Ask Riot: Haz keys, no haz bugs please?

By Calisker, Ostrichbeernana

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Up for this week: Key Fragments, skin bugs, and what happened to the all-around champions?

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You guys make some fantastic skins! I love seeing all the artwork you are putting out. However, I do not understand why your skins sometimes create "game breaking bugs" (such as the Dark Star Thresh). From a design standpoint, aren't skins the visual (and audio) layers that wrap around the frames? Why would skins cause programmatic bugs?

Thank you! We are happy to hear you’re enjoying skins.

To answer your question, it is understandable you might think of skins as something that wouldn’t cause bugs, but I’d like to share with you how and why skins have a serious technical layer behind their fun facade. In some simple cases, where we make artwork or sound replacements in a skin, it is unlikely for there to be any serious bugs as a result of adding the new skin. But the artists and designers often go far beyond such simple changes to create more compelling skins.

A closer analogy might be to think of your favorite champion as an old-school video game console and when you change skins, you are plugging in different program ‘cartridges’ that feature their own artwork, sound, visual effects and game logic. A skin *executes* on the game engine, and there is a lot going on behind the scenes with many interactions between different systems. The visual effects system, in particular, is typically simulating and drawing many thousands of particles each frame.

The concept for a new skin may require custom design scripting and visual effects. Parts of the champion may be entirely substituted with effects for a skin (e.g., Arclight Velkoz’s tentacles, DJ Sona's hair and Dark Star Thresh's lantern). Completely new features are even added to the game engine just so that the creative vision for a particular skin can be realized. Our skins team is consistently trying to push their limits.

Given all that, the way a skin is authored can cause bugs or create a poor experience. Sometimes the logic for a specific skin will have a problem in a particular case, or the visual effects can become too complex and noticeably slow down the game.

Most errors are discovered and fixed before we release to our public beta environment (PBE) and there, our testers and all of you playing on PBE put a lot of effort into uncovering any game breaking issues before they make it out to a live patch. Occasionally, some bugs slip through the cracks and we evaluate and patch them as necessary.


Riot seems to like to balance and rework champs so that they fill a specific and unique niche, but what about champs that can do anything well? (Like Kayle, or pre-AD-nerf-Kennen, and Udyr's jungle shenanigans.) Is League moving away from all-rounder type champs or do they still have a place?

We're definitely moving away from all-rounder type champions. This isn't to say that champions need to do only one or two things,or be limited to only one role or position, but they do need strong strengths and weaknesses. One of the goals we strive for when designing or updating champions is to ensure they have 4 things:

  • Unique Inputs (the Champion feels unique to play)
  • Unique Outputs (the Champion feels unique to play with/or against for the other 9 people)
  • Defined Strengths
  • Defined Weaknesses

"All-rounder" type champions don't pass the last two categories (and usually also don't do well on the first two either). We ultimately feel the game is better, has deeper gameplay, and is ultimately more enjoyable when champions have strong strengths and weaknesses people can play around.

-FeralPony- Senior Game Designer

How does the key fragment drop rate work? Will you ever add a way to achieve a key or key fragments?

This is how the current tuning of the drop rate works:

  • It is possible to earn enough key fragments to open every chest you find in 4 week period.
  • You have to win to earn a key fragment. Performance does not factor into the drop rate outside of this.
    • You can earn key fragments in any mode that yields champion mastery points.
  • The drops are somewhat based on luck, but it’s weighted such that after a certain number of wins if you didn’t get a fragment we’ll just force a drop to avoid being screwed by RNG.
  • Getting enough keys to open 4 chests in a 4 week period is hard and requires a lot of play, but anybody can do it if they play enough.
  • We don’t have any plans to add additional ways to get key fragments atm, but it’s something we may do in the future.

-Riot Socrates- Lead Game Designer

Please feel free to hit us up in the comments. Each of the Rioters who answered will do their best to engage in a conversation with you.

2 years ago

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