Aug
13
Design Club – League of Legends: Summoner’s Rift – Level Design Analysis


any game that has as many players as League of Legends is worth your time as a designer to check out even if you don’t like the genre anything that attracts millions of people clearly has some idea of what motivates and retains players and wouldn’t be a waste of your time to study I can’t really get into the guts of how this game works as there is a ton going on here but here’s the super short version you choose one of these and you try to destroy this thing by first destroying a bunch of these all while fighting the opposing ones of these what I want to talk about today isn’t the actual nuts and bolts of champion item or balanced design rather I want to get into the design of the main map where most of the competitive play takes place summoners rift the actual design of the map itself independence of the other game pieces determines a surprising amount about how leagues metagame formed over time the thing to keep in mind here is that design choice is made about the map tends to take up very little cognitive load in the players mind but can provide a huge boost in game depth whether a bush is here or there makes little difference to a player unless they’re looking for it in a strategic way it’s a complexity light way to add depth something you should always be looking for as a designer summoners rift is a map that supports two five player teams but has only three lanes each Lane features a stream of minions that spawn on a regular interval you can push your stream through the opposing stream of minions to help you take the towers in addition to acting as a siege aid killing the opposing minions provides a steady stream of experience and gold which you can use to buy items to get stronger now normally logic dictates that you line up the number of lanes and players five lanes for five players each getting equal opportunity to play the game but by splitting the map into only three lanes the game is forcing team members to find their niche there are only three streams of gold available for five players if the other two players want to be able to compete in the late-game fights that break out they have to find other ways to get gold to buy items this opens up a whole new set of problems for the team of players to solve one such way of getting gold income is the jungle or the space between the lanes neutral monsters are camped there and they respawn on timers each one is worth gold and the whole jungle provides enough income for one other player by making a fourth player need to spend time in the jungle killing monster after monster for their income a sense of drama and tension is added to the game you see League has a fog of war system and while most players are often revealed by the line of sight on the regularly spawning minions the player in the jungle is not leaving players in the lanes always uncertain of when the enemy will appear out of the jungle for a kill this then creates interesting counter play where the players in Lane now have to play around a hidden piece of information it asks them to make an interesting risk reward choice do they push their opponents in Lane as hard as they can gaining them an advantage in Lane but leaving themselves open to a sudden attack from the jungle or do they play more passively safer from the jungler but not perhaps maximizing their gains over their opponent this in turn crafts one of the most interesting psychological aspects of the game players try to read the behavior of the other players in their lane to gain an insight into what the player in the jungle might be doing did the enemy team just take an uncharacteristic risk to lure you forward their jungler might be nearby did the opponents suddenly back off when your jungler came forward perhaps they’ve acquired some vision someplace you don’t know about this counter play risk reward aspect and psychological play add a great deal to the game and are largely crafted through building a map that practically necessitates one of the players be hidden most of the time and that gives that player the ability to travel the length of the map undetected if not carefully played around the fifth player plays the role of support and the company’s one of the other players in their Lane they are meant to operate on a smaller income someday we could spend the whole lesson on how they’ve changed support and come over the years but that day is not to think the important thing to note is that each team has a second player to place in one of the three lanes they could put the second person in the middle lane where the fifth team member has maximum ability to run back and forth and help all the lanes when needed but that Lane is shorter more easily allowing the enemy to gain experience under the safety of his own turret you could also put them in one of the side lanes where they’ll have a better opportunity to out power the enemies but they will be further away from the rest of the team too all of these questions are never directly addressed to the player rather they’re simply puzzles left to be found able to be approached in several different ways the player didn’t have to be taught a mechanic to learn this and no text was needed in the end players mostly settled on leaving one of their more vulnerable characters in the middle lane because as you can see this Lane being physically than the other lanes the character here has an easier time running to the safety of their turret which frees up the supports to help out the second most fragile character in order to better keep them alive in the longer lanes again this is play that is crafted by the shape of the play space itself as much as it is the rules of the game but let’s shift gears toward the actual turrets themselves you’ll notice on the map that as you get closer and closer to a team’s base the rows of turrets get closer and closer together this provides a sort of mitigation for the team that’s behind if your outer ring of turrets are destroyed you’re forced to defend the inner ring of turrets which are closer to your base where you get free healing perhaps even more importantly the distance between the turrets in the same row becomes shorter making you more able to respond to attacks on multiple fronts it’s a catch-up mechanic built right into the map the presence or absence of these turrets also has a profound effect on your team’s knowledge of what’s going on in the jungle towers normally provide vision of an area and destroy any minions coming up to them denying the enemy team vision past that point and ensuring your team at least some vision in that area of the map as they get destroyed the tension of the game increases as going through your own jungle path becomes increasingly dangerous due to the lack of vision and mini-games shift from a game about farming gold from minions to maintaining vision in the jungle as these turrets go down lastly it can’t be overlooked that this map is not symmetrical most of the jungle is mirrored on the lower left side the red buff toting lizard is by the bottom Lane and on the upper right it’s closer to the top lane the difference in placement can vary your strategy as a jungler quite a bit based on where you’ll be when you get the power boosts from killing the two buff giving monsters you can also see the asymmetry and the two large neutral objectives in the middle of the map fighting over these can be wildly different depending on which side of the map you’re starting on note the shape of both of the pits where these objective monsters spawn the way you have to approach these and which bushes you can use to sneak in very wildly what I want to draw attention to here is that this seemingly small change adds strategic depth without adding new game elements it’s the same monsters just in different areas if you don’t want to pay attention to the different jungle pads you don’t have to you aren’t obviously punished for it you just give up a small edge you could have had keep in mind also that this map has been played a lot and a lot of the strategic space to explore and has been condensed to a pretty set meta game the steep learning curve of this meta game and the problems with it is a whole other topic nothing on summoners rift is put there haphazardly take a look at the map and pick a few elements and ask why they’re there play a few games yourself if you haven’t already try to figure out what the designers are trying to encourage non-verbally we’re out of time this week but we would love to hear what you guys think in the comments we’re still sort of figuring this show out so let us know what you like and what you don’t so long [Music] you