Riot dev explains one thing League community gets wrong about balance changes

Andrew Amos
Cafe Cuties GwenRiot Games

League of Legends players love to give their two cents on the balance changes Riot pushes forward in the MOBA. However there’s one thing the community always gets wrong, a top developer says, that makes their job much harder.

If you go into the replies of any Rioter’s tweets, you’ll be able to find a handful of players pitching any number of balance changes. A rework for their favorite champion, a slight adjustment to specific systems, or asking for more Zeri nerfs ⁠— there are always complaints about the state of the game.

However, with more than 160 champions it’s impossible to get a “perfect meta” that’ll please all the players. Even with the changes Riot makes, the community often pushes back in how they’ll affect the meta.

While Riot does a good job of getting most balancing changes right, they have gone catastrophically wrong in the past. Most recently there have been teething issues post the durability update with champions like Nilah, Sivir, and Master Yi having incredible win rates at one time or another.

The community sometimes says they can do it better, but according to League of Legends lead designer Matt ‘Phroxzon’ Leung-Harrison, there’s a couple of things they get wrong about how to balance the game.

“I think the community has no idea, at all, how difficult game design is,” he explained on a podcast earlier in August. “Just think about the number of permutations and combinations of every possible thing. Not only do we have to think about these things, we have to think about them ahead of time.”

“Let’s say you’re making an item. You have to think about how that item is used on every possible champion and rune combination, in any team comp ⁠— and that’s just how it’s optimized. That’s not talking about the design quality of the thing: Is the thing satisfying when you press a button, is it intuitive, does it have counterplay? All of those esoteric values that the community doesn’t consider.”

Nilah in League of LegendsRiot Games
While sometimes Riot gets League’s balance wrong, developers feel players don’t appreciate how difficult it is to get right.

When Riot tease their patches ahead of time and put things in testing on PBE, they do it with a general idea of what effect it’ll have on the game. Phroxzon claims Riot gets it ‘right’ around 70-80% of the time ⁠— that’s within 1% win rate of their prediction.

The community loves to talk a big game, but no one really draws a line in the sand about any changes, and that’s because it’s such a difficult thing to do.

“It’s very difficult to predict balance changes ahead of time,” he continued. “You get really good at predicting what the outcome is going to be. We will predict what the outcome is going to be for every skill bracket, and we’re quite accurate I’ll say.

“These things are really hard to estimate. There’s so many moving parts. There could be item changes going in the patch, there could be champion interactions, or play rate could increase which will decrease win rate. If more players play it, there’s probably more new players and that changes the way the win rates play out. There’s a lot of factors involved.”