David Capurro, the design lead and interim product owner of the Summoner's Rift team, has made a lengthy post detailing how champions are evaluated for balance changes in League of Legends. The decisions will be primarily made through the newly structured Champion Balance Framework, which Capurro touts as the source that all players can look towards to hold the team accountable for how characters are balanced.
In the past, balancing was done with limited visibility on the player’s end regarding how decisions were made. Specifically, the new system will seek to limit subjectivity in the assessment of a champion’s power level in favor of quantitative data. This should help to avoid balancing that may be considered bias.
Capurro goes on to state that in the past, “we’ve operated under the rough guideline of ‘we balance for Plat+ play.’” Now, the plan is to formally recognize the four main audiences for which balances are made, which are:
- Average Play: Contains most players, everything below the top 10% of solo queue
- Skilled play: The Top 10% of solo queue player, except for the very top
- Elite Play: The Top 0.1%, the best-of-the-best in solo queue, who are most sensitive to balance changes
- Professional Play: The top five recognized leagues of competitive play, currently LPL, LCK, LEC, LCS, and LMLS)
From this point on, the team will consider a champion to be balanced if they can be adjusted for any of these four groups. However, “they will be considered overpowered if they cross the top end for any of the audiences, and they will holistically be considered underpowered if they are below the bottom end for all of the audiences.”
The challenge lies mainly in having enough data to make a decision. While both Average and Skilled play make up 99% of the player base, 1% of Elite and Professional play have very few games.
From this point, there are certainly going to be caveats to consider. New and Reworked champions, for example, will still fall into these categories listed above, but not until approximately one month after release. During that time, players are actively learning how to play and go against a champion, which can result is drastically high or low win rate data, especially in the first days of a popular hero's release.
The balance team states that it has considered making changes to Champions that are picked too often, but it is problematic to assign a value to what “too often” means. Instead, High Play Rates will only really be considered factors for nerfs for the Professional Level of play, and that is likely to keep the competitive fresh and interesting.
Ultimately, this new framework is a work in progress and therefore has issues that will need to be fixed in the coming months. Capurro concludes his lengthy post by soliciting feedback from the players if they have any thoughts on the new system or balance in general.