Baron Nashor might be getting a roommate, deceased wards will stick around on the map and the League of Legends marksman role will be getting an overhaul. Those are just some of the gameplay changes set to appear in LoL's beta environment over the coming months according to the game developers at Riot.
Let's take a look:
The World Championship final on 31 October marks the end of the professional League of Legends [official site] season. Once the confetti cannons have fired their glittery load the game enters the off-season/pre-season period. That's the few months of pro scene downtime* between Worlds finishing and the regular seasons starting up again where it's a bit easier to roll out bigger changes or spend a while playing with ideas in the Public Beta Environment and asking for feedback. The devs are holding off on releasing hugely detailed info for this pre-season so as not to distract from finals but there's a short-ish devblog which outlines some gameplay intentions.
Key points (and some responses)
- Riot put this point last but WHATEVER. Under the section heading "The Rift Herald" there looks to be a weird purple one-eyed monster in the Baron pit. Having typed that out it might sound like a sex thing. I swear it isn't.
- Riot is focusing on the idea that each choice in a game – from character to itemization to mastery – will be meaningful and lend itself to a unique experience. They've had that as a guiding design principle for a while now. It's what the Juggernaut changes were about earlier this year, when League tinkered with its tanky melee champs. Now half a dozen marksmen are up for a tweak:
- At the moment, masteries are a set of three progression trees. Adding points strategically lets you access particular bonuses further down the line. Once you've levelled your LoL profile up to 30 you'll have the full 30 points to spend on these progressions – there's a bunch more information about how masteries work in this interview with the caster Riv but currently they look as friendly and approachable as this:
- Stealth wards (the green ones) will be vanishing from the shop (like, actually vanishing, not just being stealthy). They're not vanishing from the game, just the shop. That means teams being more reliant on wards via trinkets (trinkets occupy a different space than your regular inventory items and instead of you buying a fixed number, their availability is determined by a cooldown timer.
- There's also a bit of attention being paid to starting items and building in that diversity and curation of playstyle from the start. Sure you'll still pick up a Doran's ring or blade or nail clippers or whatnot but then you're supposed to to specialise instead of defaulting to health and mana pots.
To explain, there's a river that slices the Summoner's Rift map in half. At the bottom on the south side there's a pit where dragon which spawns 2:30 mins into the game. If you take it down another one spawns after 6 minutes. At the top of the river on the north side is another pit. This is where Baron Nashor spawns 20:00 mins into the game.
That pit is basically empty real estate for half the match and a lot of the early game action/team fighting can end up taking place around the bottom lane and dragon.
"Details are still being sussed out, but expect to meet something new on Summoner’s Rift in the early phases of the game. Defeat it, and gain single target buff focused on early game power and pushing down the lane."
From the animation they posted it looks like maybe Baron Nashor has put his pit on AirBnB and has a fellow monster lease the area while Baron is away on early game business.
"Through the years, marksmen have lacked meaningful differences, with their identities typically centered on the same thing: do lots of damage from range. In cases like these, if you’re being judged on only one competition (damage), you get a pretty obvious power ranking with no real roster depth."
As a result the devs will be pulling out six champions (Corki, Miss Fortune, Graves, Caitlyn, Kog'Maw, and Quinn) and working to give them some meaningful differentiation. On a straightforward(ish) level that means giving a different feel to their basic attacks to personalise them. But in terms of how the heroes themselves work, I expect an overhaul or tweak of their actual skillsets as we got with the Juggernaut update. The intention is that your choice of marksman should affect how the rest of your team plays to incorporate them.
Relatedly, marksmen-relevant items will also be getting a bit of a rework with the same idea in mind. What you buy will be more closely tied to your playstyle and the objectives you need to take in a particular game.
The new approach looks to be all about unlocking tiers from those three trees and picking a bunch of options from within them instead of pursuing a granular unlock progression. Tier one will be pleasant but not game-changing, tier two are a bit punchier and tier three are the "Keystone Masteries" which should have a noticeable effect on your playstyle.
"We’re still experimenting in this space, but an example would be a keystone mastery that lets your damaging abilities also bleed enemy champions for a portion of your bonus AD and AP over time. Or one that grants a movement speed boost the moment you deal a large chunk of damage to an enemy champion."
To me that feels like acknowledging that there were spikes at the 20/21 point mark of the trees but stripping out the busywork of getting there. You might feel differently – I'm really not a fan of the runes and masteries side of LoL.
This is the part I'm really interested in, though:
"we’re also adding a new feature in ward ‘debris’ when a ward passes on. By giving you the ability to see the dead bodies of wards who’ve moved on with their lives, you’ll be able to learn more about your opponent’s vision habits as well as your own."
Basically you can build up a kind of warding heat map as the game progresses to see where your opponent likes to ward. From the wording it sounds like you'll get the debris whether the ward was actively destroyed or if it just timed out. As a long-suffering support the idea of anything that gives people more understanding of how warding and de-warding work sounds ace.
From there, we expanded your options to provide a few more ‘specialized’ approaches, like Cull - a light skirmishing AD starting item that provides less defensive stats than Doran’s Blade, but gives bonus gold for killing a set number of minions.
To stop people ignoring this and slurping on pots regardless, health potions are being made pricier and mana pots are actually being removed. the intention being to "better balance champion ability costs with the mana regeneration stat while also streamlining the ‘sustain game’ of League." If you're looking for sustain, those refillable crystalline flasks will be where it's at.
1. This is all Public Beta Environment stuff so all of it, none of it or some of it may come to pass. It might also change form a LOT over the coming months.
2. The devblog also makes the point - in bold, no less - that there will be things to say on subjects other than gameplay so while I'm curious about this stuff, I'm also keeping in mind that there might be broader changes to consider or which could affect the game.
3. Not really a caveat but I've started sketching out a screenplay about Baron Nashor and his weird lodger.
*Except for the All-Star event in December which I guess you can think of as a fan-focused muck up day while the regular season and Worlds are like term-time and BIG SCARY EXAM TIME.