Red Post Collection: Dev Blog on Data & Champion Balance, FeralPony & Zenonthestoic roundups, and more!

Posted on at 6:07 AM by Moobeat
This morning's red post collection includes  a dev blog on data and champion balance, round ups for FeralPony and ZenonTheStoic, results from the recent Riot API Challenge 2.0, and more!
Continue reading for more information!

Table of Contents

Data and Champion Balance – Part 1 

First up today we have Riot Jules with part 1 of a dev blog series on how Riot uses the data available to them to balance champions, including power, win rate, play rate, and ban rate.
"Succeed while playing what you want 
Hey everyone! I’m Jules and I help the balance team leverage data to make smart changes to the game. I wanted to offer some insight into how we evaluate champion balance and discuss the nuances of power, win rate, play rate, and ban rate. Getting started: our primary goal is to empower you to succeed with any champion. When you’re picking a champion, ideally, that decision is agnostic of power. Situationally, some champions will always be stronger than others due to team compositions, synergies, and counterpicks - all of these are an integral part of League of Legends. All else equal, our philosophy is you shouldn’t feel compelled to pick a champion because it’s OP.

Power is destroying the enemy nexus 
Power is the degree to which a champion is capable of winning. Champions might specialise in late game scaling or teamfights or pentakills or objective control, but those are simply tools to achieve the primary objective: destroying the enemy Nexus. Power is not constant. In a given game, it is a function of the champions being played and the skill of the players with those champions. Kog’Maw isn’t powerful in every situation, but he’s incredibly powerful with the correct team composition in the hands of skilled players. Just as one could use KDA to measure a champion’s ability to score kills and avoid death, we leverage win rate as one way to measure a champion’s ability to win, or power.

50% doesn’t mean balanced 
If a champion’s power is analogous to true accuracy, a champion’s win rate is akin to empirical accuracy. Win rate is the probability of winning given the current ecosystem of champions and players. It tells us something about the power of the champion (powerful champions are more likely to win), but it alsotells us something about the skill of the player (skilled players are more likely to win). More powerful champions tend to have higher win rates, but win rate is an imperfect measure of power because it’s conflated with player skill. We can validate this by observing that a champion’s win rate tends to drop during the free-to-play rotation, due to an influx of inexperienced players. One implication of this is that champions can be balanced above or below 50% win rate. According to our data, only a fraction of Azir players are highly skilled with him, so we expect his win rate to be sub-50% in a balanced state. Conversely, a large proportion of players playing Heimerdinger are die-hard mains, so we expect his win rate to be above 50%.

We balance around skillful play 
We take into account the impact of changes at all levels of play, but that doesn’t mean we pretend all players fit one mold. Skilled players make decisions with greater information and execute on those decisions with greater precision. We’re comfortable saying that we look closely at these players to best understand the metagame and balance of League of Legends. We believe balancing around a skillfully - but not perfectly - played game creates the best competitive experience for everyone. It also encourages mastery. Sure, Twisted Fate is challenging to play, but as we better learn his kit, we realize what he’s capable of and start pulling off crazy plays. It feels good and makes the investment well worth it.

It’s not a popularity contest 
Play rate is the likelihood a champion is picked in an individual game. If players were robots that optimized only on winning, play rate would be highly indicative of power. In reality, players care about winning, but they also care about having fun and playing what appeals to them. Ahri is more appealing than Urgot for most players, so we expect Ahri to be more popular than Urgot. Play rate trends can teach us something about power, but the signal is blurry. We also care about champion variety (e.g. not seeing Jinx every game), but one of our tenets is to avoid sacrificing balance just to promote variety. In other words, we won’t nerf champions just because they’re popular and we won’t buff champions just because they’re unpopular.

We keep an ear to the ground 
Listening is another way we evaluate balance. When everyone is complaining about Nidalee, we don’t act rashly, but we do refocus our attention. While it doesn’t replace reading the boards or communicating directly, ban rate does complement anecdotal evidence with a more objective lens. One caveat of ban rate is that it is highly influenced by play rate. Even if Rumble is strong, he’s probably not worth a ban if the opposing team is unlikely to pick him. As a rule of thumb, optimal ban strategy (i.e. the strategy that maximizes your probability of winning) is to ban champions that are both high win rate and high play rate. In reality, ban rate is not only a function of win rate and play rate, but also of perception of power, transparency of power, frustration, and risk-aversion. A few months ago when LeBlanc held the title of most banned, she was a suboptimal ban outside of Master/Challenger. Janna, statistically one of the best bans in the game, was banned in less than 1% of games. With that understanding, we keep a close eye on ban rates but don’t let them single-handedly drive balance decisions.

We’re players too 
Data matters, but it’s only one part of the equation. Believe it or not, we play League of Legends too. We feel it just as quickly as you when Skarner is in every game and, more importantly, winning every game. We want a fun and balanced game not just because it’s our job but because we’re players. We acknowledge we’re human and susceptible to a plethora of cognitive biases. That’s exactly why we leverage information from all angles. Ultimately, everything we do is an effort to make League of Legends the most fun it can be. In the next dev blog, Jag will discuss how we examine champion balance from a design perspective."
Following the article, several Rioters popped on the boards and reddit for more discussion!

When asked about the articles statement of "All else equal, our philosophy is you shouldn’t feel compelled to pick a champion because it’s OP." and recent reworks, Meddler replied:
"Having power not be a factor in why you pick a champion is one of our goals. We won't always get it right, but it is something we aim for. 
Exactly what 'balanced' should mean is also a tricky topic. Balanced for pro play, such as Worlds, will sometimes be different to balanced for regular play (e.g. champions that strongly reward teams that have played together a lot and are on voice comms). Similarly a champion that's balanced for high tier ranked (which is what we most often focus balance on) may be noticeably stronger at less experienced levels of play (e.g. Garen or Amumu) or too weak (e.g. Azir or Le Blanc)."
Meddler continued:
Balanced means not having one champion have 10000 overall dmg while the other has 1000 and same other stats, whats so tricky about comparing two numbers
If the goal is to make things that are exactly equal, then yeah, I'm with you that balance is easy. When it comes to hard to compare effects on the other hand, particularly when some are much more powerful in certain circumstances than others, it gets quite a bit more difficult. Comparing the value of Rek'Sai's tremor sense in organized 5s versus Silver solo queue for example gives two really different outcomes. It's a lot more valuable in organized 5s, what does that mean for the overall balance of the character? Heimer's turrets by contrast wreck a lot of players pretty hard in solo queue until a certain skill level, but then fall off massively in effectiveness against a team of skilled players, particularly when that team moves and coordinates well as a group."
Pwyff also commented on the idea of OP vs UP, noting:
"Underpowered is a relative term. One thing Jules doesn't get into here (or Jag in the next dev blog) is the power of perception.

A lot of people will say that up to maybe low Diamond, the champions you select and play with can all perform competitively. The live team is actively opposed to relegating champions deliberately to an underpowered status, and their changes are almost always focused on bringing some degree of fairness (through our design values) to a kit.

That sounds like a very convoluted way of saying "get good," but it's really not. Perception drives champion strength - your confidence in your champion's ability to perform drives champion strength in very real ways. We often bring up the anecdote about the time we told everyone we nerfed Vlad's W but didn't check in any objective balance changes, and Vlad's win rate went down. You can see it's a careful balancing act between perception and objective champion strength."
FeralPony also popped up to discuss the idea of buffing strengths and highlighting weaknesses when it comes to balance:
"I'm the design lead of the balance team and can speak a bit to this. In general our philosophy has been in line with this approach of accentuating strengths and weaknesses of champions over the last half year or so I've been on team. 
The Azir nerfs I know are controversial but the nerfs we've done have mostly been along this line of highlighting weaknesses. We didn't touch his ability to create towers, we didn't touch his effective range, or his insane soldier stabbing damage. We mostly chose to highlight his weaknesses (being dove on, catching up with him etc). 
We want champions to have pronounced strengths and pronounced weaknesses and you'll be seeing us continue down this road from all the gameplay teams (Systems, New Champions, Balance etc). It's not perfect and it's not the only thing we care about, but we think it's really valuable in both the short and long term. We'd rather have champions that are simultaneously really strong and really weak if you can play with them/around them, than champions that are jack of all trades with no real strengths or weaknesses. We feel this is really important to the long term health of the game and help highlight why you'd want to pick up any given champion over others." 
FeralPony also elaborated on ban rates, commenting:
"Design Lead of the Balance Team here. The way you describe how we should ban rates is exactly the way we do use ban rates. We never take ban rates at face value because the information without context isn't useful for a variety of reasons. There are different types of bans like you mention - frustration bans (Leblanc), win rate bans (Skarner), meta bans, and even bans based off pro play visibility or regional differences.

Blitzcrank and pre-rework Fiora are examples of champions who have often had drastically different ban rates based on server. Often going from close 0% ban rate in one region to 100% ban in another, which makes balancing around ban rates nearly impossible globally.

In addition the type of champion in question plays a huge role in their ban rate. (Assassins and Junglers get banned way more than Supports or ADCs). Bans also often have heavy elements of group think and as a result there tend to be a set group regardless of game balance or patch that are consistently banned. As a result you end up with a very biased lens of champion balance and even perception of balance just off of ban rate.

Lastly there is also the fact that someone is always going to get banned. There will always be bans in every ranked game of League of Legends, so the question isn't "What do we do if someone gets banned?" the question becomes "Why is this champion getting banned?" and "Do we need to take action?""

Meddler on Veigar

When asked about the teams current thoughts on Veigar's power level in competitive play, Meddler commented they are keeping an eye on him although no plans to nerf just yet.
@Riot: What are your thoughts on Veigar in LCS 
Very simple and to the point, Veigar is seen as too good or is he in a good spot as he seems to be a niche pick depending on what the enemy team has.
Would love to know what everyone thinks.
Doesn't seem excessively strong in pro play, is looking like he might be too strong in regular play though. Suspect we'll have to nerf him at some point soonish as a result if that trend continues, though we don't have plans lined up just yet at least."

Shaco QoL Discussion

Meddler also jumped into a discussion on Shaco, commenting there is no rework in the works despite previous comments and responding to a few quality of life suggestions:
I'm looking for info on the Shaco rework. Shaco's my most played, best, and favorite champion and I'm really hoping all this talk about a rework is just speculation. Is there any solid proof that he's being looked at? If so, what exactly are their plans for him? ETA on an announcement date? Do they plan on focusing on his AD assassin style or his AP anti-engage style? Anything? The only info I can find is random people on the boards saying he's slated for a rework.
We don't have a Shaco rework in progress at the moment, or one scheduled. We did have some opportunistic, experimental work being done a couple of years ago, that didn't hit the mark however so it got shelved. 
As far as your suggestions below go adding a visible timer for Shaco to the clone seems like a good and easy to implement idea, I'll pass that one on tomorrow, see if there's anything stopping us throwing it into an upcoming patch. Changes to things like spell effect application, fear behavior, monster blind etc by contrast are still reasonable suggestions, but things that would need to be part of a larger piece of work which at least at the moment we're not in a position to prioritize (primary focus right now's on preseason stuff). Also some game health issues with Shaco we'd need to work on, or conclude were acceptable costs, before we'd be happy adding any power to him."
He continued:
Awesome! Good news all around. I do have to ask though, the one thing you avoided bringing up is his clone getting any visual buffs that Shaco currently has, things like Red, Blue, and Baron buff. I understand the other things would be giving Shaco free power, but I don't think that'd be the case for adding the visuals to the clone. There would still be many ways to tell the difference, clicking on either Shaco or the Clone will still tell you which is which, the real one will still have the buff 'Hallucination' and the fake would still lack it and any other buffs, the fake one still won't be able to cast spells, and the real one will still always appear facing in the same direction he was facing when the spell was cast. It just seems silly that champions like Shaco, Wukong, and Leblanc are basically punishing themselves for getting red, blue, and baron.
Hmm, there are some technical issues that make duplicating all the buffs and debuffs from Shaco on the clone tricky. Special casing the appearance of red, blue and baron buff's should be pretty straightforward though. I'll look into that, and see what's up with the Hallucination buff if that's showing up (can't see a reason it should). Facing giving away which is which is also something it should be possible to at least improve too."

Frost Queen's Item Line Discussion

When asked about the Frost Queen's Claim item line compared to the other two support item lines, Meddler commented  to explainit's role in itemization:
Any chance this unneeded "support" item is going to be removed? or at least changed so that Burst/Lategame mages wont be able to abuse it like they do now?
No, we don't have any plans to remove the Frost Queen's line of items. They help various casters, usually more damage focused ones, to work as duo laners supporting an ADC. Thats something we feel's good for the game, in terms of the sort of lane match ups it enables and variety of play experiences it offers. If all we were seeing were aggressive kill lanes then I'd agree there was a problem we should be fixing. Champions with high utility and team assisting kits are something it's great to see get played. We don't feel we should be forcing everyone that doesn't fit that description out of the support position though, it's a spot that can healthily include a range of classes (most commonly tanks, mages, tanky supports or caster supports)"

FeralPony Ask.Fm Round Up

FeralPony has also been busy answering more questions on his! Here's a round up of the recent answers:
[LinkWho do you think is the "riskiest" champion to rework, in the sense that it needs a rework but the playerbase is so much attracted to the live representation that might not like many changes? I think it is Kayle: her E is nice early-mid game but then becomes a dumb E spam but people like her ranged 
I think Fiora recently was an example of a risky rework. Gameplay-wise I think she really needed the work and I think the end result was really solid (despite her being OP on post-hotfix release) but the difficulty comes more in communicating the priority rather than the result. While the work was nowhere near in scope to similar appearing larger-scale reworks, I think it's a tough sell to many players why the team prioritized her over a number of other champions. 
I feel the riskiness of reworks are less about players being attached to the current version and more about does this champion make sense to rework before some of the longstanding ones that also need help (Poppy, Yorick etc). 
As for Kayle specifically using this mindset she doesn't really tip my radar as being risky. While not visually offensive, her visuals are really out of date by today's standards. Creatively I think she needs a small hook other than "Angel?" and gameplay-wise she's okay but certainly not as cool as she could be.

[LinkAbout a month ago, you explained that hard CC on items runs into counterplay concerns when you can just chain it forever with your own CC. But don't heals and shields have the same problem when stacked by multiple allied champions? 
An overabundance of shields and heals certainly can be oppressive as seeing all your effort and damage undone can give the player a feeling of powerlessness. The main thing stopping healing from being too overbearing that is that their direct counter (damage) is an easy mechanic to stack and can be done regardless of team composition (except maybe the rare Sona, Taric, Soraka, Nami, and Alistar comp). 
In addition we tend to tune healing numbers very low even for our super healers (ex- Soraka). Each of our supports can do a decent amount of damage, even low damage supports like Taric and Sona have a good amount of burst damage, especially with a little AP, the same stat they need to amplify their healing. By making these champions damage scale with their healing it helps us keep fights moving forward and avoiding all out healfests. 
Our other primary forms of mitigation, lifesteal/spellvamp and shields each have their own gating mechanisms. Shields are temporary and vamp requires you to deal damage to heal. These mechanics keep the fight from moving backwards, one team is always going to be attrition-ed down over time. 
The other issue with CC stacking is just generally the long term loss of control of your champion in a fight is really frustrating and tends to lead to very unexciting fights where the receiving player doesn't feel they could have played it any better for a better result.

[LinkIs there a champ that you think needs a rework, but is healthy enough right now it isn't a priority? 
I still think they should be focusing on the high priority champs like Poppy, and I don't have much to do with the update team project selection but my personal wishlist in no particular order of low priority champs I'd love to see an update on. 
Xin Zhao
[LinkMaybe I can rephrase (ban question 5%) What I meant is, isn't it frustrating to rework a champion only to see it perma-banned across all elos? I fell like it defeats the purpose of reworking when you want something to be viable, and it's hardly ever used.‎ 
Kinda, it does make it difficult to get feedback on the changes and know how to iterate if the champion is permanently benched. There is also a psychological effect that happens where perception can snowball out of control on how strong a champion is just by a high banrate. Historically we've often seen bans linger on champions way longer than the champion was worth banning. I feel Garen is an example of a champion in that spot currently.

The nice thing is that once a champion stops getting banned as frequently a lot of people try and pick up the champion which does get you, as the designer, a lot of additional feedback and exposure which you can use to make good decisions moving forward.

[LinkSo, you guys are happy with how the reworked champions are permanently picked or ban even at LCS? 
Yes and No. We're generally not happy when any champion is 100% pick/ban in professional play, so on that angle no, we're not super thrilled. On the flip side there some things I'm excited about.
I'm excited to see a lot of the champions that historically have been viewed as never professional viable in pro games, and teams playing around their distinct strengths and weaknesses and the games with these champions are much more dynamic than excited. I'm also excited to see teams go without a Marksman and be able to win and still claim objectives.
Aside from the perma pick/bans I'm also excited by the general champion diversity across world's so far. They've been really fun games to watch, and I'm really excited to see how much closer the games are this season. Professional esports and players/organizations have really improved over the last year.

[LinkDarius has been almost 100% pick-or-ban at Worlds so far. BUT his actual performance has been really lackluster, losing more often than not. How has this affected your opinion of the champion? 
Yes and no. I personally don't find a ton of value in the winrates of champions in pro play. A lot of factors like low sample size, and differences in team strength generally make win rates there pretty meaningless. The fact that they get picked at all is the most important part as it means the champion is, or is at a minimum perceived incredibly strong.
Mostly we look at how he performs in those games rather than does he win. Does a champion have counters? Can teams play around a specific champion or strategy?
I think Darius is too strong (we have some nerfs next patch) but it is reassuring to see him have both good and bad games and see teams able to play around his strengths. With a couple of additional tweaks making his laning phase less reliable/dominant and I think he'll be in a good place.

[Link] Is azir the champ who had the longest creating time? Because 3 years.. 
Most likely though it depends on how you view creation time. It was not 3 years of continuous development. Azir was a champion that was worked on for a while. Shelved. Rebooted. Shelved again. Then made again to where he is today.

[LinkHere's a weird question. Out of all the champs that weren't rushed for any reason, which came together the fastest/easiest? Kind of the reverse of that Azir question. 
Brand was the easiest that I can remember. Brand went into production and finished in ~1-2 weeks if I remember correctly. The designer Coronach was also working on Lee Sin at the time and a lot of us were really worried because he hadn't started the Brand yet and it was only a few weeks until ship. He kept going "Don't worry about it. It's a fire mage". He got the prototype in one or two days and we played it, it seemed cool and we shipped it.

[LinkThoughts on binding smite to machete allowing the use of another summoner? 
We've discussed this approach a number of times (basically every time we've touched the jungle) and it has a lot of complications. The most straightforward issue is if Smite was simply on Machete, everyone would start grabbing machete, 400 Gold Smite? Yes please. Now we have teams able to run 3,4, or 5 smites with basically no tradeoff seems like a really risky design decision. 
Early ganks also become cripplingly powerful if junglers are able to start running Ignite, Exhaust or something similar and we can find lanes getting bulldozed over almost immediately. There are a number of other issues that arise depending on the specific implementation but I totally get the desire of wanting to choose two summoners beyond Smite as a jungler. It's possible there is some good solution there but it would cause a pretty large set of changes/rework to the jungler which we're simply not looking to do at this time. We're focusing primarily on other game elements this preseason.

[LinkWhat are some things you are likely to leave mostly as-is during preseason? Support items? Trinkets? Masteries? 
We'll have the a lot of the stuff for Preseason hitting PBE at somepoint in the nearish future (soon tm). You'll have to wait until then for more details XD

ZenonTheStoic Ask.Fm Round Up

Likewise, champion designer Daniel "ZenonTheStoic" Klein (Azir, Tahm Kench) has also been going big on answering questions over on his Here's a round up of his recent answers!
[Linkyou said lee sin being allowed to wardjump was a bad idea. why not simply remove it and then balance him properly (he was a good jungler even before wardjumps). and wht is your stance on rivens animationcanceling? wanna remove that and make her animations less clunky in exchange?

It's more nuanced than "it's a bad idea". There are a lot of good things about it: it's a form of skill expression that is extremely visible to everyone in the game, it's a unique skill to learn for this champion (and I guess a little bit for Jax and Katarina, but it's much more important for Lee), and it's emergent gameplay, right? Where we gave you the overall rules and you figured out an unintended way of putting those rules together, and that moment of discovery is worth a LOT. 
That said, there are costs. We now live in a world where we must balance for a Lee Sin who can ward jump, even if most players are bad at ward jumping / do not engage with the move, and worse yet, new players have no way of being taught, in the game, that this is even possible. This moment of organic discovery is a two edged sword: yes it is cool when you find out a mechanic without the game telling you, but no it is not cool if you play a hundred Lee Sin games never knowing this was a thing you could have done. Because Lee Sin has the additional mobility of ward jumping we can never make his ally jump really cool or really powerful. Maybe there is a world where Lee Sin's ally jump could be twice as long, but we can never give you this because a twice as long ward jump is probably not cool. 
Why do we not remove it? Because at this point, for better or worse, it is part of the champion. I don't think we could remove it without compensating meaningfully elsewhere on the kit, and not just in terms of power, but in terms of adding in a new skill expression mechanic.

[Link] A lot of people ask about problem champions, but we never get a chance to hear what champions you think exemplify good game design(bonus points if its not just a reverse-chronological list of champions you worked on)  
I don't actually think any of the champions I worked on are particularly well-designed! 
Lucian is pretty flat (he does what most other ADCs do, outside the ult), Azir is way, WAY too complicated (and frankly not great for game health in this state--not sure what to do) (it's probably okay in 95% of cases since people will never hit Faker-levels of perfection on him), and as much as I love Tahm, he gets to his success cases by being pretty damn stat checky sometimes: he wins trades because his R passive is crazy, but in his current state it needs to be crazy or else he gets ignored. 
So in ascending order, here are the best champion designs in League in my very subjective opinion: 
6) Bard. *toot* If this isn't the best space hobo ever made, I don't know what is. 
5) Nautilus. Is this the fucking heaviest tank ever designed or what? EVERYTHING on him feels chunky and meaty and locking down a guy for your team to kill just feels GREAT. 
4) Jinx. I don't play ADC, but if I did? This would be my girl. I *LOVE* the passive--it just feels so RIGHT on her. The Q rocket/minigun game is really tense and fun, the W is just such a cool skill to use, and that R. Man, that R. 
3) Lee Sin. Yup, tons of problems with his "I just win early game" balance curve, and I don't think we should have supported ward jumping (it's just such an arbitrary skill to learn and master), and not every spell on the kit needed to be double press (W really didn't need it, E probably doesn't need it), but fuck me: jumping around on this guy is a LOT of fun. Insec kicks are amazing, low health battles get super exciting due to Q's execution (gated by "you are now right next to them so if you didn't kill them, good luck", and he's just overall one of the coolest junglers to jump around with. 
2) Sion. YOU CAN'T EVEN SCRATCH ME. This is the scariest, meanest, coolest champion in the game, and that ultimate? The single best ability we've ever made. Hats off to RiotScruffy and team--this guy's a home run. 
1) Thresh. In my opinion, the best design in any MOBA out there. Holy shit, everything about this champion is perfect and feels RIGHT. So many plays. Such a cool minigame (soul collection). Plus the most satisfying save an ally move (I will argue Tahm's ally W comes close).
[LinkWas shurima shuffle an intended feature in azir when designing him?  
Nope! This is what we call "emergent gameplay". We had no idea people would be doing this. Partly this was due to us adding the ability for Azir to move a soldier around while he himself was moving to that soldier post-release, resulting in a much longer moveblock that arguably makes the Shurima Shuffle useful. But partly we just thought of the R as your "oh shit" button and mostly used it that way. 
To be clear, this is not us failing to do our job. This is us getting very lucky and having our creative (and coincidentally also massive) playerbase come up with unexpected stuff.

[LinkWhat's viscerality in terms of champion design? 
Let's talk about the v-word! 
Viscerality is one of those words that gets used and abused so much it's become a semi-sarcastic buzzword around the office. It is, however, an important concept to keep in mind. 
The simplest definition I can think of is that viscerality in game design is a measure of how good a mechanic feels. That's really it. Viscerality is a problem when a numerically powerful ability is severely undersold (Taric's armor aura, Janna's AD bonus on her shield). 
Viscerality derives from good communication. Sometimes that's entirely in the audiovisual (chunky sounds, snappy animations, clear particle effects), sometimes viscerality derives from additional things a spell requires that extend into other areas of gameplay (many of our big hits have follow-up slows that mechanically the spell could do without but that serve a meaningful function as hit confirmation). 
As a mechanics designer, I am responsible for viscerality whenever I think through the balancing parameters of a spell: how fast can this move block be, how short a wind-up animation can I get away with, how much of this debuff can be frontloaded? Whenever you do a powerful thing without understanding that you did a powerful thing, we have failed on a viscerality level. Whenever you play a champion that feels "floaty" and "loose", we have failed. 
I would argue that among the champions I worked on, Tahm Kench's Q satisfies this in the best way: the tongue animation is snappy, has a short but powerful looking windup, the "smack" sound when it hits is really satisfying and the saliva splashing off the target is, eh, disgusting/satisfying. To buy these effects I had to put power into the spell (short windup, fast missile speed) that had to come out of something else. This is why Tahm has to stand still for the entire duration and why the enemy gets the ground indicator. 
[LinkWhat is your opinion on cripple? Basically its a form of cc that allows everything except mobility spells, basically you can move, and use skills, but not flash or LeBlanc w. This would add counterplay to some hyper mobiles. I would recommend this on Talons E, which use to silence(silence bad rite) 
Yeah, I like cripple a lot, and I'm going to echo what our champion design lead Meddler said: it's not a question of if, it's a question of when. We need to find a good fit! 
We've got the tech hooked up and almost ready to go (I'd like more feedback for the victim to tell them WHY they can't move before we ship this on a champion/item) and we've experimented with it both on an item (single target activatable, think BotRK, that crippled an enemy for x seconds) and on a champion on an ultimate (large area that cripples you as long as you stay inside of it). The latter was pretty punishing: when you can indiscriminately apply the effect you hose a lot of kits entirely. Champions like Ahri, Renekton, Riven, Vi feel like they cannot function at all if under a cripple effect, and that makes me suspicious that the effect may be too hard-countery to work on a champion (aka pick the dude with cripple and the enemy's Riven pick has been eliminated). It may be cool in a very gated way on an item? Maybe we'll add it to Exhaust? Maybe we'll put it on a single target champion ability on a champ that can't just kill Riven during the duration? Lots of questions to be answered, but I think the effect needs to be in League eventually.

[LinkWhat was your job before you became designer? Did you study something? How did you become a Rioter? And was it easy for you to leave Germany to in order to work for Riot in the USA? 
I studied computer science but left university before I finished my course. I had the chance to move to Ireland and work in the gaming industry, and I jumped at the chance. Turns out that was a good idea in retrospect ;) 
I worked for the company that distributed and ran League in Europe for its first half year, and when Riot took the rights back I begged them to take me with. Somehow that worked. I worked in community for two and a half years before being given the chance to take the design test. Ran through a very long gamut of interviews at the end of which I was offered a design position and said yes please. 
Leaving Germany was easy--Ireland is not far and not very different in many ways. Going to America from Ireland was harder.

[LinkHow do you approach the problem of a champion that performs too well in soloqueue but very badly in professional (or at least very coordinated) play? And vice versa? 
This is a perennial puzzler for our live design department. You should go talk to FeralPony as this falls neatly within the set of things his team works on. 
As a champ designer, in short you think in terms of skill ceiling and skill floor. Skill floor is: "how much are you helping your team if you just mash your buttons senselessly?" vs skill ceiling being "what can Faker do on this champion?" In 2014, we over-indexed on high skill ceiling (Azir, Kalista, Rek'Sai); before that we over-indexed on skill-floor (thinking in terms of "good first play experience" and "baseline contribution"). We're currently trying to find a happy middle ground.

[LinkDo you think there are many interesting niches left for new supports to occupy? Bard is fresh, but some of the old-ish true supports already have quite a lot of overlap (Nami, Sona & Lulu, for instance). 
Yeah, you're onto something here. 
When we were much younger, we just struggled to make a champion, any champion, every other week. This was seen as crucial to our survival as a young, small game. Eventually we realized this wasn't great for the game as a whole; non-differentiated champions are mutually cannibalistic. In simpler terms, say champions A, B, and C all do the same thing (let's say "put down damage at great distance", and call them Lux, Xerath, and Ziggs), inevitably one of them will be seen as being the best at that role and the other two will stop being picked at all in competitive environments such as ranked.
(This was actually a bad example; Lux is a catcher in our internal parlance, while Xerath and Ziggs are artillery. Ziggs is differentiated from Xerath in that he's the better zone controller and in that he has better side lane pressure. Xerath is the sniper you bring when the enemy has an immobile squishie backline with tons of damage.) 
This is why we have Roster team! Their first major project was the Juggernaut update. Previously, most Juggernauts did the exact same thing in that they ran at you and crushed you if they got to you, but were easy to kite. Whatever else you may think of the Juggernaut update, the four champions we touched now have VERY different identities.
Roster team is now working on the marksman class (what a tough one that will be! How do you meaningfully differentiate champions whose main output is right-clicking your face?) (they have some very cool ideas, but it's too early to talk about it). You identified a subclass of support we call the enchanter, and yes: enchanters are also very much in need of some roster team love. I'm sure they're on their backlog.

[LinkWhat do you think about the buff to Ezreal in 5.18? Will he be receiving more changes in the future? I feel as though more can be done with his W. 
I don't play ADC, so I have a very poor understanding of Ezreal. From that poor understanding, yes, W seems like a dead button that just gives you a slight edge in dueling / becomes totally unreasonable on AP Ez whenever the meta allows for AP Ez. (moderate speed minion passthrough skillshot with no damage fall-off is pretty powerful; remember when it stole attack speed and healed allies?) I do love the "all skillshots all the time" idea and I'd probably find a different skillshot for the slot. That said, Ezreal's in a great place. I don't foresee us doing much work on him any time soon. (I might be wrong--I'm on champion team, where we make new champions, not on live design, where we balance existing champions, or on champion update, where we make existing champions more interesting, so I don't necessarily know what these teams have planned).

[LinkAlright, lets spice up that teams question: If you got to choose 5 teams that every player would suddenly acknowledge the existence of, what would they be? 
There are some exciting new teams we haven't talked about yet, so I won't talk about them here. But other than that: 
Clarity Team: they have changed league so much since we made this team. From simple stuff like making last hitting more satisfying and clearer, to big stuff like the new health bars, kill callouts and most recently the new UI. 
Systems Team: most people are aware of their sister team live design (the guys that nerf Kassadin all the time) (and buffed Miss Fortune!), but systems does subtly different work. These are the guys and gals that maintain the item ecosystem (what a gnarled ball of problems that is!), that understand and expand the vision system, update the jungle and monster aggro mechanics, etc. All of the design problems that frighten mean because of how obviously hard and multifaceted they are. They have Xypherous on that team, which should tell you something about how smart you have to be to work for them. 
Roster Team: A subfunction of champion update (q.v.). This team not only analyzed and broke down our entire champion roster and explained it to the rest of us in terms of every champion's outputs on the game, they also invented a system of classifications useful for thinking about champions in our game in a much, much more meaningful way than "bruiser" or "support" and explained when champions in certain functions are and aren't healthy. Having laid that ground work, they started attacking the existing roster, fixing groupings of champions that were just plain not good for the game. They work crazy fast and help champion team make better champions in so many ways. 
Champion Update: I feel most people know these guys, but yeah: Sion, Soraka, Viktor, Fiora. Some great stuff in the pipeline from these people! They're the unsung heroes of champion design: their workflow involves nearly as much work as a full new champion, and they're doing it with half the resources and very little love from the community sometimes. 
Insights Team: We like data. We're not good at understanding data. For a long time, we had rather, err, simple ways of picking which champions to nerf or buff--basically look at some combination of pick/win/ban rate. Insights team is a bunch of crazy-smart analytical badasses that present huge datasets to us in such a way that we actually understand them and can make good decisions based on them. 
[LinkWhat do you think of Wukong right now? Any plans on working on him in the future?‎ 
I've never really liked Wukong for two reasons: 
1) Both his passive and his ultimate fail pretty hard on the power vs satisfaction scale (they're both INSANELY powerful but it's hard to notice as the player just how powerful they are) (I'm not sure if this is still true, but for a long time, Wukong's ult had the highest AD ratio in the entire game. It just DESTROYS teamfights). 
2) Wukong could be so much more! I watched A Chinese Odyssey (西游记第一百零一回之月光宝盒) and loved that comedic take on the character. From what I understand, the original trickster character in Chinese myth is also much cooler and more nuanced than what we ended up with. Partly this came from a desire to keep the champion simple and make him an accessible starter champion for our Chinese players. Partly this was just the quality bar of champions made at the time. I wished we could turn him into a real trickster, but to a degree LeBlanc already occupies that space. 
There are no plans to do any work on him in the near future that I'm aware of.

Riot Games API Challenge 2.0 Winners! 

Last up we have the winners of the recent Riot Games API (application program interface) contest, where players used Riot's hook ups to make cool applications using LoL game data & stats :
Back in August, we announced our second online contest for community developers; the Riot Games API Challenge 2.0. This time we provided three prompts for developers based around Black Market Brawler games, Ability Power Item Changes, and in-game Item Sets. We’re very happy to present the winners of the Riot Games API Challenge 2.0:
Black Market Brawlers 
First Place 
Bilgewater Brawlers Bay by VladLord Snow (LAN) and Juandx1 (LAN) 
There were a significant number of entries that focused around stats from Black Market Brawlers. Some concentrated heavily on stats, others on a beautiful presentation. We chose Brawlers Bay as the winner of this category because of a notable balance of both. 
The Black Market by KearinDragon (NA) and Agihor (NA) 
Regions of Black Market Brawlers by Lìght (EUNE) 

Ability Power Item Changes 
First Place 
Ripples by KateOfSpades (NA) and Praetor Kai (NA) 
We saw a lot of sites doing various analysis and comparisons between the patches before AP Item Changes and after. What caught our eye about this entry was how clear and easy it was to digest the information and even had the added bonus of a clever visualization of champion clusters based on builds. 

AP is OP by aznchipmunk (NA) and helloso (NA) 
Arsenal by ShadowLight2143 (NA) and chabons (NA) 

Item Sets 
First Place 
LeagueSets by the gozaq (NA) and cheesh (NA) 
LeagueSets takes a nifty approach to creating Item Sets through a browser extension that automatically generates an Item Set from several websites that offer guides for various champions. The value that it provides for players through the use of pre-existing resources is something we couldn’t ignore. 
Runners-up by Null Pointer (NA) 
ItemFeed by Angrytoad (EUW) and Jonny le rapiste (EUW) 
For more information about the winning entries and a list of all the submissions, head over to the Developer Forums."

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