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.
Co-Leader of Inquisition