Red Post Collection: Context on VU/Relaunch schedule, Continued Diana discussion, Merch Plans, and more!

Posted on at 2:03 AM by Moobeat
This morning's MASSIVE red post collection features a teaser for the upcoming Scorched Earth Renekton skin, IronStylus with a big chunk of discussion on the relaunch team's schedule and ideas for specific champions, Vesh with more discussion on Diana's play style conflicts, Morello on topics including balance prioritization and the health of supports,  lessons learned from Omen's cancellation, a heads up on Riot's new merchandise plans, a link to the Riot soundcloud, and more!
Continue reading for more information.

Recent News

A butcher long imprisoned

Here's Riot Nakyle with an official teaser for the upcoming Scorched Earth Renekton skin:

"For many moons our prison held the butcher at bay, but now it’s simply a matter of time before he erupts onto the rift. 
You’ve been warned."

If you are interested in how Scorched Earth Renekton is shaping up on the PBE, click here for a better look at this full splash, model, and more!

VU/Relaunch Team Discussion - Schedule, Specifics, and more

General VU/Relaunch discussion

IronStylus popped into a forum thread today to respond to criticism of the relaunch teams release schedule, commenting they have aspirations to reach one release per month but it's not set in stone:
"Currently we have 4 VU's/Relaunches in the pipe, including the Sion relaunch which is a while out. Not going to spoil what's grouped into our launch cadence but we're now beginning to project what's going to slot in between other slotted relaunches if Sion's takes a while longer.

That said, we have aspirations to do a relaunch per month, but it's not a hard deliverable we must hit. It's what we want to hit. It's what we plan to hit, but it's not always feasible if we encounter problems.

Problems can be anything from the theme of the character being unclear and how we go about tackling that more philosophical side of a relaunch. That can sometime be the biggest point of contention. Production is often easy. Modelling, animation, VFX, while challenging is often more of a straight forward process and series of deliverables than something that's a lot more malleable and subjective like the concepting/thematic solidification theme.

In addition to process and concepting, we also had a fairly long break over the holidays, and that's pretty standard not to be producing content during that time. We had about 3 champions in various states of completion before we left. Some near the end of production, some in the middle, some at the end of the concept phase. Who knows, we might end up having a few close proximity VU's together because we have a couple of champions as a pretty late state hanging out in the polish phase. Not sure.

Either way, it's the beginning of the year, and we only recently got back into full steam. There's a lot coming this year. I think you'll be pleased with the results."
He continued:
"Also, we're still hammering out process, especially with the aforementioned concept phase. That's not just concept art, that's also thematic clarification/overhaul. Creating some pillars for the character, reinforcing/revamping story, and generally figuring out how to capture charm. It's a very intense process actually because unlike champions or skins, what we're dealing with has a ton of emotion attached to it. Everyone has an opinion and everyone has feedback. It can be challenging to navigate those waters, but it's our job to come to a consensus. With a large group of passionate people, that consensus takes a lot of discussion.

We're still figuring out how to best approach that concepting process. Get people involved, pitching in, and letting people who are passionate drive the product and hold vision. I've found myself not doing as much straight forward concept work, but rather finding who's passionate about a relaunch and getting them assigned as the primary artist. I think that's a better allocation of my time and better way to insure people feel included.

It's a process fraught with challenges and emotions but we're working on it."

He also replied to a comment of along the lines of  "We were told that the champ release rate has slowed down to give you more reworks/VU/TU, but everyone has slowed down", saying:
"There's a mix of reasons. Some of it is resource allocation, some of it is the philosophical things we've talked about previously. We're sort of sitting on a clump of content that's close to being done, but polish and a few sort of.. existential things need to be resolved.

I know that sounds vague, it's hard for me to describe. A lot of what we do sort of revolves around: "Is this _____?" as in, what makes this champion? Every step of the way we ask ourselves, does this animation set, does this model, does this VO, feel like an updated/enhanced/re-envisioned version of that character. That's a very methodical process with a lot of feedback and a lot of work done based on that feedback. While yes, I'd love to fire out content week after week, we have to do our due diligence. My hope is that our pace picks back up and we can hit 1 per month. That's my hope at least."

As for what decides if a rework is announced ahead of time ( such as the Sion work that has been mentioned several times on the forums ), IronStylus commented:
"We like to let people know we're addressing, be it slowly sometimes, the big elephants in the room. Like Sion. He's a major issue in the game for many many reasons. Because he's far out, and we have no dates attached to him, the benefit of telling the community "hey, we got this" is helpful in showing that we at least have it on our plate. 
On the other side of it, characters like Master Yi, being a bit straightforward and not as intense of a UV/Rework, was a nice surprise that we could keep a lid on because it wasn't some dramatic thematic/artistic/gameplay abomination (Well.. AP Yi.. sooooo.. yeah) That was one of our easier relaunches to do because of the concept being pretty much established, the charm identified, and most of the production time just spent on making the visuals awesome.

Case by case basis really. I feel there needs to be a balance of "Hey, yes, we know this one thing is a big deal, here's where we are." and "HEY LOOK! It's a thing you didn't expect and it's SHINY NOW!""

He also replied to a summoner asking why Riot's content release schedule has slowed so much , despite the work force being bigger.
"This is a big discussion, and one that's going on internally. Cadence, quality, amount of content. All being discussed from Relaunch to Champion to Skins. Good conversations. Hopefully those answers can be provided sooner than later. As of right now, I'm not the best person to answer these questions. But they're good and valid ones."

When asked "how far back" the relaunch team plans to go for fixing up old champions, IronStylus replied:
"That's a tough one.. 
We don't even know ourselves. Right now, we're even looking at champions as recent as last year possibly being on the hit list, probably not for complete overhauls, but at least TU's. I can feasibly seeing us going up at least until mid 2011 and still be deep in the initiative.

We'll see, it'll evolve. Every character is different in it's needs.

It's prompted by a lot of factors from individual dev interest in particular character, something needed for an event, an arising opportunity because of new tech being developed that we can piggy back a relaunch onto, and a lot of other stuff. Characters are relaunched for all different reasons and at different tiers. That makes things really fluid.

I can't answer what champions are currently in the timeline aside from Sion which people already know about."
Specific Champions

IronStylus also entertained questions about potential VU ideas for several specific champions.

When asked about Sion's rework / updated lore, he commented:
"Well, Sion needs something. But I do like the idea of reinforcing. I'm not 100% up on his current lore, but the idea of a giant undead brute who signifies the glory of old Noxus is a pretty good playground."

RiotDudeBro also popped in to talk about Sion's rework, saying:
"We can't share our plans this far in advance, but I can tell you this, after working at Riot a few years, I've never seen so many people pumped up to work on a project."

As for Rumble skins, IronStylus reiterated why they are such a pain in to make:
"Any new skin for Rumble will make it much easier to do subsequent skins for. This is a result that any new skin will have a rebuilt rig. 
Currently we'd be unable to do any of the cool fan ideas out there because all of that wackiness in his current mech would carry over. We can only do geometry changes over that. Anything that would involve a more slick set of movements, a more advanced mech, whatever, is dependent on a new rig being in place."

When asked about Evelynn's future visual update, IronStylus commented:
"Eve currently sits in the "what is she?" land of concept development. She needs something more of a hook than just "blue lady in tights". Maybe she's a shadow isles hybrid. Maybe she's a demon. She needs not just an update in fidelity, she needs a thematic overhaul. That said, she'll probably get a traditional skin to go with whatever we do with her. We're only just in the early, early phases of her development. Very slow burn."

IronStylus also replied to a question about a Warwick VU in light of the recent talk of his kit rework:
"Actually.. Warwick has recently come up on my radar.. We may try to figure out a way to slot him somewhere in between or after what we have planned for this year so far.

NO GUARANTEES. But we're doing some very VERY early exploratory work."

As for visual changes for Renekton, IronStylus commented:
"Funny thing is, I think we could simply replace base Renekton's head and we'd be cool. His animations are fine, his rig is fine, his particles are decent, his face just looks a little derpy. I'd like it to fall in line with the splash."

When asked about a the finished Ryze model that was mentioned at PAX last year, IronStylus commented:
"Because he's pretty straight forward and we didn't see any real need to dramatically shift him, we did a model (Grumpy Monkey did it in his spare time actually) and it's hanging out. Though that's "done" we still have to go through the motions to make sure it lives up to where we want him conceptually then of course go through actual production along with his skins. We don't have him on the board yet. My hope is later this year, no certainty on that though."

When Miss Fortune's name was thrown in to the VU ring, IronStylus simply said:

As for a potential visual update for Zilean, IronStylus commented:
"We've got some nice ideas for a good VU approach for Zilean. Not slotted, not in pre-production, nowhere on the list at the moment. Time will tell..."

He also briefly touched on the ideas of Karthus and Kassadin VUs, saying:
"Karthus is in the pre-production concept phase. No ballpark date whatsoever though.

Nothing on Kassadin, but I'd like to put him into pre-production soon."

IronStylus also mentioned yordles in general, mentioning a "Great Yorlde Unification Pass of 2014":
"With one relaunch, we're currently diving into yordles. It's going to set a precedent, and off of that we'll base the Great Yordle Unification Pass (YUP) of 2014 will be started. Currently our goal, even if we lack a style guide on yordles, is to bring them more in line with Ziggs and Lulu, our current standard for male and female yordles."

Omen isn't coming back

IronStylus ventured to reddit to finally put a nail in the coffin of Omen - a long cancelled, spike shooting monster beast champion that some members of the community just don't want to let go of:
"Sorry. Gunna be the bearer of bad news. No, Omen will probably never come back. He was a real nightmare from a lot of different directions. An ADC.. monster.. who shot spikes? Sneaky, Cheshire cat.. thing? Void? Jungle? What? We went through the gamut of problems, thematically, artistically and gameplay. "How do we give him personality?" "Does the character make sense?" "How should a creature ADC function?" iteration after iteration. I have at least 20 iteration of Omen, and that's just me, not the other artists who worked on him. 
Those were chaotic days at Riot. The team was small, we were sort of flying by the seats of our pants. I'm glad we scrapped him. Could we maybe have done something different? Maybe. But if you could trade places with me during that time, you'll see how stressful that time was, and how the champion just fell apart. If you were privy how nuts it was at the time, with conflicting feedback and vague direction, you'd see that the champ just wasn't meant to be, at least in this form. 
It's good when things completely fall apart sometimes. It means there's a definitive "no" in there, which then opens the door to find the "yes." What we learned on Skarner and Omen, the successes and mistakes, eventually allowed us to start to hone in how to create proper monster champions like Kha'zix. We've got more in the pipe which also benefit from the lessons learned on Omen. 
Sometimes a disaster is as valuable as a success ;)"

Vesh with more on Diana

( This is a continuation from yesterday's discussion. Make sure you catch up on the first wave of posts!! )

Continuing to on his discussion from yesterday, Vesh chatted a bit more about Diana in response to some summoner concerns:
"There's a lot of stuff here, so I'm sorry if I don't respond to each point individually, but here are a couple things to consider: 
Saying diana's ability to QRR someone and kill them is bad is, I feel, just wrong. Every assassin does that, just list their combo and say "all you do is X and they die, this is bad" and it sounds the same. 
I explained in an earlier post that a core defining feature of a good assassin is having a way "out" if they succeed. Diana has an all in pattern where she either dies or gets the kill. If she lives past that point it's because shes impossible to kill with her W up, not because she did anything skillfull to juke the enemy team or escape in a way that's interactive. This is one of (but not the only) problem with making Diana a straight up assassin. The other problem is that her assassin pattern only has one place of interaction (dodging the Q) and if she hits it she just presses R twice.

Vesh, why do you insist there's something wrong with diana's sheild scaling with AP? Riven exists. The sheild is not a problem, you already nerfed it hard. Building 80 extra AP only gives the shield 48 more health, and that's only on full proc.

An AP shield isn't inherently problematic. It's a problem if she has an assassin pattern though, because it undermines the decisions she has to make. If she builds straight AP, she simultaneously can instant kill someone while also being incredibly tanky -after the fact-. When Diana is ahead there's literally no clear window in which to fight her, especially since the duration of the shield is pretty long when it matters most (when she's already on top of you from a targeted dash).

Should Malphite be having an identity crisis because you can build DFG on him and literally remove anyone without MR from the map whenever you want? 
If this becomes the dominant build on Malphite then that's a problem. DFG creates some of this inherently which any champion that has a decent AP ratio + closing power, but with Malphite you are giving up a ton of survivability by going straight AP, whereas Diana doesn't have this weakness. Going straight AP on Diana still allows her to be even more tanky. Consider aslso that Diana frequently builds abyssal and zhonyas, which give her added armor and MR on that shield which is scaling with AP.

Anyway, to reiterate, it's probably ok for her to have an AP scaling shield as long as she isn't jumping on people, one shotting them, and then being tanky afterwards. A big consideration here is what type of items we want Diana to be building. If the shield scaled off health, she would be building items such as sunfire, haunting guise, rylais, etc. These are probably a lot less cool on her than items such as Nashor's Tooth and Zhonya's Hourglass which feel really good on her."
He continued:
"Diana doesn't hit and run. She chases down a heretic, slays them with her blade and then goes to the next one. She doesn't jump onto one of them and run away/do nothing for 10 seconds. 
Thematically I think a more fighter style fits her, but at the core I think the gameplay is what should drive any adjustments.

It should still feel great to Q->R->E->W into a fight. I just want to make sure the actions that follow that feel good to Diana and don't feel like utter bull**** to her opponents. Fighter doesn't mean she only autoattacks. It means she has tools to help her deal sustained damage but she can still have bursty moments to finish someone off or even to engage with she at the end of the day shes also a champion that scales with AP."

As for some kind of eta on when we might see a preview of the changes, Vesh commented:
"No, sorry. I'm going to be experimenting with some stuff but at the end of the day I'd rather we do it right the first time, and sometimes that means more testing and iteration than we can anticipate at the start.

edit: please know that this champion is near and dear to my heart. she's my forum avatar for a reason."

Morello Grab Bag - Balance, Supports, ADC, and more!

Morello has been on the forums doing what he does best - discussing balance! I've separated up his recent posting spree into categories to make it a bit easier to digest.

Balance Prioritization

When asked if he could explain Riot's priority system for the balance changes and why it seems some champions don't get touched for a long time, Morello commented:
"Awesome question. I'll answer in two parts; 
1) We basically have not have centralized prioritization as the game and team has scaled. We've failed to do this consistently with non-emergency issues (nerfs due to pro play that needs to happen now, etc).

Much of this is due to allowing people to work on "passion projects" a lot - something I think is cool and like to support. Passionate people put out better work, and finding something you're inspired to improve the experience for is noble.

The issue with this is it means we don't focus on the most important work available on this front. This is probably in my top 3 of things to personally solve, and we have a good team structure that should allow this to occur. I'd like to include room for passion projects, but we need to be better about making getting to our priorities. 
2) Consistent play is sometimes a trend, and that's fine. Some champions should go months without play if they have specific strengths and weaknesses (Kog, for example). This means they fall in and out of favor based on other factors, which is a good indicator of a healthy system. I don't think your examples are prone to this, but I don't think it should be the indicator we use to judge what needs help when we have time to opportunistically fix something.

It's something we're actively working on fixing. We've also added some more manpower to the team so we can get more done, too!"
He continued, mentioning that sometimes reworks need to take precedence over number tweaks:
"Some of it is that many champions can't be balanced without a rework - though I think many more than we focus on now could be. There's no world where Riven is in a good spot that's not total dominance. Same with Kassadin - too much reliability/lack of failure case/perfection results in pre-determined outcomes/overloaded with stats or tools on those champs to not have their balance results be binary or reliant on hard-counter trends."

Support Scaling

Morello also made several comments about support scaling:
"So, two things: 
1) Agree support scaling needs a tuning pass. More follow-up we need to do there.
2) Stop with the "ONLY NON-SUPPORTS ARE IN-GAME" when Lulu, Nami, Taric and even some Janna are getting played in lieu of this. Don't overblow a reasonable critique of the scaling satisfaction with false and sensationalized statements."
He continued on the second point, saying:
"That might be true. I just don't want the support "religious argument" to cloud the conversation about support scaling needing more work.

We agree there generally (and some of this is in the support items, too - Xyph and friends are plowing on that right now)."
He also comment on support Annie, saying:
"I think Annie's presence warps the rest of it massively too, I agree."
Janna Q charge

Morello also joined a conversation on why Janna's Q doesn't offer very meaningful rewards for charging it, saying:
"Agreed - this should be a strong reward and isn't. I don't like variable CC due to how tightly CC duration prediction is connected to intuitive feel, and damage can get us into mage territory, but those are only two of several (and many possible) ideas. Good call generally."
He continued, replying to someone suggesting tacking on more damage:
"As long as it sucks against minions so that it doesn't turn into guaranteed wave-clear. "Why should I pick Janna" should be supported by this reward structure (maybe pressure damage could be one.)"
He continued:
"Yeah - def solvable. Just something I wanted to mention that's a thing for us to remember.

Damage can be a reward here if Janna's value is "good poke damage with her CC if she telegraphs," which isn't unreasonable."

Mage vs Support

Morello also commented on the separation of the mage and support identity:
"I'd say this; if you want a character to be a support, and its job and CORE fantasy is to support, you have to make tradeoffs to make that true. If a champion is definied by helping other players on their team directly, then I think it's more important to ensure it does an awesome job of that. 
The quantity of decisions that get made is less important, in League, than the quality of the decisions. If Janna, say, can do fair job of supporting, but is completely uninteractive in mid (due to her kit being made with the idea that it will set up the pins for a friend), then it drains away the possibility of gameplay (remember sit back, wave clear, never interact AP Janna mid?) to allow a choice of where you want to play her. She gets nerfed, then support Janna gets weakened. Now you mess Janna's whole jam up. 
Or, you could focus on making sure she has high-quality decisions that are impactful - a direction I think is better. If you don't want to help other people, I think you should simply not play a core support (Janna, Soraka, Lulu, Nami, Taric, Sona) and play a different character.

I think this meta conversation, though, comes from one core player desire: a way to personalize and express "style" in the way you play and choices you make. This I agree lacks and want to fix, but I think "anytime anywhere" from a role perspective cheapens in-game choices in favor or predetermined champ select choices. There's other ways to skin this that we're talking about - some things like item builds and pregame setup, though that stuff's aways off."
He continued:
"Right - but those champions also don't have the utility of an entire kit designed to force-multiply other characters and be a supporting force. Since the conversation is how that feels unsatisfying (and I agree it needs to be better later in the game), you can't add the safety of 2-3 defensive peels for self and teammates to that kind of power. Morgana stalemates with 1 and spellvamp..."

As for ADCs and the current saturation of Jinx and Lucian picks, Morello commented:
"You're speaking to a rotating wall of hard counters, which is actually very unhealthy. Jinx and Lucian are overtuned ADCs that lack clear weaknesses and overshadow characters who have them.

All good fighters' weaknesses are "some other fighter." I think Mundo is VERY salvagable with balance updates to give him play (he's just old), but Shyvana...."
He soldiered on, explaining where ADC fit into team fights:
"Are they unsatisfying for you, or in general game design terms? In game design terms, ADC's are quite satisfying to play well because of the highs/lows/impact of success/failure. Damage is high which has natural feedback loops built into health bars that are designed to feel great in a Pavlovian sense.

ADCs add needed structure and varying target desirability to a team fight, and allow other roles to take a position to protect the QB/set up a run/etc. I think some circumvent good play by lacking weaknesses (overtuned Vayne also comes to mind when that's a thing), but I think good ADC's enrich the game."
He continued, attempting to address why higher level players are complaining about the power level of ADC:
"Two possible attributions to that statement: 
1) This is the weakest ADC's have been and they still have dictation over fights. The delta between Season 1 Corki and today is big - even Jinx is a shadow of yesterday's marskmen. The delta for long-time players can feel less explosive. 
2) Marksmen have a weakness, and many top picks (Shyvana, Mundo, Gragas, Kassadin, Thresh) are safe, reliable and powerful. Being the one guy with an Achilles heel feels pretty bad, even if the problem is too few people have one."

Teemo Shrooms

When asked about Teemo mushrooms and their current lack of counterplay now that Oracle's Elixir has been removed, Morello commented:
"Yes - Xyph has been working on this, but we've had issues getting some of the technical pieces in place. Our bad on that, but we think (while not super critical), this violates core principles on this stuff and we want to address."

Direct from Riot, Online Merchandise Store Later This Year

RiotRedQueen, a merchandise coordinator at Riot games, tweeted out a number of interesting things concerning Riot's future merchandise plans:
1) "To answer questions about Jinx: Jinx is our current licensing partner. Later this year, we'll be opening our own online store"

2) "So you'll be able to buy everything direct from Riot. Jinx has a mixture of work from us, fan made works, and things they've developed."

3) "The best part about this will be you can buy League merch from anywhere in the world, and in a language you understand."

4) "So one Reddit-er has it right on the nose. When we were small, we partnered with Jinx. Now we're pretty big, and needed time to build"

5) "Something that can handle, literally, millions of people buying and browsing all at once. It's one of the biggest things we've ever done!"

6) "But we want to do it right, and make it the best experience possible for all of you. Great products, a great check-out experience, etc."

League of Legends soundcloud

Kungfu Gopher, a motion graphic artist, dropped off a link to the League of Legends soundcloud page, where summoner's can find standalone and downloadable versions of all the login themes!
"Hey! All of the themes can be found on our soundcloud page. 
As for the rest of your questions, they can all be answered in the handy dandy FAQ section on the Lunar Revel site. 

The Lunar Revel event ends on Feb 11th. Good luck!"
He also commented on the fact that the login screens and music rotate so often:
"Thanks for all the feedback, guys!

Speaking personally, I'm a fan of the changing login screens (because hey, it's what I do for a living). Obviously we try to theme the music to suit the mood and feeling of the champion/skin/event being showcased on the login page. We try to think of the screens as giving you a moment in time with that character and the music score helps bring you into that world. I definitely hear you that there's a nostalgic feel to the classic Summoner's Call theme though. That's why we've done a variety of different spins on it in various screens such as Pool Party, Lunar Revel, and Snowdown Showdown. It lives on!

The very nature of the game is that it's a constantly evolving experience, for better or for worse (hopefully for better in most cases). From the music and visuals, to the champions and even gameplay mechanics, everything is always in a constant state of flux. 
One thing we are actively trying to keep a handle on is what was said about Yasuo's screen and Udyr's, where there was a harsh intro or sound effect that can't be skipped. This causes some people to disable the audio entirely and that makes us sad pandas. But it's also not our intention to blow your eardrums out when you're least expecting it. So, we're working on that. ;)" 

Reds on Reddit

In a reddit discussion about not being able to properly communicate with Rioters or on feedback threads unless you post on the NA forums, Vesh shared his personal experience on interacting with the community on reddit :
"So, there are pros and cons to both. When talking about design changes with the community, Reddit is not an ideal platform for me right now because usually before I can even get into the thread, the top upvoted comment is "Riot should not change X but instead change Y and Z." Now, if we have a good reason to change Y and Z then we should be able to justify why that is to you guys, but when a certain opinion has already hit critical mass, even a well constructed argument for X will be seen negatively because opinions have already been largely set one way. 
In addition, it's really hard to have chronological conversations with people visibly because comments get buried and there's no "red tracker" (which is good for Reddit, I'm not saying we should have one - this is a community site, not ours). 
Anyway, yeah. Upvoting can be good for some things, terrible for others. When opinions already have large numbers of upvotes when we see a thread for the first time, it's extremely intimidating to jump in as the opposition or even to guide the conversation in a constructive way."

Thoughts on Ashe and if she needs buffs

When asked if Ashe is likely to receive any sort of buffs in the near future, ricklessabandon commented:
"i don't know how the rest of the team feels, but generally speaking ashe has a history of being a 'strong, but underappreciated' champion. that isn't super surprising since it's not hard to imagine that some people don't find utility and +50 range as sexy as damage steroids. in any case, she's considered stable at the moment as far as balance is concerned, which is to say that we don't currently have plans to change her. that doesn't mean we're closed to the idea of giving her a bit of love/cleanup if it makes sense, which is what i'd like to think the hawkshot changes are."
( For reference, the Hawkshot changes he's referencing at reducing the cooldown per rank and changing the passive to be a flat 3 gold per kill from 1/2/3/4/5. See this PBE post for more info. )

When asked for an ETA on the upcoming Skarner and Xerath reworks ( which have been testing on the PBE for about a month now ) , ricklessabandon commented:
"i think it's really soon. i've been kind of buried in my own work so i'm not 100% on this, but i'm pretty sure you won't have to wait much longer."

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