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[Dev Blog] New Champion Select Roundtable

December 8th, 2015

Dev Blog New Champ Select Roundtable

New champion select roundtable


As you may have seen already, we’re introducing an all-new way to build a team and enter a game of League during the 2016 season. Join designers Jeffrey “Lyte” Lin, Eric “Socrates” Kenna, and Kam “Boourns” Fung for a roundtable discussion as they talk about the new design for champion select.

When did we start working on new champ select?

Jeff Lin: It all started about a year ago, while we were working on what we internally called Team Builder Classic. What we were trying to do was figure out the tradeoff between giving players more control over how they play versus the impact on queue times. In that first experiment, actually, we realized that we didn’t handle that tradeoff well at all. We gave players too much control, and queue times really suffered. We took a break, looked at all of the data and the lessons we could learn from it, and we said, “Hey, we learned a lot from Team Builder, it’s time for us to actually take that and work on a project to come up with a better way to do champ select.”

Many designers moonlight as minimalist sketch artists.

What were some of the problems we saw, not only with old champ select, but also Team Builder?

Eric Kenna: A ton of responsibility was front-loaded onto the first person at the top of the champ select screen. So with new champ select, we wanted to distribute the responsibility so that banning and planning became a team exercise. It’s much more of a conversation now than just one person making all the decisions.

Lin: We want champ select to be the beginning of your game experience, which is fundamentally different from how we were thinking about it before. We don’t want you to think, “Oh well, I’m last pick, I’m going to go to the bathroom and come back in five minutes, I don’t even care what my teammates are doing.” We want this new experience to emphasize that you’re all working together; each teammate has impactful choices to make that will affect the team comp you’re assembling.

Early tests of distributed bans.

Kenna: [The old system took] five random strangers and put them into a high pressure situation where they had to solve complex strategic problems, with presupposed notions about where they want to go–usually conflicting, by the way–and said, “Figure it out.” Oh, and sometimes, it’s ranked, so if you can’t sort this stuff out, you might be totally screwed. There’s just not a good way with that system for people to get along.

Lin: Also, we didn’t understand what “enforcing the meta” meant. So, in the old days, we thought that not enforcing the meta meant that players could always choose whatever position, whatever champion they wanted. But in the game design for League, there are only four sources of income. Three lanes and a jungle. That’s well-defined by the game itself, so the positions are not where diversity comes from. In the new champ select, it’s all about the champions you play in those positions.

Kenna: In this case, when players wanted to try something really off-meta, they were doing it in groups of five. It’s not as if players were going into to lobby with four dudes they don’t know and saying, “Hey, we’re doing this Heimerdinger ADC thing.”

Kam Fung: Or, maybe they do talk it out in the lobby, but it’s a conversation.

Lin: That’s important. One of the complaints about Team Builder was, “We can’t do a knock-up comp, or [insert-the-blank comp].” Now we just assign positions, so when you get in, you can suggest whatever comp you’re thinking of. We’ve worked that into the system.

Rethinking champ select.

Fung: The time you would have previously spent typing up your position and arguing with the other guy who wants mid, now we’ve just got rid of all that stuff.You might have less time technically, but you actually have more time to try and coordinate.

Lin: We’ve actually cut the time between decisions in a lot of the phases of new champ select, but because we’ve streamlined the whole process, you end up with more time to talk about what really matters.

So with everything you’ve mentioned, going back to even the fundamentals of champ select, what kind of background exploration went into the new design?

Kenna: Tons. But seriously, we did all kinds of surveys, we flew in pro players, we wanted to get even early iterations in the hands of as many people as possible to make sure we got it right.

Lin: This is an example of, even from the very beginning, a week into April, we had prototypes up, grey boxes up, and we got people in to give feedback. “We know what you’re seeing isn’t even close to final, but if this happened in champ select, what would you think?” To Eric’s point, we brought in as many players as possible, even new players who’d never played League before. Pros from Korea, Europe, NA. We wanted feedback from every angle.

Starting with grey boxes.

Fung: Player Behavior is a research-driven team; when we’re changing something so fundamental, we have a lot of questions we need to answer. In the beginning of new champ select, we did a bunch of stuff that just wasn’t that great, and we needed to work through that.

Lin: Champ select impacts every single player. When we make a change, the gut reaction is, “it’s not as good as before,” so every choice we make has to be intentional, has to provide players enough obvious value to get over the gut reaction. We want players to say, “Oh that’s super awesome, I totally get it, and it’s super obvious why.”

How much of the old Team Builder design influenced new champ select?

Kenna: So much of it is having the toolset to communicate with your team, instead of having to type in chat or try to resolve a conflict through text. We’ve procedurally solved for some of this so that you can have conversations about strategy and the game itself.

Lin: When we analyzed old champ select, it was obvious the biggest source of conflict was two people wanting to go mid, or two wanting to jungle, and it’s like, “Well, I only play jungle, you have to give it to me.” The solution of resolving that early will solve a lot of the tension.

Sketching new visuals and animations.

Kenna: You think about it, playing with your friends, you know what your friends want to play, where they’re best, and now with new champ select, the positions are decided and you see, “Oh, this guy plays Teemo.” You might think, “I’m not going to ban Teemo because I want to give this guy his strongest champion.” It’s a huge step to getting teams to come together.

Fung: Aspirationally, it would be amazing if we could make champ select feel like playing premade fives. When we watch pros talk through champ selects–how close can we get five random strangers to sounding like that?

We’ve talked about the problems we’ve seen with old champ select, some of the solutions we’re trying out — what are some outcomes you’re hoping for?

Kenna: If you go to play League of Legends, you don’t end up with an experience where you’re forced into a role you didn’t want to play. We want to eliminate those uncomfortable, stressful moments, and give teams the tools to work together to be more successful.

Lin: This is a rare opportunity in games — the game has been around for six years now.We just had the League birthday, and to get this chance to go back in time, to ask ourselves how we would have designed champ select if we had a second chance. If we get this out the door and the vast majority of players feel like, “this is how League should be,” or “this is what I’ve always wanted the champ select experience to be like,” then I feel like we’ll have been successful.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at [email protected]