Limited Design Space in League of Legends

Apr 13, 2016
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Last week I discussed limited design space in Hearthstone. With card games it is often very easy to see examples of limited design space, but the examples are very important nonetheless. In strategy games, MOBAs especially, it can be very difficult to understand limited design space restrictions. However, this does not mean that they are not there, and I’ll talk about a few examples in League.

The Problem Champ

The most problematic champion that has been released, in terms of future development, is Kalista. Kalista has a fundamentally broken ability in that she can jump an infinite number of times for no mana. The jumps can be increased or decreased based on her attack speed and move speed, but no matter what items she has, she will always be able to jump. This is a huge problem for not only future development, but current champions as well. Her ability to jump makes an entire class of champions useless against her. A level one Kalista with only boots can simply beat quite a few champions at level 18 on the merits of her jump alone. Champions like Garen can never catch her because even with his speed up, he can only hit her one time, maximum, before she continues to jump away.

Kalista

What this means is that every single champion created since Kalista is forced to have a way to combat her jumping. Whether that is with hard lockdown like Tahm Kench, or being ranged, or dashing abilities, every champion must have some way to combat her or simply not see play. The problem simply compounds itself, as all of these champions are released that can deal with Kalista, suddenly they are too good at dealing with ADCs, and the ADCs need a rework to stay relevant – see the pre-season six ADC reworks. This also means that immobile champions who used to exist or have been released since are simply being dominated, not only by Kalista but by all of the champions released or reworked. Since every champion has a dash, hard CC, a knockback, or is simply ranged, champions like Singed have completely fallen off the playable radar.

The Other Problem Champ

The issue with Kalista is that she can jump infinitely regardless of items. She has a fundamentally broken ability, so no matter how much she is nerfed she will always have the potential to completely snowball games. She isn’t the only one that has these inherently broken abilities. Another huge issue is Yasuo. Not only does he have near infinite dashes, he also has a windwall. To reiterate the issue, a level one Yasuo is able to block every single ability from a level 18 Lux with twenty kills. Very little skill involved in casting it, simply an ability that is broken at every point in the game.

Yasuo

Yasuo’s windwall causes certain champions to simply not see play, for fear of his presence in the game. Champions like Lux and Vel’Koz and even the recently released Aurelian Sol have so many issues with Yasuo’s basic kit that playing them has become a liability. It also means that every champion meant to go mid lane must have ways to combat Yasuo moving forwards.

TANKS!

To combat a lot of the other problematic champions, Riot decided that tanks should be able to deal lots of damage. Well, when you deal a ton of damage and don’t die, you bully out most other champions. A ton of top laners got reworks that allowed them to tank and deal damage very effectively, pushing out all top laners who can’t combat such insane strength. Even Ekko has begun to build tanky, because it has no downsides. Champions such as Riven, who used to dominate top lane, have fallen due to the simple fact that they can’t kill the unkillable.

A List of Losers

There are a whole subset of champions that have fallen into oblivion because of the way that every champion released is incredibly strong to combat other broken champions. Champions that used to be not only viable, but incredibly strong in their hay-day.

Singed is the best example. Back in Season Three, Singed was one of the top picks in the game. He was so strong that he could easily win games alone, and was often banned. Now, although his win rate is fairly even, his popularity is a shockingly low 1.3%.

Yorick used to be the safest top laner in the game with his ability to heal and slow opponents, as well as his ability to push people out of lane with his ghouls. But everyone else has gotten stronger and more versatile, and his win rate has fallen to an abysmal 45.8%, with an equally poor 0.7% pick rate. The old kings of top lane simply can’t stand against all of the reworked monsters that are coming out to combat other fundamentally broken champions.

Veigar’s rework was really good and he saw a ton of play for a while. But when your ultimate gets stopped by a Yasuo windwall or a Zed ultimate, there’s not much you can do. Win rate: 46%, pick rate: 3.2%. Veigar is yet another mage to fall by the side of the road with the AD mid laners combined with the Zhonyas nerf.

Olaf’s rework was pretty necessary, he had been sitting at the lowest win rate in the game for over a year. They buffed a bunch of stuff during the rework, and he returned to his 1v1 god status. Except that he can’t catch anyone, his only speed bonus is his ultimate, and it’s not a big bonus. He regained his status as one of the worst champions in the game. Win rate: 46%, pick rate: 3.2%.

Rumble: no movement abilities, gets crushed by reworked top laners. Illaoi: same problem. Orianna: no movement abilities, dies to AD mid laners. Cassiopea: same problem. Corki: lost out in the ADC reworks, can’t combat their new strength. Karthus: no lane to go where he doesn’t get dominated by insane top champs or crazy ADC mid laners. Kennen: same problem. Galio: building a ton of magic resist doesn’t matter much when the mid laners are all AD.

The list goes on and on. Creating fundamentally broken champions has led to a series of new champions to combat them, which leads to new champions to combat them, etcetera. Meanwhile, the champions who don’t get reworks, or simply can’t have a million movement abilities added to their kit get left by the wayside to rot. Limiting design space is something that can be problematic in all games, and League of Legends is certainly feeling the repercussions of the issue.

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Stephen Draper
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Stephen has a degree in English from Brock University. He grew up playing video games and card games, always having an affection for strategy. He picked up League of Legends in early Season One and has since achieved Diamond rank multiple times. He also picked up Hearthstone in Beta and has since achieved Legend consistently. When he isn’t reading, writing, or gaming, he’s probably watching other people game.
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