On October 16th, Legend of Runeterra's Live Design Lead, Steve "RubinZoo" Rubin, visited Alanzq's Twitch stream. After Alan asked him a question about landmarks, he started fielding general questions from Alanzq's chat creating an impromptu Q&A session. Topics included underplayed champions, design principles, insight into how balance patches are made, and confirmation of upcoming nerfs to Lee Sin and Make it Rain (spoiler: Steve doesn't confirm the exact nature or ETA of those changes).
Below is an abridged summary of his comments, lightly edited for spelling and formatting.
- Star Spring is certainly really strong.
On landmarks taking up a unit space:
- We considered [not having them take up a unit space], it's unfortunately REALLY hard to do since we have to change our entire UI and such.
- At the moment, it's probably not going to happen. But, I think it's something to consider for the future.
- If they didn't take a slot on the board the timing of the round start/end effects would be much more static. Which would be another benefit.
On landmark removal:
- Each Region will have a landmark removal spell once Call of the Mountain is fully released.
- There are 4 now for 4 regions, and there will be 4 more for the remaining 4 next release.
Lee Sin & Ionia
- We've got a change locked in already.
On whether it will be the right adjustments:
- I hope so, but we try to retain most of the card's strength post nerf.
On Ionia as a region:
- Ionia was struggling before the Lee Sin changes happened, which was part of the reason we did that.
- Lee change was actually exciting since we thought that put Ionia in more of the spell combat type space which it clearly wants to be but wasn't ever good enough.
- I think [Ionia's former identity as a control region] was more of a result of Karma/Will of Ionia being overtuned instead of deliberate. After those cards moved up in mana I think Ionia lost its control role a bit.
- I'm currently working on some potential Vladimir adjustments, no promises though (most of our changes we try out don't end up going through).
- Vlad just has some fundamental issues with his archetype - I doubt any change will magically fix that, unfortunately. The change will be focused on better usability.
- I bet I could hit Rank 1 with Vlad, LOL -- but yeah his archetype needs some help.
- Vladimir is a bit tough since his archetype has a ton of cards, but fundamentally damaging your own units is bad.
- I've got some small QOL plans for him but nothing major.
Regarding supporting followers:
- This is one of the reasons that archetype champs like Vlad are hard to balance. For instance, when Crimson Disciple was 2 damage she was just played in all sorts of non-Vlad decks.
Other Unrepresented Champions
- Taric is really tough to crack. You need him in play, an ally to support, the attack token, and some mana and spell in hand to use. Makes him really hard to use.
- He's got the same problem as all "attack" champions (Taric, Vlad, Lulu). They all have the same flaws when it comes to competitive viability.
- Katarina is a bit tougher [to balance], since when she's good she creates deterministic play patterns/wins that are rather unhealthy.
- We've actually had Katarina L2 at 3 mana. Unfortunately, the play pattern is just a bit toxic and unexciting - since it the rest of the game you just pump mana into only playing her.
- I think Fizz is super strong honestly. A few seasons ago I was rinsing people with TF/Fizz.
- One and two mana champions are REALLY hard to balance without them just being [overly powerful].
- The Bastion buff was to help out Taric, Heimerdinger, and such -- but it went a BIT haywire unfortunately.
- Given the timeframe we had to make the [Patch 1.12] change, it was a bit hard for us to [revert the +1/+1 effect].
- I do really like the proactive casting of Bastion a lot, but the card was a bit overtuned.
- In general, protection and pump spells are MUCH better than removal in our game.
- There are a ton of design reasons for that. The biggest ones being allowing champions to be in play multiple turns (no other CCGs do this) and have proactive based gameplay where you get rewarded for attacking and making plays.
- Champions in LoR are actually allowed to bend the region rules. That's why cards like Thresh can have challenger, or why Lux can be so spell oriented in Demacia.
- There will eventually be rotation, but nothing we're talking about right now.
- I'd bet that given we're planning on having 6 seasonal tournaments each year (one for each season) that we might change the structure over time to improve it.
About aggressively buffing cards in the near future:
- With seasonal tournaments upcoming we're trying to be a bit more careful.
Regarding formats with sideboards in the future:
- We're open to other tournament formats -- but a single deck with side decks is not really something we've designed for.
On how long it takes to incorporate a change into a patch:
- We generally have to lock in our changes 2-4 weeks ahead of time. There are a lot of reasons for this, checking for bugs, localizing the text in 20+ languages, confirmation with Apple and Google Play stores.
- That said, one of the biggest things we need is changes that are a much faster loop.
- I'm working on getting us better tech for it, but nothing immediate in that regard.
- Any change needs to be inline with champions, regions, their already existing VFX and VO -- etc.
- We actually want to get back to 1-month patches, since we're a bit behind on stuff. But generally, we lock in changes 2-3 weeks ahead of time.
About how balance is decided:
- We use data, like winrates and playrates. Though we've been moving more away from it.
- Our more successful patches sometimes are when I sort of play the meta and balance like a player (with data and design chops to back it up).
- We care a bit more about underperforming regions than overperforming ones because for gameplay health.
- We say we're data-informed, not data-driven. Otherwise, a robot would replace me.
- We do think that buffing is better than nerfing for metas. Though we have seen changes like Basilisk Rider and Bastion go a bit haywire.
- When we buff a card, it's likely going to become a meta card a decent amount of the time since even bad cards are close to good.
Bilgewater & Make It Rain
- Bilgewater has been strong for sure.
- We've got an upcoming change to Make it Rain along with Lee Sin to try and settle the meta down a bit.
- Bilgewater has many many good cards, and if we nerfed some others will replace them.
- Bilgewater champions are CRACKED -- Miss Fortune, Gangplank, and Twisted Fate are all just so strong compared to baseline
- I think the new Aurelion Sol "Smooth Move" emote is the new MVP.
On in-match chat with your opponent:
- No, in my experience chat is used negatively 90%+ of the time.
- I actually think the emote system is working out surprisingly well.
Regarding emotes' correlation to win/loss ratios:
- Sad Poro emote is the lowest winrate in the game, and Miss Fortune "Gotcha" emote is the highest winrate in the game.
- MF is so high because players only use it when they are casting a lethal spell or attack -- it's got like a 90% winrate.
Those are the highlights; you can replay Alanzq's stream and read the full conversation. A big thanks to Steve Rubin for taking his personal time to engage with fans.