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Are Sight Wards guilty of Violating Zileas' "Game Design Anti-Patterns"?

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TiberiusAudley

Adjudicator

10-22-2013

Note, I am specifically talking about the 75 gold, invisible, green sight wards (and Ghost Wards placed by Sight Stone). For the first two, I'm speaking of these wards in a vacuum, and disregarding the existence of Oracle's Elixir and Vision Wards.

TLDR version, read the bold parts of the post.

The first: Power without Gameplay.

Quote:
Zileas:
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 -- even though auras can win games. (snip) I am pretty sure that most players are WAY more excited about the fiery weapons buff, even though the strength is lower overall.

The problem with using a "power without gameplay" mechanic 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. For example, Sona's auras are all quite weak -- because at weak values they ARE appreciated properly.


Vision can win games, but on its own it's not very satisfying.

The original incarnation of these Green Wards came in patch 1.0.0.52. They were like Vision Wards, but did not offer true sight. They had a cast range of 300 and cost 90 gold. They weren't very popular, so they received some buffs. Their cast range has been doubled, their cost reduced by 15 gold...and since AD Carries late game were able to one shot the original incarnation, wards were given a "three hits to kill no matter what" treatment to reduce the risk of using them in high traffic areas.

Sight Wards, on their own, have no counterplay unless two+ people, or a person with an AA reset (like Leona or Shyvana) are waiting on/near the spot the ward is placed. If the ward is placed without the opposition observing it, there is no way to know you have been revealed.

Without Oracle's Elixir or pre-emptive pinks, that Sight Ward acts as invisible power, with the person being revealed having no way of knowing they are revealed unless the players who see them make it obvious through changing their own actions. Compare this to other reveals in the game, whether they be Nidalee traps, Clairvoyance's pillar of light, Hextech Sweeper's AoE Phosphorous Bomb appearance, or Hawkshot, players know when they're revealed by these mechanics, and have notable counterplay (i.e., returning once the reveal is gone and is on cooldown).

To further demonstrate that they had to be buffed to "too strong" status to be appreciated... Sight Wards grant further/wider vision (Note, placing a Sight Ward at max range reveals units up to 1975 units away... 600 cast range + 1375 radius with mastery) than all but a select few abilities in the game. Quinn's Heightened Senses, Warwick's Blood Scent, Twisted Fate's Destiny, and Ashe's Hawk Shot all have the potential for larger reveals. Sight and Ghost Wards grant an immediate vision reveal almost as powerful as abilities designed specifically to reveal things.

Sight Wards show strong evidence of being guilty of violating "Power without Gameplay" when considered in a world where Vision Wards and Oracle's Elixirs do not exist.


Second: Unclear Optimization.

Quote:
Zileas:
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.


At any given time, a player has a limited number of wards they can place. There are plenty of obvious places a ward can be placed. Dragon, Blue Buff, Red Buff, lane brush, river brush, tri-brush. But... when the number of locations to ward exceeds the number of wards...which it will unless a player invests solely in wards (in which case Fun fails to exceed Anti-Fun, but that's not relevant to this discussion)...then the problem arises of...how do you know when you've warded the right location, at the right time?

The enemy jungler is not guaranteed to visit you during the three minute time you've placed a ward. If he doesn't gank your lane while your ward is out, you've wasted a ward. If he ganks your lane through a path that your ward doesn't reveal, you've wasted a ward. If he's Rammus and ganks your lane despite your ward, because ZOOMZOOMPOWERBALL, your ward is wasted. It's nearly impossible to tell when placing a ward has actually impacted anything beyond giving you vision of an area. Because of this, weighing whether or not the ward was successful is a muddled situation.



When Vision Wards and Oracle's Elixirs finally do come into play, further anti-patterns are broken in the current state of the game.

The late game state is the biggest highlighter of one of the game mechanics I personally find most frustrating: Oracle's Elixir.

Anti-Pattern Broken: "Use Pattern mis-matches surrounding gameplay."


Quote:
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


When it comes to late game, Oracle's Elixir is most often bought on Supports. That's right, the item used to kill wards is bought on a character who, in the game's current state, doesn't have items for defending themselves. You know, the character who has the least reason to be wandering off on their own. This causes a lot more problems in solo queue than in organized play where teams will often sweep wards together, as lone Oracle-toting supports are left to their own devices to deny vision.

Fortunately, Riot alleviated this anti-pattern a little bit when they removed Oracle's Elixir's expiration on death, but in doing so created further instances of Unclear Optimization and/or False Choice.
  • Oracle's Elixir currently costs 400g and lasts 4 minutes. It gives a very miniscule amount of stealth reveal around the character.
  • Vision Wards cost 125g and last 3 minutes. For 375g, a player can purchase 3 of them and reveal three separate 1000 radius circles across the map (or have an instant reveal of up to 1600 units away, much farther than Oracle's can see, in the case of team fighting against an Akali, Vayne, or other stealthing character.)
  • Unless your opponent is heavily over-warding, it is actually more gold efficient and more effective in team fighting to elect to rely on Pink wards than it is to get an Oracle's Elixir.
  • In order to begin over-warding yourself, you have to purchase the LESS gold efficient method, (Oracle's Elixir + extra wards) or wait on your opponent to place his pink wards first, assuming both players play for maximum gold efficiency and elect to go for Vision Wards instead of Oracle's.
  • Purchasing Oracle's when your opponent is not warding heavily, or elects to reduce their warding actually nets you less vision per gold / vision denial per gold turns out to be massive loss in your gold efficiency for your opponent playing non-optimally.


Thanks for reading my second novel on "Why I hate wards and vision's current state in League of Legends" or "Why Dominion is the best Gametype."

Source: Former Master Beta Tester, Plat 5 Support Main, Top 25 Mr. N Divekicker. Really looking forward to what kind of solutions to these issues Riot intends to bring forth with Season 4.


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Leavebuster

Member

10-22-2013

epic post .. hope Zileas replies


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Catfishoncrack

Senior Member

10-22-2013

logged in to plus 1


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bLues

Senior Member

10-22-2013

Too much smart for me.


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Ixsiehn

Recruiter

10-22-2013

logged in to +1, really good points.


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Bad Sneakers

Member

10-22-2013

I agree fully, although I don't think this even touches on the biggest reason why wards/vision are badly holding this game back.


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SUPERIOR SK1LL

Member

10-22-2013

Wards dont even pass the fun>antifun test


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Guttler

Senior Member

10-22-2013

Bump for red response.


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Ashen Paige

Senior Member

10-22-2013

persoanlly i think wards should work as they do in DOTA2 in that you are limited to a set of 2 per person and after that you have to wait for them to "respawn" at a certain time limit. it would force you to think about how you place them and EVERYBODY would have to buy them and not just the support if they want map coverage, just like a TEAM should. personally i think wards are too powerful anyway but thats something else entirely.


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Bad Sneakers

Member

10-22-2013

Quote:
Ashen Paige:
persoanlly i think wards should work as they do in DOTA2 in that you are limited to a set of 2 per person and after that you have to wait for them to "respawn" at a certain time limit. it would force you to think about how you place them and EVERYBODY would have to buy them and not just the support if they want map coverage, just like a TEAM should. personally i think wards are too powerful anyway but thats something else entirely.

I think this would be ideal, although a slightly higher limit might be necessary due to brush. And its actually not 2 per person in DotA, its a team-wide limit.