Elemental Dragons: What we're doing and why

Hey folks, Our mid season initial rundown’s just gone out ( http://na.leagueoflegends.com/en/featured/mid-season-magic ) and the changes should start hitting the PBE in the next couple of days. One thing we wanted to talk about in more detail was the elemental dragons. One of the skills we believe is important to LoL is responding to varied situations (e.g. enemy team comp, unexpected jungler appearances etc). Our intent is to use different dragon buffs, and to a lesser extent, dragon encounters, to also create situations each team can adapt to and take advantage of. If that’s not happening, in particular if it feels like which dragons spawn is too decisive by itself, then we’ll look to fix that. **What are elemental dragons?** Instead of the current 5-buff dragon system, we’re changing it to 4 different types of elemental dragons, each of which gives a different buff. The types and order of elemental dragon spawn are randomized (with some restrictions) and it’s possible to get multiple stacks of one element (e.g. 2 air dragon kills gives more movement speed than 1 air dragon kill). After 35 minutes, the dragons are replaced by an elder dragon, who gives a consistent buff of his own and amplifies existing buffs when killed. **Why change dragon?** We had multiple goals when updating dragon. * Increase the average value of dragon so it's more appealing to contest it (drives early conflict in particular) without making it a must do as soon as possible every game. * Introduce more game-to-game variation. We want to create different situations to respond to, with the feeling that games are more meaningfully different from each other. There should be different strategic situations to understand and respond to and handling that well is we believe a core skill in LoL. * Create additional opportunities to play around dragon as an objective in interesting ways. **Why different buffs/dragons?** Different buffs giving different types of power should lead to teams making somewhat different decisions on a game-to-game basis, depending on which dragons they want, which they get, what their opponents have, etc. With a single line of buffs as a reward (or gold), we’re seeing that game states can become very linear, with both teams generally vying for the same objectives again and again. Having a more diverse set of buffs means teams can also mix up their approach to each game. Air supports split push/rotation play or gives defense against it, water supports poking and gives defense against it, fire adds direct combat power, earth enables easier objective taking. A game where your team has two air buffs and the enemy has two fire buffs, for example, should sometimes feel noticeably different. The dragon encounter itself being slightly different per dragon should sometimes create situations where you approach the fight differently, in particular when it is, or could be, a contested dragon. The water dragon, for example, has attacks that slow movement speed, making it harder to disengage from a dragon attempt, while the earth dragon’s tougher than the others, so will be a longer fight. **Potential issues** While developing these changes there were some other issues we worked to avoid/will continue to avoid or fix in future development. The first of those was that we didn’t want randomness (which dragons spawn and in which order) to feel like it was deciding the outcome of the game. What we’re after is game-to-game variation, but how you respond to that variation must be what decides the outcome of the game. In order to maintain, that we looked a number of things, in particular: * The buffs are designed to be appealing to both teams, even if the two are running really different comps. Water, for example, gives poke comps mana to poke harder, or their opponents health regen to resist poke. The exact value of a buff will vary team to team, like blue buff or baron, but it should never feel like dragons spawn are extremely appealing to one team and not worth taking for the other. The Elder Dragon buff also offers universally valued power, both from itself and prior buffs collected, regardless of element. * Differences in the dragon fight don't fundamentally change your ability to do the fight in the first place. You won't end up unable to do dragon because you didn't pick the right type of jungler in champ select, for example. Instead, the different dragon combat patterns may influence how you tactically approach a fight, mainly in cases of a contested dragon. We also wanted to ensure that the dragon system felt fairly intuitive and strongly wanted to avoid it getting highly complex. To do that we looked at a couple of things. * Elemental theming of the buffs and the dragons themselves should feel natural (e.g. fire dragon increases damage, air dragon gives speed and itself moves faster, etc). * Many of the dragon effects are carried directly over from the previous dragon buffs, which should help with quickly picking up the changes (e.g. %AP/AD, damage to structures, true damage DoT, late game dragon buffing the power of previously acquired stacks, etc) Finally we also wanted to make the power dragon offers a bit more appreciable. * Power’s therefore shown in more visible ways (e.g. true damage against towers/epic monsters from earth to make it easier to track damage added, versus the prior % amp that got rolled in with all other damage). * The way the stacking model results in bonuses sometimes being doubled or tripled down on also concentrates power, making it much more noticeable in some games at least. Hopefully this gives some useful context on what we’re trying to do and while. If you’d like to discuss further please do throw questions in here, would love to talk about this stuff whenever time permits, particularly during the next couple of days as stuff hits the PBE.
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