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Soraka & Season 4 updates

By Feanor - 10th September 2013 - 11:04 AM

Morello revealed a big part about how they want to change Soraka. He also lifted a tip about their goals for Season 4 and Xelnath explained a lot of those changes. Game changing information, be sure to not fall behind in knowledge!

Morello about Soraka
Soraka is a tough subject. I might have to do this half-way on this post, but let's break down Soraka a little to understand a bit of where she is and where her problems lie;

Soraka's core design is a classic dedicated healer. The issue here is most fully explained in another post about why Dedicated Healers are a design trap in competitive games. Starting here is a good place.
We really need a dev blog up where I can have this sort of information readily available for people!

This is specific to Soraka - Janna is a different issue of raw power. Let's look closely at Soraka and what the problem is: mechanics that heal aren't problematic, dedicated healers are. "What, why?" Glad you asked!

In order to be satisfying and impactful, characters whose job it is to heal need to be able to "erase damage" effectively with healing at a decent clip. If they can't, they feel useless most of the time while they wait for long cooldowns or do other offensive actions (which is counter to why you'd make a dedicated healer in the first place!). If DPS outclips the healing in the usual situations, they also end up feeling ineffective and weak, meaning that the healing-per-second also needs to be powerful. Finally, you're not getting the natural satisfaction of things like CC or kills, so it has to be provided in watching health bars rise and saving friends.

OK, sure, so what's the problem with that?

The problem with that is the type of gameplay that surrounds it for not only the opponents, but for allies and even the healer. By removing a big consequence for actions (damage and attrition-over-time), you remove one of the primary axis for overcoming opponents in any non-burst scenario - especially with the combat pacing in lane or when posturing for objectives like Baron or Dragon. This creates a situation where it's not useful for characters to engage in harass, poke or other non-lethal actions since it will basically be a waste of time, energy and resources. Additionally, since a healer can't provide much else to secure a kill (other than +time), the friendly is also at a disadvantage for trying to secure kills or create windows of opportunities to capitalize on.

The natural counter to sustain is burst. While that does make it counterable, I'll point to Guild Wars 1, WoW PvP, TF2 or other games that feature significant dedicated healers into how that ends up changing the game into something much more single-dimensional from a strategy and options standpoint. I'll also point directly to how bottom lane plays out whenever Soraka's a top 3 pick (hint: extremely passively and even more farm-heavy, sans ganks).

So, even if I can accept that, does that mean there's no character who should heal an ally?

No - the key is here in pacing. I think the really good versions of this are the Heal Summoner spell and Wish. These skills have very long cooldowns and huge effects, but their healing-per-second is really poor. This means they're used for heroic saves, clever baits, and can turn the tide of a battle, while still having a good range of counters and a significant opportunity cost. The worst heal I could design would be a 1 second cooldown heal that did a hot for 1 second - it only sustains and can never be used in an active or dire situation effectively.

Another option that I like is hybridization. Nidalee is my favorite example here, because even if her heals isn't the best-feeling skill in the world, it's still useful, and she can derive satisfaction through poke, zone control or kills as well, lessening the burden her heal needs to carry from a fun and power perspective. Nidalee is a shape-changer with a heal, as opposed to someone who just heals.

Again, this may not make people who like the red-bars-go-up style feel much better, (and as a lot of us play MMOs or other games with these characters, there's an attachment to feeling helpful there, for sure) but I think it's important to make sure you guys at least understand our position and reasoning, even if you don't agree.

So, then, with that in mind what should be done? Truth be told, I'm unsure. What do you guys think, understanding the different considerations on healers we have for League?

Season 4 updates
Now, let's put this thread on a good note; let me tell you two must-haves for Season 4 to ship successfully in my mind;

We're going to significantly improve, and ultimately fix, jungle and support gold flow. I feel this is one of the most painful areas of League, and one that can be fixed. A lot of the satisfaction in League is growing in power over time, getting items, and transitioning from early to late game with items. It's definitely a problem that 2/5 of players don't get to do this.

Season 4 changes will address this problem, and very likely throw balance into a tailspin for preseason. Eggs, omelettes, etc. We'll work hard to get that fleshed out and tuned before S4 starts properly.

Wards and the map vision system need to be overhauled. This is part-and-parcel with the above as Support gold largely suffers due to ward gold burden, but there are a multitude of other problems like snowballing, few real interesting ward decision-making opportunities, and few people involved with the vision game. Details have to wait, but the new system will address these issues.

Xelnath's response:
These two systems have been the major project that Xypherous and I have been working on for the last 3-4 months. This has been a huge effort, in terms of collecting data, experimenting and generally playing mad scientist while attempting to preserve the core of what makes Summoner's Rift fun.

There's four huge topics here:
  • Jungle gold income
  • Support gold income
  • Support expenditures on warding
  • The effects of using wards to gain vision
Trying to hit all 4 cohesively in one point is madness, however, they are all HIGHLY interconnected. So while this thread is about the overlap between all four, expect to see breakout threads from myself or other designers discussing each topic individually to gather focused feedback.

For this post, I want to talk about the relationship between support income, warding and the problems these two systems are causing with each other:

What are the issues?

  • Supports are expected to not last hit, thus gaining no income
  • Supports are expected to shoulder most of the gold burden for purchasing wards
  • Supports are expected to roam the map and ward
  • Supports are expected to buy expensive activated items
  • Supports are expected to be effective without gold revenue
  • Supports are often tied to the Marksman carry
  • Supports never get to achieve an endgame fantasy due to losing all of their income to vision expenditures
  • Wards are necessary to protect the sanctity of laneing from persistent Jungler aggression
  • Wards are necessary to observe important locations and objective
  • Wards cost gold, from the character least equipped to afford them
  • Wards are the only option for revealing a specific area to move forward safely
  • Wards used in the previously mentioned way linger for a long time (3 minutes!!)
  • Wards are so important, players feel entitled to having the map warded without contributing
Wow! This is a lot!!

No kidding. This is not a small set of problems. So to kick off this discussion, help me out:
  • What do you think are the problems with support income?
  • How much gold do you think supports need over the course of a 50 minute game (hint: I know the answer, but tell me what you think...)
  • If we were to give more gold to supports, in what kind of situations would you expect to be getting more gold?
  • How do we get other players to recognize the power of wards and the vision they provide?
  • Are all wards too powerful? Are just pink wards too powerful?
  • Should the lowest income character shoulder the highest consumable expenditures in the game?
  • Are the expectations on a support player too high?
So to summarize:
  • You guys generally agree its unfair that supports both earn less and spend more
  • Think it might be fair if they earned equal amounts as laners but spent more on wards (relative to laners)
  • Are concerned that even if income was fixed, supports would still spend 100% of gold on wards
  • Feel that there's not enough interactions in the warding system right now
  • Believe we should look into ways to let non-supports get some vision in a way that doesn't restrict their item builds