These posts will often contain talk about future work we’re doing, or planning to do, that isn’t yet guaranteed to ship. The work or goals could change depending on what we discover, and projects mentioned may get delayed or even stopped. That said, I believe it’s important to share as much as we can even if plans may change.
Champion Gameplay Discovery Process
One of, if not the most difficult parts of gameplay design for a new champion is figuring out the high level direction in the early stages of development. These early decisions will affect the eventual possibilities and overall potential that the champion can achieve. Additionally, with a blank canvas comes the extra paralysis and indecision from the infinite possibilities.
To help guide this early process, we have developed a simple framework that asks four key questions. If all of these questions are answered successfully, we have a good direction that we can move forward with.
- Does your direction open a door to new gameplay spaces?
- In a game of over 150 champions, each one needs to bring something new to the gameplay possibilities of League.
- Is your theme resonant with the intended playerbase?
- It’s critical that the theme matches the expectations and aspirations of the intended player. If we’re making a deadly assassin but have themed it as a fluffy duckling, there is a mismatch between the gameplay and theme.
- Does your gameplay hook deliver on the theme?
- For the game designers specifically, we want to check early on that our gameplay direction matches and enhances the chosen theme.
- Does your gameplay direction have room to be satisfying and healthy?
- There are many small facets of excellent champion design, but at the early stage we focus on these critical two. Will this gameplay lead to a satisfying playstyle that keeps players coming back? Does this direction degrade the gameplay of League by removing strategy, interaction, or counterplay? Sometimes there can still be counterplay issues introduced later in development, but this is a check to avoid fundamental problems at the initial direction.
On top of this framework, we have recently adopted an 8-week process that both helps us capture a wide range of potential options but also find a direction in a reasonable amount of time and not spin our wheels. This process is for a single gameplay designer, who is designing and prototyping throughout using our internal tools:
- Brainstorm widely with the larger team all possible exciting ideas that could fit the high level goals for the champ. Evaluate and review with the team leads which are our 3 most promising ideas.
- Week 1-2
- Prototype direction 1 and learn as much as we can about its potential (answer the 4 questions above)
- Week 3-4
- Prototype direction 2 and learn as much as we can about its potential
- Week 5-6
- Prototype direction 3 and learn as much as we can about its…
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