Hey all, Lead Gameplay Designer RiotScruffy here. I thought it would be a good idea to reflect a bit on a highly discussed topic in both the community and our design department in 2018: champions with “no weaknesses” or “overloaded.” So the first question is what do we really mean by “no weaknesses?” Many people have different interpretations so I’d like to define how we’ve been thinking about this problem and how we hope to avoid it more consistently in the future.
Definition of the problem **insufficient weaknesses** -> when a champion played optimally invalidates options for their opponents to proactively beat them or defend against their attacks, effectively leaving them with no clear vulnerability.
We have had a number of champions that have crossed this line over the years (Leblanc, Vladimir, Azir) and some recent examples (Irelia, Aatrox, Akali).
As part of our discussions, we’ve been categorizing common causes of no weaknesses, which tends to happen when a champion is overloaded with too many strengths. Generally most champions in the game should have 1-2 of these powerful tools but when you start having many more it means there's not much you're weak at:
* Powerful reactive defenses (big shields, invulnerability, untargetability)
* Very short windows of downtime (short cooldowns, spells you can hold for reactive plays while still being highly effective, ammo)
* Many abilities with low or no cast times
* Very strong waveclear or wave control
* Fallbacks cover weaknesses too well - for example a “weak laning phase” champion that has tools to farm perfectly from afar
* Mobility tools that don't have cast or target restrictions
* Wall crossing abilities
* Very high dash speeds
* Range advantages
* No early game counter matchups
* Flex pick ability to avoid counters (matters particularly in pro play)
For all new champs and VGUs from now on, the goal is:
**A champion has clear moments of vulnerability and is generally weak to a significant number of champions (roughly 20+) or a common mechanic (like hard CC).**
Some good examples:
* Darius is really scary in melee range but he still remains kiteable by most ranged champions
* Blitzcrank can win a game with a single god hand hook but he is very vulnerable to poke and has a lot of downtime
* Kayn is a flexible assassin type champ but his tools let enemies have some warning and allows him to be slippery but not have an out for every situation
* Jhin seems to have some serious abilities beyond the average marksman (range, CC) but he is still obliterated by a large swath of mobile aggressors
We are integrating this new goal at the core of our future development but not everything always goes exactly how we hope it will. To better react to these types of issues if they come up in the future, we’ve added a few additional processes:
1. Roughly 6 weeks after a new champion or big update we are dedicating some additional time to evaluate how it all landed and make mechanical changes (not just balance) if we see this or other problems. If we fail to fix a problem even after this we will have to try again with more significant changes.
2. When we do see signs that this is the case (win rate increases dramatically with MMR, high pro presence with very low win rate in solo queue, no counter matchups) we will react first with an attempt to open up a weakness instead of reducing overall power and ending up with the same problems still present.
We recently took a few swings at fixing the lack of weakness issues on champions where we think we went too far (note this is all stuff we have already done). Mechanics changes can be a bit disruptive, so in the short term these champs might be out of balance, but we will follow up with power and numbers tuning to bring them back. A quick summary of what we hoped to achieve:
* Akali - opening up more time to respond by slowing down stealth time, making her more weak to poke in lane, and opening up more areas of safety for enemies under tower
* Irelia - We want to maintain her high mobility and aggression potential while opening up vulnerability to magic damage and reducing her team fight utility
* Ornn - Low-cooldown defenses on his shield were giving him too much safety and reliability in lane matchups and ganks
* Aatrox - High sustain kept him consistently healthy and the 2 charge dash model allowed him to sit on one charge for an escape most of the time and also let him remove the Q dodgeability too frequently
We’ve had good success with pulling out a bit of versatility and rebalancing with more direct power in the past. To be clear this doesn’t mean removing all frustration, just creating clear openings for playing against these champs.
* Zed - used to leave too little room for opponent responses but the addition of R reactivation delay and slowing down living shadow speed made him a much healthier and still extremely fun champ
* Kassadin - the removal his Q silence and maintaining a weak laning phase created a better counterbalance for his late game power curve
I’m very proud of the work we did in 2018 but we’re aiming this year to tighten up our consistency on making sure every champ has real weaknesses as we continue to deliver exciting and skillful new champions and champion updates.