League of Legends Balance lessons to be learned

League of Legends. Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Courtesy of Riot Games. /
2 of 2

#2: Bring Out Competition

Ziggs. League of Legends.
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games. /

For years, ADCs have been the de facto carry pick in the bot lane. Their reliance on scaling – and their insane damage output once they got their items – ensured that teams would always have at least one marksman on their team.

And this was the case right up until Riot changed around ADC itemization to make them scale much more slowly. With marksmen now being forced to wait longer for their items, pro teams started experimenting instead with unconventional botlane picks such as Ziggs, Swain, and Viktor. Though Riot eventually brought marksman itemization back to spiking slightly earlier in the game, players had already learned that marksmen aren’t a must-pick anymore – and the situation has carried on into today’s meta with the recent Sona/Taric comps. Riot could have easily given up on getting non-marksmen champions into the botlane years ago, but instead persevered until they solved the problem.

The Lesson: Buffing up other strategies gives the dominant one competition, which reigns it back in.

#3: Remove Troublesome Picks

Olaf. League of Legends.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /

No matter what the current meta was, there’s always been at least one champion that’s a problem to balance. Azir, Ryze, Kalista, Olaf – someone is always the best pick for the job, even after receiving multiple rounds of nerfs.

And instead of giving up on fixing problematic champions and simply banning the compositions that they work best in, Riot have devised a worst-case scenario instead: a process that the community knows as “Olaf-ing.” This involves nerfing the offending champion into the ground to ensure that they fall out of favor in the professional scene, and then working on a mini-rework to give them clear strengths and weaknesses. It’s not an ideal strategy – the players of that particular champion feel pretty bad, for example – but at least it means that Riot have avoided the problems that plague Overwatch’s characters like Brigitte or D. Va.

The Lesson: Severely nerfing key characters, no matter how unpalatable it might seem, can kill off degenerate strategies while you find a solution.

No matter how you look at it, Blizzard’s balance team is taking the nuclear option instead of working on a solution that would preserve the flexibility and creativity of their game. While Riot’s own balance team is far from perfect, they have at least devised several creative strategies for solving League’s own problems. I know I’m happier to be playing League of Legends than Overwatch, that’s for sure.

Next. Patch 9.13 Breakdown. dark

Let us know your thoughts on the Overwatch role lock – or on LoL’s balance wins – down in the comments!