Zileas' List of Game Design Anti-Patterns

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SonicTheHedgedawg

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Senior Member

10-16-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
Non-Reliability
Skills are tools. Players count on them to do a job. When a skill is highly unreliable, we have to overpower it to make it 'satisfying enough'. Let me give you an example: Let's say Kayle's targeted invulnerability ult had a 95% chance of working, and a 5% chance of doing nothing when cast. We'd have to make it a LOT stronger to make it 'good enough' because you could not rely upon it... and it would be a lot less fun. Random abilities have this problem on reliability -- they tend to be a lot less satisfying, so you have to overpower them a lot more. Small amounts of randomness can add excitement and drama, but it has a lot of downsides. There are other examples of non-reliability, but randomness is the most obvious one. Abilities that require peculiar situations to do their jobs tend to run into the same problems, such as Tryndamere's shout that only slows when targets are facing away from him.
Gangplank
  • Parrlay
    • Relies on Critical strike to be effective
      • When it DOES score a critical, it's a very powerful, short cooldown nuke
      • When it DOESN'T score a critical, it's lackluster
  • Raise Morale
    • Only works when allied minions are near
      • When minions ARE near, it gives him a great steroid skill plus the only "deny" ability in the game.
        • Some newbies might have no idea how good a deny can be, nor how much it helps gankplank solo a 2 v 1 lane.
      • When NO minions are near, it's like playing a character with only 3 abilities.
  • Cannon Barrage
    • This move is reliant on actually getting the cannonballs to HIT
      • If a good deal of cannonballs hit, it's a VERY powerful, global AoE skill on reasonable cooldown.
      • Sometimes, NO canonballs hit at all.
  • Grog Soaked Blade
    • Effectively counters healing based characters.
      • When the enemy team is reliant on support and heals, gankplank's passive can screw them over from the get-go.
      • When the enemy team has ZERO heals on it, his passive is essentially just a weak DoT on his standard attacks.



I'm really torn on gangplank, you know.
On the one hand, his reliance on luck makes him unique and, for some people, fun.
On the other hand, a really lucky gangplank is incredibly frustrating to play against, and an unlucky gangplank is pretty much a waste of space on the team.
Luck DOES tend to have a way of evening out, but it's still kinda frustrating in situations where a Gangplank gets incredibly lucky or incredibly unlucky and there's nothing he nor I can do about it.


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lohwanjing

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Junior Member

10-16-2010

Great read Zileas.

That said, I have to disagree on some points.

Burden of knowledge:
The learning curve in DOTA and LoL is pretty steep. This is not just because of complex mechanics (you bring up Rupture) but also because of the sheer number of heros (LoL has 62? and counting)

When you meet a hero for the first time in-game you have no idea what it does. Reading the notes on hero abilities help, but they don't tell you everything that handles in-game. You can ask your teammates, and if you are lucky they'll warn you of what to expect (ie Sion has a stun, be careful on low life), but that's about it. Getting a newbie to have some idea of knowing how 60+ heroes with 4 abilities each work is asking a lot.

That said, LoL eases you into the transitions quite a bit. When you are new, you and the new people you play with mostly play with the weekly free heroes, so you only have to know 10 per week.

That said, the best way to know a hero is to play him. Many times, people have screamed "OP!", but played the hero and realize he has several flaws that make him not so bad after all (ie squishiness for twitch and shaco). In LoL, you can't really do this, since unless the hero is free that week, you have no chance of trying him out and finding his counters.

On tooltips and visual indicators:
Yes they help, but its more things to remember. As the number of heroes increases, the problem gets worse, especially if you haven't played for a while, and some of the heroes have been buffed/nerfed.

Abilities and Ultis:
I think most of the passives are well done and really make each character unique to play, so great job!.

Regular abilities (QWE) are mostly some combination of Nuke/CC/heal, which is fine as all characters need some utility.

Ultis are the biggest problem in my opinion. They are mostly regular abilities with bigger numbers/AOE tacked-on. Ulti's should define a char and make them unique, and right now most of them are rather vanilla, even if they are effective in a team fight. Ulti's are what the opponent sees and goes "Wow! that is so cool" and go try out the hero, and right now very few ultis do that. Terrible Ulti: Absolute Zero, CrowStorm, Glacial Storm (having a couple is good, but a lot of ultis are very similar, and can easily be replaced with another hero's)

Well Designed Ultis: Ashe's Arrow, TF's Destiny, Shen's United We Stand, Shaco's (though the execution needs to be fixed: no items and runes?)

On Maledict and why people like it and hate Torment:
Maledict is fun, and people like overkill. Yes its mechanically (and results-wise) similar, and yes people react similarly, ie you attack the guy you put it on, the guy tries to not be attacked, but its just not as fun.

Maledict is a long dot and the compounding damage make it really complex to understand, so I can understand about people having difficulty figuring out the math. But the point is people don't really care about that (the compounding math). What they like it is that it starts slow, and ramps up, and when the target realises and tries to run the last tick (with the big numbers) make him go BOOM! Torment as mentioned by many others has no such boom.

Someone (can't remember his name) on another forum mentioned an easy rework to get that boom effect that people want. Have a simple(non-compounding) dot, that at the end deals X% of damage the target has suffered for duration of the dot. A visual indicator could simply be a bomb that slowly gets bigger (faster if damage is being dealt) and goes off right at the end of the dot. And the dot should be moderately long to get the desired effect.

TLDR: Ulti Abilties should make each hero unique and preferably give each a unique niche. Simplicity is good, but not at the expense of fun. If its cool enough, people will make the effort to know how something works, but only if its cool enough.


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PvE Teemo

Senior Member

10-16-2010

Zileas if you are against spells that aren't fun to lane against then why is Vlad's Q still in the game :<


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Zileas

VP of Game Design

10-16-2010
75 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by imyour2p View Post
I've known all of this for so long, just never seen it put to words and categorized as such.

Really blows my mind how many examples from other games that would fall directly into these categories for the exact same reasons.

Zileas, did you write the book on fun?
Nope, Blizzard or Nintendo did, and we try to learn from those past lessons...


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Zileas

VP of Game Design

10-16-2010
76 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nerf Hammer View Post
Im going to throw out a spell that goes against quite a few of those rules...

Overdrive.


yeah, I think we need to modify those.


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Zileas

VP of Game Design

10-16-2010
77 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by spük View Post
Tomb of Horrors was amazing, you shut your ***** mouth.
btw, roll saving throw vs death or die. You triggered a lethal trap by telling someone to shut their mouth here.


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Zileas

VP of Game Design

10-16-2010
78 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by shal128 View Post
HM? You never want to hit a tank. There are many skills and items that make you not want to hit them. Tryndamere, thornmail, Defensive Ball Curl...

Those don't really count as anti-mechanics.

Anti-mechanics are skills that make other skills from the same champion worse.

For example, if you could have Counter-Strike (Jax's dodge) with Amumu, it would work against tantrum.
Shen works out okay, because there are windows of vulnerability.

I agree that Amumu's tantrum is bad design for a tank.

We've broken these patterns numerous times. Sometimes for gain, sometimes out of error. I never said we did this stuff perfectly ;p


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Nhan Fiction

Senior Member

10-16-2010

Awesome post. Basically, pretty much everything on the list emphasizes elements that are the opposite of what DotA embodies. I played DotA for years, and I will admit that the game was horrible in terms of balance on a technical level. There were so many overpowered skills in the game, such as Fissure and Ravage.

But these moves were simply chump skills compared to the truly overpowered ones.

For instance, a very good example would be Tauren Chieftain's ultimate in DotA. This ultimate literally did all of these effects:
- It is a huge AoE nuke with a long range.
- After reaching its maximum range, it then proceeds to drag all enemies toward the center and also destroys trees.
- It does damage based on the HP of the enemy.
- It then proceeds to maim them for a few seconds.

In other words, this ultimate did everything for you, except make you breakfast.

And then there was Ancient Apparition's ultimate ...
- Fires a global-range nuke that grows bigger in AoE the farther it travels across the map.
- Upon impact, it deals magic damage and slows.
- Freezes HP regen.
- At any point when the hit targets fall below a certain HP amount, they are instantly killed.
- And this was topped off with a low cooldown to abuse.

Overpowered is an understatement.


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Zileas

VP of Game Design

10-16-2010
79 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Coug54 View Post
Awesome post. Basically, pretty much everything on the list emphasizes everything that is the opposite of what DotA embodies. I played DotA for years, and I will admit that the game was horrible in terms of balance on a technical level. There were so many overpowered skills in the game, such as Fissure and Ravage.

But these moves were simply chump skills compared to the truly overpowered ones.

For instance, a very good example would be Tauren Chieftain's ultimate in DotA. This ultimate literally did all of these effects:
- It is a huge AoE nuke with a long range.
- After reaching its maximum range, it then proceeds to drag all enemies toward the center and also destroys trees.
- It does damage based on the HP of the enemy.
- It then proceeds to maim them for a few seconds.

In other words, this ultimate did everything for you, except make you breakfast.

And then there was Ancient Apparition's ultimate ...
- Fires a global-range nuke that grows bigger in AoE the farther it travels across the map.
- Upon impact, it deals magic damage and slows.
- Freezes HP regen.
- At any point when the hit targets fall below a certain HP amount, they are instantly killed.
- And this was topped off with a low cooldown to abuse.

Overpowered is an understatement.
What ends up happening on fundamentally OP champs like TC is you either nerf the abilities in power to the point where everything does everything but is underwhelming unless used perfectly... or remove components to make them have intrinsic downsides. Much harder...


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Waldgeist

Senior Member

10-16-2010

These are admirable philosophical principles, and if there are many creative ideas to choose from, it is indeed best to avoid these somewhat problematic cases.

But what if there aren't? Interesting designs are quite limited in practice. What if your only choice inside a realistic timeframe is to add the interesting design that violates the ideology, or to add the safe design that your game has used a dozen times already? Both choices are risky; the first risks frustrating the players, but the second risks boring them by lack of differentiation and variety.