It is also possible to examine specific unit and item building combinations. However, there are some things Wu can’t quite do with current tools, like how players fare with particular openers.
To compensate for this fact, Mortdog and Wu both said that it is important for them to play TFT often and at a high level. Mortdog played 120 games on patch 11.23 and reached the rank of master, the first 0.5% of all players. Mortdog said he felt he needed to play so badly due to the unrealistic expectations he was setting for himself.
âI feel like every minute I play the game I need to understand it better,â Mortdog said. “If my rank is not high enough, then the players will not listen to me and will think that [a TFT pro] know more about the game.
This data and experience comes in handy in situations like Katarina’s in patch 11.23, when players think part of the game is out of place but the balancing team isn’t so sure. Wu can check the data to see that while Katarina was strong, Trundle actually won more often. Mortdog can think back to his many games and realize that while Katarina deserves a nerf, they don’t need to beat her numbers just to satisfy a handful of gamers who can’t see the big picture of the same situation.
âThe data shows it to be also high, but our gut feeling says no,â Mortdog said. “But even though we think it’s a bad decision in the long run, we probably must have nerfed Katarina.”
When in doubt, the balancing team can also simply use software to simulate fights between any type of board. Designers just plug in the right units and elements and start the trick.
Then, they can test the spectrum of optimal to sub-optimal elements, the positioning or star levels of champions. Wu simulates specific fights four times, making sure that random outliers don’t affect the results.
However, Wu stressed that the purpose of this process is to check if the compositions meet the expectations of the team and, if not, to identify what stands out.
âThis tool is not good for gauging the power of a mockup because it doesn’t take into account the cost of a mockup or how we get into the mockup,â Wu said. âThe way is not clear. Some builds are harder to hit and some are easier, but none of that is taken into account.
Simulations are also a great place for the balancing team to test possible solutions to the problems they identify. But in order to do that, the team must first decide on the right approach.
As Mortdog and Wu go through the massive list of changes for the 11.24 patch cycle, they often come up with clever ideas to fix issues on the spot. At one point, they come to one of the 140+ Hextech Augments in the set, Duet, who doesn’t see the game in the current meta. He adds a second spotlight to the board which improves the champion who stands there when the Socialite trait is active.
“What if, as an alternative, we had three worldly hexes instead of two?” Wu asked.
âWell let’s take that logical line,â Mortdog said. “What if we had eight?” Would it even be good?
âWell that would be exciting,â Wu said.
The actual change they landed on was simpler – giving bonus health on top of damage to ensure champions can use special hexes without needing any items. It’s a way for the live balance team to dance around the issue of weighing fun against balance. While the fiercest gamers in the game clamor for consistent consistency, the wisdom of the developers knows what gamers really want.
âThere’s a dirty little secret here,â Mortdog said. “If you were to ask gamers what’s the most fun they’ve ever had playing TFT, I’d bet 90% of them would name something insanely OP.”
According to Mortdog, it can be nice to be bad. Playing Warwick during the infamous “Warweek” patch gave players a great time until the hangover set in after a few days. However, that doesn’t mean the team would let things escalate just for the fun of it. The balance team has a measure by which it lives.
âIf that happened in the TFT final, would we be okay? “
Knowing where to draw this line and what crosses it, however, requires experience. Wu said the team created basic percentages that they use to adjust the game’s numbers based on how broken they are after going through so many changes. But those adjustments wouldn’t be possible without another lesson that the team now makes a priority: including balancing levers on various aspects of TFT.
Like leverage in real life, these numbers exist in TFT so the balancing team can push them forward or pull them out when something goes wrong. As an example, the team recently added leverage to the Gold Collector, one of Ornn’s artifacts that players can potentially get with a certain raise. Previously, the element read, “The wearer executes enemies with less than 10% health on impact. Kills during PvP turns generate 1 gold.
Now, even though the item hadn’t reached a problem state when the balancing team made this decision, they changed Gold Collector so that it has a 100% chance of spawning gold for every run. . This functionally kept it the same, but if the item got too powerful, the team could change that chance to get gold and bring it back online.
The other reason levers matter is that these numbers are the only thing the balancing team can adjust until a patch goes live. Larger changes, those that require tooltip rewriting, should be finalized just a few days after the team’s first meeting on a given fix. This is to ensure that Riot Games has time to localize all of the text so that players can enjoy it in a variety of languages.
Simply put, levers can save the game. After all, once the “location lock” had passed, the balancing team was grateful that they finally made this change to the Gold Collector.
âIt’s time to pull the lever on the Collector,â Mortdog said at that subsequent balancing meeting. “Thank goodness we put that lever in there, because fuck it, this object is crazy.” “