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With our resolutions out of the way, it’s time to talk Pentakill, feature prioritization, refunds, and bans galore.
For a long time Riot refused to add small features (like pinging cooldowns, or the snow map), but suddenly a bunch came out last year? What happened? Were you guys trying to make up for dynamic queue?
At times we can get really invested in long-term objectives, and go heads-down on features that take an incredibly long time to deliver (for example, devoting many of our engineers to working on the the updated client or big features like Hextech crafting). The downside to that is that it can make us over-focused on long-term goals at the expense of short-term player pain, or at the cost of not delivering small things you folks are just asking for outright.
Around the middle of last year we realized we needed to do a better job of balancing our long-term objectives with urgent or ongoing issues that you were talking to us about. So we built a list of ideas from player feedback channels like our forums, Reddit, etc. We also had our regional offices from around the world compile lists of player requests or issues from their regions, and from there we just asked the team to pick items off where they could as a part of normal development.
As an example: Players had been asking about the loading screen indicator for a long time. That feature, when we chose to prioritize it, took one member of the team a few days to implement into the game. It’s not the most polished loading screen indicator ever made, but it does the job and was something we could deliver without compromising our other goals. Other examples would be pinging the HUD, or auto-sorting the scoreboard. These were features that weren’t on our roadmap or among our long-term goals, but we prioritized them because you reminded us what’s important, and what an impact seemingly-small additions can make.
This is something you can expect to see us continue in 2017 and moving forward – it wasn’t a short-term shift. We want to do a better job of balancing long-term goals with short-term wins, and we especially want to improve at listening to you, hearing what’s important, and improving the game over time.
Why are you increasing bans to 10 in Season 7?
The answers are slightly different depending on whether you’re talking about the regular player experience or the pro experience, so I’ll answer both. Fortunately this was one of those situations where the change still makes sense for both sides, even though the goals are a little different.
For pro, the primary reason is to increase champion diversity, largely for the sake of the viewer experience. We think the game is more exciting when diversity is higher, assuming it is possible to achieve higher diversity without sacrificing overall game health. A secondary benefit is to hopefully create a more strategic and interesting champ select. Teams can try and build particular comps, while trying to shut down particular comps for the other side, which we think will be fun to watch (more on this in just a second).
For regular play, the primary reason is player agency. In the current design, some players get to pick first and some players get to ban. But we think most players (especially when they queue solo) just want to shut down whatever is most annoying in their lane (or whatever seems “overpowered” in the moment). Ten bans just happens to give every player the opportunity to ban something. Diversity is a secondary benefit we hope to achieve. However, we don’t realistically think we will get much more strategy to champ selection in regular play (except possibly for larger premades) since as I said, most players just want to ban their lane/power. I don’t mean to imply that regular players aren’t thinking strategically. It’s just a different environment than in pro, where teams not only play together regularly, but even suspect what strategies their rivals may choose.
One concern is that increasing bans might increase the time of champ select in pro or regular play. This is not something we want to happen, so we’ll be looking at ways to prune down the time overall.
We haven’t ironed out final details, but our current thinking is that regular play and pro play will use a slightly different ban system. For regular play, everyone could just ban simultaneously and then we announce the results. For pro play, we want to make sure that teams have some ability to respond to the opponent’s attempts to shut something down, as well as give teams a chance to try and protect signature pro picks. For this reason, we want to split the ban phases. We don’t think regular play needs this extra complication, though for ranked fives or tournaments or other forms of organized play, it might make sense to use the pro system.
I loved Pentakill and I saw there’s a new album coming — will it be in the same style?
Awesome to hear you dug Smite And Ignite! When we made that one, our goal was to have it represent a few different subgenres of metal. We’re planning on having more tracks on the new album than we did on the first, so we’ll be able to explore some styles we couldn’t last time around (looks like we’ll have somewhere between 8 to 11 tracks on this one). With that said, the one thing we don’t want this to feel like is a random compilation album — there’s a lot of connective tissue that we’re hoping holds the whole thing together (i.e. Karthus’ vocals channeled through Metal Demigod Jørn Lande, and Mordekaiser’s tasty riffs by guitarist ProtoShredanoid). Don’t want to spoil too much, but we’re hyped to share more madness with you guys over the next several months!
Why are refunds capped at three per account? Would you ever raise the limit?
League of Legends content is intended to be permanent. However we want players to feel good about the content they purchase, so we developed the refund feature to give every player a solution for those rare situations where they purchase content and quickly regret it, and are sure that they will never want to use that content in the future. Many players have never used their refunds, while others have used one, two, or three of them over time.
We established a limit of three refunds and still believe that is the right number (this gives players leeway to refund purchases but also protects the overall system from abuse). We’ve explored granting more refunds at times, but discovered that the majority of players would prefer free content instead, so each year we have steadily increased the amount of content players receive just for playing the game. Refunds and free content both come at considerable cost to Riot, so we have to carefully focus on which to prioritize to deliver value to players and protect our ability to operate as a business.
That said, while we have no current plans to issue more refund tokens in 2017, it is something we will continue to explore in the future as more players hit the three refund cap.
We’ll do our best to read every question, but we can’t guarantee they’ll all get answers. Some questions may already be answered elsewhere, and some won’t be right for Ask Riot. This isn’t the best place to announce new features, for example, and we might skip conversations on issues we’ve talked about in depth before (though we can clarify individual points).
We are listening, though, so keep asking. We’ll make sure your questions are heard by the Rioters working on the stuff you’re curious about.