It’s been a little over a month since Legends of Runeterra entered Open Beta, and we wanted to share thoughts on the state of our game: reflect on what we’ve seen, recap some feedback we’ve heard, and finally, share a bit about our priorities this year.
We released LoR into Open Beta early because we believed that was the best thing we could do for players. We launched with the intent to see what you discovered, found delightful, and found painful, and couldn’t wait to start the process of improving the game with the community. While we’ve learned a lot along the way, the overall response has been extremely positive, and we’re super glad we kicked off the journey with you this January!
Many of the thoughts Riot Games have about Legends of Runeterra are informed by more than the numbers—they come directly from players in communities across forums, social media, streams, and even DMs. It’s impossible to walk the floor at Riot without seeing a LoR stream on a monitor. They appreciate the early support and hope you see this article and continuous improvements to the game as a signal that they are listening and committed to improving the game with you.
Now, prepare for a deep dive—let’s get into it!
Their goal is to bring deep, interactive strategy to the genre through a combination of back-and-forth gameplay, indirect attacking, “skillshot” spells that provide reaction windows, and exciting champions that level up through smart play. All this, optimized for PC and mobile.
They have heard tons of positive feedback in this area, but also see some opportunities to do better.
- Champions: Champion level-ups are slick and champs often feel like their League counterpart, even down to obnoxiously-effective ones like Teemo and Ezreal. With the update to displaying champions at match start and whenever their level-up makes progress, champions are even more present and active throughout games.
- Interactive Strategy: The back and forth gameplay combined with fast and slow spells allow for lots of strategy and outplay moments; we’ll probably never get tired of screenshots like this:
The stuff we’re improving:
- Clarity: So far, they have improved clarity via card text and other updates, like the action log now including discarded cards. Given the huge combinatorial nature of the game, they suspect they will never be “done” here, and intend to continue improving clarity over time.
- In addition to card clarity, UI and Deckbuilder improvements are also top of mind. They have received a ton of feedback on the client, deckbuilder and collection management in particular, and they hear you about how annoying certain parts can be. They have already made some improvements (like updating the way deckbuilder shows card counts), and you can look forward to similar improvements for other parts of the general out-of-game experience over the course of the year, such as currency management and crafting cards and decks.
- The Timer: Getting timed-out round over round or due to a barrage of burst spells sucks. You can look forward to timer adjustments for burst spells in one of the next two patches.
- FPS Lock: Some players were disappointed when they discovered our FPS options. This was a feature we misjudged the value of, and a great example of the type of feedback they were excited to get by jumping into Open Beta earlier. They have added several FPS options in 0.9.0, so now players everywhere can warm themselves with the heat of their rigs.
- Animation speed and input blocking: Finally, In 0.9.1, we began reducing both animation time and input block-time for common actions like playing units, drawing, and start of round. Their priority is to make a game that is as much fun to interact with as it is to look at. Once this baseline is good, they will continue on to the more egregious single-card examples, while updating our internal guidelines to ensure these lessons get applied to new content too—no more multi-second chained axes from Draven.
They think that great card games offer endlessly interesting and interactive puzzles—chief among them a healthy metagame waiting to be cracked. From the beginning, they believed bringing the Riot “live service” mentality to bear would help keep LoR fresh and ever-evolving. Their strategies to accomplish this include:
- No bad cards, so even a modest initial card pool could yield lots of interesting decks.
- Monthly card updates that empower the developers to keep the meta healthy (and awesome to play) between sets.
- New cards and content to exponentially expand the possibilities of our mix-and-match deckbuilding.
- And finally, slow and steady progression, so the meta isn’t solved day one.
How they are Doing
Overall, they have been blown away by the variety of decks they have seen at all levels of play. It’s felt like there was a new “OP deck” meme each week: Dawnspeakers, Elusives, Fearsome… Elnuks?
But they also see room to improve. They focus on a few key indicators to inform their overall understanding and where they should look to make changes:
- Card play rate, especially Champions: As RubinZoo mentioned in the Patch 0.9.0 notes, their aspiration is that every card has a role and every champion’s dream is realizable for every player. It’s a never-ending task in general, but simply put, some of our champions aren’t hitting the bar here currently.
- Card win rate: As opposed to our champion play rate metrics, for card win rate we look specifically at Platinum and above-ranked matches. They do look at all levels of ranked play, but their hard metrics for “must-change” cards are indicated by higher ranked matches. Here, they have thresholds for how high of a win rate any given card can have before warranting a change. They specifically look at a card’s ideal region combination for these metrics, as opposed to overall win rate (for instance, Shen has a much higher win rate in a Demacia/Ionia deck than in other region combinations).
- Deck win rate: Deck win rate is folded into our card win rate metrics. While they are looking at how cards perform in their best region combinations, they get to see how card clusters, archetypes, or specific decks are performing. This helps us isolate problems with certain matchups and determine what changes should be made (if any).
These metrics combine to provide other ways to look at health as well, such as region prevalence. With these metrics in mind, here are some key areas they are looking to improve:
- Healthy patterns: While the core gameplay provides a ton of opportunities for interaction, players have been able to push the boundaries of minimal interactivity a lot with certain decks. They have mentioned Fearsome and Elusive decks before, but they are keeping an eye on things like Ezreal Frostbite decks as well. Here they need to walk a fine line between satisfaction, interaction, and games actually ending. Certain regions will be better or worse at different aspects of interaction, but they want players to have tools available to combat certain strategies if need be. They will continue looking at ways to provide those tools in addition to keeping low interaction with decks in check.
- RNG: They have always held the opinion that games should feel decided by players and not cards. RNG has a place, but it shouldn’t take the lead, and good RNG design creates novel circumstances that players can adapt to. They are always watching how these designs are received (looking at you, Elnuks), and will make tweaks where needed to bring them in line.
- Shadow Isles: Shadow Isles has been performing as the best region holistically by a decent margin. This is partially due to Shadow Isles having a ton of outright power, but also because it’s incredibly strong at doing what it’s good at compared to other regions and their respective strengths. And on the flipside, Shadow Isles’ intended weaknesses—such as frail units and the inability to protect its units—are too easily mitigated by cards like Mark of the Isles and Frenzied Skitterer. While they are making adjustments over time to address these issues, the biggest change is from a development standpoint: they are going to focus on ensuring regions have clear, distinct weaknesses (and therefore challenges for you to build around) earlier in the design process.
- Champion Updates: Some of our Champions such as Vlad, Shen and Kalista have low play\rates that we want to improve. Some of the lowest playrate champions have very narrow archetypes (Vladimir, Shen). For these champions, they look to make their narrow decks a bit more meta or make tweaks to their supporting cast of followers before they outright change the champion itself. Others, like Kalista, not only don’t have a clear home but struggle by simply not being effective or having an unrealizable gameplay dream. For this type of problem, they generally look more at updating the champion itself. And then there are what they call “consumptive” champions, whose level-up dreams involve… destroying your opponents’ dreams (looking at you, Yasuo and Ezreal). While they aren’t planning to rework either of those champs in the near future, they are being careful about how they design champs like that going forward, and are keeping a close eye on existing champs that fall into this category.
The Economy and Progression
From the inception of LoR, they knew they wanted a progression system that proved to players why card games could be awesome: imaginative new decks, endless tinkering, and fierce competition. They anticipated having to get creative to accomplish this, even if that meant throwing away the traditional pack model.
And for the most part, they feel very good about the bets they have made so far. They have seen a bunch of anecdotal evidence, but they don’t want to rely on just what they see on various forums (or god forbid, social media comments), so they have also been conducting surveys to get a more data-informed understanding of how they are doing. So far, 75% of Open Beta players are saying they’re satisfied with the progression system, while 18% are dissatisfied (7% neutral). That’s pretty solid, but they think there are some key areas where LoR can do better:
- Collection agency: While collections are building up at a great rate on average, that’s not the only way they measure success. They think a critical measure is how well players can achieve their shorter term goals, like completing a particular deck. Looking at that data again, they see about 1/3 players saying the decks they want to play feel unattainable, likely from getting left behind due to poor RNG in their Vaults (particularly for Champions). So, they are planning to update reward distributions to tilt toward more agency and less randomness before launch.
- Experimentation: They also see that some players are uneasy experimenting because wildcards feel too precious and it’s too unpredictable when you’ll get more. Instead of experimenting, they are seeing stockpiling, which is definitely the less fun thing to do (and sort of defeats some of the “progression” you would otherwise have if you were using them). Before launch, they are planning updates to our progression system to increase predictability and encourage using wildcards, so players are more excited to experiment. There’s no way to capture the exact same experience as Open Beta and the first set of cards, but they are thinking hard about how to make the next set (and every future set) an equally exciting experience.
- Welcome to All Players: At the end of the day, we want LoR to be a welcoming game for anyone interested in its strategic core gameplay. The results they have seen so far in Open Beta have shown us they can do better to accommodate all the kinds of players who want to engage with LoR: those who can’t play much outside weekends, those who want to grind all night, new players just joining the community, and would-be players who might have passed on LoR initially because of the higher time barrier to entry. They want everyone to feel like they have multiple options for picking up the cards and decks they want, and they think they can make the game more accessible to a broader swath of CCG fans.
Finally, personalization. They have been delighted by the response of the initial batch of guardians and boards (T-Hex FTW), but they are just getting started. They are investigating ways to add more features to guardians and boards, but they also can’t wait to expand into new cosmetic lines as well, such as card backs, emotes, and card styles—expect to hear more details about these after launch.
On the Horizon
Besides these updates, in the short term the team is focused on mobile, global launch, and the next set of cards. They think it’s critical for us to hit the commitments they have already made and establish our baseline of new content and updates.
But what’s next after that?
They have already talked about some of their plans to increase player expression in the form of new cosmetic lines, boards, and pets. But there’s something else they haven’t mentioned yet: modes and formats.
One thing that has always kept them coming back to card games is the infinite number of ways they can be played; many of our favourite formats were even made by the community, in lieu of the original designers pursuing them. They believe that it’s when tons of cards meet an equally wide variety of modes that their game will truly shine, and they are excited to start down that path this year. You can look forward to new ways to play with your collection, compete, and be recognized.
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