Quick Gameplay Thoughts: April 17

Champ Retrospective, Balanced Champion Releases.


These posts will often contain talk about future work we're doing, or planning to do, that isn't yet guaranteed to ship. The work or goals could change depending on what we discover, and projects mentioned may get delayed or even stopped. That said, I believe it’s important to share as much as we can even if plans may change.

Recent Champ Release Retrospective

We’re constantly looking back at our patches, champions, VGU and other features to pick apart what went well and what went poorly so we can keep making each project better than the last. Our retro on the recent year of champ releases (Mordekaiser, Qiyana, Pantheon, Senna, Aphelios, Sett) led us to a few conclusions:

What went well:

  • Iconic themes - Across a range of appeals and archetypes these recent champs have really delivered on our dreams of creating new characters that we can all obsess over. Additionally, we’re particularly proud of how these recent champions have diversified our champion cast to allow even more players to find someone that really feels right for them.
  • Fun Gameplay - These champs brought both a lot of unique play styles that we’d never seen before and a core satisfaction and polished feel to their spells and playstyles. We hope this forms the foundation for many years of replayability as players master the ins and outs of these kits.
  • Accessible Weaknesses - A goal we had been emphasizing this past year to avoid the “jack of all trades” or overloaded champion problem is to make sure that very sharp strengths are paired with a clear and accessible weakness. Morde/Sett are very powerful juggernauts but remain kiteable. Senna and Aphelios have incredible range and utility but no means of escaping an assassin or diver. This is something that we want to continue in the future.

What we need to improve:

  • Clarity and complexity - We are on a string of particularly high complexity releases, that also led to more than one “what just happened” type experiences for players. We’ve gone back and done some clarity improvements to follow up on some, and as Meddler has mentioned recently, we’re bringing game clarity to the forefront in our work throughout the year.
  • Release Balance - In general, these champs released too strong, and we took too long getting them to a good balance state. This resulted in repeated and drawn out nerfs for many of them, and them staying as dominant picks for too long.

Balanced Champion Releases

As I’ve mentioned above, something we want to improve over the next few months is our champion release balance. In particular, we don’t want new champions to warp our game’s meta or for anyone to feel like they have to pick up every new champ to remain competitive.

In the past year, we had released champions tuned so that their first weeks of play were more forgiving for players still learning out the ropes, and we would follow up as players mastered the champion (which we haven’t done fast enough). This strategy eased some pain for players starting out on the champion, but we think that overall it was a negative outcome, because by the time the average player has learned a new champion well enough for us to take the training wheels off, very engaged players have already used the overtuned state of the champion to take over the meta.

We’re focusing on two strategies to improve launch balance:

  • Launching with a long term balanced target
    • When done perfectly this is ideal, and we can leave the champion for months, even years sometimes. (Kayn and Warwick are good examples of this)
    • In winrates, you will see the champion start low and grow to a balanced state as players master them. I won’t be surprised if we’re seeing 44% and not buffing, give it time.
  • Faster / stronger followup
    • In cases where we do end up with a new champ or VGU that is too strong we will try to follow up faster and with a more comprehensive set of nerfs.
    • We really do not like how with Senna, Sett, and Aphelios, we have had to come back for nerf after nerf. If we could go back in time here, we would have bundled them together earlier.

It’s worth noting that we still expect to have to buff and nerf champs after we release them. There is only so much accuracy we can have when playing 1000s of games in development. We get 10x that amount of data within the first day of the champ in players’ hands.

Thanks again everyone for playing. Stay safe out there.

- Scruffy