In a continuing effort to be more open, League of Legends developers Riot Games have started a new quarterly blog series titled “Riot Pls” that’s designed to tell players exactly what the two sides of development (content vs. technical) are up to. The first is a fascinating read whether you’re a player or no and gives a more in-depth view of development than we usually see.
In it Riot explains the problem of tech-debt, which I only recently discovered as a phrase via Greg Street’s ask.fm. He’s an ex-WoW now-League lead dev, incidentally, and one of the most interesting people I follow anywhere. Anyway, tech-debt (and its partner in crime, design-debt) is when, in this case, a game ends up using bad coding that isn’t appropriate for its playerbase because that code was designed and written before the consideration of a larger or different playerbase was made. On the design side, this is usually samey or poorly thought out additions, released out of a rush to get new content in place for a surprisingly ravenous competitive scene.
Similar to WoW’s old “at max we expect 300,000 players, total” story, League was designed with a steady playerbase of 20,000. It’s now at, er, 67 million accounts, so, you know – debt. “Paying it back” by implementing new systems is not only difficult, it’s a hard sell for players. Think of it from the design point of view – what’s more interesting, redesigns of old champions and items or totally new ones? What immediately feels like it has a bigger effect on the game? You can see some of this work starting to be done with the recently announced plans for juggernauts.
So what are they focusing on? On the systems side, they want a new client to be ready to begin public testing by the start of 2016. They also want to revamp how Ranked games are played, letting players choose what role they want before signing up as they current can in normal games. Elsewhere, the plan is to continue improving the way stories are told in the game, create a changing universe and support more events like the recently completed Bilgewater. There’s also, of course, the usual schedule of big patches, additions, buffs and nerfs.
The full post is well worth a read, no matter your interest in LoL. They also detail the areas of the game they’re deliberately putting on the back burner, including replays and sandbox mode.