Road to Pre-Season: Gameplay Systems Update & PLANTS

Posted on at 11:30 AM by Moobeat
[UPDATE @ 10/12 - 11:30 PM PST: Lots of discussion added to the Fearless' discussion on plants, including a few video examples, details on spawns, what they do specifically, and more!]

Pre-season is right around the corner and Riot has put up a post detailing some of the gameplay system changes headed our way, including new plants in the jungle, itemization, and masteries!
Continue reading for more information, including a discussion post on the new plants!

Table of Contents

Road to Pre-Season: Gameplay Systems Update 

Gentleman Gustaf with Road to Pre-Season: Gameplay Systems Update:
"It’s pre-season again, and that gives us time to work on overhauling the systemic aspects of League, from the jungle to items to masteries. This year, when we think about what we want to improve about our game systems, the word that comes to mind is “adaptability”. We want to introduce new gameplay elements that cause every game to feel different, and force players to adapt to those differences. On the other hand, we want to give players the ability to make clear playstyle choices which have measurable gameplay differences. 
Let’s start with the jungle. We feel that the jungle has a lot more room to feel intent-driven, and less like a solvable system with a logical next step. Our overall goal is to make sure that junglers have more elements to interact with, and thus have to make choices about which ones are priorities. 
When we originally gave camps Smite rewards, we wanted to allow players to decide how they used Smite to secure certain benefits. We think that system was a good start, but over time players broke into two groups: those who have basically “solved” Smiting, and those who haven’t. This makes the whole experience feel pretty deterministic and doesn’t allow for much expression of individual mastery. Moreover, tying that decision making to Smite makes players who take the PvP smite have to budget their smites a bit too much. If you’re setting up for a teamfight, you want to Smite raptors for vision control, the opposing ADC during a teamfight, and maybe dragon afterwards. 
Enter Plants. We’re introducing interactive plants into the game and spawning them with some degree of variance. These plants should give junglers - and to some degree, other players - impactful decisions to make, without tying those choices to Smite. 
Jungle optimization is an interesting skill, but right now one of the strongest routes is just going straight through the jungle in order. We want to introduce more variance between the camps, so players can have stronger preferences about which camps to prioritize, rather than merely clearing whatever is nearby and available. When it came down to it, that degree of variance was incompatible with our Smite rewards, which often established clear “best” and “worst” camps. 
Protective Itemization 
Aegis of the Legion has been a perennial struggle to balance around. Aura items are *strong*. After all, your team benefits up to five times as much from those stats as you do personally. On the other hand, it can be hard to notice the impact of an aura. As a result, auras have ended up overtuned to the point where they become mandatory. We want players to have itemization choices, and Aegis was simply blocking that goal. 
On the other hand, Aegis of the Legion is one of the few items that allows you to make an ally harder to kill, a player fantasy we want to make sure to serve. While Aegis exists, most forms of protection will be overshadowed by the existence of its aura. Even if we made support items stronger to compensate, junglers would become the new Aegis purchasers (as has happened in past metas). So for the good of itemization as a whole, we’re killing its aura stats. 
In its place, we’re creating several new protective items that are more distinct, allowing different supports to express different playstyles and goals. Instead of purchasing a generic protection item, we want supports to be able to look at a host of items and think “which one protects my ally in a way which aligns with my playstyle?” 
We already have a few of those items. Mikael’s Crucible protects an ally from CC and Ardent Censer helps you keep an ally healed up. But we think there’s a lot we can do to sharpen those items’ identities, while creating new items to appeal to protective supports, whether they’re tanks, disruptors, or healers. 
Finally, there’s masteries. Our updated mastery system was aimed at making masteries meaningful to your playstyle. We wanted each player and champion to feel like there was a mastery at each level that appealed to their role and playstyle. 
Part of that meant having multiple choices at each level of the tree. We shipped with a few holes in the tree, and we’re taking this opportunity to fill those holes in. However, there were also a few outliers we felt like we could take a crack at making more satisfying to use, as well as more specific in who wanted to take them. Overall, we want players to have masteries that make them feel “that’s what I want”, not “I guess this is optimal”. 
We’ll be unveiling more details about these changes soon, so stay tuned for Preseason 2017!"


[Will continue to update the post with additional comments and discussion on the article!]

When asked about the lack of details on what exactly these new plants do, Scarizard commented:
"Said nothing because this isn't where we want to give y'all the info. There'll be a ton of stuff coming out soon that will explain the -what- of plants, reworks, etc just like we do every year (and with a little more oomph!), but this article is very much focused on the 'why'."
riotscarizard continued:
pls dont fuck up jungle somehow pls
I'll drop in to say that I think the overall level of jungle change here (IMO) is less relative to past years you may be thinking of (introduction of spirit stones / introduction of smite alterations + buffs + new camps, etc). The actual-factual ~jungling~ experience itself hasn't changed a whole ton (tho there are minor optimizations), but the big-ticket changes are simply: smite buffs aren't a thing, and plants -are- a thing. 
We're not ready yet to talk about what plants do just yet (soon, not soontm!), but if y'all are gearing up for 'literally everything is changed how do i even begin', I think you're coming from the wrong place. All of this is IMO, but my read on plants has been 'here's this new thing for me to optimize/interact with/make decisions around' rather than 'my capability as a player will be literally defined by this new system' 
P.S. Gustaf references it a bit in the article, but just because plants may live in the jungle doesn't make 'em just a jungler thing :D"
He continued:
"Definitely taking your opinions to heart - if you read the article, we're not introducing plants 'just cause' - we're doing exactly what you say. We're taking out something we didn't like (in this case, smite buffs we don't think were as successful as they could have been) and making some tuning changes around the jungle to make room for plants. It's not 1:1, we're not just taking buffs that used to be on smites and hard pushing them into plants or anything, we're just saying 'what kinds of things do we want players, including junglers, to do when they're in these areas? fighting, ganking, moving, etc?'"

Ghostcrawler  also commented on the lack of details, explaining:
So looking at the latest road to preseason, it sounds like you want to add more randomness to the Jungle (plants). Do you think adding randomness creates the type of gameplay depth riot is looking for? I am aware I am asking this without knowing what the jungle will look like. 
Yeah, we need to provide a lot more detail to that announcement. As written it's just a tease without giving you much to sink your teeth into. 
At a philosophical level, we think the game needs a certain amount of unpredictability. We think unpredictability is important, because it tests player adaptability and split-second decision making and not just rote execution of e.g. jungle clears or champ rotations. Most of League's unpredictability comes from not fully being able to predict what the opposite team will do, but even so, you play enough games of League and you start to recognize situations that will probably play out the same every time. 
One way to add unpredictability is through pure randomness. If you don't know whether the coin flip will be heads or tales, then you need to have contingencies planned for each. But purely random systems can be really frustrating, especially if you feel like the outcome of that coin flip was so massive that it trumped all of the good decisions you had made up until that point. 
The drake changes we feel are a good source of unpredictability without being overly random. There are some rules to control the randomness (e.g. elder drake coming out), and we also broadcast what the next drake will be before it spawns. 
With the Living Jungle design, we want to do something similar. There is a lot going on behind the scenes to protect against really good or bad luck swaying the outcome. For example, the plants will only spawn at fixed spawn points, and we balance them on both sides of the map. Playing them expertly also won't sway things too much. They are a nice bonus, but if you ignore them completely, you can keep playing SR much as you do today. 
We'll get some more concrete information out there, and I also encourage anyone who can to try them out and get a feel for how they play. Internally, after only a few games, our playtesters were like "Yeah, I get it now. This is pretty cool.""

Let's Talk About Plants

Following the original announcement on the system changes, Fearless jumped on the boards to discuss the new plants system! 
"Hi all, Fearless here. 
Want to grow some of the understanding around Plants: What they are, and why we think they’re a fertile space to improve the jungle and the game as a whole. The TL;DR is that after a long stretch of enriching the decisions around how to win a whole game, we needed more elements that can change how you approach individual fights. 
Many changes we’ve made to the map and objectives have focused on strategic depth (the various elements that change how you attempt to win the whole game). Elemental Dragons and Baron buffing minions, for example, were all about making sure that different strategies produce games that are meaningfully different to play, and reward player adaptation over memorization of “correct” moves. 
All awesome, but this left us with a clearly stand out issue: we have too few sources on the map for tactical depth (elements that promote different approaches to specific situations). We wanted to find ways to increase adaptation in individual fights, and we quickly found that the jungle, which already had unique terrain layouts and the red buffs serving as valuable skirmish objectives, had ample opportunities to do better. The Rift Scuttler, for example, creates the gameplay we’re looking for at the edge of the jungle, with constrained randomization as a core part of her identity. In the first few experiments, plants proved that infrequent but impactful interactions could inject a lot of excitement while reintroducing tactical decision making that had been decreasing as players learn to predict the outcome of more and more fights. Put plainly, plants injected excitement into fights that have trended towards predictability and being solved. They also were a fruitful way to double down on the feeling that the jungle was a living, wild space. 
Let’s flesh out some details. Plants are small, single use neutral objects that activate when attacked by a champion. They spawn in semi-random locations in the jungle (similar to Bard’s chimes), and respawn after a window of regrowth. Their spawn points are fairly restricted for early game, making sure they can’t have too much impact on early gank routes or invades. We also ensure that plants have extremely strict rules around fairness: teams should have balanced access to each plant that shows up in the game. Plants also telegraph themselves to ensure players have adequate windows to adapt, showing up as a seedling 30 seconds before they can be used. 
One plant we decided was ripe with opportunity very early was the Blast Cone. Look, a plant!

Imagine it as a universal Ziggs satchel, throwing all units away from the center point when attacked. These can provide some dramatic jukes or be used to throw an enemy where they don’t want to be. They are also frequently used to allow champions without dashes to hop over key walls and, yes, they spawn behind dragon and Baron Nashor pits. 
In development, it also became clear that Plants had a lot of overlap with Smite Rewards, but with much better visibility, mastery and impact across game time. However, We wanted to ensure that Junglers still kept the meaningful difference when it came to jungle routes and being able to optimize the jungle to different goals. The result was changes to the jungle camps themselves to better express the strengths of different types of junglers. That gives us a lever to support a wider range of junglers at the same time, which Smite Rewards struggled with throughout their lifetime. More details about the camps that are changing in the near future. 
We moved the interesting tactical reactive power of Red Buff smite into Smite itself, as well as the new restorative Honeyfruit that spawn in the river. This one’s totally designer art, so don’t expect the explosion of oranges when these show up on Summoner’s Rift.

We also found ourselves missing the vision tools of Raptor Buff, and brought those into the Scryer’s Bloom.

Think of this plant like a magic dandelion filled with Hawkshots, revealing champions and wards in a large cone. So while Smite buffs won’t be on our buff bars in Season 2017, I’m confident the best moments they provided will still be in our games. 
That said, we are trying some really new things with plants. We’re committed to making sure that they both land well, but also that they have the space to flower into a great addition to the game. We might make significant changes as the plants take root, to things like where they spawn, what they do, and how often you interact with them. 
Hope this helps give everyone a better idea of where we’re going with plants, but feel free to leaf any comments below if you still have questions! 

Plant Discussion

Following Fearless' plant post, several reds hung around the boards to discuss the new plants:
As for some details on how some of the plants work, Meddler noted:
"Note: All these values are still going through testing, so subject to change. They're also what I can remember, not numbers I've checked in game tonight given the time now They should give a general idea of current functionality though. 
Scryer's Bloom:
  • Around 4000 range
  • Reveal lasts for about 15s on stationary targets (wards/jungle camps basically, giving you time to move to them and, for the ward, potentially destroy it). Lasts a fair shorter period on moving targets hit (metaphor's pollen that falls off as the unit moves, with visual effects that represent that)
  • A mixture of flat (scaling by champion level) and % missing health/mana restored. Not certain on exact numbers, collecting all the fruit from a single plant probably offers you 30% health or something along those lines if you're really low though (and therefore often taking a risk getting it in the first place).
I think Masteries details should be going out early next week if memory serves.
Xypherous added that Honeyfruit can also be consumed by either team:

it seems that there's no reason not to just recklessly auto them to secure it - unless - can Honeyfruit you proc can heal enemies?
Honeyfruit that are spawned are neutral and can be consumed by either party.
Consuming a honeyfruit will slow you for the ~0.2 seconds that you are nomming on it though."

Xypherous shared more details on how plants spawn:
Not sure that there is a lot of value added for this change. This could easily result in some very frustrating outcomes depending on the placement of the plants, and frankly is a little too RNG. Plus, I can imagine it getting really annoying to have that healing plant pop up near bot lane and allowing someone to heal up from your poke.
While I'm not working personally on the spawn system - I can tell you that the people involved are keenly aware of this facet. 
Currently, the first set of plants spawn relatively late in the game - and initial spawn positions are more or less fixed - so the first set of plant locations are more or less deterministic - which makes the initial wave contestable to a point. 
The respawn time between plant waves varies a bit between contests - but the second wave of plants happens towards the tail end of laning phase and the seeded river locations are fairly 'deep' in the river in the early parts of the game so if they do this tactic, you'll also have time to head them off - unless you're not in the area at all - in which case it's similar to an uncontested champion using minions or scuttle to heal back via a type of drain. 
Agreed that curation of plant location is pretty important - satchels, for example, are kind of pointless if there aren't interesting jumps - so there's a handful of optimal seeded locations where plants can spawn."
Fearless added:
This is an interesting meta... definitely playing a few months of norms in this meta before I jump into ranked.
Keep in mind that plants are not up much of the time. The jungle can't really able called "safer" because depending on a plant for an important play is really sketchy if you aren't sure the plant is still there and active."
Xypherous continued:
Well, given that they have forewarning of about 30 seconds until they show up, it mostly seems ... avoid and clear? Here's the thing: if someone is in control of the plant, and said control makes a 'takeable fight' no longer takeable, the enemy will disengage. There is no point when the odds have shifted enough it becomes unacceptably risky, unless there is some intrinsic way to outplay the person who is in charge of the plant. 
That's the key, and I'm a little doubtful about it. Ultimately, once people have learned what the plants do, it will be a case of 'X+Y plant = better in Z scenarios'. Then it's business as usual from there out.
Personally, I've found that plants generally chip in the most when fights become extended or shift locations due to the nature of their seeded locations. 
The spawn locations of the plants are not predisposed towards being in the center of areas that you need to control - as that would lead to the stalemates that you describe - the spawn locations are generally chosen to be on the edge of those control areas. 
For example: Plants don't spawn in the middle of the river in front of Dragon pit - as that would be doubly down on control advantages. Their seeded spawn locations tends to favor river inlets and such - so paths that you would use to path into or away from central control locations and thus avoid some of the fight bottlenecks and posturing concerns that you've raised here."
Xypherous added:
Alright, so let me try to summarize this correctly so I'm not getting anything confused: 
  • Plants have fixed spawns. (Let's pretend and say there are 5)
  • Plants always spawn in those 5 locations.
  • Plants spawn at random intervals (???) 
Is that correct? Is there something else I could be missing here? (I don't want to argue the wrong point.)
  1. Plants have seeded fixed spawn locations. For each type of plant, there are probably 3 or 4 per side of the map.
  2. Each type of plant have their own fixed spawn locations - that are independent of the other types of plants. Satchels and Visions never share locations, for example - so there's never a 'Man - I expected an orange but I got a satchel'
  3. Plants spawn at random intervals because of a few things: They spawn after they are used - which means they'll desync from any kind of timer. Once used, they have a minimum time they wait before they'll respawn (pretty long). Afterwards, there's a small variable in when they'll spawn - but they'll telegraph when they're about to revive about ~30 to 45 seconds before they come back up and ready to be used.
Yeah - you're mostly correct - just added some minor additions that I think are pretty important."
Xypherous also commented that the three plants above are the only three being introduced in preseason:
How many Plant types are you planning to have take root around the rift?
The 3 described are the 3 that are part of the initial batch. We don't have any others currently in development - but we'd always be interested if there are better incarnations."
Xypherous added:
"Yeah! Each plant has a unique visual look to them - as well as different "buds" and "growing" models - so after a while, you'll be able to recognize - oh hey, a pollen plant will grow here soon. 
In addition, plant spawn zones don't overlap each other, so you'll never be like 'is a satchel or a dandelion going to be here?' it's going to be 'oh, is the satchel here or not?'"
On the plant growth, safelocked noted:
I feel like it's a good direction to take for replacing the smite-consuming jungle buffs. For now the only concern I have is with the blasting cone, it doesn't really feel like a buff, but if you want to ship more interactive gameplay then I could understand it; it just could feel really frustrating to get your earned kill denied by the random spawn of that particular plant, and that brings me to my question: are you able to see the "seeding timers" on the enemy jungle too so that you can kind of play around that? And that seeding timer gives you information about what plant is about to spawn?
Yeah. The idea here is that you'll be able to see the plant's status, regardless of its position. A plant grows in three phases - seed, sapling, then full. The first two phases are meant purely for telegraphing and denial, while the third phase the plant is fully grown and can be used for any of the three intents (tactical positioning, vision, or health.) 
While watching players use the new plants, I've found that Blast Cone has actually been used the most competitively, but the upfront concern is valid. Will say this: players who don't have good map awareness and can't adapt to their surroundings will probably not take advantage of these."

As for if they had considered any plants that deal damage, Fearless commented:
Will there be any plants that cause damage or give buff and debuffs? Say a plant you can detonate with an attack to inflict poison to enemies around it? As an example.
In our first batch, we stayed away from damaging plants. The goal here was not have these as tools for clearing the jungle, and instead be about the fights that happen in the jungle, or the ways to set up conflict around the plants."

When asked if Smite always restores health on cast now, Fearless shared:
wait so you get 20% of your hp back everytime you smite?
It's currently 100 + 10% max hp. Probably still on the strong side."
Fearless continued:
What about your mana?
Mana regen is still boosted pretty hard by jungle items as well as Honeyfruit."
Xypherous also commented on the smite changes:
Although I do understand that this removes the shoehorning of smite into redbuff, it also removes the decision making of saving smite for redbuff or anything else.
This is true. 
There's a couple of changes to smite to make the trade-offs more apparent: 
The ammo recharge is about 20% longer. 
This, in turn, means the combat smites have a direct competitor. You can smite to regain health for a gank or you can save that smite for the gank. 
This doesn't mean that it'll have all of the decision making that it used to but there's still enough there that the decision comes up fairly often."

When asked why the smite buffs are being removed, Xypherous commented:
Why are we removing Smite Buffs?
While we generally like some of what Smite Buffs do - there was a significant cost to having them in the game in terms of memorization and the kinds of rote memorization that you needed to do before interacting with the game. 
The hard answer for this is that players crave complexity in all forms - especially ones that they've personally mastered. However, there is only a set amount of complexity that any game can have and still be learnable and playable - and so we frequently prune elements (and elements that we like) in order to make room for elements that we hope we'll like more. 
This isn't a comfortable answer to hear - but imagine the world if we just kept adding more and more mechanics layered on top of each other - while existing players would probably be okay with this somewhat - eventually that ball just becomes an unrecognizable tangle of stuff. You kind of have to clean up every once in while and make room for new content and streamline or strip away old content that either isn't working or just isn't paying off as much as it needs to. 
You are absolutely free to disagree with this though - it's not a great answer to hear and it's one of those like 'man, I wish someone could figure out the problem of continuous content development but manageable complexity.' This is kind of why I focus on stuff like UI / Combat text a lot of the time - I want to combat complexity as much as I can to have added elements work out."

As for concern over clearing the jungle without the various smite buffs, Fearless reminded:
I like the idea but what about clear speed buffs from Gromp and Krugs? Will those have plant versions or will clearing the jungle just be made faster and safer for everyone? Or is the objective to make it slower but healthy with the health restore added to smite itself.
Also with blue buff smite for mana regen, can we see a buff in mana regen given by jungle items?
We have retuned the jungle around pulling the clearing tools from Smite Rewards. This was actually a big benefit, as tuning before had to either assume good use of the Smite Rewards, or trivialize the clear if we assumed players wouldn't use them well."

Xypherous also commented on the idea of these introducing more RNG to the game:
Didnt they once talk about how they dont want frustrating moments in the game through rng hence removing the dodge stat?
There's a key difference between randomness you have no control over (RNG happening to you) versus randomness that you had some degree of agency of (Your card draw in magic has some degree of agency because you customized your deck). 
We've generally found that RNG is incredibly frustrating when there's no real actions you can take to mitigate it. 
Plants don't fall into this category for me as if you don't want plants to tactically matter, your jungler will need to control plants by systematically razing them on patrol - and that each plant does have tactical things you can do to control / or mitigate their effectiveness even if the spawn pattern doesn't favor you. 
This is done through some of their specific mechanics - as well as careful curation of their spawn locations. 
Frustration through you being unable to do anything about it is awful. Frustration because there was something you could have done better but you didn't? That's more okay in our book as long as there truly is something you can do about it in response or in preparation. 
Example: Scuttlecrab's actual location in the river is actually fairly random. However, tactically in response to scuttle crab, there's a ton you can do about it so the randomness of its actual location tends to not matter a lot."

Xypherous Group Questions 1:
So wait.. jungle buffs are gone and they're only in the randomized plants now?
Not really. The jungle buffs are gone - but the plants don't do 1:1 what the jungle buffs used to do - some of them have a little bit of overlap - but there's no direct parallels.
I'm still confused with how smite works now and what jungle buffs are still there for smiting camps. Is everything the same but with these plants?
There are no additional rewards to smiting jungle monsters outside of the additional damage. Smite also innately heals you when used against (only) monsters to replicate some of the play making potential and to regulate jungler health and uptime across Jungle classes a bit better.
These give game advantages randomly, its not an objective you just "secure when you can" they're just there like bard's chimes.. they either fuck you sideways spawning in the dumbest places leading to death or help you out a ton.
I can tell you that the location of each type of plant is fairly heavily curated - so it's not like you'll get random satchel plants chilling in the middle of nowhere. While I can understand that randomness is jarring - where each plant spawns makes much more contextual sense (Satchel has some dedicated wall jump spots, for example) - they're far less random in world placement Bard's chimes in that respect."

As for what happens if these changes don't work out, safelocked commented:
if plants turn out to be a bad idea for some reason, will you remove them or try to salvage them? In the past y'all have seemed very stubborn about not deleting things bad for overall game health (yasuo, ekko, frozen mallet), and I'm worried that if this does not succeed, the game will turn into a pile of crap.
Yeah. I think there's a vein of concern here I want to curb that plants are final, and that's definitely not the case. These are experimental, as with all Preseason changes (and we've been keeping tabs on Plants sentiment specifically because we know these are pretty different), so we're going to use this period in time to see how they fly - because we really aren't sure. They may play out well, or - to your guys' points - break the game. 
While I can say plants have been used in tactical, calculating ways in playtests to get the upper hand, you guys will be the real test of whether these changes are actually compelling and hold muster competitively. Hit up Fearless, myself, or any of us in the comments once you try them out."
Meddler added:
"If plants flop and we can't find a way to make them work we'll pull them. 
Can understand the concerns about them so far, would really like to talk a bunch more about them as well once you folks have had a chance to see them in action on the PBE. There's quite a bit of stuff to them we think makes a lot more sense once you've seen it in game than it does when first reading about it on paper. 
The randomness to them for example is pretty heavily controlled: 
  • They spawn on one of a few pre-determined possible spawn points for their type of plant, each picked to avoid abuse cases and make it fairly intuitive where you'll find them.
  • Their spawning timing's similarly controlled (every 90-110s sort of thing, not full random). They also won't spawn at all in some circumstances (e.g. before/during first clears for example)
  • There are some strict fairness controls on them to ensure they don't meaningfully favor one side of the map over the other (should get generally equal plant spawns across the two sides of the map over a period of time) 
They're also nowhere near as frequent, or obtrusive, as some people have worried they'll be. As a jungler you'll probably consider personally interact with a plant every minute or so. This isn't a system that'll be constantly demanding your attention, or dictating your major choices, more one you'll take advantage of occasionally. 
For what it's worth we've had a bunch of people visit the offices to playtest pre-season changes here over the past month or so, some of them regular players, some of them Pros. Feedback on plants has generally been pretty good, with some good suggestions for improvement as well that we've either incorporated or are working on. It's certainly a system though that we're expecting will, at a minimum, need some follow up tuning and support, and one that could need more significant changes if it doesn't work as hoped. Talking about all that should get a lot easier as well once stuff's on the PBE next week too as above. In the meantime though if there are details you'd like to know please do ask though, would love to talk about them."


Stay up to day with all these pre-season announcements:

Look for additional information on pre-season as we move closer to the 6.22 PBE cycle


No comments

Post a Comment