This is a totally unprompted thread where I thought I could answer whatever questions about new champion or champion update designs. I'll come back to the thread and post answers to a bunch of questions up into this OP.
Because this is the first time I'm trying this, let's do a broad and obvious topic - Champ Design (including reworks). The type of question that would be fitting here is like "how do you determine which skills to keep when you rework a character?" or "what makes a good character passive in your opinion?"
Stay on topic (sorry I don't work on URF so DONT ASK LOL) and I'll try to answer as many questions as I can.
**EDIT 1: **
I'll answer a few now and come back later for more (and probably throughout the weekend)
* If a champion is relatively fine in a purely BALANCE perspective, do they ever have an opportunity to get reworked to be more like what they're supposed to be? Or be made so that they aren't such a wasted concept?
Yes! We most definitely do and will continue to use thematic delivery, fun, and satisfaction as a reason to revisit a character. We always set out the goals of a project when we start, so we know if it is more mechanics focused (something like soraka) or thematic/satisfaction focus (something like gangplank) or a lot of both (sion).
* How do you prioritize updates?
Currently we prioritize updates by which are the most "in need" of the improvements (gameplay or visual). Each group (art, design, sound) will use their own analysis and player feedback to rank which champs are really needing the update. This led us to champs like soraka, sion, nidalee, poppy, karthus, etc. While going through this list we have some spare people to work on smaller less urgent projects like viktor, gragas, tristana to keep things coming as often as we can.
* How much more mobility can we expect to see added to League of Legends in the coming season?
This is a timely question, with so many more mobile champs in recent releases than in the early days of LoL. We actually met with a large group of new champ and champup designers to talk about how much mobility we are giving to characters and at what cost. The general consensus is that we are probably going to both be a bit more selective with where we give mobility and give the characters appropriate costs to having mobility. For example, we think that by default a marksman doesn't have burst mobility, so the question that we are asking ourselves is "what cost is a character like lucian, tristana, or corki paying for the powerful mobility tools that they have?"
* Can you describe the factors in/process between deciding whether a skill is a skillshot or targeted ability?
You could have a great ability on both sides of this coin (skillshot or targeted). The real question that we are asking is what parts of a character's overall kit are reliable and which are unreliable. Having a healthy mix of both is typically a recipe for success because it gives the character some baseline tools that they can count on mixed in with some important moments where hitting a skillshot, blocking a spell with a spellshield, or dodging a big burst of damage with your Zed ult can determine the outcome of a fight.
A few more answers
* What is Riot's current opinions on hybrid champions, either current or possibly new?
Hybrid champions aren't problematic as a concept, we just try to factor in how being a hybrid character affects the game. A hybrid champ has both a harder time itemizing for penetration and makes it harder for their opponents to itemize defenses against them.
* Ever considered an energy-based Support?
We haven't put any serious work into an energy based on manaless support recently, but it isn't an impossible design space. The key factor here is that we would want to preserve the important "attrition" element of bottom lane, so this character should probably not have strong health sustain or healing in combination with no mana.
* How does Riot determine what to keep and what to revise on champion kits in need of a rework for "thematic" reasons?
The first step of a rework is often more about finding the right overall direction for a character. Take Sion for example, we first determined that this guy is best delivered as a tanky "undead juggernaut" that moves slowly but is a major disruptive force in the middle of a fight. It is a very high priority for us to find the right core concept for a character that matches the coolest and most important elements of the character before the rework. With the high level direction figured out, we can see what abilities on the old kit would still work with the new direction for the character.
* Does how often a champion get played factor in to the decision to rework them? Or are you fine with niche picks, like Urgot?
We do consider a champ's play rate when we are selecting reworks but we don't bias one way or the other. A good mix of popular and unpopular champions is what we are aiming for currently so that we can sometimes update popular champs to create positive impact to a wide group of players and sometimes update niche champs to keep them relevant or give them new life.
* How often do reworks get canned, and how far do they usually make it before they get canned?
Rework projects rarely get canned. Though in the past, maybe 1 in 5 that goes into early exploration is put on hold and picked up later. A project like Warwick that Zenon was working on but had to be put on hold for him to work on other projects will be picked up where he left off and finished. Even if entire kits are scrapped and restarted, the work is not a waste because we likely learned a lot about what didn't work for that iteration and that leads us to things that usually work much better.
* When it comes to new champion design and such, is the factor of said champion completely overshadowing another, older champ taken into account?
We very heavily consider this when working on new champions. We want a new champ to bring something new to the game rather than replace and overshadow something that champs already do. Sometimes if a champion is released in a too powerful state, it can give them strengths that they aren't designed to have.
For example, Braum is intended to be a unique defensive support in how he can block projectiles for his team while staying mobile. When he released he was doing that just fine, but he was also a very strong aggressive pick support with Q slows, damage and follow up stuns. When we saw that he was overshadowing a lot of other supports in this way, Wreckz and the live balance team responded by lowering his aggressive play potential to focus his power in the ways that he is meant to have it.
* How would you go about reworking Teemo?
Hehe, I can't resist answering this one because TEEMO. So first off don't take any of this as gospel because I'm just spitballing here.
First off is to try and understand the core of what Teemo is about and what his current problems are. The really unique and fun thing about teemo (IMO) is the way he can control an area of the map like top lane or baron pit with his mine field of shrooms. He also has a clear poke pattern in lane and high sustained damage in the late game. Some of the most obvious problems that he has are that there is no meaningful counterplay to his mushrooms and his poke pattern is also not interactive and just involves trading targeted damage against an often melee opponent.
So when it comes to solutions I would try a variety of mushroom version with possible counterplay and to compensate the teemo player, add or emphasize the awesome rewards he gets for catching his opponents in his traps. A crazy example would be that if he was stealthed (by standing still) and someone triggered a mushroom trap, he could keep his stealth and run quickly towards the triggered trap for an ambush. The other solutions around his poke lane would also need to be creative but would definitely move in the direction of his opponent having opportunities to avoid or counter his poke, and we could give teemo some new tools to compensate for the loss of reliability.
* Where does the buck stop when it comes to big decisions on a champion rework?
There is no single individual that has the 100% say over any particular champion update, but many people get to have strong input. From a game design perspective the primary "owner" as we like to call it is the main designer that is spending most of their time working on the project. They receive a lot of input from the other designers on the Champion Update and Champion team and get really detailed and thorough feedback from the Lead Designers on their team and other teams (Scruffy, Meddler, Morello, Ezreal, etc). In the end, by the time any character goes out, many different people have reviewed the kit and, if something is good enough to ship, often most people on the team are very happy with it.
* You gonna give talon some form of cc (a real cc, not a shitty quarter second slow) on his cut-throat (e) or maybe a decent form of utility so he can keep up with all the incredibly good kits other assassins have?
I think in the future we will shy away from hard CC on Talon because as we have seen in the past, the combination of hard CC and his burst damage led to very frustrating and non interactive situations where he can 100-0 an enemy while they are unable to react.
On the topic of how we would want to improve talon (no immediate plans yet just talking about direction), his current pattern of burst an enemy or be useless is pretty binary and honestly a bit boring. I would want to buff up some of his utility tools like his stealth or even give him new utility tools that are not hard CC (like dodge, spell shield or something like that) to allow him to not feel useless when he can't immediately burst kill his enemies.
* What are some themes you want to check out that haven't been touched on yet?
These are just my personal - Mind Controller, Earth Mage, Group character (multiple yordles or something cool), Mountain Climber, Blacksmith, A bunch of animal type creature characters, Flying characters that interact differently with the map, and these are just off the top of my head.
* Using Rek'Sai as an example, what makes you decide to use a non-mana resource on a champion? Is it a thematic decision, gameplay, or a mix of both? How do you feel about the state of mana in LoL?
I'll answer your last question first, I feel like mana is still a very important element of LoL, especially for some types of characters. Mana as a resource creates a second strategic layer of attrition for a lot of characters that adds a "long game" strategy to champ vs champ combat. Mana allows more outcomes to fights or trades than just "I killed you" or "I took more health away."
When it comes to when we give mana to champs (or not in Reksai's case) it is more often a mechanical decision than a thematic one. With Reksai we were exploring some different resourse mechanics with the health return passive, where health is the resource she has to manage more than mana. By comparison a mana based jungler like Warwick or Elise should stay healthier than Reksai when they are usuing mana on their sustain tools but they will eventually run OOM and have to go back to the fountain.
* I'm seeing a lot of questions about Yorick and Mordekaiser so lets talk about them
First thing, we're not actively working on either of those two champs but in terms of what is next for us when we finish current projects, they are very very high up on the priority list.
So Yorick we actually have a decent starting point with Xelnath's earlier work and it is pretty clear what this guy is about - Ghoul Minions and Melee fighting.
Morde is a bit trickier because he is really straddling the line between what is a mage and what is a fighter. I bet when we start working on him and are trying to discover his core, we will find that both elements are very important to why Morde is Morde. The tough question will be answering what unique stuff a fighter mage can bring to the game (maybe play up his "ghost enemy" stuff).
* What is Riot's opinion on champions with more then one way to be built?
Personally I love it when champions have multiple build paths. The things that we have to watch out for are when one of the builds creates toxic or low interest gameplay. As an example if AD Varus played like he does now but the off build AP Varus (I know this isn't really a thing) could one shot enemies with his Q and do not much else we probably would want to change the way AP varus worked so that it had a more healthy play pattern.
* What is the maximum amount of crowd control you think you could and would load onto a kit without going overboard? How long would the target be disabled in some way?
The way that we think about this is more about the ratio of damage a character can deal vs the amount of CC they have. A character can have crazy amounts of CC (see nautilus) if they do low sustained damage, but another character could be problematic with even 1 second of CC if they deal high burst damage. The goal here is that the enemy receiving the CC will always have some window of time where they are not CCed and not dead so that they can react.
* Have you ever considered having non-ultimate global abilities that deal no damage, but instead support champions in other lanes? Something on the line of care packages.
Yes, we have considered a bunch of stuff like this. Nothing has made it into a champion but I think there is room for some pretty cool mechanics in this vein. For example, a "scouting" focused character could do all kinds of global vision plays or even give allies an oracle buff from across the map. Another example is a "global push pressure" champ that could make minion waves on the opposite side of the map much stronger to create global push pressure for their team.
I think this is all of the questions for this week. I'll try to rope in some other designers next week and maybe we can pick another topic. Was this useful/fun for you all?