Ask a question about League or Riot, and we’ll try to answer it. Answers go live every other Thursday at 1:30 pm (PT)
Today we’re talking about Akali nerfs, fixing bugs, Little Legends, and whether we’re making more ultimate skins.
Are you ever going to make another ultimate skin?
The short version: We’d like to, but it won’t be this year.
The long version: Let’s go back a couple years to really answer this question. When we have thought about what makes a skin an “ultimate” in the past, we considered the whole experience of the skin, including both the depth of experience and the novelty factor. Every ultimate skin created an expansive new fantasy for a champion and raised the novelty bar for skins in some way—like DJ Sona’s in-game music and Elementalist Lux’s expansive evolution tree.
With Gun Goddess Miss Fortune, we felt like we were delivering on the immersive experience expected for ultimate skins, but we weren’t necessarily creating a never-before-seen moment, especially since we were able to take advantage of the tech we’d already built. This is why we placed her below the typical price mark for an ultimate skin.
What we learned from Gun Goddess Miss Fortune is that the novelty factor is actually really important to y’all when you think about what makes a skin an “ultimate.” Players generally expect ultimate skins to break the boundaries of the game in some way, shape, or form, and this is something we’ve carried forward when considering potential new ultimates.
We did explore some possibilities for ultimate skins for 2019, but we didn’t land on anything that we felt all-in on, and we don’t plan on releasing one this year. We want to make sure the next one we commit to really exceeds your expectations, and this takes more than just an innovative idea—it takes extra dev time to get there. It’s important to us that the next ultimate skin we make for one champion feels more worthwhile than if we were to have spent that time creating Legendary skins for multiple champions.
All of that said… yes, we are still searching for the next ultimate skin for League. There’s a few ideas we’re exploring for 2020, but we haven’t committed to anything as of now. As always, we welcome suggestions and ideas from you on what you’d like to see for the future of ultimates.
Why are there so many nerfs to Akali?
When a champion is nerfed, it’s usually because they’ve crossed our predefined thresholds for measuring when a champion is too strong or too weak. These thresholds are broken down into four groups of players (average, skilled, elite, and pro), and these groups have pretty disparate player needs. Some champions, Akali included, exhibit extreme effectiveness differentials between the best of the best League players and everyone else. When that differential is massive, we may need to make larger changes to the champion so they’re at least viably playable for other audiences. Unfortunately, this can take a lot of time and result in a lot of pain—for both that champion’s players, who are constantly having their champion changed, and for opponents who may be facing a champ who remains overpowered for long periods of time (or when a champion bounces in and out of being overpowered repeatedly).
For Akali specifically, there were patches where she simultaneously had a 90+% presence in professional play while maintaining around a 43% win rate in solo queue brackets. In this case, our framework says Akali should be nerfed for pro play, but it also says she’s already very weak for most players. In situations like this, we don’t typically do a simple nerf. Instead, we aim to do a combination of changes that include solo queue-impacting buffs and pro-impacting nerfs. When working in this territory, it can be challenging to nerf a champion for its strong audiences, while ALSO buffing it for its weak audiences, while ALSO trying to preserve the fun components of their kit that may be impacting their performance disparity.
Situations like these have been a significant challenge for us over the last couple of years, with champions like Galio, Aatrox, and Irelia falling into a similar bucket. Managing champion performance disparities—both by resolving the issues quickly and by better anticipating them—is something we’re actively trying to get better at. Massive champion performance disparities can put a lot of pain on players, and the amount of time it takes to resolve them detracts from other work we could be doing on the game.
Why do some bugs sit on live longer than others?
We constantly have to make priority calls about where our dev time is best spent, and there’s a lot that goes into that decision. Our first step in deciding whether we need to prioritize a bug starts with an analysis of the issue’s severity versus frequency. In other words, when the issue happens, how impactful is it? And how often does it happen?
If something is both high severity and high frequency, we generally prioritize it highly. We’ll put our other work on pause to immediately investigate the issue, like when Morekasier’s abilities stopped working during his ultimate in patch 9.14. Conversely, low severity and low frequency bugs are generally only fixed opportunistically and when we have extra time; one example of such a bug is on Arcade Qiyana, where the VFX on her weapon during her recall animation can be misaligned if you enter a movement command in the opposite direction immediately before casting recall. We also tend to have a myriad of issues that are of varying severity and frequency, and they’ll fall in the middle of our priority list—these things might be very impactful but happen rarely, or they may be small annoyances that happen all the time.
In addition to the severity and frequency of a bug, there are some other variables to consider, such as… How difficult is this to fix? How likely will this break other parts of the game if we fix it? Do we need someone specific to fix it who knows more about that area of the game? Ultimately, the decisions around bug prioritization comes down to, “Would a developer’s time be better spent working on something else right now, whether that be new content, other bugs, or another thing entirely?” It’s a constant juggling act, where we’re trying to introduce new content and develop the game to exist for many years to come.
Why didn’t you make Teemo, Yuumi, Tristana, or Lulu Little Legends?
We checked in with Bandle City and they aren’t sure whether they should be offended or honored by this question.
When creating Little Legends, we have certain design pillars we want to adhere to. We want them to be diverse and have their own niche within the Little Legends line-up. We want them to have a cohesive theme; for example, if they are “referential to League” like the Runespirit, then we want to ensure its theme is communicated throughout the entire character. We also want them to be expressive and identifiable, like our grumpy Furyhorn. And lastly, but critically important, we want them to be aspirational.
Making Little Legends out of characters like Lulu and Yuumi, or even our non-yordle champions, could hit those goals. However, we don’t yet know enough about what types of Little Legends you want to have, and what types of feelings and emotions you associate with or channel through them. There is a wide catalog of things from the League universe to pull inspiration from, and we want to explore wide ranges of Little Legends, both in reference to League and brand new things. So keep bringing your feedback, because we’re paying attention to what you’re asking for and looking for opportunities to make new, awesome stuff.
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.