On the Future of Cassiopeia (Also, some background!)

Hey everyone! Sorry for not having the Cassiopeia discussion on Boards earlier. The discussion on GD has been going pretty strong for a while now, and I've learned a lot from it, but it's definitely about time I brought this over here. (Also, sorry for not posting there in the past week or two). I'd love to discuss everybody's experience on Cassiopeia since the update, but I think I should first address the concerns about her identity and power level. Also, as it's come up a number of times, I'll include a more detailed background about what inspired this update and how we got to where we are today. It's quite long, so I'll throw that at the end of this post for those of you who are interested. Let's start with the more pressing issue. On top problems from a balance perspective, Cassiopeia has lost a lot of her poison feel. This is the bigger pain point for most, and we definitely understand where everyone is coming from. Much of what has historically contributed to Cassiopeia feeling like the 'Snake Mage' is her poison DoT's, and, as these have been deemphasized, she's lost some of this -- well, to be more specific, we inadvertently took it away. It was never the intention to strip her Snake Mage identity, but we agree that we've done so in trying to meet other goals with the kit. This has left Cassiopeia in clear need of our attention, and we're really sorry about that. Further, while she's statistically in line with several other champions in League (Twitch, Lee Sin, Elise), there are still some power concerns regarding her kit. That is, skilled players can take advantage of many of the challenging aspects of these champions' kits in order to overcome their inherent weaknesses (Lee Sin and Elise can overcome their lack of innate tankyness with mobility and cc, and Twitch can overcome his range disadvantage by using his stealth to get in range of his opponents). It has become abundantly clear that on top of being rather difficult to play, Cassiopeia has weaknesses which her kit can't answer. In isolation, this is okay or even good, champions should have clear weaknesses, but they should also have appropriately powerful and relevant strengths. Cassiopeia's strength, her damage, is gated sufficiently that despite how high it can be, it's not contributing enough to overcome her clear and often crippling weakness (namely a combination of range and mobility that just leave her terribly unsafe, particularly in lane). With all this is mind, the primary reason why we had no changes for 4.18 is that we still haven't fully determined which tools to add to/bolster on Cassiopeia's kit. We know that we can buff her stats to a point where she's strong, but we're spending some extra time to ensure that our changes do everything we want them to (namely, reinforce her Snake Mage identity). We've been moving a bit more slowly than we (and I'm sure all of you) would like, but resources have been a little tight (we have a lot of awesome stuff in the works for pre-season! Coming to pbe soon :D). That said, I plan on getting some Cassiopeia changes into testing with the target of finalizing them by the next patch or two. Our goals here are to preserve the direction Cassiopeia has gone in (high mechanical skill, combo-casting, late game carry mage), but add back some of the poison feeling that was lost along the way. These changes won't be on the scale of the original update, but we won't be hesitant to change mechanics/abilities more significantly where appropriate. The primary candidate here is Twin Fang-- we're considering having Twin Fang play into the DoT game somehow, perhaps through increasing poison damage to its target. Not sure if this is going to be what we ultimately land on, but that should give you an idea of how we're thinking here. I know it may feel like we've abandoned or forgotten about Cassiopeia to some degree, but I promise you it's something I think about every day. I'm eager to bring Cassiopeia into a place where people are happy with her, especially those who used to love playing this Champion. While the GD discussion got a bit overwhelming, know that I've read the majority of your feedback and we're trying to figure out how to best respond to the problems you've all helped to identify. Thanks to everyone who has been raising visibility on and contributing to the discussions surrounding Cassiopeia, and thanks for caring. We'll do our best to make her the best Champion she could be. --------------------------------------- Main post: over. Detailed history of the project below for those who are interested. It's really long, so, sorry about that! ----------------------------------- Background: Cassiopeia was in line for a texture/art update since she was a bit old-fashioned and could use a little work both in general but also for her appearance as it will fit on the new Summoners Rift. With this in mind, we saw a good opportunity to add some gameplay updates to Cassiopeia, so we decided to look into it and see if she could benefit from any. This led to some deep analysis, and after a lot of discussion, we identified some problems on the kit. Casseopia's damage profile (spamable, high damage, AoE DoT's) made her impossible to balance and fight against when strong and had some readability/satisfaction problems on top of that. Additionally, much of Cassiopeia's kit was nondistinct and, though she was unique in some ways, we felt she could be more interesting than a 'vanilla' mage than she already was. Hence, our planned changes primarily revolved around identifying and clarifying her identity. Our results: Cassiopeia had good AoE damage, but she wasn't *the* AoE mage. She also had good control, but she wasn't *the* control mage. She used damage over time, but she wasn't *the* DoT mage-- Brand, Rumble, Swain, Zyra, Malzahar, and even Mordekaiser compete in many/all of these fields. However, it was quite clear that compared to other mages, Cassiopeia stood nearly alone when it came to consistent DPS output. Even previously, those who knew her well feared Cassiopeia as the highest damage output mage in the game-- and this occasionally led to some very interesting strategies, even in the competitive scene, like the Yorick/Cassiopeia Zombie-Snake combo. Karthus admittedly was a close competitor here, but we recognized differences between him and Cassiopeia wanted to push them a bit further (have to mention Ryze as well, but his thing is tanky/reliable damage, more than the highest damage possible). For Cassiopeia, this meant emphasizing her single target damage and her utility surrounding it. On the flip-side, this also meant de-emphasizing her AoE damage (and as a result, her DoT damage). In some ways, we were certainly happy about this, as there are some design problems surrounding the satisfaction/power ratio and readability of DoTs. In others, we were less happy. Poison has been an important part of Cassiopeia's thematic identity, and a part of it that many people have deeply enjoyed, so this direction was dampening that a bit and thus costly in that sense. However, truthfully the poison aspects of her kit were not integral to its gameplay even as it stood before--one could argue that Twin Fang depends on the target being poisined, but her Q/W could just as easily applied a non-poison marker which enabled E-resets and retained nearly identical gameplay. I could imagine a Champion's kit that depends on a thematic poison identity to work with its gameplay (a debuff-focused champion comes to mind), but Cassiopeia would likely have to change dramatically to become this. Our changes here were focused on driving Cassiopeia into a unique area which emphasized many of the things she already was doing, not switching her role entirely. As a brief aside, I'd like to explain a bit about how why we decided to push Cassiopeia so far in one particular direction-- bare with me for a moment. Consider Cassiopeia, and, side-by-side, consider a nearly identical champion, except one who uses nukes instead of DoTs (imagine all the other mechanics stay the same, like her Q applies a 3 second marker to the target that resets her Twin Fang when it hits them). Do these champions bring anything different to a team? Of course, there are some differences between DoTs and Nukes that would likely result in minor number changes, but, overall these champions would be doing largely the same thing, with largely the same damage. Now consider Cassiopeia again, but with half her damage and twice the crowd control effects, and compare that to a Cassiopeia with twice the damage but no crowd control (forgetting for a moment whether or not these champions would be balanced). These two champions have clear strategic differences, as they bring dramatically different things to a team (in this case, general damage vs general crowd control). As the League roster grows and grows, Champions need to occupy more and more specific niches to be unique, and this general damage vs general crowd control difference is no longer meaningful. This is the line of thinking that brought us to distilling Cassiopeia to the highest -- single target -- late game -- consistent damage -- mage. This is a particular space that Cassiopeia can maker her own, not shared with any other champion; unlike DoT mage, for example. It does have some differences compared to her pre-update identity, but it comes directly from the unique things about her that we identified and wanted to support. We may not have gotten the numbers right here for her to hit each of these aspects, but that's the goal and we're still working towards it. Now, there may have been better ways to tie the poison thematic (or more importantly, the DoT feel) into this identity than the ones we landed on (the ones we settled on being certain aspects of her passive and Miasma slowing more). One idea that has arisen both internally and on the forums is something like making E into 'Corrosive Fang:' Deals some minor damage to the target and increases all poison damage to the target by x% for y seconds, stacks up to z times. This wouldn't change her gameplay at all (she would still mark targets with Q/W then hit them with a bunch of E's, and continue to try to land Qs, just as she does now and even before), and thus wouldn't add anything particularly poison-y to it, but it certainly goes some way towards amping up her poison thematics and adding back some poisony feel. While this particular version has some problems, I quite like the goals and direction and it's something I'd like to take a stab at. In any case, that's a more detailed look into our thought processes and the story behind this update. Hope that helps/explains some stuff! ------------------------------------------------- TLDR; We could meet our goals of keeping Cassioepeia's use case (namely, late game single target mage carry) unique and special while amping up her thematics and making it more of what everyone wants from the Snake Mage. And that's where we're going in the next set up updates!
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