Red Post Collection: New AD Assassin Item, LCP Ep 3, Statikk,Gypsylord, & FeralPony Intros, Wallpapers, and more!

Posted on at 12:05 PM by Moobeat
[UPDATE: Post updated with Gypsylord intro and Axes on a new AD Assassin item!]

Tonight's red post collection includes Axes with a look at a new AD assassin item in the works, a new episode of the League Community Podcast with Lyte and crew discussing the new champion select experience, an article on that time a recall bug caused ranked to be disabled for an extended amount of time, introduction threads for FeralPony, Statikk, and Gypsylord, a look at the Riot Direct network in EU, a set of adorable holiday wallpapers, and more!
Continue reading for more information!

Table of Contents

New AD Assassin Item in internal testing 

Axes has hit the boards to discuss an upcoming AD Assassin focused item that is currently going through internal testing and something they hope will hit the early PBE next year:
"Hi folks, 
One of the unintended side effects of the Marksman item update was the splash damage to other classes who used Last Whisper. Specifically, Assassins and many light fighters had been using LW as a powerful multiplier on their damage, regardless of who they were fighting, and LW’s updated form just doesn’t help kill their primary targets (squishies). 
Just wanted to share where that work is going. We’re producing a new to-be-named item for AD Assassins with the intent of providing them with a noticeable damage boost to replace the old Last Whisper in their builds. 
Caveat: This item probably won’t be on the PBE until next year, but I wanted to get some early feelers out there with this post. We’re currently in internal playtests on it. 
The item: 
New Assassin Dagger
  • Recipe: Serrated Dirk + B.F. Sword + ??? gold (over 3000 gold total, still fine tuning)
  • +75 Attack Damage
  • +5% Movement Speed
  • UNIQUE Passive: +10 Armor Penetration
  • UNIQUE Passive: Basic attacks on an enemy champion apply Nightfall (60 second cooldown).
  • Nightfall: After 2 seconds, deal 25% of the target’s missing health as physical damage. If the target dies before Nightfall ends, the cooldown is refunded.
The main goal here is provide an assassin item that those champions will actually care about, ensuring they have the right hooks in the item system to feel good and scale appropriately with as few non-assassin abuse cases as possible. Secondary goals are providing a multiplier that is more powerful if you aren’t snowballed (a super fed Talon will 100-0 his primary target before Nightfall triggers, so he’ll be using the trigger on a lower priority opponent often without the support of his full combo). Additionally, this provides provides a fallback pattern where a failing assassin can still be useful to their team, e.g. by cooperatively killing targets they otherwise might ignore, or using this item as a multiplier on teammate damage. 
-- Riot Axes"
As for if this item ends up being too powerful on ranked marksman, Axes added:
First thing that comes to mind is, what's "What's stopping adc's from getting this item?" Most adc's can do enough burst to make use of the nightfall passive and the rest of the stats work great on them. The more castery adc's (Lucian, graves) will like the massive amount of ad it gives as well.
If it's a problem on ADCs, it'll be Melee Only.
he continued:
Can it please start as melee only?
Sorry about being unclear. If we think that it will be a problem on ADCs - and we are vetting this pretty extensively - it will be melee only when it ships."
As for the interaction with tanks and why to not just give them pen, Axes noted:
What....? No, oh god no! 
First off, this hits tanks REALLY hard. And they souldn't be hurt the most by assassin right? 
Second, why give bonus damage on an assassin weapon. Wouldn't resistance pen just be better on them. 
I can not believe this was even remotely okayed....
Understand the concern. Internally we haven't found that this hurts tanks - "percent missing damage as physical" means that your armor double counts against it (once for the damage that meant you were missing health in the first place, and again against the proc), and flat pen is probably the most misleading stat in the game - it makes you better at killing low armor targets more than it makes you good at killing high armor targets. You buy a chain vest to counter a serrated dirk, you don't buy a serrated dirk to counter a chain vest. 
There are some coop kill cases with teammates that are pretty effective, but you need someone who can do the bulk of their health bar before this gets really threatening."
He continued:
"To be clear, I think the goal of an assassin is to kill low defense, high priority targets, and I think this item preferentially helps them against those targets much more than it helps them against other targets."

When asked if the effect can be cleansed with QSS, he noted:
Is it ''QSS-able''? I like the way the item sounds, though I think Zed will be left out since his ult usually is the execute and nothing to be added is needed. Sad.
It will be, yes. 
Current impression internally is that Zed actually likes doubling down on this effect, but could be wrong on that."
Holy cow. If they are missing half their hp they will be dealt 12.5% physical damage (before defense bonuses obviously). 
Does this imply a buff to deaths dance allowing bruisers/ADC's to uh... bleed better? 
Is nightfall an active? 
If nightfall is a passive to the item when does the 2 second timer start? 
to fully execute someone with this you need to do at least 80% of their hp. Is that the goal? (no defense was calcuated)
I believe Death's Dance has buffs on the PBE. 
Nightfall is a passive. It starts on basic attack. You have no control over this - if the item is not on cooldown, your next basic attack WILL apply it. 
To fully execute someone with this you'll need to do considerably more than 80% of their HP unless they've built no defenses because armor counts against the Nightfall proc - but yes, the item requiring you to nearly burst someone out to get full value is a goal."
When asked why the new NIGHTFALL effect is a passive and not an active, Axes commented:
"If it's an active, you have perfect control over it, so anyone who likes the stats can use it effectively (Yasuo just makes sure he applies it when he has you down to ~20% health), and it's very difficult or impossible for your opponent to make you waste it. 
E.g. in playtest we've had quite a few cases where you run into someone unexpectedly in the jungle and end up applying the mark by accident - which, from the opponent's standpoint, has tended to feel like "I got him to waste a cooldown". 
Or more commonly, we've seen situations where an assassin will go in and their target flashes/dashes/knockbacks them after the mark is applied, causing most of the damage from the mark to be wasted. If they didn't need the damage from the mark to kill you, that doesn't help all that much, but if they did, it can be the difference between living and dying. 
tl;dr: if it was an active, it'd be hideously unfair to the opponents and good on virtually any damage dealer; as a passive, it's something both the user and their target can optimize around, and which requires your champion to have specific properties in order to use well."

In response to someone discussing assassins and afraid they are currently broken and that such an item would exacerbate the problem, Meddler commented:
"If you believe assassins are broken that's all the more reason to give them items that fit their needs well and then balance around them having appropriate itemization. At present assassins rely heavily on items that are more targeted to other classes. That means bigger changes meant to affect other parts of the game will sometimes significantly affect assassin power levels, up or down. Creating items that support their patterns, while limiting strengths they shouldn't have (e.g. the ability to kill tanks) gives a lever to better balance assassins as a result."
He continued, explaining:
"Some offensive stats are much more appealing to certain builds/classes than others. Crit and attack speed for example require a champion auto attack at least a reasonable amount to be worth focusing on, while flat pen's significantly more valuable on classes with good target access who can focus down squishies. Tying effectiveness to defensive stats also tends to bar purely offensive classes from using some items (e.g. Titanic Hydra). Then there are softer ties, like base AD, that makes Triforce and other spellblade items noticeably more valuable on high base AD champions like juggernauts than others. 
Forcing items to only work with certain classes is a way to hard limit problems in an item system. It does remove a lot of exploratory and experimental play though. Dictating how people play to that extent's something we'd really rather avoid where possible."
He continued:
"Every champion in the game's balanced around the item pool that's available (and vice versa). If providing a reasonable set of items for a class means we need to adjust AD ratios, CDs, mana costs etc then that's a reasonable piece of followup work. 
Mirror ish match ups will be pretty sensitive to power spikes, certainly. The same holds true with generalized power though, Talon or Zed coming back to lane's with a Ghostblade or BotRK's going to dominate an opponent who's just sitting on a couple of components unless they play smart until they can get back and shop themselves. That's the nature of an item system that rewards getting more gold and reaching breakpoints first."
When asked if this new item is spearheading and sort of large assassin update, Meddler noted:
"A large scale assassin update, if we do one, would be in the second half of 2016 at the earliest. If this item, or any other factor, puts Zed or another assassin out of line we'll balance them as needed though. 
One other thing that'll go out before this item is the nerf to Precision in 6.1. Assassins tend to scale harder with flat pen than any other class, so that should remove power from them more than most overall, especially given they're strong users of the tree in general (Thunderlords especially), so aren't likely to just swap to using Ferocity instead unlike some champions."
When asked about Kha'Zix specifically, Axes noted:
"I know Live Gameplay is exploring some Kha'Zix buffs. Not sure on the exact status of those, but we agree that he's in a bad spot."

[More responses still going out, will edit them in as they become available!!]

League Community Podcast Ep. 3 - New Champ Select

First up we have a new episode of the League community podcast, featuring Lyte, Socrates, and boourns discussing the new champion select experience!

"Thanks for checking out the League Community Podcast! We’re here to share the experiences and perspectives of the people who help make League possible. Expect new guests and new stories every couple of weeks or so. Also: We’re listening! Drop your comments, ratings and reviews right here so we can keep striving toward a Challenger tier podcast.
This week, Jeff “Lyte” Lin guests hosts a discussion about the new champ select and dynamic queues. He’s brought along designers, Eric “Socrates” Kenna and Kam “boourns” Fung to highlight the challenges and controversies of building these seismic shifts to the League experience."
Check out the other two episodes here:

New Champion Select NA/TR Testing in Early Jan

While it is also still testing on the PBE, Lyte tweeted out recently that the new champion select experience is ready for live server testing on NA and TR regions in early January!

Check out the 2016 Season page or our PBE coverage for more on the new champion select experience!

Total Recall, or: That Time We Disabled Ranked 

Story time! The latest Riot article includes a run down and timeline of the time Riot had to disable rank for an extended period of time during the 2015 season due to a recall bug!
"Pre-season is a time for getting excited about what’s coming next in League, but it also provides us with a moment to reflect on things that happened over the last year. Ranked players, for example, may remember the Riven-related recall bug that popped up in July -- the one that caused a global shutdown of ranked queues. 
What follows is the story of that bug and the teams across Riot who worked like hell to get it figured out. 
All times in PDT. 
Morning - July 15, 2015 
A video quickly rises to the front page of the League of Legends subreddit. In it, a player demonstrates a massive bug with Riven: The “right” sequence of button presses allows her to instantly recall back to her Nexus, skipping the ability’s cast time. As teams at Riot are starting their day, reports start to trickle in regarding the bug and its potential impact. 
DONNA MASON, Release Manager
We got emails, pings, and people in person all at the same time. ‘Oh my god, have you seen this thing on Reddit?’

SCOTT HANSEN, Live Producer

There was something on Reddit where someone posted a video of, ‘Hey, there was this weirdness when I was playing Riven.’

TIM ISENMAN, Live Producer
The first thing that we saw was that Reddit post, and that’s when we started to investigate. There were a few people on champion team looking at the issue already, as well.

KACEE GRANKE, Product Manager

The Riven issue immediately threw up caution flags.

MARK SASSENRATH, Associate Game Designer

Someone comes by and says, ‘Hey, we have a Riven bug we need to hotfix. Can you fix this Riven bug?’

So we went to go look at it, and we started trying to reproduce it. Our goal when this stuff comes in is always to figure out if this is a fluke; or if it’s something you can exploit for your personal gain. That’s always the line. If there’s a bug in the game, that’s not good. But if a bug gives you an unnatural advantage, that’s very, very bad. And a big part of that is, ‘Can I do it?’

We jumped on that and started attempting to reproduce it in-house. Luckily, the video made it very clear. Sometimes in cases like this it’s like, ‘Oh, shit, that’s definitely a bug,’ but we don’t know how to reproduce it.

Release QA was able to reproduce it pretty easily once they got it down. We (Live Production) weren’t – we’re not that good at the game. I’m only Silver.


So I’m messing with it and finally I’m like, ‘Oh, I did it.’ And then I’m like, ‘Oh, now I can do it constantly. Now it’s easy. This is not good.’

I asked, ‘Given the information we have, are we going to disable Riven?’

So we look at the info and we look at how rapidly the post is rising and the visibility on the video and we make the call to disable Riven, which was the only thing we knew about.
2:50 PM - July 15 
Riven is disabled globally. As teams work on a fix, new reports surface both internally and externally that indicate the bug might apply to more than one champion.

After disabling Riven, I got a few pings from various Rioters saying that more videos are surfacing of people finding the recall bug on other champions. It was Yasuo, then Graves, then more and more.

People kept coming up, ‘This also happens on Shen. It also happens on X, Y, and Z,’ and the list just grew and grew.


Almost immediately afterward, we start getting reports from our QA that they could reproduce the bug with other champions.

Over the course of the day, as more reports from players come in, we start to realise, ‘Oh, this isn’t a Riven bug. This is an everything bug.’


When we were deep diving it we realised that the same exploit could apply to about a quarter of all of our champions. That’s when our hearts dropped into our stomachs.

Even then, we were still underestimating the scope of the problem. We thought it was just champions with specific abilities. At that point we didn’t realise it was every champion in the game.


And then we realised that any champion using Tiamat or Hydra could trigger the same effect. Now it applied to every champion.

It was like, ‘Oh, every champion can do this. We need to go really hard on not letting this break.’ Testing had to be very thorough.

Even without Hydra, it was 40-some-odd champions.

There’s a sinking feeling you get when you realise it’s every champion. There’s nothing like it, when you’re just like, ‘Oh shit it’s all of them. What are we going to do?’

We have had examples of abusable bugs that weren’t actually beneficial. So, you’re abusing something but you’re actively losing the game for your team. In this case, it was very clear there was no downside to the exploit.


We always want more data before we make really sweeping decisions. We looked at ‘How disruptive is it to actually do this?’ So, it’s a quick recall, maybe it’s not that bad. But then you look at how you trigger it and it’s like, ‘I can split push all day. I can be a jerk and just recall.’
Afternoon - July 15 
The bug is getting bigger. Within Riot, teams start discussing how best to mitigate the possible damage of the recall bug going nuclear.

We started talking about, ‘What can we do to preserve the experience?’ It’s beyond disabling one champion or one item, we had to consider disabling ranked.


What we never want to do is cripple League in such a way as disabling like a quarter of the things people that people use. That’s probably one of the worst things we could do aside from turning the game off entirely. So in cases like that our next best option is disabling ranked.

We were making a lot of decisions around this without full data, but there were a lot of things that met the minimum standard. It affects a ton of champions, it’s widespread, it’s damaging. We can’t just turn off one champ or item.

The question at that point was, ‘We can’t disable all the champions, so what else can we do?


Weighing the pros and cons -- having everyone potentially exploit the bug in ranked or playing conservatively and theorising that only a few people are actually aware of the bug -- we could maybe just wait to disable ranked for a while until the exploit got humongous visibility. So far most players only knew that Riven was affected by the issue.

When we first started talking about disabling ranked, we had the conversation about, ‘Okay, when do we disable ranked? Can we potentially get a fix out before the bug hits critical mass?’


We decided to wait to disable ranked until it becomes a real problem, and leave Riven disabled until the time came to turn off ranked.


We didn’t want to make an assumption that everybody knew about the issue and that everybody knew about the issue beyond Riven.

Luckily because the Riven thing had come in first we had already started looking at it.
In an effort to reduce the potential spread of the bug and gather more information, Rioters reached out to Reddit mods to see if potential new reports could be looped into the existing video thread.

We talked about, ‘How can we minimise exposure while still keeping information flowing?’ We don’t control Reddit, we don’t control the forums. Wider exposure creates a higher risk for abuse, ruined games, and bad player experiences, but we want to see what players are seeing.

We reached out to the Reddit mods for help with consolidating any new bug posts into the original thread, but in that chain of communication there was a misunderstanding of what we wanted to do. Much to our dismay, we saw the posting of a stickied mega-thread, giving the greatest visibility of every single bug. Every video was posted right in the heart of the post.

It’s a double-edged sword. The fact that we get very quick information is great, but the visibility the bug gets is unfortunate. People who had never seen it all of a sudden are trying it.

That was basically an immediate, ‘We have to disable ranked at this point.’ Not only was it listing all the champions, but it was giving clear reproduction steps.
After the Reddit post explodes, so does the awareness of the bug. It quickly spreads into other LoL regions.


It’s not something we ever want to do, but the potential benefit of exploiting the bug was really high. We had to assume players would do it, especially in ranked.


Not everybody is going to be using the bug, but if it catches on it’s going to be terrible for the player experience.


This is one of the larger issues Riot has ever faced on our live environment. Ranked is like the endgame for many players; when that’s taken offline, you lose a tremendous sense of purpose.


We always ask, ‘What would it feel like if someone did this bug to me?’

There’s definitely a player understanding. No one is going to be happy, but people aren’t going to be upset when you’re trying to preserve the competitive experience.

If players are thinking, ‘I play ranked, I put my heart and soul into this, and I’m just playing against cheaters,’ that ruins people’s desire to play competitive games. So we turned off ranked, and we turned Riven back on.
5:30 PM - July 15 
With ranked queues officially disabled, Rioters work frantically to find the cause of the bug, get it solved, and push the fix through the QA testing process.
There’s two things happening in parallel here. There’s figuring out how to keep players informed the best we can and communicate with them in the 20-plus languages that they speak, and there’s actually getting the problem fixed.


The champion team started working on some scripting rewrites.

Once we started to realise the scope, there was a good amount of time where we were just trying to figure out what to even fix. It took a few hours to come up with a first pass.

I remember getting together with the various teams, and it’s very much, ‘Here’s what we know,’ and ‘What should we do,’ then, ‘Cool, everyone go do things.’ And that’s sort of exciting. This thing might be real bad, but we have a plan and we’re moving quickly.

We had a couple of band-aids in place almost right away that we were testing internally. We kept thinking we were there, but then we would find a way to break it or realise it would cause some weird side effect.

The scope got larger and larger throughout the day.

We knew we were in trouble when four iterations into the fix we were still finding problems.


There was a case where we fixed it, but if you used a health pot it would cancel the recall, whereas in the past using a health pot wouldn’t cancel recall. That type of change in functionality isn’t kosher, because it completely ignores player expectations.

The detailed steps in player videos helped a lot. Instead of having to do three hotfixes over the course of a few days, we were able to get it fixed much quicker. It was really valuable that players did that.


It was really interesting to test, because we need to know that testers know how to reproduce the bug. So we go into a custom game and practice, and then test it in the test build. If you’re not good at executing the bug, we can’t trust the test results.


If we can get a clear set of, ‘This is how you do this thing, this is how it works,’ that makes our job so much easier in terms of finding out who can go and get that problem fixed.

We waited until we had something we felt really good about and sent it off to testing.

Five iterations in, we think we get the fix. We send it to QA and the test plan involved basically testing every ability in the game, every champion, every item, etc.


Because of build and deploy times, we knew we weren’t going to find out if it worked until the next day.


When we have any type of change to the live environment, there’s a really rigorous process that every change goes through in order for us to put it out with confidence. It needs to go through preliminary internal testing and peer review, and then we need to push it through destructive testing with our global QA teams. Those types of turnarounds usually take 12 hours, at a minimum.


We posted a message saying, ‘Okay, in 12 hours, we’ll let you know where we’re at.’ We assumed around 4-5 a.m. we’d know whether the fix worked or not.


Around 10-11p.m., we sent a lot of people to bed. We let the QA team know to wake us all up if the fix failed.
2:00 AM - July 16 
The teams wait anxiously for the results of extensive destructive testing. If the bug fix fails, players could be looking at another 12 hours without ranked -- 8.5 hours have already passed since it was initially disabled.
Around 2 a.m., we learn that the fix did not work, and that we had to reevaluate and pretty much start from scratch. We called everyone back in to figure out what went wrong with the first fix, make the change, and then re-submit it.


We all got paged. We woke up the engineers, the design people -- everyone wakes back up. All of the involved teams.

You know something went wrong if your phone is ringing at 2 a.m. Either you missed something, or your fix broke something else.


They wouldn’t call us if it were good. They wouldn’t call to say, ‘Hey, the fix is fantastic! How are you?’


I actually don’t know if Mark Sassenrath ever left the office…


We thought we had it fixed. We deployed to the testing environment. Somewhere around 3 a.m., we hear that something is still wrong. By around 4 a.m. I was back in the office working on a new fix. At that point I was basically dead.

We got the results back and it was still broken. We submitted another fix and then waited through the same process.


The new version of the fix went into the QA cycle from scratch. But in addition to starting over, we also had to go back and make sure that every broken case from the first fix was then fixed with the second try, so our workload widened.

At that point, we not only test the new issues we’ve found, we re-test the things we have already tested.


We didn’t want to break recall’s intended uses. We tried not to go too crazy with the fix at first. There are all sorts of actions you’re allowed to take during recall and we didn’t want to break any of them.
Afternoon - July 16
Ranked has been disabled for nearly 19 hours. The involved teams struggle to update players on when ranked will be turned on without a clear timeline on the fix.


We had to re-communicate with players that testing was still in progress. We let them know we’d update them within a couple of hours, giving us enough room to screw it up a couple more times. Every time we asked QA for an update the window for completion seemed to extend by two hours. We didn’t know how long it would take.


We had conversations about, ‘What do we tell players?’ We didn’t want to set a timeline that’s really far out just to be safe, but we also didn’t want to set unrealistic expectations. We ended up going with ‘soon,’ which honestly isn’t ideal.


Around 4 p.m. we hear that about 80-90% of our champions have been successfully tested against the issue. So we’re feeling pretty good about it, but we had a hard time communicating that to players. There’s still a chance the fix won’t work for a few champions, which means we’d end up rolling back the fix again and re-verifying it over another 10-hour period. So we kind of kept quiet.
5:00 PM - July 16 
Roughly 24 hours after the initial ranked shutdown, the final bug fix is verified across all champions. At this point, the teams start the process of rolling out the fix globally and making sure ranked is re-enabled across all regions.
I think it was 5 p.m., we get the confirmation that we have a 100% success rate with the fix. We had preemptively staged and prepped the new game server package just to have a one-button deployment to live. The deploy train was ready, so region by region we pushed out the fix.

Because we have to touch game servers in every data centre all over the world, it is pretty time consuming. But we were moving fast.


It was one of the faster turnaround times we’ve had. Everyone was very ready.


Right at the end, Vietnam was taking a really long time. We’re all standing around the monitor waiting to hear back on the fix. And this dude pings back, ‘I still have it.’ And we almost lost it.


That’s the real fear. As much as we’ve tested everything we can think of, we’re still waiting for the post that says, ‘Hey this bug’s still here!’


We said, ‘Exit the game and try it again.’ So he does, and we’re waiting. And waiting. And finally he’s like, ‘I can’t do it. I think it’s fixed.’ It was a serious moment of panic, because if it didn’t work in the one region it didn’t work in any.
8:00 PM - July 16
Ranked is fully enabled 28 hours after being taken offline. The bug is officially squashed.
We kept ranked disabled for about five minutes so we could test the fix internally and verify that it was good to go per server, then we re-enabled ranked and let players know everything was back online. The demon was defeated.


At that point, it’s way too late to be worried. If something’s wrong you’re going to find out about it in a couple of hours. You have to move on to the next thing. The train keeps going.


I’m like, ‘I’m gonna go play some ranked.’ We’re all players, there’s that sense, ‘Thank god, everything is okay again.’

And then it’s back to work.


We can’t rest on our laurels about it. There’s still lots of work to do.
Nobody likes in-game bugs, but eliminating them completely from a game as complex as League is a pretty big challenge (one we work every day to meet). When major bugs do pop up, multiple teams at Riot work together to find a solution as quickly and effectively as possible, with as little game interference as we can manage. In the case of the Great Recall Bug of 2015, dozens of people contributed long hours to solving the problem and getting players back into ranked."
A video of the recall bug can be found here.

Game Pacing and You 

Fearless and Riot Boom Bear has also taken to the boards to start a discussion on Game Pacing and the recent preseason changes, a well as where we are headed in the upcoming 2016 season!
"Fearless and Riot Boom Bear here! We wanted to talk a bit about how we’ve been thinking about game pacing and where we’re at right now. 
Warning: This is going to get a bit long. We’ll have something better… formatted next year, but we wanted to talk about this earlier than later. 
A major goal of our preseason changes was to make the game have clear and reasonable expectations on teams as to what they need to do to win. For a long time, some of the actions that were most effective at winning (starvation tactics) weren’t very intuitive or engaging for either team. Thus began our efforts to cut down on starvation and replace it with more interactive paths to victory. 
Starvation actually has a few different permutations depending on the level of play, but in each case (by definition) it leads to long stalls in game progress. Both teams essentially stop taking meaningful action. Winning teams are happy to build a farm lead, gobble up safe objectives, and elude any risky team fights. Losing teams, on the other hand, have no choice but to slowly starve out, unsure of how to take action or attempt a comeback. We’ve been wanting to balance out these situations for a while now, but up until recently we didn’t have confidence that we’d be able to make the right changes while understanding their impact. 
Enter Insights! 
Over the past couple years, a group of researchers, analysts, and data scientists have been working toward getting a better understanding of game pacing, or the general flow and feel of the game. Game pacing, by the way, is a little different from game length, which is purely about the number of minutes a game takes to complete. When we say game pacing, we’re talking about the progression of a game from laning phase to mid game to late game. 
We consider game pacing from a variety of perspectives and multiple methods, ranging from game server data, all the way to survey answers that let us understand how players feel. Both sides are important to consider, as a game that feels well-paced but is always getting stomped out in ~15 minutes is just as concerning as a game that has meaningful back-and-forths, but all players didn’t consider it close at all. 
On the in-game data side, we’ve started to hone in on a way of thinking about pacing that we’re pretty happy with, so let’s take a look at it: think about your games on Summoner’s Rift. At any given time, one team has an advantage of some sort -- whether it’s in gold, experience, or CS. Given the size of this lead and how far you are through the game, there can be pretty large differences in how confident you are that one team will win. A team that’s up 5.5 k gold 10 minutes into a 20 minute game is almost certain to close it out, while a team that’s up a mere 500 gold 45 minutes into a 50 minute game is likely in a head-to-head sprint to the finish. 
We’ve approached pacing by categorizing games into different classes based on: how early we’re (fairly) certain we know the winner. On one end, games that are decided early are “snowbally” or “stompy,” while games that aren’t decided until the very end have an “overtime” feel. Games that fall in the middle, where the outcome of the game becomes consistently more predictable as it progresses, are considered “standard.” The proportion of games that fall into each pacing bucket tells us quite a bit, and gives us a good sense of what we want to do if too many games are falling into any one category. 
It’s worth noting that having only standard games isn’t a desirable or intended game state. Teams that get super ahead should be able to close games out, while overtime nailbiters - where one fight seals the deal - are also awesome to have in moderation.
As we started using these tools to understand the current state of game pacing in League (and our ability to impact it), we set out to cut down on starvation tactics. More specifically, we wanted to ensure that the burden of winning a game stays on the winning team. This led us to changes like the biased minions waves that very slightly push into the losing team, doing two things. The winning teams get more chances to siege and meaningfully progress the game toward their victory. The other outcome is that the losing team has more access to minions, meaning that games slowly move toward equilibrium when winning teams get complacent. We layered this groundwork with some complementary tuning to gold income, tower durability, and yes, death timers, and we had a strong first attempt at improving game pacing. 
When the first Preseason 2016 patch dropped in 5.22, actively monitoring game pacing (and length) was high on our list. In terms of length, the average game was a bit shorter in 5.22 -- about 1.5 minutes on average. This, in itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 
When we looked at pacing, however, we noticed things were a little out of whack. 
Compared to 5.21, there were more “stompy” games. In short, games were being decided earlier than they had been, leading to more game time where the outcome was all but determined. A deeper dive showed us that both XP and gold (to a lesser extent) snowballing were the culprit. Our framework for game pacing allowed us to identify what was mucking up and dive deeper to find the cause. We adjusted the XP rewards from kills and shipped the minion changes, expecting the minions to either end stomps faster (thus removing the long painful wait for them to actually resolve) while helping losing teams access gold on the map. 
When the data started to come back for 5.23, we saw some pretty encouraging things. Stompy games were down across the board while standard and overtime games picked up the slack. Although we’re still looking into what exactly is the “best” distribution of game types, this was definitely much closer. In 5.23, there were less stomps, closer games, and a larger proportion of competitive game time. Not bad. 
This work isn’t done, but we wanted to let you all know where we were at, and how we got here. Thanks for reading! 
Riot Boom Bear + Fearless"

[INTRO] Brian "FeralPony" Feeney - Live Gameplay Design Lead 

Following oodles of other designer introductions over the last week, FeralPony also galloped on to the Dev Corner boards to introduce himself and what he is responsible for on the team:
Hello folks, I’m Brian ‘FeralPony’ Feeney. 
I’m currently the Lead Designer of the Live Gameplay Team, we’re a team responsible for much of the patch to patch design improvements and game balance for previously released content. I’ve worked on a lot of different design teams in my 5 years here including Champions, Champion Reworks/Updates, Game Balance, Systems Design, and Game Clarity. 
Prior to joining Riot, I was finished my Comp Science degree and got my Masters in Teaching (focusing on Math and Science teaching). I also worked on a farm for many years in my youth picking up a lot of scars and injuries from boars, cattle, and bees. I play almost every game genre, including board games and sports, and have been super interested recently in how psychology and perception influence people’s experience with games. I also nerd out over cool game design blogs, books, and rulebook writing for board games. 
I’ll generally be talking about League of Legends similar to Meddler, with a focus on shorter term “where the game is currently at” and “what we’re looking at in the short term”. I may also deep dive some specific choices we’ve made/are making in regards to game balance etc but those’ll be pretty ad-hoc. I may also bring up some seemingly random tangential non-league stuff about game design that has been chewing away in the back of my mind I’d love to get additional opinions and thoughts on! 
This is a question for you guy, so it feels weird to answer it, but I’m pretty open here. Nothing is inherently off the table, but I’ll play it by ear. I can talk about current work, any random game design stuff, past projects, etc. What would you folks like to hear from me?"
 Following his introduction, FeralPony hung around the boards to answer player questions!

When asked about the recent mastery and keystone mastery changes in preseason, he commented:
Why did you make the choice to enhance the effect of masteries so much? 
Do you feel this is going to have an effect on your ability to balance the game's champions over the next few months? Small mastery changes at this level of power seem like they could have pretty far-ranging effects on the champion pool's balance. 
How do you expect masteries will end up playing in terms of power level? Currently, they're stronger than many champion passives. Do you worry about masteries eclipsing the identity of a champion? 
edit: Specifically speaking towards the final keystone masteries here.
I didn't work much on the Keystone Masteries but I've worked on all the previous Mastery adjustments and am very familiar with that space. The changes to keystones will almost certainly make champion balance more difficult, rather than easier. The same is true for items with more unique effects rather than many of the "Stat stick" style items. Introducing more unique items and masteries makes balance generally more difficult, rather than easier but we feel the tradeoffs are worth it. There are some benefits where sometimes these more extreme variations can balance themselves out to some degree but that's the exception more than the norm. The goals of the keystone adjustments are to increase satisfaction, make choices more meaningful, and give players another avenue to optimize and experiment. They were not designed to make balance any easier.

Our goal is to never have your pregame choices overshadow your champion choice or identity. If we ever reach a state where I care more about what keystone mastery you chose over what champion you chose we've gone too far (you should be fighting Caitlyn, not a Thunderlord. Unless it's Kennen or Volibear), but we want those choices to be meaningful. Finding that right balance is tricky and one that will need time and continued feedback since these boundaries are largely feel and perception based. I think it's okay if they are more impactful than some champion passive or starting items but they absolutely should be eclipsing your overall identity as a champion."

When asked about the higher level keystone masteries and decision making, FeralPony  continued:
In function, do these masteries like thunder lords and death fire actually represent something different than a stat stick, though? 
From my point of view, they don't really add meaningful decision making or strategy into the way you play a champion. I don't want them to be stronger, but if they are just the incidental damage buffs for a particular play style, you just choose the one that works better with your champions kit and it simply equals more damage. 
If my perspective is correct on this, it's just an arbitrary damage boost to specific champions that synergize best with it.
I think they do offer some level of playstyle and expression differences between builds, though it's not super crazy, but I think does actually can and does have an impact on players. While not redefining the champion I feel the difference between a Champion like Ezreal poking you with Q's with deathfire versus one bursting you with Q -> E -> Attack + Thunderlords is a meaningful distinction and does allow players a level of playstyle and expression. 
You're are hitting on a very high level philosophical level of decision making and choices in games which is really interesting. Essentially if remove the elements of playstyle and choice/intellectual satisfaction you're left in an interesting spot. Essentially if a choice between Option A and Option B is at all optimal is it essentially irrelevant because you just pick the more optimal one. Alternatively if Option A and Option B are truly equal and balance then is your decision essentially irrelevant because it doesn't matter what you pick. If Option A and Option B matter, but only in regards your opponents choices, it's again irrelevant unless you have some social gaming aspect where you're outguessing your opponent. 
Breaking down problems like you're doing to an abstract level is really useful approach and tool for a designer to evaluate a system at its base level, but damn can it take the fun out of games :D. I noticed personally I started having a lot less fun with games in my personal time the more time I spent in the Systems design space."
When asked about Syndra, FeralPony commented:
My question is on Syndra. Without soapboxing too hard, Syndra is in a rough spot and just gets stonewalled by the meaty tanks that are seeing play right now. I know that champions of her class are getting some changes in the next few months, but that's months away and right now she feels awful to play. For context, she sits alongside Ryze and Azir in winrate but has no comparable return in games played :/ 
Think she could get a love tap soonish to at least make her early game better if you are going to make her fall off super hard like she does?
I just looked up her numbers and I'm sure the slowly increasing tanky man meta isn't doing her any favors (though Thunderlord's is reeeeeaall good on her) but she doesn't seem to be a terrible spot numerically. Little below average in overall winrate, but experienced Syndra players are noticeably above the pack vs other champions experienced players. We certainly don't need to wait to do any adjustments to the Mage update and will be adjusting champions before and after it since my team is operating independently of the update. 
I'd still love us to do some adjustments to her passive or some QoL style stuff and there might be some curve style adjustments that make sense (like reduce early power for late power), like you suggest."

 As for any context or comments on the current Kalista PBE changes, he noted:
Do you have any more plans to nerf Kalista beyond the mana nerfs on PBE (preferably to her passive)? I see her all the time and I really hate playing against her, and whenever I tune into a high elo stream it makes me not want to watch. I watched a featured game once where the red side team simply opened mid after Kalista was 4/0/0, I think the score was like 9-4, it's ridiculous how easily a supposed utility carry can run away with the game. Also I suspect she's holding back decent on-hit itemization for ranged which makes champs like Kog really sad. Sorry I know this is a really big rant but it frustrates me that such an obnoxious champ is allowed to dominate her role for so long when equally obnoxious but far less popular champs get nerfed the moment they seem out of line.
Possibly, future adjustments would likely be more focused around frustration, further focusing her identity, or counterplay. We've made a lot of improvements over the patches to her but she is certainly a polarizing champion that is super fun for a lot of players but also frustrating for a lot as well. 
I strongly disagree she is "holding back" on-hit itemization. I don't think anyone is but if they are it's actually kog'maw himself atm since it's really difficult now to make an on-hit item that is solidly balanced for a group of champions that isn't broken for Kog, and we try to avoid making an item that only works on a single champion."

As for the recent trend of adding utility instead of just number changes, FeralPony commented:
Tell me about how you guys have been tweaking utility over numbers. This is a shift I've enjoyed seeing. 
I.e. liss self ult healing her. That was a cool buff
We have to treat each champion as a unique case when we do any adjustments but a lot of this comes from trying to make the champions more distinct and unique from one another while we do balance adjustments. Numbers are certainly a tool we can use to accomplish this, but very frequently we getting better results with mechanical changes."

When asked about his name "Feral Pony" and it's relationship to Hecarim, FeralPony explained:
Which came first? Working on Hecarim or your name? 
Do you think there's room in the game to have other focusses in a match other than teamfights and turrets? There's a bit of that in terms of things like Tryndamere split pushing or Singed proxying minions, both done in an attempt to force people to divert resources to deal with the problem. But those tactics aren't supported very much because the tactics tend to be very frustrating to deal with. Is there any chance things could be made where that is a legitimate strategy that has legitimate answers from the enemy team? 
Which champion is your favorite that you did not work on? 
What are your thoughts on some of the current passives in the game that are either boring or uninteractive or uninteresting? Is there hope for some sort of champion wide change to things like Fiddle's, Zyra's, Shyvana's or Talon's passive?
My name came WAY before Hecarim, and I also didn't actually select the champion or have much influence on his aesthetics. He was a horse before I started :) When i started working on Hecarim he was already basically art locked, we had badass concept art from Paul Kwon everyone loved that looks 95% identical to how Hecarim looks today. If you search Hecarim concept art the first picture that shows up was what was given to me. The Pony connection was pure coincidence, but I think Hecarim turned out awesome."
When asked about the champions reworked this year and player frustration, he commented:
In the last year or so, it FEELS like as if there are a higher number of frustrating champions being released. Gnar, Azir, Kalista, Ekko, Tahm, Kindred, and maybe even Illaoi. (Bard and Rek seemed to only be "frustrating" when they had high raw power, mostly Rek) 
Is this due to the idea that Riot is trying to make really "unique" champions? Or lack of understanding that certain mechanics are much more frustrating for players than internal testing shows?
I think it's more the result of being more experimental in our more recent designs. Unfortunately, the easiest way to not make frustrating experiences is to stay in the same safe space, which we're not big fans of and players were rightly upset with when we released a lot of "same-y feeling champions" in a row. 
We do playtest champions for a long time and tend to get a pretty good feeling for the long term "frustration" of a champion. Illaoi I think falls into this camp. Initially, I found her really her frustrating but that faded pretty quickly as I got more experience playing with and against the champion and now don't mind her at all, but can totally empathize with some of the feelings of frustration having been there myself."
When asked about the new RIFT HERALD camp added in preseason, FeralPonky commented:
How has the Rift Herald been received in the wider player base? I’m working my way up through mid-Bronze and I’ve only seen it attempted twice in ten games (one of which was at 19:45 just to see if we could get it).
Are players valuing it as much as you expected, and if not, do you expect the changes on PBE to help much?
% of players taking Rift Herald is relatively low but higher than we expected tbh. We feel there are a few reasons for this. 
First and foremost, it's new and a bit out of the way. We saw this with jungling as well when we added the Gromp (formerly Wraith) camp near Blue buff. Junglers at all elos often just walked by it because they were so used to the way things were and it wasn't part of their pattern. We saw this with Scuttlecrab, Trinkets, literally every new system that changes core patterns or decision making has a substantial amount of time before it's adopted by players at large. This will increase over time, and we have seen a slow but steady increase in % of players who attempt and take Rift Herald over the last few patches. 
Secondly, the risk vs reward of the objective feels a bit off atm. We're reducing the risk again next patch by weakening his attacks a bit especially as he scales around the 15-20 mark where he feels substantially more threatening than Dragon. Alternatively we could look at further increasing the reward, but we wanted to try this approach first."

When asked about immobile mages and any upcoming plans, FeralPony noted:
What's happening with Ryze and other mages? Can we get any kind of small or big info on this mage update coming in a few months?
We'll provide more information as it comes along. They're still really early in exploration."
As for if Galio will be getting an update, FeralPony commented:
Wait, Galio is getting remade for sure? :/ If you could confirm that or not that would be great. Because, I actually like everything that makes up Galio, and I feel like there'd be a huge community outcry such as with Morde and Cass.
Not in progress or anything as far as I'm aware, but I wouldn't be shocked if he was selected for an update."
When asked about the long cancelled Omen champion concept and any other LoL trivia, FeralPony shared:
Thoughts on Omen? :) I'd love to hear what happened with him, why he was dropped, if he might ever get picked up again. Also Any other random trivia about League would be neat :P Maybe even some spoilers for the future? :D
Sure. The quick version is Omen is unlikely to be picked up again. I think if we revisited the concept of a spike shooting champion we would do better than his original design/concept. The project as a whole was fairly rushed and we weren't really in the process of delaying champions that needed more time. We've changed since then but he was not up to par for a champion to be released as a whole. 
Design-wise there were a few interesting mechanics but there was still some less than great areas like his ult that needed to be fixed which was essentially MF ult but in a circle vs a cone, and we were way past the time his design needed to be locked down. His 3D model and readability/looks and appeal in game just simply didn't turn out that well, and we still had a lot of work on animations, visuals etc to figure out. He basically needed a lot of work and iteration to get him to a shippable spot and it seemed smarter and better to just move ahead to the next champion. 
Random Trivia - Anivia Q is a very tiny version of the old Nexus crystal."
Group Questions 1:
for starters You have an awesome last name (im a boy meets world fan fyi)
1. why did you pick feralpony has your handle?
2. what is the issue with frost queen exactly i see a lot of changes (and reverts) to it this week?
3. is the rework team working solely on shen right now or are there some allocated to taric?
4. how is jax in your opinion right now?
5. is omen like dead - dead?
1 - I used to work on a farm that had horses and ponies when I played a lot of FPS's (DoD and CS) and loved trolling the other hardcore guys. Killing a guy named something stereotypical and absurd like "Deathstriker666" with the name "ATinyPony" and then asking them stuff like "How do I buy guns?" made them lose their minds XD. Since then I've always used the pony handle, and when I joined Riot we were given Forum Avatars, I chose the Feral Warwick one so I smushed the two together. Hence "FeralPony". 
2 - The issue is it's just too strong and too universal an item. It's best in class in mana regen, gold generaton, general stat efficiency and is a phenomenal safety, catching, and general utility tool. 
3 - The team is fairly large and they are working on a variety of projects simultaneously including Shen and Taric. 
4 - Unsure, I know he's really good with Rageblade atm, but other than that I haven't been personally following him closely. 
5 - Omen is very dead. "
Group Questions 2:
As someone who might have insights on a lot of the process... how can you back a claim like "Poppy's passive and ultimate were impossible to balance" (paraphrasing it, but that's what the team working on it said afaik), when there were absolutely no iterations done on it (outside of bug fixes) since she was released back in 2010 or 2011. Even in term of balance changes, I don't think she received any actual buffs or nerfs since the Season 1 patch. I hope you can understand why it feels bad to have your champion completely redone without getting the impression that you guys tried to preserve her identity and collected data beforehand. All we can run on is "they probably did X/Y/Z". 
Also, please consider this when reworking Yorick/Galio. I feel like he isn't that bad right now, and a (relative) lot of people are probably enjoing him right now. It would be awesome if they didn't end up with a 40% win rate rework that had close to everybody complaining about it for 2 whole weeks on the PBE. On that note, please never release a rework to the PBE during a cycle that has a holiday in it again. You've clearly shown that you're unwilling to keepmassive changes in there for more than 2 weeks, so at least use a cycle that has 2 weeks in it (or find devs who enjoy working during holidays, but that doesn't seem reasonable). 
I feel this question touches equally GhostCrawler and the whole design team; Do you feel like there could ever be an item like Aghanim's Scepter in LoL? An item that grants you a unique bonus to your kit based on your champion. 
I've also had a lot of fun asking (roughly) the same generic questions to all the devs, so you're the next one on the list :
  • What is in your opinion the best/worst niche in LoL right now in term of design (split push, mobile mages, tank supports, poke supports, all in mid laners, AP junglers, etc.)?
  • Who are your favorite current rioters and ex-rioters?
  • What would you say is the biggest pros and cons of the current way PBE functions?
  • Favorite champion?
  • What design from another game would you like to see in LoL (even if unrealistic) and why? This can be either a complete concept (like a DotA heroes or something), or a systemic one (like Aghs or maybe an ammo system on buildings or pickups, or first-person something... anything really).
Holy heck, lotta questions. 
Poppy "Unbalanceability" 
- The passive probably was "balancable" but not a level where people could feel or appreciate it. In design (both in Riot and outside) we generally speaking we strive for a high satisfaction to power ration. Essentially, we want players to understand and feel the impact of the abilities they use and decisions they make. Old Poppy passive had one of the craziest low satsifaction to power ratio ability in the entire game if not the lowest. Those style of abilities, while technically "balancable" generally make us have to reduce their power to such an unsatisying level we look for other options.
  • Ultimate - Poppy Ultimate wasn't really "tuneable" meaning as a designer we don't have the same kind of control over it's power that something like Damage provides. It doesn't have an available "lever" for us to adjust the ability by say "10%". We can adjust the mana cost, duration, etc but at the end of the day it's still "grants you immunity to everything". Immunity isn't adjustable without essentially remaking the ability.
I don't believe that Galio and Yorick are being remade for win rate or power concerns at all, they are being remade because people simply aren't enjoying the champions regardless of their power or winrate. This doesn't mean all people aren't enjoying them, but it does mean they have substantially lower player attachment and satisfaction than we'd expect or like. 
That said, we still care about the existing playerbase when we remake champions and gather feedback and bring players onsite to try out and provide feedback on the changes. We just had players testing out new Taric for example and providing feedback even though he's a ways away. 
Scepter, I think wouldn't work well unless you design around it from the beginning. That style of mechanic fundamentally defines the champion, and has the cost in many cases of making them feel gimped or worthless without the item, rather than empowered with it. It's a pretty fascinating psycological problem I've been interested in for Game Design and Theory for a while now. Essentially, how and when do bonus's keep feeling like bonus's and not like penalties when you don't have the mechanic or power in question (and vice versa for penalties - when does the absence of a penalty feel like a bonus). We'd also have to change a crap-ton of champion ultimates to accomodate this item when they are probably already fine as is. 
Favorite Rioters - There's a ton here but I'll narrow the list to 1 each
Current Rioters: JZ (the Producer not the rapper, though he's cool too)
Former Rioters: Coronach: He's a fantastic designer who I learned a ton from 
Biggest Pros: We get a lot of coverage on new content before ship, this has been super useful in catching bugs and doing last minute catches and adjustments.
Biggest Cons: It's a very small community that can be pretty echo chamber-y, and feedback on balance is generally not great. 
Stuff from other Games?:
I always have loved Bullet Hell games. I'd love to see a Moba take on it through a champion or a mechanic. 
Fav Champion: Varies week to week but I've always loved Udyr, Heimer, and Bard. "

[INTRO] James "Statikk" Bach - Champion Update Design Lead 

Statikk has also hoped on the Dev Corner boards to introduce himself, his previous work, and projects he is currently in charge of heading into 2016:
"Greetings friends, 
I’m James Bach, but you guys probably better know me by “Statikk.” I studied Neuroscience and Computer Science during college, both of which I probably don’t utilize nearly enough. Ever since graduating 5 and a half years ago, I’ve had the privilege to work here at Riot on League. I started out in QA, eventually found myself in Design, led the Live Gameplay team for several years, and now I’m getting the opportunity to lead the Champion Update team. 
To me, gaming isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. I prefer games that allow you to deeply invest into them, and that ultimately reward you with awesome, memorable experiences when you do so. Some people would also say I really just like games with “phat loot,” which I really can’t deny. Before joining Riot, I played Call of Duty 1 and 2 competitively, dueled countless others in Diablo 2, and placed in the top 10 during LoL’s beta before release. 
Outside of games, I am big into music and hip hop dance. I am also infamously overly invested into KPop. 
This year, I focused on doing some of the larger-scale reworks including Gangplank, Darius, Miss Fortune, and Corki (I know some of you already have your pitchforks out - sorry!). Going into the next year, I’ll be stepping into a leadership role on the Champion Update team, helping set the vision for which champions we work on and helping guide the designers on the team to ensure that we consistently deliver faithful reworks that don’t just simply change a champion, but rather enhance who they are. 
Outside of individual champions, the Champion Update team has also done a lot of work to better identify and categorize the classes of champions that actually exist in LoL. As League and our shared understand of the game has matured, the generic vocabulary and concepts we used have (until recently) somehow stayed exactly the same (“Fighter,” “Mage,” etc.). Terms like the “Juggernaut” originate from the team’s analysis across the entire roster of champions, and we’re looking to continue to expand upon these class definitions in the coming year. 
I will largely be focusing on each of the individual reworks we've recently released and the ones we plan to release in the coming year. Specifically, we want to continue to give you guys more insight into who we’re working on, why we’re working on them, and where we think we succeeded and failed on each project after they’ve had time to breathe on the live servers. You may also see posts from me talking a bit more in-depth about our updated perspectives on the champion classes as we continue to define and explore our roster. 
This is definitely an open question that I’d be interested to know about. I’ve experienced a ton of League as it has evolved over its history, so I feel I can provide pretty broad insights about the game as a whole. Hopefully you guys give me easy questions, but you probably won't. =/"
Following the introduction, Statikk hung around the comment section to answer player questions:

When asked about Cassiopeia's earlier rework, he noted:
So are you the person to yell at for Stashu getting pulled off of Cass or was that before your time?
This was before my time technically, but I was here when we worked on Cass and all of us are responsible for the Cass rework not just Stashu. We've heard you guys loud and clear on this topic - we're just looking for the right time and opportunity to re-execute on her in a way that hopefully better matches your guys' expectations."

When asked about a potential Caitlyn visual update,  Statikk noted that the team is largely focused on combining gameplay and visual updates at the same time these days.
Hi there. :) Any possible insight you may give about the VU? I want to see her update more than anyone else's. Can we expect it for sometime 2016, maybe?
We're shying away from pure visual updates in the near future. We feel we get so much more value out of combining gameplay and visual updates - executing on both at the same time. I'll go find out where exactly Caitlyn lies on the art quality spectrum, but I suspect she's not too close to the bottom."
As for Mordekaiser's recent update, Statikk commented:
Do you feel like Mordekaiser's rework was a success and that you're able to balance him accordingly for the longer term? 
How about his thematics, does he really fit the vision of an undead General bent on eternal Conquest? 
I personally think he doesn't really live up to his expectations and that he's got a LOT of potential that's simply left untapped due to him having received a pretty low scale rework instead of a full blown one that would have explored his themes and really made him a character befitting the title of Iron Revenant. 
What's your personal opinion on the matter and would it be too crazy to assume he'd be on that fabled rework list once more?
Hopefully we largely addressed this with the previous Morde threads, but I'll reiterate again. I think we can all agree that the Morde rework wasn't our best work from several different angles. We probably didn't get enough benefit out of the cost of changes we incurred here. Still stand by our position, that he is ultimately healthier and will continue to be tweaked towards the duo lane at least for the short term. I agree that long term, we probably need to revisit Morde and do a full overhaul, but that's probably far in the future unfortunately."
When asked if there are any immediate plans for Singed, Statikk  noted:
There's only one champion I want to know stuff about.
He needs a new passive badly, and he doesn't feel that strong anymore after all the nerfs he got in Season 2 and 3 (ap raitos, RIP FoN, no more tenacity on ult). He was the very first champ I mained back when I started, so singed is a little special to me.
Unfortunately, there are no immediate plans to work on Singed. He's already a champion who is very unique but might feel a little bit outdated. This feels like a much more appropriate place where a team like Live Gameplay could step in if it makes sense.
There's a possibility that we may touch him if we decide to work on the Diver class, but that decision has yet to be made."
As for the % hp true damage on Fiora's rework from 2015, Statikk commented:
What lead up to Fiora having %hp true damage on her vitals? Was there no better alternative?
% HP true damage can be annoying to play against, but on the other hand, it allows a champion's damage to be truly agnostic to the target. This is a property of "light fighters" (we need to come up with a better name...) that we feel is critical to their success. They need to be able to actually kill tanky opponents. % HP true damage helps us normalize the damage someone like Fiora deals to both squishy and tanky targets."
When asked about his opinion on Yasuo and "light fighters", Statikk  noted:
What is your opinion of Yasuo and "light Fighters" atm? Are they to strong or to weak? In the current pre-season meta they have a weird place where they either do really good or really bad, making them High risk High reward, is this something is pretty good or needs to be improved on?
Overall the "light fighter" (once again, we need a better name here) has never been fully understood or realized until more recently. Explorations like Yasuo and Fiora have given us insight and building blocks to better understand how the class should function.
The biggest issue we continue to struggle with on this class is making sure they feel powerful and relevant in late game team fights. It's somewhat disappointing when the ONLY way to really play any of these champions is to super snowball your lane or just split push all day."
As for the follow up on reworks and continued support to make sure they hit the mark, he noted:
Ghostcrawler recent posted in his that he had talked with the "design leads" about what they thought of what happens when an update goes 'halfway', in his words, gets a Champ from being a C to a B when the goal is an A. There apparently was consensus that it is better to then move on to other champs. What are your thoughts on this and why? 
I found his trust argument lacking. I have a lot more trust towards following through on work and finishing a job instead of leaving it half done, for (let's be honest) years at a time. Cass, in the opinion of the design team from what I understand, moved from a C to a B. For me she moved from a C+/B- to whatever grade champs I don't want to play are (F?). She isn't going to get any more work probably until 2017 with the focus on Yorick, Taric (both justified) and Shen (not so much).
I'm still with Ghostcrawler on this one.

We should be prioritizing whatever work delivers the most value to the game, so if we get a champion from a C to a B, even if we were shooting for an A, that champion is still better off than the other champions who are still C's. 
Trust me, it doesn't feel good to leave work in a non-ideal state, but that's an honest part of any job. We need to be constantly questioning our prioritization and focuses. 
The ideal state is to just consistently execute on getting champions to A's or at least as close as possible. We need to be smarter in deciding upfront how much work it would take to get a given project to an A, and simply avoid ones that we don't feel are feasible given the scope of the project."
When asked about Yorick's future rework, Statikk commented:
The main champ I want to inquire about is Yorick.
He has been off the free week rotation for god knows how long, forcing players to buy him on a whim without any chance to try him first, and has been excluded from skins until his "rework," which has been slated practically since he came out. So my question is, how far along is this rework, and can you comment on how much of his current theme will be staying (shovel, hunchbacked lumbering giant)? Because aesthetically Yorick is FAR from the worst champ in the game, he is solidly in the middle for visual fidelity. This rework excuse for the no skins is wearing thin.
Another quick question, do you have any insight into why it seems like certain champions are tweaked and tweaked and tweaked relentlessly patch after patch until they are where you guys feel they should be? Examples would be Nidd, Kass, Rengar and Kha off the top of my head. all of these champs went through what felt like months of every single patch had small changes or full on ability reworks. From a player point of view, it was annoying to see what seemed like Riot's pet champions of the moment getting change after change where champions like Nocturne for example didn't see a single positive change for over 3 years.
Thanks for your time, you k-pop obsessed b-boy
Yorick is on our current list, but the team is currently more largely focused on Taric. Trust me though, Yorick is definitely on our radar, and I have high confidence we'll ultimately deliver a Yorick we can all be excited about. 
I think it's dangerous to do changes to champions simply based on "how long has it been since they've been last touched?" This can be a useful data point that a champion might be out-dated, but it's not necessarily a great sole reason to make a change."
Statikk continued:
So, I really have to question the Champion Update team's intentions when the head of Gameplay design wants to turn the green, shovel-wielding, minion-controlling brute into Yorick, the generic, stereotypical necromancer of far too many bad D&D games inspired by "Army of Darkness."
I really, really hope you can maintain the uniqueness of Yorick (art, story, etc) and not resort to a complete "Trundling" of my favorite champ.
Happy holidays!
Don't worry, we'll be keeping the brute part of Yorick intact. Ghouls are a big part of Yorick, but so is the fact that he himself is an intimidating presence."

Statikk group questions:
How do you feel about the Poppy rework who not only lost her initial identity of being a fighter/diver in favor of being a tank (with the single biggest weapon afaik), but also had massively negative feedback on the PBE, and now an excruciatingly low win rate? 
As a quick comment on that topic, please learn to delay champion releases, or never put them on the PBE during a holiday again... I think Solcrushed pushed like 3 or 4 sets of changes at most for a complete rework. 
We know that there are a few batch rework like assassins and immobile mages coming, as well as champions like Taric and Shen, but do you have plans for standalone mini-reworks, like changing Singed's passive for instance, or other small mechanical updates? 
I've also had a lot of fun asking (roughly) the same generic questions to all the devs, so you're the next one on the list :
  • What is in your opinion the best/worst niche in LoL right now in term of design (split push, mobile mages, tank supports, poke supports, all in mid laners, AP junglers, etc.)?
  • Who are your favorite current rioters and ex-rioters?
  • What would you say is the biggest pros and cons of the current way PBE functions?
  • Favorite party game?
  • What design from another game would you like to see in LoL (even if unrealistic) and why? This can be either a complete concept (like a DotA heroes or something), or a systemic one (like Aghs or maybe an ammo system on buildings or pickups, or first-person something... anything really).
We made a pretty big decision to change Poppy's gameplay role away from a Diver and rather into what we now refer to as a Warden (Defensive Tank who holds the front line). Ulitmately we felt that her thematics (undersized heroine with an oversized weapon) and primary gameplay hook (pushing around and slamming enemies into walls) matched a lot better with someone who would consistently get into the fray and mix it up with enemies who were larger than her. Ultimately, the way Poppy functioned before her rework was extremely unhealthy. 
Poppy's balance is something we will correct independently of that decision. I don't think it should influence or define whether her gameplay role changing made sense or not.
I'll answer some of the random scatter questions I find fun. 
Who are your favorite current rioters and ex-rioters? 
Zileas, Meddler, and Ghostcrawler. Totally not because they're my bosses. 
What would you say is the biggest pros and cons of the current way PBE functions? 
PBE gives us a great place to seek initial reaction feedback and to solve game-breaking issues and bugs. It is however typically too tight of a timeline and comes at the end of the development process which limits our ability to making significant changes based on feedback. 
What design from another game would you like to see in LoL (even if unrealistic) and why? This can be either a complete concept (like a DotA heroes or something), or a systemic one (like Aghs or maybe an ammo system on buildings or pickups, or first-person something... anything really). 
A Diablo-inspired character who finds and picks up loot from minions, monsters, and champions he kills."

[INTRO] August "gypsylord" Browning, Champion Designer 

Gypsylord also entered the fray to introduce himself! 

Hi I'm August or Gypsy, 
Short bio: I grew up in Alaska fighting bears and spent my college years at Dartmouth on the east coast studying economics. While there I played A TON of games, freshman and sophomore year was 1400 hours of competitive TF2 (scout, sniper, medic) and Junior and Senior year found me addicted to League of Legends. I applied to riot my senior winter after realizing finance wasn't for me and joined the champ team as a designer shortly after graduation in 2012. 
My primary role here is making champions. Past projects (love affairs?) include Vi, Jinx, Gnar, and Ekko. I'm currently working on #5 who'll be coming out next (he's freaking awesome). Asides from direct mechanics design I've also been heavily involved in early concept ideation for the majority of the champs to have come out in 2014 and 2015 as well as a few that are still yet to be released. Also (when I have time) enjoy helping out other teams such as live gameplay or systems. I headed up the keystone masteries project for the recent preseason with Stashu and Squad5 and am one of the many people to have nerfed Lucian. 
Firstly, feel free to ask me about any of the champs or projects I've worked on (including lore and theme stuff). It's no secret here that I'm my champs' biggest fanboi and as such I know A LOT about them. Also have quite a bit to say about general design philosophy and how we work on champion team. An awesome part about Riot is that all our designers work in different ways with different preferences. A champion made by me is going to be very different from one made by CertainlyT. Finally, I'm still one of the younger designers (24), so if your're wondering about what it's generally like to get out of college, find a job, and grow and learn in your profession, that's something I've been very close to for the last 3 years. I started out here pretty clueless (Vi was my first design pretty much ever) and still feel like there's so many ways I could improve and get better. 
Of course if there's anything else you want to ask about just shoot it my way. I'll answer most anything as long as I have the context to do so (please don't ask me why your game crashed yesterday, I can't help with that)."
Following his introduction, Gypsylord hung around the boards to answer questions!

In response to a comment about the ever popular 3 hit passive, Gypsylord shared:
So why are three hit passives the best 
And did you personally make thunderlords? (Because it gave EVERYONE a three-hit passive)
A lot of people ask this as a joke, but I'm going to give you a super serious answer with lots of DESIGN LEARNINGS. 
I really do think 3-hit passives are great design, for the reason that they tend to add large amounts of tension and impact to moments that would normally have none. 
Example: Let's take a look at Alistar. On top of the cleanse and near invuln status, his ult also gives him 60-90 AD. Did you know that? Most players don't. It adds a ton of power and yet it's hard to feel and not all that compelling for a lot of people. Now let's take that same spell and instead say, "Every 3rd hit on an enemy champion deals 180-270 bonus damage" and then go support that mechanic with a cool hit effect and stacking particles. I guarantee you the offensive portion of Ali ult will start feeling a lot better for 2 reasons: 
1. The ceremony and oomph around the 3rd hit will make it feel exciting and POWERFUL 
2. The first and second hits will feel better, even though they individually are dealing less damage, because they now have tension and build up associated with them. Each one is getting you closer to that 3rd super hit. 
As a side note, I also like 3-hit passives because they give the champions that have them extended repeatable combat patterns that make them feel good about fighting forever. 
Perfect for a champion like Vi who JUST WANTS TO PUNCH THINGS ALL DAY. 
Yes, Thunderlord's was originally proposed by me, but Stashu and Squad5 were the ones doing most of the design thought, tuning, and implementation. I was most involved on the keystones in the resolve tree (Grasp of the Undying, Strength of Ages, and Bond of Stone)."

When asked about the next champion, he noted:
Alright, because you are working on the next champ...
Is it Ao Shin?
Also, if a Penguin can waddle, does a Gnar jump?
It's not Ao Shin.
Gnar hops."
Gypsylord continued:, discussing more about Gnar!
As the champion designer of Gnar, how do you feel about the state he's in. Does he meet your expectations (Competitively, game health, etc.)? 
I'm a Gnar main, so if you have any interesting stories to tell about him, or if you just want to talk about him, I'd love to hear them! Maybe you have a piece of Gnar fan work that you really like? 
(Also, favorite Gnar skin?)
I'm generally happy with how Gnar fits into the game. Seems like he has clear strength and weaknesses and obvious reasons to be picked/passed over for a given game. That's good :) 
I do wish he was a little less hardcountery to certain low mobility melee champs. I didn't really account for the fact that he likes building straight tank in a lot of games which tends to negate a lot of mini Gnar's weaknesses (he's supposed to be easy to kill). 
Also wish he was a tad easier to play for the average player. I'm really happy with his kit and how it all flows together, but he has a very appealing thematic that attracts a subset of players who would likely prefer not to have to deal with the complex movement and timing games I ask of him. I get a little sad whenever I hear someone talk about how they buy all his skins because OMFG THEY'RE SO ADORABLE but then never play the champ cause he's too weird. 
TLDR - if you're making a guy who's twice as cute as Teemo you probably shouldn't also make him twice as hard to be effective with. 
Gnar stories...hmmmmm...he was honestly pretty straightforward for me on the design side. He did go through two designers though. Meddler made the first half his kit (transform mechanic, boomerangs/boulders, and hop) before handing the rest off to me when he didn't have time to work on him anymore after being promoted to Lead Champ Designer. I added in the 3-hit passive (duh), ultimate, and really dug into what it meant to be in each form. Mini Gnar was originally melee and used a tiny little version of Nautilus as a temp model with super sped up animations. 
Fav Gnar skin is Gentleman. I love the white hair and top hat. All his skins are freaking sweet though. Toats adorbs. "
he continued:
I am ever grateful with you sir, for desingnin one of the must fun champs to play with: Gnar
Wich I have 3 question:
-Why went with a caveman thematic?
-How you came with the transform/Mega Gnar concept?
-Was a frozen Watcher responsible for the death of Gnar's family?
Meddler or Edmundo could answer this better but the caveman thematic came from I think the original art, which was this cute little "feral child" kind of yordle with a boomerang. The prehistoric motif just fit 
The Mega Gnar concept also came from the original concept, we wanted to create a "yordle beserker" of sorts where he'd get mad and go into super mode. When we discovered he was prehistoric we were like, "How would Yordles defend themselves back then." Idea got thrown out that WHAT IF THEY COULD TRANSFORM INTO THE HULK. That immediately stuck because it was A) cool as hell and B) great from a gameplay angle, the uncontrollable transform mechanic was obvious. 
Nothing is confirmed but the facts are this: 
That thing on the Gnar promo page certainly looks like a watcher. 
He got trapped in true ice, so whatever it was for sure had some powerful magic."
When asked about his favorite champions that he has designed, Gypsylord replied:
1) You've designed a mid, a top, an adc and a jungler. Is your next one a support/are you ever going to do a support? I like the champs you design a lot, and I'm a support main (bard4life) so I'd love to see you design a support.
2) Who's your favorite champion that you've designed?
1) I majored in economics and studied film, theater, chem, and japanese on the side.
2) My favorite to play is Vi, my favorite to want merchandise of is Gnar, my favorite in terms of what I personally believe to be a "great design" is also Vi (with Jinx a close second). Objectively speaking, Jinx is likely my best design based on the insane number of players all over the world that seems to love playing her or feel she's fair to play against."

When asked about his thoughts on Ekko, Gypsylord commented:
Can you take some time to address the current state of Ekko? As it stands hes not particularly good at his intended role, ie solo lane/Mid. 
Part of the reason I that this is the case is because hes supposed to be an assassin and yet has a fundamentally unreliable kit. Counterplay is great and all, but when every other assassin/burst mage in the game has significantly more reliability combined with Ekko's relative squishiness it becomes hard to be effective. 
Any plans to change Ekko in the near future? Something like increasing the missle speed/return on his Q and giving him some more HP would be nice.
To me, Ekko's major problem in mid isn't that his spells are fair and missable, it's that his farming is. He's melee so it's more risky for him to CS vs. ranged mages but even within the melee class he's kinda behind. Compare him to Zed. 
Zed last hits for free with his passive, Zed Q is a 6 seconds cooldown and has no mana cost, anything he misses with all of that he'll get with his E. Ez farm = ez gold = much less painful to be a melee in that lane 
Ekko Q costs mana, is on an 11-7 second CD and and has to hit creeps twice after a delay to get its full effect. If I was to buff Ekko in mid I'd probably look at things like Q CD and mana cost to help him GET MORE GOLD since a majority of the ranged mages in that lane seem to get it for free."

As for ability ideas that didn't quite make it into the game, Gypsylord shared:
What's the most broken ability you've made that will never see live?
From insanity: 
Ekko's old R used to save everyone's exact state (CD's, health, mana, position, etc.) and then throw them into the time stream. After 8 seconds they'd be returned back to that exact state AS LONG AS THEY DIDN'T DIE. Was basically a "oh $%$#% everyone use everything" button. Two Ashe arrows and Vi R's in a fight is pretty crazy 
From power: 
Ekko's current R used to bring him AND THE TARGETED ENEMY OR ALLY back 4 seconds in time. Ended up being a targeted Blitzcrank grab that pulled you twice as far when used on people running away from your team. Way too strong.
Vi's ult used to do an AoE stun on the slam down...
or she could choose to throw you in a targeted direction...
or she could choose to suppress you for longer and deal a ton of damage"

When asked about his thoughts on a champion based on resource manipulation, he noted:
Sorry, english isn't my language. 
What are your thoughts on a champion based on resource manipulation? 
Since Soraka rework in this moment there is nothing that can manipulate them, do you think is a mechanics that will never come or there are ideas floating around? 
Feralpony already said he don't think something like this would come in the game, so what are you thoughts on a resource manipulator (add/subtract/steal/freeze/etc.) instead?
If it was manipulating stuff like mana or energy I think that could be a very cool strategic place for a champion. I'd argue old Soraka's mana restore felt very cool to a subset of players. The worry there is the satisfaction to power ratio. Giving Corki infinite mana is insanely powerful but not nearly as noticeable for the person doing it (asides from some intellectual satisfaction) 
Would be more cautious of manipulating non-mana/energy resources. We tend to use other resource types as timing /action gates to champions (like Gnar rage bar) so messing with that could have HUGE CONSEQUENCES (although it could also be super cool)."

 As for his thoughts on Poppy's theme being represented in her kit, Gypsylord noted:
You may not want to answer since that would mean you're basically calling out on one of your coworker's work, but how do you feel about Poppy's theme being represented in her kit?
I generally think Poppy does a good job of being thematically aligned. Peel for allies, be the hero, knock baddies out of the air with your hammer, makes sense. 
We stretch the themes at some points in all designs but that's fine. To get the best gameplay, less thematic resonance is sometimes a very worthwhile cost to pay. The things I prefer to avoid are stuff that the champion straight up wouldn't do at all ever."

Group Questions 1
When you start designing a champion, do you begin with conceptualizing their character and style, or do you have some idea of a kit you want to piece together (ie. Someone who punches a lot), and work from there? How much of an influence does the artistic side of a champion have on their kit design?
How much of the actual balancing of a champion is left up to you, and how much does that affect your initial designs? Some champions tend to have some fairly binary abilities (like yasuo's windwall, for example). Which I assume would mean that, at least to some extent, your designs will influence the balancing. Is that difficult to deal with when you're working with creative new ideas to release?
1) Different designers work differently. For me, I highly prefer to start with a piece of concept art and ask myself, "What should this character feel like?" For Jinx it was "manic crazy girl with an arsenal of weapons that all feel different," Vi was "In your face aggro punk girl, offense is the best defense, also falcon punch," Gnar was, "Obnoxious Teemo that surprises you when it turns into a pissed off Alistar," and for Ekko it was "Genius who outsmarts his opponents by predicting their actions as though he could see into the future." 
So yeah, for me personally, art has a HUGE impact on my designs. I really try to make my kits deliver on visual/mental fantasy the artists and writers come up with. I remember I used to have this great ult for Gnar where he'd devour a guy when he turned big. I iterated on it for a while and thought I was getting it to a good place but then went into a meeting where we determined that Mega Gnar WAS NOT BLOODTHIRSTY. Even though I liked the spell, i cut it immediately because it was no longer thematically aligned with the character. 
2) Champion designers are tasked with releasing "balancable" champions and as such we're heavily involved with the idea of balance up to and after release. Before release (and a couple weeks after) the champ designer is responsible for their champ's numbers and feel tuning. After this, responsibility for the champion transitions to the live team and its up to the individual designer as to how much they remain involved in balancing their champ. I personally tend to stay very involved, and have implemented or advised live designers on numerous balance changes to Gnar, Jinx, Vi and Ekko, at the end of the day though I leave the final calls on balance decision up to live, as my opinions, while informed, are also somewhat biased. Best not to stay too attached."

Group Questions 2
So you've designed Vi, Jinx, and Ekko. That means that the only orphan from the group you didn't design is Viktor, correct? Maybe there's another of the group that I'm missing. With that stated: 
Do you have ideas for the other orphans in the group from Zaun? 
Will they be champions at one point? 
Any hints on the new champ? Maybe a role? 
When you make a champion and he/she gets nerfed, does it hurt a little bit on the inside, especially if they are significantly weaker?
2) All I can say is I love making Piltover/Zaun champs and would jump at the chance to make more, especially if they tie into the story lines of the current ones. 
3) He doesn't have a 3 hit passive. 
4) Yes and no, I think as designers, we all want our champions to succeed and do well. We want players to have fun playing them. That said, I DON'T want to see my champions do well in ways that are incredibly unhealthy and counter to the fun things in their pattern. 
So whenever we nerf Jinx and Vi do I get a little sad? Sure, but I'm also confident that as long as they're still fun and retain the things that make them special (like Vi R and Crit rockets) they're gonna be fine, and likely in a better place."

Ping-Pwn: waging war on lag for EU players

Next up we have Riot TMX  with an article on Riot Direct and how the network has been performing in EU:
"Back in January we updated you on our progress with Riot Direct, an initiative we’d undertaken to establish a dedicated network highway for League of Legends traffic in North America and Europe. With that service now live and humming along, we’d like to share some of the reductions in latency we’re seeing as a result. And we’ll also discuss how we got here in more depth, so you can better understand why we saw a need for a project like Riot Direct and the issues we hoped to address with it. 
To fill in this context, we spoke with Peyton Maynard-Koran, a technical director at Riot with over 20 years of experience in the telecoms industry, product owner of Riot Direct and a certifiable Wukong fanboy. "Wukong's always been my boy!" he says, whipping out a Monkey King phone case and directing us to a framed Wukong illustration his best friend commissioned for him. When he’s not putting the ‘hell’ in helicopter by cycloning into the middle of the enemy team, then, he’s figuring out new and creative ways to improve your connection to the League of Legends servers. 
We certainly had improvements we wanted to make. Here’s a EUW heatmap of the in-game latency levels experienced by players across Europe just prior to the activation of the Riot Direct network (green = 0-65ms, orange = 66-100ms, red = 101ms or more).
It’s not easy being green for many in southern Europe, but here’s what the EUW situation looks like post-launch:
The picture looks somewhat different in EUNE, as we’ve only recently begun the legal and contract works with central and eastern European providers. We know the Vienna point of presence will help with the latency and stability of these connections, but we still want to expand our own infrastructure further east and south. At this point the EUNE results show room for improvement, but we're optimistic about the enhancements we’ll be delivering to this region in the months ahead.
Post launch:
League of Legends is an online game (OMG SPOILER!). Meaning: regardless of how enjoyable the game is from a design standpoint, if the delivery mechanism for that experience fails to perform in an optimal fashion, League of Legends will cease to be fun. Nobody enjoys lagging out, being forced to look on helplessly as your champion jumps about erratically on-screen, wondering if you’ll be staring at a death recap screen when the choppy internet waters settle. 
When we opened the Amsterdam data centre last June, we purchased a huge amount of bandwidth and transit traffic from major ISPs and backbone providers (Level 3, GTT, Telia, Hibernia, etc). We assumed that having all these network connections would normalise the player experience and we’d be able to find the fastest path to get to players. Yet game traffic still wasn’t getting where we wanted it to go as fast as we wanted it to get there. For example, a number of German players, despite being located near our data centre, were playing with over 120ms ping. Making matters worse, the rate of speed remained highly variable and there was no obvious way to fix it. 
We hadn’t taken full control of our situation. If a link failed on a network outside of ours, it still had a negative effect on League players, even though it had nothing to do with us. Under the old model, Maynard-Koran explains, “we could never maintain or influence the way routes were being populated throughout the network, the way that traffic was actually moving unless we built our own network.” 
“That’s why we built out this network in Europe. Instead of traffic taking the most preferred path to our data centre, it was bouncing all over the continent. By having our own infrastructure in place, we can not only take in the traffic and force it to come on to our network, but we can also force it to take the exact same route back. What that does for us is it creates an environment where the player gets a very symmetrical path and all these routers are removed.” 
To understand why ISPs sending League traffic on a convoluted journey through numerous routers poses difficulties, it’s important to realise that online-gaming traffic looks different than most other internet traffic. Standard web traffic - movies, music, cat pics, etc - travels in 1500-byte packets. League traffic, on the other hand, involves a rapid stream of updates but each message is relatively small - 55 bytes. In terms of our network traffic profile, we’re much more akin to an investment bank doing high-frequency trading rather than a Facebook or a Google that’s concerned primarily with raw bandwidth.
Routers are built around how many headers they can read because that’s what they do. So, in the case of League traffic, we’re asking a router that’s accustomed to processing a single 1500-byte packet in a given amount of time to process 27x the number of packet headers in the same window. The more router waypoints we have in our game’s journey from data centre to player, the greater the risk of router overload, resulting in dropped packets and a head-desking play experience. 
The internet is just a bunch of computers talking to one another, meaning you connect to a device and it takes you on a specific path. As a game company, the problem we have with the internet now is it uses all those paths so it creates a fluctuating quality of experience for the player. To solve this predicament, we investigate the options and decide which path we like the best, then we rent a special lane on that path and set it up so that all League of Legends game traffic travels along that path.
We do that by putting a router at the edge of a given PoP (point of presence) and peering directly with a regional USP. We create a sort of off-lane, so as soon as the game traffic is supposed to go to the regular internet, it goes to our router instead. And then we've already set up this special path that gets players’ inputs to the data centre in the fastest possible way. Like an LCS jungler rotating between neutral-monster camps, we want our game traffic to take the most economical route possible, every time. 
Alas, even the most elegantly designed technology can fall over from time to time so we ensured that if a PoP goes down, the system automatically reverts to standard internet routing so your connection to the game server won’t be interrupted. And as an additional failsafe, our worldwide team will be supporting Riot Direct 24/7 with software alerting us anytime there’s a hiccup in the quality of players’ experience. Stability is hugely important to us and you deserve to keep hard-carrying on that late-game Tristana even if a PoP between you and the game server blinks offline 50 minutes into your match. 
“At the outset, we thought that this was a 2-3 year project based on how slow the telecom companies move,” says Maynard-Koran. “For example, you'll have to have your order in 90 days before you expect service, and you have to have a long history with them. Luckily our team has a lot of connections within the industry so were able to fast-forward that. On top of that, we thought that getting infrastructure built out would take longer as well, but we were able to fast-track that as well. So we got NA finished in under a year and if you think about EU, we started in probably November of last year, and we expect to launch the initial phase in late August.” 
When Maynard-Koran says 'finished', that means we've built the infrastructure and we've peered with ISPs that cover more than 50% of our players. We're going to continue to add more ISPs and we're going to continue to have to do things like route balancing to make sure data is going in and out of the right entry points, but we think we can get up to 80% coverage by the end of this year. 
Even though the methodology for Riot Direct remains the same whether we’re building out our North American or European infrastructure, there were unique considerations to expanding our European coverage. Europe is ultra-connected, with even the smallest member countries having three or four ISPs. We found cities with as many 15 ISPs. 
North America has roughly 75 ISPs but it's mainly dominated 25% by Comcast, another 40% by AT&T and Verizon combined. Then you get Time Warner Cable, Charter, so basically if the Riot Direct team hit 10 companies in America, they could cover 80% of players. But in Europe to get to 80% it would probably take around 40 companies. 
That said, the path to expanding European coverage is a little easier. “There are public exchange policies [in EU] that drive a faster path to getting connected,” says Maynard-Koran, “whereas in NA we've even gotten to the point where we've had to make legal challenges to get connected with one particular ISP. We're dealing with that right now with a company in Canada that just refuses to connect with us.” In other words, if we need to fight to make sure players can enjoy a better League connection, we’re happy to throw down. 
With Riot Direct now switched on, plans are already in motion to make it even better. We’re already looking at adding additional points of presence in Portugal (Lisbon or Porto), Italy (Rome), Greece (Athens) and potentially in Poland as well. We’re continuing to pursue new peering relationships with ISPs so their League data can travel via our super-duper-mega-highway. 
We're also developing software solutions to handle dynamic route manipulation, shepherding the way data comes into our entry points so that it takes the lowest-latency, symmetrical path and travels through the lowest number of routers off our network. But it also gives us the ability to manipulate traffic, so if we're getting a DDoS event or if we see a route that's bad, we can move it to a different entry point or move it to a different route without the player even noticing and without a reconnect happening. 
“ISPs get lazy because they have a tonne of routes they have to manage,” says Maynard-Koran. “They leave default metrics on, like making the oldest-aging border-gateway-protocol route the preferred one. For them to go through that by hand is hard. We look at being able to do that via software and we think that software will start to take over the way the networks work. And being able to do that route manipulation is the first piece. It will be the first time that we're able to manipulate routes based on something that's not a router, which is actually a huge step in the industry and it's something we're working towards. That means that software programmers can finally run the internet!” 
We’re hopeful that with the launch of Riot Direct, you’re enjoying a stable, low-latency gameplay experience. Please send along feedback and let us know if you’re able to detect any improvement. Our team will continue to monitor the situation closely and optimise the network to reach our goal of 100% of European players clocking in below 65ms ping. And remember, if you are experiencing connectivity issues, you can download our network diagnostic tool and submit results to help us identify problems and new places to focus our attention. Now let’s get back into game. Wukong insta-lock, anyone?"

Deck Out Your Desktop 

Just in time for snowdown, we also have a set of cute wallpapers from community artist Lazuli!
"Celebrate Snowdown and decorate your desktop with these adorable League of Legends-themed wallpapers! We teamed up with community artist Lazuli to bring you five festive designs to represent your favorite role. Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments below! 
If you want to use one for your desktop wallpaper, just click the image to enlarge it and save it to your computer."

Community Collab | Helmet Bro: The Animated Series - The Dragon

Last up we have a new episode of the community colladoration Helmet Bro: The Animated Series!
"I've made a huge mistake. 
Animated by RHrealism: 
**Created in Collaboration with Riot Games**"

[REMINDER] Snowstorm Legacy Sales through Jan 7th

Through January 7th, over 100 legacy skins are back in the shop as part of the Snowstorm legacy sale! Six of the skins will also go on a 50% off sale every day!

A full list of the available legacy skins and daily sales can be found here.

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