Zileas' List of Game Design Anti-Patterns

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ZeroKuno

Senior Member

10-15-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
I've been asked a few times, "Why don't you do stuff like Rupture (from DOTA Bloodseeker) in LoL?"

I usually respond -- Rupture contains several basic design 'anti-patterns'. I thought I'd post for the benefit of those who are interested what strong anti-patterns I am aware of.

So... Here are a few that come to mind.... Note that you can find an example of each of these somewhere in our game at some intensity level. Sometimes this is just bad design. Sometimes this is because we got something else in exchange. Design is an optimization -- but these anti-patterns are of negative design value, so you should only do them if you get something good in return.

Power Without Gameplay
This is when we give a big benefit in a way that players don't find satisfying or don't notice. The classic example of this is team benefit Auras. In general, other players don't value the aura you give them very much, and you don't value it much either. But mechanically, it is very strong. Suppose we gave a +15 damage aura... Really powerful, not that appreciated. On the other hand, if you cast the aura and gave them flaming weapons, which on next hit burst for 100 damage, and we could do it once every 20 seconds, you'd get about the same power, and people would value the effect more. The problem with using this anti-pattern is that you tend to have to 'over-buff' the mechanic and create a game balance problem before people appreciate it. As a result, we tend to keep Auras weak, and/or avoid them altogether, and/or pair them on an active/passive where the active is very strong and satisfying, so that the passive is more strategic around character choice.

Burden of Knowledge
This is a VERY common pattern amongst hardcore novice game designers. This pattern is when you do a complex mechanic that creates gameplay -- IF the victim understands what is going on. Rupture is a great example -- with Rupture in DOTA, you receive a DOT that triggers if you, the victim, choose to move. However, you have no way of knowing this is happening unless someone tells you or unless you read up on it online... So the initial response is extreme frustration. We believe that giving the victim counter gameplay is VERY fun -- but that we should not place a 'burden of knowledge' on them figuring out what that gameplay might be. That's why we like Dark Binding and Black Shield (both of which have bait and/or 'dodge' counter gameplay that is VERY obvious), but not Rupture, which is not obvious.

In a sense, ALL abilities have some burden of knowledge, but some have _a lot more_ -- the ones that force the opponent to know about a specific interaction to 'enjoy' the gameplay have it worst.

Unclear Optimization
This is a more subtle one. when players KNOW they've used a spell optimally, they feel really good. An example is disintegrate on Annie. When you kill a target and get the mana back, you know that you used it optimally, and this makes the game more fun. On the other hand, some mechanics are so convoluted, or have so many contrary effects, that it is not possible to 'off the cuff' analyze if you played optimally, so you tend not to be satisfied. A good example of this is Proudmoore's ult in DOTA where he drops a ship. The ship hits the target a bit in the future, dealing a bunch of damage and some stun to enemies. Allies on the other hand get damage resistance and bonus move speed, but damage mitigated comes up later. Very complicated! And almost impossible to know if you have used it optimally -- do you really want your squishies getting into the AOE? Maybe! Maybe not... It's really hard to know that you've used this skill optimally and feel that you made a 'clutch' play, because it's so hard to tell, and there are so many considerations you have to make. On the other hand, with Ashe's skill shot, if you hit the guy who was weak and running, you know you did it right... You also know you did it right if you slowed their entire team... Ditto on Ezreal's skill shot.

Use Pattern Mis-matches Surrounding Gameplay
I won't go into too much detail on this, but the simple example is giving a melee DPS ability to a ranged DPS character -- the use pattern on that is to force move to melee, then use. This does not feel good, and should be avoided. I'm sure you are all thinking -- but WoW mages are ranged, and they have all these melee abilities! Well... Frost Nova is an escape, and the various AEs are fit around a _comprehensive_ different mage playstyle that no longer is truly 'ranged' and is mechanically supported across the board by Blizzard -- so the rules don't apply there ;p

Fun Fails to Exceed Anti-Fun
This is where the 'anti-fun' created on your opponents by your use of a mechanic is greater than your fun in using the mechanic. Dark Binding is VERY favorable on this measurement, because opponents get clutch dodges just like you get clutch hits. On the other hand, a strong mana burn is NOT desirable -- if you drain someone to 0 you feel kinda good, and they feel TERRIBLE -- so the anti-fun is exceeded by the fun. This is important because the goal of the game is for players to have fun, so designers should seek abilities that result in a net increase of fun in the game. Basic design theory, yes?

Conflicted Purpose
This one is not a super strong anti-pattern, but sometimes it's there. A good example of this would be a 500 damage nuke that slows enemy attack speed by 50% for 10 seconds (as opposed to say, 20%), on a 20 second cooldown. At 50%, this is a strong combat initiation disable... but at 500 damage it's a great finisher on someone who is running... but you also want to use it early to get the disable -- even though you won't have it avail by the end of combat usually to finish. This makes players queasy about using the ability much like in the optimization case, but it's a slightly different problem. If the ability exists for too many different purposes on an explicit basis, it becomes confusing. this is different from something like blink which can be used for many purposes, but has a clear basic purpose -- in that place, players tend to just feel creative instead.

Anti-Combo
This one is bad. This is essentially when one ability you have diminishes the effectiveness of another in a frustrating manner. Some examples:
- Giving a character a 'break-on-damage' CC with a DOT (yes, warlocks have this, but they tuned it to make it not anti-combo much at all)
- With Warriors in WoW -- they need to get rage by taking damage so that they can use abilities and gain threat -- but parry and dodge, which are key to staying alive, make them lose out on critical early fight rage. So, by gearing as a better tank, you become a worse tank in another dimension -- anti combo!
- With old warrior talent trees in WoW, revenge would give you a stun -- but stunned enemies cannot hit you and cause rage gain... So this talent actually reduced your tanking capability a lot in some sense! Anti-combo!
I don't think any gaming company really decides to post design stuff you learn from school or come up with on forums like this one. Nice stuff though makes sense.


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Intangible

Senior Member

10-15-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
Fun Fails to Exceed Anti-Fun
Nice change. Clever.


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skyqula

Senior Member

10-15-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
So why are you playing LoL and not another game ;p
its a typo of yours, he states the same as you are stating. As fun <anti fun == anti fun > fun.


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UselessAsshole

Senior Member

10-15-2010

idk about you but i find a zilean starting with dorans/amplifying tome with mag pen runes/mp5 who can double nuke you for 1/2 your hp JUST as annoying as a rupture or getting mana burned, or stun locking champs for that matter.

rupture or bloodseeker was picked as a counter to annoying carry heroes aka queen of pain,anti mage and storm spirit just like tf or akali is picked against a kog or ashe.i dont even see the 'unfun' part.


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Lightstriker

Adjudicator

10-15-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeroKuno View Post
I don't think any gaming company really decides to post design stuff you learn from school or come up with on forums like this one. Nice stuff though makes sense.
don't... do... this... Don't quote a page of text to write 1 sentence.


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Gorchek

Senior Member

10-15-2010

Awesome post, Zileas.


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onisnake

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Recruiter

10-15-2010

@zileas what about player optimization? one of the thing we learned in school was that to design you first need to design for players of all skill. For example lets take Garen. his abilities are pretty straight forward right? Fully clear as to what they do and how they do it. Mordekaiser on the other hand has alot of math behind his skills. To follow your example take the paladin from WC3, with his aura along with heal. So where does that fall in a more detailed version of your giving for the anti-fun? Is it good to design some champions with the intent of skilled players only, or allow access to new players the ability to play them?

as a sidenote this is a question im asking as a beginnign designer to one in the industry.


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RagnarokChu

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Senior Member

10-15-2010

Burden of Knowledge one shouldn't really be a major factor in design in skills, because then it may prevent a number of interesting abilities to never be added to the game just because people don't like reading up on abilities.

Hell alot of people STILL don't know what alot of heroes could do regardless if you have "Burden of Knowledge" in mind.

If anything you should really have champion tutorials.


Unclear Optimization and fun/anti fun are all really prospective.


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Louise

Member

10-15-2010

you have a ton of knowledge burden abilities already in game.

akali mark of assassin
amumu despair
anivia frostbite
chogath feast
mundo sadism and masochism

etc etc.

these are all abilities that have mechanics that require you to learn their effects in order to properly play against. learning one more thing (don't move while the spell is on you) is not that large of a burden relative to what is already in the game.

i think if you really felt this was a problem you would find ways to make the game more intuitive or accessible with tutorials or even mini-game challenges that showcased and explained character abilities.


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Churchy

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Friend of Urf

10-15-2010

You should troll more like your compatriots.