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Paragus Rants

Rants, reviews, and interviews from an MMO veteran and guild leader.

Author: Paragus1

League of Legends: Interview with Riot Games #3

Posted by Paragus1 Tuesday September 27 2011 at 7:46AM
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League of Legends: Interview with Riot Games #3

A lot has happened since my last interview with the folks over at Riot.   If you have been following League of Legends at all, you have no doubt heard about their new Dominion game mode as reviews have been pouring in.    In addition to the new game mode, Season one has finally concluded and the players now find themselves in Pre-Season 2 as things start to ramp up for the launch of the next round of competition. 

Riot's Design Director, Tom Cadwell AKA Zileas, has once again stopped by for an exclusive Q&A with me for the community here at MMORPG.com.


1)  There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the announcement of the new game mode Dominion.  Players are already in the process of trying to speculate which champions will have a strong presence in gameplay style Dominion offers.   The 3v3 mode currently in the game has a core group of champions that seem to be overly strong, and there are concerns that this could be the case for Dominion.  Is there anything you can tell us about how Riot is approaching champion balance as it relates to Dominion to help it from having the same issue Twisted Treeline has in this regard?

Watching the development of the metagame on Twisted Treeline was very much a learning experience for us, and we brought a lot of what we learned with us to the development of the Crystal Scar. On Twisted Treeline, for instance, high-durability, melee damage dealers emerged as dominant because the reduced teams size prevented them from falling quickly to focus fire. To prevent a similar phenomenon from developing on the Crystal Scar we decided to re-envision the item shop to adjust the arsenal available to our different categories of champions.

When you visit the item shop on your map of choice you’ll find that some items are only available for purchase in Classic mode and some are only available for purchase in League of Legends: Dominion. These sweeping changes in item cost and availability give us the option to make map specific balance changes to tweak the overall performance of a group of champions should they emerge as dominant in one game mode or the other.


2)  There was some surprise from the community when Riot announced that the new map was not Magma Chamber, but instead turned out to be Crystal Scar with Dominion.  Can you tell us a little bit about why Riot decided to change direction and go with this new capture and hold type game mode instead, and can you comment on whether or not the Magma Chamber concept has been abandoned completely?

A lot went into our decision to switch gears from Magma Chamber to the Dominion game mode and its accompanying Field of Justice the Crystal Scar. For starters, we wanted our next major project to be more of a departure from the Classic League of Legends gameplay. While our preliminary testing on Magma Chamber showed some promise in changing up the metagame in interesting ways, at the end of the day, we aimed for a more groundbreaking new experience.



3) What is the likelyhood or the criteria on whether or not players will see the new Dominion game mode be added as an option for ranked play?

We definitely plan on supporting a ranked ladder for League of Legends: Dominion. Just as with Twisted Treeline, however, this new ladder will be separate from the ranked play on Summoner’s Rift. An official launch date for the Dominion ladder hasn’t yet been determined, as we would like to give our community the chance to explore strategies and learn Dominion first.

4)  With the first Season of League of Legends coming to an end, when do roughly expect to see Season 2 kick off and will players finally get to see a normal draft mode by the time the new season gets underway?

As you may have noticed, between the end of Season One and start of Season Two, we have enabled Normal Draft Mode. While we haven’t announced a specific start date for Season Two yet, look for news on that front soon.

5)  In all of your tournament broadcasts each side is allowed to ban 3 champions each for a total of 6 bans, where currently only 4 total bans are permitted.   Does Riot plan to increase the number of bans in ranked play for Season 2 to what we are currently seeing in the championship tournaments?

Our banning system is flexible enough that we can adjust the number of bans permitted per team pretty readily. For the consistency of competition, however, we decided to leave the number of bans at four in ladder play for the remainder of the season.

Now that Pre-Season Two has begun, we have a little more flexibility to experiment and decide just how many bans each team should get during the champion selection process. Ultimately, there’s plenty of time for us to adjust our banning system in ranked play before the ladder competition in the new season official begins.



6)  Passive Gameplay has been a stated problem by members of Riot staff as an issue with the current metagame.  How does Riot plan to work towards reducing passive gameplay and make it more attractive for players to play more aggressively, especially in the early game which is becoming somewhat of a farmfest?

League of Legends already has pretty exciting play, but our developers are looking continue making it more active, which is an ongoing process. Our recent changes to support champions were geared toward reducing the level of safety that they provided to their lane partners in order to reward aggression, ganking, and teamplay over babysitting and early-game farming. It’s unlikely, however, that any one change that we make is going to suddenly transform the overall metagame in such a drastic way. Rather, this is a high level goal that we’ll reach through a series of progressive changes over some time.

Additionally, there’s a delicate balance to be struck there, since the laning phase is very much part of gameplay in Classic League of Legends. In League of Legends: Dominion, on the other hand, the concept of a laning phase doesn’t exist, and that’s going an important differentiator between the two experiences. Rather than completely eliminate this integral part of the Classic gameplay experience, we want to overhaul this phase of the game to make it more exciting.


7)  Riot has made mention on several occasions that there is a stealth rework in progress to help make characters like Evelyn and Twitch not promote tower hugging and passivity.   What can you tell us about the progress / release timeframe of the stealth rework and what stealth will look like for characters like these once these changes go live?

The design of these new mechanics is an ongoing process, but in its current incarnation these changes will separate our current stable of stealth champions into two pools: invisibility champions and stealth champions.

Champions such as Shaco, Talon, and Akali who have limited or short duration surprise mechanics will fall into the category of invisibility champions and have their ability sets more or less unchanged.

Characters with longer duration stealth abilities such as Twitch and Evelynn will be undergoing some significant changes. Instead of being completely invisible, these champions will now be invisible to Sight Wards (although Vision Wards will still spot them as normal) and will be visible to enemy champions when they have closed to within a reduced sight range. To aid them in stalking their adversaries these champions will have an indicator added to their interface that warns them when they are drawing closer to being spotted by an enemy.  


8)  After our last conversation, we have seen a few of the champions you mentioned last time undergo a rework of their abilities (Tryndamere / Kayle).   Which champions are currently on Riot's radar right now in terms of being prime candidates for a rework and why?

At Riot Games we very much believe that game balance is an ongoing process. As such, we’re always interested in the way that the overall metagame is evolving and the effect that it’s having on our existing champion lineup.

A couple of champions that we’re currently taking a closer look at are Veigar and Jax. Veigar’s ultimate does a heavily varied amount of damage based on his opponent’s total mana pool. As such, as we add more and more champions to League of Legends who utilize alternate resource systems, Veigar’s ultimate is essentially losing utility.

Jax’s hallmark ability, on the other hand, keys off of his dodge chance. Not only does that add an uncomfortable element of randomness to this ability, but it also tends to pigeonhole him into limited item and rune builds that focus on this one particular stat, whether or not he’s in a situation where that wouldn’t normally be his strongest defensive stat.


    
9)  We got a chance to see observer mode in action at Dreamhack and some of the other major events and it looks like it's in really good shape.   What's holding you back from releasing observer mode right now and do you expect it will be ready for the start of Season 2?

While we believe that Spectator Mode is an important part of coverage for our major competitive events and are willing to offer it for use on our tournament realm for this reason.

Like all features of League of Legends, however, this is an ongoing project, and as we continue to patch and update the game, Spectator Mode will continue to improve and develop. Once it meets the stability and feature requirements that we have for large-scale use, it will be made more widely available for use.

 

10)  Are there any plans in the foreseeable future to add some sort of team functionality or clan support?


We are definitely aware that there is room to improve on the social features of the PvP.net client, and we would like to do so in the future. We are hard at work at some great features along these lines, but until they’re ready for prime time we’re not ready to make any official announcements.
 

We certainly appreciate Zileas taking time out of his busy schedule with all that is going on right now in League of Legends.   I for one am looking forward to keep an eye on Dominion to see how the ranked meta game ends up turning out as both the pros and peons alike theorycraft various strategies.  Dominion is officially turned on permanently, so if you haven't had a chance to check it out I'd highly recommend it.  The games are much shorter than classic mode on Summoner's Rift and the action starts right out of the gate without any real farming or laning phases.  If you have previously tried League of Legends and maybe didn't care for it, the new mode warrants a second look considering how completely different it is.   If you are still one of the few people out there that hasn't tried the game yet, what are you waiting for?   It's free to download, free to play, and might just turn out to be your next main game.  If you do play, tune into the livestream or look me up, and I'll see you on the battlefield.

 

Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition

Livestream Channel:
http://www.own3d.tv/live/15003

League of Legends: Dominion Impressions

Posted by Paragus1 Friday September 23 2011 at 8:03AM
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League of Legends: Dominion Impressions

Riot announced recently that they would be opening up their upcoming "Dominion" game mode to beta testing to the general public during certain preset times. I was finally fortunate enough to have one of these windows open to beta test the new mode during prime time hours when I am at home and able to play. I just spent the night machine-gunning games of the new game mode with friends, so I wanted to check in and just talk about some of my impressions after a night of trying it out finally.

Right out of the gate you are started at level 3 and 1300+ gold to kick start the game into high gear. Even standing at the spawn waiting for the countdown to start, I  noticed that my exp bar at the bottom was constantly ticking up due to a global buff exclusive to this game mode. The strategy starts right away as you decide the best combo of items. The increase in starting cash is a huge leap from the standard 5v5 mode which only starts you off with 475 gold. Do you rush your boots to get to the points faster once the game starts, or do you start building combat items for the inevitable fight that will happen within the first minute? The possibilities here are huge for theory crafters to sink their teeth into, and factor in the inclusion of completely new items and the choices and strategy is even more compelling.

Dominion is not just about about capturing and holding points, it's about combat, lots of combat, and combat right out of the gate. This is a massive contrast to the standard 5v5's on Summoner's Rift, where games start out usually with a laning / farming phase poking at each other. In Dominion when they turn you loose, you are charging head first into a fight usually within the first minute of the game. No poking, no farming, and towers whose damage is drastically less than then the classic game make for a real balls to the wall brawl.

Some other major differences I noticed from playing was the fact that it was pretty rare in most of the games to end up in a situation where all 10 people in the match were in the same fight. Most of the combat is on a smaller scale where you often will find yourself in 1v1 and 2v2 battles. Chances are if too many people are in a single spot, an opening exists for the other points to be captured due to being unattended. Combine this new game dynamic with the fact that combat is literally happening all the time, I found some characters obviously were very useful in this mode while some others were lacking in effectiveness.  I didn't see any support champs during my games, and I suspect they will be a bit less viable since a lot of the fights end up being so small in scale.

Rammus as an example seemed to be a good choice because his ability so power ball around at high speed allows him to get to open points and capture them quickly. Mobility plays a big role, so champions with some sort of movement speed increasing abilities do have a new found utility. I found myself trading in my flash for ghost as it seemed vastly more useful. On the other hand, due to the fact that skirmishes are usually smaller, some champions who thrive in these types of situations can be strong. Akali seemed to be on the ban list in most of the draft mode Dominion games I played, and after a few games with her in it I can understand why people do this. Of course at the same time, it could just be the fact that people are adjusting to the new mode and aren't really sure how to deal with new metagame of Dominion. I noticed one game a Cho'Gath had a hard time because of the dominion dynamic, getting killed frequently was problematic for him due to being unable to build up feast stacks and get large. The lack of creep farming and strong towers to hug really changes the game a lot.

The longest match I think I had all night went somewhere around 22 minutes, which is definitely a welcome change when I don't have the time or willpower to commit 30-45 minutes for the average game in the classic mode. Dominion literally floods you with money and experience passively while you play, which keeps the action going and your character advancing very quickly. The fact that the game feeds you so much farm can be beneficial to certain champs whose viability depends on heavy farm and maybe were not as desirable in the classic mode.

Overall though, my verdict from what I played is that the new game mode is a ton of a fun and a refreshing change to the classic Summoner's Rift.  If you played League of Legends at got burned out, or just didn't really care of the playstyle of the game, I'd recommend firing the game back up once the new mode comes out and give it a try. I think my only concern going forward is what Riot's approach will be for balancing certain champs in relation to their strength or lack there of in this mode. I guess it is to be expected though that just as there are many champs who aren't great picks in classic, the same will be said for Dominion. If you haven't tried League of Legends yet and are sitting around waiting for the next big MMO, I recommend you give it a look considering it's completely free to download and play.  If you did get a chance to play Dominion, drop your feedback below.

Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition

Livestream Channel:
http://www.own3d.tv/live/15003

The Viability of Free to Play

Posted by Paragus1 Friday September 9 2011 at 7:56AM
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The Viability of Free to Play

One of the hot topics these days seems to be the various iterations of the payment models a lot of games are experiementing with in terms of games being free to play with some form of side cash shop.  While it has been a topic on this site a lot, it's something that never really caught my attention.   Ironically, I've spent the last year playing League of Legends and never really stopped to think about the actual value of the entertainment I was getting.

For those who don't know,  League of Legends is a free to play game and features a cash shop that sells various things that don't really make you any stronger in the game.   Real money spent in Riot's store will be able to get you things like different skins for the various champions or enable you to outright buy a champion which could already be earned for free with a little playtime.  When I first started playing the game I told myself that given the nature of the store, I really had no plans on spending any real cash in the store because frankly I didn't HAVE to in order to compete, and doing so would not increase my chances of winning any matches.

After about a few weeks, I decided to spend 5 bucks at the store to buy a champion I really wanted as an impulse decision, and I felt like a sap at the time for giving them money when frankly I didn't need to.   I could have easily earned that champion after a day or so of playing.  As the weeks and months went by, I slowly cracked again giving them $10 this time just to get some skins of one of the champs I played the most.   Again I felt kind of guilty giving them money when I didn't need to, after all that skin isn't going to help me win any matches.

While all of this was going on, one by one, every so often, one of my Inquisition guys would mention in passing that they were giving Riot a few dollars as well for whatever.   As the months passed by, my guild stopped bringing it up, but it was evident that it was still going on because I would keep seeing my friends showing up into matches with new and interesting looking skins for their favorite champs.  The lack of admission from my guild really got me thinking that everyone was feeling pretty guilty about spending money on a free game and getting no advantage from it, but it kept happening.   And just as my 5$ turned into $10, I soon found myself giving them $20 every so often.  People in vent would swear that THIS was the last time they would give them money, and yet the new skins kept showing up.

We would frequently wonder why the hell are we spending money on a free game, and how much have we really spent?!   Well a few weeks ago, Riot patched the PvP.net platform the game runs on, and added a tab to the store where you could view your entire purchase history using the in-game currency, and a neat little button that shows just your real life money spent.   I didn't want to click it because of the guilt accumulated over the months and year I've been playing, but collectively as a guild we all pressed it and posted our totals on our forums as sort of a coming out of the closet to see just how deeply invested we all were in this "free" game.

The totals went a little something like this...

Paragus: $80

INQ Member 2: $95

INQ Member 3: $110

INQ Member 4: $135

INQ Member 5: $190

INQ Member 6: $270

Wow.   As bad as I felt about spending $80, I had people in my guild who had spent well over triple that!  Ironically a recent patch change in the PvP.Net now only shows a history of real money spent going back only 30 days.  As the collective wave of guilt started to wash over us, I decided to take a step back and think of this in terms of what this would equate to in terms of a standard pay to play MMO.

15 Months playing League of Legends / $80 spent = $5.33 / month in MMO terms

Now let's assume I had been playing a pay to play MMO for those 15 months...

Initial Purchase of $50 + ($15 monthly fee X 14 Months since first month has no fee) = $260

So at my investment, League of Legends has actually only costed me 1/3 of what an MMO would.  The most serious spenders in Inquisition are only slightly higher than standard MMO.  Not too shabby I guess. When we read between the lines here, there is one major underlying point to this.   While League of Legends is a free to play game, everyone in my guild opted to spend money on it at some point to varying degrees because they felt the game was a great value and they ultimately feel fine supporting Riot because they believe in their product.

The bottom line seems to be that not only is Free to Play a vaiable pricing model, but if it is handled properly it can actually yield just as much if not more money than what pay to play games are pulling in, and the lack of commitment through fees can help lure in tons of potential customers.   This rings more true when applied to the MMO genre when you factor in that there hasn't been an MMO released in the last seven years that has held the attention of my guild for more than 3 months, which definitely puts a damper on the amount of cash those companies are getting.  Where does this all lead exactly, I'm not too sure.   I'm looking over the horizon right now though at games like Guild Wars 2 and now Planetside 2 who may be going down this road and I can understand it especially if the product end up being solid.  People seem more than happy to reach into their wallet to support something that provides them with a real entertainment at a great value.  Maybe Riot is the exception, but could this be the path forward?

Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition

Livestream Channel:
http://www.own3d.tv/live/15003