Why is Riot “fixing” the jungle?

Leave Well Enough Alone.

After yesterday’s patch I decided to spend a little time on the forums, checking the reaction to the jungle changes. Yesterday’s jungle patch is the most significant change to the meta we’ve seen in more than a year, or at least it could have been. According to recent red posts, it looks like Riot will be hotfixing the jungle to pretty much keep things as they always have been, the only real change being that low-level summoners should be able to jungle more easily. I’m stuck wondering one thing: why does Riot think the jungle needs “fixed?”

Before you go all ragey on me, let’s consider a few things. First, the game as it currently is hasn’t changed in any significant way in more than 18 months. Having a dedicated jungler has been a staple of the game for so long that people forget what the game was like before jungling became popular. Second, the changes have been live for a mere 36 hours. Even Riot was saying players were complaining too early, but a day later they’ve changed their stance.

I agree that current jungle rewards might be a little low, or maybe they just don’t scale up fast enough, but let’s imagine, just for a second, that Riot left the game as it is. Maybe we’d see more duo lanes top. Wouldn’t that be an interesting twist? Wouldn’t that offer more flexibility in lane choices and in-game swapping? As things currently stand, when a top or mid-lane starts to lose lane, there aren’t many options for them to switch out. With two duo-lanes there are more options for addressing problems once the game has started, not just at the champ select screen.

If League of Legends needs anything right now, it’s more changes like these. Changes that shake things up. Changes that make the game different. Changes that make the game something other than what it has been for two years.

Volibear impressions (part 1)

Volibear

I have no idea how or why the whole “Armored Bear” thing got started on the forums, but it spawned a new, non-humanoid champ and for that I’m happy. I love to see some design variety in the champions, and big bear that runs people down is a nice change of pace. As you might have guessed, Volibear is nearly the definition of Tanky DPS, bringing huge damage the more health you build on him. It’s not a terrible thing for the way his skills deal damage, but it definitely needs a numbers tweak.

In his current form, Volibear relies almost exclusively on Frenzy for his basic damage output. The skill passively increases his attack speed with each swing and provides a targeted nuke after three attacks. That nuke scales with Volibear’s bonus HP and has an execute component as well. The skill is on a long cooldown because it deals some insane damage. I’ve seen numbers as high as 550 before the execute damage before level 11. That’s awfully early to see such a large nuke.

Volibear does well if he can get ahead, which isn’t too hard in a lot of cases. I haven’t been able to play him in every lane just yet, but I’ve played against a couple strong duo teams bot. Volibear’s charge is enough of a threat to zone out most opponents, and his fling can net an early kill or two.

I don’t want to say much more about Volibear without spending a bit more time with him. I did have a few enjoyable games with him today, though he feels a little too cooldown reliant for my tastes. How has he been treating you?

Welcome to the jungle

Nunu in the jungle

Over the holiday weekend I did my best to stay as far out of the loop as possible. I wasn’t checking my usual gaming sites, I wasn’t reading any of the forums, and obviously I wasn’t doing any gaming. Imagine my surprise, then, when I came back to discover the jungle changes.

I’m not going to do much analysis here. I haven’t been able to spend enough time in the jungle to really assess the changes. For now, it seems like the damage nerf makes jungling possible for a wider range of characters but the XP nerf makes it less viable for those characters. As I get more time in the jungle I’m sure I’ll have more to say. For now, let’s go over the changes.

Smaller jungle camps now respawn more quickly, offer reduced XP and gold rewards (though these now scale with duration of the game), and drop a health sigil from the largest mob. Buff camps are easier to kill and offer extra XP but with reduced gold rewards. The changes are designed to help a wider variety of champions and builds get into the jungle. These changes should also make jungling more viable at lower summoner levels. When I used to play on my smurf account a bit, it was nearly impossible to jungle because of the lack of runes.

Even with the changes, jungling odd champions feels extremely slow. I played a jungle Teemo earlier today and fell way behind the bottom lane. It was partially caused by his reduced speed, but I think the reduced XP from smaller camps really hurt me.

Like I said, I’ll have more impressions in the near future. For now, let me know what you think. Is the new jungle better or worse than the old version? Any strange new build you’ve seen play successfully?

A week without games

It’s been a week since I last plopped myself down in my office and fired up a game of LoL or knocked out a few quests in Skyrim. I always think these holiday weekends will have some profound effect on the way I think about games or the way I play them or even the way I write about them, but it just doesn’t happen. I’m not entirely sure why, just as I am unsure why that would be a good thing.

I think part of the problem is that I would like to be playing a wider variety of games. In the past two years I’ve spent the vast majority of my time with just a small subset of games. I’ve pumped more time than I care to tally into League of Legends. I’ve played a lot of Minecraft. I’ve dipped in and out of WoW. I’ve been playing the hell out of Skyrim. I even had a brief affair with Diablo II. It’s a short list, and two of my five games aren’t really all that new. Why such a limited list?

For starters, time. It’s not the amount of time spent actually playing a game that concerns me. It’s the amount of time it takes to learn a game. To get to know its mechanics. To see whether I like it or not. A few weeks ago I was given access to the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta for weekend testing. I spent probably 10 hours with the game over the first two days, but those 10 hours were painful. The storyline wasn’t gripping, the combat was a complete WoW-copy – I was completely underwhelmed. I took my concerns to a couple forums, trying to figure out what I was missing. Plenty of reviews claimed the game was good, even great. What had I overlooked?

According to the internet, I hadn’t even cracked the surface of the game. Granted, 10 hours is a tiny chunk of time compared to the years people have spent with games like WoW, but 10 hours before the game even becomes remotely enjoyable? I’ll pass, as I do on most games. I would say that I’ve “missed out” on some big titles, but have I? What have I really missed? I can count on one hand the number of titles that have truly changed the way I think about games in the last 10 years. Even League of Legends, a game I play and write about on a daily basis, isn’t on that list.

I’m not trying to make the case that every game should break the mold, forever changing the way that we game. No industry supports that kind of innovation. I do, however, wish it happened more often than it does. The next big games on my watch list are Guild Wars 2 and Diablo 3, and I only have high hopes for GW2. Diablo 3 is a load of fun, but it’s fun at its most mindless.

I’m going to end this post here, because I’m not sure I have much else to say. I love games, I just wish there were more games worth loving. You know, variety being the spice of life and all. What about you? What are you playing? What games made you rethink the medium? What’s on your gaming horizon?

Garen ult range has a bit of a bug

If you’ve ever done any kind of work on a video game, you probably know how difficult it can be to track down bugs. Hell, just reproducing a bug can be a pain in the ass. That’s the beauty of the internet. With a game like LoL, Riot has a couple million people reproducing bugs every day, like this little gem from Jedidwag. In the video above you can see the magic behind one of the crazier ult bugs in the game: Garen’s Demacian Justice.

I’ve been hit by my share of questionable Garen ults, but I always chalked it up to lag or animation timing or whatever. If Jedidwag is right, though, Garen’s ult has a reproducible bug that dramatically increases the range. When Demacian Justice is cast while Garen is spinning it will land on the target even if that target moves out of range. There are some restrictions on the distance, but you’ll notice some truly insane distances in the video above.

Season Two starts today

Today marks the official start for League of Legends competitive Season Two. If, like me, you aren’t on a pro team or striving to become one, the launch is a bit anticlimactic. All except for the introduction of Ranked Teams.

With the arrival of Season Two, Riot has released the Ranked Team feature. Through the Summoner profile pane you can now create and join Ranked Teams, all of which will hold a separate ELO. It’s a nice feature for allowing players to get ranked with various groups of players at various skill levels. The teams come free-of-charge; all you need is an account with Summoner level 30.

Each Summoner can be a part of up to five teams, which seems generous. I know I definitely don’t play with enough people on a regular basis to get on five teams. It’s pretty nice to have the extra headroom, though. Riot also added a special “Ranked Team Draft” to the invite screen, making it somewhat easier to invite just the people from your team.

Along with Ranked Teams, Riot has put together a competitive minisite for all the competitive news. Check it out when you have a chance.

Will you be making a ranked team today?

No FG LoL Monday until after the holiday

FG LoL Mondays

I thought I’d have time to dig in for some games tonight but it just isn’t in the cards. I’m prepping for yet another trip up to Ohio. With Thanksgiving just around the corner I’m going to be holding off on FG LoL Mondays until the holiday is past. I might be around here and there tonight and tomorrow, so please feel free to drop me a message.

As always, you can find me at “The Wiggin Boy.” Happy Thanksgiving to you good American folk. See you all next week.

Will the Blood Lord skin resurrect Vlad?

Vladimir has been a hot topic of discussion since release. Even today, when I rarely see him picked, there are still forum threads on a near daily basis wondering when he’ll be buffed, when he’ll return to viability, why he isn’t viable now, and so on. I know CC is all the rage these days, especially when it comes to AP carries, so where is Vlad’s place?

I still occasionally see Vlad do well when his team has enough crowd control to make up for his own shortcomings. He has to be careful, though. Against a strong AP with a stun, Vlad is susceptible to ganks, despite his pool. If he can be forced to burn his Flash early, Vlad’s health costs work against him early, leaving him open for ganks.

As many Rioters have pointed out, many of the solutions to Vlad’s problems are problems in themselves. Fixing health costs may improve his early game, but give him more damage or survivability and we could be rushing back toward the old days of Vlad.

For now, it looks like Vlad fans will have to settle for a legendary skin. Honestly, I can’t say I’ll mind seeing Vlad in a few games sometime soon. Sure beats Morgana.

Have you noticed the minion bug?

For a few weeks now I’ve felt just a little bit sloppy in lane. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but like any good gamer I was ready to blame my farming problems on anyone or anything other than myself. Alright, that’s not entirely true. I eventually chalked up my diminished minion farming capacity to my own waning interest in League of Legends. As it turns out, my skills may be in tact.

According to RiotVeonneth, there is currently a “significant bug with minion targeting.” He also commented on an upcoming fix saying, “This bug unfortunately took us a while to pin down, but we’ve now identified the core issue and are working on a fix as fast as we can.”

Have you noticed the issue? The times that I noticed it were rare. Like I said, my farming just felt a little sloppy. Have you felt your game slipping recently?

Did the Flash nerf work?

The latest LoL patch included both a range and cooldown nerf to Flash, the game’s most popular Summoner Spell. As a result, I’ve been trying to rely on the skill less, choosing skills like Cleanse and Ghost to pair with my combat spell. It hasn’t been great. In fact, most of the time I’ve just wished that I was using Flash.

It seems most of the pros agree. I watched a little bit of the MLG tournament today and saw 10 Flashes in several of their games. That’s right. Every player in the game took Flash. I can’t imagine Riot is too happy about the change, but it’s also difficult to imagine a Flash nerf that doesn’t completely remove the skill from viability. The big problem, at least as I see it, is that the strength of Flash is binary. It’s either a big enough jump to be useful or it isn’t. There is no middle ground.

So much of LoL is about seizing the moment that Flash will always be strong or completely useless. Even if Flash had a cooldown of eight minutes, the threat of a Flash-stun would probably be enough to keep the skill in play. Positioning is just too important to the game.

I will say this – making the other spells more appealing might be a decent way to compete with Flash. I’ve been using Cleanse a lot but I’ve been disappointed by the cooldown. I’m not saying Cleanse is the spell to fix Flash – I remember the days when every single carry took Cleanse and I don’t want it back – but reducing the cooldowns on and improving the effectiveness of the rest of the Summoner Spells could do a lot for Summoner Spell diversity.

What have you seen? Has the nerf had any effect on how often you see Flash? Are players using any other skills in its place?

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