Quick Gameplay Thoughts: December 13

Hi all, ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- **Usual Disclaimers** These posts will often contain talk about future work we're doing, or planning to do, that isn't yet guaranteed to ship. The nature of the work could change or, depending on what we discover, projects mentioned may get put delayed or even stopped. If you'd like to see a Tweet whenever a new one of these posts goes up: https://twitter.com/RiotMeddler http://ddragon.leagueoflegends.com/cdn/6.24.1/img/champion/Ziggs.png ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ **RNG - Input Randomness versus Output Randomness** Been seeing RNG get talked about more recently, which makes sense given recent release of both Zoe and Kleptomancy. Figured it was a good time to talk through some of our thoughts a bit more. For anyone unfamiliar with the term RNG stands for random number generation/generator and is often used as a shorthand for 'randomness'. To start things off, we believe RNG, if done well, can have a place in competitive games. We think some forms of randomness are good fits for a game like LoL, and some aren't. Appropriate use of RNG allows players to show their adaptability, adding another type of skill test in addition to the others already present in the game (mechanical skill, coordination with team mates, etc). It can create unexpected situations that test quick thinking, allow unusual actions and can be really exciting. On the other hand if done badly it can remove meaning from player skill and decide games unfairly. We feel one of the common traits of competitively appropriate RNG is whether that randomness occurs as an input to decisions or an output. Inputs are things that you make decisions around, starting conditions that vary but that then play out based on player actions. Elemental Dragons are an example of that, where the type of dragon is randomly determined but it's then up to each team how they want to respond to it. Inputs benefit from being well telegraphed so players can make decisions around them and should be fair to both teams. They can be a way to incorporate the benefits of randomness while ensuring that how you respond to the situation is what determines the game outcome, not what situation was created in the first place. Examples in other games include things like randomized starting points in Starcraft or map generation in Civilization. With output randomness by contrast it's RNG itself, rather than decisions made after it, that often decide a situation's outcome. E.g. a 50/50 chance to destroy a target or take significant damage yourself. It's certainly possible to play around the risk of output randomness of course (e.g. trying to only opt in to risky situations when you can accept the risk of negative outcomes or adjusting your play in response to a random occurrence). Generally though with output randomness luck has a really significant impact. That can be ok if the randomness in question occurs so many times it's almost guaranteed to even out (a 50/50 chance repeated 100 times for example). With infrequent interactions though you tend to get a very luck influenced experience. We've avoided or removed major sources of output randomness in LoL generally and it's unlikely we'll add new ones to competitive LoL modes. Crit's a notable exception however. It does have some mitigating factors, adding risk/uncertainty to otherwise very predictable situations, and evening out in impact at a high crit %, at least against tanky champs. It's often a negative experience though, deciding more fights through luck than it should, particularly in lane when players have low crit chances. At some point we'll work on crit, change it to a system that keeps some of its benefits while reducing the 'that was bullshit, I did everything right and still lost' feeling. Not sure when that will be, it'd be a good change, but also a large project, and competes with work on things like other item overhauls, improvements to runes, smaller champion updates etc. Jumping back to randomness, some situations will present a mixture of both input and output randomness at once. A particularly good example of that comes from PUBG, with the loot crates dropped by plane at random locations that are then highly telegraphed for players to compete over. Poker's another good example, with both what you get in a hand and how you approach the game having enormous impact on how the game goes. In both cases it helps that high degrees of randomness are not just a tolerated part of the game, but major drawcards, so blending skill and luck makes a lot of sense. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ **RNG in LoL** Getting out of our general thoughts on RNG and talking about specific cases in LoL more then: * Elemental Dragons - Highly telegraphed and equally available to both teams. Bonuses are designed so that they may change the way you play/what you're team's strong at, but won't be useless for any team and, if a team's particularly strong with one of them (e.g. split push with Cloud or poke with Ocean) it should also be good against that team. Favorable dragon spawns early game can sometimes given a strong early team an advantage. We've repeatedly seen teams overcome even things like triple Infernal drakes however, so feel even the extreme outcomes are within the bounds of appropriateness. * Crit - Adds some unpredictability to combat that's valuable but overall has too much power in the hands of luck, rather than player response. Few more thoughts above. * Plants - There's some randomness in when/where plants spawn, though within a tight range of constraints (very limited range of possible spawn points and limited spawn windows). There's enough randomness that plants can create some unexpected play and test adaptability on the fly at a more tactical level than the strategic level dragons tend to impact. You'll know ahead of time that they could exist, what their effects will be, and it's how they're used that matters. Some players do dislike them, Blast Cone in particular. Overall however from what we've seen, including through survey data, they're well liked overall and we think they’re doing good things for the game too. * Kleptomancy - Somewhat randomized loot create a series of decisions to make around what to do with your new stuff and a bunch of exciting moments. Excessive impact of randomness is controlled by a large sample size (getting a lot of loot over the course of the game), controls on which items you can get at any point in time based off what you've recently got and how far into the game it is (no Elixir of Skill early on for example). Randomness on gold bags is also somewhat mitigated by players being able to choose to opt out of the randomized reward. Giving up another keystone also helps opponents respond to early spikes in power especially (lacking a combat keystone for direct trades). * Zoe - Occurrences of randomness are clearly telegraphed, with minions are marked and the abilities they drops guaranteed to spawn away from Zoe, ensuring it takes a bit more time for her to pick them up. Their impact is based off how Zoe uses whatever she picks up, not the moment something drops (exception: if Zoe instantly picks up and uses something with immediate combat impact). Yet to be seen whether we've got the appropriate items, drop rates, drop positions etc right though. That's a subject of some debate internally, especially around Gunblade and TP. Certainly creates some really interesting and creative moments, impact can sometimes feel heavily influenced by what just dropped in early laning and just before roaming. * Bard - Chime locations have a fair bit of randomness in them, there are still a lot of constraints on them though behind the scenes. They won't spawn too far away from Bard (especially early game) and won't spawn in terrible places like directly under enemy towers. They're around long enough it's more a 'when will I get this' than 'can I get this' question. Their timing's also tightly controlled, both in terms of when they appear and how many will be available each game. Overall they serve well to give flexibility and a bit of unpredictability to Bard's roaming, making it a more interesting experience, without luck deciding Bard's overall impactful much. For some further thoughts on a related topic it's also well worth checking out the video Dev Diary we put out on Variance last year if you haven't already seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U1Gcf8l8yY ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ **Some 8.1 changes also on PBE** We've got a number of changes going out in patch 7.24b shortly. There are also a number of balance changes on the PBE at present though that won't be in that patch and are tentatively expected to be in patch 8.1 (early January). We're holding those changes because they need more time in testing and/or are need to be done in a way that's not possible through a micro patch (which 7.24b is, even if it'll have patch notes, normal messaging etc). Some of those changes: * Buff to Brand's passive damage * Nerf to Heimer's RQ damage * Buffs to Olaf's base AD, W attack speed, E CD * Xerath mana cost up * Forbidden Idol changes * Predator buff ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ **Grasp of the Undying** Quick update on this. After testing changes to Grasp where some of its power was changed to provide ramping AP/AD to help it also serve various champs without sufficient keystone choice at present we've concluded that's not the right way to solve that problem. Disruption to existing Grasp users, and degree that approach changed the identity of Grasp, both being problems. Not surprising, and something we figured was a significant risk going into testing, but worth investigation, given if we had found a way to make it work it would have allowed us to improve things for those champs quicker than we otherwise could. We'll be leaving Grasp as is and looking to make a new Keystone instead. It's likely, though not guaranteed, that will also be in the Resolve tree. Release timing, assuming we find something that should be shipped, is uncertain. Unlikely to be in January however, given the holiday break coming up takes out some work time.
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