise. We strive for it to be a cool enough experience that Rioters want to participate. Even if folks don't join a team to create something, we still have a "science fair" at the end where all the teams get to show off their awesome creations. Most Rioters end up showing up for that because the want to check out all the cool stuff that was created."
As one keen eye redditor noticed, Rioters playing a LoL modded version of Super Smash Brothers can also be seen in one of the videos! Riot Vesh commented on the mod, saying:
"that mod was mine and seb's baby. 
unfortunately i think there would be some problems if any of that got out, but mannn was it fun to do _. 
modding that game is hard."

Debonair Galio not being released in 5.6

After being held back from a 5.5 release for improvements, Debonair Galio will also not be released in patch 5.6.

Here's Riot KateyKhaos with the confirmation on twitter:
"Debonair Galio won't be in Patch 5.6 (Sorry for the wait!)"

Can Malzahar's R give Vision?

In response to a boards thread suggesting that Malzhar's R should grant vision of the target it is supressing, Meddler noted:
"Quote
Im not quite sure why it doesn't since it would make sense both gameplay-wise and thematic-wise. It has actually cost me a few kills where i would have killed them if i could see them. Im basically tethered to them so it doesnt really make much sense why it shouldnt allow him to see them. Even if its only him gaining sight, it should still do it. Its a problem i have had for awhile i just keep forgetting to post about it haha.
Good suggestion, we'll try that out."

Thoughts on a Component item for Essence Reaver

Following the introduction of Bami's Cinder as a "baby" Sunfire Cloak and new component item in patch 5.5, Khoopa popped onto the boards to comment on the idea of adding more of these sort of items - particularly a "baby" version of less then popular Essence Reaver:
"Quote:
Riot, you added a baby sunfire - And that's cool! Have you considered adding a baby Essence Reaver?
One of the concepts that the systems team is kicking around is the idea of having more mid-tier components with baby "insert scalable mechanic here". Bami's Cinder is a, imho, successful product of that. I don't want to steal her thunder, but Reinboom is trying some neat on-hit oriented stuff with Recurve Bow that I hope will work out too. 
That said, I think there is merit to the idea of a baby essence reaver, but there are more fundamental challenges to making that item feel good. Part of what a baby ER does is smooth out its build path - one of the issues I have with ER is the lack of mana regen on the way to the main event. 
Then the challenge is, well, is baby ER to ER good enough (ie, is going from lesser mana on hit to less lesser mana on hit)? Maybe not, but we can investigate making ER have more interesting and masterable gameplay. 
The fundamental question that lords all ER's is whether unlocking mana gates with baby ER is something we want for the game. That, we need to debate more internally about."

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