Red Post Collection: In-Depth with Meaningful Choices, Playtime with Gnar, and more!

Posted on at 3:06 PM by Moobeat
Tonight's red post collection features Meddler with a developer blog that goes in-depth with the concept of Meaningful Choices, a community spotlight on fanmade Playtime with Gnar webcomics, Ghostcrawler commenting on player feedback and a few experimental changes that may come to the PBE in a few months, and more!
Continue reading for more information!

LoL Design Values: In-Depth with Meaningful Choices

The developer blog series continues, this time with Meddler discussing the design value of Meaningful choices and what that means for summoners!
"Hey all,

It's time for another entry in our ongoing series on the Design Values of League of Legends! Today we've got Lead Champion Designer Andrei "Meddler" Van Roon, here to talk about meaningful choices in League of Legends. This is a topic that goes fairly deep, so let's just let him get started!"
Chris ‘Pwyff’ Tom 

Why does meaningful choice matter?

To us, meaningful choices are one of the key things that allow a PvP game to have depth. The ability to make decisions that directly impact that state of the game is of absolute importance in driving satisfaction and mastery, and we always want to reward those make the best decisions. 
Multiple attractive choices also allow for variety in experience, with games following many different paths. Meaningful choices (rather than single best choices) allow players to shape the state of the game based off their own preferences and what they feel they’re best at. 

What makes a choice meaningful?

Meaningful choices require that the player have sufficient understanding of the consequences of their decisions. Without knowing (or at least being able to predict) what's going to happen, a ‘choice’ of option basically becomes random. That’s not to say that the player needs to know every detail, or they need to see exactly how their decision will pan out - just enough to make an informed choice. 
Significant difference between possible outcomes is also required. Clarity is nice, but if the choice is between a set of almost identical options – or if all choices result in the same, final outcome - there’s no significance to the choice in the first place. 
It’s also important that the choices offered are actually accessible. If there are three possible choices of strategy but two can be executed by only the top 0.01% of players (reaction speed, required actions per second, etc) that effectively means there isn't a choice either. 
Finally, for a choice to be meaningful there need to be situations where multiple options are potentially valid. If there’s always one obvious correct answer, it’s not a choice but a puzzle to be solved. Sometimes it's okay for there to be one right decision (see below), but games defined by questions that, once answered, stay answered forever (otherwise known as 'solved games') face the challenge of staying fresh (once again, if the focus is on meaningful PvP interactions).

Why sometimes a lack of choice is OK

Meaningful choice adds a lot to a game, but it’s not an essential part of every element. Skillshots or challenging combos, for example, can be satisfying skill tests for many, even if the correct play is the same every time. Additionally – and this is particularly true in story driven genres – plot, setting or character development can often justify a lack of choice. 
In League, a lack of meaningful choice is worth accepting either because of the benefits a single option brings to the rest of the game, or because the choice is meaningful to other players. For example, participating in the vision game is almost mandatory if you want to be a successful team, but vision control in League of Legends creates a lot of interesting play – particularly around contested objectives. 
Sometimes it’s better to simply not offer a choice in the first place. For example, having a deep, unified competitive scene on Summoner's Rift - rather than a fragmented one split over multiple maps/modes - better supports our goals of making League of Legends a long-lasting, competitive game with deep potential for skill development. That’s not to say other maps or game modes don’t have interesting things to offer, but there are many benefits (and tradeoffs) for choosing to focus on one.

Different ways to look at choice

There are many different ways to present a meaningful choice, and I'll run through a few examples: 
Single versus Constant 
Single choices often have a large impact on strategy and they commonly influence how future decisions in the game will be presented. This isn't to say that single choices have right or wrong answers, but five strategically mismatched choices against five strategically cohesive choices can be very tough.
  • Utility mid like Lulu or an assassin like Zed?
Constant choices, on the other hand, are ones that influence the game by inches – each time you make a conscious decision, it's just one step toward (or away from) victory.
  • Stay in lane and farm, go gank bot, try to steal the enemy’s blue buff? 
Always Available versus Windowed 
Choices that are always available are mostly related to mastery of efficiency. Knowing when to use something rarely wins a game single-handedly, but juggling the optimal timing of when to use many things is often what's needed to edge out a close victory. 
  • Should I use my potion when I'm near full health so that I can optimize my jungle efficiency? Should I save it if I’m thinking about recalling soon? 
Windowed choices are ones that are only available under certain circumstances and can therefore carry more weight than always available ones. It's like a form of efficiency, but also knowing what a windowed choice will lead to in the future.
  • While at the shop, do I spend my gold while I can, or do I save up for something I can’t afford yet? If I'm spending my gold, do I grab a Vamp Scepter or Boots and a Long Sword? 
Tactical versus Strategic 
Tactical choices are typically the ones that relate to pure combat mechanics and in-the-moment decision-making. 
  • Which angle is Morgana going to fire Dark Binding at? Which way should I try and dodge, if at all?
Strategic choices, on the other hand, are ones that are focused on long-term decisions that dictate the pace and future opportunities within the game.
  • Do we try and fight them at Baron or do we let them have it while we go for an inhibitor?

While some of the above are direct examples of how we approach meaningful choices in League of Legends, I'd like to also look to the future before this entry gets too long.

Looking forward / where we can do better

While providing meaningful choices is a core value that we design around, it's not something we've always delivered on well enough. As a result, there are a number of parts of the game we’re looking to make improvements to offer more interesting decision points. Have a few examples: 
We’d like League of Legends to have a broader range of possible options when it comes to how teams try to win a game. While this does rely heavily on champion diversity to influence strategy, we hope for there to be many ways to close out a game – through objective control, split pushing, straight teamfighting, getting strategic picks on solitary enemies, and beyond. 
Some champions share too similar a niche with other champions, making the choice between them more a question of who's more powerful than what particular skillset you want on your team. We try to emphasize this distinction where possible – for example, both Trundle and Jax are fighters, but they are picked for a team for very different reasons (initiation, disengage, and strength against tanky targets versus ramping damage with strong offensive scaling combined with a high effectiveness against auto attackers). 
In contrast, Mundo and Shyvana do share a bit too similar a niche, with both being tanky fighters that deal AoE damage over an extended period of time as they try to wear down a target via movement speed. That’s not to say they’re bad champions or that there aren’t differences between them (one is better at long skirmishes, the other has superior initiation), but we can certainly be offering a more interesting choice between the two. Trying to find distinct gameplay spaces for champions is one of the core things we’re focusing on with both new champions and champion updates. 
Some roles have a range of interesting itemization choices throughout the game. AP casters, for example get to make choices like Tear of the Goddess or Fiendish Codex early, and Zhonya’s or Deathcap later on. Other roles, however, have fewer interesting options available to them. Marksmen have generally followed very similar build paths to each other with low variance. As a result, we're trying to find ways to offer more distinct and appealing options, like the changes to Bloodthirster to better position it as a high end defensive AD item. In comparison, the old Bloodthirster - due to it having the highest AD in the game along with lifesteal - basically said, "Build this on every marksman that auto attacks or uses spells" (that is, all of them).

And onward! 

The above are just a few examples of where we think we can offer more meaningful choices for the future of League of Legends. Remember that this can go even more in-depth in systems like summoner spells, runes, masteries, or even lane positions on the map itself. Also, if you think there are unique opportunities where we can offer more depth or places where you think we've failed to offer sufficient choice, feel free to leave a comment below.
Andrei "Meddler" Van Roon

Processing Community Feedback

With the forums and community beta filling up each day with player feedback on champions, upcoming changes, and design philosophy, Ghostcrawler popped into one of these threads to comment on how community feedback is generally quantified , communicated, and reacted to:
"One of the things that really infuses the workplace here is value that players are the most important thing, period. I am convinced that Rioters really believe that in their souls and we're pretty good about not hiring people who aren't bought into that value. If it has felt lately that we're putting ourselves up on a pedestal over you guys, then that's just a communication failure on our part. I love that aspect of Riot. We aren't the VIPs; you guys are. If you don't feel that way, then we're just going to have to work harder to convince you.

Now, I'm not going to comment on the story elements at all. That's not my gig and I'm not armed with the proper context to have that conversation. Apologies in advance.

I can talk about the champion updates and related issues about gameplay such as the Fortify and defensive play topics mentioned by the OP.

First, we don't know better than players. We have some experience making games and hopefully we've hired folks with some natural talent for game development, but at the end of the day players are going to decide if they play the game or not. To put it in a bland business sentiment, this product is for you. The biggest challenge here is that players rarely speak with one voice. It may seem to you that "everyone" wanted a champion changed in a certain way or even all the "X players" really liked a specific identity that we decided to change. It's just rarely that cut and dried. (And man, this job would be so much easier if it were.)

Remember that only a small minority of players ever post on forums, or reach out to us on Reddit or Twitter, and also remember most of you are only viewing those conversations in one or two languages at most. What may seem like universal consensus is rarely anything close to that.

And that's okay! We're not trying to design a game based on community vote, and you probably wouldn't be happy with the results anyway. We do very much value player feedback and we use it to make informed decisions. That's the reason I cracked open this (long) thread this morning -- to see what you guys thought.

To provide some context on champion updates specifically, here is the way I view player sentiment. Feel free to disagree.

Player response, again IMO, generally falls into one of these categories:

1) I am indifferent to this champion or her changes.
2) I play the champion because she is broken, so I'm not going to be happy once she is fixed.
3) I believe the champion needs to be updated, but I am excited about one particular direction, which is unlikely to be the one Riot chooses.
4) I believe the champion needs to be updated, and either Riot managed to pick the direction I liked, or I was happy just to see an update period.

Out of those four categories, you're going to see a lot of communication from players in groups 2 and 3. Indifferent group 1 dudes are unlikely to post that they are still indifferent. Group 4 might post a little. As a result, it can feel like there is a lot of negative sentiment every time we make a change. We keep gathering data though, to make sure in the long term that the champ is getting more play and that players are enjoying playing her. To be fair, we sometimes miss the mark, or frequently a champion requires a few subsequent rounds of updates to really deliver on the promise of the update.

I'm not sure of a better way to operate other than considering player feedback in this way. I don't think polls or votes would really be a strong way to design a game. I'm not sure how we could isolate the most hardcore or passionate players of a specific champion and redesign her with the aim of pleasing those dudes. We're totally open to suggestions though. How would you determine the best way to update a champion? I'm not asking because we are without a process, but because some of you don't seem happy with that process."
He continued:
"The point I was trying to make was that forum posts aren't good quantitative (numeric) sources of data. They are excellent qualitative (value) sources of data. 
Saying "everyone is saying X" doesn't provide a ton of information, and is almost certainly not technically true. We get less information out of something like "100 posters agree with me that Nidalee sucks" and a lot more about reading something like "What I really liked about Nidalee was how she threw spears across the map. If I had wanted a champion that changed into an animal, I would have picked Shyvana."

Again, there is a difference among "we know better than you" and "we make decisions informed by what you're saying" and "we go implement whatever you want." We shoot for the middle option if that wasn't obvious. :)" 

Experimental Jungle changes on PBE "in a month or two"

In a thread where a summoner submitted his own ideas for how to improve the jungling experience, Ghostcrawler jumped in to mention we might see experimental changes got up for testing on the PBE in the near future.

"We haven't discussed that particular solution, but we totally agree with the basic sentiment of the problem you're trying to fix. We do think the jungle has become a bit stale, that junglers are basically completing set routes without making many decisions until it comes time for the gank. We do think counterjungling is a cool strategy so long as it comes with appropriate risks and rewards. 
You'll see some experiments we want to try out for next season on the PBE in a month or two. We'll talk more about the specific ideas we're trying and why when things get a little closer."

Playtime with Gnar

Riot Jynx is back, this time sharing a bunch of wonderful Gnar comics from community artists Rachel J Corey.
"Ever since his release, Gnar’s been busy wreaking havoc and melting hearts—he’s arguablyt he most adorable champ on the Rift (don’t tell Teemo)! 
Facing off against that much cute in lane can be a challenge, especially when Gnar makes it look like a play date. To explore this idea a little more, we teamed up with community artist Rachel J Corey to create a series of web comics appropriately titled Playtime with Gnar.
The Card Master

“I thought you’d never pick me.”

Deal with it. 

The Eternal Nightmare 

The Blindfolded Monk


The Voidstalker

A solid performance

The kisses! They burn!

“My destination is clear!”

How would Gnar play with your favorite champ? Post your ideas and upvote your favorites in the comments below. We’ll collaborate with Rachel to turn some of the most popular suggestions into another set of adorable comics! 
To see more of Rachel’s League fanart and comics, check out her website here."

PAX Codes Expiring Soon

Lastly we have Affordance with a friendly reminder that all of those wonderful skin codes handed out to those who attended PAX Prime last weekend are EXPIRING AT 7 PM PDT today, SEPTEMBER 5th.
"Hey all, 
Quick reminder that those PAX skin and ward codes are set to expire tonight at 7pm PDT. Spread the word and make sure people redeem asap to not miss out!"

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