Hi there! Tahalden here with the next installment of The 6 Design Values.
The next design value on the table is Evolution. League has been around for almost five years, and to be fair… nowadays it’s nowhere near the same as back in 2009 upon release. The number of champions has tripled, the graphics have been upgraded multiple times, and the strategic depth is greater than ever. The game is evolving and Riot actively pursues this in their design.
Looking at the champion roster, Lucian identifies a lot with the idea of evolution in terms of game design. How does this work? What about Lucian’s rework can be understood in terms of game evolution?
Let’s dive in. Welcome to Design 101!
(Artwork by kkako)
League of Legends is a continuously evolving game that is here to stay, for years to come. That’s a pretty big statement to make by a company as young as Riot. Seeing their booming growth and their race to keep up with the ever-growing player base baffles many. Will they succeed? Many people wonder if League is indeed here to stay for the long haul.
Riot ensures the continued development, or Evolution, of League by following a few rules in everything they do:
- Active Mitigation: If something becomes too dominant or, as they say, ‘overpowered,’ they will tackle the issue as thoroughly as possible.
- Targeted Problem Solving: Analysis goes into a troublesome champion or strategy before nerfing/reworking it. This may take some time!
- Trial and Error: Changes to an unhealthy play pattern may appear vastly unexpected. If a rework fails, reverse or change it through iteration.
- Patience: When a new champion or rework enters the League, let it simmer for a bit. Players require time to learn something new.
- Community Interaction: A change or rework is always pitched to the masses for feedback. The designers realize they cannot know everything.
- Modernization: League is about five years old by now. To keep up with competitors, it will have to continue increasing its quality standard.
“Players and designers are both a part of the League of Legends experience and evolution doesn’t come through inaction. Our commitment to evolution means we can keep League healthy and dynamic over a number of years. Mistakes will be made along the way, but with player feedback and consistent iteration, we can create a constantly improving, ever-evolving game.”
RiotMorello | Dev Blog: The Design Values of League of Legends
All this applies to champions as well as macro strategies. To name a few examples…
- As discussed in a previous part of this series, the Skarner double rework showcases what happens if a champion loses its identity in a rework. Skarner was revisited after player feedback and gave him back the stickiness he was known for.
- The addition of jungle timers to the game was controversial. We’ve already gone over the topic, and it is a great example of Riot modernizing their game. They are identifying what skill means in League and do away with any unnecessary book-keeping.
- The gradual changes to turrets and value of Dragon have addressed the dominance of lane swaps in professional play. It has taken quite a few iterations for Riot to get it right, but they’ve reached a balanced state where both lane swaps and normal lane match-ups are viable depending on the adapted team composition.
- We covered Lee Sin as well, because the champion embodies the concept of Mastery. It takes a lot of time to be able to dominate games with him. As time has progressed, many players have mastered Lee, making him essentially too good at too many roles. Riot wanted to tackle him earlier, but the community did not feel the mini-rework — so it was axed. Eventually, Lee Sin did see some changes to bring his power level down a bit.
- Visual upgrade of Summoner’s Rift, anyone?
League is evolving. Through continued updates and balance changes, Riot keeps the game fresh and challenging. This ties directly into the concept of Mastery, through which League requires players to evolve along with it. Players have to continue learning new strategies and champions to remain competitive.
Every change Riot makes brings out a legion of vigilant critics. If anything, Riot has the greatest source of feedback from vocal players who will not hesitate to call out the disadvantages of any given change. Sometimes though, we should simply trust in Riot.
A great example of this is the marksman prodigy, Lucian.
Lucian Offers Nothing To A Team, They Said
When Lucian was first launched, almost no one expected him to be played competitively. He is one of the few champions in the game — and the only marksman! — that offers no crowd control at all. From a first impression…
- … his damage seemed to be subpar.
- … his ultimate did not appear to be useful.
- … his double-shot mechanic was difficult to use in lane because he ran out of mana extremely fast.
Lucian didn’t seem to offer anything to a team except damage.
That makes Lucian the post child of a champion that needed some time for players to pick him up. Especially this Season, as efficient wave clear became more and more important (Ziggs has been a priority pick for over a year) — and Lucian’s ultimate provided exactly that. Moreover, Lucian could go toe-to-toe with an old favorite among marksmen. Caitlyn was the go-to AD carry for fast turret pushes. Lucian could match her at that, owing to his double-shot. He could also deal with her insane auto-attack range in lane, in case of a straight match-up, thanks to his long-range poke, primarily under the form of Piercing Light.
So people started to work around Lucian’s lack of CC for exactly that reason. And… actually, his damage output and harass ended up being surprisingly high.
Out of nowhere came Lucian to dominate the marksman scene for a whole Split-and-a-half. Even though Caitlyn fell out of favor somewhere along the way — the fast turret push was not as prominent anymore — Lucian stuck around, and players valued him for two niches that he filled: mobility and safety.
Something had to be done about Lucian, but it took a while. He did offer interesting gameplay both for his team and his opponents, and was amusing to watch. Nevertheless, a near 100% pick or ban rate should be dealt with.
Rework: RIP Lucian, They Said
Essentially, Lucian’s rework was aimed at decreasing his safety, while increasing his mobility. This is where Evo-lucian (Oh yes, I went there) as a design value comes in: Lucian ended up filling two different niches. He became too dominant and fit into any team composition. At this point, you have to make a choice: Which niche do you drop when reworking Lucian?
Riot chose to push Lucian deeper into the mobility niche in Patch 4.12. This makes sense because there aren’t a lot of marksmen that can quickly hop around the battlefield (Hi, Ezreal). But this came at a cost. His identity as one of the, if not the, safest marksmen had to give. That’s why Lucian’s auto-attack range was reduced to 500 from 550, forcing him to put himself more in danger to join a fight.
(Taken from Reddit)
This is huge. It might look like just a small range reduction, but relative to the other marksmen, Lucian went from being ‘normal’ range, to ‘short’ range — on the level of Sivir and Kog’Maw (without Bio-Arcane Barrage). In other words, most other marksmen can out-range Lucian. This is immensely important in team fights, as well as during the laning phase!
In addition to his auto-attack range Relentless Pursuit, Lucian’s dash ability, was changed significantly as well:
- Addition of an attack-timer reset
- No more mana costs across the board
- Reduced cooldown at lower ranks
- Cooldown reduces with every hit by the passive, Spellslinger
This turned out to be… interesting. Difficult to explain in words, so let me introduce to you: Lucian Bolt.
The changes resulted in Lucian being a little bit overcompensated for his range reduction. Patch 4.13 corrected for this misstep by increasing the cooldown on Relentless Pursuit and removing the slow removal, which was still part of the ability. The reason was, strictly speaking, because of a lack of counterplay for the opposing team. Slows can help to catch a hyper-mobile marksman, but if he can just shrug them off every few seconds…
What the rework did do though, is define a new niche: the hyper-mobile marksman. Lucian in the above video is pretty amazing to watch, albeit a bit overpowered. The changes in Patch 4.13 did remedy some of the issues while maintaining this new identity of Lucian.
So in the end, Lucian evolved from a no-CC, high-damage marksman into the safest marksman during this Season, and was then pushed into the hyper-mobile marksman niche with significantly lower safety. This is how somewhat experimental changes can result into new roles and new reasons to pick certain champions. This is how League continues to evolve!
Post-Rework Lucian Is Still A Thing
So what about Lucian’s item builds? There’s three main routes you can follow, each making use of one of Lucian’s unique abilities. Keep in mind, Lucian’s rework came at the same time as the marksman itemization rework.
- Super Hyper-Mobile Lucian: One of the first builds to be popularized was Youmuu’s Ghostblade into Blade of the Ruined King. This makes Lucian even more mobile, turning him into an awesome kiter and chaser. Note that Ghostblade’s active synergizes amazingly with The Culling! This item build has a great mid-game power spike.
- Duelist Lucian: The new classic build on marksmen of Infinity Edge into Statikk Shiv works wonders on Lucian, thanks to his double-shot passive. Crits for the damage and Shiv’s passive along with Spellslinger, Piercing Light and Ardent Blaze provides a lot of burst. This is typically the slowest build because you’ll want Last Whisper for the armor penetration as well.
- Sieger Lucian: An interesting adaptation is a focus on pure AD for turret damage through Bloodthirster (and a support Janna). Lucian’s passive allows him to melt turrets early on, heightened by the AD bonus from Janna’s Eye of the Storm. Follow up with a Trinity Force for the Sheen procs on the turrets as well! Provides extra safety in team fights through Bloodthirster’s passive shield, but typically less damage output onto champions.
Follow up these builds with your choice of armor penetration, %-health damage or a defensive item depending on the game situation. Always adapt on the fly! Never follow builds blindly.
Finally, consider Ionian Boots of Lucidity for boots of choice rather than Berserker’s Greaves. With Lucian’s higher focus on mobility, as well as his double-shot mechanic, he scales a lot better with cooldown reduction than with attack speed.
League of Legends is an evolving game. Balance changes, new champions, graphical updates, increased strategical depth…they all contribute to making sure League is here to stay for years to come.
The unique combination of Spellslinger, Piercing Light, Relenting Pursuit and The Culling made up a champion that happened to fit well into the early 2014 Season meta. He could deal with the then-dominant Caitlyn in the fast turret-push meta. Even after Caitlyn fell out of favor, Lucian stuck around as the go-to safe-as-well-as-mobile marksman pick. His dominance in the bot lane eventually led to a rework to give him a few more weaknesses.
That weakness was primarily a reduced auto-attack range and safety. Many players expected Lucian to disappear from the scene, but boy, were they wrong. The new hyper-mobile Lucian rose a few percent in win/loss ratio in the live game and appeared to have been overcompensated for his range nerf. A follow-up patch tackled this by axing his slow removal and increasing Relentless Pursuit’s cooldown.
The rework did create a new niche, that of the hyper-mobile marksman. Ezreal already sort of filled this role, but not quite the same way as Lucian does now. This is how experimental changes can lead to interesting, unexpected results allowing League to continue evolving.
Do you like Lucian’s mini-rework? Which champion do you think has moved on from an old role into a new specific niche successfully? Drop a comment below!
An expression of gratitude to Denise for providing the splash arts to these articles, and to Fridgecake and Valkyrie for their editing work!
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