Quick Gameplay Thoughts: Feb 26
Item Choice Deep Dive.
Today we’re talking about items, MMR, and how we think about role strength throughout the game.
Also, please send us all your questions! It’s the only thing that makes the editor smile.
While we try to avoid removing items that players love, sometimes they violate certain principles which require them to be either removed or reworked. Items in the new season were typically reworked or removed if:
Despite being very, very gold efficient, Rod of Ages was only used by a handful of champions due to its stat profile (Anivia, Twisted Fate, Ryze, Singed, etc.). Notably, it left out manaless champions like Mordekaiser, Rumble, Akali, and others who’d be interested in a hybrid damage/durability/healing option. It was also too powerful for the champs who wanted it to consider other options.
We actually tested several versions of Rod of Ages as a Mythic item, such as featuring a transformation mechanic and cool unique passive like Seraph's/Muramana. However, when balanced, users felt like they were irrelevant for too long while waiting for their Mythic item to scale, and it was a mandatory purchase for champions that wanted to scale (rather than a choice). This ultimately violated two of the principles for Mythic items that we were aiming for—satisfaction and choice.
The Rod of Ages Mythic iterations eventually became Riftmaker, which opened up the healing/durability niche for manaless champions. Mana users looking to prioritize survival should be able to situationally purchase Everfrost, although that item has been underpowered and is receiving buffs in the next patch or two.
PhRoXzOn, Game Designer, Summoners Rift Team
We’ve discussed this a few times, and the reasons we’ve stated still hold true today. MMR is basically the current estimation of your skill—and for it to be accurate, it will at times over or underestimate your abilities. If you’re only watching MMR, losses can feel like the game telling you you’re getting worse, when the truth is just that the system was intentionally testing you against tougher opponents and learning how to match you more accurately.
By adapting MMR into Rank, players progress through the system via Tier and Division milestones that put more focus on long-term growth than the result of any one game in isolation. One isolated loss won't knock you out of a rank, and one isolated win won't promote you into the next—your performance over time is ultimately what impacts your displayed Rank. This system also lets us include things like demotion protection, which keeps you from being overly punished for a streak of losses at an unfortunate time.
We’re going to keep working on ways to make both the Rank and MMR systems feel smooth and accurate, but we don’t want to make either system do a job it wasn’t designed to do.
Riot IAmWalrus, Lead Competitive Gameplay Designer
The goal is for each role to feel like it can meaningfully change the outcome of a match. Due to the shape of the map (dragons spawn earlier and are bot, Baron spawns later and is top, mid lane can roam to other lanes, etc.), exact parity at all points in the game isn’t something we strive for. In fact, we think unique power curves are a good thing. Slight advantages and disadvantages in power at different times make for a wider range of decisions and strategic elements to consider.
Likewise, different roles do and should index differently as to what kind of strengths they are bringing to a match. A support undoubtedly has less 1v1 combat power than a midlaner, but they often set the vision up for a battlefield and the utility in their kits becomes critically important as the game goes on. Put another way, they have less direct combat power so they get to index higher in strategic capabilities.
In addition to having some variance in power between roles, we find power-over-time is a healthy way to diversify the feeling of our champion classes. For instance, Marksmen have some pretty clear distinctions between early game bullies (Draven, Caitlyn) and late game hyperscaling champions (Vayne, Kog’maw). This helps players pick a style they enjoy or one that fits the team they’re trying to create.
For the Marksman item changes in preseason, we thought their late-game-skewed power curve was slightly too sharp. This led to situations where games ended before they could reach and make use of their power spike. So we changed Marksman items to allow them to spike earlier, which was more to match the reality of the games than to sync them with other roles. That directionally has seemed like an improvement, but we still intend to keep their power curve skewed toward late game overall.
Riot Sotere, Senior Game Designer, Summoner’s Rift Team