League of Legends: Interview with Riot Games #2
It's been 3 months since my first conversation with Tom "Zileas" Cadwell, the Design Director for League of Legends. During the course of the these last few months a lot has happened in terms of the game's development. League of Legends season one is now in its twilight, the milestones of the redesigned patcher has been reached, and countless balancing changes and reworks have been ushered into the vast roster of champs that grows with their bi-weekly patch cycle. Today Zileas returns here for a little Q&A on a variety of topics.
1) The summoner ability "Flash" seems to be a frequently debated topic on the forums in terms of what role it should have in League of Legends. Some argue that it provides too much of a get out of jail free card, while others claim that it is critical to the viability of certain champions. What is Riot's stance on the role of Flash and does Riot have any plans to make any more changes to it in the foreseeable future?
While Flash has probably been one of the most hotly debated topics in League of Legends history, because of that controversy, it has also been one of the gameplay elements that has seen the most revision. Remember that, when the debate began, flash had more than twice the range, a shorter cooldown, and could be used to dodge projectiles. Because of this, it was nearly impossible for players to execute ganks on pushing opponents if their flash was up, so gameplay tended to stagnate when the ability was down because aggressive champions were too scared to push.
After all of these nerfs, Flash no longer has that sort of “get out of jail free” vibe to it. Some champions, however, relied heavily on Flash to execute daring, aggressive attacks, and we have always liked that element of Flash’s gameplay. For this reason, we’re now pretty happy with the gameplay that the summoner spell promotes, and there aren’t any further plans to remove Flash right now.
2) It's been about 10 months since the launch of Season 1 for League of Legends, and there has been a continuous stream of new champions being added every 2 weeks. Currently ranked play in allows for banning of a total of 4 champions between both teams. With the constant addition of new champions to the League of Legends roster, are there any plans to increase the amount of bans in ranked play?
There are a lot of implications to increasing the number of bans in ranked play, particularly with the number of free champions that we currently make available to all players. Players who at any point in time have fewer than 14 champions available for play are barred from ranked play on the 5 v 5 ladder. If we were to increase the number of bans, that could potentially decrease the number of players allowed onto the ranked ladder. While I can’t state for certain that we will never increase the number of bans available, there are a lot of factors to consider, and we don’t have any plans on doing so at this time.
One thing worth noting is that we remade a lot of the more problematic characters, and try to stay ahead of ending up in situations where players pretty much have to ban a particular character.
3) For a few months players have noticed a faded-out button at the top of the PvP.net interface for achievements. Where is Riot at in terms of adding this functionality and can you provide a sneak peek into the types of things players might be seeing in there?
Achievements have always been on the long list of features that we would like for League of Legends to include at some point in the future. When we redid the user interface for Season One, that was simply the right time for us to start planning ahead for where we might display certain information. While we do plan on having achievements for our players to unlock, there are many features that we are more focused on at the present time. For instance, we just rolled out the release of our new PvP.net Patcher, which was one of the major technical hurdles preventing us from developing a polished Replay system.
4) Over the last few months your team periodically has gone back to examine champions and performed some drastic "reworks" to bring some of the lesser viable champions back into viability. What champions are currently on the table being examined for a possible rework and why?
We are constantly evaluating our pool of champions to assess how they fit into the game given new developments. Since League of Legends is updated so often, there are always candidates for revision on the table. Most recently, we revisited Alistar and Gangplank. Some of the champions we are currently considering for somewhat major changes are Kayle, Tryndamere, and Jax, though we do not have planned release dates for any of them at this time.
5) On the topic of balance, Riot sometimes draws criticism from the community regarding certain champion "Tier Lists" from people who participate in high Elo play as a potential measurement of balance. What is your take on these lists from the top players and to what degree are balance changes based off of them and players in the highest levels of competitive play?
At Riot Games we always attempt to community feedback into consideration when making changes to the game. And while tier lists provided by high level players can certainly be a resource utilized by our designers, most players who post them are already members of our Council. The Council exists to provide an avenue of contact through which our designers can interact with high level players for feedback.
Remember, however, that we have a lot of players, and balance feedback from the very top isn’t the only thing to which we have to pay close attention. Some champions that aren’t problematic in the highest levels of play, and often don’t feature high up on these tier lists can still cause a lot of grief for players in lower ELO brackets. For this reason, it is important to take a holistic approach to game balance, and ensure that you are providing an enjoyable experience for players of all skill levels.
Also, we have to weigh the US and EU metagames, which often have disparate qualities. We play games in both environments to compare them against each other, and sometimes we will address issues that are dominant in Europe, and it may not necessarily make as much sense in North America, and vice versa.
6) One of the lost features that has never seen the light of day brought up by older members of the community is the inclusion of some form of Clan Support. Is this a feature that is currently on Riot's radar right now and if so how high of a priority is it?
Support for Clans and other social structures are definitely something that we want to have in the future, especially given how social League of Legends can be. Presently, however, there are other, more critical updates that we are working to bring our players first.
7) It's been a few months since you guys revealed the Tribunal system for players to police other player in the community. What sort of incentives will there be for players to participate in the new system and how far off do you think the system is going live.
The Tribunal is now live! We are extremely excited to see all the player anticipation that has been building surrounding Tribunal, and we hope that many players will choose to help keep the League of Legends community a friendly and fun place to play.
As for incentives, players are being offered a small bounty of Influence Points for each case that they judge with the majority. Since players should be able to handle many cases in a given day, we believe that this will provide them with another source of game currency for their civil service.
8) Last time we spoke you mentioned that the graphical upgrade would be the next major step in the development process before new maps would be brought into the game. Are you in able to give us any kind of update on how the graphic overhaul is progressing and do you expect it to have a serious impact on the system requirements to play League of Legends?
Since we think of League of Legends as a living, breathing service, the goal for our upcoming graphics update is to ensure that the game remains relevant in every way for a long period of time. Equally important, however, is our goal of keeping League of Legends accessible to the broadest audience possible.
Our hope is that through the graphics overhaul we will be able to allow those players with high end systems to take advantage of some of the latest graphical features available, while still supporting lower graphics settings that will allow players with less powerful machines to continue playing. And while the Shiny Update is progressing nicely, we aren’t yet at a place where we’re comfortable talking about a definitive release date.
9) With new update to the patcher now live you mentioned here last time, how much closer are we to seeing some activity in regards to replay functionality?
Replays and Observer mode have been highly anticipated features that we have been looking forward to being able to build for our players for a long time. Now that we’ve removed the primary barrier for their development, we can begin to build a feature that we think will truly live up the quality that our players expect from a League of Legends feature.
While we are aware of just how excited players are for this features, we need to be sure of two things before they can be released: first, they must be future-proof since we release new content on a bi-weekly basis, and second, they must provide a phenomenal user experience. While the new PvP.net Patcher does remove a number of technical hurdles, there is still a lot of development work to be done.
10) Is there anything behind the scenes that goes into determining the type of champions Riot puts out every 2 weeks in terms of the role they play (DPS, Tank, Support, etc) ?
We always have a wide pool of champions in development, and a lot goes into determining the timeline leading up to a champion’s release. The most critical factors are: does the champion fill a role we currently need, does the champion look good, and, most importantly, is the champion fun to play! But there are plenty of other factors that might affect a champion’s release. For instance, we thought that April Fools’ Day presented us with a unique opportunity to interact with our community surrounding the release of Lee Sin, the Blind Monk, since he already had a passionate fan base from his first appearance back in a trailer during closed beta.
A character’s art and abilities go through a lot of iteration before they get scheduled for release, and our most important mission is to ensure that we are delivering a fun, high-quality product for our players to enjoy. If a champion doesn’t look as though they’re going to deliver everything our playerbase wants, we’re never afraid to go back to the drawing board. Some, like Lee Sin, make an appearance at a later date when we’ve had time to put in some more work on them. Others may find some of their more successful elements working their way into the concept of another champion.
Once again I'd like to thank Zileas and the folks over at Riot for taking the time out of their busy schedule to sit down with us today. I am looking forward to watching the ongoing evolution of League of Legends as Riot continues to add new features. The tribunal is truly a sight to behold and participation in it is almost as fun as playing the game itself, you can read about my experience and impressions with it HERE. If you still haven't played League of Legends and want to see what all the fuss is about, I'd recommend you check it out considering it free to play.
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