League of Legends employs a wide variety of team and individual buffs to help facilitate fluid, engaging combat on both Summoner’s Rift and Twisted Treeline. However, with the advent of Dominion and the significant changes to combat and strategy that accompanied it, it became clear that these same neutral buffs wouldn’t be appropriate for advancing the gameplay objectives that we had in mind for the Crystal Scar.
As a result, the Design Team set about creating a brand new set of buffs better suited to encouraging the fast-paced gameplay of League of Legends: Dominion. These new buffs came in two forms: Shrines and Relics. Relics are consumable resources that yield an individual benefit and respawn at fixed intervals. Shrines, on the other hand, provide a short bonus to any champion who enters their sphere of influence.
In the beginning stages of Dominion’s gameplay, highly sustainable characters emerged as unusually dominant. Champions such as Garen, who are highly resistant to attrition, proved able to control portions of the map for extended periods of time. To help even the odds for other champions who lacked the same staying power, we placed Health Relics throughout the map to allow any combatant the ability to stay in the field through intelligent map control. Picking up one of the Health Relics scattered across the Crystal Scar provides your champion with an instant burst of health and mana, enabling you to keep pace with even the most sustainable opponent.
Adding these new buffs significantly leveled the playing field for champions without any deliberate anti-attrition mechanics and opened up the playing field for an increased pool of viable picks in the new game mode.
Another issue that we ran into during the initial development of League of Legends: Dominion was the profound importance of the Windmill capture point. Because this point was positioned equidistant between the two teams’ start locations, it became the natural point of contention once each side of the map had been claimed. While we wanted to the Windmill to be a focal point on the map to an extent, we also thought that it was important to avoid stalemates around this particular objective, as well as provide players with strategic options against a stronghold defense at this one point.
Therefore, to provide additional strategic options, we placed three Speed Shrines on the map. The locations of these Shrines were carefully selected to ensure that their clever use could equalize travel time between any two capture points on the Crystal Scar, whether you were moving from the Boneyard in the bottom left to the Refinery in the upper right, or just across to an adjacent point.
With the addition of Speed Shrines, players have significantly more strategic options whether they were confronted with a stalemate, or are simply looking to keep an opponent on their toes by launching a timing attack at a cross-map objective.
In addition to the Health Relics and Speed Shrines, we wanted to give players a more exciting neutral objective to fight over, as well as incentivize control over the center of the map. A long, drag out fight with a powerful neutral monster, however, didn’t make a whole lot of sense in the context of the fast-paced, champion-centric combat we were going for on the Crystal Scar. Additionally, while we wanted to give the center of the map of strategic significance, we didn’t want to make it so that control of this zone was more important to victory than any of the individual capture points.
Therefore, we opted to add a Greater Relic, dubbed Storm Shield, at the center of the map that would provide a strong, individual buff to allow players to break a potential stalemate without providing a significant advantage to every player on the team. Obtaining the Storm Shield equips a single champion with a personal shield and a periodic damage effect on their attacks and abilities. Additionally, Greater Relics are team specific and are picked up after a brief channel time. So while players are able to contest an enemy who is attempting to claim their team’s Greater Relic, they cannot in turn steal the enemy team’s buff for their own advantage.
Making Greater Relics team specific prevents one team from obtaining a snowballing lead through control of the powerful middle buffs, while maintaining their overall impact on gameplay.
The Big Picture
By stepping back and taking a more holistic look at the role that buffs played in Classic League of Legends, and the role that we’d like them to play in League of Legends: Dominion, we were able to produce a suite of new gameplay elements that helped us advance our objectives in the new game mode. The new Shrine and Relic systems ultimately proved much better suited to the faster pacing of Dominion, and the player-focused combat of the capture point gameplay.
We believe that these new systems were integral to helping us produce a balanced and engaging new experience that all League of Legends players, from the rookies to the veterans, will really enjoy playing.