The balance team made another pass of community questions, which you can find answered below:
[ Note ] Part 1 of the AMA can be found HERE.
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 10/030!
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’re back again for our 2nd AMA this month – another week of worlds has gone by and a new patch is on the horizon, and we still have tons of your questions to get to! Got something to say about balance, your favorite champions, or how free SmashGizmo’s sheik is? We’ve got you covered.
If you want to check out our Q+A last week, here’s a link to that one too! M O R E C O N T E X T
On deck, we’ve got:
RiotTimeWizard (thousand-year-dragon in training)
ricklessabandon (all lowercase, all the time)
SmashGizmo (plays 5 colors in EDH like a scumbag)
ManWolfAxeBoss (fire and blood)
RiotGmang (keeps talking so nobody explodes)
RiotJag (has a cool motorcycle)
FeralPony (photoshop artiste)
and yours truly! Got a burning question or top-of-mind curiosity? Fire away and we’ll start answering in an hour! (1:30 PDT)!
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!
Earlier this year: Akali, Fizz, Kassadin, Leblanc
Lately: Vayne, Fiora, Darius, Morde, GP, Garen, Skarner
Always: Lee Sin, Riven
You get thick skin doing this kind of work, but it’d be unfair to say that it doesn’t get to you.
I think the key thing to understand is that even the most angry, vile and vitriolic statements come out of passion for the game we all love and work on. Those people telling us we should be fired, and that we don’t know what we’re doing? They just want to have fun playing a balanced game, same as we do. In many ways, these can be viewed as motivators – when people are upset, we have a job to do.
It’s often thankless, but I think the nature of the constant, ever-evolving puzzle of a Live environment is a big draw for some. I’d also say we have a big emphasis on communication and teamwork within our group, and I’ve never felt like I’ve worked somewhere where I was both valued as an individual contributor and as a friend. It’s that ‘band-of-brothers’ (and sisters) feeling that means no matter how deep in the trenches we are, there’s always someone else with you ready to help out and make that next change the best it can be.
In the end, everyone’s got their own ways (many folks play other games in their off-time, many of us keep up with the gym, pursue art or personal projects, rick plays ffxiv, etc) but having a team of homies to back you up makes it all easier.
I mostly just disagree with this statement. Morellonomnomnomicon and Athene’s are both reasonably powerful in my estimation and we still usually see mages rush one of these two. I do think there’s a small gap here in terms of AP/CDR itemization for non-mana mages, but I also think this is a very niche market that we’re hesitant to provide easy CDR for due to how overbearing a, let’s say, Vlad can be when he can easily rush both AP and CDR in lane.
Literally tons. A lot of our early iterations on Rengar’s Q in the rework come to mind, where we did stuff like using ferocity on Q would give you 3 stacks to make it the sustain damage option on him, but really basically just made him murder you even faster.
Different reasons on all of these. Kassadin’s the most straightforward, where it’s just about how his mobility profile gives him perfect control over when fights are happening, so the second he crosses a certain power threshold, he just consistently runs away with games. Ryze is currently mostly about the mechanical needs of the character and just how much power a player gains from properly executing his passive combos, which means that he looks very weak for our average player, but is secretly one of the highest winrate characters for experienced players. I could probably write a book on why Azir is a balance nightmare at this point, but in the interest of being able to respond to more posts today, I’ll just say that it’s very difficult to balance a hypercarry who has reliable means of ensuring their own safety and that Azir pushes the limits of both being a hypercarry and reliably ensuring his own safety.
Very closely. We try our best to give them good counsel on how to balance their characters pre-release and they try to give us advice on how to balance their characters while retaining their intended identities.
There’s a chance, but I think we’re really hesitant about taking this route, as it does really limit players ability to pick the character they want to play in any given game. I know there are some folks looking at pick/ban structure and I wouldn’t be surprised if over the next few years the pick/ban system changed significantly, but it’s not something we’re directly looking at in the short term.
Not in the short term. There will be some crit shifting around in the pre-season, but we’re not going to do anything so drastic as fully removing it in the near future. I think long term, trying to shift random crits to conditional crits (like, say, every 3rd attack crits, or all your attacks from brushes crit, etc), might have some promise, but we’ve never really gotten a good enough model of this working to ship.
Tahm Kench has definitely got some strength packed in that big ‘ol belly. If we do try to tone him down, we definitely won’t be trying to push him out of the meta or out of viability. After all, he’s only started picking up steam over the last couple of patches, so we wanna give him some more soak time before we just bop him!
JannaÂ is still in a pretty good place right now. Her disengage ultimate is one of the most reliable ways to counteract the menace of run-at-you tanky guys. She doesn’t seem to be in need of any boosts at the moment, but we won’t forget about her. We’ll need to re-evaluate a lot of champs when pre-season hits. 🙂
Kindred is experiencing what almost every new champion does. Extremely high ban rate in games, and players are still picking them up and figuring them out. They’ve proven to be powerful (not ABSURDLY so, mind you) in the hands of players with many Kindred games under their belt. We tend to follow-up within a couple patches on new champions, and we will likely do something to adjust Kindred’s power. Again though, pre-season will be throwing everyone for a loop!
They’re still pretty new to the Rift and have a fairly steep learning curve, so a slightly lower than average win rate right now is appropriate.
I personally feel that they’ll be strong once people figure out all their tricks. Just give it some time.
Regarding the ADC rework: since it won’t be much longer, I think I’ll have to go with a “wait and see” here. We don’t expect that supports are going to be adversely affected by the Marskman changes, though.
Good question, and I agree that there are plenty of passives that leave something to be desired.
Regarding your examples:
Some of the champs you mentioned have also been singled out internally and gotten some experimentation (like Heimer, Shyv, and Syndra), though I can’t speak to how they are prioritized among other projects in terms of urgency and which ones are planning to move forward (within our team specifically, the only one that springs to mind is Syndra, though no promises on exact ship date atm hah).
Regarding passive quantity:
This is a controversial topic, but I wanna just share a bit of context here. It’s important to keep in mind that we don’t design passives in a vacuum and then decide how many each champion gets. Passives are designed to serve the needs of a particular champion.
Say I’m a champion designer making a new kit, and I start with a particular gameplay loop that fits nicely on Q W and E slots. The kit is somewhat functional and unique, but there are still things to figure out (let’s say the W and E have some usability issues, certain lane matchups are very one-sided, my abilities late-game are confusing team mates, my spell rotation feels too unreliable, wave clearing is too easy, and my build paths don’t scale right). What I do with the Passive and R slots–indeed, what I do with all slots–are going to be about problems like these or addressing other higher levels goals (like delivering the fantasy better or more unique or something).
The answer to those problems might involve any number of changes, possibly demanding 0, 1, or 2+ passives. If I do add 2+ passives, it’s not because I just want the champ to be cooler or have more stuff than others. And it is going to come at the cost of power budget and complexity budget, not just added on top of an otherwise finished, balanced champion. A solution might even involve removing/nerfing passives so that we have more complexity and power budget to put on actives!
In the end, individual slots are not supposed to be balanced between each other, nor are “my champ passive(s)” vs “your champ passive(s).” Entire kits are supposed to be balanced between each other. “2 passives > 1 passive” doesn’t always follow. It’s very possible to design a kit with high agency, complexity, and fun with just actives, and it’s also very possible to design a super lame kit that has several passives! And it’s those kinds of properties (agency, fun, complexity, clarity, etc.) that we care most about: if a champion’s multiple passives leaves them with too much control over the game, or too much complexity, or something like that, that is a big concern for us (and we definitely aren’t perfect about these things!). But the actual quantity is usually not inherently good or bad.
Regarding passive quality:
Lemme give a different example: say we have a high-complexity champion who has everything BUT the passive slot locked down (you might have even had an awesome passive during development but it ended up being extraneous as other slots developed further). As in, “if our game hadn’t already set the precedent, I might actually give this champ 0 passives.” This can be a tricky spot: players expect each of their slots to feel fun and distinct, including the passive slot, but you don’t want to disrupt the balance and fun of your existing pattern/slots.
A lot of these passives end up being lower-budget passives: we could have made Jayce get multiple intricate passives, but he’s already so complicated and multi-faceted that it would probably detract from the kit to do so. Sometimes you make the call, “this champ is about these cool actives, and we should avoid detracting from that here.”
This isn’t to say that “lame passives” are a good thing, but sometimes the cost-benefit of trying to discover a perfect passive is outweighed by the value of delivering the champion to players with a not-stellar passive. The opposite is also true: sometimes we have a champion that’s bloated in complexity/abilities by the time we’re reading to ship, but we’re willing to make the trade-off for the sake of delivering what we feel is a good product to players.
All that said, improving lame slots is definitely on our radar; I just wanted to give context. I hope that provides a little clarity for why passives compare/contrast in the way they do!
100% yes for me. I came from a background of clinging onto competitive games for the long haul (been playing MtG for almost 20 years now, Smash Melee for 10, League for 6), so balancing and preserving the fairness of a game was always something super important and interesting to me.
We work in 2 week sprints on each patch. Once during each sprint we plan out our work on what we want to ship in the upcoming patch, which is a combination of the things we see as off as players and the outliers in terms of metrics like pick rate/ban rate/win rate. Once we take on projects, we rapidly iterate and test changes until we get to changelists we’re happy with. We’re also constantly re-evaluating our work so that if something super broken emerges we can hop on it ASAP (for instance, runeglaive Ezreal).
This question is waaaaaaay too big to adequately answer. I guess the tl;dr for me is that I’m happy we’ve hit the sort of diversity numbers in Professional play that we’re seeing in Worlds this year, but that I still feel like some things are really off in terms of feeling like a fair and enjoyable experience for most players. I won’t dive too deep into this, but basically, Professional diversity is great and certainly one valid measure of how the game’s balance is doing, but I don’t think it captures the full picture by any stretch of the imagination.
Make yourself visible as an expert on the game you’re trying to work on. This is pretty broad, but encompasses both getting to a relatively high rank and demonstrating your knowledge on the state of the game. Stuff like blogging, writing articles, and streaming can all be good means of getting exposure and demonstrating that you get the game on a very deep level. Also, perpetually seek the feedback of people who are already working on balance, as they can give great feedback about how you might be limiting your thoughts.
I’d be looking for something along these lines with the upcoming preseason. I agree that it’s a major frustration to have people put off trinket upgrades for so long, and the entire trinket system has been a hot topic for the Systems team for 2016.
a lot of what you’ve been picking up on has been intentionalâ€”elise should have a path open to her that allows for gold to be spent on increasing her kill potential, and for less of that threat to be available ‘for free’ in the form of base stats/damages. since elise is a six-ability form swapper it’s more important for her overall fairness to ask elise players to use their early-game power spike to earn a gold advantage and then invest it wisely in order to keep that strength going later into the game. i personally think it helps her feel more like a mage/assassin pairing (which seems more aligned with who she wants to be), whereas the elise of old felt more like a support/tank pairing.
if i had to guess as to what areas we’d look at next, it would be ones that would let us stay on course with the last few changesâ€”base damage past level 7 should be monitored closely, and scaling with gold should feel appropriately rewarding (and tied to success). if we ever needed to go harder on her, i’d imagine it would be thinking of cool ways to replace her w spells that would give us more ‘balance levers’ while keeping her feeling great to play.
Power-wise we feel Mordekaiser’s too strong currently in the duo lane and too weak in the solo lane case. We’re generally okay if duo is his main role, but the disparity between those roles is currently too high. His solo lane is too weak and his duo lane is too strong.
Mordekaiser W is totally worth revisiting in regards to the solo vs duo cast, it can feel pretty lackluster and is a good spot to target to help bridge the gap between the Solo lane/ Duo Lane case. Not sure on specific changes we’d make, but we’ll be looking into Morde specifically more after the first big preseason patch (PBE Soon(tm)!)
I’m unsure specifically on % of shield conversion values. He’s pretty damn durable atm, and I feel the minimum shield threshhold helped him a lot more in lane than is getting generally credited, but adjusting the W sustain could grant us the option of increasing his shield growth since that skill in particular is currently double dipping in generating shield and restoring health.
We very recently put in the change to her ult where she heals on self cast. Spell costs were something we looked at, but didn’t feel like she really needed anything there. The passive definitely has the biggest room for improvement. I messed around with some changes where she would spawn black ice around her and gain bonuses if she cast on top of them, but ultimately didn’t have time for that patch. Definitely something I’d like to continue work on later though.
That being said, we’ve seen her in a few games at worlds so far and think she’s in a decent place in terms of power.
so, we’ll probably need to take a look at her sometime after the new season starts up (if nothing else, just as part of a follow-up pass on the different roles) but we don’t have any kat-specific changes already in mind. part of the issue with katarina is that, at present, she is intended to be more about ‘chasing a high moment’ and as such will rarely feel as fair as a lot of the roster (the players playing as, with, or against are kind of playing a zero-sum game over happiness/fairness).
we came around to that intention pretty explicitly around the time i put some very experimental changes out on the pbe, which i believe was about a year ago. essentially, we took a stab at what a more ‘healthy and sustainable’ katarina would look like. what came of that is that while we might have ended up with a katarina that more people could have been more happy with if she was commonly in their games, league of legends as a whole would have lost a type of character/playstyle that was one of the more unique offerings in the game. we likened it to the experience that draven providesâ€”to make the ‘draven experience’ feel as fair as someone like lucian would almost certainly make our adc pool feel less diverse/rich, if not the game as a whole.
that’s kind of the long and short of it. for the time being, katarina represents a play experience larger than herself. if we ever reevaluate and decide that that experience doesn’t align with katarina, then we’ll certainly give her the time needed to give her the appropriate changes. outside of that though, she’ll likely remain in the ‘chasing a high moment’ camp. that said, i think more than a couple assassins could use some love right now, so she might be suffering from compounding issuesâ€”we’ll be sure to look into that once the next season gets rolling.
She definitely wasn’t weak prior to her buffs, but she does get harder and harder to succeed with as the game goes on. While people start to move faster with boots and items, her Bubble becomes trickier and trickier to hit. Would definitely be interested in doing even more cool things for her 🙂
If he were made today, I assume he’d be classified as a juggernaut and not have an infinite scaling mechanic. If he does ever get reworked, the late game raid boss fantasy is a must and I’d be sad if stacks got removed, but could live with that I suppose.
Currently, we have no plans to implement a third summoner spell slot, nor do we have plans to lock Flash in for everyone.
We are looking into ways to diversify Summoner Spell choices, and that includes considering how Flash relates to other Summoner Spell.
that is the current plan, i believe. we had some work in progress we really wanted to wrap up before starting on our preseason work, but we ran out of time. nothing is set in stone though, so that work is just ‘on hold’ until we have an opportunity to pick it back up which could technically be a while (or forever), but with luck it’s just around the corner.
Not an easy question to answer. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Generally, we go with the approach that we can be wrong but we tend to have a higher than average hit rate, and we can iterate and update when we make mistakes and get additional eyes and player feedback.
Scuttlecrab was an example of a design that got a ton of initial pushback both internally and externally and we got a lot of pressure to remove but was probably the best single addition we made in the previous preseason. It offered a lot of additional jungle routes, caused tons of tension and skirmishes – something the early game desperately needed, provided additional control and objective control gameplay, and was freaking cute as hell.
On the flip side we aired way too high on the power level of Juggernauts in combination of PBE feedback and with the our expectation that the additional playstyle changes would take a lot longer for players to pick up and adapt to.
I pretty strongly disagree with this statement. The banning phase is exactly used for champions people feel are stronger than average. No champion currently has anything resembling a 64% winrate.
The top 10 bans currently in the game are Darius, Garen, Yasuo, Fiora, Kindred, Mordekaiser, Zed, Riven, Katarina, and Blitzcrank who have ~50%,52%,51%,51%,47%,50%,48%,51%,49%,52% win rates respectively. These numbers are not the end-all-be all statistic or the only thing we care about but the reality of the data is crazy far off from 64% you mention. These will of course fluctuate a little based off ELO, role/lane, and experience rate etc, but not substantially.
Teemo isn’t currently a part of any marksman updates, so I think someone was trolling you. There’s discussion about doing some changes of VARYING scopes on the others that you’ve mentioned. Distinguishing play patterns is part of the aim for updating marksmen, so there’s definitely some work being done to enhance that. You’ll have to wait for more exact details, but not very long!
Yes, we have tempered our approach to the marksman update with our learnings from the juggernauts. As you say, pre-season will definitely shake things up, but that doesn’t mean we want to repeat any of the frustrations that we introduced with the juggernauts. We’re still being ambitious and creative while trying not to aim for raw power as a means of attaining viability. The marksman update in conjunction with all of the pre-season changes will likely cause a significant shift in a way that we’re working hard to make fun and refreshing.
Hmm. Lucian is a good example for me. That dude was just in every pro game for the better part of a year, so we actually sat down and did a mini-rework of him (Attack Range, E changes being pretty major here). There’s definitely some kits that you’ve seen us struggle with balancing in the past year or so that may be solved with some small tweaks, or may need some broader updates (Ryze, Azir, Kalista being decent examples).
For something like that we rely more on past experience, since we’ve seen what kind of power change a nerf like that has had on ADCs before (for example, Twitch got -3 AD last year and we could use that as a reference point for the Vayne nerf).
I definitely didn’t see mid Ezreal coming when I was doing Runeglaive. 😛
I did the Nautilus changes at the beginning of this year, and I knew that he would feel more versatile as a champion, but I didn’t anticipate him being so powerful in the support role.
Most of these surprises were pretty cool though.
A-atrox is a pretty cool guy. We were actually just talking about him this morning. We don’t have any specific plans, though he will definitely be affected along with everyone else with the pre-season. What sort of things do you like about him? Also, have you considered his synergy with Kindred?? ;0
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me atÂ @NoL_ChefoÂ or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.