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Let’s talk keystones, Elementalist Lux, and the future of League of Legends.
Where do you believe Riot Games and League of Legends will be in 10-15 years?
When Ryze and I founded Riot and started creating League of Legends 10 years ago, we never could’ve imagined where League and Riot would be today. Every day we’re blown away by the community’s deep commitment to the game and to each other. As Rioters, we have had an unrelenting focus on supporting and improving League of Legends, and while this commitment has on occasion led to some criticism about Riot only having one game, we think it’s been incredibly important to build a foundation that will enable Riot to create great games and experiences long into the future.
Answering this question with specificity is a tricky for a couple reasons: First, we’re always exploring numerous game ideas that we think players would love to experience 5+ years down the road, but we’re not ready to talk about any of these projects just yet. Secondly, and more importantly, we chart our course as a company a little differently from others. We aren’t driven by external “business goals” such as “ship x games in 5 years” or “go hit X in revenue by 2020.” Instead, we’re guided by a relentless pursuit of creating meaningful experiences that will resonate with serious gamers and that we think players want to see.
Ideas are the easy part—everyone has great game ideas that would likely be fun if they could become a reality—the really hard part is actually building an incredible product and executing on the idea sufficiently to ensure the experience actually matches the potential that the initial idea promised. League MMO where?! League movie, where?! Those ideas are beautiful when they are in all of our heads, but realizing the full potential of ideas like those is what is really difficult to do.
So what does that mean for the future of League and for Riot? We do know a few things for certain. We’ll continue to evolve League of Legends as a holistic experience—we’ll keep improving the competitive side of the game while continuing to enrich the universe around the game. We’ll continue to evolve and improve the League Esports ecosystem to try to ensure League remains a global sport that lasts for generations. Beyond League, we aspire to deliver a handful of other games that we hope players love. Just like with League of Legends, we’re less concerned about mass market appeal and are more interested in deeply serving the audience the game is trying to delight.
As a company we’re dedicated to constantly raising the bar on the games, content, and service that we deliver, so as we learn and grow, we aspire to continue to improve across every dimension. While we work towards Riot’s future, one thing that will never change is who these experiences are made for: passionate gamers who make games in general a meaningful part of their lives. The passion and love within the League community is the reason League and Riot exist today, so we hope to live up to everyone’s expectations in the future as we bring new experiences to bear.
As a gamer and a Rioter I’m hopeful and excited to see how players and games in general continue to impact the world. There is going to be a lot of exciting change happening within gaming over the next couple decades, and we hope to find new ways to delight and connect with gamers all over the world as gaming continues to play a bigger and bigger role on the world stage.
Are you aware of the problems with the new Elementalist Lux skin? It’s hard to read some spells, and some of the VFX from different forms closely resemble spells from other champions.
We’re getting this feedback from a few different places, and it’s been really helpful in validating some clarity issues we’ve been identifying on our end. The team has been super close to this skin for a long time and it took getting it into players’ hands to see a lot of what you’re calling out. We’re working on some changes that we hope to roll out in one of the earlier patches next year. While I don’t have the full set of details at this time, I do know we will be prioritizing the issue with her Q particle fading at the end of its path before the ability actually ends.
Were keystones a rushed idea? There’s no HUD visibility for spectators, for example, and several champions came out of nowhere into the meta because they weren’t adjusted with the new keystones in mind.
So, a few different things I can say on this subject. This could get long, so I’ll try bullets:
- We think masteries needed some help as a feature and we still do. Keystones was a first attempt to make the choices a little more meaningful and impactful.
- We’re not sure how much of the info needs to be visible to other players or as part of spectator. What I mean is that if we have two summoner spells and one keystone, then showing three icons isn’t too bad. But what if we decided to try four keystones? Do we need to show all of that info? Does it get overwhelming?
- In projects like this, you frequently find that technically 50% of the work is almost trivial to implement, and 50% of the work is an uphill climb in the snow. We do try to make sure features are in reasonable shape before releasing them, but we also try to be mindful of diminishing returns. If spectator support had taken two more months, does it make sense to hold the feature for two more months when we’re not even sure players will really like it?
- The same holds true of champion balance. We could go through and rebalance every champion (a monumental task) but that could totally be throw-away work if the keystone feature ended up being poorly received by players and needed a lot more work or even scrapped. Instead, we tried to hit the outliers and champs we suspected would be a problem. Then we adjusted others over time as they showed up. This is pretty much the way we operate all of the time. We’d never be able to ship anything (including other balance changes) if we had to make a comprehensive pass at the entire game whenever we made changes. We definitely make a pass, but we don’t catch everything.
- All of that said, the mastery code ended up being even more brittle than we thought. We know “League spaghetti code” is an old meme, and to give our engineers credit, they have really replaced and repaired almost all of the nasty older code that was added quickly when League was growing faster than the team could keep up. I say “almost all” because Masteries proved to be an unfortunate exception. While our intent was to add a lot more follow-up than we did in the patches post launch, we ended up causing a lot of bugs whenever we did so. Again keeping the idea of diminishing returns in mind, it made us more reluctant to keep tweaking things that weren’t a crisis. This preseason, where we had more bandwidth to catch bugs or other problems, we made a larger pass at masteries. I think we improved the system overall, but it still has a long way to go, and the current keystones (both the individual content and the system as a whole) isn’t the final one.
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