Dev
/dev: Design Pillars of TFT

Mastery, playful competition, and discovery.

DevAuthorVolty
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Hey everyone! I'm Volty and I lead the game design team working on Teamfight Tactics. Welcome to our first designer dev blog!

As many of you have probably seen by now, Teamfight Tactics is our take on the autobattler genre that Dota Auto Chess inspired earlier this year, and we couldn’t be more excited to get it into your hands. Many of us fell in love with the genre when it first emerged, and like some of you, we couldn’t help but wonder what an autobattler based in the League of Legends multiverse could look like. Teamfight Tactics is the result! From drafting your favorite champions, optimizing their trait synergies, equipping them with items, and sending them into battle—there’s a lot we love about this game and we can’t wait to see what you think.

Teamfight Tactics (TFT) is easy to get into, but has tons of depth. I’m going to take some time today to talk about three of our TFT design pillars: mastery, playful competition, and discovery.

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Mastery

The experience of skill growth is one of the most appealing parts of playing TFT, and there are many skills you can master. Whether you’re playing the game for the hundredth time or the first, we want to ensure that you feel improvement and growth. Therefore, we wanted to support many areas of mastery when developing the game, and each of these has many sub-skills and points of mastery within:

Knowledge: You might emphasize drafting the most powerful champions, assembling complex and interlocking trait synergies, and equipping the best items. If so, you’ll need to hone your knowledge of these game elements through study and analysis.

Flexibility: You might play more improvisationally, remaining sensitive to what champions you are seeing in the draft, seizing opportunities that are presented, and building compositions flexibly. To do this, you’ll need an understanding of how the game works and an open mind to consider the best course of action in any situation. This is testing your flexibility.

Fortune: You might favor the refresh button, giving you a chance to high roll into powerful compositions early. You may be willing to risk a lot on preserving a win streak or finding the perfect item to complete a combo. These lines of play invoke tests of fortune—the skill of managing luck and unpredictable outcomes, both good and bad.

Perception: Perhaps you will study the moves of your opponents. TFT rewards your understanding of each match. Pay attention to what champions and strategies are left open and what builds your opponents are pursuing. Through careful perception, you can draft copies of open champions and build teams that counter the strengths of your opponents.

Speed: TFT is a complex game, with a lot to think about. Speed of judgment will allow you to gain an edge on opponents who hesitate and second-guess. Forging forward with confidence will give you the time you need to lay plans and anticipate next steps.

We’ve designed TFT to allow mastery growth across these domains. How you choose to play TFT changes which areas of mastery are emphasized, creating your own playstyle. We also felt it was important to de-emphasize some other skills so that these could really take center stage. For example, TFT won’t reward you for having the click accuracy to reach 300 CS, the reaction speed to flash out of skillshots, or the ability to coordinate with teammates. Mastery is foundational to the autobattler genre, and we’re excited about the approach we’ve taken.

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Playful Competition

So what’s unique about Teamfight Tactics? Beyond delivering a deep and rewarding game, TFT is also a shared experience—one that is competitive and challenging, but also interactive, social, and, well, playful! Playful competition is about fostering a joyful attitude toward your competitors and the game, taking the game seriously but also delighting in the shared spectacle of an autobattler.

Playful competition has motivated us to build several features into TFT. The first of these is paired matchmaking. In each round of TFT, you will be paired up with one of your opponents. One of you will journey though a swirling portal, along with your team, to visit the other player’s arena. That’s where you’ll fight a single battle, with one winner and one loser, for that round.

Paired matchmaking means that you share each round of combat with another player. When you witness Gnar knocking several champions into a Kennen ult, you’ll know someone else saw it too. If you sweep your opponent, you’ll know the damage you dealt to his life total mattered.

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We’re excited about players using Little Legends as their avatars in TFT. They have a ton of personality, and it’s awesome to see the variety that other players bring to the game when they enter your arena or you visit theirs. Players can activate animations like greet and dance, and also use emotes from League of Legends.

Another feature that really pushes playful competition is called shared draft, but it’s also been called the “carousel” by players. The way this works is that periodically everyone’s Little Legends are brought together on a single central island. There, ten champions are created in a rotating ring—and then players are released to run after and grab the best champion they can before others beat them to it. If it sounds crazy... it is! What’s more, we put an item on each champion to make the decision even more interesting.

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Shared draft creates a nexus of tough choices, player interaction, competition, and strategy. It’s somehow silly while also very nuanced—in highly-competitive games we’ve found the considerations that can factor into a shared draft to be surprisingly complex. Do you value this champion, or that item? Can you predict what other players will do? You’ll only have a few seconds to decide!

I hope this gives a sense of what playful competition means to us and how we’re realizing it within Teamfight Tactics.

Discovery and the Future of TFT

The last topic for today has to do with our attitude toward TFT and the future.

When you first play Teamfight Tactics, there will be 50 champions in the game. This is a good amount of champions to let us explore a bunch of familiar themes and make great autobattler gameplay. Since there are 144 (and counting!) champions in League, you might wonder whether you’ll get to see your favorite champ in TFT. In short—we want to bring more champions to TFT in the future.

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The plan is to do this in two ways. The first is by adding one or two champions to the game every patch or two. We’ll increase the number of champs in the game in this way until we get to around 60. This gradual addition of champions is valuable because it lets us regularly build upon a familiar game by introducing new options and strategies, which prolongs the experience of exploration and discovery. You might even have some ideas about what champions we might add based on the champions and traits that already exist.

The second way we’ll add more champs to TFT is more explosive. We believe that TFT is an experience that doesn’t just include discovery—it thrives on it. When you talk about the game, watch streamers, and read guides, you’re growing your mastery of the game, and often quickly. This period of rapid improvement is really enjoyable, and the mystery of not knowing what to expect, or even what’s possible, is very powerful.

We will use slow addition of champions to shake things up, but we think you’ll eventually get tired of seeing the same (or very similar) strategies used. You’ll get comfortable playing builds you know how to play. The metagame will become increasingly solved and matches could start to feel repetitive.

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The answer, we believe, is to periodically release new sets of champions. A new set features new champions and traits, and refreshes the potential for exploration and discovery. Our goal is to give you a fresh experience of Teamfight Tactics through a meaningfully different collection of mechanics and theme. You’ll have this experience while still applying what you’ve learned in previous sets—the rules of TFT and some of its content, like items, will be retained.

As developers, we value new chances to improve on our work by taking what we’ve learned about what you enjoy and what you don’t, and carrying it forward. With sets, we’re excited to do just that!

This brings me to my final point. Earlier I mentioned the League of Legends multiverse. There are nearly 1,000 skins in League. By tapping into this unbelievably creative and diverse selection, we can explore a huge variety of themes as we travel from one set to the next. For example, Yasuo appears in the first set as an Exile Blademaster, casting Steel Tempest in his base skin. In a later set, he could return as an Odyssey Reaver, casting Wind Wall with the skin to match.

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We’re just getting started with our launch set, and we’ve kept our theme pretty familiar to Summoner’s Rift and canonical League of Legends. With upcoming sets, we’re going to explore sections of the League multiverse, using amazing skins and skin lines, and fresh traits drawn from those themes. I hope you’re as excited as I am!



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