Red Post Collection: Making of Featured Game Modes dev blog, Lyte on TBchanges, 2014 World Championship Sale Ending soon

Posted on at 11:25 PM by Moobeat
Tonight's Red Post Collection features a dev blog by L4T3NCY on featured game mode and Ascension, Lyte discussing upcoming improvements for Team Builder, and a reminder that the SKT T1FNATIC, and TPA skins, as well as Championship ThreshChampionship ShyvanaWorld Championship 2014 icon, and the 2014 Championship Ward skin, will be leaving the shop on OCTOBER 31ST. 
Continue reading for more information!

The Making of Featured Game Modes

Our next developer blog is here and this time we have  L4T3NCY discussion featured game modes and sharing statistics from the recent Ascension mode that was enabled during the Shurima event!
"As everyone enjoys Hexakill: Twisted Treeline, it felt like a good time to give some insight into how we make Featured Game Mode's by analyzing our approach to the previous mode, Ascension. Hopefully I can give you guys some insight into our iterative development process, what we take away and learn from each mode, plus some stories about things that didn't make it. 
Rapid prototyping 
We start each Featured Game Mode by trying to define what kind of experience it should be. There are design pillars which help guide this, but we often want you to "discover a new or interesting way to engage with your favourite champions in League of Legends". Of course we still want modes to feel like LoL to some degree, so you can expect to level up, gain power and fight other champions, but we’re not afraid to bend the rules. Sometimes there’s an overarching theme we’re working towards with a mode (e.g. Shurima) and other times it’s a fun mechanic or rule change that just wants to be turned into a mode (e.g. One For All, URF). The golden rule is that regardless of its shape, a mode has to be fun! 
With Ascension, we wanted to highlight the Shurima event and bring some of the pervasive lore themes like “power corrupts” through with fun gameplay. It needed to feel scrappy and intense so we started drifting towards a Team Deathmatch (TDM) kind of feel. The Crystal Scar's circular shape made it a strong initial candidate for that kind of gameplay. The tower pads nicely doubled as spawn points enabling a strategic choice for players when entering the battle (and also neatly solved design issues around TDM spawning in the LoL ecosystem). It wasn't going to just work 'as is' though, so we ripped out the towers and minions to fast forward through the laning phase of regular LoL, enabling you to get straight to the fighting! With those changes, daily playtests began to have a running theme emerge: a constant 'struggle for power'. 
Two problematic design issues became evident during prototype playtests that I want to zoom in on: 
1) Snowballing
Ascension initially felt very snowbally, and while we want to reward #bigplays, it doesn’t feel great to make a single mistake and never be able to recover. We tested and eventually kept the following 'anti-snowball mechanic' in Ascension; all players on both teams had exactly the same gold & XP at all points throughout a match. This meant that at any point in time, you always had an equal chance to win/lose any teamfights. There was no mathematical 'snowballing' possible in Ascension, making the Ascended buff the only actual statistical advantage on the map. Even if the other team was stomping, you had as much chance to win the next Xerath fight, Ascend, and make a comeback. A side-effect was that even when losing badly, you could still get valuable skirmishing practice right up to the end of a game, due to never actually being 'behind'. We were pretty happy with how this solution played out across Ascension's lifetime. 
2) Lack of 'strategic choice'.
There was also an early lack of 'strategic choice' in the mode. Original prototype playtests felt too sparse and barren for a TDM, which led to us shrinking the map into the tighter, more action-packed jungle area of the Crystal Scar. This increased the action, but still felt like a directionless TDM. Our team internally dubbed it "Murderball Simulator 2014". The prevailing meta was to just group as 5 and roll around the map killing anything that moved. :/ While murderball was fun in short bursts, it was too monotonous, and we'd tire of it after only a few games. There were no peaks or valleys in the tension curve across the game life. It needed a higher objective layer to float above the TDM, giving purpose to your rampage (rather than killing everything in sight being a means to its own end). We eventually settled on the Relics of Shurima & Ancient Ascendant Xerath combo that shipped, but here's some of the ideas that didn't make it:
  • Transferring the Ascended buff player-to-player based on the killing blow. This was one of the earliest prototypes and just led to a snowbally comp style with monotonous gameplay. Badtimes. :(
  • Capturable towers that provided an area of vision around them while held. These were basically ignored as the vision wasn't valuable enough to directly affect the scoreboard. "Hmm, I could grab some vision... or maul someone's face off with Udyr... face mauling please!"
  • Transforming the 4 remaining teammates on an Ascended team into 'sand soldiers'. We wrote a whole new kit for these 'sand soldiers' based around helping the Ascended track, hunt and lock down kills. Turns out that taking away your ability to play your favourite champion is a terrible idea. The kit tried to walk a middle-line of doing everything, and ended up being good at nothing in particular. "Why am I this sand soldier guy trying to slow guys and shield the Ascended? I could be doing this as Lulu... and WAY BETTER!"\ 
That perfect game 
We often hear from players that they would like more ways to express their skill level visually. With the 'Perfect Ascension' icon, we wanted to try making a 'challenge mode' icon to reward exceptional play. It needed to reflect actual gameplay excellence to be valuable (if it were easy, it would have no value right?) and not be compulsory in any way. The icon didn't require any deviation from regular Ascension play or strategy, and happened naturally in the course of playing to win. You just needed to win VERY convincingly (IE: play the perfect game). Many strategies were kicked around as the best path to a perfect game, but we largely saw that if it ever came down to a scrap at Xerath, then your team probably wasn’t playing the perfect game. For those of you who did earn the icon though, nice work! You now hold one of the rarest summoner icons there is.
Each mode brings with it a new wild west of meta where initially “anything is possible”. After about a week though, the sands settle and most players seem to have a good grip on "what's OP". It was pretty widely accepted that “assassins were strong in Ascension”. But let's look at some comparisons. 

That may or may not surprise some of you. However... who was actually strong in Ascension? 
Yeah that's Taric up there in 5th, despite having a stunningly unpopular pick rate. Oh don't worry, we never saw that one coming either... truly outrageous. This is a good example of why having these modes as temporary is a boon. It gives us the freedom to experiment without the burden of having a static and well-documented meta.” Featured Game Modes don’t have comparable depth to Summoner’s Rift, and having them on for a few weeks at a time keeps them fresh and exciting (if Ascension was permanent these meta numbers might have staled fairly quickly thereafter). 
Things to improve 
Featured Game Modes are a great chance for us to learn what's fun in LoL, what doesn't work, or what we’d like to do better next time around. The Perfect Ascension icon highlighted for us the possibility of misalignment between players on the game's win condition. Specifically, resolution of the icon shouldn't have been possible before the end of a match. This is something we're taking on board. 
We were originally going to make Perfect Ascension an 'opt-in experience' and lock it to premade 5-mans, as not everyone on a team might be bought in on trying to earn the icon. This felt too limiting though, and we wanted to give everyone a chance to be rewarded for playing that 'perfect game'. One thing that we noticed overall with the Perfect Ascension was that it forged a lasting memory for everyone, whether they achieved it or not. This is something we're keen to do again, with maybe a different shape. 
There was also the eventual solution for how we shrunk the map size and limited player movement using the 'black darkness' on the ground. It was a functional, but not terribly coherent solution. While it did its job (barely) for the first outing of Ascension, there were lots of readability issues for players when initially encountering it. Even after multiple interactions, it was still often unclear to many players that it represented the 'edge of the playspace'. If we ever bring Ascension back, that’s one of the first things we'd like to tidy up. 
Both of these examples show the value of Featured Game Modes being temporary. While we might have let something like the 'black darkness' solution hold back shipping a permanent mode, the temporary nature of Featured Game Mode's let players enjoy the mode for a few weeks and make some #bigplays. The highs and lows felt chasing the Perfect Ascension (and the permanent memento for those of you who got it) also would not have been feasible to try. Plus when the mode is done, we can learn from your feedback, and use it to inform any similar upcoming design features, or maybe tweak the mode and bring it back at some point. 
What's next? 
In the near future I want to chat about the current state of Featured Game Modes. It's been over a year since we started doing them and is a good time to take stock of what we've done, where we are now and what we're aiming to do in 2015. Until then, see you on the rift! ^_^/ 

As with any featured gamemode discussion, questions have been pouring in regarding the beloved URF mode and if it will ever return.
Chager commented on this, saying:
"Hi all,

Wanted to drop in and say we hear how much you loved URF and want it back! As L4t3ncy mentioned at the end of this blog, he'll be talking soon about how the past year's modes went, some cool data insights, successes and challenges, and what we want to achieve in 2015. In that he's going to go into some detail about URF, some of the challenges we faced and what we learned about it which will give some insight on how we chose to create and bring modes back.

Also, it was said in several of the comments but URF will be back, so fear not! A lot goes into planning a mode schedule for a year, but also into making sure when we bring a mode back its not just the same mode, but has had additional development time based on what we learned and want to improve on.


He continued:
"There are totally times where keeping an original game mode on the same map makes sense. (Not sure Ascension work work on other maps). But sometimes there are goals we wanted to achieve but didn't or additional game mechanics/changes we wanted to put into a mode that were cut for one reason or another. We're always open to trying to make what's great even better. Sometimes we get it and sometime's we don't, but we always want to try to improve on what we've made before.

Also we want to make sure we listen to feedback on modes from players and take that into account if/when we bring a mode back. One for All was a good example of that; there was a lot of player suggestion that it would be fun on Howling Abyss and we wanted to see how that would work. We also were able to put in some improvements (battle boost, voting system) that were cut from the original OFA."

Lyte on upcoming Team Builder improvements

In a thread disussing the state of Team Builder now that it has been out on live for several months, Lyte popped in to comment on a few new improvements they are working on:
"A solid number of players play Team Builder as their "primary" game mode, but it's a work in progress that we're still trying to improve. We're also researching and designing what a Team Builder Ranked could look like, and our current ideas are a simpler, slimmed down version of Team Builder with some improvements to the draft process. 
Some of the new things coming up include:
  • almost full groups getting a higher priority in queue to fill out their groups
  • we've completely re-done the matchmaking algorithms so playing with premades will result in fairer matches
  • we're going to have Team Builder "remember" the last spec you played and automatically populate the fields so you can get into game quicker
We're tinkering with a couple more things to Team Builder Normals, and hope more players give it a shot if their initial impression of the mode wasn't the best experience."
He continued, replying to someone asking for an alternative way to build your team:
Is there any chance to add other options to TB, but not connected with champions specifically? 
What I mean is, let me chose "ANY" role on every lane, but also let me limit ADC to 1. Other example could be, let me chose "ANY" role, but also let me state maximum of melee champions in a team. 
Is this even possible?
Yes, it's possible. We've thought about allowing a "Fill" option specifically, but with your other suggestion worry a bit about the problem where a lot more choices = a lot longer queue times for teams. Imagine allowing players to select 2 ADCs, 2 ranged only, 1 mage, but 3 melee only... weird combinations will result in bad experiences. You could say the pain is self-inflicted, but we don't like designs that allow players to opt-in to miserable queues."

2014 World Championship Sale Ending Soon

Riot Paradox has posted up a reminder that the SKT T1, FNATIC, and TPA skins, as well as Championship Thresh, Championship Shyvana, World Championship 2014 icon, and the 2014 Championship Ward skin, will be leaving the shop on OCTOBER 31ST. 

Here's the full reminder, including a refresher on the bundles that are currently available!
"The 2014 World Championship sale ends on October 31 so snag your favorite skins before they head into the vault! 
Championship Thresh - 975 RP
2014 Championship Bundle - 2115 RP (1455 RP if you already own the champ)
  • Championship Shyvana - 975 RP
  • 2014 Championship Ward - 640 RP
  • World Championship 2014 Icon - 1 IP
Fnatic Team Bundle - 25% off at 2812 RP (5688 RP if you need the champions)
  • Fnatic Gragas - 750 RP
  • Fnatic Jarvan IV - 750 RP
  • Fnatic Janna - 750 RP
  • Fnatic Corki - 750 RP
  • Fnatic Karthus - 750 RP
TPA Team Bundle - 25% off at 2812 RP (5358 RP if you need the champions)
  • TPA Ezreal - 750 RP
  • TPA Mundo - 750 RP
  • TPA Nunu - 750 RP
  • TPA Orianna - 750 RP
  • TPA Shen - 750 RP
SKT T1 Team Bundle - 25% off at 3292 RP (6513 RP if you need the champions)
  • SKT T1 Zed - 750 RP
  • SKT T1 Vayne - 750 RP
  • SKT T1 Jax - 750 RP
  • SKT T1 Lee Sin - 750 RP
  • SKT T1 Zyra - 750 RP
  • SKT T1 Ward - 640 RP 
These skins aren’t going into the vault but through October 31, you can grab all the skins and champs Samsung White used to clench the 2014 World Championship for half off! 
2014 World Championship Winners Bundle - 50% off at 2210 RP (4220 RP if you need the champions)
  • Corki
  • Janna
  • Kassadin
  • Rengar
  • Orianna
  • Hot Rod Corki (Imp didn’t use a skin but we decided to throw one in anyways)
  • Frost Queen Janna
  • Harbinger Kassadin
  • Night Hunter Rengar
  • Bladecraft Orianna 
Celebrate the 2014 World Championships!"

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