Dev Blog: SR’s gameplay updates

By RiotNome
The update to Summoner’s Rift aspires to improve the game without changing your moment-to-moment gameplay. These iterations share a common goal: to level up the gameplay of Summoner’s Rift through mechanical design, gameplay balance or clarity. Without further ado, let’s check up on the Rift.
Richard "RiotNome" Liu

Terrain Changes

Before we started, we knew that preserving the map's navigation mesh would be our first design priority. The nav-mesh determines what’s pathable terrain, as opposed to what’s, well, just terrain. However, as we built in assets and matched them to the mesh we discovered a host of inconsistencies, particularly in the north jungle. On the current map, the nav-mesh barely matches the visual edges of the walls and hanging edges obscure vision where they shouldn’t. For this update we did a comprehensive pass, ensuring navigation now matches on each side and hanging edges are out of your ward’s way.

These issues weren’t exclusive to the jungle. If you’ve ever tried to dash through base walls, you’ve probably failed at some point. The issue here is twofold—not only does the visual of the wall not match the nav-mesh, but the thickness of the wall is different at various points throughout—and we do mean various. Even if the wall appears to be dashable at all points, the reality is much less consistent. With the Rift update, we’re working on a change to standardize base walls to be thin and dashable near the turrets and thicker between the turrets. This should mean that short-dash champions like Nidalee will be able to visually parse which walls are actually Pounce-able. We’ll be iterating on and testing this change while the map’s on PBE.


Game Camera

When we launched Howling Abyss, some savvy players noticed that the camera felt slightly different. Indeed, it was slightly zoomed out to give players a better view of the eponymous abyss and curb the surprise of long-rang skill shots. While we won’t be making a change nearly as drastic to the new Summoner’s Rift, we did find it a good opportunity to institute a few quality-of-life improvements to the camera.

Because the camera aims at the ground plane at an angle, the viewing area is in the shape of an isosceles trapezoid, not a rectangle. This means players see more at the upper end of the screen than at the lower end, resulting in some undesirable parity issues based on whether threats are approaching from the top or bottom of the screen. In addition, the current field of view creates perspective distortion near the edges of the screen, resulting in subtly warped skill shots and targeting indicators.

For the new Summoner’s Rift, we’ve made adjustments to compensate. The field of view is decreased, but to compensate the camera itself was pulled further from the ground plane. This change balances the viewing area differentials between the top and bottom of the screen. For most, these changes will be barely perceptible, but we hope they provide a functional improvement in gameplay.


Game Clarity

Parallel to the development of SR’s update, we’ve been embracing the concept of game clarity for broader League of Legends. With competitive gaming gaining visibility, it’s become increasingly important to ensure that gameplay is readable for players and spectators alike. After all, the game should be about player vs. player, not player vs. interface or player vs. art. This approach guided design and art decisions from day one, resulting in clarity gains that should make the new Rift more readable.

When it comes to clarity vs. visual fidelity, the two generally tend to have an inverse relationship—that is, the more visual bells and whistles you attach, the messier the game tends to appear. This effect is especially pronounced as we add more and more content. The umpteenth yordle needs to be diminutive like the rest of the species, but equally important is an identifiable silhouette in a lineup of another hundred-plus characters. With some of our older content, such as the much-beloved minions, we lucked out in terms of readability. They may not have legs, but their simple shapes mean they have a recognizable silhouette and lumber to their walk. That said, minions were long overdue for a visual update—and while they’re wonderfully readable, they need to be more than a marching triangle to match the new scenery. Happily, the new minions feature an increase in visual fidelity but maintain the low profile of their predecessors.

We’re aiming to depict all gameplay-impacting effects clearly and visually. This means that invulnerable turrets will be shielded, consecutive turret hits will make a bigger impact and the Fortification buff on turrets will be visualized! Some of these won’t make it in time for the PBE launch, but it’s all on our radar. Finally, check out these new epic monster health bars!


Epic Encounters

Speaking of epic monsters, when we started concept work on the fearsome boss duo of Summoner’s Rift, it became immediately apparent that their gameplay failed to match their new visuals. Their kits on live are rudimentary; Dragon has only a basic attack, while Baron’s spells lacked the physicality that makes a monster feel vicious and animated. The word encounter here is immensely important, because approaching what are effectively bosses as encounters is a fundamentally different approach. For example, Dragon on live has effectively no gameplay differences from a lesser monsters like the Wight, yet it plays a much more important role over the course of a game. The epic monsters of Summoner’s Rift should demand respect, project power and command attention—and players shouldn’t just be able to right-click them from a hundred to zero without further thought.

What followed was an exhaustive process of overhauling the technology, art, and design driving these formidable monsters. Tune in for a future dev blog focused exclusively on how these new encounters bring Summoner’s Rift to life!


2 months ago