Morello on "Are Champions As Awesome As They Could Be?"
Make sure to check out the thread in our redtracker to read the OP's post in full!
A long read, but generally a good discussion, and one we have internally quite a bit. Let's chat about some of these issues, see where we agree/disagree, and what our design philosophy is. I'm at the office, so this will not be the complete, comprehensive post :P
Theme: I think this is an area we're inconsistent at a lot of the time. When we're "on", we get Vi - she's cohesive, distinct and fills in a new character archetype. When we're off, we get something more akin to Zyra or Syndra...specifically, there's a good idea of something in there, but it's too dialed-back/not fully realized.
This is actually one of the things I'm personally focusing on this year. Regardless of one's interest in lore/story, theme is something most of us can get into, and it being good just makes champions a better experience. It's worth the time and effort to make right, and my thought is that champions like Vi, Draven and Kog'Maw are good from a theme perspective. They're definitely memorable and distinct, and if we can consistently do this, then people will be able to find the theme that suits their individual taste.
Depth: I think we agree on the concept, but likely disagree on the specifics. I don't think Fiddlssticks and Annie are shallow, but I also don't think DotA's original Invoker is deep (ie; it's just complex). Depth is something we think is important, but I think each champion requires a different approach (and different people want different types of depth).
In design, I equate depth to execution and decision-making density. The more interesting nuances (and a large part of where I think counter-play exists) of how things can be used can create long-term depth. The reason I wanted to speak on that Darius thread is because he doesn't contain that set of nuanced decision-making (and frankly, I think many fighters also suffer from this) - where someone like Fiddlesticks has to do a lot of setup and play differently to set up a Crowstorm, or that his drain is so susceptible to CC effects. The more high end of this is someone like Orianna where there's additional object-positioning elements that stand out, and I think characters with tradeoffs tend to have more depth (and why I prefer slower skillshots/longer CD's).
Let me ask you this: are you guys generally fans of complexity as a mechanic (definitely a player archetype I fall into)? Do you think there's a possibility you might be confusing depth and gameplay distinction/strategic diversity? I think League actually has a good amount of depth overall, though I don't feel all of our characters are, as you said, as awesome as they could be - you're correct in bringing up the Darius example here as representative of this issue.
I also apologize if I've come off as a tough nut to crack - that's likely me ineffectively communicating in some way. My attitude on the matter is much more lenient than I think I represent, but I think I get frustrated by emotional arguments too easily. Food for thought for me when writing.
Its a familiar problem with the Runeterra framework, one we've seen before. The squality of your characters consistently depends on how good the story is of the character- the better you shape your character, the more clearly a theme emerges, and the better the mechanics are. Draaaaaaven is a perfect example of this- great story, built into great mechanics, created a fun character. Syndra had a pretty dismal story, her mechanics are even fairly interesting but have no real substance. You don't play Syndra and feel like...Syndra, you feel like just another mage. Your design process has a clear role playing aspect, which is good- it differentiates it, makes it interesting.
A lot of champions I think have this problem of insufficient clarity of character- Void champions are a great place to look. For example, Cho'gath and Kog'maw, where I half feel like you had the vague idea "let's make a void monster that eats things" and didn't feel like you got it right the first time, so you tried again. But since Void monsters are all mysterious with little clear purpose and such, the abilities are similarly unclear- why is Cho'gath randomly manipulating physics to knock people into the air, and why does Kog not actually eat people, given that his lore specifically talks about him consuming whole villages. Instead he just spits at everything.
In general, I think that the design process would go more smoothly if theme was more clearly discussed- create a set of characteristics and behaviorism for the creature without worrying about the actual QWER abilities, and then once you have created a functional and interesting being, then translate the most significant of those traits into the abilities.
We actually usually do as you describe many times - making the abilities fit the character. Some are different, depending on the source material, but even someone I think is good (like Varus) was the Q gameplay first. I think it's a simple problem, but the solution is very nuanced and complex. I think one problem is that we had a hard time getting a "vision" of the character to be clean and clear, and when we mess up, it's because we try to do a bunch of things in a sub-par way instead of 1 or 2 in a very clean way.
I certainly believe that a certain level of complexity is needed to keep a champion interesting, this is where Fiddlesticks, Annie (Even though I love the heck out of her), and several of the older champions fall short.
Certainly you can have too much complexity, but Riot has done a great job of avoiding adding arbitrary mechanics to their champions, and thus there is no real example of the opposite extreme as it is. The closet example I can think of would be champions like Lee Sin, Cassiopeia, and Thresh. In all of those examples, their added complexity/depth brings out greater potential and thus actually makes that champion more rewarding for the added difficulty.
Sure - for some characters that's true. The thing is, both have depth, but where it comes from is different - and where players draw their satisfaction from is also. I think the problematic fighters are the exception in my mind, but some players like more complex champions. Our job is to make some of those also, but I don't think it's a problem with the game as a whole if there's different levels for different people.
My thought is that no champion is for everyone, but every champion is for someone. Those of us who like higher-complexity champions should have outlets for that, but they shouldn't be every option.
Morello just wondering do you ever give feedback on concept designs in the player concept forums?
I don't mostly due to my time constraints. It takes a long time, there's a lot of them, and if I just did one or two, there's a lot of "playing favorites" perception. I just can't sustain that.
Hey Morello, not exactly the thread for this, but have you guys ever thought of doing a "Fairy Dragon Event" like what happened with DotA? You guys make a champ's model and stuff, then release him/her to the forums to see what kind of skill set you get back that you can tweak/change as needed?
We've talked about it briefly, but I think it has some of the same problems as the Champion Submission thing. I think the potential to feel left out, or not like the changes we make is higher than the amount of good we'd get out of it.
Not saying we never would, but currently I'm not really for it.
Ryan aka ItemsGuy is currently working on a response of your first post - I really hope you'll be responding to that as I think the back and forth conversation/discussion would be very much interesting.
On a side-note: could you explain to me how Varus's design is readable, his theme ?
Looking at his splash art you are getting no more than 'dude with an atheletic body effected by some stuff.' Hence in the Varus Redesign ItemsGuy has made him an 'acrobat archer', being atheletic and agile and all.
Also - what's your opinion on stuff like Brand's Q and W - having W not contributing to his theme in terms of his E and R do (R spreading fire, E burns and enhances both with his passive, E spreads when targets are ablaze aswell as R seeking targets that are ablaze)
Brand's W is no more than a AoE nuke with fire particles, aswell as Q is a lined skillshot with fire particles, they don't really contribute to his theme or 'theming playstyle' except from adding the passive aswell, yet E and R contribute to his theme as individual skills, in combination with adding his passive.
Seems like you gave brand 'a stun for the sake of a stun' - wich also goes on conflict with readability. In my opinion this really waters the experience of playing the ultimate fire mage, as Brand is more about bursting rather than literally burning people alive as that's how fire acts as source material. The ultimate 'Fire Mage' with the 'Fire spreads and burns' playstyle is in my opinion barely present, especially since W is like his bread and butter normal ability, you aren't truly a master of fire.
PS: That's it for me, I hope Ryan will be done soon with his response - I'm going to bed, I'm from EUW. Thanks Morello, hope this discussion will last.
I think this is important to understanding some common language and other expected tropes. Varus could be an agile archer, but with the oversized bow, we were going much more for the sniper styling. Additionally, we wanted the "tortured" good guy, our literal reference material being The Crow. I think he actually selivers on that quite well, especially with the "Soul Edge" bow he has. Now, an agile archer is still an available archetype, even if it's not Varus.
Brand, I think we might be using different source material, but I think both directions have validity. For the fire fantasy, I feel the E, R and passive are on the nose (and seems we agree there), but I also think the W is fantastic - a massive area-effect pillar of fire is very "burn burn burn."
Q's passive interaction is taking a page from our shared language in video games, Fire has been stunning (WoW, Annie) more often than not these days, plus it was a mechanical need. A choice of +damage vs +AOE vs +CC also creates an incomparable decision - something you don't need to always numerically compare to get when you should use what, and instead is dictated by opportunity and situational conditions - something we generally hold as desirable. Brand is likely a disagreement point because I feel he does do a fantastic job of delivering on a fire mage without being myopic in what he can do.
And I think this type of disagreement is normal when creating - we certainly have plenty of these in the normal course of the workday! I feel the more valid critiques are things like Sion (wtf?), Nocturne (he's not an assassin!) and Shen - clear mismatches in one or more major factors. And, I also agree a few of our champions this year (Zyra, Syndra, Darius) have a cool source material area that's executed unsatisfactorily - another reason it's something I want to make sure we focus on.
It also may be that our respective ideas for the "vision" of League characters is just different. There's no one way to create appropriately, and we may just have some different ideas on what League should be, or what's important to characters. This is not to say we don't have a lot of room to improve, but some of these disagreements are difference in design preference - something I find generally healthy
Lyte on the Matchmaking Changes
I'm crunching the data these days and finding some interesting things. I think for the sake of transparency, I'm just going to reveal the numbers I'm seeing.
One, the average game has a much closer win differential than before, so we know the feature is at least doing what it's supposed to. For example, we're seeing ~5% more games in Normal SR where teams only have a 0-49 number of wins difference between teams. In Ranked SR we're seeing ~30% more games with only a 0-49 number of wins difference between teams.
Two, we're seeing that the average game has a similar Elo differential than before, but I think this data point is misleading and we need to deep dive this a bit more. For example, we're seeing lower numbers of games with 20-30 Elo differences between teams which is an unintended effect.
Three, if we define a lopsided game as games with a huge KDA differential or something like 10,000 gold difference, we're not seeing more or less of these games post-patch. It might just be that players who are getting the lopsided matches come and post about it, and the players who are getting fair matches don't.
Taking all three points into account, we believe the Number of Wins feature is a net positive and don't believe it's creating more lopsided games than before. However, we have a few improvements we want to make to the feature--we will most likely increase the weighting for skill rating (Elo) so that skill rating is always much higher priority than number of wins. This will fix Issue #2 I pointed out above, while retaining some of the benefits of adding Number of Wins to the matchmaker.
Riot on PVP.net Store IP and Purchase Issues
Just to follow up with Aregionius's post here: We are currently aware of this issue, and are actively working hard to determine the root cause, and to get this resolved as quickly as possible.
As soon as we get more concrete information, I will be sure to share these updates with all of you!
Hang tight guys, we will get this resolved!