With the upcoming release of League of Legends: Dominion, we wanted to take a moment to give you an inside look at the design process that went into building the new game mode. To that end, we thought it might be interesting to touch base with some of the Designers who were instrumental in making Dominion a reality to ask them about some of the challenges the faced adapting capture-and-hold gameplay into the MOBA game space.
Riot: We're here with Colt and Siyang, two of the Game Designers responsible for helping to bring League of Legends: Dominion from concept to reality. Why don't you take a moment to introduce yourselves, and tell us a little about your role on the project?
Issfire: I am Siyang. I am known as Issfire on the forums. I'm an Associate Game Designer on Dominion. I joined the Dominion project pretty early on, and I've been doing a multitude of different things, from map editing and level design, to game mechanics design, to lots and lots of iteration.
Ezreal: Hi, my name is Colt Hallam. I'm also known as Ezreal on the forums. I'm a Gameplay Designer on Dominion, primarily focused on adding features and gameplay that will really bring the players back. Things like runes, summoner spells and items for the new game type. I was also involved in making sure that all the capture points are different.
Riot: So what were some of the major aspects of capture-and-hold style gameplay that you wanted to bring to League of Legends, and what were some of the challenges that you faced taking the existing champions from Classic gameplay and bringing them to this new dynamic?
Ezreal: We really wanted to make sure all of the champions from League of Legends could perform a role - and in fact the same role that they played on Summoner's Rift - when we brought them into this capture-and-hold dynamic. So while designing the map we made an effort to ensure that a player could play a pushing champion to push a lane and actually capture a command point.
So we basically came up with four different class names. We called them: the Assault Class, which are those champions who are going to go in on a point and try and capture it; the Defender, or someone like Rammus who will be able to hang onto a point even in the face of insurmountable odds; the Pusher, or someone like Soraka, who will be able to push with lanes and other champions; and the Ninja, or someone like Teemo or Kassadin who can run very quickly behind enemy lines and capture a point before anyone can stop them.
Issfire: Also, we wanted the core capture mechanic when you're channeling to really enable the tactical gameplay. For example, being able to interrupt channeling with an attack actually adds a lot of tactical gameplay to the process of capturing. Before we had this interrupt, the capture gameplay element was very weak. What that led to was the duelist champions like Jax becoming overpowered because it was all about fighting people and not really about trying to capture the point by channeling.
Ezreal: We also tried to make sure that we didn't add any barriers to entry for new players, or even for existing players who thought that they already knew the way that the game worked on Summoner's Rift. For instance, there was a pretty problematic case with ranged DPS feeling a little bit weak because they'd end up going into this rather large jungle without vision and getting jumped on by Jax or Warwick. So what we ended up doing was implementing new items that would help these ranged DPS be able survive and thrive on Dominion.
Riot: What are some of the ways that the Dominion project evolved over the course of its development? What were some of the major hurdles that you ran into, and how did you move past those through creative design solutions?
Issfire: We started the project with a very, very simple idea. We wanted a kind of capture-and-hold map in League of Legends. What we didn't know at the time, though, was what it actually meant to have a capture-and-hold game within a MOBA. We started out by getting some inspiration from other game types, like first person shooters. There were a lot of things to learn from that; there were a lot of differences.
For instance, every player in a first person shooter has essentially the same capabilities. You basically can fire a gun, right? And if you head-shot somebody you kill the person. There is no similar concept in League of Legends. You might have a support character or a pusher or a nuker.
So we actually had to redefine what it meant to do capture-and-hold within League of Legends, and we established quite a few things throughout the project. We knew that we had to make sure that every champion had a role, be it pushing champions to capture points or be it that they were a really good ninja who could sprint really fast across the map to capture points.
Ezreal: We needed to be able to create a kind of baseline, fun game at the very beginning by solidifying the initial gameplay. We decided very early on, for instance, that we wanted to have minions in our game type because minions are a really core, fundamental part of Summoner's Rift.
We started off with the normal, Summoner's Rift style minions, but they weren't very fun. So one day, we just decided to try making the minions super, super powerful. We tripled their damage values in the first playtest, and suddenly minions were killing champions and pushing points on their own.
For a moment we thought, "Oh my god, what have we done?!" And then we realized that it had worked! Minions felt impactful. This was exactly what we needed; we just needed to scale the numbers back a little bit.
Riot: One of the more major shifts from Classic to Dominion is the reduced game length. What were the major decision-making factors that went into the reduced game time?
Ezreal: We essentially just decided that this was something that players would get a lot of use out of. I've talked to a lot of my buddies from college, and they were always saying: "Hey, I love League of Legends, but I really want to get in that one more game right before my next class starts."
So we decided to make a game type that will last on average maybe 18 to 20 minutes, and if it's a really epic battle, it might go up to 25 minutes. We basically just did it for the players to make sure that they were able to play on their lunch breaks and things like that.
Issfire: And a lot of the designers, we looked at Summoner's Rift - which is currently the most popular game mode - and we thought about what it was that we didn't like about that. A lot of it came down to the slower, more methodical gameplay at the beginning. While this was a fun part of the Classic gameplay, we decided that we wanted Dominion to be a much more aggressive game mode. We didn't want the emphasis to be on farming for the first part of the game before you start getting into a team battle. And you actually see that very clearly in Dominion.
In Dominion, you get out the door, and within the first 30 seconds you get into a team fight! We found that to be a lot of fun, so we took a step back and decided what would spice that up even further. Because here we were, fighting with level one skills! It felt really lackluster and very un-impactful. So we thought about giving people more gold and giving people more levels! And that really spiced things up for those early team fights.
Riot: Alright, thank you both for taking the time to talk with us and for share your experiences working on Dominion!