Red Post Collection: Fall of the Empire, Runaan on Lore Changes, Meddler on current champion balance, and more.

Posted on at 10:01 AM by Moobeat
This morning's red post collection features a series of images elaborating on Shurima's story line and the Fall of the Empire, Riot Runaan weighing in on the upcoming lore changes, Meddler offering more context on the now reverted Nocturne PBE changes, and much more!
Continue reading for more information!

Shurima: Fall of the Empire

The official League of Legends facebook has posted a series of images revealing more behind the upcoming Shurima storyline.

"In ancient Shurima, young emperor Azir was persuaded by Xerath, his magus, to attempt the fabled Ascension ritual – despite ancient warnings to do so only in times of direst threat."
"Azir’s hubris proved disastrous. As the Sun Disc focused the dawn rays into a transformative beam, Xerath betrayed Azir, shoving his emperor aside and stealing its power for himself."
"In an instant, Azir was obliterated – and Xerath remade as a spectral being of pure, malevolent energy –as the city around them was swallowed whole by the desert."
"Nasus and Renekton, Ascended heroes of Shuriman legend, sensed in an instant that something had gone terribly wrong and rushed to the Sun Disc. They hurled Xerath into a chained sarcophagus – but the magus shattered it into shards."
"Renekton dragged Xerath into the Tomb of the Emperors and shouted to Nasus to seal the door. With a heavy heart, Nasus entombed his brother with a madman in the buried ruins for all eternity. Or so he believed…"

Meddler also briefly discussed the upcoming Azir and Shurima lore, explaining the change of pace:
"There's a bit more about Azir's backstory still to come. We wanted to try switching things up a bit with Azir, hence him turning up on the PBE before all the details about his background, rather than the other way round as we usually do."

Riot Runaan on Lore Changes

Speaking of lore, Riot Runaan also hoped on the forums to share her thoughts on the upcoming lore changes and the removal of the Institute of War as a long time member of the lore team:
"Hey guys,

Long time no see. :) First and foremost, I apologize for my own silence on the forums – we definitely owe you guys more interaction than we've given you, and we know we've messed up on that front. We'll try to do better.

Now, let's dig into this a bit.

Let's start with some of the old canon – something I contributed heavily to. I wrote, more or less, the latter half of the Journal of Justice (Kaldera Carnadine, here), and the presence of the Institute of War was something we wrangled with in telling that story over its entire course. In fact, the whole “conspiracy” angle arose entirely because we were digging for a way for our characters to encounter legitimate political conflict and war – without the IoW being able to step in and immediately diffuse it. What that led to, as you know, was “corruption” within the Institute itself, and champions working covertly together to counter the IoW's influence. It was a cool story (if told through a particularly clumsy medium) – but it wasn't exactly something we could pull again. With the Institute of War in place, we often found ourselves asking: just how can we work around this so the story we want to tell can take place?

Right there – exactly there – is where I see this idea come up. Why didn't we just continue the story line as it was unfolding, and why not let the Institute of War crumble? Why not “end” the League of Legends?

There are a lot of answers to this – answers we considered. One of them is actually an argument I see cropping up right now in favor of keeping the Institute: that it would destroy the framework of the video game League of Legends. Without the League, what is the game? The answer is really, really messy, but it's more or less the same place you get when you remove the LoL story from the game entirely. They become separate entities. We're actually okay with this, but we didn't want to leave a strange lingering tie that muddied the clarity there. The game is the game. LoL's story is its story.

Another part of the answer is that ending the League wouldn't fully remove our ties to it in terms of storytelling – characters will have still interacted with it in the past, the “fall” of the League would still be significant enough to deeply influence all of our champions' lives, and “summoners” would still be a dangling, confusing story piece we'd have to deal with somehow.

Now, I understand that a lot of this is ENTIRELY subjective. A lot of you will say, “that sounds like a cool story!” and you know what, it probably could be. But when we really thought about it and weighed the things we valued about our storytelling, we really came down to the characters being the most important piece. Focusing on them and asking ourselves the question, “what's the best story this champion could have?” often resulted in us acknowledging that the IoW actually played a very awkward and restricting role in our character's lives.

We believe in a philosophy in which story should spring from the characters naturally, not from a very arbitrary plot built around them. Character drives plot.

Secondly, while it hasn't been brought up in this thread directly, I want to talk about the “League of Legends” as a device in our narrative design. As we used to frame it, the player is literally a “summoner” controlling a champion on the Fields of Justice. I've read a lot of concerns that taking away this framework harms the game; it takes away the reason these characters have to fight.

This is going to get into pretty subjective territory again, but I have to say that I deeply do not believe that the League, summoners, and the Fields of Justice were ever a strong framing device if we're speaking strictly in terms of narrative game design. When I play League of Legends, I am not concerned with myself as a summoner – I connect more to the champion him or herself. I am not concerned with the “stakes” of every battle (such as whether or not taxes will be raised in a certain place, or political favor of a certain noble house in Noxus) – none of these things are built into the actual experience, they're more or less described OUTSIDE OF THE GAME entirely. This makes it a weak frame. Sure, we could have worked to strengthen it, but we didn't feel excited by the possibilities there.

“But Ionia vs. Noxus” - yeah, that event was awesome. I wasn't even working at Riot at the time, but it certainly perked my interest. The thing is, though, this wasn't something that was going to work over and over again. The idea that players could influence the story was pretty misleading – at any “story match,” only ten players would legitimately get to fulfill the role of a summoner. In addition, story by vote or story by chance can often end with unsatisfying results (simply because of the random chance). Strong storytelling is deeply crafted.

“But a certain character's entire story focused on his or her connection to the Institute of War!” Yeah, I know these things are sticky; we wrestle with them internally, too. Our philosophy with these characters is that whatever we do to re-shape them should hold very tightly to the “soul” of what a character was in the old canon. Nobody should feel like an entirely new character – their spirit, the “feeling” you get from them, those things should feel true, even if details shift in how they came to be that person.

Orianna and her father, for example – they can still be who you know them to be. She can still be a girl with hopes and dreams that met a tragic end. Her father can still be a man driven to questionable means to bring her back and let her live those dreams. THOSE are story beats that are important to Orianna. The Institute of War is merely a detail, it doesn't define her.

AGAIN: a lot of these are philosophies myself and the narrative department hold, not necessarily things that apply to every player. Many DID believe that the frame story was satisfying, regardless of its objective strength. To those people, I'm sorry, our actions were absolutely not meant to “step on you” in any way – we are truly looking for the best way to tell you guys awesome stories, and we stand behind our decisions.

FINALLY, I know that “proof” of this new story direction has been slow coming. Before I worked in the industry, I would be upset, too – but these things take time. I know it's frustrating to ask for patience over and over again, but please stick with us! Thank you all for being so invested and taking the time to interact with us about this stuff. <3


[Continued] Ghostcrawler Feedback Discussion

Continuing on his earlier discussion, Ghostcrawler returned to the forums to answer common concerns from the thread regarding player feedback:
"This is one of those threads that has gone on so long in so many different directions that it's difficult to respond to the variety of comments. Nonetheless, I'll try to hit a few common responses.

"You guys need to engage with us more." 
We'd love to, but what specifically do you mean by that? I don't have the breadth of knowledge or even the bandwidth to debate point-by-point every topic that comes up in GD. I don't want to get into the situation where we have to convince the community to allow us to make a change. That would be remarkably inefficient and risks feeling like the crowd sourcing model that I said we wanted to avoid. However, if there are specific opportunities to talk to players that you think we are missing, we'd definitely consider those. I am thrilled that some of you mentioned you feel like we have gotten better about providing context for design changes. That's awesome, but there's still a lot more we can do.

"You're just making an argument for why you don't have to listen to us." 
This makes me sad, because it's the exact opposite of the impression I was trying to make. Let me try another angle. How many times do you make a point on GD or anywhere and have someone else disagree? Many of those threads go on quite long because you might think a champ is oppressive while someone else thinks they are fine, or underpowered, or just needs a small tweak. In these frequent situations where there is a lack of consensus, how are we supposed to navigate the right path, when almost every design change (or even lack of change) is going to disappoint someone? (And if you think you've seen a thread where "everyone" agrees on a design change, I'd love to see it.)

Again, this is how feedback works. If you tell us your concerns, your goals, your ideas, then we will consider them as we make changes. We also seek feedback after a change to see if it's hit the mark, and then frequently iterate over the course of a few patches before we feel like we've really accomplished the goal of the update. Do you really want a game where we implement every change that gets posted on GD? Wouldn't that be terrifying? If not, how would you decide who to listen to or not?

We love feedback and we do appreciate it when you take the time to post something. For all the complaints you may still have about League, I suspect you'd have a whole lot more if the feedback cycle didn't work to improve things over time.

"You're calling us a vocal minority." 
The point I was trying to make is that quantifying this or any forum is challenging and prone to abuse. In the end, the numbers don't really matter. It comes down to the strength of arguments. We aren't trying to make the majority happy. We're trying to make everyone happy, without watering down the game, as ridiculous a goal as that sounds.

Here is another example. A couple of months ago, USA players were taking us/me to task for not nerfing Lee Sin. While he had some defenders in that thread, it was, to be fair, pretty one-sided. I said we thought he was too good at too many things. The next day the Chinese forums exploded with a lot of players who love the way Lee plays that were outraged that we would consider him broken. Were there more of them than there were US players? Was the overall passion of the Chinese players greater or less than those of the US players? I have no idea. How to you even measure something like that? In the end, we tried to figure out how we could tone him down without wrecking those aspects that players really liked about him. Nearly every change to the game plays out similarly.

"You only talk in generalizations, not specifics." 
High level, long term design is what I do. That's the only thing I feel comfortable discussing unless I've had a really recent discussion with someone on a specific topic. We have been trying to get more Rioters out here so you have a bigger chance of talking to someone who is working on your exact feature. But that's also a two way street. I've been doing this a long time (sixteen years!), and it's not really possible to scare me away from forums. But when we ask other Rioters why they don't spend time doing it, the three most common answers are: I'm scared of saying the wrong thing, it takes a huge amount of time, and the environment feels hostile. To the extent you can make the environment more positive, you'll see more participation. I'm not saying don't criticize. I'm saying don't be a stereotypical internet troll when you do. Yes, it's part of our job and I will do what I can from my end to encourage more designers to be out here.

If there are other high level topics you would appreciate me tackling (not specifics like Cass reworks or the future of lore) I'd be happy do do so."

When asked what plays into the order that champions get reworks, he explained:
"A lot goes into determining the order of champion updates. Here are just a few elements: 
-- Maybe someone is already working on another champion, but it's taking longer.
-- Maybe we're trying to coordinate a visual update with a gameplay update.
-- Maybe we don't have a good idea yet for how to update a particular champ.
-- Maybe an update won't help because the champ in question is being dominated by another in the same role with even worse counterplay, so nobody is going to play the former until the latter is always fixed."

Ghostcrawler also commented on the semi-recent change to how fears work, explaining:
"If I am remembering correctly, the concern was that fear was really random. Sometimes a feared target would run toward you and sometimes they would run away (a particularly sad reaction for Fiddlesticks). A little bit of unpredictability provides situations in which players have to make on-the-spot choices for how to react, which is a good test of mastery and reflexes. But when it feels like RNG has more effect on your performance than your decisions, that can be really frustrating. Crit is another example, but that's a very long discussion. :)"
When asked why Riot doesn't just poll all high MMR players regarding upcoming reworks or game balance, Ghostcrawler explained:
"We do some of this already, and may dive deeper into it. The main risks have to do with a sense of elitism. We already try to navigate a knife's edge of perceptions about whether we design the game only for the pros or only for the average player. The thought that pros (or even top tiered players in general) might have a bat phone to reach the developers in a secret conversation in which other players can't even participate rubs other players understandably the wrong way. The top-tiered players themselves get nervous of their comments being used against them, especially if it's private correspondence that becomes leaked. 
Finally, there are expert players who don't have great insight into which changes would be good for the game overall, and there are Bronze players who can't execute on plays but have a really good sense for specific changes that would improve the game for everyone. This is the whole "just because you eat a lot of good food, that doesn't make you a chef," argument."

Context on now Reverted Nocturne PBE Changes

Meddler also popped on the forums to offer a bit of context on the now reverted PBE changes that gave Nocturne a lower cooldown time on his ultimate if he didn't reactivate it to dash to an enemy.
"We think increasing Nocturne's ability to manipulate enemy vision has potential, but aren't convinced this is necessarily the way to do it. Nocturne's likely to be the only champ with a global blackout effect, at least for the foreseeable future, our feeling so far though is that to really make that accessible as more of a play in its own right and less of a cool secondary effect on a long ranged dash we might need to make some other changes besides just CD. As a result we'd like to explore things like giving Nocturne and his team more ways to appreciate how much the enemy's vision is restricted or ways to capitalize on the vision reduction. Too early to promise and definite change though, as with the recently reverted change this is all still just possibilities in testing and may not go anywhere. We're looking to be more experimental with what we try out on the PBE which means that sometimes things like this will be tested but won't go live."

Meddler on Ezreal, Riven, and Syndra

In addition to the Nocturne stuff above, Meddler also answer a few questions regarding his thoughts on current champion balance.

When asked about Riven, Meddler commented:
"I don't believe we've currently got anything planned. As with all champs she'll be looked once the preseason changes have been done, see how those have or haven't affected her state (bit early to talk about preseason details at present, work underway on them right now though)."

As for his thoughts on Syndra, Meddler noted:
"Last I checked the balance team have her on watch as a 'might be too strong' candidate, but no firm plans or definite conclusions yet. 
Personally I'd like to shift some of her power from early to late game a bit, reduce her lane bullying (which can be really dominant at times) and play up her growing power theme a bit more. That's an off the top of the head response though, not a firm plan or anything. Similarly would be inclined to look at her E's stun width, see whether a bit of tuning there might be valid RE what size the counterplay window for the spell should be at different ranges.

For the E bug if you've got a way to reproduce an issue with it not stunning do throw the details up here (video especially appreciated), we'll give that a look, see if we can figure out what's going on."
Meddler also jumped into a length discussion on Ezreal, explaining what Ezreal's strengths and weaknesses are:
"Nice discussion, enjoyed reading this so far and interested to see what else you folks come up with. To give a bit of context on what sort of stuff we'd be looking at for Ezreal ourselves in terms of both constraints and opportunities:
1. Ezreal's strengths as an ADC are his safety and his poke. He's the agile, fast guy who's hitting you and then repositioning himself immediately, both thematically and in gameplay terms. Straight back and forth fights aren't so much his thing, nor is CCing you and winning that way - he'll beat you unimpeded skill versus skill. That means things that support a somewhat risky kiting playstyle are good fits, while straight buffs to his ability to all out brawl with enemies probably aren't.

2. Limited wave clear, in exchange for global reach against both champions and minions, is one of Ezreal's defining features we'd like to preserve. Giving him regular AOE damage to minions probably isn't appropriate either.

3. Ezreal's an ADC in a healthy spot design wise (in terms of what his kit does, not necessarily it's exact state of balance today). Adding major new strengths to him isn't a good idea as a result - that can be done with raw power buffs. This is instead more about making his W satisfying ("I feel good when I use this correctly even with only 1 point in it") and interesting ("I spotted a smart way to take advantage of W mid fight and got a noticeable advantage as a result"). That's pretty tough as a result, hence the current state of the skill. That also means that, tempting as it is, adding a passive to the W won't solve the problems we're looking at here - ranking the skill up will feel better, but the act of using it won't be improved.

4. Ezreal does have some thematic aspects that aren't represented much in his kit, which could be useful starting points for ideas. His background as an explorer in particular's not used much and could lend itself to some cool abilities (though it's also possible that'd be something you'd be better off building an entire kit around).

5. Essence Flux is currently a functional, but non essential part of his kit (AP Ezreal excepted, which is worth bearing in mind). That means that considering both ways to improve Essence Flux and alternative skills that could be in that slot is appropriate. Personal opinion is that a modified Essence Flux would probably be the way to go, particularly since we'd want to preserve the 'all skillshots' thing he's got going on, possible there's a noticeably different skill that might be a better fit though"

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