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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 #2

Posted by Paragus1 Monday May 23 2011 at 8:33PM
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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 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 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 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.

Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition

Livestream Channel:

League of Legends: The Tribunal

Posted by Paragus1 Monday May 23 2011 at 7:50AM
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League of Legends: The Tribunal

The day of reckoning has finally arrived over in League of Legends as Riot Games has rolled out their brand new Tribunal system. Today I want to talk a bit about this new system and give a little bit of a walk through of how it looks and works. With over 3 million games of League of Legends being played every single day, the backlog of reports against players from other players would be enough to bury and customer service department hopelessly to be able to process them all. This new system now allows player reports to be reviewed and judged by a jury of their peers.

The entire concept of the Tribunal bring up a new and very interesting dynamic in the world of gaming. Anyone who has played a game like this for any serious length of time has no doubt come across someone who completely ruined one of their games by going AFK in mid-game because they said their cat was on fire, or decided to intentionally feed the enemy team to ruin the game. The tribunal not only let's players feel a sense of empowerment and justice by voting to punish the scum of the community, but it also provides a comical (or horrible depending on your point of view) look at the worst of the worst humanity has to offer. Once enough votes have been collected, the case gets a quick final review by Riot and if your vote coincides with the final judgement your account gets rewarded in the way of IP (the currency used to in-game to unlock champions and runes).

Once you sign in with your account and begin, the very first thing you are presented with are a series of guidelines letting you know what sort of criteria you should be using to pass judgement. Most of the criteria is self-explanatory but in short you are asked to be familiar with what the reportable offenses are and to take the time to look over each case to make sure punishment is warranted. As an example, four people could have joined a game together and the fifth player as an outsider. Those four could then all report the fifth to spite him giving the impression at a glance that a premade group was trying to frame a solo player. Finally my favorite part is a warning to prepare you for the possibility that you might see some colorful language inside the files...

"Chat logs and other materials presented as evidence in Tribunal cases may contain language best described as vulgar, rude, offensive, uncouth, impolite, course, crass, colorful, or just downright objectionable. Please note that this content does not represent the views or opinions of Riot Games or any of our partners, and that by participating in the Tribunal you agree to accept responsibility for any exposure you might have to content of this nature."

Once you agree to the terms you'll find yourself face to face with you first case. The case files contain a wealth of information about the game in which the player was reported, probably more than the average scumbag and rager would have expected. (CLICKY for big picture) At the top of the page we can see all the stats for the player that game including everything from their kill / death ratio, item builds, level, time played, minions killed, even his DPS. Since most of the people who end up in the tribunal have been reported on multiple occasions outside of a single game, there is even a drop-down box at the top to go back and look at the person's previous games in which they were reported as well to see if the person is a habitual offender.

Below that in the next section, we see the actual reports from the players in the game. The report section shows you how many people in the game reported the player, which team they were on, and any comments written in the report field. Putting commentary in the fields when reporting players is not required when you send one, but I find that having commentary with the reports is very useful as well as wildly entertaining considering people are using really angry at the time they fill them out. Regardless by this stage you now should have an idea of the negative behavior they are being accused of so now you know what you are looking for as you look over the file. In the case above, the person is being a LEAVER / AFKer by members of both teams.

In the next section down, players get a chance to read the chat logs of the entire game for both teams. This is probably one of the more interesting sections because you get to read the inner team conversations of both sides, plus the chat between the two sides. Chat is color coded by player (the accused player is always in pink) and timestamped so you can have a more accurate picture of how events unfolded. In the case above, we are looking to see if the person being charged is actually an AFKer. Considering in this case 7 out of the remaining 9 people in the game reported him there must be some truth to the claim, but the chat logs only go on to confirm that the accused player pretty much admitted to giving up in the chat logs.

One thing I find amazing is how often people accent their stupid behavior in the chat logs. While proving the someone went AFK through reading chat should be something hard to determine, it goes to show you how dumb or arrogant some people really are thinking that they would either never get caught, or that the data of the game wouldn't be as detailed as it is. Needless to say not all cases are equal, some of them can be solved pretty fast especially in the case where you have some guy freaking out in his chat box in a fit of rage.

The only real beef I have with the Tribunal is the limitations on it right now where it only lets you review 3 cases in a given day. I have probably upwards of 1500 or so games of League of Legends under my belt, and believe me when I tell you that during those games I have crossed paths with some people that have intentionally ruined games for me or the other team many times. I find the entire concept of the Tribunal extremely empowering and satisfying because of all that I have been through, plus reading the cases is highly entertaining. If it were up to me I would spent a lot more time using this system than what it currently allows me, and Riot claims to be monitoring the system since it is still in its infancy. If it all works out they may be increasing the case load anyone can take on. It's also worth mentioning that since the entire system is accessed completely online through their website, reviewing cases can be done at any PC with internet since you don't even need to have the game installed on the PC to use it.

Leauge of Legends is an amazing game and Riot continues to improve on it as it matures. Considering it's free to play I would highly recommend you check it out if you haven't yet. Just keep in mind that the Tribunal is out there and watching, ready to bring justice to those out to ruin other people's games. As a rager myself, I'll leave you with this comic that shows the natural progression of a LoL player. If you're going to rage vomit all over the place, try not to let it spill into the game.

Co-Leader of Inquisition

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Review: Terraria

Posted by Paragus1 Wednesday May 18 2011 at 1:53PM
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Review: Terraria

Every now and then a game comes out of nowhere that completely surprises us, and Terraria is one of those games. I had never even heard of this game until the day it was released on Steam. I am a huge fan of 2D platformer type games and especially the subgenre of what are commonly referred to as Metroidvanias, a term used to describe free roaming 2D adventure games like classic Metroid and modern day Castlevania games. A friend of mine pointed Terraria out to me the day it released and frankly I didn't know what to make of it, but with only a $10 price tag on Steam I decided to give an Indy dev a shot.

The best way to describe Terraria would be a cross between Metroidvania and Minecraft. Terrania is a 2D sandbox / sidescrolling free roam platformer / RPG that has its gameplay rooted in harvesting materials, building with those materials, exploration, and character progression. Combine these elements with the fact the worlds are randomly generated, staggeringly massive on the higher settings, and add in a multiplayer element, and you have a pretty interesting package oozing with potential.

Just by looking at the graphics or even the games mere 16 MB download size, it would be very easy for someone to completely dismiss the game at a glance. Make no mistake that inside is a very highly addictive game experience with a fair amount of depth and intricacies that make the game completely immersive despite its dismissive appearance.

The game starts with you creating a character from some basic options for your appearance, and then having the game randomly generate a world from 3 different size options, both of which are saved separately allowing you to take your character to other worlds and have other players come into yours via multiplayer. When the game starts you will find yourself outside somewhere with absolutely nothing except for a logging axe and a mining pick. It is from this humble beginning that your journey starts to explore your world, develop your character, and try to make a life for yourself.

The very first order of business is building yourself a base of operations on a place of your choosing. Chopping down trees for wood allows you to build a workbench, from that workbench are then able to build yourself some basic items like a wooden sword, walls, doors, and furniture. Crafting is key in Terraria, and the gathering of resources plays a huge role. Once you build your first dwelling, you will have a base of operations and NPC's will be available to move into your home. As you complete certain criteria in the game and build extra rooms and houses, useful NPC's will arrive in your settlement to provide you with goods and services. As an example, if you get more than 50 silver and have an extra house space, you will attract a merchant. If you find extra heart containers (the only way to raise your max HP since there are no levels or exp) you will attract a nurse who can heal you for a small fee.

In between building your home base, you will spend the bulk of your time exploring the world you find yourself in, scouring the depths for resources and special items. On the "large" world setting, the map is staggering massive to the point where I can't even begin to explain it (CLICKY for big zoomable picture). Instead I will reference a picture taken I found online that gives some perspective on the scope of the size. As you can see, roughly 80% of the maps you explore are underground and involved lots of digging around to navigate. The caverns are dark and monsters roam around trying to kill you. So the questions begs what exactly are you looking for down there?

It does warrant mentioning that given this is a true sandbox in every sense of the word, there is no winning the game or a defining moment where you declare victory with fanfare. The game is what ever you decide to make of it, although since the deeper you go the harder things get, advancement of your character in terms of weapons, armor, and utility items will probably be goal enough for many. Heart containers to raise your max life are hidden deep in the many layers of the underworld. Treasure boxes while very rare contains some key items you would expect to find in any Metroid or Castlevania to make your life and exploring in general a lot easier. Flippers that allow you to swim in water, an item allowing underwater breathing, advanced light sources, grappling items, and jumping boosts just to name a few. In addition to these, you will find better and rarer materials used in the games crafting system to build stronger armor, a variety of difference weapons, and other utility type items.

During all your exploring and building, the game sometimes likes to throw curve balls at you to spice things up. The game has a natural day and night cycle in which night produces a variety of undead and stronger monsters akin to Castlevania 2. Occasionally a blood moon could lead to your compound getting assaulted by undead, or a goblin invasion might try to make life on the surface difficult. The game does contain 3 bosses currently, some of which are summoned, some can show up to cause havoc for you. Defeating a specific boss opens up access to a high end dungeon area somewhere in your world which is supposed to contain some of tougher enemies in the game as well as some of the better loot. Factor in multiplayer where you can team up with friends and explore and tackle bosses together and you have a pretty interesting package.

Terraria's developers have made no qualms about calling the game unfinished and still a work in progress. Despite that, this is one of the funnest and addictive unfinished games I have played, and I've played my fair share (this is an MMO site after all). The framework in place is sure to make hours seems like minutes and chances are if this is the sort of game you like, you will be sure to get your $10 worth especially with high replayability with multiple character and world slots and randomly generated terrain. If you are looking for a more defined experience with a clear cut end boss or objectives, or don't like spending time designing and building which dominates a lot of the early few hours of the game, then I'd recommend a pass on this. A lot more content and support is promised, so hopefully it will be just as fun watching the game grow as it is to play it.

Co-Leader of Inquisition

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