Hi, I'm Masala Chai, a Karma and ~~Kalista~~ (RIP) main, you may have known me under the previous tag of "Kasarana" for my previous posts about the new client and handholding mechanics that made otherwise fun kits consequentially feel bloated. Today, I'd like to discuss "Game Design" in the context of League of Legends and how Riot isn't really living up to their promise of addressing pain points.
Keep in mind that I'm no game designer, nor do I feel explicitly qualified to either advise nor attempt to say that I could possibly be better at balancing League of Legends. But the collective thoughts of a lot of my friends ranging from all MMRS and observations from frequenting these boards have simply led to this post.
2 years ago, if one were to look at the front page of the Gameplay Boards, the vast majority of the posts would be targetted more around champion kits being overtuned, unfun to play against, or the like.
Today, the posts on the boards now complain about broad systems and subsections of champion. In many perceptions, more sweeping changes have occurred that have, all in all, caused more broad problems on a much wider scale. Complaints about how the state of the game has been progressively getting worse have become much more common, (I think it's pretty undoubted that a growing portion of the playerbase have been growing increasingly discontent, given that this diverse sample can be representative of the population) and some doubting the mental faculties of people on the balance team. Individual champion balance threads, which often pointed to a single champion either being out of balance (ex. Poppy is crazy broken) have been swept into larger and more scopic generalizations (ex. Tanks are crazy broken).
Riot's previous methods to addressing individual champion problems through large-scale class reworks has perhaps only exasperated the problems that were ideally suppose to be fixed, and distilling the problems that that specific champion had to other champions.
Prior to the Marksman rework, every marksman had a fairly specific niche, barring perhaps Lucian and Graves who fixed themselves to that niche of bursty ADCs. The results of this rework has caused every top tier ADC (barring Kalista in pro play for different reasons), to be fixed into a long range or high DPS late game carry with the best ADCs being the one who can do the most damage reliably, whilst utility carries and lane bullies are either mediocre and unsatisfying, or simply pushed towards a solo lane or in the case of Graves, the jungle. As a result, the ADC rework has largely caused ADCs to be shoehorned together since their competitive niche has largely been lost. Caitlyn is in! Ashe is out! Xayah is in! Kalista is out! Instead of differentiating their themes, Riot has made the erronous decision to overlapping themes that allow an ADC to fill multiple niches, and whenever that one niche is best filled by one, the other fade off to being inferior versions, especially since ADC scaling curves have largely been homogenized.
Prior to the Assassin rework, the problem with Assassins is that they snowballed hard, and they snowballed fast and they often offered little counterplay. Today, the problems of them being feast or famine still exists, and they are still as frustrating to play against as before. But unfortunately, the assassin rework consequentially had the side effect of making the champions themselves unfun to play as (in the words of Fizz Enthusiast)
And the promise of the tank rework making them more satisfying, while making them deal less consistent damage and being bulky against large sweeping threats of a particular damage type have largely fallen through. With tanks now on average dealing more damage than certain bruisers in a game.
Over the past year, we have been getting messages through Meddler's Gameplay Thoughts that significant steps would be addressed to make kits more satisfying again, such as through reverts and other changes. Some of these have occurred, but others, lots of others, haven't thus far.
Now Riot has been explicitly stating that they wanted to address the problems that made League of Legends problematic at the conclusion of Season 7, where we had jumped clean off aplomb the Ardent meta, and there was a rolling boil in the community about how "the balance gets paid 6 figures to do nothing". Safelocked addressed the concerns of the playerbase through the fallout of Runes Reforged, things like Resolve path not being a particularly exciting playstyle since it's fundamentally a tank playstyle, and the skill curve associated with Unsealed Spellbook. These things are already being addressed through the addition of Chrysalis and Boneplating. Things like the 2 patch cycle of big patch- little patch, where the larger patch would bring systemically significant changes such as the mage item rework and champion updates, and the next patch would bring smaller changes and **addressing anything weird that pops up**.
But lately, we seem to get large individual champion changes through the smaller patch cycles, in direct contradiction to that philosophy. Less so, than the actual addressing of problems that arise in the aftermath of a VGU rework or new champion, all of them were released ironically in the smaller patches (8.3 for Swain, 8.5 for Kai'Sa, 8.7 for Irelia), which caused the "larger patches" being focused on addressing pain points. As a result, I don't think the large patch small patch thing is working since it seems to cause a reasonable reduction in the quality of work that the balance team can reliably put out. The size of the patch should be based on a patch by patch basis, not awkwardly structured, especially since the state of the game is so volatile given the large depth and penetration that League of Legends has across the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.
All in all Riot, you haven't been really living up to your whole vision or mission statement in any of the ways recently simply because you're taking the game that vast majority of us enjoy, and instead on focusing the game to be based around skill as it was in Season 3, when the largest influx of players percentage wise probably occured at a later date. While a breath of fresh air is always fun to have, the meta as it stands is stale, old, and the product of terrible balance decision that were made without enough thought nor with concern about the broader playerbase; while taking an inordinate amount of time to fix the established problems that were made by the error of judgement.