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CLAIRVOYANCE BLOG

It is a truth universally acknowledged that LAG SUCKS. Plenty of players experience ping spikes, lag, and full-blown disconnects all the time. But what if there was a quick fix for all your connection issues? For some players, there might be: switching from WiFi to an Ethernet connection when you play could have drastic results for your in-game experience.


I’m Viscarious, a product manager on Riot’s live services team. About six months ago, I lagged out of a game so hard that I decided I had to do something about it. It was the last game of my placement series, and I was playing as Sona supp. Our jungler was thundering into bot lane for a gank, and my Jinx ADC landed a sick double trap on our opponents (Leona and Ezreal). First blood was guaranteed. I was just about to follow-up with my ult when the lag gods smote me. The next thing I knew, Jinx was dead and the enemy Ezreal was snowballing. All I could do was apologize and resist the urge to kick my router.

I had to wonder: what if my problems were caused by my WiFi connection? What if, to claim my rightful spot as a true PC gaming god at the top of the challenger ladder, all I had to do was switch to Ethernet? To understand the problem as deeply as possible (and because this is a Clairvoyance blog post) I dug into some data to find out.

 

TERMS TO UNDERSTAND


 

PLAYING PING PONG AND LOSING SOME PACKETS

 

WIFI VS. ETHERNET: AVERAGE PING DELTA
IN MILLISECONDS

When you look at League players around the world, the average ping for players on a WiFi connection is between 6.7ms and 11.7ms higher than for those using an Ethernet connection.

However, this usually doesn’t manifest as consistently higher ping. Instead, increased ping is frequently experienced as ping spikes; your ping increases significantly over a short period of time, then goes back down a few moments later(usually after your whole team is already dead and the enemy Yi is dancing around your nexus). The chart above doesn’t show the severity or duration of ping spikes—just the average ping difference over the course of many games.

 

WIFI VS. ETHERNET: AVERAGE PACKET-LOSS DELTA

IN PERCENTAGE POINTS

Similarly, we found that players on WiFi had between 1.9 and 3.7 percentage points higher packet-loss than players on Ethernet. While this may not seem like a lot, there are two things to consider:

1. Every time a packet is lost between your computer and Riot’s servers, a request has to be made for that packet again. You want your packet-loss percentage numbers to be as close to zero as possible because, depending on when the packet-loss happens, you could miss a last-hit, fail to activate your ult, or even whiff the smite on Baron (that’s definitely what it was, right junglers?).

2. Similar to our ping chart, this doesn’t show the magnitude or duration of packet-loss when it happens. Players most commonly feel lag when there are big spikes in packet-loss. The 1.9 to 3.7 percent figure is just the average difference between WiFi and Ethernet players over the course of many games.


 

WHO’S PLAYING ON WIFI?

Out of curiosity, we analyzed who is playing on Ethernet and WiFi and came across some pretty interesting results:

Some regions rely on WiFi way more than others. While over 90 percent of games in KR are played on Ethernet, well over half of games played in NA and OCE are on WiFi.

 

PERCENT OF GAMES PLAYED BY CONNECTION TYPE

BY REGION

Part of this is likely due to the popularity of hard-wired PC bangs in Korea, but it’s also probably because we NA players are complete scrublords.

We saw a slight increase in Ethernet use in Ranked games compared to ARAM and Normal games across all regions.

 

PERCENT OF GAMES PLAYED BY CONNECTION TYPE

BY GAME MODE

But most interesting was the change in Ethernet vs. WiFi use by rank. Across all regions, a higher percentage of high-rank games were played on Ethernet. Although we’re not able to draw a causal relationship between playing on Ethernet and an increase in your rank, it’s clear that players at higher ranks are more likely to play on Ethernet. My best guessplanation for this is that highly ranked players are more likely to do everything possible to play on glorious, photo-worthy, wired battlestations.

 

PERCENT OF GAMES PLAYED BY CONNECTION TYPE

BY TIER


 

HOW DOES WIFI AFFECT GAME PERFORMANCE?

We now know two things: 1) WiFi has an adverse affect on connection quality, and 2) it’s unlikely that Faker has ever played on a WiFi connection. So the next question is whether your WiFi or Ethernet connection affects your in-game performance in a measurable way.

For this analysis we decided to look at a range of gameplay metrics including: Minions Killed (CS), Gold Earned, K/D/A, Mastery Grade, and Win/Loss ratio. We decided to isolate our analysis to ranked games and players who played the same champion on both Ethernet and WiFi within the timeframe analyzed. Basically, we didn’t want to compare the same player’s Mastery Grade with Fizz on Ethernet to their Mastery Grade with Fiddlesticks on WiFi (since ping affects some champs more than others).

We didn’t find conclusive evidence that playing on WiFi negatively impacts certain specific performance metrics such as CS, K/D/A, or Mastery Grade.

Our analysis included only NA region players, but the results should apply globally.After all that gloom and doom we found about ping spikes, the results surprised us. No matter how we cut the data, we didn’t find conclusive evidence that playing on WiFi negatively impacts certain specific performance metrics such as CS, K/D/A, or Mastery Grade.

We have a few hypotheses regarding this:

1. While lag experienced from WiFi can negatively impact gameplay, it usually only has noticeable effects intermittently, so it’s difficult to isolate the effects within the course of a game (i.e. it’s hard to find the signal among the noise)

2. Players on WiFi may be able to adapt to added ping and packet-loss (playing around it, effectively).

3. Since there are four other players on the team, the impact of one WiFi player may not significantly influence the outcome of a game, especially if there are other players on WiFi on the other team.

When we removed the constraint that players had to play the same champion, we found that the win-rate on Ethernet was 1.1% to 1.7% higher than on WiFI.

Surprisingly, when we removed the constraint that players had to play the same champion across WiFi and Ethernet, we found that the win-rate on Ethernet was 1.1 to 1.7 percentage points higher than on WiFi. This is pretty consistent across regions. We’re really not sure why removing the champion constraint had this result. One hypothesis is that by controlling for champion across connection types, we’re also focusing more on players’ main champs. If you main a champ, you probably get used to dealing with the ping spikes that come with WiFi, but those same spikes hit you harder when you’re just learning a champ.

 

ETHERNET VS. WIFI: DELTA IN WIN-RATE

IN PERCENTAGE POINTS


 

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

The same night I lost that disastrous promo game, I popped open a browser tab and bought a 50 ft. Ethernet cable. After untangling my cat from the wire, I ran diagnostics on my network and found some pretty drastic differences in the quality of my connection on Ethernet vs. WiFi.

 

CONNECTION QUALITY OF WIFI GAME SAMPLE


Ping



Packet-loss



Both


 

CONNECTION QUALITY OF ETHERNET GAME SAMPLE


Ping


Packet-loss



Both


 

CONNECTION METRIC WIFI
SAMPLE
ETHERNET
SAMPLE
AVERAGE PING 62.4ms 38.2ms
AVERAGE PACKET-LOSS 3.9% 0.0%
JITTER 33.7ms 0.21ms
PING ‘SPIKES’ (>2X LOWEST PING) 19 0
PACKET-LOSS ‘SPIKES’ (>15% PACKET-LOSS) 9 0

Sure enough, I was experiencing higher ping, more packet-loss, and more connection issues when on WiFi. Especially interesting was theway I was experiencing lag. While there were periods of stability over the course of the game, there were also short periods with large spikes in either ping or packet-loss. These were the times that I felt lag most acutely.

 

 

My experience was pretty extreme, but let’s throw this to the commenters: what’s your own experience using either connection type? What lengths have you gone to improve your connection (longer than 50ft?) and how many of you intend to switch to Ethernet after reading this post?

 

Dev Blog Kled the Noxian Meme Banner

Riot’s latest dev blog explores the creative process behind Kled and some early concept art of his:

 

Champion Insights Kled the Noxian Meme

BY CACTOPUS

If Noxian soldiers made memes, what would they look like?

imageA weird question, maybe, but you can find the answer by cracking open a history book and flipping back to the 1940s, when American GIs were tramping around Europe during World War II. Around that time, a pre-internet meme started to appear as graffiti across the continent—an image of a little bald man with an enormous nose peeking over a wall. His name was Kilroy.

It’s unclear exactly where Kilroy came from or who first drew him. Some say Kilroy was named after a man who worked as an American shipyard inspector in the ’40s, but a very similar drawing is said to have appeared among Australian soldiers as early as the first World War. Whatever the case, American GIs couldn’t resist doodling Kilroy all over territory they’d conquered, even if it got them thrown into the stocks for a night. To the soldiers, Kilroy was an icon representing their victories, their values, their identities. Kilroy was the spirit of those soldiers.

Just like Kled is the spirit of enlisted Noxians.

image (1)

 

THE FUZZY BLOODTHIRSTY SPIRIT OF NOXUS

image (2)Life isn’t easy for the men serving among the lowest ranks of the Noxian soldier class. To survive in that job you have to learn to love war, hate cowardice, and seize whatever bloodsoaked glory you can get.

With this in mind, we began to imagine a character who would take those Noxian warrior values to the extreme—an ornery creature that relished riding into battle and chopping off heads. Someone who’d never back away from a fight, who’d always want to go HAM. Who better to represent the ideals of these troops than a murderous, mounted, yordle soldier?

 

We set to work developing a champ that would encourage hyper-aggressive gameplay. We didn’t yet have any real idea of what the character would look like, so our designers slapped together a prototype using existing assets. The first model was literally Gentleman Gnar riding around on a tiny Hecarim.

“When you got dismounted, the little Hecarim would run away and the Gnar would be left by himself,” says champion designer Iain “Harrow” Hendry. “Sometimes,” he says with a smile, “you need an expressive prototype to sell an idea.”

When it comes to nimble AD champs designed mostly for the top lane (we call them “skirmishers”), your options include folks like Yasuo, Riven, and Tryndamere. Each of these champs is designed for the kinds of players who like going in deep, usually a bit further than they should. All of these characters, says Harrow, are sort of tryhard champs. “These are super-serious people with super-serious swords,” he says. “The goal was to make Kled a little more playful than his skirmisher peers.”

When designing Kled’s abilities, we went out of our way to avoid giving him anything that felt defensive or “safe.” Everything Kled does is about incentivizing and rewarding aggressive, risky actions. He has to charge straight into battle to get the shield from his ult. Even when he uses his unmounted “disengage” move, Pocket Pistol, he’s firing a gun blast to knock himself back.

We’ve always thought about Kled as “light cavalry,” as opposed to Sejuani’s “heavy cavalry” role, but there are other ways we wanted to differentiate Kled from the boar-riding jungler. One thematic problem for Sejuani is that her mechanics don’t emphasize interaction with Bristle, her boar. If we removed Bristle altogether and Sejuani was just a big ol’ lady, it wouldn’t necessarily make a difference to her gameplay.

So, we wondered, how could we fix this for Kled? What sort of relationship might he have with his mount?
mazonaws.com/newsoflegends-content/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/03115446/image-3.jpg”>image (3)


A YORDLE AND HIS GUTLESS LIZARDBIRDTHING

image (4)Kled may be a yordle, but that doesn’t mean he has to be cute. “Cuteness isn’t valued by the Noxians,” says art lead Edmundo “odnumde” Sanchez. “He’s sort of a weird little goblin, and that was the vibe we were going for. He’s supposed to look very wicked.”

Skaarl, meanwhile, needed to appear a bit more goofy to fit its “cowardly mount” theme. We went through a bunch of animals during early explorations of Skaarl’s design, including a rhino, a frog, and a buzzard. While all of these sound like Donkey Kong Country mounts, the design direction is sort of appropriate given the role Skaarl plays—it’s cartoonish, like a critter that could pop out of a barrel. “I don’t think the Donkey Kong vibes were intentional,” says odnumde, “but we were aiming for whimsical, so it worked out that way.”

There’s one exception to Kled’s “aggressive or nothing” design: the ability to re-mount Skaarl just by returning to base. This was a sort of compromise around player expectations. For every other champ in League, successfully recalling to base offers a complete reset; we felt it was important to preserve that with Kled.

Before working on Kled, Narrative writer Odin “WAAARGHbobo” Shafer had just finished writing VO lines for Jhin. After spending months writing gems like “Life has no meaning, but your death shall,” he was ready to move onto something a little more lighthearted. Yordles are lighthearted, right?

“We wanted them to be a comedy duo,” Shafer says. “The idea is that Skaarl doesn’t want to go into combat, but Kled REALLY wants to go into combat. So Skaarl will run off at some point, causing Kled to freak out. Their dysfunctional relationship is built directly into the mechanics.”

The process works both ways, with the mechanics informing the character as the character informs the mechanics. Once we were certain that Kled would spend time fighting both on his mount and off it, Shafer gave Kled two stages in his voice-over lines.

Kled always wants to go HAM, but once he gets knocked off of Skaarl he actually starts going more insane and more aggressive. Kled may have lengthy conversations with Skaarl, but Skaarl has the intelligence of a dog—mostly Kled is projecting onto his reptilian pal when he talks to it. He loses a part of himself whenever Skaarl runs off, resulting in some way crazier lines of dialogue.

image (5)

 

The cantankerous cavalier is more than just a crazy old yordle. All the aspects of Kled’s character—the violence, insanity, and his refusal to back down from any fight—are things that would make him an icon for the soldiers of Noxus. Not just an icon, but a meme. The dankest Noxian meme ever.

image (6)

 

Share your worst, most hastily slapped-together Kled doodles in the comments section below.

 


If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at nolchefo@gmail.com.

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Dev Blog Crafting the Client Banner

[ Link to blog post ]

 

Crafting the Client Draft and Ranked

Time for an update on what we’re shipping next! Today we’re talking about draft pick normals and the storeso you can ban wisely and shop smart. We’ve also got some early info on ranked, which is coming within the next few patches.

 

DRAFT PICK

 

Little bits of extra visual flair have been added throughout the process to not only better highlight whose turn it is, but to make each stage of the champ select process (pick intent, banning, champ selection) feel meaningful and distinct.

Now, whenever you ban a champ, a beam of arcane banmagic rips through the OP champ’s portrait, splitting it in half and cracking the glass above the image. The banbeam then ricochets to the top corner of the screen, stuffing the shattered spirit of the banned champ into a cute little box, where it’s displayed for all to see.

As each player locks in their picks and bans, the hextech wheel in the center of the screen spins and morphs to highlight which player is currently banning or picking, and you’ll hear audible champion quotes depending on who gets banned.

These changes are purely aesthetic—not game design changes. If you were hoping for extra bans, the ability to buy skins in champ select, or any other much-requested champ select features, this might feel like a let-down, but hang with us. Remember, our big goal right now for the client update alpha is to rebuild and tune all the current client’s features. Once the alpha client is ready to actually replace the legacy client, our teams will be freed up to pursue new features and actual game design changes.

 

COMING LATER SHOP HARDER PREPARE FOR RANKED

Before we talk about ranked, let’s cover all the other little changes coming during the next couple of patches. As teased in our previous devblog, we’re pushing out a mostly-functional version of the store.Mostly functional and not wholly functional because it’s still missing loot and the ability to purchase RP. You might be thinking “why won’t you take my money,” and the answer is that we totally will take your money in an upcoming patch. For now we wanna make sure everything is working the way it should, though.

Draft pick is coming now, but we’re waiting a bit to add in ranked; We’ve gotta make sure our draft pick champ select is stable before we start putting LP gainz and losses on the table. When ranked does ship, though, it’ll come with a slew of associated client features you’d expect, including ranked leaderboards, ranked stats on your profile, and ranked emblems.

With this patch, we’ll be opening up the alpha to hundreds of thousands of new testers, so if you haven’t yet signed up for the alpha, we need your help!

Our UI team really had some fun here designing effects that celebrate key moments in champ select. If you’ve been playing in the blind pick queue, you’ve already seen the flashy stuff that happens when you highlight and lock in a champ, but the ban phase is new to the alpha.

 


If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at nolchefo@gmail.com.

State of the Season: Mid-season followup

Hi folks,

It’s been about a month since the Mid-Season changes went out, and we’d like to share some thoughts on how things are looking. We’d also like to talk a little about what we’ve got planned for the next little while, gameplay-wise. In other words, we’ll be talking about champions, items, jungle objectives, and so on, but not features like the new client, matchmaking, skins, etc.
The Game Right Now:

 

Dragons

  • imageWe’re happy with the elemental dragons so far, both the amount they’re fought over and the variety they create game to game.
  • We’ve seen some clarity issues with the runes in the dragon pit and the scoreboard icons, recent changes seem to have mainly addressed those issues though.
  • We have been getting a lot of feedback that the Cloud buff is weak. Looking at how each buff contributes to a team’s chance of winning the game, however, tells us the buffs are statistically pretty close to each other. We’re looking atappreciability of what each buff gives you at present as a result, rather than adding or removing raw power.
  • The Cloud buff is also the most execution-dependent buff, empowering coordinated teams in particular, so we also want to see how it performs in pro play before considering any possible changes. Power adjustments might be appropriate at some point, right now we don’t think they’re the right tool to be looking at though.

 

Rift Herald

  • rift-heraldSo far we’re seeing Rift Herald be impactful when it’s taken. It noticeably increases a team’s odds of winning, but not to the extent of one of the dragon buffs.
  • Shifting to a single spawn, extremely long buff duration approach also seems to have created more interesting decisions around when to take it and who to give it to, which was one of our primary goals behind the changes.
  • A lot of teams have been slow to pick up on the Rift Herald changes, and so aren’t yet taking it when they should though. That’s not unexpected, given it takes a while for playstyles to adjust.
  • We don’t have any changes planned for Rift Herald at present, keeping a close eye on it though.

 

 

 

Mages

  • We’re getting individual champion balance under control again post Mid-Season, which should put us in a position to get a better read on how the kit changes (from a non-power perspective) are playing out.
  • Some of the kit changes look pretty successful so far (e.g. Malz passive creating a healthier playstyle or Zyra capturing more of a plant queen feel).
  • Some are still under assessment (Brand, for example looks reasonable but we just haven’t seen enough play on him yet to judge success or not).
  • Vel’Koz at least doesn’t seem to have hit the mark, with his ability to pull of a successful ultimate too restricted by the changes. We’re making some follow up changes to him as a result, allowing his ult to again contribute some stacks towards his passive.

 

AP Items

  • Are performing as hoped so far. We are still seeing a lot of shifts in terms of which AP champions are popular though, and which items get built. We’re waiting for longer term patterns to emerge as a result, so far things seem reasonable though.
  • Protobelt looks weak, but we’d rather start low, and buff where needed, given the potential power a dash on an item involves.
  • Long term, we’d like to add another AP+20% CDR item that fills a clearly different niche than Morello’s. Goal there would be to offer more build flexibility (old Athene’s, by contrast, was too heavily overlapped with Morello’s, with one of the two items always dominating the other for most champions).

 

imageTaliyah

  • Early days for her yet, particularly given she’s got a noticeable learning curve.
  • She seems to be doing the desired sort of things, although it also looks like she’s a bit underpowered on average. Her performance when played by people with a lot of experience on her is pretty reasonable, however. We’re going with two sets of small buffs as a result, checking between each to make sure we’re not overdoing it.

 

Taric

image (1)Has settled into a reasonable spot. Main issue at present is that his ult’s still too hard to make out in busy fights, despite some visual improvements in 6.10. We’ve got further adjustments in 6.11 as a result that will hopefully address the problem.

We’ll also be investigating some form of universal ‘this champion is invulnerable and won’t take damage at present’ visual language at some point to make it easier to tell at a glance who’s currently immune to damage (Taric ult, Trynd ult, Kindred ult etc).

 

Death Timers

Seem to be around the right length post mid-season changes. We are seeing some games stretch out, with a few more back and forth stalemates. Some of those are slower games, some are pretty action filled, so that’s a reasonable-but-could-be-better outcome from our perspective (stringing a lot of words together there).

We’re not seeing as many ‘Clean up 5 turrets and the nexus from a single teamfight before super late game,’ however, which is a clearer win.

 

Towers

Look noticeably more lethal early game and a bit tankier overall. They haven’t changed dramatically, which is as intended. We didn’t want to kill early diving completely or substantially increase laning duration or overall game time.

image (2) image (1)

 

Jungle Camp Timers

grompWe’re still assessing these. Our primary goal with the addition of the timers was to encourage more conflict around the red and blue buff camps, and we are seeing that occur. We’re still determining whether the timers shut down some types of jungler too much, however. That’s a concern that was raised before the timers’ release that we’re still seeing some ongoing discussion about.

The other concern we’ve seen raised a fair bit is that these timers dumb down the game. Our feeling is that they shift mastery from one action to another. Without the timers, players were being tested on their ability to determine blue/red respawn times by noticing when enemy champions had red or blue buff then using the remaining buff duration to determine the next camp spawn time. With buff timers, that’s no longer a point of mastery. There is more focus and need to deal with invades, or the threat of invades, which tests a different set of skills. If we’re comfortable with the above point (do timers overprioritize certain junglers?), we’re okay with this skill tradeoff.

 

Future Gameplay Plans:

We’ll be making balance changes in the upcoming patches as usual. We’ve also got some points of focus for the next little while too. We’re currently in an unusual place where we’re able to talk with a fair bit of confidence about some of our upcoming gameplay plans, so we’re trying that out as an experiment. It won’t be something we can do all the time, however, as work is generally too fluid in terms of exactly what’s in a patch or sometimes even which piece of work will be ready for release first.

It’s also important to note that these are planned, not guaranteed. It’s still possible things might change.

 

6.12

Changes to a few champions, items and systems on ARAM.

Champion Mastery on both Howling Abyss and Twisted Treeline.

Adjustments to around half a dozen items, most of them regularly used by marksmen, with the goal of restoring some balance between Ghostblade/Black Cleaver and other builds on some champs.

 

6.13

A focused patch on the support position, looking at things like support XP, tweaks to a few items that aren’t hitting the mark (e.g. Ruby Sightstone or Forbidden Idol), small buffs to some champs that often go support, etc.

This is not a large class update like the one we recently did for mages, but instead a collection of small changes we can get out quickly.

Improvements to how Champion Mastery Grades are calculated for supports.

 

6.14 – 6.15

Balance, with some focus on Worlds Qualifiers. Qualifiers are expected to be mainly played on 6.15, so we’ll have a number of pro play focused changes in 6.14, with 6.15 a smaller patch (gameplay-wise) with time put aside to address any unintended effects from 6.14.

Potentially some ARAM followup work too, depending on whether we see any major emergent issues after the 6.12 changes.

 

6.16-6.18

Balance, with a focus on Worlds. Similar pattern to the qualifiers, with changes more pro play focused than the rest of the year in 6.16+6.17. 6.18 is set aside in large part for followup on any issues introduced in the previous two patches.

 

Somewhere in that run of patches

The Ryze update (full visual, audio overhaul, plus some kit changes that have a focus on balanceability, game health and distinctiveness)

At least one new champion.

And of course plenty of other things that are outside the topic of this post.

And that’s about it for this State of the Game – we’ll see you next time. Let me know on the Dev Corner what else you’d like to see from these, and we’ll be around to answer questions there.


If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at nolchefo@gmail.com.

 

Dev Blog Classes and Subclasses Banner

Here’s the official division of champions, according to the rolls they fill on a team:

 

Statikk New PortraitHey all,

As League’s evolved, so have a lot of our design philosophies, principles, and methodologies. Over this year we’ll touch on a few of those changes, but today we wanted to address our more modern (you might say functional) view of ‘Champion Classes’ and how they exist in League of Legends.

This is going to be a pretty academic discussion as some of it is still work-in-progress, but with the mid-season update on the horizon we thought it’d be a good time to start the conversation. Let’s get started!

James “Statikk” Bach

 

Classes and Subclasses

To start, classes are groups of champions with similar playstyles. In the past (and still true today), application of these classes was heavily influenced by the fantasy and thematics of the individual champion rather than their actual function in the game (hi Blitzcrank). These days, however, as League’s matured we realized that classes need to be more defined by their actual effect within the game rather than artistic direction or choice of weapon.

So we sat down and sorted all 130 champions into their individual classes.

And saw we needed more labels.

Some classes, like Mages and Fighters, have become too bloated and they encompass such a wide variety of different champions that they’re no longer as useful. For example, both Darius and Vi are Fighters, but they differ vastly in mobility, durability, damage output, and their general role in team fights. Rather than just using a generic tag to describe both, we introduced ‘subclasses’ – divisive breakdowns of the parent class – to help us clarify differences, sift out big groups, and label the deeper nuances that set champions apart. Additionally, you’ve seen some of this work bear out in our early approaches for subclasses like Juggernauts or Marksmen (although they’ve been hard to break down, as we’ll talk about below).

Overall the class / subclass structure is designed to:

  1. Shape healthy, clear strengths and weaknesses across champion subclasses
    • Love or hate the Juggernauts, whenever you see one in game it’s clear they’re tanky and deal a ton of damage when they get close to you. That said, they’re also vulnerable to being kited around and out-ranged during their slow approaches. This doesn’t mean we want to get to a world of hard-counters, but your strategic champion picks should havesome unique impact beyond just being another body on the map.
  2. Within the individual subclasses, enhance the strategic depth of the game by giving impact to champion choice beyond just personal preference
    • This has largely been what our big ‘roster’ updates are targeting. Understanding when it’s a good time to choose between Xin Zhao’s murderous strengths vs. Vi’s lockdown is a significant part of learning and mastering the game. We want to ensure each champion has a reason to be brought to the table, even within the same subclass.
  3. Create a shared vocabulary!
    • For example, if a Juggernaut feels significantly more mobile than his or her counterparts (whether due to his kit, an item, etc.), the conversation can start from there – “Juggernauts shouldn’t have mobility, why is this one allowed to have that?” – rather than individually hashing out the strengths of a class on a case-by-case basis.

Here’s an overview of how the classes break down into subclasses. You’ll notice some of the classes themselves have been changed – our hope is to roll these out to the in-game client and beyond once we get settled on these titles. It’s also worth noting: the class / subclass structure is more of a set of guidelines than rigid rules.

Class Subclass
Tanks Vanguards, Wardens
Fighters Juggernauts, Divers
Slayers Assassins, Skirmishers
Mages Burst Mages, Battle Mages, Artillery Mages
Controllers Enchanters, Disruptors
Marksmen Marksmen

Two things to note: first, classes and subclasses are completely distinct from lanes and positions. Not all Mages go mid, and Enchanters don’t always have to play the support position in bottom lane (though each subclass will naturally gravitate toward a specific position). Second, we don’t have a subclass for marksmen because they all tend to functionally do the same thing (deal a lot of sustained damage). There are some key differences between marksmen, like range, mobility, and combat patterns, but we have yet to draw a clear line for design purposes.


Does every champion have to fit perfectly into one of these subclasses?

Nope. While it might make it easier for us to balance with tightly controlled groups, if we start shoving all champions into specific boxes, we lose out on a lot of our most iconic and beloved outliers. Additionally, as long as those champions maintain a healthy balance of clear strengths and real weaknesses, there’s no need to force the issue. In fact, if we limit ourselves to staying in pre-existing boundaries, we hamper League’s ability to grow and evolve, which isn’t something we ever want.

If you agree with the above, by the way, you just validated the existence of Singed (sorry!).

We see a lot of outliers break down into one of two categories:

  1. Hybrids – champions who skirt the edges between two subclasses. For example:
    • Varus is a Marksman and Artillery Mage hybrid
    • Kayle is a Marksman and Enchanter hybrid
    • Trundle is a Warden and Juggernaut hybrid
  2. Distinct Playstyles – champions who have completely unique approaches to the game. For example:
    • Fiddlesticks – hides on the edge of combat, waiting for the perfect moment to jump into a team fight.
    • Singed – recklessly split-pushes to apply pressure on a lane, forces multiple enemies to respond, and subsequently trolls them as they struggle to chase him down.

What happens if my favorite champion is categorized under a class / subclass I don’t agree with?

First, it’s important to distinguish between a champion’s current ‘most effective’ play style and their ideal one. There are a lot of champions whose thematic and/or gameplay mechanics are better suited for a specific subclass, but over the course of time drifted into a different one. For example, Evelynn’s stealthy gameplay and nimble aesthetics lend themselves to her being an Assassin, even though her most effective item builds and playstyle might be more representative of a Diver. In these cases, future changes might be aimed at better aligning such champions with their intended playstyle.

But don’t worry, this doesn’t just automatically mean we’re going to overhaul your champion. Most champions also don’t fit perfectly into any specific Subclass – We’ll repeat: the class / subclass structure is more a set of guidelines than rigid rules. Sharing our vocabulary here just means we can have better conversations about the state of the game at any given time. If your champion is in a Subclass you don’t agree with, let’s have that discussion.

So what’s this actually look like?

 

Tanks

Tanks excel in shrugging off incoming damage and focus on disrupting their enemies more than being significant damage threats themselves.


Vanguards


We like to refer to Vanguards as “offensive tanks.” Vanguards lead the charge for their team and are specialists at getting action started. Their explosive team fight initiation seeks to catch enemies out of position while allowing allies to follow-up to devastating effect.


Wardens


If Vanguards are “offensive tanks,” then Wardens are surely “defensive tanks.” Wardens stand steadfast, seeking to hold the line by persistently locking down any oncomers who try to pass them. Wardens keep their allies out of harm’s way and allow them to safely deal with enemies caught in the fray.

 

Fighters

Fighters are durable and damage-focused melee champions that look to be in the thick of combat.


Juggernauts


Juggernauts are melee titans who relentlessly march down the opposition and devastate those foolish enough to get within their grasp. They are the only subclass who excel at both dealing and taking significant amounts of damage, but in turn they have a tough time closing in on targets due to their low range and extremely limited mobility.


Divers


Divers are the more mobile portion of the Fighter class. Divers excel at singling out high-priority targets to blitz toward, immediately forcing those targets (and their teammates) to deal with the diver’s presence. Divers are not as durable as the tanks or juggernauts of the world, but Divers can take their fair share of punishment while bringing enough damage to be a real kill threat if left unchecked.

 

Slayers

Slayers are fragile but agile damage-focused melee champions that look to swiftly take down their targets.


Assassins


Assassins specialize in infiltrating enemy lines with their unrivaled mobility to quickly dispatch high-priority targets. Due to their mostly melee nature, Assassins must put them themselves into dangerous positions in order to execute their targets. Luckily, they often have defensive tricks up their sleeves that, if used cleverly, allow them to effectively avoid incoming damage.


Skirmishers


Unlike Assassins, Skirmishers aim to shred through any nearby enemy that approaches. Because Skirmishers lack high-end burst damage or reliable ways of closing in on high-priority targets, they are instead armed with situationally powerful defensive tools to survive in the fray, along with extreme sustained damage to cut down even the most durable targets.

 

Mages

Mages are offensive casters that seek to cripple and burn down the opposition through their potent spells.


Burst Mages


Burst Mages aim to single out vulnerable targets by locking them down and following up with a devastating barrage of damage from range. Burst Mages struggle heavily against beefier targets who can shrug off their initial spike of damage.


Battle Mages


Battle Mages get into the middle of the fray, seeking to wreak havoc upon the entire enemy team with their overwhelming sustained area damage. Due to their relatively short (but not melee) combat ranges and the need to burn down their opponents over time, Battle Mages have significant defensive capabilities that range from sustaining endlessly to literally defying death for a short period of time.


Artillery Mages


Artillery Mages are the masters of range, and they leverage that advantage to whittle down their opponents over time from great distances. In turn, Artillery Mages are severely punished when enemies finally succeed in closing in on them, due to their extreme fragility and limited mobility.

 

Controllers

Controllers are defensive casters that oversee the battlefield by protecting and opening up opportunities for their allies.


Enchanters


Enchanters focus on amplifying their allies’ effectiveness by directly augmenting them and defending them from incoming threats. Enchanters themselves are often quite fragile and bring relatively low damage to the table, meaning they really only shine when grouped together with others.

Disruptors


We initially called this subclass ‘control mages’ but realized that could be expanded to the entire group (that and ‘Utility Mage’ wasn’t a very good Class name). Disruptors specialize in locking down opponents or, in some cases, entire battlefields by creating intense zones of threat that only foolish enemies would dare wade through. Although not as reliant on their friends as Enchanters, the fragile and immobile Disruptors greatly benefit from allied presence – both to deter incoming danger and to help capitalize on targets they’ve locked down.

 

Marksmen


Marksmen excel at dealing reliable sustained damage at range (usually through basic attacks) while constantly skirting the edge of danger. Although Marksmen have the ability to stay relatively safe by kiting their foes, they are very fragile and are extremely reliant on powerful item purchases to become true damage threats.

Marksmen are such an already distinct set of champions that they are not currently divided into subclasses. Even though there are some potential ways to split the Marksmen (ex: mobile vs. immobile, spell-based vs. basic attack focused), all of the Marksmen ultimately serve a very similar role for their team. In the future, we may explore breaking down the class further.


>Where does my favorite champion fit under?

It’s important to note that, just like the game itself, our understanding of the Classes, Subclasses, and each champion is constantly evolving and changing over time. Nothing is set in stone. Our view of where each champion currently is and even what Classes and Subclasses currently exist will probably change over time. We think that’s exciting.

This is probably a lot to take in, but we’re really excited to start sharing this with you guys.

[ Link to Post ]

 


If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at nolchefo@gmail.com

 

Dev Blog 05 01 State of Preseason

Riot’s latest dev blog breaks down the developer team’s expectations for Preseason and how those panned out:

 

State of the Season Preseason Progress

BY MEDROID

Welcome to our experimental “State of the Season” dev blog, where we’ll check in every so often with an update on the state of the game from a high-level perspective. Expect to hear thoughts on what we think’s going well, what’s a problem, and what we’re planning in the foreseeable future.
The first of these is easier because it’s all about preseason:

 

GOALS EXPECTATIONS OF PRESEASON

Preseason’s a time where we focus more on revising systems and challenging established parts of the game than usual. We do this in order to make long-term improvements that just aren’t possible to do bit by bit. That means game balance will be a lot more variable than usual toward the end of each year – which is also why ranked play takes a break and competitive play’s much quieter than usual. At the start of the new year, however, we’ll shift back to more standard balance patches, particularly from 6.2 onwards.

 

GAME PACING Banner

For those who speak English, we have some preliminary thoughts on game pacing in the Dev Corner and will have more formal details next year.

As a summary, however, our goal this season was to introduce changes to games where they could either resolve when they were considered ‘over,’ or allow a team that plays well to come back. So far, overall game length is down slightly (around 7%), which we feel is within an appropriate range. We saw game pacing get a little too stompy in 5.22, but with the changes in 5.23 and 5.24, things appear to be stabilising if not improving.

 

OBJECTIVES Banner

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 Rift Herald’s currently looking a bit underutilised and we believe it’s still too expensive (in terms of health lost) for many champions to take. We don’t want to make the Herald a mandatory objective, but do want to see it used more. There’s likely also some learning curve as well, so we’re curious to see how teams do or don’t work it into their strategies.

 

 

image (1)Similarly, Dragon doesn’t look like it’s attractive enough either, which leads to a consistent focus on taking turrets instead. That’s not new to preseason, being something we saw as a trend toward the end of 2015, particularly in the World Championships. We’re currently exploring changes here to put more value on Dragon, which would potentially include making the second buff stack more appealing.

 

 

KEYSTONES Banner

We think that Keystone masteries so far have done a good job of demonstrating how masteries can have appreciable in-game effects in a satisfying way. Satisfaction aside, we don’t think the trees are delivering enough choice, both because some masteries are too dominant or weak, and because many don’t have real choices at some tiers. To improve that, we’re planning both new masteries and balance adjustments throughout the season.

Our first steps here will be to flesh out the T1 and T2 keystones, and then consider additional T3 Keystones. For the next addition, for example, we’re considering a T2 Ferocity keystone that functions like the old Expose Weakness Mastery, amping damage a target takes from your allies if you’ve recently damaged it.

image (2)

 

MARKSMEN Banner

We’re fairly happy with both marksmen and their items so far, in terms of the different experiences they offer and increased amounts of item choice/diversity. There have been some balance outliers we’ve had to adjust (Quinn, Kog’Maw, Graves, Lucian, Miss Fortune, Essence Reaver, etc) and we expect there’ll be some need for additional refinement early next year as well.

As far as specifics plans go… we think Cull’s almost certainly too weak, so we’ll be looking to buff it a bit so its users can survive in lane to farm. Phantom Dancer also needs help and we’re planning on having it offer some constant movement speed, like the other Zeal items, rather than only being about in-combat mobility.

 

JUNGLERS Banner

There are some AP junglers that aren’t well supported in the jungle who we think should be. To help, we’re exploring replacing Runeglaive with a new AP-focused jungle item so it has a less exclusionary design (ie: something that supports broader mage patterns). We’re also considering whether we’ll need to tweak jungle monster stats as well, with a focus on initial clear capabilities, but will have more details in the future.

 

VISION Banner

Vision’s a subtle system and changes to it take longer for teams to ‘figure out’ and adapt to than most. Understanding that, vision is an area where we’re still deep in assessment on the impact of preseason.

So far, it’s looking like Blue Trinket’s too strong, whilst Yellow trinket in the mid and late game is too weak, so we’ll be making changes to both. We’ve also got some tweaks for the combination Sightstone + gold generation items, which at present have an excessive amount of their power in mana regen, making them unappealing for quite a few champions.

image (3)

 

Mages Banner

For our next class update next year we’ll probably be looking at some immobile mages. This will definitely be a long-term project, so a very rough guess is they won’t be out before the middle of the season. We can, however, talk through some details in terms of which champions we’re thinking of working on (and why), early next year.

 

CONCLUSION Banner

Overall we feel the preseason changes are trending in a good direction, though there’s plenty of work still ahead, both in the refinement of existing changes and some new content. Now that the new year is upon us, we’ll be pushing for more communication and transparency in the coming months. Do let us know if there are topics – preseason-related ones especially – on your mind that the above hasn’t covered, would love to talk about them where possible.



If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at nolchefo@gmail.com.

 

Dev Blogs Fiora Flawed Fencer banner

Riot’s latest dev blogs are a behind-the-scenes look at the creative struggles with Fiora’s redesign and a series of GIFs to show what was removed from League in 2015:

 

Champion Update and the Flawed Fencer

BY RUMTUMTUMMERS

One of our fundamental goals in creating League of Legends champions is ensuring each has a distinct, cohesive, and well-executed identity. In a game with an ever-expanding roster of champs, some are better examples of this than others — especially when you consider some of the older characters inhabiting the Rift. Some champions don’t offer distinct enough gameplay, despite working well within their role. Some champions have fundamental things that feel right, but require a more cohesive package. Others need to be rebuilt from scratch (see: Poppy). Champion Update is the team tasked with sorting out which champions fit where, and figuring out how to update and upgrade as needed to help those champs reach their full potential.

This process isn’t without risks. If Champion Update is committed to the goal of blowing players away and defying their expectations, the occasional strike will always be a possible side effect of swinging for the fences.

 

FIORA ENTERS THE FRAY Banner

When the ChampUp team looked at Fiora earlier this year, it spotted some major gameplay problems. With no dodgeable spells and immense damage output, a fed Fiora felt like an unfair opponent. If she caught someone, she killed them — end of story. Her tower dives were legendary. But Fiora’s strength hinged heavily on her early-game performance; if she was behind, there wasn’t any real way to come back. Even worse, she lacked utility that could make up for her low damage output, leaving a struggling Fiora no option but to sacrifice herself to the fray in the hopes of at least contributing a bit of useful damage. Fiora was either an unstoppable monster or a liability to her team.

Additionally, ChampUp saw a mismatch in the promise of her character and her actual gameplay, as game designer Stash Chelluck explains. “She was promised to be the Grand Duelist,” says Chelluck, “but her pattern felt very straightforward. It required little thought and reactivity.” And so, ChampUp dove into Fiora’s kit and started making tweaks.

image (53)

Instead of focusing on what could be dialed back or toned down, ChampUp looked for opportunities to more effectively tie her gameplay to her in-game persona. Says Seb Rhee, who lead the ChampUp team during the Fiora re-work, “that’s where Stash discovered the really interesting fencing gameplay — the idea of dueling between two players. Not only would it solve some of her innate gameplay problems, it would make her more cohesive as a character.” The new duel mechanics would help Fiora live up to the image of a talented duelist who can dodge attacks and hit opponents where they’re weakest, along with providing some much-needed utility in the event that she fell behind.

Going big with Fiora’s mechanics posed significant risk. Players who loved her old ult, for example, likely wouldn’t be happy to see it removed. However, ChampUp often has to remove pieces of the original champion in the interest of making him or her better overall (Sion’s original VO, for example). The decisions aren’t easy, but the hope is always that players feel like they’re gaining more than they lose. In the case of Fiora, the team felt as though her new mechanics were a marked upgrade from her old kit, enough that the pain of losing some familiar play patterns would be mitigated.

With the mechanics in place, the team moved into refreshing Fiora’s visuals.

 

ART OF THE DUEL Banner

New and modified champion mechanics usually need art assets or updates. In the case of Fiora, the team saw a chance to pair gameplay-centric art additions (VFX, ability animations) with a refreshed vision for Fiora’s base appearance. ChampUp concept artist Michael Maurino brings up an increased understanding of League’s universe and factions as inspiration: “We saw an opportunity to dig into the work Foundations was doing with Demacia, to see if there were some aspects we could apply to Fiora from there. We know she’s from Demacia; she should look like it.”

Rhee adds, “The update felt like a second chance to execute on the sort of haughty, condescending character she was originally intended to be.”

image (54)

The art team worked to align Fiora’s costume with that of Demacian nobles, using muted golds, clean white fabrics, and high-quality leathers. The team also used visual cues to emphasize Fiora’s character attributes. Says Maurino, “Fiora is a sharp character; her design is going to have a lot of aggressive points. Her armor comes to a point. Her tunic ends in a point. Anything we can do to drive home what the character represents on first read is a high priority.” From a design perspective, it’s important that players can glance at a character and tell exactly what that character is about.

image (55)

The art adjustments weren’t limited to costuming. ChampUp also took a knife to Fiora’s features, both on the in-game model and in the new splash art set to accompany her launch. Maurino walks through the thought process of artists working on the update: “We stylized Fiora very intentionally. We decided to give her a much more chiseled face. We wanted to make her sharp—not just in design and costume, but in features. He hair was sharp and her face was much more rigid.” Each change was carefully considered in terms of what it conveyed about Fiora as a character and as an in-game weapon.

It was another big risk — one that wouldn’t play out quite as well as the one the team had taken with her mechanics.

THE SPLASH HEARD ROUND THE WORLD Banner

Initial reactions to Fiora’s updated art were negative, to say the least. Across the League of Legends community, Fiora fans expressed concerns about her new, more angular design. While players were largely in support of her gameplay changes, they rejected her art changes almost unanimously. The outcry was a stark contrast from what the ChampUp team had expected. It seemed as though the team and players had dramatically different visions for Fiora’s identity and how that identity should be represented.

image (56)

Rhee explains that the team went into the reveal with high hopes: “From the team’s perspective, the art changes on Fiora were above and beyond what we needed to make the gameplay work. In the moment, it was like, ‘Wow, we can deliver this incredible cohesiveness on smaller-scope projects — even if they’re not huge Sion-level re-works.’ We came out the other side of the process thinking, ‘This is incredible. We ended up with something so much more than we anticipated this project would ever become.’” Moving from that sense of excitement into immediate damage control, he explains, “felt like running faster than you ever thought you could, then being exhausted at the finish line and realizing you ran the wrong direction.”

The feedback highlighted a disconnect between ChampUp’s understanding of Fiora and the understanding players had developed through their interactions with her. In playing as Fiora, game after game, players gave her an identity of their own invention. Rhee frames it as a natural evolution: “Once a character goes live and players learn that character and use that character (sometimes in ways we don’t anticipate), that character becomes something different from what we built.” In other words, the character matures. Rhee explains that players rejected Fiora’s new art not because of its objective quality, but because “the update failed to honor who Fiora had become for players.” ChampUp focused on her haughtiness and better-than-thou attitude, but players more closely associated her with a young, beautiful swordswoman.

image (57)

This type of feedback, though difficult to hear, is immensely resonant to teams like ChampUp. Players weren’t reacting from a negative space or from an aversion to change, but to something that betrayed their understanding of a character they cared about. Notes Rhee, “It’s not so much that players are loyal to a particular hairstyle, or to Fiora’s cheekbones. They’re loyal to what Fiora represents to them, to the parts of the character that resonate.” Again, players had been asked to give something up — in this case what they gained didn’t feel like more than they lost.

Maurino continues the thought: “Players said, ‘This character would not represent herself this way.’ Not, ‘I don’t like, red, I like blue,’ for example, but, ‘Fiora as a character wouldn’t choose red, she would choose blue.’ When a player says, ‘Fiora’s hair streak, or the way her hair is positioned, does not fulfill what this character is to me,’ that’s completely valid. That’s what happens when a character’s design speaks directly to a player.”

ChampUp worked hard to accommodate player feedback by making changes to Fiora’s new art, softening her features and bringing her hair closer to the original design. But without the bandwidth for another complete overhaul, the team had to settle for a middle-ground. “In the end,” concedes Rhee, “our corrections were more of a compromise. We made a lot of players happier with the changes we made, but ultimately it felt like us and players may have started with different understandings of Fiora.” It’s a lesson the team won’t soon forget.

 

Updates to Come Banner

For ChampUp, success isn’t measured by the quality standards set by artists or designers. Says Rhee, “Fiora’s update shouldn’t be judged by ‘What did we want to make, and did we make it?’ It’s measured by, ‘How do players feel about this? Do players love this change? We try to surprise and to do things players don’t expect, but that end goal is always present.” The objective quality of art assets or VFX are a lower priority than whether those elements reflect player passion for a given champion. A miss is a miss, regardless of its technical execution.

The Fiora update and the controversy surrounding its art brought plenty of self-examination for the ChampUp team. Champion Update isn’t here to change things for the sake of change, but to improve League of Legends by constantly improving upon the game’s roster of champs. If changes — artistic, mechanical, or otherwise — don’t feel like big gains to players, those changes are missing the mark. The Fiora update served as a lesson on both ends of what can happen when we work to improve the characters players know and love, and a reminder that these improvements aren’t without their potential pitfalls.

Making bold choices and trying to surprise players will never be completely safe. Rhee concludes: “In our effort to really reach, to raise the bar, we’re going to take chances. If we’re taking the level of risks we should be taking as artists, designers, and people who love League, we’re bound to miss the mark sometimes. What’s important is that when we miss, we figure out what went wrong and we move forward with those lessons in tow.”

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Rip list of 2015 Banner

 

Rip List 2015 Banner

Riot Jaws Final PortraitLeague of Legends can often feel like a living creature that evolves right before our eyes. With each change comes new champions, new item combinations to try out, and new strategies to win the game. But change also means saying goodbye (or good riddance!).
Join us in remembrance of the parts of LoL that are no longer with us.

 


RIP Minion Models – Updated with SRU

Animation by Xenitaph

In honor of their service, let’s raise a glass to those who’ve been our faithful gold generators for six years.


 

RIP Baron Nashor Model – Updated with SRU

Animation by yeamarc1

Here he is enjoying retirement as the centerpiece to the time-honored “Circle of Life Drain”.


 

RIP Revive – Removed from the Game

Now even Zombie Karthus can’t worm his way out of this many ultimates.


 

RIP Deathfire Grasp – Removed from the game

Video Source

It will be missed.


 

RIP Runeglaive Ezreal – Item changed

Video Source

So much poke…so much damage…


 

RIP Fiora’s Hydra Blade Waltz – Gameplay and Visual Update

Video Source


 

RIP Gangplank – Gameplay and Visual Update


 

RIP Old Mordekaiser – Gameplay and visual update

Now he haunts the occasional bot lane in search of AD carries and Dragons to enslave.


 

RIP Indestructible Poppy – Gameplay and Visual Update

Nothing inspired terror quite like a fed Poppy waddling toward your team.

 


Now that we’ve said goodbye to 2015, what are you looking forward to the most in 2016? Let us know in the comments below!

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If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at nolchefo@gmail.com.

 

Dev Blog Ping Europe

Riot’s latest dev blog is all about networking/routing issues in Europe and how those are being solved via Riot Direct:

 

PingPwn waging war on lag for EU players

Riot tmx New PortraitBack in January we updated you on our progress with Riot Direct, an initiative we’d undertaken to establish a dedicated network highway for League of Legends traffic in North America and Europe. With that service now live and humming along, we’d like to share some of the reductions in latency we’re seeing as a result. And we’ll also discuss how we got here in more depth, so you can better understand why we saw a need for a project like Riot Direct and the issues we hoped to address with it.

image

To fill in this context, we spoke with Peyton Maynard-Koran, a technical director at Riot with over 20 years of experience in the telecoms industry, product owner of Riot Direct and a certifiable Wukong fanboy. “Wukong’s always been my boy!” he says, whipping out a Monkey King phone case and directing us to a framed Wukong illustration his best friend commissioned for him. When he’s not putting the ‘hell’ in helicopter by cycloning into the middle of the enemy team, then, he’s figuring out new and creative ways to improve your connection to the League of Legends servers.

 

BEFORE AFTER

We certainly had improvements we wanted to make. Here’s a EUW heatmap of the in-game latency levels experienced by players across Europe just prior to the activation of the Riot Direct network (green = 0-65ms, orange = 66-100ms, red = 101ms or more).

image (1)

It’s not easy being green for many in southern Europe, but here’s what the EUW situation looks like post-launch:

image (2)

The picture looks somewhat different in EUNE, as we’ve only recently begun the legal and contract works with central and eastern European providers. We know the Vienna point of presence will help with the latency and stability of these connections, but we still want to expand our own infrastructure further east and south. At this point the EUNE results show room for improvement, but we’re optimistic about the enhancements we’ll be delivering to this region in the months ahead.

image (3)

Post launch:

image (4)

 

 

WHY RIOT DIRECT

League of Legends is an online game (OMG SPOILER!). Meaning: regardless of how enjoyable the game is from a design standpoint, if the delivery mechanism for that experience fails to perform in an optimal fashion, League of Legends will cease to be fun. Nobody enjoys lagging out, being forced to look on helplessly as your champion jumps about erratically on-screen, wondering if you’ll be staring at a death recap screen when the choppy internet waters settle.

When we opened the Amsterdam data centre last June, we purchased a huge amount of bandwidth and transit traffic from major ISPs and backbone providers (Level 3, GTT, Telia, Hibernia, etc). We assumed that having all these network connections would normalise the player experience and we’d be able to find the fastest path to get to players. Yet game traffic still wasn’t getting where we wanted it to go as fast as we wanted it to get there. For example, a number of German players, despite being located near our data centre, were playing with over 120ms ping. Making matters worse, the rate of speed remained highly variable and there was no obvious way to fix it.

We hadn’t taken full control of our situation. If a link failed on a network outside of ours, it still had a negative effect on League players, even though it had nothing to do with us. Under the old model, Maynard-Koran explains, “we could never maintain or influence the way routes were being populated throughout the network, the way that traffic was actually moving unless we built our own network.”

“That’s why we built out this network in Europe. Instead of traffic taking the most preferred path to our data centre, it was bouncing all over the continent. By having our own infrastructure in place, we can not only take in the traffic and force it to come on to our network, but we can also force it to take the exact same route back. What that does for us is it creates an environment where the player gets a very symmetrical path and all these routers are removed.”

 

 

THE ROUTER PROBLEM

To understand why ISPs sending League traffic on a convoluted journey through numerous routers poses difficulties, it’s important to realise that online-gaming traffic looks different than most other internet traffic. Standard web traffic – movies, music, cat pics, etc – travels in 1500-byte packets. League traffic, on the other hand, involves a rapid stream of updates but each message is relatively small – 55 bytes. In terms of our network traffic profile, we’re much more akin to an investment bank doing high-frequency trading rather than a Facebook or a Google that’s concerned primarily with raw bandwidth.

image (5)

Routers are built around how many headers they can read because that’s what they do. So, in the case of League traffic, we’re asking a router that’s accustomed to processing a single 1500-byte packet in a given amount of time to process 27x the number of packet headers in the same window. The more router waypoints we have in our game’s journey from data centre to player, the greater the risk of router overload, resulting in dropped packets and a head-desking play experience.

 

 

HOW DOES IT WORK

The internet is just a bunch of computers talking to one another, meaning you connect to a device and it takes you on a specific path. As a game company, the problem we have with the internet now is it uses all those paths so it creates a fluctuating quality of experience for the player. To solve this predicament, we investigate the options and decide which path we like the best, then we rent a special lane on that path and set it up so that all League of Legends game traffic travels along that path.

image (6)

We do that by putting a router at the edge of a given PoP (point of presence) and peering directly with a regional USP. We create a sort of off-lane, so as soon as the game traffic is supposed to go to the regular internet, it goes to our router instead. And then we’ve already set up this special path that gets players’ inputs to the data centre in the fastest possible way. Like an LCS jungler rotating between neutral-monster camps, we want our game traffic to take the most economical route possible, every time.

Alas, even the most elegantly designed technology can fall over from time to time so we ensured that if a PoP goes down, the system automatically reverts to standard internet routing so your connection to the game server won’t be interrupted. And as an additional failsafe, our worldwide team will be supporting Riot Direct 24/7 with software alerting us anytime there’s a hiccup in the quality of players’ experience. Stability is hugely important to us and you deserve to keep hard-carrying on that late-game Tristana even if a PoP between you and the game server blinks offline 50 minutes into your match.

 

 

FAST TRACK

“At the outset, we thought that this was a 2-3 year project based on how slow the telecom companies move,” says Maynard-Koran. “For example, you’ll have to have your order in 90 days before you expect service, and you have to have a long history with them. Luckily our team has a lot of connections within the industry so were able to fast-forward that. On top of that, we thought that getting infrastructure built out would take longer as well, but we were able to fast-track that as well. So we got NA finished in under a year and if you think about EU, we started in probably November of last year, and we expect to launch the initial phase in late August.”

When Maynard-Koran says ‘finished’, that means we’ve built the infrastructure and we’ve peered with ISPs that cover more than 50% of our players. We’re going to continue to add more ISPs and we’re going to continue to have to do things like route balancing to make sure data is going in and out of the right entry points, but we think we can get up to 80% coverage by the end of this year.

 

 

NET WORKING

Even though the methodology for Riot Direct remains the same whether we’re building out our North American or European infrastructure, there were unique considerations to expanding our European coverage. Europe is ultra-connected, with even the smallest member countries having three or four ISPs. We found cities with as many 15 ISPs.

North America has roughly 75 ISPs but it’s mainly dominated 25% by Comcast, another 40% by AT&T and Verizon combined. Then you get Time Warner Cable, Charter, so basically if the Riot Direct team hit 10 companies in America, they could cover 80% of players. But in Europe to get to 80% it would probably take around 40 companies.

That said, the path to expanding European coverage is a little easier. “There are public exchange policies [in EU] that drive a faster path to getting connected,” says Maynard-Koran, “whereas in NA we’ve even gotten to the point where we’ve had to make legal challenges to get connected with one particular ISP. We’re dealing with that right now with a company in Canada that just refuses to connect with us.” In other words, if we need to fight to make sure players can enjoy a better League connection, we’re happy to throw down.

 

 

NEXT STEPS

With Riot Direct now switched on, plans are already in motion to make it even better. We’re already looking at adding additional points of presence in Portugal (Lisbon or Porto), Italy (Rome), Greece (Athens) and potentially in Poland as well. We’re continuing to pursue new peering relationships with ISPs so their League data can travel via our super-duper-mega-highway.

We’re also developing software solutions to handle dynamic route manipulation, shepherding the way data comes into our entry points so that it takes the lowest-latency, symmetrical path and travels through the lowest number of routers off our network. But it also gives us the ability to manipulate traffic, so if we’re getting a DDoS event or if we see a route that’s bad, we can move it to a different entry point or move it to a different route without the player even noticing and without a reconnect happening.

“ISPs get lazy because they have a tonne of routes they have to manage,” says Maynard-Koran. “They leave default metrics on, like making the oldest-aging border-gateway-protocol route the preferred one. For them to go through that by hand is hard. We look at being able to do that via software and we think that software will start to take over the way the networks work. And being able to do that route manipulation is the first piece. It will be the first time that we’re able to manipulate routes based on something that’s not a router, which is actually a huge step in the industry and it’s something we’re working towards. That means that software programmers can finally run the internet!”

 

 

SOUND OFF

We’re hopeful that with the launch of Riot Direct, you’re enjoying a stable, low-latency gameplay experience. Please send along feedback and let us know if you’re able to detect any improvement. Our team will continue to monitor the situation closely and optimise the network to reach our goal of 100% of European players clocking in below 65ms ping. And remember, if you are experiencing connectivity issues, you can download our network diagnostic tool and submit results to help us identify problems and new places to focus our attention. Now let’s get back into game. Wukong insta-lock, anyone?

 


If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at nolchefo@gmail.com.

 

Dev Blog Poppy New Animations Banner

Poppy’s rework features facial animation tech that’s never been used in League before. Check out how it all works:

 

Dev Blog The Animation of Poppy

BY PARTIESTCAT

Hey everyone! Paul “PartiestCat” Jarvis here. I was in charge of driving the style and direction for how Poppy moves and wanted to give you all a little behind-the-scenes look on how we approached the animation for Demacia’s tiniest hammer delivery service.

 

SQUASH STRETCH AND SMEAR

Okay, quick animation history lesson. There’s a set of animation principles that most animators follow that dictate and drive the choices we make when building out the motion for characters and they cover topics like posing, exaggeration, and visual/emotional appeal. One principle in particular — squash and stretch – is something we’ve adapted as a fundamental aspect to League’s in-house animation style. Broadly speaking, squash and stretch helps a character feel organic and alive. It’s used to emphasise weight, momentum, and speed of objects by warping and distorting their shape. When we use more extreme versions of these distortions to connect our most important “key” poses, we call them smears or “smear frames;” single distorted frames between broad actions. Using smears helps to sell impacts on spells, attacks, or any super-quick motion. A champion’s animation needs to feel awesome in fractions of seconds, and smears help by adding texture and flavor between exaggerated motions.

Back to Poppy.

Yordles are squishy. I don’t mean that literally, but their short stature gives them lots of wiggle room for us to exaggerate how they move. Poppy has a tiny frame, so it’s also important that we can make her motion broad enough to not be hidden under her big Yordle head. Ideally, she should never LOOK like she’s made of rubber, but her motions should have a certain extra snap to them to keep her feeling energetic and punchy.


We kept the same mindset with the motion of her hammer, but I’ll get to that below.

 

 

EXPRESSIVE Banner

Historically, League isn’t the kind of game that normally needs facial animation. The camera angle and distance from your champion normally means a character’s face only takes up a handful of pixels on-screen at any moment and extra detail actually makes it harder to understand what is happening. As animators, we wanted to challenge that idea, and our early tests actually showed us that her expression changes were fully readable and felt like they added a lot to her personality.

In terms of her character rig (the set of bones that allow us to move our characters around), Poppy is the first champion in League to be built from the ground up to support such a wide range of facial expressions. Every champion has a budget in terms of rig complexity, so we had to be smart about how we fine-tuned her model and facial setup. Many high-end character rigs in modern games have more bones in the face alone than all of Poppy combined, so the challenge was to give us the widest control with the least amount of resources.

image (52)

Poppy’s facial rig

Just to get technical stuff out of the way, Poppy’s face is only 11 joints in all:

  • 3 per eye (pupil, upper eyelid/eyebrow, and eye shape)
  • 3 to shape the mouth
  • 1 for the upper bridge of teeth
  • 1 for the jaw

After working closely with our tech artist (and waves and waves of iteration), we landed on what you see above. We were able to get a surprising amount of flexibility out of such a simple setup!


Poppy face tests

The first thing I did with Poppy was to carve out a set of base expressions to feel out her emotional range, and then develop them until that we all felt confident about the direction. Once we had a solid foundation, we were able to focus on the expressive timing – finding punctuated moments during and after her abilities and attacks where the expressions could be clearly seen. When you only have a fraction of a second to sell an attack, communicating  a clear change in mood is really important.



Fool me twice HAMMER

Poppy’s hammer is just as important as she is and we really wanted to reflect that in her animations. Why not give her hammer the same degree of personality that we give to the Yordle that wields it? We spent some time going back and forth about what kind of shapes we needed the hammer to make, which parts we wanted to push and pull, and which parts needed to twist, distort, or grow and shrink.


Early tests to develop the hammer rig

Squashing, stretching, and smearing is just as important for the hammer as it is for Poppy, so we needed to crank it up to 11. The head of the hammer scales to cartoonish sizes for single frames so you can really feel the force behind the swing, and the neck of the hammer bends to compensate. With a little sorcery and a lot of clever rigging we were able to build really clean smear trails for the hammer that gave us a nice, stylised alternative to motion blur. It’s a more traditional animation method that meshed really well with how we normally animate our champions.

Lastly, take a look at the most extreme case that brings everything together: the swing of her fully-charged Keeper’s Verdict.


That’s about it! We’re always looking for new ways to improve champion experiences and bring out the best in every single rework we do. The whole team is extremely excited and proud to see Poppy out in the world, and hope you enjoy playing her as much as we enjoyed making her!

Thanks for reading!

 


If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at nolchefo@gmail.com.

 

Dev Blog Art of Snowdown Banner

Riot’s latest dev blog shares some of the concept art used to craft the Snowdown event:

 

BY RUMTUMTUMMERS

League of Legends doesn’t need to be all grimdark, all the time. There’s more to life than slugging it out on the Rift; putting champions in less-than-serious situations is one of the things that makes League so uniquely… League. Where would we be without Pool Party Graves, Sinful Succulence Morgana, or AstroNautilus?

We knew that we wanted to keep this sense of fun front and center with this year’s Snowdown. And since nothing is more fun than a snow day, artists and visual designers started with one simple question: What happens when League’s champs take a day off to engage in a little snow-to-snow combat?

School’s canceled!

“When I was a kid, I was all about snowball fights,” says visual designer Kelly Aleshire. “Snow days were awesome. There’s a sense of, ‘I was supposed to do something today, but now I get to have fun instead.’” Communicating that feeling to players was key goal for the teams working on Snowdown. Whether through Syndra’s oversized earmuffs, Bard’s penguin-ified meeps, or the somewhat-goofy snowplow super minions, the main focus was on making things feel uniquely fun.

Bard’s Snowdown concept finalised and ready for production

Concept artist Wesley Keil explains, “It’s one of those light-hearted, zany things where you can step away from the serious stuff.” With this year’s Snowdown, “the team wanted to create something really playful,” emphasises Aleshire, “so the feedback was mostly centered on hitting that ideal without going too over-the-top.” Each concept went through several iterations as artists worked to find something that felt right for the overall theme but still fit the champion. Gnar might wear a winter cap, for example, but he still needs to feel like Gnar.

Skins ideation often involves creating several concepts for each champion

This year’s Snowdown was made more complicated by the inclusion of Snowdown minions. While minions are less complex than champions, their simplicity brings its own flavor of difficulty. Says Keil, “They have to read clearly; there are a lot of gameplay ramifications — what happens when there are a ton of them on screen, etc.” Just as the team needed to balance the skins between the Snowdown theme and the core personality of each champion, the minions needed to be clearly Snowdown without hampering actual gameplay. Fun’s no fun if it creates confusion in the game, after all.

Early concept work shows different ideas for Snowdown minions

Finally, the splash is perhaps the most clear distillation of Snowdown as an idea, showing off the skins while capturing the personality of each champion and communicating the overall theme of fun in the snow. “Bard, for example, is kind of aloof,” says Aleshire. “He’s not super worried about humans or the universe as we see it, so he’s just in his own little world sharing some cocoa with a Meep. Gnar has a hyperactive attitude, so he’s distracted and chasing a Meep instead of helping.” Syndra, a more focused champion, is ready to start the next volley and/or claim victory. The splash bears the responsibility of bringing everything together in one image that tells the whole story.

    We have this moment every now and then, where a bunch of serious characters take a day off and play in the snow.

 

The result is a collection of skins and goodies that embody the idea of a laid-back winter hangout. “We have this moment every now and then, where a bunch of serious characters take a day off and play in the snow,” concludes Aleshire. “Hopefully we capture that and give players the same feelings I remember from tossing snowballs at my friends.”

 


If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at nolchefo@gmail.com.