Red Post Collection: GPL Summoner Icons, Doom Bots Q&a on July 23, Morello Tweets, Zyra's W, Ghostcrawler and more!

Posted on at 10:34 PM by Moobeat
Tonight's red post collection features the arrival of 12 new GPL summoner icons, a heads-up that the Doom Bots team will be hosting a Q&A on July 23, Morello and Pwyff tweeting out regarding recent balance changes and goals, CertainlyT explaining why Zyra has cooldown reduction on her W, and Ghostcrawler chatting about the design team's philosophies and answering several summoner questions.
Continue reading for more information!

Doom Bots Q&A 7/23 2PM PST

All Q&A'd out? TOO BAD! The Doom Bots team is hosting a Q&A session on July 23rd at 2 PM PST!
 Here's L4T3NCY with more info:
"The team responsible for unleashing the doomiest bots ever is hosting a Q&A session, so come armed with your game mode questions and ideas! Oh, and if you have any horror stories about your slaughter at the hands of the Doom Bots, please share them! The team feeds on your tears. 
Learn more about the Doom Bots of Doom here."

Celebrate the 2014 season with GPL summoner icons!

New summoner icons for twelve Garena Premier Leagues teams are now available!

Here's Riot Paradox with more info:
"The Garena Premier League (GPL) hosts South East Asia’s greatest League teams including Season 2 World Champions the Taipei Assassins. This season, we’re adding permanent summoner icons featuring the GPL team logos for 250 RP. If you’re a hardcore GPL fan, you can pick up all 12 icons for 2400 RP (20% off the regular price). 
As before, you’re not just showing off your team allegiance with these icons - 20% of each purchase goes straight to the team, while we use the other 80% to directly support esports through prizing, streaming, events and more! 
Rep your favorite GPL teams as they compete for the top spot of the Summer Season!"

Here are the twelve new GPL summoner icons:

Twitter Time with Morello

Morello popped on Twitter today to share a few insights into the recent balance changes and the design teams goal to increase champion variety.
[ 1 ] "To get better champion variety in games, some bigger changes need to occur. Big buffs (hey, jungle) and big nerfs. Maintaining = no real fix"
[ 2 ] "So unless we're happy with the state of champion variety now (and we don't think players are), then we need to act to change that.
[ 3 ] "Why do you nerf instead of buff" most common question. Short answer is champs need distinct weaknesses, and many do not have them."
[ 4 ] "So to make them have a place in the game, we have to do bold changes (Lucian/Kha-style) to give them a place that's not "best or nothing."
[ 5 ] "One thing not lost on us: we need to do more to give small updates to forgotten or unplayed champions more regularly. Will do! :)"

He reiterated:
" Also on the radar - while reworks are good, we need more support for small changes to champs who need them."

In this @ replies, he dove a bit deeper into specific topics:

When asked about champions that have been in a bad spot for ages such as Diana, Morello noted:
"One major thing we want to do is prioritize work on non-critical, but needed changes."

As for the recent Kha'Zix changes, Morello noted:
"So Kha needs some numbers tuning? Something we can probably do now that he's not overloaded. Our goal is get away from fighter"
He continued:
"Fair point, though I think fixable with #'s now."

When asked how long reworks and champions spend in the pipeline, he noted
"Depends on complexity, but usually 2-7 months. Closer to 7 for new champs, and for full relaunches."

As for which is harder ( new champions or champion updates ), Morello replied:
"Champ updates are harder, because you have current expectations to deal with. Otherwise, they're identical."
Pwyff also jumped on twitter with a small update on the recent Elise PBE changes:
"In other news, great feedback on the Elise changes - specifically Q / auto range. We still want to reduce her engage threat range but... [1]"
"... might examine other avenues post 4.13. Rappel + Cocoon we're still committed to - Elise can still rappel to dragon / baron, FYI. [2]"

Why does Zyra's W give CDR?

CertainlyT sprouted up on the forums to answer a summoner's question about why Zyra's W ability, which puts down seeds she can use other abilities to turn into plants, gives passive cooldown reduction:
"Hi there. Zyra's W gives CDR for two reasons: 
First, Seeds have relatively little inherent value. We wanted to ensure that Zyra could cast more spells as she began to replenish her seeds faster, because as you put more points into W, you are expressing a desire to have more plants. 
Second, because we wanted Zyra to be able to buy non-CDR items. We wanted players to be able to buy the items that made sense for them in their particular game from the entire line of mage oriented items, such as Zhonya's or Abyssal Scepter, not be restricted to the (at the time) small pool of CDR items. 
A bit of context: We struggled during her development to balance 0% CDR Zyra builds against 40% CDR Zyra builds. The latter could put so many seeds out that certain enemy team compositions felt completely stifled. When W's cooldown was at a healthy level assuming 40% CDR builds, all other item paths felt terrible. Giving Zyra "free" CDR (20% on release) was accompanied by raising the cooldown of her W to compensate, meaning that Zyra's effective CDR cap for Rampant Growth was 20%. 
Today, it's unlikely we would make the same decision, as CDR is a much more accessible stat. This is the reason that I lowered Zyra's passive CDR on W from 20% at max rank to 10%. In a game now filled with CDR choices, the "free" 20% was actually stifling her ability to purchase items. Hopefully getting to 40% these days involves a good amount of choice and compromise without leaving the player feeling like they are struggling to get to cap if they so desire or going way over if they do opt for CDR items."

Ghostcrawler Smorgasbord 

Ghostcrawler took quite a bit of time to response to questions and concerns regarding Riot's design team.  I'll just warn you that this is long and messy but Ghostcrawler addresses a lot of common questions such as "why do you balance only for competitive play", bruisers and the "Renekton" bar, and a ton of other stuff! Read it. 

He kicked off the discussion  by approaching a summoner accusing him personally of balancing the game "horribly and with blatant bias":
"Hmm. I felt like Age of Empires 3 was pretty balanced. I did err on making skirmishers and dragons cool. That was the last game I balanced myself, and it was over 10 years ago. 
Now, I have hired a lot of designers whose job it was to balance other games, so I'm fine if you hold me accountable for the work they do, but it's really not fair to the hundreds of developers who work on titles like WoW and LoL to attribute all the game design decisions to one guy, even if he does like to post on forums a lot. 
If you have concerns about the high level direction of League, I'm happy to address those. If you want to talk about changes to individual champions, you're better off addressing the developers who make those changes. I'll point you to the recent Q&A with Statikk for instance.?

Ghostcrawler's next post is quite long and features a slew of responses, including commentary on balance with worlds coming up soon,  thoughts on teleport, "high level direction" for LoL, and more:
While you're here, do you mind speaking about Statikk's response in the Q&A about how you guys want flashier, "exciting to watch" champions to be more LCS-viable? Is that unanimously the balance direction you guys are heading? Is there a particular reason for this?
We believe there are champions that are more fun to watch than others. That is absolutely not our sole balancing criterion or design direction though. I would say that over time we want to make more of the champions more exciting to play. The guys with fewer exciting moments and just several varieties of "hit that other dude," are the kind we want to update. 
If you guys cant change lee because of worlds
I'm not sure if this was from me or Xelnath, but that wasn't the message we intended to send. Rather we try to be careful as we approach the end of the competitive season not to make radical changes to the game. Preseason has been our traditional time to upset the apple cart. That doesn't mean we won't continue to try to balance champions going into worlds, and that includes Lee Sin. 
Look at it this way, you're being a team player and tanking aggro for everybody. Every party needs a good tank.
Totally, and I have no problem with that aspect of the internet. It's the other half that bothers me. Imagine you've worked on say Braum for months, whether you were the designer or the writer or the artist making particle effects. Then the champion that has consumed so much of your life goes live... and some high level designer gets all the attention for it. That's really unfair at almost any company and it's particularly unfair at Riot. We really try to avoid the rock star thing. I'm fine with you blaming me for anything (and most Rioters would feel the same way) because I also don't want anyone to think I'm trying to pass the buck, but be aware there are a lot of people that work really hard on this or most games. Don't boil down the company to just a few people whose names you might know. 
What is the high level direction of the league as far as riot is concerned?
That's a big question, and probably beyond the scope of a single forum post. But since I kind of asked for it, I will say that we want to improve champion diversity (both which champions get played and making sure they feel as different from each other as possible), we want you to play with friends (because that's often a better experience), we want to explore strategic diversity, and we want to look at those areas of the game that are starting to feel a little stale (not just dated like SR, but stale mechanics as well). 
I know that's vague and arm wavy, but like I said above, preseason is a better time for larger changes, and we'd rather socialize these ideas to a lot of you guys in different regions to make sure we have plenty of feedback. It's something we'll start to talk about more. Stay tuned.
Do you have any intention of changing TP? As it stands, its almost always just toplane who takes it, and thats because you have to take it if the other person takes it, which in the past balance team has said they dont want people to have to do. It also promotes passive play which is anotherthing riot has said they dont want, lane matchups toplane have become irrelevant because TP CD was lowered so much that you can pick a horribly losing lane and still come out nearly even.
You touch on a couple of different issues that have a strong interaction. First, we agree that top melee vs. melee does get a little boring. Strategic movement (versus say just having short-term speed boosts) is a way to get those guys interacting a little more with the rest of the map, but we agree there are risks of passive play and having no consequences for bad play. Just increasing the cooldown might help with the second part but does nothing for the first part, and meanwhile means the summoner spell could just be dead. We don't have any changes to announce but we recognize the problem."

Ghostcrawler continued, touching on balancing the game in regard to professional players, , and more!
I just wish you guys would just balance **** all the time and not cater to Professional Players. At all. Professional Players will adapt because they're godly at this game. You don't need to baby them. 
And not balancing a champion immediately just because they're popular is also really aggrivating.
We don't balance the game just for the pros. We do pay a lot of attention to how they are playing because A) they tend to influence what a lot of other players are playing, and B) their skill is such that they are very sensitive to small balance nuances that many other players might not notice. 
As far as champion popularity, the issue isn't that we are afraid of player wrath if we nerf popular champions. Sometimes the champion is popular just because they're overpowered. But sometimes they are popular because they are fun or because others in the same role aren't as much fun. We try to be very responsive to players, and that includes having a game that is balanced but also a game that is fun to play. If you keep slapping players across the wrists for playing fun champions it's really easy to send the unintentional message that we don't want them to have fun. 
We have been told by RIOT employees numerous times that although this is a multi-million dollar company nearly all of the departments consist of like 3-4 people. 
The balance department in particular has only shown to be 4 people, in any discussion that asks why everything takes so bloody long. Now you could defend this and post some number about how many of you are actually on the balance team, but that would be even worse PR then you create by taking the blame yourself, because then we know you have the resources to do things much quicker, with higher quality, and you are simply bad at your jobs. 
So which is it? Are you a low staffed team, and therefore the blame rests on exactly what these forums think it does, or have we been mislead and your actual team is just lazy?
Riot tends to have small teams, but it depends a lot on what that team is working on. The live team has more than 3-4 people, but that's really not the whole story. A lot of Rioters contribute to balance, from playtesting, to live data analysis, to assimilating community feedback, to "Hey this experience happened to me last night, maybe we should look at it." There are also risks to having too many people working on a team -- it's hard to keep in tight communication and make sure two groups aren't trying to solve the same problem in different ways. In any case, "design" is my team. I don't tell the balance team what to do, except at a very high level. I talked a lot about WoW class balance, which led to this persistent myth that I did it all myself. 
The slowing of champion releases may be one way Riot is trying to help get the game balanced. Introducing a new cog to the wheel affects the whole thing....but what happens when league reaches 200+ champions. What is Riot planning to do at this point?
There are some solutions to having a huge champion roster. Yes, the game would probably be easier to balance at 100 champions or even 5, but that would be boring. One of the things that keeps League fresh (by which I mean it contributes but isn't sufficient to solve the problem all by itself) is a constant stream of new champions (and some updated old ones as well). 
With that in mind, what does riot want to do with other roles? Support has changed a lot with season 4's gold income, and there is currently a large gap between utility mages, tanks, and 'traditional' pure utility supports, what identity to you want supports to have, and how are you going to try to give all supports an equal opportunity to meet this identity?
Utility is fun. We don't want supports to just be warders, nor we want them to just be the dudes who don't get any kills in order to funnel all the gold to their carries. We also don't feel that we nailed the season 4 gold income, so it's something we're going to have to keep working on.
The bruiser rework was promised for season 4, but we haven't seen much other than the Skarner and Rengar reworks, both of which were controversial. What is riot going to do for bruiser itemization? What are they going to do for making immobile bruisers viable? Will champions like Darius or Sion ever get a chance to be viable in higher tiers of play?
Promising anything is dangerous, because it implies we should ship changes that we aren't happy with just because we said we would. The game still needs a fighter / bruiser rework. Some of that is itemization changes. Some of it is just giving melee champions some interesting ways to interact with other champions beyond just smashing someone with an axe or be kited endlessly.
And finally, where does riot want to balance League of Legends? Around the professional scene? Casual? Somewhere in between? What demographic of players is most important to the company when it comes to champion balance decisions?
Ultimately, we try to balance for the players who are playing the game, which means all of them. I know that's a tall order, but we wouldn't be happy with a model that was to only balance for the best players or to neglect them. We do want LCS to be fun to watch, but we also want League to be fun to play for the Bronze player who is still finding their way. Sometimes those directions are contradictory, say for a champion that is only good in organized team play but not solo queue, and in those cases, balance gets super tricky. 
What are your thoughts on pigeon holing a champion to a certain role vs letting them be able to go multiple places. Alistar is a good recent example of this, back in I think season 2 he was buffed up so that he could be a jungler as well as a support but found his ganking power to be super strong so he was nerfed so that he was a much less appealing choice as a jungler. Now he's gotten some buffs to be a better support, and even more nerfs to be less of a jungler.
All things being equal, champions that can fill multiple roles are cool. There are two big footnotes to this. First, we haven't always been great at supporting novel use of champions. In the past, if an AD Marksman started to get played as an AP, we'd sometimes stomp it out quickly because it was unintended without really establishing if the play pattern was healthy (e.g. did it have sufficient team play and counterplay) and if players would be able to come up with strategies to counter that play. We are trying to be less reactionary to those opportunities. Second however, game health still is a thing we have for which we have to be mindful. Jungle Alistar tends to be pretty frustrating for the other team, so it's not something we're likely to support without some fundamental changes to his abilities. Support Annie, Mid Lulu, AP Ez are champion roles we have no fundamental issue with, as long as they don't eclipse the champion's performance in all other roles. 
How would you respond to accusations that your design goal is to make sweeping changes every now and then in order to drastically change the game to try to artificially keep people interested?
It isn't our philosophy to constantly reinvent the game. We think the core games is pretty compelling. There is a risk that League can get stale though. New champions and alternate game modes can help offset that, but you do see players who just get bored if they think the meta is too rigid or each game just feels too similar to the last. So in that sense, we do think it's healthy for the game to evolve. I think I am reacting most to the subtext of the accusation (which I realize isn't yours per se) that the changes are sweeping, arbitrary or thoughtless. There is a happy medium between the extremes of ossification and the wild, wild west. 
Is there truly no room for melee DPS? If it is because they have no outplay, how much outplay does an autoattacking ranged champion have? You can't block them, you can't peel them, they don't use skillshots and some ADCs such as Quinn can even build semi-tanky. Do you think that fighters should be buffed, and how would you do it?
There is room for melee DPS, but we're not there yet. It's harder to give melee skill shots. It's harder to give melee a reason to go in, do damage, then break off the attack, since they are designed to do damage in a small window (when they are in melee) and spend the rest of the time gap closing / being kited. It's harder to keep the distinction between fighters and tanks, since fighters have to be fairly survivable to even get to melee. We think we can address all of those issues, but they will take time, and sadly longer than we originally thought. Some of these changes are champion updates to give them more to do than just whack at an opponent. Some of these changes are more systemic, such as making sure fighters and tanks build items differently. 
How can we speak with the developers when they so rarely speak up or have discussions?
We are trying to get back to that. There was a time when more Rioters were all over the boards and Reddit. For a variety of reasons, that has eroded somewhat, but it doesn't have to be that way. I personally always loved that about Riot, and it's something I am passionate about trying to get back to."

Ghostcrawler continued:
Such small changes can seriously affect a champion, and it's worrisome how much of a change could turn Urgot, Mordekaiser, and Soraka back into the menaces they used to be.
I'll be totally frank here. I think it's playtesting. The logic the designers use to make every change is typically pretty sound and we have a culture of beating up ideas. By that I mean, nobody is changing anything without getting a lot of input. We also try to leave room to react to player feedback when you guys see the patch notes or even our initial thoughts on potential changes. 
We also do have some very strong players who work here (i.e. Challenger tier) and we rely a lot on them and a whole bunch of other Rioters to put these changes through their paces. But even if we played 200 games with every balance tweak, that is far, far fewer than the bazillions of games that get played when a patch goes live. Yes, there are plenty of unintended consequences that we really should have caught, but there are others that we just never realistically could have predicted until some smart player tried out something wacky and a bunch of other players adopted it. 
One idea is to try and leverage the PBE better. Most participants just mess around to get a feel for any patch changes, but aren't really trying to exploit a change the way they will once it goes live. We have some other ideas as well."

As for what exactly the design team is responsible, Ghostcrawler explained:
This may be 'Obvious Question of the Day', but what EXACTLY does the design team do? Is it only champion work? Or do you help with events like the Frejord one we saw way back when? At what point does it stop becoming a 'design' and start heading over to 'balance' and the other teams? Basically, what makes the design team the design team? 
Design is a discipline. The "big three" disciplines in game development are design, programming and art, though there are others as well (production, sound, QA, etc.) At Riot, teams are multidisciplinary, meaning that the champion team for instance has a lot of people on it that are not designers. Not every team needs a designer on it. Some are focused on say engine refinements. Others have someone with enough design skill that they can fill in for not having a dedicated designer. Most teams that touch the game directly do have designers though. There are designers on the Live team who do balance the game. (It's more accurate to say that they are accountable for short-term patch-to-patch changes that can't wait for a larger update or rework, but that's a Riot technicality, not something you need to understand to have an opinion on LoL.) 
Fortunately, while your question sounds like you're just curious, it isn't necessary to understand how Riot (or any game developer) is structured in order to give feedback on the game. In fact, I often say that if your post is focusing a lot on the people making the game and not the game itself, that's a good hint that your post probably isn't super helpful in terms of providing us feedback. "I don't think Jax is competitive in this situation," is what we call actionable feedback. That's the kind of feedback we can discuss. "Ghostcrawler nerfed Jax," doesn't provide us much actual information. Maybe it helps you feel better by venting, but as I pointed out, since you don't really know how we structure our teams internally, your statement is likely to not even be correct."

Ghostcrawler also explained the origins of the "Renekton bar" for top lane:
I literally HATED reading Statikks QA because he basically said "We have no F***ing clue where the renekton bar is SORRY NO POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS ATM"
The Renekton "bar" came about, IIRC, because we were just nerfing whoever the dominant melee was at the time and the next melee would come take his or her place. We realized this was because many melee were just ball of stats without interesting interactions (I exaggerate, which I often do, but you get the point). We decided that Renekton actually had some interesting gameplay going on, so rather than nerf him, we'd make him the bar for how melee should act. That doesn't mean just giving his abilities to all the other melee and it doesn't mean buffing the stats for Mundo or whoever else to help them pass Renekton. It means trying to find unique ability and item hooks for those melee below the bar. (Also to be clear, the bar doesn't mean we nerf all other melee to have worse win rates than Renekton. It's just a target for power and kit.) Unfortunately, that does take some time and exploration which is why we haven't delivered on it yet. I hate that we haven't delivered on it yet, but that's the story for how it happened."

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