[Updated] Red Post Collection: Experimental preseason 2015 changes hitting the PBE over the next few days

Posted on at 11:27 AM by Moobeat
[Update #2: Check out the bottom of the post for additional discussion!]

With the season winding down, Ypherion has posted up context on a set of experimental preseason 2015  changes that will be making their way to the PBE soon! These changes look to support more strategic diversity, including significant changes to objectives, the jungle, items, and more!
Continue reading for more information!

Here's Ypherion with the scoop:
"Hey everyone, 
For the next couple weeks we’ll be putting out a lot of experimental work on the PBE as we ramp up to the 2015 preseason. As a reminder: some changes will be a bit disruptive - somevery disruptive - but the preseason is our annual opportunity to deepen the League of Legends experience (remember our changes from last year?), so we’re excited to be sharing some early iterations with you. Also keep in mind that these changes are still pretty early in development, so expect a good amount of temporary - or re-used - art, sound and other assets. In some cases this might make new things harder to understand (sorry!) and we’ll try to get them cleared up as soon as we can.

We’ll also be kicking off this PBE deploy with a series of preseason ‘forecasts’ to give some narrative structure for where we’re heading. More official communications will roll out when we get closer to the real start of preseason (so if you just want to know what’s definitely on the table, come back in a month or two), but If you want to get a peek behind the curtains of our 2015 development, read on.

Overall, this preseason we’re looking for ways to support more strategic diversity in League.

“Strategic diversity” is a pretty broad - and kind of vague - term so, to make sure we’re on the same page, we’ll be breaking it down in this series of posts.

When we talk about strategic diversity, we’re really focused on the ways you look to win - the paths to victory your team walks. Players have discovered many viable strategies during League’s lifetime, like teamfight-focused (deathball) strats, split pushing, siege / poke, objective control, and more. In the past, however, when one of the aforementioned strategies was dominant, we didn’t have a lot of ways to bring it back in line other than nerfing the champions that were critical to its success (think Shen back in his split push heyday).

So this time around with the 2015 preseason we want to add more tools to the game so that teams can continue to innovate while, at the same time, we can properly tune when strategies are over (or under) performing. In other words, by creating more paths for players we also end up with more balancing points we can use to make sure that multiple strategies exist without just stomping out the competition. More importantly, this means we have more ways to give power to strategies that seem too weak.

So broadly speaking - and we’ll get a little deeper on some of these topics over the next few days - we’ll be experimenting with changes to objectives (like towers, dragon, and baron), the jungle (a new camp, spawn times, difficulty, items, rewards… well, all of it really), items (more situationally powerful actives!) and some core systems (stats per level, death timers, how health / mana regen works). Reiterating our high-level goals here: we’re going to be laying a foundation on which we can support more strategic diversity, no matter what champions we play on the updated Rift.

Look forward to more focused forecasts in the next few days, and we’d love to hear your thoughts as our first wave of changes roll out! Happy experimenting!"

When asked about last years goals and why these new goals sound so similar, Pwyff noted:
"It's tough when this conversation centers directly on the negatives, particularly in the case of specifics :( Looking back at our 2013 preseason post (http://na.leagueoflegends.com/en/news/game-updates/features/preseason-draws-closer ) our big goals were to: 
  • Introduce more gameplay and strategy when it comes to map vision and wards.
  • Ensure all roles and positions can experience power-growth and progression in ways that promote skill
  • Improve game pacing and reduce team snowballing
While I we didn't perfectly hit all of the above, would you at least say these goals were partially hit in 2013? 
I say specifics here in your post because I don't think we ever came out to say "Ohmwrecker and Banner of Command will be awesome situational picks" - while we certainly tried with a few buffs and changes, we ultimately saw that they needed to be a part of a larger suite of strategic-level item purchases to feel impactful. Single one-off strategic items in a vast sea of tactical combat purchases is tough to 'make viable' without being super strong. 
In other words, it's crazy hard to promise that all of our tactics with each preseason would be successful. We promised we'd be pursuing these high-level goals in a variety of ways. Some would be useful, others we'd have to reconsider for the future. We might get more detail-focused after worlds, but this is why we always want to talk about our goals first - it's easy to look at a single solution and talk about how it's not doing everything, but if our goals remain the same (ie: we want more strategic variety in league), we can find multiple ways to execute on that. 

Obligatory: game design is an art not a science! :)"

[~4:20 PM PDT Update] Here's a handful of additional discussion and questions regarding the upcoming preseason changes:

When asked if critical strikes will be looked at in the preseason updates, Sotere noted:
"Not a focus of the first patch we're pushing out, but high on our list of priorities. I don't want to spoil FeralPony's fun before it begins so please excuse me for being vague."
FeralPony later added:
"Critical Strike is viewed as an issue but tbh adjustments on that front are not only lower in value than a lot of the strategic changes we're trying out but also has substantially more fallout and cost. We've been experimenting over time with a number of variations (examples include - reducing crit dmg and upping chance, conditional crits, etc)

It's a super interesting topic I'm willing to over in more detail in a later date, but will not be addressed early on in the preseason, and something I'd be curious to get more player insight on because it's a pretty polarizing topic, both internally and externally."

As for any changes to runes, Xypherous noted:
"Nothing for this patch. 
I agree with you that there are a lot of rune imbalances. Rune value to gold isn't terribly good a lot of the time. 
However I'm of the opinion that making every rune parity on gold vs. power right now would actually hurt players more than it would help as it demands a longer grind to get runed up to maximal efficiency. The benefits you get from rebalancing the current system to make it more tactical are dwarfed by the fact that this would be really really bad as it would simply add thousands of points of IP sinks to players before they got to play."
He continued, replying to a few points from a player:
"QUOTERune updates are a band-aid for a broken system. Why wouldn't you take advantage of the preseason to fix it, especially how easy this fix would be? Will the rune values be perfect after the re-balance? No. But they would be a hell of a lot easier to adjust than just randomly lowering certain rune values and buffing every champion across the board.

The ramifications for fixing runes are much bigger than simply running a numbers balance around making some more runes viable.

You have to ask yourself whether or not you are okay forcing players of a champion to spend, not only 6300 IP on a champion - but also another couple of thousands for runes.

If you lower the cost of runes, you diminish and disrespect anyone who has already bought it.

If players are awful on Ryze because Mana runes are bad - do you force every Ryze player to pick up a set of Mana runes? Or do you simply do the thing that is best for players and simply increase the size of Ryze's Mana Pool?

Will runes actually be easier to adjust, given that some players will own them and some others won't? Will modifying a primary rune actually displace the ability for secondary runes to function?

QUOTEGetting to play doesn't mean having the exact optimal loadout.

This is untrue for competitive play, which a great number of our players aspire to.

Even if it were true - you would be forcing players to decide whether they want to enjoy the game -or- force them to ever consider they have an even greater optimal IP sink for playing.

That's a terrible value for players - assume most of them won't play with an optimal loadout and making sure an optimal loadout will always be out of their reach?

QUOTEAll that was changed is that now, different runes have taken their place. Runes are supposed to be a strategic nuance. Runes are a key aspect of what sets League of Legends apart from other Mobas. To leave them in the state they are in is almost insulting to what runes are SUPPOSED to mean and be.

This is also untrue. Most Mobas do have out of game customization options for their heroes or champions as well. Prime Worlds, for example, has a fantastic meta-progression and out-of-game customization option. This is balanced out by that fact that investment into these systems is fairly penalizing for the casual player as it involves an incredible about of time to be sunk in order to play at a competitive level.

To say that they are what should set us apart means to ignore the dozens of Mobas that have these game progression systems that force you, not only to own a champion but to sink a massive investment in determining an optimal loadout for them.

Balancing secondary runes is an incredibly poor value proposition for players. It doesn't enhance strategic play as the current runes, being mostly stats - will always have an optimal loadout per champion. It puts up more barriers for players to play at a competitive level by forcing more divergent optimal loadouts and it hurts balance for most players by forcing players who don't have optimal loadouts to play weaker champions.

QUOTETo an extent I agree with you, however, why even bother having certain runes exist if they're going to just be worthless and pointless for the game.

Yes - I agree to a large extent that deleting many of these runes would be a good idea. The system obviously could use a lot of work - not disagreeing with that.

However, I don't think the secondary runes really lie about how bad they are. They currently reside in the niche of 'ultimate rich man's toy' as they are obviously bad but also available for you to customize whatever silly or insanely bad loadout you want.

It's kind of the inverse situation of what you're demanding. Do you want a really really silly build that has no chance to be practical? It's available at a high enough IP cost to deter normal players but not ones really really interested in it.
Not saying this is an ideal situation - but I don't see the gains of your proposed fixes to the rune system outweighing the costs to players."
He continued:
"Again - I share your pain. I can't say anything more about this topic though other than to say that I agree with you that runes are borked - but I disagree that trying to solve the secondary rune system right now without burning down the entire system and reforging it anew would actually create much value.

That said, I can't give a definite timeline to when we would do that and that's frustrating for both of us."

Xypherous also replied to a summoner asking if alternative laning strategies such as 1 top - 3 mid - 1 bottom is something the team is looking to promote, saying:
"We do not want to promote alternative laning strategies. 
The laning phase is considered scared for the most part. 
It you take a look at most alternative early game strategies (like 1-3-1 or double jungle, et al) - they involve basically either suppressing or overwhelming character pick and ability. It's about not giving the opponent a fair fight or a chance to show their skills in small fights. 
1-3-1 is kind of the classic example of this, where the net result is that very very little skill is required to execute and only a small niche pool can ever fight it meaning that this lane strategy is a team trying to non-interactively win the game by not allowing the opponent to act. 
Most early game strategies of this type are only tactically rich in the fact that one formation overwhelms another - but the actual playing out of these formations are often fairly rote and predictable. Allowing multiple lane strategies like this - at first, looks like it allows a wider variety of player expression - but ultimately, when it comes to playing the game the amount of skill expression in the actual situation itself is ridiculously small." 

When asked if these updates will address anything in the pick & ban phase of the game, Xypherous replied:
"I think there's a lot of improvements that can be made to the ban/pick system - it's not however, a focus of this preseason patch. 
The other part of this is that it would most likely be handled by people that are not me - so there's very limited context / information I can give, other than that I agree with you that pretty decent gains could be made in this area."

In response to a player suggestion of changing smite to do more damage if the player is surrounded by allies, Xypherous noted:
"There's a couple of reasons not to do this - but the user-facing one of 'not having a good feel of how much Smite will do' probably dominates everything else for most levels of play. 
As you ascend the skill-ranks - the split created by this mechanic isn't 60/40 or 55/45 - as players gets more skilled, they can easily push a 50 to 100 point damage smite differences to something way more unfair. 
Additionally, smite steals are already not 50-50 propositions if you have your team around and the other jungler jumps in for the steal. 
You get to murder the character attempting the steal. They will never get full value out of their steal as much as the team surrounding the objective would."
 Xypherous also commented on the idea of removing the slow from red buff, something a player asked about but was not mentioned in the changes:
"At one point, I tested removing the slow from red buff entirely. The fallout is something like this:
1. Fights that don't end cleanly seem to go up by quite a bit.

Root cause of this is due to the bouncing nature of buffs and the fact that red buff passively slows - it guarantees that if a fight has a red buff in it, the close-out period of a fight will be far smoother. Removing the slow entirely had this odd pattern of most late game fights becoming protracted clean-up phases.

This normally wouldn't be a problem as protracted clean-up phases means the defender has an edge - but by the end-game, characters that excel in slipperiness or stalling out the game could essentially force games to completely stall out in some manner as a longer clean-up phase means that the time to gain an objective after a successful fight is much smaller.

2. It didn't actually seem to do much against the ADC vs. Top lane matchup - it merely constrained the pool of ADCs that were worth picking.

While I'm sure this point can be adapted to by team comps or players over time as people prioritized peel over other factors - it didn't actually seem to open up the top lane match-ups as there are more factors at play rather than their end-game strength.

While Maokai can bypass the kiting of ADCs - if Maokai/Ryze wasn't powerful in lane against a wide variety of matchups - that strength wouldn't be enough to carry them.

I do want to reduce the slow on red buff as much as I can get away with it though, as I do think a 15% perma-slow on ranged and 25% on melee isn't doing great things for the game.
Is the Ranged vs. Melee Interaction currently monitored by the Design/Balance guys?
It is - but it's on the level of individual champion balance rather than anything grander than that."

When asked about summoner spells and why flash is so dominant, Xypherous explained he agrees they need more work but that diversity isn't always better:
"The ability to mix different summoner spells doesn't mean the game is better. I completely agree that you are constrained in your choices for summoner spells - however, let's remove Flash from the game. 
What you'd have is a game with more choices (Ghost/Ignite) etc. - but ultimately, one that is more boring to play unless you redesigned all the summoner spells as well. 
Flash is a reactive, versatile spell. Bluntly, most of the other summoner spells are not. Teleport is probably the closest in terms of interest/skill intensive spell to use - but even then, it's ultimately kind of suspect. Agreed that Summoner Spells need a lot more work - the actual details of it are often murky.

i think Flash should just be innate to every champion, and then you should be able to pick 2 more summoner spells..
An ideal sentiment - though I think that ideal would be cooler, if again, the summoner spells actually synergized at all in ways that didn't immediately make the gameplay super dull. Imagine running Ignite and Exhaust simultaneously with Flash. 
Don't get me wrong, It is more choice. However the actual gameplay of it is: You die and you can't do anything about it. 
Ideally, I'd like more spells like Flash - creative spells that can be used for a wide variety of purposes."
He continued:
"I can understand the frustration you have. 
Summoner Spells are always on the list of things to be ideally worked on - and it always gets dropped because other things seem more important because the current system works well enough not to cause huge problems and the amount of resources it would require to renovate the thing always weighs against all the other things we could be doing. 
Honestly, I don't know when we'll work on these. I just know that I agree with you that the system needs love."
He continued, giving examples of things they've tried on summoner spells that didn't work out:
"Clarity: We've actually tried a full Mana + CDR approach for Clarity before. 
Basically, it's directly competing with Ignite in the same slot for DPS - but it also introduces the problem of not letting us control Mana costs on certain lane archetypes. 
It's like, whenever it was powerful enough to be worth taking - it was insane - otherwise, you'd just opt for Ignite and get an entire new free spell of equal effect. 
CV: CV has tagged opponents in the past. The main issue with CV is that if you take it, you lose your lane fairly hard. 
Fortify: Competitively, Fortify means that Tower Dives don't happen - you get permanent sieges and power farm scenarios because the presence of Fortify means it is always wrong to initiate a fight at the enemy tower. 
While this is probably okay for uncoordinated settings - this stifles high-end play by quite a bit."

When asked about the comments relating to strategic diversity with relation to split pushing, Xypherous explained:
"Split Pushing power is currently completely determined by champions kit/powerset - rather than powers that you can acquire in the game. That means that, whenever someone's spit push is dominant, we have to nerf the champion - because there's nothing but the champion enabling it. 
So, even if you're not using Tryndamere for split pushing - if a split push Tryndamere build is overpowered, Trynd will get nerfed. 
This is in contrast to things like Sieging - which is as much a facet of Blue Buff/Athene's as much as the individual champions. If Siege was super powerful, nerfing blue buff would essentially hit the power of a lot of these strategies -or- alternatively, introducing a strong anti-siege item would do so as well. 
We're hoping to add enough mechanics that interact with the strategy of split pushing (both increasing its power and aimed at blunting its power) such that if split pushing is strong or weak - we'll have more options about what to do than orbital strike a champion. 
I'm not going to say that champions won't be nerfed for their split push capacity. I'm hoping, however, that if split push becomes way too strong, we can nerf our tools enabling the strategy or strengthen the mechanics that are supposed to blunt split pushing rather than hit the champions directly most of the time."

[Update #2]

When asked if Hybrid items will be looked at in this update, Xypherous noted:
"Would like to - but not for this patch. 
This preseason patch can be thought of as trying to work on the teamwide aspects of our game, rather than at the individual level. We want things that help you play with or play against teams - not optimize your own individual champions micro. 
Do agree that hybrid items should be purged if not removed - However, I think we'll try to do that early in the season rather than this preseason as this patch is more team focused than individual focused."
He continued, giving an example of an item that benefits the teamwide aspects:
"Hourglass, DFG and Mikael's are all still examples of bolstering your own individual's champions micro abilities. 
Something more fitting to the team-wide aspect would be something like tripling the health regeneration of Warmog's when you are out of combat. That becomes a roaming / siege or anti-siege tool. It doesn't really have a direct influence in direct combat - but it allows your team to be able to take broader strategies."

When asked for specifics on some of the mentioned changes, Xypherous commented:
"We'll have more details in the upcoming days. Right now we're trying to get the whole system onto PBE as much as we can."

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