Another year, another bout of League of Legends funnel strategies. First discovered in China and Korea, an interaction between some of the MOBA‘s new jungle and mid items sees the solo laner take jungle summoner Smite and switch intermittently with their jungler.
As part of the major jungle overhaul in League of Legends preseason 2023, players can now venture into the great unknown with an all-new jungle companion. The starting item for each Pokemon-style pet, however, is what’s causing the interaction between mid and jungle.
When you buy one of the new jungle starter items, you are given 40 treats for your companion. When you kill a large monster, you get bonus treats, which in turn gives your character 50 gold. If the mid laner buys and then then sells the jungle starter item, they can take advantage of the treats stacking and the cash flowing.
As the game moves on, the mid laner can then switch with the jungler and start farming their camps, earning an extra 50 gold for ever monster killed because of the treats stacking. This is demonstrated in Rainbow Flavour’s video below.
Players have been quick to voice their complaints about this on the game’s dedicated subreddit, prompting a response from Riot Games’ gameplay analyst Ray ‘RayYongii’ Williams. “This is known and we have mitigating tactics in mind,” they write, going on to clarify “to refer to your point about testing, no we didn’t test funnel extensively.”
This may come as a bit of a surprise, especially how game-breaking and straight up annoying these strats can be when they pop up – and they do so semi-frequently. “We spend a majority of the preseason dev time on tuning the game for the 99.9%, and when a niche abuse case pops up (like funnel) we ensure we have the levers to fix it when it does.
“Rather than spend time inefficiently anticipating, testing, and mitigating these strategies pre-ship, we instead observe preseason and make adjustments at 5% the cost.”
This, as you can imagine, isn’t exactly what players wanted to hear. The idea that Riot isn’t bullet-proofing its updates before they go out has been read as lazy by some within the community, with one fan shooting back “so we are unpaid beta testers then?”
“That is one way of interpreting,” Williams replies. “The other way is that we run a live service game that balances around player trends and metas, and spending time trying to anticipate the player behaviour of millions of unique users will never result in the same quality of game for players as reacting to the feedback they are giving.
“It’s a balancing act. We do plenty of internal testing but testing funnel (played by 0.001% of players) vs testing a common pick (played in 5% of games) is an easy decision.”
Another fan clarifies that funnel here isn’t the problem, it’s the item interaction itself. Unfortunately, it turns out Riot hasn’t tested for this, either. “Yeah to be fair with the cookies, they went through a LOT of code changes (to fix bugs) which introduced functionality pretty late in testing that we weren’t aware of,” Williams comments.
“Intuitively I (like you) would expect zero cookies without Smite so I never tested it personally or asked someone about it, but at any time that could have been inadvertently added and nobody checked. That’s how these bugs (and therefore exploitative gameplay patterns) hit live.”
Reassuring fans that “but, just like how we talk about it now, it’s very easily fixable,” at least the treats have now been flagged.
I can see two sides of this debate. Of course, things will slip through the cracks, however given that the issue with the treats is pretty significant and they’re now a huge part of the game, it’s probably worth trying to exhaust every angle possible before pushing live. I’m not a game developer, of course, and I understand that nothing can be perfect, but this seems like a pretty huge exploit to me.
Hopefully Riot sorts this one out soon, but in the meantime be sure to get ahead of the curve with the League of Legends 12.22 patch notes. You can also check out how much you’ve spent on League of Legends – but then again, this funnel strat is probably depressing enough, isn’t it?