cupcaker (NA)
: "you don't have to play a game to be able to balance a game"
Hi. I made that quote in response to one of the common responses that you see on gaming communities, which is that if you just let highly skilled players balance a game, you’ll get better results. I was trying to point out that playing a game and designing a game are different skills, just like building a car and driving a car are different skills. Does understanding one make you better at the other? Absolutely. I was an oceanographer once, but that was over 20 years ago. Back then, there were no professional game designers who came from game design college or something similar. Even today it’s not super common. Most of the designers of the games you play probably got their start doing something else. I was never on the balance team for League. I bring that up because I think sometimes players conflate design and balance as the same thing. In reality, balance is only one aspect of game design, and many designers go their entire careers without doing that aspect pf development. When I was lead designer on LoL, I was accountable for balance (meaning it was still my fault when something went wrong) but I didn’t sit with the team deciding when to nerf Irelia etc. However I do agree a lot with the sentiment above that interpreting data is a big part of both science and game balance. I wish schools and colleges focused a lot more on teaching data analysis because it’s such a useful life skill. By comparison, I have found little application of say calculus in my life, and I was a legit scientist. Finally, I’m not actively working on League much at all these days. I took on a different role at Riot focused on telling stories in the League universe in and out of games. I thought maybe providing more of that conetext might help with your mental framework for how Riot or any game studio makes decisions.
FNC Jinx (NA)
: Question: What does Ghostcrawler do in Riot?
> You know, I'd love to hear your thoughts on dungeons- I was always torn on my feelings with WoW dungeon design. I really liked that in classic dungeons felt sprawling and super interesting spaces to explore, but they could take forever. On the other hand, tbc onwards dungeons became these super straight forward hallway designs, that made for a much faster and more convenient experience but also much less interesting as spaces (and then in WotLK players didn't even have to think about what they were doing in combat because the dungeons were so easy after you got some gear etc). How did you feel about moving towards more linear designs, do you think its possible to do more complex dungeons without seriously inconveniencing everyone? WoW dungeons got me hooked on the game. I loved raiding as well, but that was only a few times a week and often the strategies needed were fairly rigid and you couldn't try to puzzle out the right approach nearly as much. In dungeons by contrast, there was a real strategy element to handle things like "How can we do a 7 pull if the tank can only handle 2?" "Where do we need to pull these adds so that a fear bomb doesn't just draw more and more?" I agree some of the vanilla dungeons could be way too long, especially since you had to clear even before the instance portal. The right solution might have been to have a mix of shorter and longer dungeons that you could choose based on what your group was into. I definitely had a lot less fun in dungeons when you only needed the AE button on your bar, the tank would just chain pull all of the mobs together, and there was almost zero chance of wiping. I understand now that some players enjoyed that experience as a way to chill and unwind. I also understand that what might be challenging for my group feels trivial to yours. I know WoW has more difficulty options these days, which sounds like a good call. > Edit: Jokes aside, I really appreciate that you took the time to give a thoughtful response to the question. It really would be great if we could get a better understanding of how design works inside Riot. Rioter titles can often leave me wondering what people's contributions really are. So there is a team we call Live, which has a lead designer and lead producer and several other designers and QA folks on it. That is the team that responds to patch to patch problems, such as someone's win rate spiking unexpectedly. That team works closely together and solves most of their problems without outside help. They will meet to share context on what everyone is working on, spend a lot of time at their desk trying a few ideas to see if they work, talk to a neighbor about the problem space, review data on what is happening in the live game, fix bugs and so on. Sometimes they will elevate a problem. Perhaps they can't come up with a good solution that is low risk and they want more brains on the problem. Or sometimes the lead gameplay designer will become worried about a trend he is seeing and want to consider changing the strategy. Or perhaps the Live producer is making a report on what the team has done over the past month, and someone on the League leadership team has a suggestion or an idea for how to tackle things differently. So there is a Live lead designer, a Gameplay lead designer, and a LoL lead designer. The Live team sits on the Gameplay team (with other teams), and the Gameplay team sits on the League of Legends dev team (with other teams). It isn't worth getting too detailed about this sort of thing, because we do change the team structure fairly regularly as priorities shift. That said, Live is an evergreen team that is unlikely to go away, though its size or position might change over time. The day of the lead designer on all of LoL is mostly spent in meetings. You might be meeting with one of your reports to help coach them, unblock them, or offer feedback. You might be meeting with a team to review their roadmap or recent results. You might be meeting with the other LoL leads to talk about long term strategy and upcoming features that aren't fully staffed yet. You might be playtesting a new game mode like Blitz or a new champion to point out any potential problem areas. In between meetings you are probably answering emails, reading player sentiment on Boards or Reddit, or reading up on game news. Inevitably you have your own meetings to run and need some time to prep for those, such as reviewing data or constructing a deck. It's a position with some spokesperson responsibilities, meaning there are occasional requests from community sites or gaming media for Q&A or interviews.
FNC Jinx (NA)
: Question: What does Ghostcrawler do in Riot?
Good question, but several weird answers. Let me try to correct those perceptions. I was the lead designer on LoL until a few weeks ago. The context that is easy to miss is that a) the LoL development team is gigantic - hundreds of people, and b) Riot works in a fairly distributed fashion, where teams are empowered to own their problem space, verus say a studio where all the decisions are made by an auteur of some kind who hands those decisions down to a bunch of implementers who may not have much creative voice. I think sometimes players have this idea that designers line up by the lead designer’s desk and ask “Should we buff Lissandra?” and the lead answers “Plus five AP. Next.” But you can imagine how inefficient that kind of system would be when we try to patch every two weeks. So if there are weeks when the lead is focused on say Clash or Blitz or hiring or longer term projects, the lead may not even realize what discussions about Lissandra are happening elsewhere on the floor. That’s a good thing. At the same time, the lead designer is accountable if the game isn’t balanced or the team can’t achieve balance. The captain of a ship is responsible for everything that happens on their ship, even if they aren’t personally down in the engine room or whatever. (And again, Riot isn’t nearly as hierarchical as that kind of chain of command.) You might also imagine a large corportation where the executives aren’t making individual deals, but they are setting the strategy for how the company should make deals. (And Riot isn’t that corporate and everyone wears t-shirts and hoodies.) As I announced recently however I switched teams to focus on support and development of our IP (Runeterra at the moment). This means supporting League and the other game that use the IP as well as doing developmental work on our own to deepen the universe and tell stories that don’t make sense to tell in games. Meddler is the new lead designer on LoL. The WoW response is a little baffling to me, because I tended to get in hot water with the WoW community for wanting to make the game more challenging and more of a skill check. One of the most controversial pieces I ever wrote was about how I wanted Cataclysm dungeons to be something that required teamwork and strategy, which was disconcerting to some players coming off of years of blasting through Wrath dungeons while massively overgeared. In terms of being a scapegoat, I’m fine with that. Just remember that there are hundreds of developers working on a game like LoL or WoW, and their opinions, ideas and hard work when taken in total count for a lot more.
: We were promised a pony in WoW. Will there be ponies in this new game?
I think Runeterra might have to retcon in the Great Pony Plague.
: Ghostcrawler Lane Swap / Queue Dodge / Whatever
Riot Scruffy is the new Lead Gameplay Designer on LoL.
: Does that mean the player base won't have you as a scapegoat anymore to blame for literally everything?
I'm totally fine with you still blaming me. It's tradition.
  Rioter Comments
Anatera (NA)
: Friendly reminder that Ghostcrawler
I made that point to help rebut the common internet attitude that if you let players who play thousands of hours of a game balance that game, that you will somehow end up with a more balanced game. My point was that being highly skilled at winning a game and being highly skilled at balancing a game are different skills. But it's cool. I know part of the fun is to lift comments out of context so they seem more controversial. :) From a purely theoretical standpoint, you probably can balance a game if you never play it. I wouldn't recommend it, and I've certainly never tried it. The only way I know how to balance a game personally is to be really intimately familiar with it, though again, that isn't enough - it's just a starting point. I'm also not on the specific team that balances LoL, and I think they do a better job than I would personally be able to do.
: I am kinda curious what is about an average-ish skill level/elo the team looks at when it comes to figuring out balance stuff?
We target our changes for a High Plat / Low Diamond profile, because that's a good intersection for when even subtle changes can really be felt by the players in question, but you're still affecting a large number of players overall. Players who are closer to Bronze or unranked will have a much bigger impact on their performance by just playing more games than almost any change we can make. Players at higher tiers will feel even very small changes, but at some point we are only impacting a very small number of players. We still look at outliers that are disrupting normal or Bronze play, and for pro play. For pro play we focus a lot on the viewer experience than the pro players' themselves (though we care about them too).
Vlada Cut (EUNE)
: No. It's not Riot's perspective. It's yours, amd yours alone. Ego much? No, people who downvote are even more ego filled because they say they dislike CG and yet they downvote people into oblivion when they say it. Doubt forumers even know what they even want anymore.
No, it's Riot's perspective. Several of us collaborated to pull it together. I use my own voice because players are pretty tuned into when a communication feels like it was generated by CorporateSocialMediaBot9000. I put my name on it because that feels more personal than a generic "From Riot" response, and also because as the lead designer, I stand behind it.
Quinzley (EUNE)
: ***
I don't balance the game. You wouldn't want me to. I do help set the direction and philosophy for how we balance.
  Rioter Comments
: Champion design idea: Ghostcrawler, Ruiner of Games
SuperHornio (EUNE)
: Why does ghostcrawler blink so weirdly
When I was still in oceanography, we were hauling up fishing nets for this one project, and in the Gulf of Mexico in summer, that means you bring in a lot of jellyfish. A bunch of people were literally shoveling them off the back of the boat, and I got a full face full of jellyfish. My eyes and eyelids were stung pretty badly and took a while to heal. I've been blinking a lot ever since. Probably just force of habit at this point, but that's when it started.
King Lego (EUNE)
: I know who ghostcrawler is, but i don't know whether or not i should hate him like others do...
> Still waiting for you to accept my 1v1 AoE/AoE2/AoM challenge. > > I sometimes host Age of GD Empires games, if you're ever interested? > > By far my favourite game franchise of all time and I love and appreciate all the hard work you and the rest of the team gave to me and my life throughout these many, many years. I have a real soft spot for those games. Part of it is just remembering the thrill (which lasted for years) that I had finally gotten into game design. But the team was great and the games stand up pretty well. That said, I haven't played a competitive game of Age in like 10 years so I imagine you'd crush me. :) Back in the day though, I could hold my own. My team won our internal tournament.
King Lego (EUNE)
: I know who ghostcrawler is, but i don't know whether or not i should hate him like others do...
> So when it comes to balance - or anything, really - how do you judge when it's time to intervene? If not now, then what does it take? My advice overall is to step in when there is hard-ish deadline or when cost of failure is high. Balance usually doesn't qualify, because while the screw ups can be painful, we can also fix them pretty quickly. There is some benefit in having people make mistakes and learning from those mistakes, but you can't punish a bunch of players just for those learning opportunities.
King Lego (EUNE)
: I know who ghostcrawler is, but i don't know whether or not i should hate him like others do...
My take. > 1- Why exactly the big hatred?!? At the time when I worked on World of Warcraft, Blizzard developers had a pretty low social presence. The two lead designers, Kaplan and Chilton, posted occasionally, but the rest of the blue posts were really from the community team. Overall, the way the WoW team communicated to players was through actions not words. If you wanted to know if Blizzard though druids were too strong, you'd wait for the next patch notes. Before I went to Blizzard, I worked at Ensemble Studios on Age of Empires for 10 (!) years. I enjoyed talking to players as part of that job. I felt like it made me a better developer because I could ask questions directly and get more detail and nuance. (Note this was entirely in English, which remains a weakness of this approach.) Suddenly, WoW players were getting a lot more direct communication with a developer than they were used to. Many of them might not know a single person on the WoW development team other than me. There is this human desire to target another human rather than generically target a company, with reactions that are both and bad. So if there was something players liked, I received credit whether I deserved it or not. If there was something players didn't like, I received blame whether I deserved it or not. This being the internet, there was always a lot of the latter. :) Also note that I was never even the lead designer on WoW (my title was closest to assistant lead, but I shared that role with 1-2 other designers most of the time). Any decisions I made would have to be approved by the game director and production director. Blizzard being Blizzard, I was certainly not able to ram my personal pet projects, petty notions about the way games should be made, or bad ideas into the game. There is a Blizzard or even a WoW design philosophy, and at most one can influence that philosophy, not dictate it. But if you played a warlock, and you saw warlock nerfs, and Ghostcrawler posted about why we wanted to change dot scaling, then it was easy (if not completely accurate) to connect the dots. >2- What are the mistakes he did? I have made a lot of mistakes in my career, as anyone with a long career has. As I mentioned above, a lot of the things the community might consider mistakes were things that the development team (or at least the leaders of the development team) agreed upon, so in that sense these weren't decisions that I was solely responsible for. But as part of those leadership teams, I'm perfectly comfortable taking the blame. What rubs me the wrong way though is when a single person is given, by the community, that much influence over a product that is developed by hundreds of people. It's just not fair to all of those other developers who pour their soul into their work. If I sound defensive at times, it's trying to raise the visibility of all of those who work really hard to do the right thing, but remain transparent to many players. I think overall it works better at Riot, where players know the names of lots of Riot developers, so we seem more like a company of real humans than a corporate entity with one or two known spokespeople. That isn't intended as a swipe against Blizzard, because they've also figured out ways for developers to communicate a lot more to players these days. I also *did* just want to list some of the many, many mistakes I've made over the years, in the interest of being open. It would take a lot of detail to explore any of these, so these bullets may be frustratingly terse. :( * First, a lot of the mistakes I've made, players have never seen, because they were thankfully caught by colleagues, betas or playtesters before they were foisted upon the community. * Other mistakes get really personal (and therefore need to be kept private), such as hiring people I should not have, or firing people slower than I should have, or trusting the wrong people to get things done (or not trusting the right people). * Early in my career, I made the mistake of trying to imagine that I was a proxy for the player base. If I played a certain way or had a certain value, then lots of players should probably feel the same way, right? You can see this with my early approach to randomness in game design. I am comfortable with randomness as a player and view it as an obstacle to overcome, but I know now that not everyone sees that way. * Also early in my career, I fell in love too much with my ideas and wasn't as objective with outside feedback as I should have been. For example, I was insistent upon using Joan of Arc as the first campaign in Age of Kings, when part of the company wanted to use William Wallace instead. I pushed a fantasy story for the Age of Empires 3 campaign, instead of a historical recreation as our previous campaigns had been. * The WoW Death Knight was one of my first projects at Blizzard. I was attempting to solve a problem I perceived in WoW at the time, which was having dedicated tanking and DPS talent trees. With the DK, I tried to let players tank in any of the 3 trees. It mostly worked, but was a lot of upkeep for the team, and when the design problem was solved a different way (though the dual-spec feature) the DK talents then had to be redesigned. * Another early feature I did for WoW was hunter pet talents. The goal was noble, but the feature didn't actually add any depth because it was very solve-able. I'm not sure if there are even any vestiges left of hunter pet talents in the game. * When we launched the Cataclysm expansion, I championed making dungeons more challenging, because I was worried about the resonance (and therefore longevity) of dungeons that players could just blast through without coordination. I think this was the right call, but we didn't offer any alternatives for players who did enjoy a lower stress way to play. * I also championed Raid Finder based on the success of Dungeon Finder, but the implementation was pretty flawed, and encouraged players to just bail from any group that wiped rather than trying to solve the boss as a puzzle. This led to us having to tune Raid Finder down so much that the raid was more of a tourist mode rather than an epic experience. * Switching to LoL, I argued strongly for the champion roster project, under the belief that we could only solve a bunch of health issues with older champions by working on several at once. This eventually kind of devolved into just doing normal updates in groups of champs at a time (say a few ADCs at once), and some of those were not even particularly good updates. And of course, we really didn't fix the problem of having older champs with unhealthy play patterns or classes without really sharp strengths and weaknesses. * We built Dynamic Queue with the noble goal of letting players play with their friends and form premades more akin to the esports that we keep saying LoL players should aspire to be. But we were a little tone-deaf with our messaging, and it felt to a lot of players like we were telling them they were playing the game wrong if they valued a solo experience, or even valued competitive integrity over the ability to play as a group. I think we are tackling the problem much better in the new Clash feature (launch problems aside). * I don't want to throw players of these champions under the bus, so I won't name names, but there are a couple that I could tell were not trending well in development. I kept giving the teams feedback when I should have taken a more proactive role in forcing changes (or possibly even killing the project). * I could go on and on. I've made a lot of mistakes. I've done a lot of things I am proud of as well, but that's not the topic here. :) >3- How the hell did a marine biologist end up in developing games?!?!? I have been making video games for 20 years now, so I feel I am as qualified as anyone at this point. So the real question was whether I was qualified to make games in my first year on Age of Empires, and the answer is no. At the time, there were very few college programs in game design, and while there are more around today, the vast majority of designers we hire at Riot come with no education in game development. I applied to Ensemble looking for a junior position with no experience. I answered a want-ad, as one does. I think technically it was an interview with one of the designers saying they were looking to grow. They liked my application and I did well in the interviews, and thankfully, they took a chance on me. There were some skills that crossed over from oceanography to game design, but not many. The most valuable are probably communication skills and the ability to interpret data. I drew more heavily on my hobby of having played 1000s of hours of games.
: Yeah, but this time I managed to wrap it up nicely so the fanboi hatetrain can't downvote me into oblivion like they did on previous occasions. And my points are all valid and right, and the area I am talking about is the complete responsibility of Lead Design. I wonder if I get a red response on this...
> I wonder if I get a red response on this... Sure, I'll give you a red response on this. You guys still seem to make a lot of assumptions about how we work. The League org is really big. It is big partially because we are our own publisher and partially just because it's a big game with a lot of moving parts. Our organizational structure is to have a lot of smaller teams focused on specific problem spaces. For example the Live team makes the patch to patch balance changes, and overall focuses on problems like game health, fairness, and frustration. There is a different team that works to improve matchmaking and another that builds new game modes. In that environment, it's not any one person's job to go around and say "Hey I have this personal value, so you need to start implementing the game in this particular way." If I left the team tomorrow and another designer took my place, it would be really hard to detect any difference from the viewpoint of a player. What you see are Riot values and League values, not my values. I have also personally been focusing a lot lately on features like the new player overhaul and Clash (and some things we haven't talked about), so if anything I'm a little out of touch with recent gameplay changes. But that's fine, because I have very capable leads like Meddler who do keep in touch with that part of the game. Like I said, large org. All of that said, I'm fine with you blaming me for anything in the game that you find annoying or just don't like. But that's not because I go down to the champion pit and tell them to design champions to fulfill a particular vision. Maybe I've been focused on the wrong things in the short term, or maybe our high-level philosophy isn't being acted upon, or maybe we just have the wrong designers working on the wrong problems in some places. All of those things are also my problems to solve. To address some of the other points: * We've heard a lot of feedback from players that we've shifted the game too far from solo carry potential to team coordination mattering too much. It's something we are working to change. * The jungle changes were not made to shift power to a particular subset of junglers. They were overall made because we were concerned that junglers had too much effect on the outcome of the early game and we wanted to slow that first gank down just a little bit (that is oversimplifying a lot, but that's the basic idea). Systemic changes like this can definitely impact individual champions, and we shake those out over time. If the goal had been to just buff duelist-type junglers, we would have just said that and could have enacted it much more simply. * It is a constant struggle for us to decide what to change without changing too much. I am 100% certain that players would get bored and move away from the game if we just decided to stop trying to improve it over time, and we want to create a game that is around for years or decades. We know there is a cost to any change we make to League. There's a cost if you have to relearn something. There's a cost if you just don't like a change we made. We understand that and we try to only make changes that leave the game in a better state than it was before, but we definitely take steps backwards in order to take steps forward from time to time. All of our changes have goals though, and if the goals are unclear (and I think they were for the jungle changes mentioned above) then that's a communication failure on our part. At least then you can challenge whether you disagree with the goals, or whether you agree with the goals and just disagree that the specific implementation will deliver on them. * Overall, I am concerned that we put a lot of different things into new and updated champion kits these days. It is done with a noble purpose of making sure that you guys get excited about new champs, but it does mean a lot of our newer offerings are much more complicated than our older champions. We need to get better about being happier (and making sure you guys are happy) with some champions with relatively simple kits with maybe one or two complex abilities instead of all 4 (5 if you count the passive) requiring a lot of information to play around. (I often wonder how well a Lux or Jinx would do today if they were new champions.) On the other hand, I don't think the mobility arms race (or shield arms race or range arms race) is as bad as players sometimes like to argue. Very mobile champions can still have sharp weaknesses. It's harder for champs who can do everything really well to have sharp weaknesses, but usually this just manifests as their strengths not ending up all that sharp, because at the end of the day, even a wildly unbalanced champion tends to have a winrate in the 50%s. So I really think what players are talking about here is the frustration it can take to shut down an enemy champ, not that they can't win a game against that champ. This is why some of the strongest complaints still come in about champs with strong duel potential (the Rivens, Zeds and Yasuos). Their winrates may not be all that awesome, but it can be frustrating when they catch you alone one-on-one. But I don't think in that case the answer is just to make sure their winrates are low. It also gets into the whole conundrum of how to give players more individual agency when some of the champions designed with a lot of individual agency are some of the most frustrating and most complained about. :( * "I mean, when you look at Ghostcrawler's history before WoW, he has mostly worked on RTS titles (he started with Age of Empires after all). Back in the time, no one was playing these games for a competitive multiplayer - people played the campaign, and the multiplayer was for you and your friends to mess around with during LAN parties (man good old times, when was the last time I had a good old fashioned LAN-party?)." FWIW, we playtested Age of Empires almost exclusively in 4v4 multiplayer LAN games. The ridiculous thing about game development back then was that was pretty much all we had - we had no way to gather actual data from players so we had to balance the whole thing ourselves (with the kind of results you'd expect). Now days we can gather tons and tons of data about the actual player experience. I designed most of the campaigns for the AoE games, but they didn't get a ton of playtesting. Almost all of our playtesting was multiplayer. It's amazing the games ended up as good as they did. * ''You don't need to play the game in order to design it'' Look, the people who build airplanes rarely pilot them, but they still have a pretty good idea of how one flies a plane. That's all I was saying. That quote (taken out of context as these things sometimes are) was in response to the persistent yet somewhat tired theory that the best players should be the ones to design competitive games. There are some players who are excellent designers (and we hire some of them), and there are other players who would be dreadful at the job. If you don't play the game you design, it will definitely be much, much harder for you to be effective, but yes, in a theoretical sense, it is possible. * "Problem with Ghostcrawler is that he thinks he knows more than what he does." Nah. You always want to be in a situation where you're the dumbest person in the room, and fortunately that's pretty easy for me at Riot. The problem with Ghostcrawler is he has less time to talk to players than he used to, and struggles to find the right format these days. :( Okay, that was a pretty long answer, but what did I miss that you were really hoping for an answer to?
Zypheit (NA)
: Ghostcrawler, I am disappoint...
The Rift Scuttler has the wrong number of legs, and the whale shark in WoW had big teeth. I try not to be that guy too often. :)
Sukishoo (NA)
: If you're talking the news that came from the video with Ghostcrawler, that was actually confirmed to be misinformation afterwards.
Yes, I thought it was canon that they were sisters and that the interview question just got lost in translation. But the official Riot stance is that they may or may not be sisters. And that isn't because we just don't want you all to know the answer. It's because we literally have not made the call. It was my mistake.
Lbound (NA)
: Rework Team. Do you guys ever have heated, passionate debates. Or disagree which leads to drama?
> Does the team responsible for the rework ever get attached to the champion, or feel any kind of passion for the design that may cause an argument (decent and with useful feedback) with another member of the team that may have a different vision on how that champion should be? They should be passionate about the design, or else it's going to be hard for them to defend it. But overall, the best game designers adopt the attitude of "strong convictions, reasonably held." What I mean is that you should be informed enough about the problem space you are working in that your idea doesn't immediately melt when met with feedback. But on the other hand, if you are too close to the problem, then you probably aren't holding onto your ideas reasonably. You are holding onto them irrationally. One of the first rules of creativity is being able to kill your babies. You need to love something to invest the effort into it, but you can't love it so much that you aren't willing to set it aside when faced with evidence that it's just not going to work. The apocryphal tale of the game designer who refuses to nerf his or her main is just that in my experience: apocryphal. We argue all the time, in the sense that we debate it. Once in awhile these get heated (excited is probably a better word) and someone will raise their voice or interrupt someone or two people will be talking at the same time. Overall, it rarely ever gets emotional where someone starts attacking the person instead of the idea.
Lbound (NA)
: Rework Team. Do you guys ever have heated, passionate debates. Or disagree which leads to drama?
I’m not on the champion team, but you mentioned me by name, so I’ll answer. In a word, no, this rarely ever happens. To be able to collaborate with coworkers you have to be able to discuss an idea and disagree without it escalating to the kind of heated argument where someone walks out. We have too much to do to have time for that kind of drama. The way we like to operate is that someone owns a particular decision, such as the direction of a champion rework, and everyone agrees who that is. This person is not me, or anyone else in a leadership position, or else nothing would ever get done. The owner needs to be someone close to the peoblem who can focus on the problem. The owner listens to feedback and evaluates that feedback within the context of his or her goals for the project (which is really similar to how we handle feedback from players). Smart designers learn quickly to take that feedback seriously, but they also know that they can’t make every change requested or they will end up with a muddled design that probably doesn’t even meet their goals. It is rare you see more or less unanimous feedback on any feature, despite what you might read on forums sometimes. :) I use the framework of a “hill to die on” for when you are really convinced that someone is making a mistake. You have to make sure they understand how worried you are or how passionate you feel. But like the name suggests, everything can’t be a hill for you to die on. You only get a few of those, so you have to careful how you spend them. Otherwise, if you’ve given your feedback and a change was not made, then you need to disagree and commit. That is the only way to really get anything done and move forward. I get the feeling that what the question is getting at is whether developers ever get as upset as players do about specific changes, and if they storm out of a room (or threaten to) to make a point. Generally, no, because we need to turn around and be able to work together the very next day.
: People trashtalking Riot for not playing the game LUL
I don't remember the context of the original quote, but the point I was trying to make was that the skill to be a good at a game and the skill to be able to balance the same game are different skills. I think some people assume that if you're good at a game, you must have a ton of knowledge about the game (which is probably true), and therefore a ton of insight into the game (which might be true), and therefore know how to solve problems and put things in a good direction (which might not be true). But if you are working on a game, I would definitely advocate that you play it. A lot. Playing it a lot isn't sufficient to balance it - you need a lot of information from other sources too. But not playing the game will likely leave you really out of touch.
Onotori (NA)
: Hey GC, why'd you leave Blizzard?
I had been at Blizzard on WoW for about 6 years, and I really enjoyed the team and the community, but it did start to feel like the same thing over and over again. One of the challenges of working on a game with a long lifespan is that you build up these really thorny long-standing problems that are hard to fix (and to be honest, League has the same problem, though I'm in no immediate danger of leaving). On top of that, the strategy of Blizzard at the time (though I understand they have pivoted away from that in more recent expansions) was to minimize change to make it easier for players to jump back in when a new expansion launched. Whether or not it was the right decision for players (and I do see the logic), it made it even harder to solve some of the long standing systems problems with WoW. Most importantly, I worried that I was starting to make changes because they entertained me as a developer, and not because they were the right thing for the game. That was a big red flag for me. Around the same time, I happened to be at a convention in China. I was answering questions at our booth, and there were hundreds of players in the audience. But I looked across the convention center at this other booth, and there were thousands upon thousands of people in the audience. I asked someone "What game is that?" And as you probably guessed, they said "League of Legends." I hadn't been paying much attention to League. I had played it in the first couple of seasons, but hadn't kept up with it. (It's hard to do hardcore raiding in WoW and have any other big game demands.) I had no idea League had gotten so large. I did know some people at Riot, so I asked them about how things were going. I hadn't decided to leave Blizzard at that time, and in fact was considering if it made sense to go work on Diablo or some other team. But the more I heard about Riot, the more I started really considering it. In particular, I really liked how willing people at Riot were to changed their minds when presented with a better idea, and of course I really loved the player focus and the willingness to talk to players. While Blizzard has gotten much better about it in the last five year, it always ruffled a bit of feathers there about how much emphasis I put on player comms. I agonized about leaving Blizzard for many months, but ultimately decided that I would always look back on that decision and wonder what would have happened if I had thrown caution to the wind, and left a safe, secure thing for some upstart company. So I left Blizzard as gracefully as I could. Blizzard is a great company and a great place to work. I still play their games and I have a lot of friends who work there. Riot is just a better fit for me personally.
kargish (EUW)
: Can somebody link the exact quote of Ghostcrawler saying you don't need to play to balance the game?
In a theoretical sense, you don't need to play a game to be good at balancing it. Realistically, you would have to really, really over index on game knowledge (including not only the rules but also the player experience) to be able to do so. It's sort of like saying that blind painters are a thing that can exist. That's probably not the fastest route to being a good painter though. I do play League of Legends all the time. I also don't balance it personally. :)
: Ghostcrawler is the prime example for "Don't hire another company's reject" (long 6 AM ramble)
> As a Gold MF main, I'd really appreciate more opportunities for skill expression. I do acknowledge you guys have added cool features over time, the crit double up on minion kill being a really awesome and satisfying change in particular. > > It is often frustrating being limited in options compared to other, more mobile champs, but I compensate with these limitations by leaning on a strong macro game. The one thing i'd liked added to MF is some new voice-over work to match current lore! Totally agree on both counts.
: Ghostcrawler is the prime example for "Don't hire another company's reject" (long 6 AM ramble)
> Hey, GC. > > Do you think that participatory design has anything to do with Riot's product strategy? What do you mean by participatory design? > i wanted to be a game designer as welll until 3 years into school i realized that i would have very little control over anything and that turned me off. That is a lot of league problem the ppl that know what to do and want to do it are shut down by the ppl controling the money. So you cant put all the blame on poor GHostCrawler cause i'd bet anything he doesnt get to make final decisions on shit if anything. While it can be a hard industry to get into (and there are some hard days, like in any job) I love my career and am very grateful for it. That said, if you really want a position where you have a lot of influence, you might be happier on a smaller team. Many mobile games might have only one designer for instance. As far as my role, you can put the blame on me. While I am not in every room where a decision gets made, if we are making bad decisions overall, then it is still my fault. > Honestly, nothing I've seen tend to prove Tencent is meddling in LoL design/decision making. What makes you say that? They have very little role in decision making here. They make suggestions sometimes. I have worked at places where the publisher was much more involved, and not always in a great way.
: Ghostcrawler is the prime example for "Don't hire another company's reject" (long 6 AM ramble)
> Thats a lot of bullshit you said there and a lot of people eating it cause they can't think for themselves. Why were you hired instead of other people when you didn't even play the game, why was morello replaced when he was doing an ok job, why was there such a need for you to take his place. You probably had some strings pulled. Let us not forget you forcefully took the username of a player, yet never played on the account you stole. You could have just changed your name, but you didn't, you are disgusting. I have regrets that we took that player's username. On the other hand, it's a name I created and the internet generally understands to mean me. I don't think that player stumbled upon it by accident. I hate the thought that I have go grab my username on any type of social media that I may ever want to use before somebody else takes it. On the other hand, taking a name from a player feels really crappy and we decided shortly after that point not to do it anymore. My apologies to him or her. I don't play on that account because I post on it - here for instance. I play on the same LoL account I have always played on. > Meanwhile, DotA 2 manages to keep their entire champion pool viable in both competitive and casual simultaneously. In any given world championship, nearly the entire cast gets picked at some point. > > From what the community can tell, Rito is specifically keeping certain champs viable only and intentionally throwing the rest in bronze, without even so much as a semblance at attempting balance. This can be seen with numerous cases: MF, Quinn, Sona, Garen; where they've all been kept intentionally weak for literally years at a time, even when for a small sum, the answer is as simple as a complete revert, followed by just minor buffs (looking at Sona & Quinn, for example.) I am not an expert on Dota by any stretch, but my understanding is that their counterpicking is more extreme. You can literally lose a game in champ select because you made a poor counterpick. That keeps diversity higher because niche champs might still get brought out to counter others. I'm not passing judgment on whether that design is better or worse. It's probably better if champ diversity is one of your most important goals. We have other goals as well though. Garen and MF are pretty balanced for Bronze. The problem is that they are more easily countered (or have a very small niche) in higher skill tiers or pro. Every time we consider changes that would get them a higher play rate in higher tiers, we think there is a big risk that players in lower tiers (who may have 100s of games on them) wouldn't be able to play them any longer. As a developer, this really bugs me. I would like for every champion to be viable in all tiers of play, but it takes a lot of really clever solutions to get them there. Believe me, the fact that we still have many champions who need a gameplay update also bothers me.
: Ghostcrawler is the prime example for "Don't hire another company's reject" (long 6 AM ramble)
> I would really like to hear a Rioters response to the philosophy of 'Longer, more epic, strategic based games vs. short, action, micro intensive eye candy.' A lot of people think you're just amping up damage to cater to an e-sports zero attention span generation. Is this true? An SR game can take a really long time. To be honest, I wish it was shorter. But it's really hard to make it shorter without it becoming more snowbally. That back and forth is a really important part of the game (we turned around the game I was in last night with one of our nexus turrets down somehow). So you can take the fact that we haven't shortened SR games as evidence that we don't want super short micro-intensive games. I like to say about League that you should be fast (good micro) but you also need to be smart (picking your fights, having good strategy, etc.) > ardent censor meta wasn't their intention. it was a big failure on their part, and it made worlds less fun to watch, not more. but it was a mistake, not a chosen direction. We also really wanted to fix it for Worlds, but we didn't want to throw a big change at pros just before finals which could have compromised the quality of the games. We changed Juggernauts not that long ago just before the pro season got real, and we regret that timing. > Looking back now, I was an idiot for making those posts so quickly after it launched because just like every preseason, everything eventually gets balanced out. But honestly, this preseason has been great compared to years previous. GG <3 > If you stopped soon with new champion releases and focused only on balancing and changing other aspects of the game (items, runes, neutrals, the map etc.) then I can see League going for a long time. I don't see it becoming stale if patches are bringing champions in and out of the meta, and preseason changes greatly altering the game the way it has done so in the past. Reworked champions would be the way to bring in new abilities and mechanics, which would be the main limitation if not adding new champions. New champs definitely work against understanding the game and their introduction can be quite disruptive. We have slowed down the pace of new champs considerably. But it's still a really exciting moment when we release a new one, so we're not ready to abandon the idea quite yet.
: Ghostcrawler is the prime example for "Don't hire another company's reject" (long 6 AM ramble)
>you now, I think in overwatch they banned a guy for ranting against blizzard staff, you guys have so much patience Kaplan is more patient than I am. > So, I don't know what all GC really does with League. He goes to meetings.
: Ghostcrawler is the prime example for "Don't hire another company's reject" (long 6 AM ramble)
> If anything, i think that you arent focusing on Esports as hard as you should do. You keep talking about balance perception. The pro scene is a MAJOR contributor to that perception, propably the biggest. When people see the same 50-55 champions getting spammed, you think that they will perceive LoL as a balanced game even when there arent any similar problems in their games? Totally agree that that is a problem. However, we'd rather have that problem than to see pros play 140 champs but when you go into the game yourself, get told that only 50-55 champs are viable for mere mortals and the rest of the champs were for pros. (And we even have that to some extent with pro-favorite champs like Elise.) Ideally diversity would be high for pro and for normal, but since we want to use the same set of numbers for all players (versus say have Cho do more damage in pro games than Silver games), we make it hard on ourselves.
: Ghostcrawler is the prime example for "Don't hire another company's reject" (long 6 AM ramble)
Hey there. I don't really want to use this as an opportunity to defend my record. (Spoiler: I think it's fine). However, I'd love a chance to talk about how we view League's long-term strategy, which may be a topic that not every player often thinks about. The traditional way to make a game was to package it in a box for 60 USD or whatever and put it on the shelf in a Gamestop, or going way back, an EB or something. You wanted players to love your game, but you also wanted them to finish your game, because you only made money on the box, and you needed them to not only value that box, but to want the next box, and the one after that. We sometimes talk about this consumer product strategy as "planned obsolescence." The first game I worked on that didn't follow that strategy was an MMO, where much of the revenue came from a subscription. The strategy was to keep players so engaged that they never got bored and risked unsubscribing. Turns out this is pretty hard to do. Players do eventually move on to other games, so to keep your revenue constant, you need to keep bringing in new players. This model tends to be even more extreme in microtransaction games, especially mobile ones (and especially low quality mobile ones) where players may quickly get tired of your nonsense and paywalls and running out of resources. The business model here is to constantly get new players (or rope current players into bringing in their friends) because if you ever run out of new players, you quickly run out of money. The reason we think League can be evergreen and last for many years is that it works really differently. The game is free to play and there is no subscription. Much of League's revenue comes from optional cosmetic content. This creates a situation where players don't often feel the need to formally quit - there is no unsub moment or anything. The icon is still sitting there on your computer when you want to go back to it. So compared to many games, our churn rate is really low. Players may take breaks, but many come back. This also means we are less dependent on new players. Our strategy is to keep current players engaged and happy. Historically we've made very little effort to attract new players. In terms of evergreen games, I often use examples like Magic, D&D or possibly Pokemon. Those are games that you can drift in and out of for years. They evolve.They release new products. But they are still recognizable over time and have been around for decades. Will they last forever? I don't know. But they last a lot longer than most games. That's what we aspire to do with League (and no, we're not there yet). Riot as a company invests heavily in esports, but on the League team it is not always forefront in our minds. Our balance philosophy for example focuses on players in the high Plat / low Diamond skill level. Balancing only for esports is a little short-sighted because you are tuning the game literally for a few dozen people, while probably making the game worse for tens of millions. When we do make changes specifically for esports, it tends to be right around Worlds and is also focused more on esports viewers than pro players. In other words, we don't make a ton of changes just for esports, and those we do make are often targeted on making a game that is fun to watch. The vast majority of our features (things like missions, champion mastery, matchmaking, Star Guardian Invasion) have almost no impact on esports at all. They are for the rest of us. As a company, esports does have benefits and that's why it's an important part of our company strategy. We don't spend much on traditional marketing, and in a way esports is part of our marketing. Pro games also provide a way for players to stay connected to League if they're taking a break from the game as I mentioned above. Esports can also be aspirational because it's inspiring to see players playing the exact same game as you but doing things you didn't know were possible. It's an opportunity for the community to come together. It's a celebration of League. Does Riot want additional games? Absolutely. We want to be a game company that stands the test of time, and we know we need a whole library of games to do that. But we aren't willing to shift so many resources away from League and towards new games that we hurt the one successful game that we do have. Remember, we don't need that planned obsolescence model that I mentioned above. More games will come in time, and we have time. I know that was long, but I hope it helps provide a little more perspective about how we think about product strategy.
: Dear Ghostcrawler
Dear Cryptodynamic, I don't really think it's necessary or appropriate to "showcase" my contributions to LoL to the community. At the end of the day, players are going to play LoL if they are enjoying it and not because of any individual who works on the team. I am quite confident that the vast majority of LoL players have no idea who Ghostcrawler is, and that's fine. :) I felt the need to reach out to the community when I joined Riot because I wanted players to not worry about what it meant for the game. I worked at Blizzard at a time when those developers didn't interact nearly as much with players as they do today, so for better or worse, I was frequently the voice of WoW. That isn't the case on League, where lots of Rioters talk to you guys all the time, so hopefully you get to know Riot more as a culture and there's less focus on whether you like or don't like a particular developer. In terms of League as a business, that's not something we talk a lot about because we want players to focus on the game (and because we're not a publicly traded company, we don't have to make a big deal about it for shareholders). League is one of the largest games the world - that hasn't changed - and even if it did, that shouldn't affect whether you are having fun. I think Riot is probably pretty happy with what I am doing here or I wouldn't still be here. A lot of what I do aren't things you'd be able to point to and say "That right there is GC's influence." This is largely because Riot is so collaborative and I wouldn't dare take personal credit for what is inevitably the result of something that a team got together and did. I am really excited about things we have done recently such as the upcoming Rune and reward overhaul, events like Star Guardian, Honor 2.0, improving matchmaking queue times, and champions like Kayn and Xayah, but I didn't do any of those things. I just tried to stay out of the way. Other things I work on aren't things players are going to be able to directly see firsthand. I strive to stay humble, but where I will express a bit of pride is in the awesome team we have today on League. We have picked up some great developers over the past four years, we have better decision-making tools, hopefully we've solved some frustrations around how we work, and morale overall is really high. If you want your company to succeed, you don't ever want to be the smartest person in the room. Mission accomplished. League isn't perfect and it isn't finished. There is a lot we can still improve, and we make new mistakes all the time, and then we have to improve those things as well. We are very honored that players like you are still with us on this ride, and we will do what we can to live up to your expectations. Please keep them high!
: Soo... uhh. I heard u wanna move all Bronzies to Silver
The issue here, as I see it, is what should be the percentages of players in each tier? Currently Bronze is a huge chunk of players and Diamond is very, very small. We could slide more of players into higher tiers while still keep the lower tiers larger, and therefore less prestigious, than the higher tiers. This isn't really grade inflation per se - it's just evaluating where the break points are. In other words, there is nothing really magical about the cut-offs we use for Silver versus Gold, except for some season-to-season consistency.
: ghostcrawler has announced that all bronze players will be promoted to silver
Hey guys, A lot of these interviews I did for Russian media went something like this: Interviewer: Have you guys noticed a problem with X and have you thought about any solutions? GC: Yes, we agree that's a problem. We've talked about a few solutions, such as Y. Then through the magic of English-Russian translation (or possibly more cynically, someone just wanting to get more attention for their story), a lot of these things get written up as new features that are being announced. I wasn't giving interviews on new features. We almost always announce those ourselves. So, changing how ranks work or making Bronze more of a stepping stone for everyone, or making a distinction between folks who are actively climbing in ranked versus those who haven't played in awhile are all ideas we've talked about, but you're not going to see them next season. That said, if you like any of those ideas, that's great feedback for us to consider.
: Buying Runes Between Now and Preseason
Warning: frank discussion incoming. One of the things we haven't talked about a lot with you guys, but which should come as no surprise, is that Riot does make revenue on runes, which we ultimately invest back into League to make the game better. This is indirect revenue, because it comes from players purchasing champions with RP since they don't have available IP to get those champions, since some of that IP goes towards runes. Freeing up rune IP (in the absence of any other changes) would let players buy a bunch of champions and spend less RP overall. Now we *are* making some other changes to the system, but overall, Riot is losing money on this deal. Potentially a lot of money. This was something we had to talk about a lot internally, but everyone was ultimately behind the decision, all the way to Tryndamere and Ryze. I don't want to make too big of a deal out of this, but if we seem cautious with some of our decisions here, this is part of the reason why. (Another big one obviously is that we are taking a gamble by overhauling such a core part of the game for something that we believe will be better.) We are making the new runes free because we believe 1) That it's the right thing to do for League and for League players, and 2) Our business model has always been to make a fun game that players want to keep coming back to year after year. Runes Reforged is a long-term bet on League of Legends (and Riot for that matter). If we thought that Rune Pages made no sense with the new design and risked feeling like a cash grab, we would absolutely just kill them as a feature. But we have found they are useful with Runes Reforged, just less mandatory than they were before. Definitely open to discussion on this topic however.
: Buying Runes Between Now and Preseason
"Just make runes free until preseason." We talked about this as a solution, and we went another way for a couple of reasons. Would be interested in your thoughts. 1) The current rune system is not very robust technically, which in fact is one of the reasons for why we wanted to rebuild it (though not the main reason). For example, there is a maximum rune number that you can hit, but the game doesn't really communicate that well, and so many players open up support tickets when they can't add another rune. Yes, we could go fix all of that, but why spend the effort on a system that we have already planned to remove? 2) Letting players get as many runes as they want invites a lot of experimentation and unusual builds and trying out runes they never had before. All of which is kind of the wrong focus for a system that is about to go away. We'd rather players be making posts and videos and streams about the *new* rune design rather than pumping a bunch of excitement into the one whose days or numbered. It just felt like a weird message to send. So we hit upon the solution of making runes cheap enough during the transition that you could still pick up a new champion or try out a new build, without encouraging everyone to go out and grab every rune they could find.
: Buying Runes Between Now and Preseason
I posted this on Reddit just a few minutes ago, but when we first talked about the new design I said "So rune pages are going away, right?" Because I assumed you would just make all the rune choices in champ select. But once we got farther into implementation, we found that we were using rune pages in our playtests. It's just helpful to have a few of them set up so you can spend more time in the lobby figuring out who is playing what champion (or heaven forbid, talking strategy) rather than quickly trying to grab the right runes. I wouldn't say our solution for rune pages is finalized yet by any stretch. We are still iterating a lot on the rune system (and IP and everything). Feedback on all of this is appreciated.
: A little birdie told me something about Ghostcrawler today....
To avoid having to rely on little birds, I'll just address this myself. :) I am short. It doesn't bother me. In personality tests, I always score as an extreme extrovert. This doesn't surprise me, because I get energy from being around other people, as apposed to having it siphoned off. So "anti-social" doesn't really ring true, and anyone who really knows me knows that I love to talk to players about LoL, gaming or anything. If I'm at a con or player meetup, I spend as much time as I can just getting to know players. Selfishly, it's the only way I know to get really direct, unfiltered feedback. I head overall design on LoL. Meddler heads design on our gameplay team specifically. Gameplay is a big part of LoL, and arguably the most important part, but it's not the only part. Matchmaking and events are examples of non-gameplay teams. Our live team, which is responsible for balance, sits within the gameplay team. That means if something goes wrong, it is Meddler's and ultimately my fault. But that doesn't mean we make all the changes, or even dictate them, ourselves. Most game developers find it easier to nerf than to buff. If you have a game with 20 characters, and one is overpowered, it's easier and safer (in terms of the potential for bugs or unintended cosequences) to nerf that one character than to buff the other 19 (which also just leads to stat inflation over time). By contrast if one of the 20 characters is underpowered, there usually isn't the same outcry or effect on so many players. That said, devs do have a responsibilty to try and buff characters when they can and not be too quick to nerf someone if the community is in the process of solving it themselves. I fully admit we do sometimes nerf things too much and we try to correct those mistakes.
: Riot shouldn't listen to the community, kinda
Hey Marshbouy, The way I see it, we are most effective as developers when we listen to the community as a source of feedback to help us make informed decisions. So in a way I agree that it's risky to just do whatever players suggest and hope for some kind of wisdom of crowds magic. It's not that we should pick and choose which players to listen to - it's more that you listen to all the feedback and begin to develop a picture of what is really going on. Taking a step back even farther, what is the point of having game developers if all they're doing is taking in community feedback and acting on it? We hire people because they have good judgment and intuition (and sometimes also a lot of experience). Part of that skill is knowing which parts of the feedback to listen to, or to figure out when players are talking about X, that the actual problem is really Y. I used to be a scientist (not necessarily a great scientist, mind you), so let me try this analogy. It's really dangerous to throw out data just because you don't like what it says, or even because you aren't sure how to interpret it. But it is the interpretation that's really important. That's where you really learn something. If I am reading the work of another scientist, I generally skip over their data. I just want to see the conclusion, and I'll only go back to the data if I think something smells fishy and I want to see it myself. Applying that to players, you don't want to dismiss community feedback just because it seems contradictory or because you don't understand it. But the magic comes from interpreting that feedback and using it to make changes that do improve the game over the long run.
: holy shit some of this stuff sound ridiculous! I am both scared and excited at the same time!
We are also scared and excited! But that's exactly the reaction we love to see. Thanks. :)
: [This thread has been edited by GhostCrawler]
To be clear, mages are fair, but mage players are just more skilled. :)
: Riot Ghostcrawler's talk at GDC 2017, "Balancing 'League of Legends' for Every Player"
> I would like to know your insight around the balancing of mobility champs and how it relates to damage (burst and wave clear.) > > From my stand point it seems mobility isn't a factor when determining how much damage a champs should do. Burst and mobility are almost as hard to balance as long range and mobility. It's okay to have champions with burst and mobility as long as they do have actual weaknesses somewhere else, and sometimes we definitely err on not giving them enough weaknesses. Having great wave clear is just another really useful strength. I'm honestly not as worried about the mobility arms race as I am the wave clear arms race. > I'd love it if you could take a moment to talk a little about the specifics of how you keep these concepts in mind when doing design, and a bit about how you prioritize them when they threaten each other: a case where a cool ability that increases Mastery and Meaningful Choice might come at the expense of Clarity, for example. There isn't a hierarchy to the design values and sometimes you definitely have to sacrifice one to another. The trick is just to do this deliberately. If you know you are reducing the clarity of a particular feature, you're still way ahead of the game than forgetting to even look at clarity. > For ease of reference (although I'm sure you have this handy and/or off the top of your head), the six criteria you outlined are Mastery, Meaningful Choice, Counterplay, Teamplay, Clarity, and Evolution. I'm especially interested in what you consider Evolution in this context. Evolution in this context means that League will change over time. Sometimes this is because of players. Many times it is because of developers. We don't want a static game, and we don't think you guys do either. We will continue to make new champions for example, knowing that this will hurt game balance in the short term. We will continue to iterate on those systems (we've talked a lot about runes lately) that we think could be a lot better. > Why do you think it's bad if a player mainly plays one champion? A lot of the fun of the game is experimentation - trying new things, seeing what works, learning from that, and trying new things. When you main one champion you get a lot better at that *for that champion.* You know Vi's damage per level so well that you can make decisions about when to level something out of order or skip an item or whatever. But you run the risk that if Vi ever falls out of meta, or we update her in a way you don't like, or you start playing with a friend who enjoys the same lane that you do, you may not have many options. At the extreme case, maybe you quit League rather than pick up another champion. We know (from a lot of the surveys I mentioned in the talk) that players who play more champions tend to enjoy League more and play it for more years. But don't get me wrong - nobody is "playing the game wrong" if they just really love a particular champion. I just wish the game (and especially Ranked) didn't push everyone so hard to playing so many games on the same champ. > As mentioned in your last paragraph, you talk about shifting philosophies between old ideas and newer ones. How often do ya sit down and simply talk about your current design philosophies and see if they still hold water for today. On average, I'd say we talk about it every 6-12 months. I don't think you need to reexamine something that high level more frequently than that. But you should consider it. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of them changed over time. > Put another way, to what degree are potentially returning viewers (who may have been away from the game for a year+, but want to pay attention to worlds for example) taken into account when making design decisions? We understand that it's hard for someone who hasn't been super involved to get back into League either as a player or a viewer. However, we worry that if we focused too much on their experience that we might make mistakes that make the game less fun for currently engaged League players or viewers. In other words, returning people are really important, but currently engaged people are even more important.
: Riot Ghostcrawler's talk at GDC 2017, "Balancing 'League of Legends' for Every Player"
> Well, that's why it's objectively false, because I on the other hand, hate the direction. Not trying to be a jerk, but that sort of makes it _subjectively_ false. :) > Is it true that you guys effectively have 3 days to make patch changes that occur over the course of 2 weeks? That's not nearly enough time to observe changes and fix things for anything that just suddenly bubbles up. I'd say it's pretty impressive the game has come this far with such a low window of time. > > How much "effective time" goes into a full rework then? How did that vary compared to Mage update which usually has a lot more balance impact but not very much gameplay impact? Yes, we have about 3 days to notice a problem, respond, and test those changes (both for functionality and balance). Sometimes that is why we wait for another patch if we're not sure things have settled yet - say players are still experimenting with a strategy or how to counter it. Typically we have much longer for full rework. Something like Galio can take almost as long as a new champion. Smaller updates (say the assassin update) still last for a long time. That doesn't always (in fact it frequently doesn't) mean that balance is in a good place on those longer projects. It does mean that the team isn't often faced with "You have to decide _right now_ if you're going to change anything." > Does Riot avoid quelling the vocal minorities out of principle (not forcing them to adapt to a change or make them move away from a champion), or does the company not have any real rules or defined perceptions of the boards? It's very difficult for Riot to communicate at times and other times it feels like the players are being ignored. We try not to think about it in terms of minorities or majorities, because that sort of makes it sound like the process is a vote (it's not) and it also implies that the majority is always right (it's not). Sometimes a single player will make a really good point that gets us to think about something in a different way. Other times, the changes you're trying to make will only appeal to a small number of players in the first place. Boards (and also Reddit) are a tiny fraction of players overall. That doesn't mean that players don't raise good points on them - that's why we pay attention. But because their reach is small, we also try and communicate a lot in other channels. We've been experimenting a lot with videos for example.
: Riot Ghostcrawler's talk at GDC 2017, "Balancing 'League of Legends' for Every Player"
> do you have bronze level players on your playtest team? Not on the playtest team. The playtest team is specifically to help with high-tier balance issues. We have plenty of players at Riot who can help with lower-tier testing, but they aren't specifically on the playtest team. > How would you accurately guage skill and mastery through stats because current mastery system rewards playing that champ a lot Someone asked this question after the talk and it's a good but a tough one. Ultimately, I don't think it's great that the design of LoL pushes you so heavily towards one champion. But on the other hand, that is the design we have and the one that players are used to, and doing anything too heavy handed at this phase to "force" players to play a more diverse champion pool is going to feel, well, heavy handed. It isn't that hard, in terms of making a mastery score, to underweight someone's accomplishments with a champ they play frequently and weight more heavily someone's games with champions with whom they are less familiar. The question is would that feel right or fair to players, and my guess at the current time, is no. > Also, the skills required in game design (computer science/math skills, artistic talent, communication) are way more important than just being a good league player. They do hire high elo players to test things, but its only a small aspect of champion balance and development at Riot. Yep. > I have acquaintances who tend to choose low apm champs (usually tanky) due to either low dexterity or hand problems, etc. but sometimes when a champ is modified or reworked a lot of that accessibility is lost. One of the things I tried to emphasize in the talk is that "player skill" is subdivided into a lot of smaller buckets. Manual dexterity (APM) to click buttons at the right time is one of those, but there are a lot of others as well. Ideally, champions play differently enough that every player can gravitate towards a champion that suits them. It's probably impossible to remove a bucket completely from a champion though. The thought of the champion that is good for someone who hates having to coordinate with their team probably wouldn't be awesome for the game. > The designer tinkering where the developer has a crazy idea and throws it into the game is painful for players, but you continue to let that happen. So, two thoughts here. First, yes it does happen. A lot of what I talked about was aspirational - meaning this is how we want things to be. It doesn't mean that it is necessary that way now. It also doesn't mean you should immediately fire someone who makes a mistake and doesn't follow the philosophy. But you can point to the philosophy when you discuss what might have gone wrong with the project. Secondly, I just disagree that everything in your list qualifies as tinkering. Some of those changes were made with the right goals in mind, but just end up still missing the mark. Other changes were made with the right goals in mind, and did hit those goals in our mind, but you just disagree. And that's fine. > We know its a fact, A F-A-C-T that Riot has never EVER balanced for anyone except the pro players. Low tier players and their opinion dont mean jack shit to Riot and frankly i would not be surprised if Rioters look at us low level players with absolute disgust. > > There was a Rioter blog about this topic long ago that told everyone only pro player opinions mattered. I think its pretty clear that stance has not changed. Well, it's not a fact, because I'm the person who partially or largely gets to make that call, and I'm telling you that isn't how we balance. I don't know to which blog you are referring. It's possible if it's quite old that our philosophy has shifted since that time. A few years ago we didn't have a playtest team or great data collection, so we were much more dependent on what we saw pros doing in their games to try and guess at balance.
: Riot Ghostcrawler's talk at GDC 2017, "Balancing 'League of Legends' for Every Player"
Happy to answer any questions you guys might have about the talk. I know it is long. :( Also keep in mind that the audience was game developers, and while we didn't say anything I wouldn't say to players, I'd probably say some of it in a different way.
Terror13 (EUW)
: I'm done trying.
> Jesus christ you do realise ghostcrawler, the guy that got hired for blizzard and is now developing LOL, has NO EXPERIENCE in game design and has never studied it. > > He was a MARINE BIOLOGIST and he got his job, seriously what do you say to that? You speak from a position of ignorance and act like its enlightenment! I always find this to be a strange response. Just to clarify, I have 18 years experience making video games, all with major franchises (Age of Empires, World of Warcraft, and now League of Legends). No, I did not study video games in university, but it's rare to find professional designers with a degree in game design even today, and those programs were non-existent nearly two decades ago. I was an oceanographer for only 8 years, and that's if you include 6 years of graduate school. Our designers are a mix of relatively junior developers to seniors with years of experience at Riot or other game studios. The more junior designers are mentored and trained by the more experienced folks, as it is with virtually every software developer. All of them play League, have a lot of potential, and have a passion to improve the player experience, or else we wouldn't have hired them. I'm fine if you disagree with any design decisions we are making, but it's not from lack of experience. :)
: @Ghostcrawler, can you do the playerbase a favor?
Yes, this is a good topic for us to address in a blog or video. Thanks for the suggestion.
: @RiotStaikk on Riot Ghostcrawler's recent Twitch Q&A
I'm not sure if Statikk will respond, but here is my thought process. We used to just have "Fighters" in League, which was mostly just a loose association of melee dudes. For awhile, we made an internal distinction between "light fighters" and "fighters." The light fighter idea evolved into Skirmishers. Juggernauts have high sustained damage, short range, and are not squishy. Think Nasus or Garen. Skirmishers have high sustained damage. short range, and are squishy. Think Tryndamare or Fiora. You can argue that Juggernauts have lower mobility and target access, which I think is legit, but I still think squishiness is the main differentiator. We also feel like we understand Juggernauts better than Skirmishers since we haven't done a Skirmisher update yet. In terms of Ekko, whether a champ does more burst or sustained damage helps to determine whether they're an Assassin or a Skirmisher. I feel Ekko uses burst windows, but that does depend on how you build him. Assassins also have more target access that Skirmishers, but that's even more nuanced. Hope that helps.
: Monthly Q&A with Ghostcrawler
Let's ask him why he hasn't buffed the LoL frost mages yet.
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