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A lot has changed since we last talked broadly about the state of alternative game modes in League. With Teamfight Tactics fully launched worldwide, now seems like a good time to provide some updates about the current state of our game modes and where we’re heading in the future.
Our goal with alternative game modes has changed quite a bit over the last year. In the past, we’ve explored modes that put a unique spin on the core League of Legends gameplay. Game modes like Odyssey: Extraction, Star Guardian: Invasion, and PROJECT// Overcharge were exciting for a while, but they didn’t continue to hold your interest for very long. In other words, players were excited to try these modes but would quickly return to Summoner’s Rift after the novelty wore off.
On the flip side, we saw that modes like ARURF and One-For-All kept you queueing up for more even beyond their initial run due to their replayability and similarity to SR. What we found was that modes that focused on being unique could never keep interest in the same way modes that focused on high replayability could. So to that end, the Modes Team is focusing all of our attention on improving the existing long-term game modes and discovering new, potentially long-term modes that you can play for years.
A very recent example of this new focus can be seen with our latest game mode, Teamfight Tactics. TFT doesn’t share the usual long-term mode trait of being similar to SR, but it’s not a spin on core League gameplay either: Instead of controlling a single champion and using their abilities, we created League’s take on the new auto-battler genre. One of our main goals behind TFT was to make a mode you could play for a long time, which meant it was really important to create variant experiences and high moments. In other words, you should always have something new to try or chase after, and it should feel exciting to do so.
Because TFT’s core gameplay is fundamentally different from Summoner’s Rift and the other modes we’ve released before, we’ve seen players use it as a way to unwind between ranked games or as something to do with friends of different skill levels. But we’ve also seen that TFT is deep enough to support players who want to be TFT mains.
We’ve been blown away by how much everyone seems to be enjoying the mode, so even though it’s still early, we’ve made the call to make Teamfight Tactics permanent! Moving forward, we’ll continue to support this mode with changes almost every patch and multiple new champion sets (and ranked seasons) each year.
If all continues to go well, we hope we’ll eventually be able to create more modes with completely unique gameplay for you!
URF has been our most popular alternative mode (though TFT is giving it a run for its money!), and we made some pretty big changes earlier this year when we ran ARURF+. From the gameplay changes, we currently plan on keeping the Catapult of Champions because it sped up the pace of matches and enabled lots of big plays. The buffed-up dragon was also exciting, but securing it gave teams too much power too early in the game, so expect to see some adjustments there.
But the biggest change wasn’t a gameplay adjustment—it was how long we left the mode on for. Previously, our longest run of ARURF was 16 days, but this time we left it running for 42 days straight! During this time, we saw players play a ton of ARURF+ all the way up until the very last day, and once we turned it off everything went back to normal.
We think URF is our best example of a mode that can bring a ton of excitement each time it comes back, and I can happily say that some form of URF will be back one more time this year.
Nexus Blitz was our first attempt at a new always-on mode that could last a long time. As we discussed before, players overall really enjoy Nexus Blitz for the first few weeks of availability but stop playing pretty quickly after that. While Nexus Blitz didn’t have the level of consistent engagement we’re looking for in an always-on mode, it still makes for a really strong game mode we’d like to bring back a couple times a year. Look forward to all the same fun events and rewards when it returns!
During last year’s Pyke/Bilgewater event, we experimented with ARAM to see how making gameplay changes would affect the way different audiences (both casual and hardcore) play the mode. We found that these changes didn’t really modify how or how much people play ARAM, but the most dedicated ARAM players appreciated that the mode received balance adjustments and improvements like Summoner’s Rift.
So with this year’s Bilgewater mini-event, we tried out a few more changes. Some of them were a bit more ambitious, like a new ARAM-exclusive Summoner Spell, and others were a bit simpler, like runes and champion balance. For a full breakdown of the results of these changes, you can check out this wrap-up post.
Notably, our approach to balancing ARAM was more successful than we expected. Champs that were at a huge disadvantage before balancing now at least had ways to win, and champs that were almost free wins now had to work a little harder. We saw players initially struggle to adjust since the mode had previously been in almost the same state of champion balance for years, but overall we think this has made the mode higher-quality in the long run. This is why we’re going to continue balancing ARAM every few patches, with some bigger changes once a year or so—a decision that’s in line with our new approach of investing more in our existing long-term modes.
Since we’ve been focusing on modes like ARAM a bit more, we’ve seen a few people ask, “What about Twisted Treeline?” One of League’s original alternative game modes, Twisted Treeline has been a place for League players to get the MOBA experience of Summoner’s Rift on a different map with a different meta. However, Treeline has always suffered from low queue sizes, even in times when we added new items, map-specific champion balance, and even the Twisted Treeline redesign waaayy back in 2012. At present, it falls short of even the numbers we saw at the end of Nexus Blitz’s second run. This small population leads to long queue times, poor matchmaking, and ultimately an unsatisfying PvP experience for many of the players who do queue up for Treeline.
Outside of the player population, Twisted Treeline’s art, map design, and even game pacing don’t meet today’s current quality bar and player needs. We debated on whether an ARAM-esque level of support would bring it up to standard, but the lack of growth from the previous efforts we mentioned led us to the conclusion that it just wouldn’t be enough to make Treeline a healthy long-term mode. So at the end of this season, we will be retiring Twisted Treeline. Like Dominion before it, we’re sad to see a longtime part of the game disappear. But we feel this is the best decision for League, as it lets us keep our focus on our larger game modes.
You’ll still be able to earn end of season rewards via Twisted Treeline this season, so a rank of Gold or higher will still get you the Victorious skin. There won’t be a TT specific chroma this year though, as we’ve seen in past seasons that non-Treeline players sometimes spam ranked 3s for the chroma, and we don’t want that to be your final experience with the mode.
We will have a few small rewards for the most dedicated of TT players which we’ll grant once the mode is retired. Eligibility will be based on games played before today to ensure the integrity of the rewards. Details will be announced in the future.
Other Modes and the Future
As for other older modes, we’ll be looking for opportunities to bring back the ones we think have long-term potential, like One-for-All. These modes are still really fun ways to mix up the core League experience, and we think that lots of people are excited to try out five Yuumi’s. We’re also still exploring even more ideas for other new modes with long-term potential.
That’s it for now. We hope you continue to enjoy all the fun ways to play League of Legends. Until next time, good luck with your ranked games and may all your TFT champs be 3 stars!