Quick Gameplay Thoughts: 13.4

Lead Gameplay Designer Riot Axes discusses positional agency and the 3v3 bot lane meta.

Hi folks, Riot Axes here again. We’ve made some pretty significant changes to the jungle and bot lane over the 13.3 and 13.4 patches. While we’re waiting to see how those changes play out, this is a good time to get into how we’re currently thinking about an important topic in the game: positional agency and how it ties into the current 3v3 bot lane meta.

Positional Health and Agency

League of Legends is a game played with 5 distinct positions, each with fairly distinct (though overlapping) champion rosters, and with very different player needs. Players tend to attach to their position first - it’s quite rare to see players swapping between positions very often. And they tend to want very different things—the type of game that an ADC player wants and the type of game that a jungler wants are completely different in a lot of ways.

That raises the question: How do we know that each position is in good shape relative to the others?

When we look at how each position is performing, there are a few things we’re interested in. We look at agency—how much do the decisions made by players in this position impact the outcome of the game? We care about sentiment—how do players feel about their favorite role? Do they feel impactful? When they are impactful, is it in a way that delivers the type of experience they were after when they queued up for it in the first place? Do they feel impactful? And are they experiencing agency, or simply power? If, hypothetically, the more fed ADC always wins the game, that doesn’t mean they’re high agency—if the junglers and supports make the decisions that determine which ADC is fed, then they’re the ones with the agency but might not feel powerful.

Agency is always going to be difficult to compare across the game because different roles and classes express it so differently. There’s a world of difference between an ADC player expressing agency through perfect spacing with high damage uptime versus a support player properly maintaining vision for the team. And even within any given position, motivations vary significantly. Shen, Teemo, and Darius players don’t have the same goals and needs. This is a strength of the game—many more types of players can find a home—but the large number of competing needs and desires means we’re always at best striking a balance between different player types.

Agency in the Current Meta

The meta right now is one of fast ganks to bot lane, often resulting in a 3v3 fight in the first 10 minutes between bot laners and Junglers that catapults one team far ahead of the other team in a way that can be difficult to recover from. We have already shipped changes intended to help resolve this, but I wanted to talk through some of the nuance we see in a situation like this.

Junglers control when and where these fights happen, which obviously inflates their agency significantly, and they are in fact the most influential position on 13.3. Equally obviously, this pattern reduces top lane agency right now—you don’t have agency. Mid lane also has slightly lower agency compared to where they usually sit.

ADCs and supports also gain significant amounts of agency—while they don’t control when and where big fights break out, their decisions around setting up for and assisting ganks, pushing (or not), vision, and so on are highly impactful to the outcome. And when the fight actually breaks out, their execution in that first big fight has a disproportionately large impact on the game’s outcome. With that said, Support and ADC players want to have agency over who wins the game, but few want that agency to be primarily expressed through surviving high impact jungle ganks.

Thanks for reading this week’s Quick Gameplay Thoughts. Riot Axes signing off and looking forward to seeing you on the Rift!