[ Updated ] Red Post Colection: Vi Dev Blog, Undocumented Pantheon Changes in 4.7, Fantasy LCS live, and more!

Posted on at 5:55 PM by Moobeat
[ ~3 AM PST Update: Added in the latest on the Fantasy LoL problems and Pantheon changes! ]

This evening's red post collection features a Dev Blog by gypsylord on his experiences creating  Vi, SmashGizmo with an update on undocumented changes to Pantheon's ult that went out in patch 4.7, the launch of Fantasy LCS, and more!
Continue reading for more information!

Dev Blog: From Vision to Violence - Vi's Creation

Our next developer blog is up and this one features none other than gypsylord discussing his experiences with designing Vi, the Piltover Enforcer! Let's get to the fun part!
"Hey Summoners!

Welcome back to another entry in the dev blog! Today we're going to be taking a time machine back to the creation of Vi, the Piltover destroyer of all things squishy. There were a lot of challenges involved in the making of Vi (including thinking up words that begin with Vi-...), but there's a lot to share here, like how we design cohesive champion kits and how many different ways there are to punch things in League.

So without further ado, I'll let Gypsylord take it away!
Chris "Pwyff" Tom
A Vicious Challenger Appears!
On my first day at Riot I saw a concept art by  RiotZeronis for a female "Piltover Enforcer" on the ideation wall with a post-it note that read: "OMG I WILL COSPLAY THE *%&$ OUT OF THIS!" I immediately fell in love with the concept, so I begged Ziegler (the Lead Champion Designer at the time) to let me work on her for my first project.  
Six months later Vi was released to terrorize the live environment, much to the dismay of every ADC player ever. In this blog, I'm going to discuss the evolution of Vi's kit over the course of her development cycle while highlighting the design decisions behind some of the changes we've made. 
The first thing I did when I got the go-ahead to work on Enforcer (as she was called at the time) was to think of the core beats I wanted to hit with her gameplay. After staring at the concept art for a few hours and hearing her creative pitch (an ex-criminal turned bad cop with giant gloves she used to bust open bank vaults), I knew she needed three things:
  • Visceral hits with IMPACT – Big gloves mean big punches and even basic attacks should feel good.
  • Offense as the best defense – Vi is super aggro, so if she protects herself it's because she punched you first.
  • No pansying around – Vi doesn't flit around the edge of combat. SHE GOES IN.
I chose the above three aspects to focus on because I felt they best represented something we call a power archetype. When a player sees Vi's splash, they see a punk girl with an aggressive personality and giant oversized gauntlets that she uses to punch things REAL HARD. Creating Vi meant we needed to deliver on that archetype – a super-aggro-punk, similar to how someone picks Darius to be a brutal warlord who crushes people with his massive axe. If the gameplay doesn't deliver on the character's power archetype, it can lead to an unrewarding experience that's forced to lean on other things to be fun and satisfying (looking at you Sion).

Kit Cohesion: A Designer's Vice

Let's start with a paper kit (a theoretical champion kit) that got scrapped. You'll notice some base ideas for Vault Breaker and Denting Blows that were present from day 1:
Passive – Denting Blows 
Vi's next attack after each spell cast deals bonus damage and shreds her target's armor.

Q – Vault Breaker
Vi roots herself and charges up her gauntlets over 2 seconds before dashing forward, dealing a ton of damage and knocking back the first champion hit.

W – Come at Me 
Vi creates a spell shield that reflects back the first spell to hit her.

E – Crush 
Vi claps her gauntlets together on a nearby target, dealing damage and slowing them. Any enemy killed gets 'gibbed,' dealing Crush's damage and slowing in an area of effect while resetting its cooldown.

R – Steampunk Assault

Vi dashes to a nearby enemy (range and speed similar to Xin Zhao's Audacious Charge), dealing damage and suppressing her target for 1 second. During this time she could recast Steampunk Assault to select one of three effects:
  • Beatdown – Extend the suppression duration and deal bonus damage
  • Slam – Knock the target up into the air and slam it back into the ground, stunning all nearby enemies
  • Throw – Throw the target in a chosen direction
After some preliminary playtests with feedback from various designers, one thing became very clear: while some of the spells were quite fun to use, they just didn't feel "right" for Vi. Vault Breaker was the sole exception to this, having received overwhelmingly positive feedback from day one.
I ended up taking a step back to examine why Vault Breaker was doing so well. The conclusion I came to was the same point I outlined earlier: all of Vi's other abilities just weren't delivering on the character archetype. Crush was fun but it felt like a ground slam, not a huge punch. Throw made for awesome plays but why use gloves to pick people up? Come at Me was a purely defensive move that was entirely reactionary – it had no inherent aggression. Vault Breaker, on the other hand, was everything I wanted Vi players to feel. It was aggressive. It had impact. It felt very much like something that Piltover's bad cop would do to a fleeing criminal.

With Vault Breaker in mind I decided to scrap much of Vi's kit to start again with this rule: if an ability couldn't be described as a punch, it wouldn't fly. Throw and Crush were a lot of fun, but they weren't punches. A good lesson I learned from this was that sometimes awesome mechanics need to be put in storage if they don't accomplish the goal at hand. I still want to put Throw into the game, but it just didn't fit on Vi.

Creating a Viable Ultimate
After a few months of ideation, I ended up with much of the live kit that you see today, except for Vi's ultimate. Here's where she was prior to Assault and Battery:
R – Power Slam 
Vi dashes to a nearby enemy (400 range) and uppercuts them into the air. 0.5 seconds later, she slams them back into the ground, stunning everything nearby.
If you've ever played a squishy champion against a fed Vi, you likely know the terror that is Assault and Battery. So you're probably also looking at Power Slam and saying to yourself, "That spell looks almost fair, why change it?"

Power Slam had two key problems. One, it just felt like a bad Unstoppable Force (Malphite's ult); it was shorter range, it stunned for less time and the AoE was easier to avoid. Second, and more importantly, Vi as a character didn't have a unique strategic niche in the game. With this kit she did the same job as Xin Zhao and Jarvan IV, but unless she could out-stat the both of them (more on this later), there was just no reason to pick her over Jarvan IV, who brings Cataclysm. I felt like Vi's ultimate, if done right, had the potential to solve both problems.
Vi knocks you up for 1.25 seconds. End of story.

In my opinion, all champions should ideally have a reason to be picked over any other within their role. Each champion needs something unique to them that no one else has. When we do this right, we create characters that don't have to rely on raw power to be appreciated and can instead feel good about that one awesome thing they bring to a team. When you pick Twisted Fate, you get his global teleport and you think of all the awesome ganks you can pull off at level 6. There's always going to be the option to run that global comp and, regardless of power (up to a point), TF is always going to feel good in it.

As a counterexample, when you pick Volibear, you can run around and "do things" but you're only going to feel uniquely outstanding when you're simply out-statting your opponents. If your team wants a tank with a flip, you should be running Singed. If your team wants a tanky dude with a crazy single target execute, then Garen seems more viable. Maybe there are team comps who need a single-target execute on a tanky bear with a flip, but Volibear just doesn't have many things that are uniquely his own and, as a result, he's always going to be judged by how high his base stats are compared to the other champions in his role.

With the above philosophy in mind, I went in search for Vi's unique niche, and came out of the lab with Assault and Battery. Why do you bring Vi to a team? Because she provides the best guaranteed ranged crowd-control in the game. You can't flash out of it. You can't cleanse it. You can't dodge it. Vi knocks you up for 1.25 seconds. End of story.

Viewing Vi on Live
My initial desire was that when someone like Vi goes into the fight, the counterplay was less about avoiding that fear-seeking punch-missile and more about what you do afteryou get Assault and Battery'd. A Vi who gets to her target and smacks it down over time has counterplay. A Vi who gets to her target to punch them straight into grayscale is less than ideal.

Additionally, I'd be more than happy with Vi picking out her target at 800+ range if she's doing it to set up a fellow teammate for a pick-off, but that's also not happening (see above re: grayscale punching). Vi should love extended fights thanks to Denting Blows, and her scrappy punch-gal motif seems more in line as a brawler than a bursty assassin.

We're keeping an eye on Vi as she continues to rampage around the live environment, but I hope this gives more insight into how we approach champion design and specifically how Vi's kit came into being."
August "Gypsylord" Browning

Undocumented Pantheon Changes in 4.7

Here's SmashGizmo with clarification on Pantheon changes that went out in patch 4.7 but did not show up in the patch notes:
"Hey Summoners, 
In 4.7 we included a change to Pantheon's Grand Skyfall that affected its power, but didn't document it in the official patch notes. Sorry about that! 
We'll be including the changes in the 4.8 patch notes, but felt it was important to also get the information out as soon as possible. Here's what the patch note will look like:
R - Grand Skyfall
  • BUGFIX Pantheon can no longer cast spells until he's finished landing
  • BUGFIX Grand Skyfall's animation and damage now better match each other. The timing is unchanged from when the enemy indicator appears to when damage occurs, but Pantheon now visually lands 0.5 seconds later.
In short, we were looking at Pantheon's Grand Skyfall animation and realized it was inconsistent from a visual standpoint (ie: almost getting out of the circle as Pantheon lands, only to have him land while also stunning you in the same frame). We'll be keeping an eye out if this makes Pantheon feel less smooth to play than on live (not from a power perspective but from a feel perspective!). 
Sorry for not documenting the change - it slipped past us."
He continued:
"I'm seeing some discussion in here about the timing of this with this skin and just wanted to address that point. These changes came about while we were working on the skin and noticed the inconsistency between the effect and the visuals on Pantheon, so we took the opportunity to update the scripting on his ultimate to match them up. It is 100% our bad that we failed to document these with the patch notes, but the intent here was to make sure that pantheon's abilities looked right for the Dragon Slayer skin. 
The other concern that I'm seeing is that this is seriously impacting both his feel and performance in the game.
"They're not trying to nerf anything dude, they're just trying to fix a bug. 
It's about making what you see on your screen match what's really happening in-game. If Kass R were off-sync, you'd want the bug fixed, too. 
If hurts his performance, then they can always tune it from there."
And this ^ pretty much sums up our feelings on the subject. It wasn't our intent to significantly nerf Pantheon or make him feel significantly clunkier, so we're watching the situation on live and will adjust accordingly if Pantheon players are suffering due to this change."

Pwyff also added in:
"I get that this is looks super bad (trust me, it's giving me a headache how this happened), but we're fairly committed to monitoring him on live and, if necessary, taking action to smooth out his gameplay in 4.9 (4.8 is currently locked for changes so we don't destabilize things). 
TLDR when we were looking at Pantheon's code with the new skin, we saw a lot of cleanup we could do. Then we hit the point where we could clarify his ult in terms of its visual representation (a Pantheon that lands well outside of his expected center point is confusing for any player) and did it. Our designers are specifically told to make changes for the health of the game, often at the expense of a lot of other things (case in point...), but I think this is one where we just didn't consider the full ramifications of everything else. 
End of the day? We messed up on this one pretty bad. I'm not sure if I'd say it makes him absolutely unplayable (oh god downvotes inc) but I absolutely agree it's a punch to Pantheon and we didn't communicate it nearly well enough. Our bad completely."

Over on the EUW forums, Riot Pwyff confirmed the above earlier today and also replied to someone aggressively asserting this change went undocumented to sell more of the recently released Dragonslayer Pantheon skins:
Also, once again our skins / ecommerce promotions almost never cross over with the design team unless it's something that could potentially lead to a negative player experience (ie: Rework after a skin launch). We've had far more tragic coincidences than happy "release a skin then buff the champion" accidents and nobody really minds. The alternatives just aren't fun.
He continued:
"We have a context post coming up that summarizes this, but the TLDR: 
When Pantheon was getting a new skin, we went and looked into his old code and saw there were a lot of things we could tune up. The player impacting change - Grand Skyfall - was made because it just made no sense for the visuals of an ultimate to misalign with its expectations. If you see Pantheon landing, you get away from his center of influence. But right now he's landing on top of you, regardless of expectation. 
This is definitely something experienced Pantheon players are used to (and we're keeping a close eye in terms of the champion's smoothness of play and will adjust accordingly), but this change can now be done with the visuals matching up. 
The initial communication was my bad - I asked about it and was told "it matches visually but shouldn't have gameplay implications" - what I didn't realize was that they were talking about the ultimate itself (which in terms of damage from when the indicator appears to when damage is dealt, is exactly the same timing as old). I didn't realize it also delayed his ability to cast spells on landing so that's completely my bad.

Once again, we never intended for this to ship as a ninja nerf to boost sales or something. It just doesn't make sense from a player trust perspective. Quite simply we missed it."

AMAA - Riot Games QA Careers and Questions

Dannamoth and several other Rioters are currently hosting an AMA about QA Careers at Riot!
"Hello I’m Sean ‘Dannamoth’ Radak joined by Chris ‘Riot Spider’ Buzon 
We're always looking for really talented people to join our QA team. Many of you probably don't know how we work or why we think QA at Riot is an awesome place to work, though! With that said, we would like to open the thread to any questions you have for us about QA at Riot Games. To start the thread off we want to hit on a few different popular questions. (Other folks working in the QA department will probably chime in as they have something to say/answer) 
1. What does QA do at Riot? 
The short answer is- “a bunch of things”. We have Game Analysts that live and breathe competitive League of Legends and work with our champion and gameplay design teams creating and modifying content. We have test engineers that build automation frameworks and assist us in driving on continuous delivery. We have QA leads that focus on the growth and mentorship of the analysts on the teams they work with. 
2. What is your day like? 
Our general day to day activities will depend on the team you’re working on. Our core work hours are 10am-7pm. If you’re working on the Events QA team you will be supporting one of our many global esports events. This would include trips to Europe, various locations around the US, or any other manner of locations. Almost all of the QA at Riot are embedded on the teams they work with. Someone working with the Skins team is going to have a very different day than an Analyst working with the Patcher team. Some things that you might be doing throughout the day: Playtesting new champions or live balance changes, combing through the forums or reddit to hunt down any escaped bugs, participating in long term team planning, and test plan creation/execution. 
3. Do I need to be Challenger Tier to work at Riot? 
No, but that depends on what you want to do. Almost all of the QA Analysts working with designers on live balance changes are platinum to challenger tier. Other positions don’t need to have mad League of Legends skills, but it never hurts. Almost all of the game focused QA positions are going to require a strong knowledge of the game. 
4. Where is Riot Games? 
We’re lots of places, you can check out all the specific office locations on our careers page www.riotgames.com/careers . Our Headquarters are located in Santa Monica. We have open QA positions in Saint Louis, Santa Monica and a few other locations. If you’re interested in applying, please include this post and specifically reference “Dannamoth” in your cover letter, this will help us track those who apply!
Be sure to get your questions in!

Fantasy LCS is Live!

While the beta was just announced yesterday,  the Fantasy LCS now live and ready for action!
Head on over to the fantasy LCS homepage and get started!

UPDATE: Looks like Fantasy LCS has had some problems!

Here's Riot Opti with the latest news:
"Hey guys, so here's the latest on Fantasy LCS: 
First off, sorry again about today's setbacks-- we're genuinely blown away by the speed and magnitude of your guys' interest in fantasy, and the last thing we wanted was for our system to struggle like this when everyone's so pumped. We have our team working (as we speak) on a solution to get everyone into leagues and drafts as quickly as possible, but have had to pivot accordingly around a few issues. 
Right now, there is a small group of leagues that have completed their drafts, but the overwhelming majority have not been able to do so. Because of concerns around the stability of resuming paused drafts and the login issues we faced earlier, we have to delete any league that did not have a successfully completed draft. We apologize for the pain this will cause, but we need to take this step in order to create an optimal player experience for all leagues going forward. Leagues that completed their drafts should not be affected. 
We're currently working on a fix so that we can start allowing some signups and drafts once again, so please keep an eye on the @lolesports twitter account for updates.
UPDATE #2: More info!
"Hey guys, another update on Fantasy LCS. 
We've been working hard to find a solution that will get you back to the leagues and drafting, and believe we have something that will work. 
Starting now, league creation and drafting can resume in limited quantities. As we learned today, interest in this is significant, and we needed to implement some technical solutions for our system to be able to handle such a huge amount of traffic in the most efficient way possible. 
In order to ensure peak performance for all participants, there will be a cap on the number of concurrent live drafts. Once reached, leagues will need to wait roughly 15-30 minutes for the pipeline to clear before being allowed to start their draft.
In order to prevent a large number of leagues from being created but not being able to draft, we are also going to limit the number of new league signups, gradually increasing this limit over time. We will be monitoring the number of undrafted leagues, and will be expanding the number of slots for league creation at the top of the hour, so if you were unable to create your league, please check back at the top of the next hour and try again! 
Additionally, if your league is not planning on drafting until later, we encourage you to delay the creation of your league, so as to save room for those leagues that wish to draft immediately. 
Again, we apologize for this unfortunate interruption in availability, but hope you will still participate and enjoy the Fantasy LCS Beta over the course of the Summer Split!"

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