Red Post Collection: Morello on Design Philosophies, Lucian's whereabouts, and post rework Master Yi's balance.

Posted on at 5:22 AM by Moobeat
What better way to start off the day than with a morning red post collection!
Continue reading for several posts, from Morello, discussing design philosophies, the whereabouts of Lucian, and how Master Yi's rework is fairing balance wise.

Morello on Design Philosophies
While responding to summoner claims that anything unique or novel is removed from the game ( the summoner cites that new abilities are often just repaints of old abilities: Zac E like Vi Q, Lulu's polymorph being just a silence with fancy effects ), Morello launched in to quite the discussion design philosophies - hitting on several common criticisms thrown at the design team.
"Design tank incoming! This is a long post, and probablt about 1/50th the explanation of these ideals that I'd like to deliver. 
(In actuality, it's funny because I'm one of the design voices that needs to be "toned down" when it comes to crazy stuff. There's nuance to this, but I'd be more likely to break than fix if I made the decisions personally. The better critique about my style is that I'm willing to sacrifice experiences that have low counter-play, even if they're fun to use).

I think there's a real discussion here, and I'm ignoring any of the unproductive stuff to engage in that conversation - so unreasonable haters to the left. 
Essentially, there are two extreme ideals that are both incorrect: 
* Anything that's new/novel/unqiue is good because it's different - and that difference makes it a positive addition. 
* Anything that might disrupt perfect balance is a problem to be fixed, and anything that compromises that must be aggressively addressed. 
Both of these ideas are bad for League of Legends (and I feel game design in general). While I think some games can use these philosophies, they give you different results. 
One of our tenets is that there's important things that fundamentally differentiate and attract people to League. In fact, several games do try to offer similar gamestyles to MOBAs (whether League or DotA), but there's not always a good understanding of what types of experiences they offer - and importantly, how and why they differ. 
So, then, what do we care about, and what drives our decisions? I'm word-smithing some of this for greater digestion, but this should capture the idea. 
1) League is a game that's more about interaction with enemies than planning before you interact.

One of the biggest and continuous arguments that exists is what skill is valid, and how things are countered. This is not a binary set of design such as "is/isn't counterable" or "all planning is bad" - it's a series of cost/benefit analysis.

Basically, some decisions being about planning and strategy is good. But when those planning decisions come at the cost of good in-fight, interactive experiences, that's where tough calls need to get made. Let's talk about why 2v1 (as a basic, core strategy instead of a gambit strategy) is a problem in League, or why tri-lanes have never been supported; this will show an example of our game design values.

2v1, as a core strategy, is a clever discovery of capitalizing on using global gold to snowball into a fast midgame. On its own, that's fine an interesting - it's a strategy that causes some different and interesting setups to occur. So far, no problem. 
However, 2v1 as a primary method to be optimally efficient, basically skips the laning phase of that game. The laning phase is one of the biggest focal points of personal action, dueling and personal agency that players can feel. This is important to why League is different, and one of the big things that makes it uniquely fun. The laning phase focuses on tons of small, incremental advantages that result in someone beating their opponent, sometimes with help and sometimes without it. Something that entirely removes the laning phase violates something that actually does make League of Legends special.

In lane, this is your time to dominate an opponent. This is emotionally, mechanically and strategically very important. That's not an opinion, that's much of why League of Legends isn't a DotA clone. People might not even recognize it consciously, but it exists - and if we weren't different, then why the Hell would we even be a game?

Now, that doesn't mean things can't effect the laning phase - some characters have worse matchups, junglers change the dynamic of the lane, starting items, etc. Those things are not only acceptable, but if done smartly, make the laning phase more varied and interesting - but not without removing your ability to participate in it meaningfully.This is a key distinction in League.

This value is why we disallow hard-counters and "wins at champion select." Tactical skill and mechanical skill is more important than being the best at hatching a plan. This doesn't mean League has no strategy or that we dislike it (or that other MOBA don't have execution and in-fight gameplay), but it shows which one weighs more on design. 
2) Counter-play within the game is a core value, and it's more important than many other values within "fun." 
We've talked a lot about counter-play. The things I actually rail on are things that violate counter-play, or have shallow decision trees. 
Let's talk about the "better nerf Irelia" meme (without this derailing into the state of fighters - valid, but different discussion).

Irelia's design represents both a shallow decision tree and low counter-play. It's not that we actually hate the character, or think people don't have fun with her, or she's imbalanced (in fact, I think having low counter-play is MORE fun for the person playing it in the moment because ****ting on PEOPLE IS FUN! :)), it's that "what decisions outside of normal League of Legends skills, do you need when doing this?" When those answers are few (and this was the problem with Darius too), then there's probably an issue with skill differential and counter-play. 
This is a big distinction - few games focus on this, and no other MOBA does. The cost of poor counterplay is punishing (not hard - hard is fine- see for a complete conversation on this difference) gameplay, lack of clarity (which LIMITS how much depth you can add) and the game making enemy skill invisible. Zileas has mentioned a lot about how Dark Binding is a good skill because it adds fun to both the user and the victim in how the spell works. That often is a result of good counterplay, and we care about that enough to focus on it. TF2's combat actually focus on this much more than other FPS's, for example (rockets/jumping vs hitscan and high lethality. Arcade shooters are more counter-play focused than tac shooters, which are more strategically-focused). 
3) We agree improvement can be made on unique abilities.

This, however, is error as opposed to intent. My conversation during Aatrox's release should paint the picture clearly in design mishaps. Thresh is a great counter-example - the work we want to do on updates to Darius also shows this. And again, it's not binary. Just because we don't think that Meepo is a character we're likely to do in LoL doesn't mean we don't value the kind of presence and weight a really distinct character brings to the game. We do need to do better on new releases with this, at least from a consistency standpoint. 
What I really think is that we make some missteps, and there's a valid and real desire to have more Thresh-style characters, or more Lee-Sin style emergence. We agree here.   
What I do resist is that everything is good, and variety is the highest value. No. We value specific game design fundamentals that define League, and that those elements purposefully and specifically differ from that in other MOBAs. Just like I feel like DotA does (and should) embrace it's more planning-weighted focus and making characters have insane stuff that feels good, we embrace our focus on a good, interactive experience that result in-combat decisions mattering more. That should result in a game we want to be fair and balanced, but balance is a result of that, not a goal to avoid things.

This is not our complete thoughts on these subjects, but they are what I can muster at 4:30am. I'll try to follow up on this, but it's bedtime for now."
Where in the world is Lucian!?
When asked for an update on Lucian's whereabouts, Morello responded:
"Sorry for going dark on it, just getting on the forums a bit again; 
I don't have a good ETA currently, but it's taking a bit longer than we'd hoped. There's some outstanding issues remaining we need to get cleaned up before we can turn him on, and some are hairier than others."
He continued, responding to criticism that champion releases have been slow and unreliable this year:
"I couldn't agree more, tbh. We've had a really difficult time with champion release schedules this year, and while I do like the "focus on quality" part, something could definitely improve here.

We're not doing every 2 weeks anymore, but I'm of the opinion that the inconsistency is really tough on players."
As for why things are so slow, he noted:
"Nothing intentional - some of it is resource rebalancing (doing more reworks), but much of it is the increasing complexity of trying to do more (broadly, non-champion stuff) and not having more people in certain key areas that have always been bottlenecks. For example, Howling Abyss (a good addition) required some significant VFX work, and VFX artists are rarer than Dragon's Teeth. It's not about will/money to hire/etc, it's about finding talent. Some fields are easier to find people in than others.

That said, I think that context is of little solace to players. We do new champions because they're engaging - really engaging. Since we're looking to play the long game with League, risking big engagement points is something I'm fearful of."
He also noted on champion reworks, which eat up new champion time due to rebalancing:
"I do like that we can do more reworks - I think that's been a good benefit."
Master Yi's balance post rework
As for the balance of post launchof Master Yi, Morello noted they are aiming to fix him in 3.11:
"We're looking at some Yi fixes currently and want to get them in for 3.11 - I'd like to have some direction locked by Monday.

Unfortunately, we did not meet one goal we'd hoped to - better in high-ranked games, and not as stompy in low-ranked ones. This is still occurring, which means Yi is in beast mode for a vast majority of players."
He continued:
"We don't need to nerf Yi flat-out, but it's likely he needs more serious tuning to make it so he doesn't tear through people who can't deal with him, then allowing us to buff things that might be needed for stronger competitive play.
He continued, pointing out the keyword of fix not nerf:
"You're putting words in my mouth, OP. I didn't say "we're nerfing Yi," I said "Yi fixes." Him being very poor in high level play is as much a problem as stomping low-elo - I even specifically called out the goal of fixing that."

He also replied to a comment about Yi in relation to Vayne:
"I don't think the cases are comparable in where problems exist. I need to talk to the team about their thoughts on Vayne's state more specifically, but Yi's much more snowbally than even Vayne (!). He has his own issues that have different causes and effects. 
Resets do this - you guys called that out yourselves. We left that on Yi out of legacy, but I wonder if that was the right decision.""
Simliarly, he reiterated  Yi's resets are a factor in why he does poorly at high elo and great at low:
"We're not saying he's OP, we're saying he's not terribly usable in high elo and really wrecks at low elo. Resets do -that- to an extent :)"
In response to a summoner asking if this implies Yi's ability to reset his abilities will be touched, he noted:
"It is fun, which is why we kept it. We know it's one of the big factors for why Yi is fun, but it may also mean he'll always be weak. That's something we need to really consider (and do a bit more work on if it's the resets, or if another thing can be touched). Hence why I hope for the team to have a direction by Monday :P"

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