Promoting Stealth Gameplay - How Wards Help & Harm The Vision Game (Response To Riot Maple Nectar)

This is a response to [Riot Maple Nectar's comments on SightStone]( >_"I remember a very specific point in playing the game where I was extremely frustrated at how I couldn’t understand when the guards could see or hear me. This was forcing me to play only on a surface level of understanding, where I could only guess at the consequences of my actions and was unable to plan anything complex. I recall that [that] made me go on a crusade to clearly delineate everything - from sound to vision cones to what the current guard state is."_ ---- Jamie Cheng, Executive Producer, **Mark of the Ninja** Wards do somewhat support stealth gameplay, since they are a source of gaining information about our opponent’s movements, and superior information enables stealth gameplay, but **the functionality of Riot’s current iteration of wards is mostly detrimental to stealth gameplay**, and it is detrimental for one overriding reason: **How are you suppose to sneak past what you can’t see, that also has an unknown position?** They harm the stealth game part of League because **in order to be sneaky (i.e. stealthy) we need to have some idea of what our enemies can see and what they know.** I commonly give the example of a stealth game where the guards are all invisible and their position is unknown. How could the player avoid / dodge those guards? They couldn't really, not without repeatedly getting caught or screwing up and endless trial and error. This is basically what we have with wards. All wards feature a large circular AoE of sight, and of the 4 kinds of wards, 2 are invisible by default and the other 2 become invisible by placing them in brush. This makes it very difficult to use stealth, since it is hard to ascertain whether or not you can be seen. Also, the very nature of the circular AoE of sight eats up so much design space that other expressions of vision are viewed as, and generally are, much worse. The wards Riot has given us are simply too powerful in all the wrong ways. Wards are currently static always-on objects that have very limited player interaction (due to their invisibility) unless you have 1 of 4 specific anti-ward counter-items. The majority of gameplay surrounding wards and trinkets is about limiting the interaction your opponents have with your ward constructs. We don't want them to be found, we don't want them to be destroyed, and the primary means we have of interacting with our opponent's wards is destroying them. I think ward debris is a cool idea, but it’s hard to parse what to do with the info they provide. Unless a ward dies right in front of you, the debris could mean a lot of things: they've been warding here, but is it warded now? If this ward debris is fresh, does that mean they've re-warded somewhere (thereby surpassing their 3 ward limit and killing this ward)? Or have did this ward just die? Is their whole team warding or is it just the support? Ward debris is much more useful for organized teams and pro-level play, as it can help them recognize patterns and their enemy’s warding tendencies, but for the average League player, the information, much like wards themselves, is often undervalued and underutilized. Contrast wards with Kali's Sentinels and you should see that the Sentinels provide much more interesting and - dare I say - fun gameplay. The Sentinels actually enable stealth gameplay: since you can see them and know what they can see, you can play around them without needing a specific counter-item. [Watch SKT's Bengi play League like it's a stealth game.]( With wards, it is almost impossible to avoid being seen by them because 90% of the time they're invisible. 2 of the 4 ward constructs are innately invisible, and the other 2 become invis if you put them in brush. Because you can't see them and they give no clue that they're around, it becomes nearly impossible to play stealthily - that is, playing with the intention of avoiding them is nigh impossible because how can you avoid what you can't see? The red-trinket does let you find wards, obviously, but at the expense of giving up info of your position. We need wards that are _fallible_, that have some blind-spot or exploitable weakness that players can use to their advantage. It makes ganking and warding much more exciting for both teams, since it becomes a battle of wits as you study and observer your opponent's defenses, while simultaneously working with your allies to layer your wards, creating zones of safety that challenge the enemy to navigate and outmaneuver. Also, wards that aren't so incredibly reliable at catching the enemy are more like a form of insurance rather than a mandatory tax, which is exactly why they can afford to be FREE. They can also afford to be much more specific and powerful in their effects because the vision game isn't dominated by the singular circle AoE of vision from an invisible source. (Remember when Vision Wards (PInk Wards) were invisible? Is it any wonder that the vision game devolved into dropping wards to find enemy wards so that we could deny them vision? And what did Riot do? They made Pinks visible. Instantly they were more interactive. It took Riot a while to learn their lesson, but they eventually did.) More varied forms of vision and information gathering techniques, with tell-tale signs and telegraphing and such, would let players tap into the stealth game much more readily and reduce frustration around being ambushed, as they would understand how they were seen or found. **We could deny vision, not by destroying our enemies wards, but by avoid them entirely**, which _is_ stealth gameplay. With such wards, supports would no longer need to burden themselves by sacrificing an item slot, as each player, having the option to choose a powerful FREE ward with its own pros and cons, those pros and cons being explicit in the functionality of the ward. Players of all skill levels would immediately recognize how the wards work, their strengths and weakness, what situations call for which wards, etc. and could begin planning how to outplay them, how to approach an enemies particular defensive vision network, all while those same wards reinforce the necessity of teamwork - allies want to coordinate their wards for their mutual safety. Such wards support stealth gameplay, the same way AI guards in other games support stealth gameplay. >_"I think scouting is fun. I think putting down buildings, turrets, traps and the like are fun. I think knowing that someone can't see you and ambushing someone is fun. However, I'm not terribly sold on the 'sight stick' thing. It's scouting without risk - so there's a bit less fun. It's quite possibly the lamest building you can think of - 'Unmanned watchtower - does nothing but win.' Ambushing people is generally fun which wards counteract."_ --- Xypherous, **Dev Blog: Vision in the 2016 Season** -------- Response to [u/Glum Reaper's proposed vision changes]( (which is itself a response to Riot Maple Nectar.) Something I think you need to emphasize (that I've tried to communicate endlessly) is that if we have wards that are fallible, i.e. they offer outplay potential by virtue of a player's skill and champion abilities (versus having a specific anti-ward counter-item) our wards could then afford to be FREE and more express their information granting abilities in more powerful ways. And by being FREE and having much more overtly specific expressions of sight, player's would be encouraged to ward and appreciate their wards and value good ward placement, and be encouraged to work together to layer their ward defenses. For example, a ward granting vision in a cone that can be dodged is much more challenging to dodge when their are two of them that overlap. And when we have abilities like Kalista's Sentinel's also patrolling the area, things become even more challenging. And the challenge is important. It would become a real test of skill to dodge and avoid our enemies' ward defenses, whereas now its kind of a guessing game, which is kinda cool, but too often we face-check into wards we didn't know where there or had no way of knowing they were there. Wards that offer tell-tale signs and clues and allow players to pick up on them encourage players of all skill-levels would beginning planning how to execute their gank, and it would be a show of skill to properly execute. You also talk about 'changing the ward count' and in my mind, I think an ideal (clean) system would be where players can have 1 FREE (but fallible) powerful ward and 1 FREE (but fallible) weaker trinket, with the ward occupying the trinket slot, overriding trinket use until placed. All the wards and trinkets would have different effects and offer different forms of getting and denying information. All of this ties into the larger point I've been trying to convience Riot of - that they should be trying to enable / support / promote stealth gameplay. They can do this by creating an environment and ecosystem that mimics some of the things found in classic stealth games. Wards, for example, largely fulfill the function of AI guards in those games, except that wards are basically guards that are invisible with an unknown position. How would a player dodge / avoid a guard like that? Endless trial and error? A handful of specific tools that only work after they've already been seen? The vision game is the stealth game. Stealth is not a handful of champion-specific abilities and mechanics like Riot seems to think, but a kind of behavior, a mindset, a playstyle. Stealth and invisibility are not the same thing, and if Riot would realize this, then I think they could begin making a lot of the 'stealth champions' much more valuable and fair. I guess I'm rambling now, but I would love to see an environment and ecosystem that let us deny vision, not through destroying our enemy's wards, but through outplaying them, dodging and avoiding them entirely, which is stealth gameplay. >_“The most common aesthetic goal of a stealth game is to create the illusion of a securely guarded area that the player can sneak through by virtue of leveraging their unique tools and abilities to create and exploit security flaws.”_ --- Randy Smith, designer on the original **Thief** trilogy at GDC 2006
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