Red Post Collection: Quick Gameplay Thoughts: 3/16, Kai'Sa Champion Insights & More

Posted on at 11:31 AM by Aznbeat
Today's red post collection includes Meddler's gameplay thoughts for March 16th, including potential 8.7 changes, Kai'Sa Champion Insights, a new /Dev on some of the music of League and how it's made, & more!
Continue reading for more information!

Table of Contents

Quick Gameplay Thoughts: March 16 

Here's Meddler's quick gameplay thoughts for March 16th, including thoughts on 8.7 changes including Swain, Rumble & more:
"Hey all, 
Usual Disclaimers 
These posts will often contain talk about future work we're doing, or planning to do, that isn't yet guaranteed to ship. The nature of the work could change or, depending on what we discover, projects mentioned may get put delayed or even stopped. If you'd like to see a Tweet whenever a new one of these posts goes up: 
Some possible 8.7 changes 
Some potential 8.7 patch changes below. 8.7's a small patch, particularly since we're approaching midseason so are putting some time into that. It'll be on the lighter side as a result, with a fair bit of it made up from things that didn't make it in time for 8.6. Early on in the 8.7 development cycle we'll also be more focused on systemic changes than champion stuff, a bit of extra champion balance work is likely to make it in later though. 
  • Swain nerf. Most likely candidates are Q CD (might have lowered it too far) and Q damage. Still figuring details out though, nothing solid yet.
  • Rumble buff. Straight Q and R damage buffs from 8.6 were ok but don't think they were targeted enough at Rumble's problems. Trying to do a bit more as a result.
  • Ahri changes (still working on clearer highs and lows, plus general strengths and weaknesses).
  • LB changes. More likely to be in 8.8 at this point because there's some visual effects work still needed that's not on track for an 8.7 release. Possible it still makes it into 8.7 though.
  • Kayn changes that should smooth out transformation point gain over game time. Likely to be a slight buff and should help lane Kayn a bit more than jungle Kayn too. 
  • Manaflow Band nerf/reshape (reduces mana gating too much)
  • Presence of Mind reshape (too strong on its best users, not strong enough on many others)
  • Numbers tuning on some other runes that are just not balanced well enough (e.g. Approach Velocity is weak, Celerity is strong etc) 
  • Still working to make Locket more contextual (good some games, bad others) and probably less effective against single target burst champs
  • Looking at Ninja Tabi, given they're really dominant choices for the boots slot and can have a very large impact on some lanes. Number of things we need to figure out here, including how much they're just too good a general choice, how much they're just too strong, how important they are as a safety valve to AA champs, how much of a safety valve (or excessive counter?) to Lethality, what the right mixture of Armor versus other defensive effects is etc. We're trying to avoid solving a couple of problems only to replace them with other equally large ones. 
Non LoL related game design: Floating Combat Text in Diablo 3 

Interesting article below where some of the Diablo 3 team talk about their approach to building a better combat text approach, including problems they had to solve around localizing for different languages, delivering both satisfaction and readability, working well with a variety of different hero builds and appropriate use of color. Well worth a read if that sounds like your sort of thing."

When asked for details on the Ahri changes that were testing on the PBE, as well as potential Karma changes, Meddler noted:
Hey Meddler, a couple questions for you:
  • I hear that Ahri's rework/partial revert was pulled to work more on her W. Will she be getting a completely new W? (Apologies if this has been answered already)
  • In light of all these recent partial reverts (LB, Rengar, Ahri etc...), has this direction been considered for Karma? It seems that a lot of her gameplay issues stem from those 5.10 changes (I could be wrong).
Ahri - changes weren't ready in general for 8.6, hence they got delayed to 8.7. That won't include a replacement W. That'd take a much larger amount of time, art included. Right now we're trying to get some quicker improvements to Ahri since artist time's being used on other projects. 
Karma - still expecting we'll do some form of smaller update to her this year. I think she's got a lot of issues that were present before the 5.10 changes, so I don't feel going back on those would solve a huge amount of things. Would want to look whether the removal of the shield bomb in particular though has worked out as planned or not (not certain either way personally, but believe it would be worth digging into certainly)."

On the LeBlanc changes that were testing on the PBE this cycle, Meddler commented:
Are there any considerations about a slight change in direction on the LB rework? Namely, to counteract her complete loss of the ability to actually deceive people, instead of Diana-ing them?
Probably not. I think our desire to make LB more of an illusionist/deceiver was what created a lot of the problems with the previous update. Thematically that's a strong match for LB's character, in terms of what gameplay players liked about LB up to that point it was a secondary note though. There's some of it on the mindgames around the W and the use of the clone passive, but LB's historically been about a combination of windows of burst, mobility/slipperiness and dexterity I'd argue. If she was a brand new character would certainly want much stronger alignment between theme and gameplay. Cost of trying to get that here's been too high though."

As for Presence of Mind, Meddler noted:
What are your thoughts about Presence of Mind? I agree it can be too strong on some champions, but I'm not sure about the goals here. 
Last PBE cycle we saw a "20% max mana regeneration" iteration, the same one that got removed from Morello and currently no item has.
Something like the old Morello passive is likely, from memory paired with another effect (we were previously trying some XP on takedown as well, I think right now reduced ult CD is being tested instead)."

On Phase Rush, Meddler commented:
"Numbers tuning on some other runes that are just not balanced well enough (e.g. Approach Velocity is weak, Celerity is strong etc" 
Does this mean Riot will shift the power back into Phase Rush if Celerity gets nerfed? Phase Rush is already awful and just straight up nerfing Celerity is a big hit to Phase Rush users specifically.
Planning to buff Phase Rush at some point yeah. It didn't make the cutoff for 8.7 planning though (too far down the list versus other work)."

And when asked about Unsealed Spellbook, Meddler replied:
Any updates to unsealed spellbook? I remember you saying a while ago that Unsealed Spellbook was being changed to bring back older summoner spells (such as Clarity), although nothing has been said about it recently. Is this still on the table? I really miss using Clarity on Summoner's Rift especially, and Clairvoyance and Revive would be pretty fun to see too.
Still on the table and being actively worked on. Possible it makes 8.7, didn't mention it in the main post though because still uncertain about that. Will likely involve just Clarity coming back initially, with possibility of adding other older spells too over time."

 When asked about Shurelya's Reverie, Meddler commented:
I had a question about Shurelya's Reverie. I haven’t played long enough to be around when it was first in the game (people told me it was a reintroduction not a new item). What kind of champions use it? The cost makes me think supports, but the AP and passive made me think close range battle Mage or something?
The old version got used on a mixture of supports and tanks generally, with the occasional other user as well like Olaf. That was back before Righteous Glory was in the game though, which skews hard towards tank users, so we're angling this version of Shurelia's more towards enchanters and possibly the odd mage."

Maple Nectar commented on Edge of Night:
Meddler any buffs for Edge of Night? because this item should be good choice instead of Duskblade if u buff with good way like +60 65 ad +300 HP it can be good for 3100 gold item.
We don't have any plans on it currently. We'd talked about it super briefly and opted against doing anything for now, but as we're spending some time looking at assassins we'll take action if it seems we have the room!"

Kai'Sa Champion Insights

Here's Dyquill with a new champion insights article covering our most recent champion: Kai'Sa, Daughter of the Void!
"When her world was reduced to predator versus prey, Kai’Sa became a survivor. Despite years spent on the edge of the Void, she remains uncorrupted and unconsumed by the uninhabitable purple doom. But no matter how many nightmarish creatures she outlasts, she’s encumbered by a constant struggle for life. 
The Daughter of the Void has a symbiotic second skin, a parasite-turned-bio-armor that would probably eat her if she didn’t feed it so well. While still hunted by endless horrors, she’s learned by observation and has evolved her own highly effective feeding habits. As both a character and a champion, Kai’Sa occupies a unique role: a vulnerable target that’s also a lethal predator. 
“I never thought this would work,” says Jeevun “Riot Jag” Sidhu. “It’s a scary term, ADC assassin. I was just waiting for someone to tell me, ‘Please stop.’” 
The goal was to make an aggressive marksman, someone who fought in-your-face, up-close and personal. The twist would be their ability to force engagements and pick fights when it suited them—a “high agency” champion, in gameplay design lingo. 
Kai’Sa needed a kit that gave her not just options, but choices. “The hallmark of a good ADC is intelligent target selection,” says Riot Jag. Normally, marksmen do this from a safe distance, sniping targets and attacking from afar. But Kai’Sa has ways to demonstrate that you’re more than just a kiting bot who keeps out of the thick of it. 
Thematic Study for an Unnamed “Void ADC”
With her ult, Kai’Sa can be literally anywhere in a team fight, making plays other ADCs couldn’t dream of. Your Maokai just made a Twisted Advance into their backline? Kai’Sa can follow up instantly, diving deep with a buddy and blowing up any enemy unlucky enough to catch the crowd control. But there’s a price to pay for that kind of mobility. 
“She’s the first champ in… I think five years? With absolutely no crowd control of her own,” says Riot Jag. “She’s just there to do damage.” Not to mention that while she’s got a few ways into a fight, she has exactly zero ways to get out. 
In the end, that’s what removed much of the dread from the phrase “ADC assassin.” Kai’Sa is forced to outmaneuver and outwit opponents through agility and forethought, rather than taking them down with brute force and better burst. 
While it was always known that the next marksman would be geared towards all-in offense, it was never a given that the character would be from the Void. 
“We were exploring a Zaunite life-essence-drainer for a while,” says Willem “Riot Tokkelossie” van der Schyf. “But everything about this champ felt very predatory, so tying in to something that was an actual predator made sense. The Void kept coming up as a way to explain that animal instinct.” 
Champion concept exploration: an ex-Purifier, a “vampire,” and a human bonded with a Void virus.
While the team was exploring possible sources for her predatory nature, they found a concept that complemented the aggressive playstyle they envisioned: a Void “jetpack.” Not only did it have a distinct visual read, or silhouette, but it instantly suggested both speed and power. 
The jetpack idea helped clarify the unique take on the Void embodied by a champion that was more agile than brutal. 
“We homed in on a vector shape for her. Her whole body takes the shape of a chevron, like an arrow pointing forward,” says Riot Tokkelossie. “Everything about her feels like she’s moving.” 
Refined “Engine” Design
Then there was the question of what she was actually shooting with. 
The team explored weapons that grew out of her hands, including a Void rifle made from the same biomass of her suit, but the bulky firearm didn’t fit with Kai’Sa’s nimble movement and symmetrical visual design. Besides, a rifle wasn’t exactly a novel approach to the marksman role. 
“We didn’t want to literally give her a gun,” says Riot Tokkelossie. “She was an opportunity to do something different from other ADCs.” Eventually the team landed on crystalline Void weapons, formed out of energy flowing from the carapace element on Kai’Sa’s lower body. 
It’s 100% authentic pure unaltered raw Void crystal.
The team also wanted to do something different with Kai’Sa’s particular degree of Void-ness. 
“We knew she was gonna be humanoid—not a monstress,” says Michael “CoolRadius” McCarthy. “We have monsters born in the Void, we have people whose minds and bodies were corrupted by the Void. Instead, we wanted to make someone who was a survivor.” 
A human view of the Void, told from the perspective of a survivor, became a core pillar of Kai’Sa’s character design—as did the particular trauma of being abandoned and forced to fight for her life. 
Void Rifle Exploration
“I did a lot of research on survivor mentality and coping with extreme trauma,” says CoolRadius. “It can make you a shell of who you were—but those who came through didn’t let it take everything from them. They held on to something.” 
Kai’Sa started as a victim, nearly broken by the Void, but by refusing to relinquish all of her humanity, she managed to resist and adapt. She turned her struggle into the source of her power, converting dangerous creatures into protective armor and finding balance by accepting all parts of herself. Even as she embodied a monster, she maintained her humanity. 
“If she had the Void suit and mask as a permanent feature, it would have felt like she had lost her sense of self,” says Riot Tokkelossie. “We wanted to make it her choice to tap into the full power of the suit, or let that part of herself recede.” 
Nowhere is that choice more obvious than with Kai’Sa’s helmet. Built from the same tech powering DJ Sona’s controllable jams, Kai’Sa’s helmet—automatically activated when she uses her dash—can also be toggled on and off at will. And when the mask is on, so is the predator.
Mask off, mask on
“You really feel like you’ve stepped into her skin,” says Brandon “Riot Sound Bear” Reader. Since that skin is a living Void creature, Kai’Sa’s voice is far more Void-like while masked, sharing a very specific sonic quality with other apostrophe’d champs. 
“Her sound is very round and purple” says Riot Sound Bear. That means the audio tends to be darker, deeper, and full of bass. A pink sound, by comparison, would be a lot higher in the midrange. 
“It’s kinda lasery, but sticky and gooey, not sharp and staticky. More guttural,” he adds. 
Using similar sounds for champions from the same region not only helps with thematic cohesion, but creates a foundation that can be built on, remixed, and transformed. “I actually repurposed some of the movement of Vel’Koz’s eye on recall,” says Riot Sound Bear. “I morphed that into Kai’Sa’s general movement.”
Once an eyeball rotating, now Kai’Sa moving. 
Finding Kai’Sa’s unique take on the Void sound led to tons of experimentation and play—and accidents. 
“I hit the low register key with my pinky on accident at one point and percolated a plugin that made a really cool bass swell,” says Riot Sound Bear. “That’s the fifth hit of her passive now.”
The accident, and then the final sound. 
Combining all of these sounds paints an audible portrait of a Void predator—and the human underneath it all. 
“That’s the headspace I hope players will be in,” says Riot Sound Bear. “I’m dealing with the Void, here are my weapons, now how do I survive?” 
The answer is up to you."

/Dev: Unorthodox Instruments and New Sheet Music 

Here's Scherzo with a new /Dev on music, featuring a look at weird instruments used as well as new sheet music:
Hi everyone, Alex “Scherzo” Temple here from the Riot music team. We’re here today with a second batch of League of Legends sheet music, plus a deep-dive into how we use found instruments in our music development endeavors! 
While sheet music represents some of the more typical work we do as composers, using found instruments represents the more unorthodox—this is when we use everyday objects as instruments or repurpose instruments to be played in a drastically different manner than intended. As composers, we’re fortunate to sit near Riot’s sound designers and share information back-and-forth with them. Sound designers record source material from a lot of objects and materials that would probably surprise the casual observer. Lots of other composers and musicians use found objects as instruments, but I think our frequent exposure to the way League’s sound designers work inspires us to look for unexpected sound sources more than we might otherwise. 
We have hundreds of preset sounds available to us on our virtual instruments and have access to some phenomenal musicians in Los Angeles, so why would we go out of our way to try to make unmusical objects sound musical, or to use a musical instrument in a way it wasn’t designed? 
Sometimes we want an instrument or a texture that fills a similar role to an existing instrument, but sounds different. The music we write for League often straddles the line between offering broadly cinematic “commentary” on a character or scenario, and showcasing a more specialized use of instrumental textures, harmonies, or melodies that might conceivably exist within Runeterra (and are specific to the character, faction or scenario we are working with). When it comes to finding instruments for a region, we often start with a high concept, such as “we want to avoid relying on our typical orchestral instruments in this piece of music. What would a (insert instrument here) sound like in (insert Runeterran faction here)?” 
For example, let’s take a look at the drums we used for Ekko’s champion teaser. When we first started working on Ekko’s music, we wondered what drum kits would sound like in Zaun, or what their equivalent would be. We figured that the musically-inclined denizens of Zaun would be creative and resourceful, but that they wouldn’t have access to really great-sounding instruments. They would have to funnel their musicality through instruments made out of salvaged scrap, or even through using non-musical objects as instruments. 
For us, this meant it was time for a field trip to the hardware store across the street. I can’t imagine what the staff at the store thought as I walked around tapping every metal or plastic object that looked like it might have interesting resonant characteristics. We ended up walking out with the makings of a percussion kit that included a 20-gallon trash can, a spool of copper wire, some metal springs, a tire iron, and a coat-hanger. After drilling a few holes through the side of the trash can, running the copper wires through it, and removing the rattly handles, we had ourselves an instrument that could be plucked, bowed, struck, or dropped to create all sorts of crazy percussive and semi-tonal sounds. 
Wire Trash Can Contraption
We recorded ourselves doing all of the above, and then chopped up our recording into individual sounds that could be triggered by a MIDI keyboard, turning our trash can into a virtual instrument that we could insert into our project alongside any of our commercial sample libraries. 
Here’s an edited excerpt of “Seconds” where we hear a percussion pattern played on our sampled trash can contraption. I raised the volume of the instrument relative to everything else so it’s easier to hear: 
And here’s the same excerpt with our sampled trash can contraption heard in isolation:
We ultimately found that our trash can percussion lacked the visceral gut-punch we wanted from our drums, and ended up using a hybrid kit that contained elements from both our found percussion and from some of our industrial drum sample libraries. Still, there’s enough of a sonic fingerprint from our instrument that its absence would be noticeable. 
Another reason we might explore unusual sounds is when we want something that sounds vaguely familiar, but that has been re-used in a much different musical context than what you would normally hear the instrument in. 
For one example, we can look at ambient pads, which are essentially long tones that usually have slow attacks and releases, giving us the perception that they slowly fade in and out without having clearly defined note beginnings and endings. Their lack of rhythmic clarity makes them very useful for setting a mood that conveys musical information but doesn’t commit to a melody. They can also be used to provide harmonic support or add textural background interest. 
Let’s take a look at one of the ambient pads I created for Ivern’s champion teaser. I wanted pads that sounded peaceful and “of the forest,” but I didn’t want them to sound synthetic. Synth pads often sound too clean, and I wanted something that fulfilled the same musical function but had enough sonic imperfections and inconsistencies to sound like it had a real-world source. One of our composers had an angklung sitting in his room that a friend had given to him after a trip to Indonesia. An angklung is a wooden instrument made up of hollow bamboo tubes suspended from a wooden frame, which can be played by holding the frame with one hand and gently shaking the tubes with the other. 
I liked the wooden sound of this particular instrument and I thought it seemed thematically appropriate for the character, but without any proper technique on the instrument, it was hard to get sounds out of it without hearing bumpy rattling from the tubes I wasn’t playing. However, I found that by layering several recordings of individual tubes together, stretching out the audio for some layers, and running everything through a highly-resonant reverb, the bumpiness of the original recordings gave way to a more smeared, shimmery effect. This preserved a lot of what I liked about the sound while transforming it into a highly usable musical pad. 
Here we have the angklung in context with processing applied. As with the Ekko example, I have raised the volume of the instrument to be louder than what you would hear in the actual mix:
And here we have the raw unprocessed source sound of the angklungp in isolation:
I don’t think I could have ever achieved this effect with commercial angklung virtual instruments. As well-recorded as those might be, they would be much too precisely played to achieve the effect I was going for. 
When working with found instruments, the final result often lies somewhere between the high concept and the obvious approach. Sometimes the high concept, once fully realized, can be too alienating. It may lack familiar elements for a listener to latch onto, or it might just not sound good. But we’d like to think it gives us results that feel more specific to our subject than if we were to begin with our standard set of instruments and add in a “flavor” instrument as a final step. When we do find that our initial concept is too experimental, we often find that bringing back a little bit of familiarity—such as a drum kit to Ekko—goes a long way towards giving our specialty instruments a place to add a unique flair to a piece of music. 
And with that, we hope you enjoy perusing the scores below! As Ed the Conqueror explained in our first sheet music release, these are the raw scores we used at our recording sessions and may contain shorthand, errors, and ideas that were eventually cut or changed."

[Check out the full article for sheet music!

Quick Hits

  • Maple Nectar commented on the state of Ornn's W:
"Regarding Ornn W, I'm hoping that I can provide a bit of some of the reasoning for why we opted to remove it. This wasn't something that was removed trivially as a "oh this guy needs a nerf we should take this away!", and was something that designers on Live Gameplay, Champion, and even off team talked about a ton before making the change. 
What we liked about Unstoppable on W: 
1. It provided a satisfying high moment for Ornn when he outsmarted his opponent/s by blocking their cc.
2. It was a unique skill test on a tanks kit that players could master. 
What we didn't like: 
1. CC Immunity on a low cd ability meant that windows of engagement were low for his opponents (this may be less of an issue now that the base cd has been increased).
2. You didn't get much in the way of feedback when playing against Ornn when your cc was blocked. At times it could even just feel like a bug, "Why didn't my stun work?" or you just had to accept that a guy walking at you breathing fire was immune to cc (kind of a weird thematic).
3. You were indiscriminately punished for trying to do something to Ornn when he was using his W in most cases. When he used his W, the only realistic counterplay was to not interact with him until the ability/shield/brittle proc had fallen off. You couldn't stop the channel, you couldn't easily sidestep him, he had a shield to soak any of your damage, etc.
4. Unstoppable added another mechanic to an already loaded spell when factoring in the passive. You got damage from the w, damage from the brittle proc, zoning power from brittle even if you didn't proc it, a knockback if you attacked them while brittle, a shield, cc immunity...might be forgetting something. When stacked on top of eachother, it somewhat trivialized the importance of lane phase for Ornn - meaning he was typically able to make it through unscathed, and even if he fell off post lane phase, it meant his opponent had little opportunity to gain or press a lead against him in very the most critical part of the game for them. 
What it boils down to is that the conversation wasn't about whether the mechanic made Ornn too strong from a performance standpoint, but rather that it led to undesirable gameplay that couldn't really be tuned around or learned. 
Disclaimer: I'm sure I forgot a plethora of points for both what we liked and what we didn't, but I want to stress that this wasn't a decision that was made lightly. Having a cool mechanic taken away always feels bad, and we try to avoid it as much as possible, but there are some rare times when we believe that it's the right thing to do. There may be a point in time when we can revisit his kit and add some mastery somewhere (or even make his items cooler now that players have more experience with that particular system), but for now he's likely in a reasonable spot for at least some time. 
What would you guys find cool as a replacement assuming that you couldn't get unstoppable back on his W?"

"Help! I've fallen and I can't get up. 
*Created in Collaboration with Riot Games*"


To round out this red post collection, here are a few reminders on current promotions or limited time events!

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