In a recent conversation between Gamasutra’s Leigh Alexander và Ubisoft Blue Byte’s Teut Weidmann, the games industry consultant warned away other designers from mimicking Riot’s monetization strategies for League of Legends. His point about the company’s monetization through reach is a valid one, albeit not one I want to discuss — at least not yet. Rather, I want to focus on this particular quote:

They release a champion that is always, always overpowered. So the people who pay for the game buy the champion immediately… và then Riot will go in và slowly devalue the price of the previous champion they released.

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See, Weidmann is wrong. Sort of. Not all new champions are overpowered (or OP), not mechanically any way. But each new additional character does create the behavior and appearance of a terribly unbalanced champion. The illusion of a huge advantage is real, even if the actual strength of a new champion is negligibly higher than traditionally played characters.

Take Yasuo as a good example. Released December of last year, this sword-swinging samurai was a disruptive sầu force to lớn League of Legends. His wind wall that blocks incoming projectiles, at the time, was devastating khổng lồ players who relied on characters dishing out long-ranged poke. His Steel Tempest strike was difficult khổng lồ predict and his ultimate, which does damage lớn a huge group of players while essentially disabling them during a fight, was devastating. Internet forums were full of the cry, “Yasuo OP!”


Yasuo’s Last Breath delivers a sudden flurry of blows.

Eventually, consistent League of Legkết thúc players learned to lớn react. Keen mid-laners learned khổng lồ sidestep Yasuo’s tempest, bait out a useless windwall, and avoid grouping together when vulnerable lớn knock-ups. It is not uncommon to see Yasuo largely shut down in games, which is especially devastating for teams who essentially build a composition around his particular kit. Those still struggling to lớn learn the ropes against hyên ổn when playing ranked simply ban him. The world has calmed down a bit and the balance outrage — at least targeted towards Yasuo — has calmed down significantly.

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Now yes, I recognize that some champions, especially in certain metas, are certainly stronger than others. But when this is the case, the relative sầu advantage provided to the vast majority of players is negligible. Bans aside, League of Legends is a reactive sầu game. Those who can adapt on the fly tover to thrive and this includes adapting khổng lồ svào foes in-game. For the largest swatch of players, those nowhere near skilled enough to play the game professionally, familiarity with a champion almost always trumps champion strength.

Even so, players around the world for any competitive sầu game will continue to overblow the relative sầu strength (& occasionally the relative sầu weaknesses) of newly released characters, classes, và items. Ingenuous kiến thiết creates the illusion of overpowered champions. Even if a br& new champion were perfectly balanced, that quality is essentially invisible. Players look lớn exploit the disruptive nature of new champions, not to win and đại bại lớn the extent that feels “just about right.”

We need to banish the idea of objective balance because (and this is true for all competitive sầu games) the sensation of balance is as much defined by player perception as it is by design. I don’t mean this lớn undermine the value of skilled developers striving to lớn achieve game balance goals. Aiming at that lofty perfection is admirable. Rather (& I think most designers would eđến this thought), game balance is a process, not a location. It is a kiến thiết concept that sits upon the shifting sands of player perception and behavior. In that way, balance inevitably becomes a conversation between designers và players. Thinking of it in any other way, especially as a monetization carrot, is a lie.

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Gnar, a fuzzy, little rodent, joined League of Legends yesterday. He brings with hyên ổn a fresh anger mechanic and an unpredictable tendency lớn transform himself & the battles around hyên ổn. I think it’s safe to lớn say, “Gnar OP!” Will he stay that way? Of course not. We learn, we move on, và we become better designers và players together.