Red Post Collection: Morello talks S4 changes & Soraka, Xelnath looking for ward / support income feedback, and more!

Posted on at 6:23 AM by Moobeat
Ready for another huge red post collection? This time around we have posts concerning "over-nerfing" champions, Morello throwing out information on some of the BIG GOALS for S4 as well as a few blurbs about various champions and roles, Xelnath digging around for feedback on support icon and warding, IronStylus briefly chatting about Sivir and Taric VUs, a long winded discussion on Soraka and dedicated healers within League of Legends, and MORE!
Continue reading to get the red posts

Morello on Over nerfing and S4 Goals
Elaborating on his previous comments about "holding back" on harsher Zac balance changes since the World Championships were right around the corner, Morello fleshed out his previous statement a bit beter.
"Now that worlds' patch is done, we can see the results and assess easier. Even without worlds, we'd prefer to not overnerf something even if it is too strong (and that's something I'm pretty sure is even shared between players). We didn't want to hit Zac harder than this, but if it's contentious or could go either way, we'd err on the side of caution instead of zeal."
He continued, responding criticism in a different thread.
"Please read the follow-up as well, though sensationalizing is fun! 
* We didn't want to nerf Zac harder, but with worlds, we'll err on the side of caution over zeal if it's a grey area. We're not trying to remove Zac, just balance him."
Responding to criticism on over nerfing ( Olaf being one of the most recent "victims" of overnerfing ), he commented:
"And Olaf changes come in next patch. They were slated for last patch, but needed more work.

And we nerfed Zac to what we thought would be a good state - without overdoing it as is called for by the original thread. You think he's GROSSLY overpowered. I never said anywhere that we thought that. 
So, do you want to discuss something, or just get mad? I got time for the first."

This developed into a conversation about various other powerful champions and roles and Morello left comments on several champions one particular summoner was concerned about.
"Kassadin: Too strong, but because he's so feast/famine. Needs some big work, but I'm at a loss on this one. 
Zed: A bit too strong, but want to see longer term effects of previous nerfs. Not against more. 
Ahri: Solid - pretty close, but popular right now. 
Galio: Tough to make room for in a team, but doesn't have enough levers to balance. Needs light rework. 
Taric: Same as above. 
Ziggs: I think great in lane, does ??? late game in teamfights."

When questioned about the promised Fiora buffs / changes, he replied:
"Have to check - likely S4 and Worlds work taking priority."

When asked about Soraka, he commented:
"It's a big stumper - especially considering that Soraka represents a lot to people who play her, but any overhaul would fundamentally violate that. "
( see the bottom of this red post collection for loads more on Soraka )

As for Miss Fortune, he noted:
"MF falls in and out of flavor as different champions and comps trend up and down. I like this pattern overall and think MF is OK as-is."

When asked about Damage over time based champions such as Swain, he commented:
"I'm not sure, actually - it's something I should talk more with the team about. I'm a bit surprised with how far this type of champion has fallen out of flavor and want to get word from guys with boots on the ground here."

When cornered about Sivir changes now that her VU has been announced, he teased:
"A Sivir thread!?
(We do have some nice changes in store for Sivir soon(tm))"

From there, Morello also took the time to respond to summoner concerns on the concept of "mobility creep" and revealed a few core problems he hopes to address in Season 4 ( for those unfamilar, Riot traditionally does a big set of sweeping changes at the beginning of each ranked season ):

"I just want this conversation more than the angry one - and I'm fine with critiques, but the rage is just noise in a sea of more noise. This, however, can be constructive! 
Mobility Creep has occurred, but I think this is spoken about as the problem as opposed to a symptom. The problem, in this case, is where we had champions not giving up anything when they contained mobility. This was especially rampant in 2011, but the problem is rarely the mobility itself and more the underlying design problems that lead to problematic mobility.

One example is how Vi's ultimate was talked about a lot as "mobility creep." I think the real problems occur there when there's no meaningful recourse to that move, her being able to move far is fine - provided than when she does, you have actions that make sense to deal with her. Some of this is the CC immunity, some of this is her raw brawling power when she gets there. If some cost is paid, actually or strategically, then the skill can avoid this pitfall. 
So, I think Mobility Creep isn't a major issue - mobility tends to create interesting and dynamic fights and is fun to use - but the issue, like true damage, % HP damage and other mechanics we've done this with, is in how and where it is used. 
I edited my post, but in the initial barrage of "there's Morello - get him!" from me returning to the forums, I read yours too quickly. I did say melee ADC would be -better- this season, and they are, but I also claimed I didn't think Season 3 would fully solve the problem. I think that's been pretty accurate overall. 
Now, let's put this thread on a good note; let me tell you two must-haves for Season 4 to ship successfully in my mind; 
We're going to significantly improve, and ultimately fix, jungle and support gold flow. I feel this is one of the most painful areas of League, and one that can be fixed. A lot of the satisfaction in League is growing in power over time, getting items, and transitioning from early to late game with items. It's definitely a problem that 2/5 of players don't get to do this. 
Season 4 changes will address this problem, and very likely throw balance into a tailspin for preseason. Eggs, omelettes, etc. We'll work hard to get that fleshed out and tuned before S4 starts properly.

Wards and the map vision system need to be overhauled. This is part-and-parcel with the above as Support gold largely suffers due to ward gold burden, but there are a multitude of other problems like snowballing, few real interesting ward decision-making opportunities, and few people involved with the vision game. Details have to wait, but the new system will address these issues."

When asked what the S4 and the future holds for fighters, he commented:
"Not ready to share details on this since things are really in flux, but to solve some of the meta-golemy nature of some fighters, and give them distinct places in a teamfight (ie; a team role if one is not present other than "be strong")."
He also gave some examples:
"Some of that, yes, but also like "Vi should be tuned around a dive fighter" where "Udyr is a powerful mid-line fighter.""
He continued, explaining why fighters can be such a pain to get right:
"It is when we can't simply buff them to be good or make small changes. Fighters (and why CertainlyT is focused on them!) are the biggest culprits of this, and tend to make this list more than others. Much of this is based around the schizophrenic goals and role fulfillment on fighters (which typically comes with low counter-play) and them deriving value from nothing but raw power. Not only aware, but one of our biggest open sores that's very hard to solve without a LOT of disruption."

Xelnath looking for feedback regarding support income and warding
Building off Morello's comments up above, Xelnath has hosted a forum thread for summoners to share their thoughts on "relationship between support income, warding and the problems these two systems are causing with each other"
"*sharpens his claws a bit*  
For those of you who missed it, I want to draw attention to this post.
Originally Posted by Morello
Now, let's put this thread on a good note; let me tell you two must-haves for Season 4 to ship successfully in my mind; 
We're going to significantly improve, and ultimately fix, jungle and support gold flow. I feel this is one of the most painful areas of League, and one that can be fixed. A lot of the satisfaction in League is growing in power over time, getting items, and transitioning from early to late game with items. It's definitely a problem that 2/5 of players don't get to do this.
Season 4 changes will address this problem, and very likely throw balance into a tailspin for preseason. Eggs, omelettes, etc. We'll work hard to get that fleshed out and tuned before S4 starts properly. 
Wards and the map vision system need to be overhauled. This is part-and-parcel with the above as Support gold largely suffers due to ward gold burden, but there are a multitude of other problems like snowballing, few real interesting ward decision-making opportunities, and few people involved with the vision game. Details have to wait, but the new system will address these issues. 
These two systems have been the major project that Xypherous and I have been working on for the last 3-4 months. This has been a huge effort, in terms of collecting data, experimenting and generally playing mad scientist while attempting to preserve the core of what makes Summoner's Rift fun.

There's four huge topics here:
  • Jungle gold income
  • Support gold income
  • Support expenditures on warding
  • The effects of using wards to gain vision

Trying to hit all 4 cohesively in one point is madness, however, they are all HIGHLY interconnected. So while this thread is about the overlap between all four, expect to see breakout threads from myself or other designers discussing each topic individually to gather focused feedback. 
For this post, I want to talk about the relationship between support income, warding and the problems these two systems are causing with each other: 
What are the issues?
  • Supports are expected to not last hit, thus gaining no income
  • Supports are expected to shoulder most of the gold burden for purchasing wards
  • Supports are expected to roam the map and ward
  • Supports are expected to buy expensive activated items
  • Supports are expected to be effective without gold revenue
  • Supports are often tied to the Marksman carry
  • Supports never get to achieve an endgame fantasy due to losing all of their income to vision expenditures

  • Wards are necessary to protect the sanctity of laneing from persistent Jungler aggression
  • Wards are necessary to observe important locations and objective
  • Wards cost gold, from the character least equipped to afford them
  • Wards are the only option for revealing a specific area to move forward safely
  • Wards used in the previously mentioned way linger for a long time (3 minutes!!)
  • Wards are so important, players feel entitled to having the map warded without contributing

Wow! This is a lot!! 
No kidding. This is not a small set of problems. So to kick off this discussion, help me out:
  • What do you think are the problems with support income?
  • How much gold do you think supports need over the course of a 50 minute game (hint: I know the answer, but tell me what you think...)
  • If we were to give more gold to supports, in what kind of situations would you expect to be getting more gold?
  • How do we get other players to recognize the power of wards and the vision they provide?
  • Are all wards too powerful? Are just pink wards too powerful?
  • Should the lowest income character shoulder the highest consumable expenditures in the game?
  • Are the expectations on a support player too high?"
After an intial wave of feedback, he summarized his sample of player concenrs as:
"So to summarize:
  • You guys generally agree its unfair that supports both earn less and spend more
  • Think it might be fair if they earned equal amounts as laners but spent more on wards (relative to laners)
  • Are concerned that even if income was fixed, supports would still spend 100% of gold on wards
  • Feel that there's not enough interactions in the warding system right now
  • Believe we should look into ways to let non-supports get some vision in a way that doesn't restrict their item builds"
Go drop him some more feedback here.

IronStylus on Sivir and mention of Taric VU
Following up on the art he shared yesterday, IronStylus responded to some bits of feedback regarding the amount of armor Sivir is wearing compared to IronStylus's other champions.
"So, I think you've said it yourself in that second paragraph. The concept serves the purpose of the character. Does Sivir need to be covered in head-to-toe plate for reasons of theme or function? Nope! There's some story to the various accouterments that she has, but that's a story for another time. Simple fact is that she's not riding into front line battle, she's agile, quick and strong. 
Sivir has an innate fantasy of the Xena type warrior Amazonian in her. That had to be preserved, and there was enough to work with on her original base that we could reinforce that fantasy while also keeping some of the visual markers that she had already. Bare midriff, bit of shoulder armor, a hint of nomadic feel.

I'm 100% for whatever the character needs. If that means stripping clothing away for a good thematic reason, then I'll do that. If it means adding on to strengthen a fantasy, then I'll do that too. I like to abide by as much context as I can. Not that I'm going to stick to rigid context, this is a fantasy game after all!"
When it was suggested that he cross Sivir's new look with his heavily armored Iron Solari Leona skin to whip up an Iron Solari Sivir skin, he responded positively but noted that there are several other Sivir skin idea's would come before.
"Hmm.. an Iron Solari Sivir would be pretty neat methinks. Though that would be waaay far off as we've had a couple of skin ideas for her sitting in the backlog for some time. She's really due for one and any subsequent skins are reliant on her VU."

IronStylus also gave a bit of an update on the status of Taric's future visual upgrade, saying it's still quite a ways off.
"After this current batch of.. stuff.. I'm working on, I'll be doing ideation on Taric. We're only in the very beginning stages of evaluating how we want to handle him."
When asked if Taric will remain fabulous, he boasted:
How dare you even ask that question! 
Taric being fabulous is a goddamn universal constant!"

Ao Shin's Designer

Meddler, our resident information source on Ao Shin, revealed that FanofLegends is the gameplay designer behind Ao Shin.
"The primary gameplay designer on Ao Shin is a designer who hasn't released a champion previously. His summoner name's 'FanofLegends', and he's doing some cool stuff with the thematic space Ao Shin's concept allows us to work within.

As with every character the rest of the design team's also involved with brainstorming, testing, analysis etc too of course. A lot of teamwork's involved in developing any champion's gameplay - they're very much collaborative projects, usually with one person driving the vision behind the gameplay and a bunch of others offering advice, lending a hand etc."
To learn more about Ao Shin, the recently previewed elemental dragon themed champion that will join the League sometime down the road, click here!

Let's talk about Soraka
Building from the discussion earlier, Morello started up a thread on Soraka, her core design, and some ideas for bringing her back into a better space.
"Soraka is a tough subject. I might have to do this half-way on this post, but let's break down Soraka a little to understand a bit of where she is and where her problems lie;

Soraka's core design is a classic dedicated healer. The issue here is most fully explained in another post about why Dedicated Healers are a design trap in competitive games. Starting here is a good place.

Originally Posted by Morello

We really need a dev blog up where I can have this sort of information readily available for people! :) 
This is specific to Soraka - Janna is a different issue of raw power. Let's look closely at Soraka and what the problem is: mechanics that heal aren't problematic, dedicated healers are. "What, why?" Glad you asked! 
In order to be satisfying and impactful, characters whose job it is to heal need to be able to "erase damage" effectively with healing at a decent clip. If they can't, they feel useless most of the time while they wait for long cooldowns or do other offensive actions (which is counter to why you'd make a dedicated healer in the first place!). If DPS outclips the healing in the usual situations, they also end up feeling ineffective and weak, meaning that the healing-per-second also needs to be powerful. Finally, you're not getting the natural satisfaction of things like CC or kills, so it has to be provided in watching health bars rise and saving friends. 
OK, sure, so what's the problem with that? 
The problem with that is the type of gameplay that surrounds it for not only the opponents, but for allies and even the healer. By removing a big consequence for actions (damage and attrition-over-time), you remove one of the primary axis for overcoming opponents in any non-burst scenario - especially with the combat pacing in lane or when posturing for objectives like Baron or Dragon. This creates a situation where it's not useful for characters to engage in harass, poke or other non-lethal actions since it will basically be a waste of time, energy and resources. Additionally, since a healer can't provide much else to secure a kill (other than +time), the friendly is also at a disadvantage for trying to secure kills or create windows of opportunities to capitalize on. 
The natural counter to sustain is burst. While that does make it counterable, I'll point to Guild Wars 1, WoW PvP, TF2 or other games that feature significant dedicated healers into how that ends up changing the game into something much more single-dimensional from a strategy and options standpoint. I'll also point directly to how bottom lane plays out whenever Soraka's a top 3 pick (hint: extremely passively and even more farm-heavy, sans ganks). 
So, even if I can accept that, does that mean there's no character who should heal an ally? 
No - the key is here in pacing. I think the really good versions of this are the Heal Summoner spell and Wish. These skills have very long cooldowns and huge effects, but their healing-per-second is really poor. This means they're used for heroic saves, clever baits, and can turn the tide of a battle, while still having a good range of counters and a significant opportunity cost. The worst heal I could design would be a 1 second cooldown heal that did a hot for 1 second - it only sustains and can never be used in an active or dire situation effectively. 
Another option that I like is hybridization. Nidalee is my favorite example here, because even if her heals isn't the best-feeling skill in the world, it's still useful, and she can derive satisfaction through poke, zone control or kills as well, lessening the burden her heal needs to carry from a fun and power perspective. Nidalee is a shape-changer with a heal, as opposed to someone who just heals. 
Again, this may not make people who like the red-bars-go-up style feel much better, (and as a lot of us play MMOs or other games with these characters, there's an attachment to feeling helpful there, for sure) but I think it's important to make sure you guys at least understand our position and reasoning, even if you don't agree.
So, then, with that in mind what should be done? Truth be told, I'm unsure. What do you guys think, understanding the different considerations on healers we have for League?"

Responding to the comment "you can't rework her without destroying her character", Morello agreed and explained the current predicament :

"You're right on this Dryad - which is why I've shied away. 
That being said, if this Soraka ever sees competitive play, because of the above issues, we'd likely make sure it stops. I think that feels really bad overall, and is the situation we're stuck in.

We can leave Soraka alone, as long as players are willing to let her be marginalized to do so."

He continued, responding to criticism that Soraka is "THE HEALER" in League of Legends:
"Your argument is why we need supports that can protect allies, and some type of health recovery mechanics need to exist so that fall-backs patterns can occur against reckless and aggressive opponents. On that, we agree. 
I'm saying there's no one who does that by healing as their primary contribution to the team that's healthy. I never doubt that people like healers (I had an 80 Resto Druid in WotLK for quite awhile myself) - that's not a contention point - I'm saying it causes harm to games, much based on the examples we've seen in LoL, WoW, TF2, any MMO ever, and plenty of other games I'm forgetting.

And with Leagues's focus on interaction as opposed to winning at setup, having it be a weird counter but still cause poor gameplay is not an approach I'd like for League."

Morello also attempted to explain the strain dedicated healers add to the game:
"Because it basically violates the entire combat paradigm and invalidates any numerics put in place to pace the game. It artificially inflates DPS formulas (if you have to account for DPS with a dedicated healer, then it's nigh-impossible to balance both with it and without it) and sacrifices decision density in-game (harass-style decisions become invalid). 
This all comes with one benefit; you get to put a healer in the game. Now, I think that benefit has a big gain on a creative sense - fantasy fulfullment is high, familiarity exists and people who like healers or tons of option breadth favor it. However, mechanically, it's all costs and no gain.

In League, it's important that good decision density and counter-play exist. A dedicate healer that would feel like the healer people want cannot live in that space."

He also agreed with a summoner who noted that "Soraka's heal is what makes her weak, ", saying:
Originally Posted by mertatron 
"I think soraka needs her heal to be less good to make her better
it's her heal that shuts her down ... that's her heal that makes her "weak" and feeling less usefull than most other supports

she still needs to be some kind of niche defensive support ... but with more utility .. a support that feels good other than .. "oh I filled your HP bar .. now I'm just gonna hide for 20 sec" ..."
Very doable if we take this direction - though I think this is what defines Soraka to players as well."

On this note, Xelnath chimed in with a few IDEAS ( not realities ):
"One option for soraka could be: 
  • Remove her basic heal, but keep Wish 
  • Replace it with: Fortitude - Grants the target 200 armor/mr for 3 sec. If the target is out of combat, increase their current health up to, but no higher than, 25% of their maximum health. 
That would allow her to "save" champions under attack in combat and give her minor "you can do something extra before going back to base" style of sustain.

... but would Soraka players want something like that in exchange for say Starcall being stronger?"
He also fielded a question on if it were possible to give Soraka an ability that removed CC off allied units:
"Utility like this would need to replace Infuse. However, once we've replaced both Soraka's core healing and infuse... is she really Soraka anymore? I dunno."
Xelnath capped off the thread by responding to someone very disgruntled about all this talk to dramatically changing Sorakasaying:
"And this is exactly why we've elected to leave Soraka as non-competitive for right now. She can't be competitive and maintain the mechanics she has now. (see the 99 Morello posts above mine for details)"

As a bonus, Morello also teased:
"Oh - I DO have a dedicated healer design I want to prototype, but it's definitely not for the MMO healer player archetype :P"

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