NERFPLZ.LOL Road to Pre-Season: Gameplay Systems Update and "Plants" Revealed - League of Vegetables | NERFPLZ.LOL -->

Oct 13, 2016

Road to Pre-Season: Gameplay Systems Update and "Plants" Revealed - League of Vegetables

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The preseason is always filled with radical new changes that shake the foundations of the very meta itself. Players are generally reluctant to accept the changes at the beginning of the season, but quickly adapt to the changing environment. 

This season, Riot's putting out large-scale changes to the jungle, itemization, AND mastery systems, and it looks like it's going to be a doozy, especially with the new "Plant" mechanic. Check out the full scoop below!

Road to Pre-Season: Gameplay Systems Update

It’s pre-season again, and that gives us time to work on overhauling the systemic aspects of League, from the jungle to items to masteries. This year, when we think about what we want to improve about our game systems, the word that comes to mind is “adaptability”. We want to introduce new gameplay elements that cause every game to feel different, and force players to adapt to those differences. On the other hand, we want to give players the ability to make clear playstyle choices which have measurable gameplay differences.


Let’s start with the jungle. We feel that the jungle has a lot more room to feel intent-driven, and less like a solvable system with a logical next step. Our overall goal is to make sure that junglers have more elements to interact with, and thus have to make choices about which ones are priorities.


When we originally gave camps Smite rewards, we wanted to allow players to decide how they used Smite to secure certain benefits. We think that system was a good start, but over time players broke into two groups: those who have basically “solved” Smiting, and those who haven’t. This makes the whole experience feel pretty deterministic and doesn’t allow for much expression of individual mastery. Moreover, tying that decision making to Smite makes players who take the PvP smite have to budget their smites a bit too much. If you’re setting up for a teamfight, you want to Smite raptors for vision control, the opposing ADC during a teamfight, and maybe dragon afterwards.
Enter Plants. We’re introducing interactive plants into the game and spawning them with some degree of variance. These plants should give junglers - and to some degree, other players - impactful decisions to make, without tying those choices to Smite.


Jungle optimization is an interesting skill, but right now one of the strongest routes is just going straight through the jungle in order. We want to introduce more variance between the camps, so players can have stronger preferences about which camps to prioritize, rather than merely clearing whatever is nearby and available. When it came down to it, that degree of variance was incompatible with our Smite rewards, which often established clear “best” and “worst” camps.

Protective Itemization

Aegis of the Legion has been a perennial struggle to balance around. Aura items are *strong*. After all, your team benefits up to five times as much from those stats as you do personally. On the other hand, it can be hard to notice the impact of an aura. As a result, auras have ended up overtuned to the point where they become mandatory. We want players to have itemization choices, and Aegis was simply blocking that goal.
On the other hand, Aegis of the Legion is one of the few items that allows you to make an ally harder to kill, a player fantasy we want to make sure to serve. While Aegis exists, most forms of protection will be overshadowed by the existence of its aura. Even if we made support items stronger to compensate, junglers would become the new Aegis purchasers (as has happened in past metas). So for the good of itemization as a whole, we’re killing its aura stats.
In its place, we’re creating several new protective items that are more distinct, allowing different supports to express different playstyles and goals. Instead of purchasing a generic protection item, we want supports to be able to look at a host of items and think “which one protects my ally in a way which aligns with my playstyle?”
We already have a few of those items. Mikael’s Crucible protects an ally from CC and Ardent Censer helps you keep an ally healed up. But we think there’s a lot we can do to sharpen those items’ identities, while creating new items to appeal to protective supports, whether they’re tanks, disruptors, or healers.


Finally, there’s masteries. Our updated mastery system was aimed at making masteries meaningful to your playstyle. We wanted each player and champion to feel like there was a mastery at each level that appealed to their role and playstyle.
Part of that meant having multiple choices at each level of the tree. We shipped with a few holes in the tree, and we’re taking this opportunity to fill those holes in. However, there were also a few outliers we felt like we could take a crack at making more satisfying to use, as well as more specific in who wanted to take them. Overall, we want players to have masteries that make them feel “that’s what I want”, not “I guess this is optimal”.
We’ll be unveiling more details about these changes soon, so stay tuned for Preseason 2017!


Additional "Plants" Information

Hi all, Fearless here.

Want to grow some of the understanding around Plants: What they are, and why we think they’re a fertile space to improve the jungle and the game as a whole. The TL;DR is that after a long stretch of enriching the decisions around how to win a whole game, we needed more elements that can change how you approach individual fights.

Many changes we’ve made to the map and objectives have focused on strategic depth (the various elements that change how you attempt to win the whole game). Elemental Dragons and Baron buffing minions, for example, were all about making sure that different strategies produce games that are meaningfully different to play, and reward player adaptation over memorization of “correct” moves.

All awesome, but this left us with a clearly stand out issue: we have too few sources on the map for tactical depth (elements that promote different approaches to specific situations). We wanted to find ways to increase adaptation in individual fights, and we quickly found that the jungle, which already had unique terrain layouts and the red buffs serving as valuable skirmish objectives, had ample opportunities to do better. The Rift Scuttler, for example, creates the gameplay we’re looking for at the edge of the jungle, with constrained randomization as a core part of her identity. In the first few experiments, plants proved that infrequent but impactful interactions could inject a lot of excitement while reintroducing tactical decision making that had been decreasing as players learn to predict the outcome of more and more fights. Put plainly, plants injected excitement into fights that have trended towards predictability and being solved. They also were a fruitful way to double down on the feeling that the jungle was a living, wild space.

Let’s flesh out some details. Plants are small, single use neutral objects that activate when attacked by a champion. They spawn in semi-random locations in the jungle (similar to Bard’s chimes), and respawn after a window of regrowth. Their spawn points are fairly restricted for early game, making sure they can’t have too much impact on early gank routes or invades. We also ensure that plants have extremely strict rules around fairness: teams should have balanced access to each plant that shows up in the game. Plants also telegraph themselves to ensure players have adequate windows to adapt, showing up as a seedling 30 seconds before they can be used.

One plant we decided was ripe with opportunity very early was the Blast Cone. Look, a plant!

Imagine it as a universal Ziggs satchel, throwing all units away from the center point when attacked. These can provide some dramatic jukes or be used to throw an enemy where they don’t want to be. They are also frequently used to allow champions without dashes to hop over key walls and, yes, they spawn behind dragon and Baron Nashor pits.

In development, it also became clear that Plants had a lot of overlap with Smite Rewards, but with much better visibility, mastery and impact across game time. However, We wanted to ensure that Junglers still kept the meaningful difference when it came to jungle routes and being able to optimize the jungle to different goals. The result was changes to the jungle camps themselves to better express the strengths of different types of junglers. That gives us a lever to support a wider range of junglers at the same time, which Smite Rewards struggled with throughout their lifetime. More details about the camps that are changing in the near future.

We moved the interesting tactical reactive power of Red Buff smite into Smite itself, as well as the new restorative Honeyfruit that spawn in the river. This one’s totally designer art, so don’t expect the explosion of oranges when these show up on Summoner’s Rift.

We also found ourselves missing the vision tools of Raptor Buff, and brought those into the Scryer’s Bloom.

Think of this plant like a magic dandelion filled with Hawkshots, revealing champions and wards in a large cone. So while Smite buffs won’t be on our buff bars in Season 2017, I’m confident the best moments they provided will still be in our games.

That said, we are trying some really new things with plants. We’re committed to making sure that they both land well, but also that they have the space to flower into a great addition to the game. We might make significant changes as the plants take root, to things like where they spawn, what they do, and how often you interact with them.

Hope this helps give everyone a better idea of where we’re going with plants, but feel free to leaf any comments below if you still have questions!

Excited? Reluctant to accept the new changes? Comment below!

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