Red Post Collection: Continued Discussion on Undocumented Pantheon Changes, Brackhar leaves Riot, and more!

Posted on at 8:58 PM by Moobeat
Tonight's red post collection features Pwyff with more discussion on the undocumented Pantheon changes in 4.7, a small discussion on why aura's can be problematic, Brackhar leaving Riot, and a reminder that the EU LCS starts back up tomorrow!
Continue reading for more information!

More on Undocumented Pantheon Changes Situation 

Over the weekend, Pwyff returned to the EUW forums to sink his teeth deeper into the recent changes to Pantheon's ult that went out undocumented in patch 4.7:
"Alright I just got some spare time to write (aka I just got home). 
First - sorry for the delay in the response. I got the information wrong the first time (see my first post) so I spent today ensuring we had the full information before saying anything else. 
Second - the change itself. 
There's a nuanced approach that needs to be taken when it comes to a "bug" that the community has generally learned to play around / with. When a bug is taken for granted so much that it essentially gets factored into a champion's power budget ("Oh, Pantheon's Grand Skyfall is fairly forgiving as a gank/setup ability, given what he can do"), we need to take a more nuanced approach to fixing what was, at the end of the day, a very real visual clarity issue. 
At the end of the day, Grand Skyfall is an ability that promises two things: 
a) Pantheon will land at the center of the circle, dealing damage
b) Getting away from the center of the circle ensures your safety 
Before we fixed this bug both of the above statements were factually incorrect. Pantheon could literally move while in his falling pattern, and he could cast spells (not queue up spells, literally cast them) while on his downward fall. Not only that, but Grand Skyfall actually dealt its damage a full 0.5 seconds later than when Pantheon landed. So enemies that moved away from the epicenter in that time period simply took less damage. 
ALl of this is significant because any form of visual expectation or gameplay expectation from someone who doesn't know Pantheon can be confusing. Pantheon literally lands at the edge of his circle with a stun, and then damage is dealt in the aoe. It's weird. 
The fix, however, was ham-fisted. Not in its game health aspirations but in its narrative aspirations. It literally told no story. There wasn't a "look, you need to understand what visual clarity means and why it's so important to us" - instead it accidentally got in without setting the stage, and nobody took ownership of it until it was way too late. Catastrophically so. 
So design-wise, what does this mean? We're going to keep a close eye on Pantheon on live right now. The issue is that, from an internal data standpoint Pantheon's not seeing incredible losses in certain statistics (win rates, etc). This is probably due to Feral Flare junglers getting nerfed and SotEL junglers taking over the throne (Kha/Lee/Panth). 
Regardless, this is was a significant functionality shift for visual clarity at the cost of expected gameplay. We will be fixing Pantheon. I don't mean this in the sense of reverting the change completely, because we still value visual clarity. If Pantheon needs a shorter channel / indication period before he lands, we'll look into that. We'll absolutely need to fix Pantheon's ability to be affected by AoEs before he lands (that's just bad). We're not doing great on trust in this regard, but I hope you can trust that we will find the healthiest change that retains Pantheon's feel without sacrificing visual clarity.
Third - the skin fiasco and/or refunds. 
You'll notice in the above I don't comment on the skin at all, and that's because our designers made the change independent of if/when the skin was launching. The skins team went to the champ design bros and asked them to help clean up Pantheon's scripts so his model could be hooked up right. While the champ bro was doing it, he decided to also fix the visual discrepancy with Pantheon's ult. The change went through without documentation because it was forgotten. 
When this bug was raised we immediately raised visibility and asked, and the first response was that this was simply a visual clarity fix and had no functionality change. I communicated that quickly and felt it was alright. Unfortunately, the issue flared up again when tons of Pantheon players picked up the skin and started discussing even more. I did a deeper analysis with SmashGizmo and we realized that this also had huge implications on Pantheon's bugged capabilities. Rather than simply leaving it, we decided that messaging it was important. 
At no point were sales ever considered in this equation and it kind of depresses me that such a conclusion can be jumped to, given we've shot ourselves overtly in the foot before (hi Riven). When the evidence suggests this was simply malpractice, but players are yelling at us being greedy (what kind of tradeoff is that?) it's kind of weird. 
On the point of refunds, I can't promise they'll just be given out ad-hoc, but player support does listen and read tickets, and as players too I'm sure they'd understand the circumstances. Regardless of refunds, however, I'd make the statement that skins purchases have never been about power and/or immunity from change. The skin represents the months of work put into it for animations, visual effects, and modeling, and purchasing a skin has always been a visual commitment. Obviously that sounds logical up until your favorite champion gets nerfed and you find it difficult to play them, but it's a statement of sorts. 
I ended up writing an essay here, but I wanted to be sure I covered all the bases. This is just me writing at home because I realized I didn't manage to give this my full attention while at work."

He continued, replying to a few questions directly:
"Quick answers and then I have to run out for the day :(
1- Stop trying to guilt-trip people, thats just low. 
I can see how that would be interpreted. I was just trying to explain why it took me so long (and not a bunch of people sitting in a room hashing out the answer). My bad.

2- About the " skin does not protect from nerfs" - why do you forget to write the truth in that sentence? " From stealh nerfs". You changed him - didnt tell people - you sold it. 
How about I buy a car, and then the seller tells me " Oh I forgot to mention, the engine has been damaged during our yesterdays maintenance. Sorry slipped my mind. But new car does not protect you from ... engine damage... especially the one that i kept hidden." How does that sound to you? 
Here's the thing and I'm not using this to invalidate your opinion, but hear me out: you buy a car for its aesthetic ande ngine. Those are both implicit in the price, or cars with incredible engines and horrendous aesthetics wouldn't be worth what they're worth. Buying a Pantheon skin and seeing that he's less powerful than what he used to be does relate to a sense of expectation, but if we were to ship this change in 4.9 with clear messaging before and after (but with less bugs...), this would be a game health change for a champion who happened to have a skin. We did this exact same thing with Riven when her Lunar New Year skin came out.

3- Want to fix pantheon? Do it now. Do it in 4.8 . We do NOT want to wate into 4.9 to see " his Q damage risened by 5 dmg at all ranks, there you go, enjoy.". You unjustly nerfed a core ability of a champion beyond being usable, so fix it AS FAST AS IT TOOK YOU TO BREAK IT. 
From a player perspective each change can be taken personally, so a reaction like this isn't unwarranted. The issue with hotfixes, so close to a patch cycle (which brings other changes and other pieces of content for playersr) is that a hotfix is inherently far more risky for the larger playerbase. If a bug gets introduced with a hotfix, there's no expectation that the servers will be down for another hour while it's being deployed, whereas with regular patch releases we get the opportunity to do it right and in a stable way. 
The problem is that this change got fully investigated just as the code locked for 4.8. What that means is that we stopmaking any significant changes to the game code for a patch because we want to ensure it's stable to deploy early next week (so we focus on any new bugs that could crash games, etc). This was probably the worst timing I've ever seen of a bug being noticed, a skin being released, and a change being undocumented, but there it is. We're working as fast as we can without tripping over the servers to do so.

4- Maybe just reverse the change, as you see, the community will be happy? 
Feels like you didn't read the game health aspect of this change. It was a good direction and there are many changes for game health that won't be appreciated but sometimes need to be made. That's a truth.
2.1: "Before we fixed this bug"
If it's a bug, it does not take FOUR years to identify it. If it's a nerf, call it a god damn nerf. 
Agreed, it's a nerf. It's also a bug that gave Pantheon a lot of unexpected power. Can we agree on that?

2.2: "Grand Skyfall actually dealt its damage a full 0.5 seconds later than when Pantheon landed"
Then make the damage apply when Pantheon lands. Like seriously?That's what we did. Literally. The problem is, is that if Pantheon lands when the damage gets dealt then he's effectively unable to move / cast spells before that, which is exactly the change we made. 

"Pantheon could literally move while in his falling pattern, and he could cast spells"
I'm up for removing the ability to cast spells while landing, but instead the landing time should be REDUCED to allow the ability to cast a spell after landing. It is close to impossible to do it with the current live values (which btw is a full ONE second and not 0.5 longer than you guys state). Oh and Pantheon can get CC-ed while landing ?!?!!?!? 
We're looking into that. Final point: Grand Skyfall has always been intended as an inconsistent ability used to zone out / scare the **** out of people as they're engaging. It still accomplishes that, but, yes, at the cost of the Pantheon player.
2.4: "from an internal data standpoint Pantheon's not seeing incredible losses in certain statistics (win rates, etc)"
This is EXACTLY the proof that you guys KNEW of the possible impact this 'bug fix' would have on Pantheon. Once again, if it's a nerf, call it a god damn nerf. 
Many things contribute to win rate, which is why it's not the only data point we 'balance' by. The landscape of the game can shift, or a skin can be released that causes a huge influx of players, or the champion gets picked in LCS, etc. It's a nerf and a bug fix. 
To your first sentence (exactly the proof), it was the opposite. It was difficult to understand why his win rate wasn't tanking if the change 'gutted him' and made him completely inviable, which is what many of you are saying here. I'm guessing it's because of the whole Feral Flare nerf / SotEL resurgence masking / balancing his losses and gains, but he's still 50/50 in win rates. I never use win rates as a statistic because they tell an extremely incomplete story, but it's a data point to consider.
3.1: "The change went through without documentation because it was forgotten." 
Like really? Referring to point 2.4 above, you knew of the possible implications to Pantheon's gameplay. "Forgotten", REALLY? 
Literally they forgot to document it. Our documentation process is: "if you made a change, put it in this page and Aether / Pwyff (Aether does a lot of work on the holistic patch notes + visuals) will make sure it gets published." 
They considered the gameplay implications, felt this was appropriate for game health, and then made the change. Then they forgot to document it. Human error.

3.2: "When this bug was raised we immediately raised visibility" 
Oh by raising visibility you mean a few comments here and there on the forums? Firstly, you did not talk about the values of the increased time. Secondly, you did not acknowledge the nerf but basically stated that "if it did happen it wasn't intentional". I refer you to your post posted 6 days ago. Thirdly, it was done on the EUW forums which sadly just isn't as active and visible as the NA forums. Fourthly, and most importantly, the official statement and hidden patchnote was only released YESTERDAY  
We immediately raised visibility", really?We made the official statement after we fully confirmed what this was. It took that long because sometimes these things do take time (well that's a redundant statement). We were slow though, I admit that.


3.3: "At no point were sales ever considered in this equation"
Refer to point 3.2, the official statement was only given 1 day AFTER the new skin was released for sale. A FULL WEEK after the nerf was discovered. 
So here's where I disagree. You're using circumstantial evidence to justify a position while I'm using inductive evidence to do so. I explained why and how this happened, but you're still trying to attribute malice or greed because in your mind that makes the most logical sense. That said, we have no history of ever ninja nerfing for a skin, and due to the way our game is coded (see above) we occasionally run into hilariously tragic circumstances like these. I'll once again raise Riven as a counterpoint of a champion we nerfed as we released a skin (and we talked about it openly). I'm sure there are a number of champions we've done this to (Udyr and his legendary skin I think?).

We had no idea the skin was being released when it was released, but it DID raise additional visibility to find out what was going on. That's it."

he continued, addressing more question including the new bug where Pantheon is able to be CC'd before landing:
"First, the concept of holding someone 'hostage' to answering a hostile (and leading) set of questions is disrespectful for anyone (Rioters or otherwise) and I'm concerned people think that's a viable approach to having a discussion. 
That said, I'll answer a few things then I'm going to leave the topic alone just because I think we're exhausted most constructive things to say (outside of straight disagreement!). We're definitely investigating the whole thing:
I'm a little confused here. 
Your title says "Player Communications" but you communicate to the players in your spare time?
Player Communications isn't the equivalent of a Community Manager - nobody at Riot is specifically hired to only talk on the forums because every Rioter can do so. Player Communications is a simple way of saying that my job focuses on communications management / strategy (how we can be transparent and communicate our intentions in the best ways possible). Interacting in this forum topic, for example, probably only communicates to a dozen (maybe a hundred) players who are bumping it. Beyond that, everyone else reads the first few posts (or doesn't even read them thoroughly, as some comments demonstrate) and then they leave. 
You're actually an example of one such, as we get to:
On second thought, why did this become a discussion about Panth's balance and not about applying changes without telling anyone (by means of patch notes) and then denying them until the skin came out?
I've owned the mistake within this thread and I haven't deleted or changed any previous communications. Specifically I asked about it, the designer said it now visually matched up, but didn't realize the whole "could cast abilities while off-screen" change was a larger issue (or failed to indicate to me). As such, my first communication was misinformed and I investigated deeper when I heard more feedback. That's what happened, plain and simple. There are apologies to be made on my behalf (sorry I didn't do my due diligence), however, the argument that Pantheon is nigh useless because of this nerf is just plain wrong. I would agree this is a nerf, but Panth's win rate has remained close to unaffected throughout this patch, and that is a true fact. 
That Pantheon 'feels' clunkier or less smooth is more of an issue we will tackle.
you agreed its both a nerf and a bug fix, but Pantheon didnt need a nerf, so if the bug fix affects its power, its not great AT ALL. maybe you guys could have buffed him in some other way.
I think we do feel Pantheon needed a nerf - specifically for the sake of clarity. He simply wasn't performing what his visual expectation was, and you have to play against him constantly to understand that he can move and cast spells before he lands. In other words, tribal knowledge. 
That said, where the communication failure compounded this because we effectively 'clarified' 4+ years of tribal knowledge without properly setting context. That's where we failed, plain and simple.
1- Reffering to what you said about " this is exactly what we did, now panth falls down as damge is dealt but hes unable to do anything untill then " ---> When trying to connect Damage and the actual Fall of pantheon, Why did you choose to push Fall 1 second later, instead of damage 1 second earlier? From my perspective that would make more sense and pantheon would be the same he was for 4 years. Instead nerfed. Why " nerfed" instead of " nothing happens just pulled the damage 1 second back in time " ?
Because prior to this change, Pantheon needed a nerf if anything. He's extremely strong and inhibits a lot of early game junglers along with gank-heavy dueling champions like Lee Sin and Elise. 
The TLDR of your question is... "why not buff instead of nerfing?" which is a little odd.

2- What is the preffered course of action now? Reversing the change or buffing elswhere or remaking the ultimate? Becaue I assure you I play mostly only pantheon and right now, his ultimate actually doesnt exist. FOR IT TO HIT someone else has to stun my opponents - meaning that my whole R has to rely on other people, which is not healthy mechanic. Also I often feel that i could just as well RUN to the victim and then " camp" when someone stuns him, and engage without ultimate. Absolutely no difference AFTER the laning phase ( in which SOMETIMES i still can ult behind botlane and PRAY they dont move).
The point of mandrop was never to be a consistent form of engagement like Malphite or Vi. Vi's counterplay is supposed to be "what do you do after Vi completes her ult on you." Malphite's counterplay is that his ult has a fast windup but a smaller AoE so you stay apart. Pantheon's ult is a form of zone control, similar to Thresh. Thresh doesn't simply throw out the box whenever he wants - he has to choose the right area where his opponents want to be (or to get out of) before he chucks out a box. 
Pantheon's ganks / sphere of influence out of a skyfall drop covers a full lane. The standard gank remains relatively unchanged: ult far enough back to accommodate for the enemy escape and your teammates need to hard engage to shove enemies into it (or around it). I think we can do things to fine tune the visual drop to capability of action for Pantheon if we were to make changes, and I'd probably push back if we gave compensatory buffs (which I don't think he needs) on something like Q. 
As for the bug where Pantheon can be interacted with before he lands, that's definitely a bug and needs to be fixed soon. 
One thing I'd note is that people seem to believe Pantheon's ult should be absolutely consistent, but I disagree. The built-in counterplay is that his mandrop is super predictable but it significantly alters how people play around it."

The Problem with Auras

Riot Whist stepped up to answer a summoners question about why Riot doesn't seem to like stat aura abilities, such as Sona's auras or Taric's armor aura.
"Well in the case of Sona I know our designers aren't too crazy about them because they don't give feedback to the players.

When Sona activates her abilities it's great, you can see she is affecting other champions in the form of speed/damage/heals, however the accompanying Aura goes largely unnoticed. I don't know how much Sona is helping my damage, in fact I tend to forget she actually even is. Same thing goes with Aegis, janna's global move speed buff etc.

EDIT: I am not saying Auras need to provide more stats to be noticeable, but explaining that due to their nature, it's hard to tell how much auras have helped you which make them lack luster and easy to forget about."
Ghostcrawler also chimed in, adding:
"In addition to what Whist is saying, there's also a concern that there isn't a lot of teamplay or counterplay with auras. You typically don't have to decide when to use an aura or build up towards or it or anything -- it's just there.

It's a question of degree. If the aura is a passive to round out a champion who also has a lot of tactical abilities, then it's typically fine. If the auras have a large gameplay impact, then there is a risk that your champion doesn't have to work or pay attention to benefit from the passive benefit, your team doesn't have to pay attention to identify the window when they can most benefit from synergy with your bonus, and consequently, there isn't much the enemy team can do to shut it down."

Brackhar Leaves Riot

Late last week, Richard "Brackhar" Hough announced that he has left Riot games to pursue a design director position at a new studio.
[ Tweet ] "After five years today marks my last day at Riot Games. I'll be leaving to pursue a design director position at a new studio."

Over on reddit, he added in:
"Thanks for making this thread guys. It's been a great five years, and the contribution you have made is a large part of it."

Following a list of projects he's worked on in his time at Riot ( including Anivia, Cassiopeia, Janna, Morgana, Nidalee, Ryze, Taric, Twisted Fate, Dominion, and the old Proving Grounds map ), he commented:
"Hah, it's interesting to see this as a list. More recently I've been working on the featured game modes that the company has been creating."

As for where he's going, he noted:
"I've always wanted to be a design director, and this is a great opportunity. League will do just fine without me. :)"

Reminder: LCS Starts back up tomorrow, May 20th.

Just a small reminder that the EU League of Legends Championship Series resumes tomorrow at 7 AM PDT / 16:30 CEST and will be played on Patch 4.7 with Shen and Braum disabled.

If you are an OCE summoner, be sure to check out this announcement about the OCE friendly new rebroadcast.

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