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Pantheon recently received a nerf to the landing time on his ultimate, to properly coincide with the animation. After the community’s backlash at this being labeled a bugfix right after Dragonslayer Pantheon was released, Pwyff came up to the forums to explain the team’s reasoning.
Riot Pwyff: Alright I just got some spare time to write (aka I just got home).
First – sorry for the delay in the response. I got the information wrong the first time (see my first post) so I spent today ensuring we had the full information before saying anything else.
Second – the change itself.
There’s a nuanced approach that needs to be taken when it comes to a “bug” that the community has generally learned to play around / with. When a bug is taken for granted so much that it essentially gets factored into a champion’s power budget (“Oh, Pantheon’s Grand Skyfall is fairly forgiving as a gank/setup ability, given what he can do”), we need to take a more nuanced approach to fixing what was, at the end of the day, a very real visual clarity issue.
At the end of the day, Grand Skyfall is an ability that promises two things:
a) Pantheon will land at the center of the circle, dealing damage
b) Getting away from the center of the circle ensures your safety
Before we fixed this bug both of the above statements were factually incorrect. Pantheon could literally movewhile in his falling pattern, and he could cast spells (not queue up spells, literally cast them) while on his downward fall. Not only that, but Grand Skyfall actually dealt its damage a full 0.5 seconds later than when Pantheon landed. So enemies that moved away from the epicenter in that time period simply took less damage.
ALl of this is significant because any form of visual expectation or gameplay expectation from someone who doesn’t know Pantheon can be confusing. Pantheon literally lands at the edge of his circle with a stun, and then damage is dealt in the aoe. It’s weird.
The fix, however, was ham-fisted. Not in its game health aspirations but in its narrative aspirations. It literally told no story. There wasn’t a “look, you need to understand what visual clarity means and why it’s so important to us” – instead it accidentally got in without setting the stage, and nobody took ownership of it until it was way too late. Catastrophically so.
So design-wise, what does this mean? We’re going to keep a close eye on Pantheon on live right now. The issue is that, from an internal data standpoint Pantheon’s not seeing incredible losses in certain statistics (win rates, etc). This is probably due to Feral Flare junglers getting nerfed and SotEL junglers taking over the throne (Kha/Lee/Panth).
Regardless, this is was a significant functionality shift for visual clarity at the cost of expected gameplay. We will be fixing Pantheon. I don’t mean this in the sense of reverting the change completely, because we still value visual clarity. If Pantheon needs a shorter channel / indication period before he lands, we’ll look into that. We’ll absolutely need to fix Pantheon’s ability to be affected by AoEs before he lands (that’s just bad). We’re not doing great on trust in this regard, but I hope you can trust that we will find the healthiest change that retains Pantheon’s feel without sacrificing visual clarity.
Third – the skin fiasco and/or refunds.
You’ll notice in the above I don’t comment on the skin at all, and that’s because our designers made the change independent of if/when the skin was launching. The skins team went to the champ design bros and asked them to help clean up Pantheon’s scripts so his model could be hooked up right. While the champ bro was doing it, he decided to also fix the visual discrepancy with Pantheon’s ult. The change went through without documentation because it was forgotten.
When this bug was raised we immediately raised visibility and asked, and the first response was that this was simply a visual clarity fix and had no functionality change. I communicated that quickly and felt it was alright. Unfortunately, the issue flared up again when tons of Pantheon players picked up the skin and started discussing even more. I did a deeper analysis with SmashGizmo and we realized that this also had huge implications on Pantheon’s bugged capabilities. Rather than simply leaving it, we decided that messaging it was important.
At no point were sales ever considered in this equation and it kind of depresses me that such a conclusion can be jumped to, given we’ve shot ourselves overtly in the foot before (hi Riven). When the evidence suggests this was simply malpractice, but players are yelling at us being greedy (what kind of tradeoff is that?) it’s kind of weird.
On the point of refunds, I can’t promise they’ll just be given out ad-hoc, but player support does listen and read tickets, and as players too I’m sure they’d understand the circumstances. Regardless of refunds, however, I’d make the statement that skins purchases have never been about power and/or immunity from change. The skin represents the months of work put into it for animations, visual effects, and modeling, and purchasing a skin has always been a visual commitment. Obviously that sounds logical up until your favorite champion gets nerfed and you find it difficult to play them, but it’s a statement of sorts.
I ended up writing an essay here, but I wanted to be sure I covered all the bases. This is just me writing at home because I realized I didn’t manage to give this my full attention while at work.
Answers to Criticism
Riot Pwyff: Quick answers and then I have to run out for the day
I can see how that would be interpreted. I was just trying to explain why it took me so long (and not a bunch of people sitting in a room hashing out the answer). My bad.
How about I buy a car, and then the seller tells me ” Oh I forgot to mention, the engine has been damaged during our yesterdays maintenance. Sorry slipped my mind. But new car does not protect you from … engine damage… especially the one that i kept hidden.” How does that sound to you?
Here’s the thing and I’m not using this to invalidate your opinion, but hear me out: you buy a car for its aesthetic andengine. Those are both implicit in the price, or cars with incredible engines and horrendous aesthetics wouldn’t be worth what they’re worth. Buying a Pantheon skin and seeing that he’s less powerful than what he used to be does relate to a sense of expectation, but if we were to ship this change in 4.9 with clear messaging before and after (but with less bugs…), this would be a game health change for a champion who happened to have a skin. We did this exact same thing with Riven when her Lunar New Year skin came out.
From a player perspective each change can be taken personally, so a reaction like this isn’t unwarranted. The issue with hotfixes, so close to a patch cycle (which brings other changes and other pieces of content for playersr) is that a hotfix is inherently far more risky for the larger playerbase. If a bug gets introduced with a hotfix, there’s no expectation that the servers will be down for another hour while it’s being deployed, whereas with regular patch releases we get the opportunity to do it right and in a stable way.
The problem is that this change got fully investigated just as the code locked for 4.8. What that means is that we stopmaking any significant changes to the game code for a patch because we want to ensure it’s stable to deploy early next week (so we focus on any new bugs that could crash games, etc). This was probably the worst timing I’ve ever seen of a bug being noticed, a skin being released, and a change being undocumented, but there it is. We’re working as fast as we can without tripping over the servers to do so.
Feels like you didn’t read the game health aspect of this change. It was a good direction and there are many changes for game health that won’t be appreciated but sometimes need to be made. That’s a truth.
Agreed, it’s a nerf. It’s also a bug that gave Pantheon a lot of unexpected power. Can we agree on that?
That’s what we did. Literally. The problem is, is that if Pantheon lands when the damage gets dealt then he’s effectively unable to move / cast spells before that, which is exactly the change we made.
We’re looking into that. Final point: Grand Skyfall has always been intended as an inconsistent ability used to zone out / scare the **** out of people as they’re engaging. It still accomplishes that, but, yes, at the cost of the Pantheon player.
Many things contribute to win rate, which is why it’s not the only data point we ‘balance’ by. The landscape of the game can shift, or a skin can be released that causes a huge influx of players, or the champion gets picked in LCS, etc. It’s a nerf and a bug fix.
To your first sentence (exactly the proof), it was the opposite. It was difficult to understand why his win rate wasn’t tanking if the change ‘gutted him’ and made him completely inviable, which is what many of you are saying here. I’m guessing it’s because of the whole Feral Flare nerf / SotEL resurgence masking / balancing his losses and gains, but he’s still 50/50 in win rates. I never use win rates as a statistic because they tell an extremely incomplete story, but it’s a data point to consider.
Literally they forgot to document it. Our documentation process is: “if you made a change, put it in this page and Aether / Pwyff (Aether does a lot of work on the holistic patch notes + visuals) will make sure it gets published.”
They considered the gameplay implications, felt this was appropriate for game health, and then made the change. Then they forgot to document it. Human error.
We made the official statement after we fully confirmed what this was. It took that long because sometimes these things do take time (well that’s a redundant statement). We were slow though, I admit that.
So here’s where I disagree. You’re using circumstantial evidence to justify a position while I’m using inductive evidence to do so. I explained why and how this happened, but you’re still trying to attribute malice or greed because in your mind that makes the most logical sense. That said, we have no history of ever ninja nerfing for a skin, and due to the way our game is coded (see above) we occasionally run into hilariously tragic circumstances like these. I’ll once again raise Riven as a counterpoint of a champion we nerfed as we released a skin (and we talked about it openly). I’m sure there are a number of champions we’ve done this to (Udyr and his legendary skin I think?).
We had no idea the skin was being released when it was released, but it DID raise additional visibility to find out what was going on. That’s it.
Answers to Criticism (to continued)
Riot Pwyff: First, the concept of holding someone ‘hostage’ to answering a hostile (and leading) set of questions is disrespectful for anyone (Rioters or otherwise) and I’m concerned people think that’s a viable approach to having a discussion.
That said, I’ll answer a few things then I’m going to leave the topic alone just because I think we’re exhausted most constructive things to say (outside of straight disagreement!). We’re definitely investigating the whole thing:
Player Communications isn’t the equivalent of a Community Manager – nobody at Riot is specifically hired to only talk on the forums because every Rioter can do so. Player Communications is a simple way of saying that my job focuses on communications management / strategy (how we can be transparent and communicate our intentions in the best ways possible). Interacting in this forum topic, for example, probably only communicates to a dozen (maybe a hundred) players who are bumping it. Beyond that, everyone else reads the first few posts (or doesn’t even read them thoroughly, as some comments demonstrate) and then they leave.
You’re actually an example of one such, as we get to:
I’ve owned the mistake within this thread and I haven’t deleted or changed any previous communications. Specifically I asked about it, the designer said it now visually matched up, but didn’t realize the whole “could cast abilities while off-screen” change was a larger issue (or failed to indicate to me). As such, my first communication was misinformed and I investigated deeper when I heard more feedback. That’s what happened, plain and simple. There are apologies to be made on my behalf (sorry I didn’t do my due diligence), however, the argument that Pantheon is nigh useless because of this nerf is just plain wrong. I would agree this is a nerf, but Panth’s win rate has remained close to unaffected throughout this patch, and that is a true fact.
That Pantheon ‘feels’ clunkier or less smooth is more of an issue we will tackle.
I think we do feel Pantheon needed a nerf – specifically for the sake of clarity. He simply wasn’t performing what his visual expectation was, and you have to play against him constantly to understand that he can move and cast spells before he lands. In other words, tribal knowledge.
That said, where the communication failure compounded this because we effectively ‘clarified’ 4+ years of tribal knowledge without properly setting context. That’s where we failed, plain and simple.
Because prior to this change, Pantheon needed a nerf if anything. He’s extremely strong and inhibits a lot of early game junglers along with gank-heavy dueling champions like Lee Sin and Elise.
The TLDR of your question is… “why not buff instead of nerfing?” which is a little odd.
The point of mandrop was never to be a consistent form of engagement like Malphite or Vi. Vi’s counterplay is supposed to be “what do you do after Vi completes her ult on you.” Malphite’s counterplay is that his ult has a fast windup but a smaller AoE so you stay apart. Pantheon’s ult is a form of zone control, similar to Thresh. Thresh doesn’t simply throw out the box whenever he wants – he has to choose the right area where his opponents want to be (or to get out of) before he chucks out a box.
Pantheon’s ganks / sphere of influence out of a skyfall drop covers a full lane. The standard gank remains relatively unchanged: ult far enough back to accommodate for the enemy escape and your teammates need to hard engage to shove enemies into it (or around it). I think we can do things to fine tune the visual drop to capability of action for Pantheon if we were to make changes, and I’d probably push back if we gave compensatory buffs (which I don’t think he needs) on something like Q.
As for the bug where Pantheon can be interacted with before he lands, that’s definitely a bug and needs to be fixed soon.
One thing I’d note is that people seem to believe Pantheon’s ult should be absolutely consistent, but I disagree. The built-in counterplay is that his mandrop is super predictable but it significantly alters how people play around it.
Q: Was this stealth-fix (nerf) a bait-and-switch to boost sales on Pantheon’s Dragonslayer skin?
BuboBubo: I am on the eCommerce team. It’s a small enough group that each of us have full visibility into each other’s work. I can guarantee that this was not some underhanded scheme to boost sales. It’s just an oversight in a way that can be interpreted as suspicious but there’s no intent to deceive. It’s simply not something we would even consider.
Q: (Follow-up) Then why not offer refunds?
BuboBubo: Refunds, outside of the 3 tokens, have never been given for balance changes afaik.
Edit: my mistake, I should have said bug fix. I misspoke because of the discussions around this being a nerf.
Q: So you admit this was a balance change?
BuboBubo: My mistake – it was a bug fix. I accidentally used balance change because people are calling it a nerf.
Q: Shouldn’t the balance team be aware when community relations affect sales?
BuboBubo: I respectfully disagree. I think it is a good thing that the team that works on gameplay don’t think about the impact it might have on revenue. If we were spending time coordinating what’s necessary for gameplay (bugs, balance changes, etc) with its impact on skin revenue then I would be more concerned.
And I apologize if my responses are not ideal or come off brusque, the topic is just very close to home.
Q: Is there a Bronze or Challenger Rioter?
Meddler: Yeah, we’ve got a full spectrum of divisions within Riot from people who are new to the game and not yet 30 to at least a couple of people that hit solo queue challenger sometimes (Riot Chun’s probably the highest at the moment at a guess).
Q: How do Splash Arts maintain quality when stretched for major eSports events?
Riot JxE: We make sure we’re creating the art at a high enough resolution to handle a 2k screen. Most of the time larger screens don’t actually have a higher resolution and you’re looking at it from so far away that you can’t tell the difference. This is usually the case with giant printed posters as well and if you get up close you can usually see the low resolution.
Q: Who did the recent splash arts for Malphite, Dragonslayer Pantheon and Night Hunter Rengar?
Riot JxE: That was actually three completely different artists
Q: Yes or No for a Neon Shot Jinx Skin, similar to Neon Strike Vi?
RiotWrist: Neon Strike Vi recall best recall.
I vote yes just because it would be insanely fun to work on a similar recall and mix in some of Jinx’s crazy personality.
5/19 Issues receiving signup emails or refer-a-friend emails
Riot NOC: Summoners,
We are aware that you may not be receiving signup emails or refer-a-friend emails at this time. We are in the process of correcting this issue and will update the thread when it is resolved. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.
Lissandra disabled in EU LCS
Brackhar leaves Riot Games
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo.