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Movie? Honor Opponents? URF?

Hiring more devs, URF, a League movie, honoring opponents, and eating poros.

By Ghostcrawler, Riot Cactopus, Ryze, BionicNinja & Riot Tiger Lily

Welcome to Ask Riot! Have a question?

This year, Ask Riot responded to 140 questions—plus the ones Marc and Brandon answered in Ask Riot’s anniversary video. This week, let’s recap some of the top questions from 2k17.

Q

Why do we keep getting different versions of URF mode instead of regular URF?

A

URF launched a long time ago, way before we ever started doing RGM. It was basically a crazy April Fool’s gag that ended up becoming hugely popular. Given how popular it is, lots of players want to know why we don’t bring back regular URF more often. There’s one reason that we haven’t really talked about before now:

URF makes some people stop playing League.

Every time we ran regular URF, we’d see a huge spike of games being played, and then the numbers actually dropped back down to a level that’s lower than it was just before we ran URF.

It’s normal for new players to join League and for some longtime players to leave—this happens all the time. But when we turned on regular URF, it was different. In NA, for example, whenever we ran URF we’d usually see over twice as many longtime players leave the game compared to what we would’ve normally expected.

In other words, some people binged on URF, and then suddenly stopped playing League. And the size of the dropoff indicates that it’s not just people coming back for URF and then leaving afterwards. Despite spending a lot of time investigating the reasons, we aren’t actually sure whether URF causes some sort of “hangover” effect or if it makes regular games feel slow by comparison—maybe it’s because URF feels like playing League with cheats turned on. Regardless, after we turn on URF, total games played go down, as do overall game hours. And they don’t recover for a long time, if ever.

We’ve been trying to wrap our heads around a way to solve this problem for a while, and that’s one of the biggest reasons you see us experimenting with variations on the mode like ARURF and Snow Battle ARURF. Although these modes still suffer a bit from the “binge-then-churn” effect that regular URF has, it’s not nearly as bad (probably because you’re not seeing the same OP champs every game).

URF causes some people to stop playing League, but a lot of you really love it. So instead of killing URF altogether, we’re just gonna keep experimenting to find some healthier version of the mode. Tell us your thoughts about Snow Battle ARURF—we’ll listen and apply what we learn to ARURF’s next appearance.

Q

Will you ever make a League of Legends movie? Or maybe long cinematic episodes?

A

We dream of films set in League’s universe and seeing our favorite champions come to life in movie theaters, but the track record on video game movies is a humbling lesson. For the most part, they aren’t great. And while the geek in us would love to rush into moviemaking, it’s definitely not something we should rush into.

That’s not to say that we aren’t exploring. Cinematic storytelling just requires different muscles than storytelling for games, so we’re working on building those muscles and learning as we go. We have a ton of talented folks actively experimenting with different storytelling formats, and it’s definitely a hope that someday we’ll see the fruits of that experimentation on the big screen (or the small screen, or wherever it makes the most sense). We’re also looking at ways to better share all of the stories we’ve already told and will continue to tell, like with the newly-launched Universe.

What’s most important to us is that any extension of League into other mediums feels authentic to the source and respectful of the passion we all share for the game and its universe. It’s a big challenge, but we think we can get there if we invest the time in learning how to do it right.

Co-Founder, Riot Games
Q

I do prefer the new honor system, it’s great. that being said I miss being able to honor an opponent, it’s a respect thing. if you can bring it back to the game at one point I think people would like it. have a good day.

A

We agree! Showing respect for your opponent is an important part of sportsmanship and we spent time playtesting several versions that included honoring your opponents. In the end, there were a few reasons why combining team recognition with opponent recognition wasn’t working.

For example, we spent a lot of time on the categories and what matters when it comes to sportsmanship in League. In general, you have a very different picture of your fellow teammates compared to your opponents, so we’d need to have categories that were meaningful for both. For instance, getting outplayed 1v1 feels different than a teammate helping the team stay cool and focused on winning. If we solve that by collapsing to more generic categories for teammates and opponents, they wouldn’t mean as much since they could stand for anything. But if we had a bunch of really specific categories you wouldn’t have time to choose between them (assuming you could even find the right one).

Also, honoring your opponent and honoring your teammate just felt like two separate things. Testers not only felt the vote screen was crowded, but due to the incomplete information you have, it was hard to have the confidence to pick an opponent that really stood out. We tried a few iterations, including having the system choose for you some “finalists,” but ultimately it felt best when it was wholly a player decision.

So in the end we made the call to focus on teamwork right now, including improving the system for 2018, and revisit honoring your opponent in the future.

BionicNinja
Senior Systems Designer, Player Behavior Team
Q

Riot talks a lot about prioritization and resources when answering questions about features people want — if there aren’t enough people there to fix things like Death Recap or the old, out of date website, why not hire more? Are you really that limited on people?

A

Hiring is a powerful tool in the developer toolbox, but it isn’t the best tool for every problem that comes along.

For starters, hiring takes a very long time, especially for somewhere like Riot where we want to make really sure that any new Rioters are aligned to our company missions and values. If you want to spin up a new team to tackle a problem, and then you need to hire a lot to staff that team, my rule of thumb is to expect it to take 6-12 months (and sometimes much more) before that team is staffed.

Second, just because you can hire more people doesn’t mean you should. Having more developers requires more overhead. It requires a larger office space. It means changing your company processes and developing a deeper (and typically slower) hierarchy. Growing too quickly can put a huge strain on a company’s culture as you struggle to get all the newcomers to understand the way you think about things. For example, Riot strives to measure what we work on in terms of gamer impact. But what that means can be really open to interpretation — it’s not something that is easily summed up in an employee handbook. Instead, it has to be learned by working alongside folks who already get it. The faster you grow, the more that ratio of folks who already get it gets diluted.

More bodies just means that it requires more conversations to make sure all questions get answered. If you hire more junior folks, it means also hiring more senior folks who can manage them. I am a big believer that Dunbar’s Number is a thing, especially in an organization that eschews a conveyer-belt style development methodology and instead thrives when people collaborate quite a bit on gnarly problems with ambiguous solutions. You will almost never, in this business, find developers who love working on really large teams. Instead, they will all pine for the day when their dev team was 15 people because it’s just so much easier to stay in sync and to get shit done quickly when you’re small. I’m not offering some huge insight here — it’s the subject of tons of research into businesses and why they grow and how that often causes them to slow down.

Third, just because you have more people doesn’t mean that the priorities of what you would work on would change. If we had six competent engineers magically appear, that doesn’t mean that the best allocation of those folks would be on some neglected feature of potentially marginal value. It may make more sense to bite off a larger project or to make sure some big problem got solved faster. How we prioritize features or work is a larger question (and this is a long answer already), but suffice to say that we greatly value player impact, and we do try to make room for smaller quality-of-life requests and meme-killing things alongside major reworks, such as Runes Reforged.

Fourth, I should invoke the “mythical person month.” Throwing bodies at a problem isn’t a proven solution to make things happen faster. This gets into some of the points I already made above, but I just wanted to point out that business often acknowledge that more people isn’t the answer to everything. Related, you wouldn’t want to hire someone just for a three-month project and then fire them again. Some companies are fine with that approach (a lot of Hollywood still works that way), but Riot really wants to be a place staffed by lifers who want a long-term career here, not hired guns who jam out a project and then move on to the next gig.

Design Director, League of Legends
Q

Do people eat poros?

A

As you slip the squishy, pastel meat into your mouth, your mind floods with every imaginable color: magenta, indigo, seafoam, chartreuse! With each juicy gnash of your teeth, a different flavor overwhelms your palate: cotton candy, chokecherry, salted sea bass, toasted coconut! You swallow the tender morsel and your throat tickles as it slides down your gullet. You get the feeling like you have to sneeze, but can’t. As you pinch another bite from the plate, eager in anticipation of all the colors and flavors it will unlock, you feel a tiny itch ripple in your stomach. You can’t help but cough—a little at first, then A LOT. Sprays of fluff and fur erupt from your mouth like confetti. The itch in your stomach grows into a sharp, stabbing pain, like something tiny is trying to beat down the door of your innards with fists made of knives. Your guts swell and stretch as you cry out to your gods for mercy, for death, for anything that could bring an end to the blinding pain. Through your tears, you watch as two pointed horns rip through your skin’s membrane, thrashing and mighty like a bull through a matador’s cape. A basketball-shaped creature struts from your gaping stomach, slick and sticky with your blood, then plumes its fur in one swift PUFF. Blood splatters across your face. Your shaking eyes finally behold the creature in all its splendor—standing soft and sweet as a sunlit dandelion atop your retching, soon-to-be corpse. It unfurls its big pink tongue and licks your pallid cheek. That’s the last thing you see.

Or so the story goes. So yeah, not a lot of people try it anymore.

Riot Tiger Lily
Editor, R&D

Thanks for reading this week’s Ask Riot. Have a question?

Head over to Ask Riot and sign into your League account. Check out the Pro Tips, then ask away.

We promise 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.

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