**Don't know what this thread is? Check out our [introduction post](http://boards.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/c/gameplay-balance/MwbdZBtw-the-live-gameplay-team-presents-the-live-gameplay-qa-feat-you) for an explanation!**
Greetings, summoners and welcome to the first issue of the LIVE GAMEPLAY Q+A!
We’ve collected thousands of questions from around the world and whittled ‘em on down until just a few were left, tossed ‘em in a bucket and went to task of providing you with answers (with some sweet context on the side).
BEFORE WE BEGIN - i’m going to call a couple of folks out (read: like 60%+) that submitted for just posting their opinions and then pretending like they were questions. We’re onto you.
Without further snark (FOR NOW), let’s jump right in!
**Do you feel the game is best balanced towards the millions that play the game, or the small few that play on the professional level?**
What a way to start. As one of our most commonly asked questions around the world, let’s dig in and start breaking it down. Deciding ‘who we balance for’ hasn’t been an easy task, but we quickly honed in on a few core values: **competitive mindedness, mechanical aptitude, and strategic expertise**. Mind you, these aren’t the only things that we think contribute to player skill (e.g. raw leadership and communication skills are important in any team game), but the above are ones we focus on when it comes to our broad-level balance. Players with these qualities are, on average, much more consistent as a baseline of what’s powerful in League. But what about pros? Certainly our professional community shatters these conditions (some more than others, as even professional players have their strengths and weaknesses), but we don’t necessarily believe that the Fakers and Bjergsens of the world should be the standard that every player is held to. If that’s the case, how can we represent this spectrum most effectively?
Let’s back up a step. Along the spiral path that is [Mastery](http://na.leagueoflegends.com/en/news/game-updates/features/lol-design-values-depth-mastery) in League of Legends, you can divide it into two sections:** foundational skills** and **optimization.** To expand, foundational skills are the building blocks of strategy within League - knowing the why and how of objectives, understanding the nuances of proper itemization, manipulating the ever-important vision game, and executing against your team’s strategic composition are just a few examples. You can be stronger at some and weaker at others, but each is a crucial piece when it comes to putting together League’s sprawling strategic puzzle. By contrast, optimization is the fine-tuning and development of these skills - when to take an objective, what order to build your items, where to place or deny vision, the mechanical specifics of champion matchups, and so on. Optimization is necessary for players that have mastered the basics to gain subtle (but potent) edges against the opposition. Think of it like building muscle - foundational skills net you the strength, and optimization shows off your definition.
Where does that leave us? Foundational skills and degrees of optimization are different for every player (not to mention difficult to measure with a high degree of accuracy), so we lean on the MMR system to serve as our best proxy to represent a player’s individual skill. With that in mind, our philosophy leads us to balance towards players at the upper end of mastery, which we currently believe to be around **platinum and above.**
This doesn’t mean we devalue the feedback from players below platinum - only that we’re acknowledging that a high amount of variance occurs in those tiers. Many factors are at play - is Master Yi overpowered if you’re able to dominate a game with him? Alternatively, did the enemy team lack the understanding to focus-fire or apply crowd control? With a more strategic use of map movement, item builds and mechanical execution against Master Yi, more competitive players at a higher average skill help to paint a clearer picture of Master Yi’s power level, often revealing when the intended play against him is failing and needs us to intervene. Extreme outliers, be they pubstompers or pro-level pains will always be addressed, but more often than not our patch-to-patch changes are centered around this skill bracket.
Whew. For our next question, lets turn the spotlight onto some of Live Gameplay team’s finest to answer in their own words. First up, LGP’s Lead Designer and Actual Horse, FeralPony!
**Have you ever done (or considered) performing small balance changes purely to affect player perception? For instance, giving a champion a small numbers buff to make players try them out, only to realise they were probably in a good place anyway.**
FP: "Considered? Certainly. Times we’ve ever done it intentionally? None that I can think of. There’s a lot of power in doing changes like this, but the risk typically doesn’t outweigh the reward. You’d effectively be trying to leverage the placebo effect, but that risks burning player trust long-term, which is something we value immensely. For instance, we’d never want players sifting through our patch notes, wondering if we actually thought a certain buff or nerf would affect change or not.
There was one time when I was pretty new at Rito where I submitted a Vladimir nerf (removing the bonus speed from his pool) but forgot to actually submit the files into the patch. As a result, the patch notes went out and sentiment was that we had killed the champion. Vladimir’s play rate plummeted and his win rate decreased a bit, even though the changes never actually went out.
We had a similar instance when Riven was released where she was viewed as very weak. We hotfixed in some buffs and shortly after posting it to the forums, her play rate spiked and feedback was very positive. Players happily reported how great the buffs felt, even though the hotfix hadn’t actually gone live yet."
Last up, Game Designer and Legendary Olaf enthusiast SmashGizmo takes us out.
**I’ve noticed that almost no champion is commonly built as a true hybrid at this point - is there a balance issue with hybridization, or is this unintentional?
SG: "There isn’t really a direct balance reason why hybridization doesn’t work, but we’ve historically had a difficult time making it a legitimate option as the natural synergies in specialized AD or AP builds are really hard to compete with. With specialized multipliers like Void Staff, Last Whisper, Rabadon’s Deathcap and Infinity Edge, it’s just pretty much impossible to get a character to commit to a ‘hybrid build’ beyond a Trinity Force or Hextech Gunblade (which they build for early power-spike reasons). Multiplicative scaling is almost always better at that point in a build path.
I think the only way to really make hybrid builds work is to add a new keystone item or two for hybridization that somehow drives players to balance their AD/AP purchases, but that’s no small undertaking and it’s unclear what the benefits of that itemization path would be. While characters like Ezreal have a distinct feel when built heavy AD or AP, it’s possible that a combination of both makes them feel like worse mages or worse marksmen when it comes to damage rather than anything truly unique."
Thanks for all your questions! Our next collection period begins on **May 25th **and ends on **June 1st.** Submit your questions to ask.fm/asklivegameplay and we’ll see you for the next one!