My Nautilus design dilemma


After reading Nautilus’ skillset, I thought he was OP. At the very least he had too much going on. Berseking was kind enough to point me to Xypherous’ dev diary for the League’s new champion, a post that broke down the design decisions behind the champion’s design. After reading through it I still think he has too much going on, and the method by which Riot might keep him from being OP–a crappy attack animation/speed and movespeed–are an unnecessary frustration. He needs a limitation on the number of things he can do, not a mechanical throttle on his power level.

I’ll be the first to admit that Xypherous and I have different philosophies when it comes to champion design. He does make some interesting champions, but at least in the case of Nautilus, he is willing to overload on mechanics. If you read his dev diary and watch Phreak’s champion spotlight, you’ll notice there isn’t much talk of weakness. Any talk of a potential downfall in his design is met with “so we gave him X.” Notice the following:

One of the strongest downsides to a self-only shield is that it is effectively ignorable by the enemy team. Unless you are threatening enough so that you must be killed on sight, defensive shielded targets are generally ignored as there isn’t a point to attacking him.

Which was preceded by:

However, if he’s left alone, Nautilus can contribute heavy damage to the enemy team.

This is one major design decision that I just don’t understand about this game. Why does a tank need to deal big damage? Even solid damage over the course of a fight? Isn’t the fact that he has four CC skills enough? Isn’t the disruption caused by his presence enough? Xypherous talks about Wrath of the Titan being a “soft-taunt” because it adds damage if players don’t attack Nautilus. Why does a character with four CC skills need a soft-taunt? This doesn’t make any sense.

What about this – what if the tank was designed to control opponents, either by creating openings for his teammates to get kills or preventing the other team from attack. He would have very limited damage, relying instead on CC to keep his enemies alive. His enemies would then have to make an interesting choice – attack the high damage people in the back and risk getting stuck in Nautilus’ CC or burn skills on Nautilus so that the high priority targets are vulnerable. Instead, Nautilus forces players to burn skills on him or suffer huge consequences. That’s not interesting. It takes away the opponent’s ability to make an interesting choice but, more importantly, it takes away Nautilus’ ability and incentive to make interesting, epic plays.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I’ve been playing DotA. I have a ton of fun playing support and tank champions in DotA, mostly because I’m not stuck spamming heals on my lanemate. I get to harass a lot. I set up kills a lot. Most of all, I get to make big plays during teamfights. Timing a stun for the perfect moment to save my carry from an enemy stunlock, using Force Staff to move my allies out of harm’s way, landing the perfect Shallow Grave to prevent death – these are all things I’ve pulled off or seen pulled off in ways that make me want to play support and tanks. Because those characters don’t often have big damage, they have a chance to move within a fight and have a serious impact on its outcome. Fights feel extremely dynamic because there is a constant target shift going on – players are trying to burn the big damage dealers while avoiding the crowd control of supports and tanks.

I can think of one character who has both big damage and big utility without any real sacrifice and he’s the most broken character in the game: Invoker. Pretty much every other character suffers from some setback, whether it’s mobility, lack of crowd control, position dependent skills, and so on. The game allows players to shore up those weaknesses through itemization, which obviously comes at a cost. On the whole, it’s the constantly sliding scale of damage, control, durability and mobility that makes a teamfight in DotA interesting. Only one character in DotA has all of those attributes without a truly godlike farm. I certainly can’t say the same for League.

I don’t peg all of this on Xypherous – that would be really unfair. He is working within a metagame and a design philosophy that obviously values Nautilus-style design. Personally, I wish Riot was doing more to change the game, but they’re trucking ahead with the current philosophy. For me, that has meant a serious decline in the amount of enjoyment I get from the game.


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.


Is tournament play killing LoL?

LoL Tournaments.

For my Champ of the Week features I always try to play a mix of normal and ranked games because I think it’s important to see how each champion plays in the different environments. In my experience, ranked games tend to be a bit more focused – teams attempt to pick solid team comps, fill each of the roles, and at least someone on the team will try to ward and control dragon. Normal games are a bit less organized – I see very little warding, team comp is kind of all over the place, and map control isn’t as important as getting kills. On the whole, I think normal games tend to be much more fast paced and much more fun, but that’s been changing and I think the tournaments are to blame.

Lately my normal games have been against focused players with tournament comps. I just got out of a game against a Rammus/Anivia/Xin Zhao/Lee Sin/Soraka. Was it a perfect comp? No, but it was way out of my team’s league, and the fact that they also had Clairvoyance made it even worse. The game went long, mostly because I think it was full of decent players, but it was insanely boring. Let’s face it, the cautious play seen in high-ELO matches just isn’t that fun in practice. Kill counts are painfully low and most of the game is a dance about who will initiate a fight. That’s not what got me into League of Legends in the first. I fell in love with LoL because it was active and engaging and rewarded aggressive gameplay.

I’m not complaining that the game is getting more challenging. In fact, I would love it if that were the case. I would love to have closer matches. I would love to see less surrender votes. Instead, I’m seeing slow tedious games that make me reconsider playing more than a game in each sitting. The excitement is rapidly disappearing from the game as more players turn to the tournament meta.

The only cause I can see for the shift in gameplay is the accessibility of tournament streams. I think it’s wonderful that League’s competitive game is getting a lot of attention, but it’s making the lower ELOs a boring mess to play. As this dominant metagame trickles further down the ELO chart it becomes increasingly important for Riot to make major adjustments to the game. Support has to get nerfed. Tanky DPS has to go away. Riot needs to address all of the attrition reduction mechanics in the game, not just the new ones.

What do you think? Are you seeing the same comps every game? Does the game feel less exciting to you or is it just me?


Does Riot underestimate the tanky DPS problem?


I can’t think of another metagame that has been quite as contentious as the current tanky DPS game, and for good reason. Tanky DPS is infuriating to play against, even more so than the old poke/heal or R->win of days gone by. It lengthens games to a ridiculous degree. It encourages tower humping. It slows teamfights to a crawl. And, unfortunately, I think Riot underestimates just how bad it is.

Just check this noncommittal post from Guinsoo. He talks about all sorts of testing that’s going on, but in his final paragraph says that it may or may not pan out, may or may not release, may or may not do any of the things they’re supposed to do. Add to that the fact that Riot seems to be trying anything to shorten games except significantly nerfing the bruisers and it seems that tanky DPS is here to stay, at least in the meantime.

I’m actually fine with the idea of a consistent metagame. It gives players a chance to settle into a routine, which isn’t such a terrible thing, especially for a competitive game. In the case of tanky DPS, though, the metagame makes the game a lot less enjoyable. I’m pretty comfortable saying that my average level of fun has decreased dramatically in League of Legends over the last couple months. Games are so long these days that I’ll get one, maybe two games in before I’m so worn out that I don’t have much interest in playing further. I think that can be mostly attributed to the prevalence of tanky characters. Tower diving doesn’t work. There’s too much health on the board to bother taking risks. It just isn’t fun.

I’m hoping the game takes a serious shift some time soon. Several of the designers have mentioned items that directly counter the tanky meta, but when will we see those? I’m guessing 6-8 weeks. Until those items release, tanky DPS will reign supreme.


Deathcap and the state of the game: I never saw this coming


I’ve been hesitating to write this post for a couple days now. I keep waiting for inspiration, some sort of clarity, but it never comes. There’s a lot to say about this patch, but I’m not sure I can derive any kind of coherent point about it all. Things are different. The game is different, and it’s different in ways I definitely didn’t see coming.

I’m going to completely ignore the champion changes. The significant buffs are all reverts of former nerfs or changes everything knew was coming. Also, the real game changes are in the items.

Zhonya’s is gone, as I’m sure you noticed. In it’s place we have Zhonya’s Hourglass, an AP item with armor and the old Zhonya’s invulnerability, and Rabadon’s Deathcap, the mother of all, rush-this-first-with-every-AP-toon monster of an AP item. It grants 155 AP plus a 30 percent AP boost for 3300 gold. I realize the old Zhonya’s wasn’t wildly more expensive, but 3300 gold for what becomes 200 AP and that 30 precent boost is UN…REAL. I don’t really want to talk much about what this will do to balance because frankly it’s too early to tell, but I can tell you I have seen a huge increase in the number of casters on the board in any given game.

I do have a few bits of anecdotal evidence that I think deserve some airtime. First, I saw a Veigar at level 14 with more than 1000 AP the day the patch came out. Second, the Deathcap is way too good on Vladimir – his passive gets way too much out of it when added to core items like Rylai’s. Rylai’s plus Deathcap is like 500 AP for him. Lichbane tower pushing is insanely good right now. Lichbane in general is insanely good right now. Lastly, if a caster gets ahead of you, well, be prepared to die a LOT.

All that said, I kind of like the changes. Deathcap needs to be toned down in some way, but it’s really refreshing to see people mix up their choices a bit. It’s not 3 tanks a support and a carry anymore, and that’s a good thing. The downside is that a sweeping change like this is like pressing a reset button on the metagame, mid season no less. Some would say that’s a great thing, but it’s a strange move in a game that’s trying to make a name for itself on the competitive scene. I’m fine with changing things up in the middle of a season, but make the changes small. The big picture stuff is good – the metagame is changing, different champions are being played, different builds hitting the drawing board – but the game has changed so much in the last two months that it’s starting to feel a bit like a beta test.

You can find evidence of the dramatic change in the pace of the game. Over the past week both the length of the game and the victor at any moment has varied dramatically. I had my first 60-minute game in ages earlier this week. I also had at least one that was over in 20 minutes. I saw kill counts swing between teams more heavily than I have seen since well before season one launched. Again, these aren’t bad things per se, but to have them all happening at once, all in the middle of a season, all in big bursts is probably not the best thing for the game.

The most definitive thing I can say about the changes is this: I think Riot started to feel the pressure of a restless player base and made radical changes as a stopgap until Magma Chamber and more game features could be released. Again, this is not to say I think the changes are all bad – some of this stuff may have been on the test docket for quite some time – rather, all of the changes at once is too much strain on an experienced player base. As much as people cry for change, it’s a fact of life humans will always resist. We are creatures of habit, and when you mess with the habit too much we tend to freak out.


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