Quick Gameplay Thoughts: January 10

Hi folks, ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- **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 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- **Large patch/small patch** As previously mentioned we're going to be trying a test this year where we alternate between patches with a larger number of gameplay changes and those with a smaller number. We're interested in whether keeping the game a bit more consistent for 4 week blocks like that results in more development of strategy and interesting play since there’ll be a more stable state to explore/optimize in. We're also hoping it will allow us to get more done solving bigger picture issues (e.g. item overhauls, adding missing runes, kit updates etc), since less time will be spent on short term balance adjustments. This is very much an experiment we're trying though. It's possible that, while it sounds promising on paper, the result is that it feels like some urgent stuff takes longer to get solved and we don't make much more progress on longer term work. If that's the case, or some other issue crops up, we'll go back to our regular patch approach. 8.2 will be the first of the larger patches, with 8.3 smaller, 8.4 large again etc. Important to note that this large/small cycle only applies to some types of gameplay changes, at least for now. If we're changing a bunch of items for example that'll happen in a large (even number) patch. So will most balance changes. Stuff like skins, bug fixing, rotating game modes, new client features etc won't be taking the large/small distinction into account though and will keep going out in whichever patch they’re ready for. At least for now new champs and VGUs will also continue to be in small patches as well as large. We reassess them in particular at some point if this approach shows promise, see how much benefit there is/isn’t in doing them only in large patches too. We want to start off by basically testing just wider ranging balance changes on that cycle though. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- **Targeted Spells and Minion Agro** Speaking of wider ranging changes here's one that will be in a large patch if we go through with it. We're currently testing a change where single target click to hit spells that deal damage (e.g. Brand E or Annie Q) will draw minion agro in the same way auto attacks already do. Not guaranteed that change ships yet, it's still in testing, but if it does it would definitely be in a large patch (potentially 8.2 or 8.4). We're testing this approach because we believe it could make it a lot easier to balance a range of champions. Historically we've had to balance a lot of champs with click to hit spells around the assumption they'll often just be spamming that spell on the enemy until either the target dies/is driven back to base or the caster runs OOM. Pantheon's a particularly clear example of that. The result is a fairly limited play pattern, with limited options for their opponents too (suffer through it or trade back harder). We've had to do things like heavy mana gating, range nerfs, pushing champs out of lanes entirely, conversion of abilities to skillshots as a result to keep some champs in line. Ranged auto attacks by contrast, while still having some issues, are quite a bit more nuanced because they draw minion agro. There are times for example where landing an AA on an opponent's a really poor idea because of the minion damage you'll take, or the way you’ll make the lane push. That gives windows other people can play around and opens up ways to play the lane. That’s particularly important in ranged versus melee match ups that would otherwise favor the ranged champ noticeably more if it wasn't for that minion agro call. As said this is still a possible, not a certain change. It's also one that would hit a bunch of champs moderately hard power wise, with Panth, Kassadin and Cass being particularly on our minds. They’d almost certainly need some help afterwards as a result (Panth possibly excepted, given his current strength). Getting some more counterplay onto their baseline abilities would let us give them power in other interesting ways however. A number of champs with low counterplay laning patterns end up really restricted in what other strengths they’re allowed to have. Such a change would also potentially allow us to balance some champs in contexts we’ve had to push them out of in the past (e.g. could we get laning Elise back into play in a balanced way if Q spam wasn't so lacking in enemy response?) ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- **Unsealed SpellBook** We're working on Unsealed Spellbook at the moment. Changes won't be in 8.2 at least, hoping for not too long after though (could be 8.3 if smaller in scope, probably 8.4 if larger). One thing we are trying that I figured would be of interest given it's been a frequent suggestion, is allowing people with Unsealed Spellbook to select some older Summoner Spells that aren't generally in the game anymore. Still trying to figure out which ones we should offer. Some seem pretty safe (e.g. Clarity). Others are really interesting, but might be problematic (e.g. Revive). Will update with where we're at after some more testing and discussion. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- **Game Pacing Update** We're still looking into game pacing/snowball this week. As of Monday (time of writing) we're getting some changes in for testing to make towers a bit tougher early game. Average game times after the pre-season patch times didn't change that much. Almost all of the time lost however was from laning phase and we feel that’s pushed laning phase down to too short a duration. We’re testing changes to restore a bit of time to it as a result, along with potentially some changes to a couple of snowbally elements (e.g. a potential nerf to Triumph on the gold and/or HP regen). One thing that makes snowball/pacing trickier subjects to work on is that player viewpoints on them are very disparate. We see some online communities of players for example currently argue that games need to be much longer and snowball is very excessive. Other groups however have different takes. We also do some randomized surveying of LoL players, with a recent (start of January) survey to players in North America, Brazil and Korea (1500 players after they'd finished an SR game). That suggested that on average those people at least wanted a slightly shorter game than they’re getting at present. They also felt that snowball is in an ok state and similar in magnitude to when we surveyed at the start of 2017 and 2018. Strong contrasts in opinion like that make for a trickier space to navigate. We're going to keep digging into snowball and pacing over the coming weeks though of course, see which hypothesis we can build enough confidence in to act on them. We're confident enough in the loss of laning phase time, based off a combination of player feedback, direct observation of games and collected data for example to test changes to address that. For changes beyond that we'll need to do some more work though. First we'll be processing survey data from other regions (China’s up next). We’ll then looking into how perception of game pacing/snowball does or doesn't change at different MMR bands (e.g. how do opinions in Silver compare to opinions in Diamond?). We also need to break down a bunch of the data we’ve gathered by other segments too (e.g. what’s the exact distribution within those averages of people with strong feelings either way, versus comparatively neutral about things?). http://ddragon.leagueoflegends.com/cdn/6.24.1/img/champion/Ziggs.png
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