Why Do Some Champions Have to be Bad?

At no point in *League's* history have all *League* champions been perfectly competitive across all skill levels -- or even within the same skill level. *Should* they be, though? I'm going to argue that no, they shouldn't, and that these disparities can be a *good* thing. For reference, I'm going to link [an article on *Magic: the Gathering* design](https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/when-cards-go-bad-2002-01-28) that I think speaks to the core of what I'm about to dig into. If you're a game design theory fan, definitely check it out! If you're not, no worries -- I'll cover the important things. -------------------- ##Assertion 1: Power Levels are Relative to Current Gameplay A champion that split-pushes exceptionally well -- maybe even best in class -- is only good if split-pushing is a viable option. A champion with powerful teamfighting cannot thrive when the game state encourages split pressure and rotations. A champion who synergizes excellently with mages suffers in an AD-heavy environment. With all of the factors in a game as complex as *League* -- and with the meta-game constantly evolving even *without* balance changes -- champions will fall in and out of favor based on the way the game is being played. Worlds this year was a good example: the environment of top lane changed without any balance adjustments based solely on the picks people were using elsewhere to influence team compositions. ------------------- ##Assertion 2: Champions Can Succeed at Any Level If you look up pretty much any champion, you can find people who main those champions in high Master or even Challenger. The number may vary, but players who dedicate themselves to a specific character can find success with them pretty much anywhere but the world stage. Some undoubtedly are harder to succeed with than others at this level of player skill, but it *can* be done, and that is supported by data. --------------------- ##Assertion 3: Diversity Rewards Skilled and Knowledgeable Players A player who plays only one character will naturally struggle when facing a good counter. A player who has high-level knowledge of how to play a rough lane will struggle less when facing the same counter. A player who knows the weaknesses of said opponent as well will struggle even *less*, and a player who has a deeper champion pool may find herself able to make the decision to switch into a stronger match-up -- while a *truly* skilled player can judge when the match-up advantage is not worth swapping to a less familiar champion. These are all representations of a player's skill just as much if not more than their knowledge of how to play a specific champion, and the existence of relative gameplay is what makes these sorts of decisions complex and interesting. --------------------- ##Assertion 4: Player Seek Different Things from League * Some players want to win at any cost. * Some players want to defy the odds and succeed at something considered bad or silly. * Some players want to just play a champion they like. * Some players want to play easy or simple champions. * Some players want to play difficult champions. * Some players want to master ever element of a specific kit or role. * Some players want to play to achieve personal goals that are not dependent on simply winning games or increasing in rank. * Some players seek to experiment. * Some players just want to play something they think is "cool," however they define that. -------------------------------- #Inequality Can Be Desirable. Given these assertions, having some inequality in balance brings a number of interesting things: * Giving a player the ability to show off their skill through persistence or simply raw mastery. Overcoming the odds to play Garen at Challenger is a huge success for the Garen player, and gives them a personal goal to strive for. * Giving a player the ability to learn and grow by realizing when the capabilities of one champion or strategy is unable to contribute at a specific skill rank or into a specific matchup, and then offering them the choice to persist towards raw champion mastery or diversify with their better meta-game knowledge and awareness. * Giving a player the ability to experiment with things that are *not* popular or considered powerful to see if they can find success through unexpected or underestimated picks or team combinations, effectively throwing a wrench into the enemy's understanding of the meta and eking out a surprise win. * Giving a player a sense of discovery when facing something that gives them trouble, and encouraging them to explore other builds, strategies, tactics, and champions. * Giving a player the ability to define the goals and champions that best suit their playstyle, even if not *every* champion appeals equally to every playstyle. Ultimately, I believe that striving for every champion to be viable in ever situation at every skill level would take away a lot of what makes the climb toward true mastery in *League* interesting, damage the macro-gameplay experience, and also harm the experiences of players who have playstyles that differ from the "climb as high as possible" playstyle. In an asymmetric multiplayer game the time spent *trying* to achieve this theoretical balance would further detract from other interesting additions and developments that offer players further ways to learn, express their individuality, and enjoy *League*, for a payoff that would take away some of the aspects that make mastering the game a great experience.
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