Patch notes for League of Legends' 4.20 update have landed so we've been having a peek at
what's new. Spoiler: it involves a terrified river crab, laser turrets and a reworked vision of Summoner's Rift and its jungle.
The guiding principle for the entire patch is "strategic diversity" which is a phrase which sounds great but risks being meaningless without some swift contextualising. What it boils down to is that Riot want to offer greater variety to players in terms of how matches unfold. At the moment you might boot up LoL and have a fun game, but there's a good chance the next few games will play out in a similar way. In that case you rapidly lose the desire to experiment.
Traditionally, Riot explain, their strategy had been to nerf or buff specific heroes, trying to fix tactical problem areas. The updates for 4.20 are being set up to "add a Death Star's control room worth of levers to pull and push if balance does end up off". In plainspeak: there are now lots of points in the game where Riot can make little tweaks which alter the game without punishing players who happen to like a particular hero.
You can find out more about that in the patch rundown videos and the EXTENSIVE patch notes Riot has produced themselves – including the aforementioned crab (a new objective which grants vision outside the Baron or Dragon pit), laser turrets (all your base are belong to a laser party company) and the jungle.
None of that stuff comes as a surprise – Riot has been pretty open about those ideas for a while now - especially the jungle focus - and we covered them in our LoL panel article amongst others. The thing which was new to my eyes and which I'm really interested in is "End of Game Gifting". It seems to tie in with the work Riot have been doing on improving player behaviour and offers the ability to send gifts to enemies or allies via the post-game lobby.
On launch the feature will let you send other players mystery gift skins, mystery gift champions, skins for the champion the player was just playing with, or the champion they were playing with if it was a free rotation champ and they didn't actually own it. The gifts cost the same as they would in the regular store and it seems like a neat way for other players to reward super positive play.
I'm wondering how many times it will actually end up being used. For me, a thank you to a particularly lovely/entertaining opponent or ally would be worth small change. That's because I find it hard to imagine a situation where I'd rate another player's contribution to the game – no matter how positive – as worth a couple of pounds but plenty where I'd throw something to the value of 50p their way. I guess it depends whether Riot envision this being a rare and special reward, whether the rest of the player base is just more generous than I am, or whether they might end up tweaking it to encompass cheaper options in the future.
Understandably, given the goodwill compenent, end of game gifts are non-refundable. Man, can you imagine the kerfuffle that could have caused?