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League of Legends champion designer explains Riot’s approach to choice

League of Legends

Riot continues its commendable efforts to make League of Legend’s continued development transparent. Earlier today, lead champion designer Andrei Van Roon broke down what Riot considers one of the key tenets of League of Legends and putting a beating on other people online, generally: meaningful choices

Van Roon reckons that its these choices that give PvP games depth. “The ability to make decisions that directly impact that state of the game is of absolute importance in driving satisfaction and mastery,” he says.

Choices can’t be meaningful without an understanding of what their consequences will be, according to the designer. “Without knowing (or at least being able to predict) what’s going to happen, a ‘choice’ of option basically becomes random. That’s not to say that the player needs to know every detail, or they need to see exactly how their decision will pan out – just enough to make an informed choice.”

On top of clarity, he says that making each choice feel different, with distinct results, and offering more than one solution is integral to making them meaningful.

There are instances, however, where Van Roon thinks that choice needs to be taken out of the equation. It’s not one size fits all. “Meaningful choice adds a lot to a game, but it’s not an essential part of every element. Skillshots or challenging combos, for example, can be satisfying skill tests for many, even if the correct play is the same every time. Additionally – and this is particularly true in story driven genres – plot, setting or character development can often justify a lack of choice.”

Van Roon admits there are times when Riot’s not provided meaningful choices when they should have. So the developer is looking to make improvements to several aspects of the MOBA, with an eye towards adding more of these choices.

Increasing the range of possible strategies in matches is one of the ways they are hoping to do this. “We’d like League of Legends to have a broader range of possible options when it comes to how teams try to win a game. While this does rely heavily on champion diversity to influence strategy, we hope for there to be many ways to close out a game – through objective control, split pushing, straight teamfighting, getting strategic picks on solitary enemies, and beyond.”

Making champions more distinct is another. Van Roon cites a couple of examples of champions who fill the same niche, making choosing between them a matter of which is more powerful rather than which has the skillset you want to use.

“Mundo and Shyvana do share a bit too similar a niche, with both being tanky fighters that deal AoE damage over an extended period of time as they try to wear down a target via movement speed. That’s not to say they’re bad champions or that there aren’t differences between them (one is better at long skirmishes, the other has superior initiation), but we can certainly be offering a more interesting choice between the two.”

Items could do with a bit of a change, too, he reckons. Some roles, says Van Roon, lack interesting options when it comes to itemisation, and Riot wants to boost the variety.

These aren’t the only places the developer is open to adding more meaningful choices. Summoner spells, maps, runes and masteries are all mentioned as aspects that might be looked at.

What do you lot think of the choices League of Legends offers?