Zileas' List of Game Design Anti-Patterns

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Zileas

VP of Game Design

10-17-2010
82 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrald Grimnod View Post
I'll get downvoted even more, but...
Please, take a look at examples that Zilean posted in aforementioned paragraph.

Here is where Zileas points out incohesivities of abilities of single characters. While he didn't specify that by any word, I took it for granted that he meant it that way. In my opinion countering enemy's abilities isn't a bad design. It is just a tool you use. However, characters that can't use their skills at the same time are just unusable (thus having no purpose in game that lets them exist). And that is worse than fun spoiled by someone's counter.

Also, if anyone dares to think Black Shield is bad because it counters something, cover your eyes: Mercury Treads, Burning Agony, Banshee's Veil, Cleanse, Ragnarok.
yes, team anti-combo is a bad pattern, but self anti-combo is way worse. Anti-comboing your opponents is just good game design if its done in a way that isnt obnoxious ;p


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ssyd

Senior Member

10-17-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
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.
Vlad's ultimate comes to mind. Do you want to use it at the start of a team fight to increase your allies' damage or save it until a little bit later into it to catch the runners like a mini Requiem? Obviously you can't be 100% faithful to every point in your article - I'm just nitpicking Made for a very interesting read.


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SonicTheHedgedawg

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Senior Member

10-17-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by ssyd View Post
Vlad's ultimate comes to mind. Do you want to use it at the start of a team fight to increase your allies' damage or save it until a little bit later into it to catch the runners like a mini Requiem? Obviously you can't be 100% faithful to every point in your article - I'm just nitpicking Made for a very interesting read.
Vlad's is fine . . . of course you want to use it early

That's when you'll hit the most people, get the most use out of the passive and be the most likely to get the nuke to actually go off on the most people



using it late does nothing that using it early wouldn't have done better


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Zileas

VP of Game Design

10-17-2010
83 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by SonicTheHedgedawg View Post
Vlad's is fine . . . of course you want to use it early

That's when you'll hit the most people, get the most use out of the passive and be the most likely to get the nuke to actually go off on the most people



using it late does nothing that using it early wouldn't have done better
yes, and making it a delayed damage effect aids this use case. If it was 'does 500 damage, then amplifies damage by 10% over 10 seconds', it would be more confused.


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SonicTheHedgedawg

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Senior Member

10-17-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
yes, and making it a delayed damage effect aids this use case. If it was 'does 500 damage, then amplifies damage by 10% over 10 seconds', it would be more confused.
I DO find it funny that the person listed an example of a move that was actually DESIGNED to follow that rule.


An example of a move that wasn't would be Veigar's Primordial Burst before the remake.



It was a HUGELY damaging single target nuke that had a passive that told you to hold onto it to make sure you got the last hit with it.

It's poor design to give you the ability to aid your teammates in taking down an enemy by giving you MASSIVE burst damage, and then making you hold onto it just to killsteal them.


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pajamaparty

Junior Member

10-17-2010

what do you guys think of making flash (or the new boots flash) the way blink dagger works in dota , where you cant blink if you took damage in the last 3 or 5 seconds , so people cant just safely try and solo dragon near the wall , and just blink over into the jungle if someone tries to stop it , among other reasons.


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Zileas

VP of Game Design

10-17-2010
84 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by pajamaparty View Post
what do you guys think of making flash (or the new boots flash) the way blink dagger works in dota , where you cant blink if you took damage in the last 3 or 5 seconds , so people cant just safely try and solo dragon near the wall , and just blink over into the jungle if someone tries to stop it , among other reasons.
We think it's really kludgey to do that. So we aren't going to.

- Zileas


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Ponies Gonna Pwn

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Adjudicator

10-17-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
We think it's really kludgey to do that. So we aren't going to.

- Zileas
OH COME ON! Seriously? This is a 100% reasonable fix! It's not mismatched in any way. It specifically makes it an offensive item.


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Zarifes

Member

10-17-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
***EDIT: Added a bunch of new patterns.****

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.
What about Sona... :|

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.
It's not the gaming companies fault the player is too lazy to read a tool-tip. That's a stupid reason to not put an ability in game.

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.
Same as above. It's not the gaming companies fault that the player doesn't know how to use a move properly...Not putting in a skill because "It's hard for noobs to use effectively" is stupid.

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
They're clutch moves used for either escaping, or slowing a running enemy. Again, just because the player doesn't know how to use their abilities to their fullest doesn't mean they shouldn't be put in. (Since we're using SO many WoW comparisons...you don't see a Hunter running into melee range to Raptor Strike a running enemy...but you do see hunters getting forced into melee range and Wing Clipping to run, then Raptor Striking for extra dps. And that "no longer 'ranged' and" blah blah, You can have characters have both ranged and melee...Shackling a character so they only fill the "range dps" archetype ruins the possibilities for them.

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?
Pretty sure that's called "over-powered"

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.
That's when decisions are made...God forbid the player has to think, "If I use this now, can we kill him? Or should I save it for after he pops his escape?"

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!
Wow, something we can agree on.

False Choice -- Deceptive Wrong Choice
This is when you present the player with one or more choices that appear to be valid, but one of the choices is just flat wrong. An example of this is an ability we had in early stages recently. It was a wall like Karthus' wall, but if you ran into it, it did damage to you, and then knocked you towards the caster. In almost every case, this is a false choice -- because you just shoudln't go there ever. If it was possible for the character to do a knockback to send you into the wall, it wouldn't be as bad. Anyhow, there's no reason to give players a choice that is just plain bad -- the Tomb of Horrors (original module) is defined by false choices -- like the room with three treasure chests, all of which have no treasure and lethal traps.
Another one we can agree on. (But really, only Korean MMO's do that, I've noticed...)

False Choice -- Ineffective Choice
Similar to above, except when you give what appears to be an interesting choice that is then completely unrewarding, or ineffective at the promised action. An older version of Swain's lazer bird had this failing... Because the slow was so large, you could never run away in time to de-leash and break the spell and reduce damage, and in cases you did, you'd just dodge 20% of the damage at a big cost of movement and DPS -- so running was just an ineffective choice.
[B]That's similar to Burden of Knowledge and Unclear Optimization. The player learns his mistakes and uses the move appropriately afterwards.

Or We Could **** the Player!!1111oneoneone
This is where you straight up screw over the player, usually with dramatic flair, or maybe just try to make the player feel crappy in a way that isn't contributing to the fun of the game. These range in severity, but examples usually are spawned because the designer is a pretentious wanker who likes to show what a smart dude he is and how stupid the player is. I do not respect designers who engage in this pattern intentionally, and encourage any design lead out there to immediately fire any of your staff that does. I do understand that it can happen inadvertently. So, I love you WoW team despite the 'playing vs' experience of Rogue and Warlock, as you DO have the best classes of any MMO, and they look even better in Cataclysm.... But, on Bayonetta, what were you guys on Team Little Angels thinking? I know you guys likely do not care about my opinion, but really, did you think the stone award was a good idea?

Very Severe: The original tomb of horrors D&D module is the worst in existence. Good examples are the orb of annihilation that doesnt look like one and instakills you and all your gear if you touch it, and the three treasure chests where each has no loot and deadly traps and no clues that this is the case.

Severe: There's a popular wc3 map in China where you enter a bonus round, and have a 2% chance of just straight up dying rather than getting cool loot.

Situationally Moderate:Horrify + fear kiting from a competent warlock who outgears you in WoW. Guess what? You die before getting to react.

Mild: Stone award in Bayonetta. So... you barely get through the level for the first time, then get laughed at by the game with a lame statue of the comic relief character, and a mocking laugh. Please -- maybe a bronze award and a 500 pt bonus might be more appropriate? The player might have worked VERY hard to get through the level, espec on normal and higher difficulties. Maybe I'm unable to understand because I'm a Gaijin.
You pretty much just reworded the last two point, there.

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.
Lol@Gangplank
-in bold.


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Zileas

VP of Game Design

10-17-2010
85 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aratrok the Pony View Post
OH COME ON! Seriously? This is a 100% reasonable fix! It's not mismatched in any way. It specifically makes it an offensive item.
It's kludgey because you get a lot of split second interrupts when you think it would've worked, and a lot of events where damage applies a bit before the projectile hits or has shown on your PC, etc. Very much exposes whatever lag you have to the server... So, it will make the game feel unresponsive. Part of good design is avoiding those situations.