State of Gameplay, Sep 2021
Our thoughts on how various aspects of gameplay have been this year.
Hey everyone, I’m here to talk about a small Lucian update coming your way in 11.17. A quick TLDR of the changes:
Lucian’s been quite weak in regular play for most of Season 11 in all his roles (Bot, Mid, and occasionally Top). We don’t mind when a character is flexible in a variety of roles as long as their counterplay is maintained, and actually think it adds valuable depth to the character. However, problems start to appear when less played roles have much higher winrates than the most played role, and we have to nerf a champion for being too strong in a place where most players aren’t interested in playing them. One noteworthy version of this is when an alternate role dominates in Pro play, leading to the main role being limited in regular play.
Lucian falls into the latter. Despite Mid Lane having a lower winrate than Bot Lane in most skill bands, whenever Lucian is viable in solo queue, he quickly starts to dominate Mid Lane picks and bans in Pro play. This means that without a way to buff Lucian only in Bot, his Bot power in regular play is bound by his Mid power in coordinated play.
We wanted to fully understand why Pros value Lucian Mid so much, despite his weak performance in regular play. After asking our Game Analysis Team of former analysts, pros, and high MMR players, the answer boiled down to the following: Pros value early power better, Pros can intentionally draft mixed-damage compositions to offset the lack of an AP mid, and Lucian’s ultimate is a powerful solo-lane tool where there’s more room to be aggressive and fewer people to bodyblock.
After understanding the core reasons why Lucian is more powerful in coordinated play, we moved on to seeing how we could address some of these points to hit the ultimate goal of the project: give power to Lucian Bot without Lucian Mid and Lucian Top dominating Pro Play. Explorations centered on the most obvious difference between the lanes... bot lane Lucian almost always has a support.
Our first pass tried to gate Lucian’s early power by increasing his Mana costs. On the flip side, if Lucian was laning with an ally, he’d get even more mana, letting him spam Q/E and run loose in the bot lane. There was even a wacky iteration where Lucian would restore mana to himself and an ally, leading to hilarious tests where supports like Taric/Lulu would have unlimited mana to pump buffs into Lucian. However, there was a core problem here: Lucian isn’t always with an ally all game. While bot lane has 2 people, there are many cases where Lucian wants to split push since he can win many duels. And that independence is a core part of why players love Lucian. Goal 2 became: Rather than make Lucian feel bad without being near an ally, make him feel even better with an ally in ways that he won't miss dearly when playing more independently.
This brings up a critical third goal. Lucian is already incredibly fun, he’s just a bit weak. We’re not aiming to reinvent the wheel and create complex rules and hooks that take away from Lucian’s core appeal. Sometimes, simple is all that’s needed. Keeping this in mind, we landed on granting Lucian bonus damage whenever buffed by an ally. This version creates a new avenue for supports to help Lucian bully enemies early-game, and also doesn't warp Lucian’s spell-spamming, highly-mobile pattern. With some new power to snowball a lead in Bot Lane, Lucian can remain a more relevant threat before he begins falling off during the endgame.
Lastly, there's Lucian’s ultimate, an ability that scales heavily with levels, which come faster in solo lanes. That extra XP means solo Lucian gets his ult earlier than bot Lucian too, so it impacts a longer portion of lane phase. Threatening to kill level 6 opponents from pretty high health is also a big part of how solo lane Lucian can completely take over a lane. To solve this, we shifted one of The Culling’s scalings (number of bullets) from experience-based to item-based, which is more consistent between lanes. This way, Bot Lucian doesn’t have to wait till levels 11 and 16 for his next spike in ultimate damage. Also, watching The Culling blast more bullets as you get more items is pretty freaking cool.
After a few more touches on base stats and visual effects, Lucian should have a few more tools to help him feel better about heading to the bot lane while still sticking close to his independent, gunslinger identity.