The balance team’s AMA has now concluded; here all the questions answered in the thread:
EDIT: AMA’S DONE FOR TODAY! Thanks for coming out and asking questions – If you’re reading this and missed this one (or if we missed yours D:), we’ll be doing two more this month at the same time! We’ll see y’all at 12:30pm pacific, on Friday 10/23!
If you have follow-up questions or want to stalk us on the internet, you can follow almost all of us on ze twitters at (@RiotJag) (@RiotFeralPony) (@RiotTimeWizard) (@G_mang) (@ManWolfAxeBoss) (@SmashGizmo) (@ricklessabandon) and (@RiotScarizard)
We’ve gathered together the team behind the balance and tuning of League to talk shop about the state of the game, balance, and whatever else you might have on your mind!
On deck, we’ve got:
RiotTimeWizard (amazing Morgana player, holds the record for the highest win streak in ranked of 19 games among teammates)
ricklessabandon (obsessed with ffxiv, lowercases, and playing bloodthirsty supports)
SmashGizmo (prolific melee player and toplane scumbag, known for his top Vi, Pantehon, Olaf, and even Nunu)
ManWolfAxeBoss (actually a wolf)
RiotGmang (slayer of playtests)
RiotJag (top 10 on the vaynespotting leaderboard of busters and marksman enthusiast)
FeralPony (bard lover and a literal pony)
and yours truly! Got a burning question or top-of-mind curiosity? Fire away: Ask Us Anything!
If you want some more behind-the-scenes insights on how League’s balance goes, check out these devblogs by RiotJules and King Jag The King, RiotJag himself!
[ Note ] You can find the user’s post that SmashGizmo addressesÂ below HERE.
Thanks for sharing such in depth thoughts here, really appreciate the effort you put into your post. I’ll try to go through and touch on some of the important parts where we seem to see things differently and hopefully give you some insight as to what we think of Zyra:
- “she is still considered in your point of view as an OP Champion with no rooms to buff”: This just isn’t true. We buffed her plant AI in 5.20 and have been considering additional buffs from there. It is true that we feel pretty limited in what we can actually do because her winrate is actually quite high, which suggests that she’s probably not as weak as people think, but it’s just not true that we don’t consider that we have room to buff her.
- You talk a lot about how we view Zyra as a long ranged mage, but I’d say that we view her as a ‘zone-controller’, more akin to Anivia and Heimerdinger than say Lux and Ziggs. A large part of what defines a zone control mage is their slow movement and set-up time, but extreme power once they have established a position, which is a large part of why they tend to have low defenses and movement and slow casts. What this means for us is that many of the weaknesses you point out on the character are actually intended weaknesses. Her E is supposed to represent a window where she spends set up time to CC opponents and establish plant control and I at least feel it’s important for it to have a longer than usual cast time.
- You also talk a lot about Zyra’s matchups as a Mid laner in the context of professional play. While I think we do want to support Zyra as a Mid Laner for Solo Queue play, it’s felt out of reach to get her into Pro Play as a midlaner (similar to Annie). I don’t want to say that this is completely off the table long term, but as our team mostly works in 2 week spurts, making Zyra a desirable Professional Mid Lane pick without straight breaking her for the overall game is just out of scope.
- With all that being said though, I will say that Zyra probably isn’t getting enough payoff from her kit at the moment. Personally, I have my eye on the Ult knockup duration and Plant scaling throughout the game as potential areas that we could buff on the character in the near future.
Yes, we are looking into nerfs for Riven, and fairly soon! We don’t wanna ‘gut’ her, though. Riven players love their brokesword.
Mostly prepping for Preseason. 5.19 and 5.20 were relatively small, and 5.21 will follow suit as we’re putting the finishing touches on our preseason work.
Then, we will open wide each of our 10 mouths and sing the song that consumes the earth.
reading over your post, it sounds like your analysis of syndra is pretty aligned with our current understanding of where she’s at, how she functions, etc. to recap (and make sure we really are on the same page), here are some key notes about syndra:
- role/function – if we were to ‘zoom out’ and pick just one threat that syndra’s opponents should be mindful of, it’d be her ability to make picks. opponents should need to be more mindful of the space around them when fighting syndra, and mistakes in positioning shouldn’t be forgiven very often. we’d want syndra to be functional in this regard above most other threats she could provide.
- power timing – syndra’s ‘thing’ is about her ascension to more powerful states, so we’d much rather have larger amounts of her power come from things like her upgraded abilities than her first few levels in lane. currently, this is an area where we have a lot of room to improve. changes to address her power/impact/satisfaction in the later phases of a game (e.g., levels 16-18) are likely the next project we’d want to take on for her.
- cadence – i personally feel like syndra is in a really good position to have one of the more satisfying and clearly represented ‘ramping threat’ profiles in league, especially since it directly ties in with her threat relating strongly to a need for spatial control and cashing in on good play there by making picks. i’m not sure if we’d have a strong reason to make further improvements here in the near future, but i can imagine a world in which we get to play this up even more and that makes me excited! practically speaking though, making refinements in this area would likely be a larger undertaking since it’s tied so strongly to the feel of playing the character (which i personally find quite enjoyable) so prioritizing it over other projects can be a tricky proposition.
so, getting back to your original question, i think the future of syndra includes a lot of focus on getting her timings right regarding power curves. we’ll most certainly look at her passive (a lot to be gained there, i feel) and anything else that lines up with a project in that vein. when making those adjustments, we’ll be looking at preserving her baseline function as a control/pick mage and playing up the good feels around her cadence if possible.
hopefully that covers your question!
Don’t see a way we could do that without compromising on her duo lane power. One of the reasons we make Leona so incredibly powerful and tanky without many items is because her base values are calibrated around her not having a gold source.
We tend to let champions like Sejuani (who thrived close to a 60% win rate for a while) level off after we nerf them in some way. We’re not intending to leave them to die and be forgotten, but in the interest of keeping the live environment fresh, we don’t want to rebound and throw more buffs at her, since she only just stopped being picked so much. She’ll be back — we’re just trying to let other champions have some time in the spotlight!
I think I miscommunicated! We don’t want to rotate the META, but we want to make sure that champions all have time to shine at one point or another. The meta shifts itself!
For clarity, a rotational meta to me has some pretty explicit goals where you aim to make a totally new set of characters the dominant choices, often with the subgoal of focusing on selling more content. This is NOT our goal.
Our goal on the team is consistently bring up champions below the balance bar and bring down champions above the bar so we get progressively towards a better state (which will get shuffled around during preseason most likely).
This can have a rotational style effect where the “top tier” of champions is often changes but it’s a very different approach. Sejuani in this case is pretty middle of the pack right now by most metrics (data) and perception, which is a good spot to be for any champion but generally means we won’t revisit her for a little while, as our primary targets are the outliers at the top and bottom.
Rengar, balanced?! IMPOSSIBLE.
Joking aside, Rengar’s win rate and pick rate for the average player are actually reasonable, but as with any other feast or famine type of champion, when he gets strong he feels awful to play against. He’s been a tricky one to keep balanced, because there’s a fine line between removing his cool stealthy burst combo and making him feel ‘fair’. As an assassin, he also is strongly affected by meta shifts. We are still considering ways to make him less faceroll-one-shot feeling without alienating players that really love to play as him.
I’m an ADC/squishy support main, so I definitely empathize with how awful it is to play against people that delete you from the game.
Pretty open-ended question there, and not as many obvious troll responses. Well, let’s say that we do a lot of different types of analysis for what a champion’s numbers should look like. Sometimes we look at pretty basic comparables (i.e. this is Lucian’s full combo at 9 with a BF Sword vs Graves) to get a first sense that something may be off. Then we can look into much more detail. For Ekko before release, Gypsylord and I looked at multiple different burst profiles (poke damage, full damage besides ult, full damage including ult) and measured them against other champions in his class that either had similar burst styles (maybe Diana) or had really spikey high-ends with huge AP Ratios (Leblanc, maybe Annie).
We also have a pretty decent read on knowing what small base stat changes will do to a champ because we’ve seen the effects of them so often.
That said, a lot of what we do is pretty well tied into both the objective aspects of playing a champion (i.e. this guy has X base damage at 13), as well as the subjective aspects (i.e. we have a huge amount of expertise on this topic, and we can confidently say that Darius is overtuned…that one may be a gimme).
Totally bro, gotta climb that ladder.
Kidding aside, I stay far away from pushing for buffs for any champions I’m playing to avoid conflicts of interest. Additionally, I’ve never pushed for any buffs on any champions I’ve designed for similar reasons. The champions I’m currently playing are,
- Tahm Kench
- Miss Fortune
- Cassio (just starting to pick her up)
I generally steer away from Mid Lane, but I find Veigar’s Q double-tap farming pattern really fun. I’m more of a Support/Jungler.
As for do members of the balance team use their secret insider knowledge of the state of the game? Generally no, but it depends on the person. I play Bard and Udyr as my two main guys in Ranked. Neither is exactly topping the win rate charts, but I enjoy playing them and can carry a game with either.
It doesn’t give you much of an edge anyways, most of the data we have available is essentially public knowledge. It’s not really a secret for example that Wukong is reeeeeeeeaaaallllly strong, just not seen professionally. The best advice in League generally is play the champions you know, and you’ll do better then just grabbing the “OPs”
Numbers actually don’t discriminate when it comes to things like pick rate, win-rate etc for supports like you might imagine – though they’re often banned far less than other champions unless they’re wayyyy out of line (A little while ago, Janna sported a higher win-rate than maybe all but ~6 champions in our game, but was banned in less than 1% of games). TL;DR – We evaluate supports on similar metrics to the rest of our champions, though we’ve seen large swings from small changes in this category specifically due to the smaller pool of supports (so even a small nudge could make someone played a ton or played a little, because the next one replaces it).
Heavily, actually. Our changes to all of the Juggernauts in 5.18 (where all 4 + GP/Fiora were nerfed) were actually done with champions like Gnar in mind, who we consider to be a popular and effective counterpick to these champions. Worlds has proven this to be mostly true, though obviously GP and Mordekaiser need further work.
Often times if some champion or strategy is domineering, we’ll think a lot about why that is – and in some cases, endeavor to buff a champion or item that’s part of that champion’s counter-matchup (such as making Spectre’s Cowl more efficient/better when mages are everywhere top, etc).
We have a few changes to pathfinding that should make Unit Collision a little smoother in lane for Preseason.
I’m not sure how much I can get into with Quinn. All I can say is, we have been testing some changes to her that I am super excited for, as something of a Quinn enthusiast. You may be able to ask RiotRepertoir for more, he’s been doing some really cool work there.
We have a ton of different metrics that feed into our balance decisions. For example, we look at base win rate across all elo, Plat+ win rates, pro win rates, and experienced player (more than 30 games on a given champion) win rates. Aside from win rate, we look at picks and bans, popularity, player perception, etc. We monitor this stuff from patch to patch, so it’s pretty easy to pick up on trends as well as predict them.
We get together for each sprint (basically our tasks per patch) to both pick tasks and assign them. We use a healthy mix of data and intuition to select our projects and then assign them pretty organically (whoever wants it, takes it – though we tend to have people who “own” various champions because they have more experience with them than anyone else)
Like most of Riot, and really game development in general, we’re pretty diverse. We have people with no college education up through PhD’s. It creates a really unique design atmosphere because everyone sees things in a different way. Some people are very good about thinking in systems, others better in numbers or thematics. It’s a lot of fun.
We work with pretty much everyone in “core” LoL, Champion, Champion Update, Game Systems, and so forth. It’s super important to understand not only what everyone is working on, but also why. Cross-team alignment can be tricky, but it’s a must for game health and balance.
Definitely a bit on the strong side. I still believe that the changes made in 5.18 were important to make his W feel like a reasonable skill on it’s own (not just a slave to his E), and take away the weirdness around missing champion last hits on his Q, but it does appear to have put the character a bit overboard. We’re currently investigating some nerfs to the guy and I think are leaning towards easing back on his base damages a bit to soften up his lane and play up his role as a hyper-scaling evil mastermind.
Someone’s secret weapon and they don’t want to show their hand yet…
Alternatively, popular team compositions right now aren’t terribly favorable for Lux, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she showed up.
I’d agree with MWAB here – Lux’s performance in normal play (especially since 5.17) has actually improved a lot, but professional teams just don’t seem to be valuing their pick-potential from the midlane, opting for Kalista, Kench, Thresh, Elise etc to do that for them.
She’s got the waveclear though. She’s one of my few picks (like caitlyn, thx flash wolves :D) to still see play before the tournament’s end!
With you on the jack of all trades aspect atm, but I don’t think she’s missing in high moments (her ult + Charm is still a premiere pick combo). I think Ahri is probably on the strong side a bit, may need to keep an eye here.
Changes are more focused on making each Marksman feel unique and different, highlighting what they’re really good at, and making sure they’re supported by our current itemization. The changes are less about changing relative power levels and altering the meta.
I think some of the changes might make Teemo/Urgot feel a bit better about being Marksmen, but we don’t have a true “Urgot ADC dream item” in the works. The changes aren’t huge, but personally speaking, when testing them I think people do feel like they had a bit more choices and build flexibility than on Live.
Perhaps not an exciting answer, but these are really case-by-case. For instance ‘no hard-cc on an assassin’ is thrown out the window by Ekko, but we specifically designed all of his damage output and abilities around that fact. I’d say it’s generally less that there are ‘hard rules’ and more that there are some mechanics or abilities that are handled with extreme care. For instance, sustain and hard CC tend to be some of the ones that make people the most nervous – having the highest ‘potential’ to get out of control if not handled carefully.
regarding the other questions, yasuo has an easier time in mid lane right now than we’d historically be content with given the current balance state of the game overall (items, balance of other champions, etc). this in some part points us into looking at other champions (like zed, for example) and doing a deeper dive on them. tahm kench is someone we’ll almost certainly need to look at again next season, but there’s still quite a bit to assess here in terms of which strengths are the healthiest/best to keep strong and which ones could potentially cause problemsâ€”same goes for his weaknesses. we’re not currently in a rush to jump on tahmmy boy though, so we have a bit of time to digest all the data we have coming in for him and that should lead to a more complete analysis soon.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me atÂ @NoL_ChefoÂ or e-mail me at email@example.com.