Exclusive Interview with League of Legends Game Design Director, Tom Cadwell

With Dominion being playable by the public this week at gamescom, we get a sneak peek and some time with the game, and some time with one of the leaders behind it!

Stow – A
scholar and a gentleman folks, I’m proud to be here
with Tom Cadwell, Game Design Director of Riot Games. 
Without further ado, let’s talk
Dominion!  In the
current state of game
balance, you’ve been nerfing global ultimates left and right. style="">  Is this in preparation for
Dominion since
global teleporting would be pretty gamebreaking in most
capture-and-hold type

– Not directly. 
However, through Dominion, a lot of potential problems of
the main game
were completely exposed in a bigger way. 
Take for example Rabadon’s Deathcap, on release it was
completely overpowered,
but it was expensive and hard to get. 
With the changes to the gold income system, everyone in
Dominion is
getting a Deathcap consistently rather than having to farm for it—we
view that
as a flaw in the item, which we can balance independent of heroes or
the map.

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Going back to the global ultimates,
we’ve always had a
problem with them.  They
aggressiveness—you have to always consider the situation plus the
person with
the global ultimate potentially joining the fight.

– Couldn’t you say the same
thing about stealth?

– Stealth has a lot of the same
problems that we’re doing
a lot of work to improve, but in Dominion, you can have a cohesive team
strategy about holding a point or series of points. 
Mitigating the global ultimates makes it much
easier to hold your dominion so to speak. 
We looked at it for Summoner’s Rift as well and saw it as
a win-win so
we implemented it there as well.

– We’ve seen a lot of creative
items in Dominion both
in our time with the game, and with the various previews at sites and
like.  Will we be
seeing those items on
Summoner’s Rift and Twisted Treeline as well?

– A really interesting question!  One
thing we found with
Dominion is that
since the type of gameplay favors 1v1 and 2v2 type battles a lot more
than the massive team battles that inevitably happen in Summoner’s Rift. style="">  A lot of items that were
balanced for
Summoner’s Rift, such as Banshee’s Veil, won’t be in Dominion until

– I hate that item. 
The community does as well. 
do you guys think about it internally? 
What can we do to that item to make it anything less than
the ultimate
counter to all initiation?

– I can’t exactly comment on the
current state of the
Veil, but I personally think it is borderline unfair for Summoner’s
Rift, but
it was extremely problematic for Dominion. 
Dominion has so many small fights and 1v1s that are
completely ruined by
the potential for a 100% spell block. 
you’re Annie and you run into someone with your stun up and they have a
you can’t have someone else take care of the shield first.

Back to Dominion Items, we wanted to
add more items better
suited for small-scale fighting.  
And we
might add those items to Twisted Treeline as well at some point in the
because they both have similar problems.

– How long has Dominion been in
the works?

– I think it’s been in active
development since late last
year.  One thing
we’ve found as we were
working on it, it initially started as something much less ambitious. style="">  We could have just made
another classic League of Legends but
the more we
thought about it, the more we realized that in order to meet the needs
of the
growing genre, we needed to give the players a new experience.

– So we’ll never see Magma

– Haha, that’s another discussion. 
But we feel that Dominion
will meet the
expectations of gamers possibly more so than Magma Chamber would right

In making Dominion, we’ve had to
cycle through a lot of
iterations to make it great.  Some
had no
minions, others had neutrals, and more than you could possibly imagine. style="">  For the past 3 or 4 months
we’ve done nothing
but tiny tweaks for balance and pacing. 
We believe there’s a big difference between pretty good
and excellent,
so we want to make sure that when Dominion is live, it is up to that
standard we maintain.

– You wouldn’t be 15 million
strong if you didn’t up
until now, and I’m looking forward to seeing the numbers after Dominion
live.  Now during
the press unveiling,
you said this is ‘the first map’ for the mode. 
Will we be seeing more in the future?

– Absolutely. 
will continue to create content for the game.

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– So should we expect a 3v3 or
smaller variant next

– No, I think our next map won’t
be a Dominion specific
one.  We may do that
eventually, but one
thing we’ve really learned through Dominion is that creating a new map
and a
new mode creates a lot more new gameplay than simply a new map.

We also had no idea going into
Dominion that we’d have to
make an entirely new item system. 
didn’t think we’d have to make a global buff system to change how
interact with each other defensively and offensively—that (de)buff is
constantly active from the start! 
champions benefit from improved defensive penetration to encourage

– I could definitely feel that
as Vladimir.  Even
with armor items, Pantheon was still
tearing me apart!

– Tanks and Tanky DPS had a lot of
advantages in our
earlier iterations of the game.  They
throw their weight around better, and thus hold points more effectively
than fragile
champions.  Slapping
someone with good
self sustainability on a point, such as Garen, was proving frustrating.

– That’s definitely true.  
You could have
supports and speed demons
capturing elsewhere, while a Singed is just being a complete pain in
the ass.

– We still want tanks to feel like
tanks.  We just
wanted to make sure that all
character types are effective.  The
original map didn’t even have minions, but because certain champions
with additional farm or experience, we had to include them. style="">  Fights were also just less
interesting with
no minions around.

– One of the parts about
Dominion that makes me more
than pleased is the fact that lane control is no longer a factor. style="">  You’re not just standing
around trying to
last hit or avoid harass for the first 10 minutes!

– While that’s true in comparison
to Summoner’s Rift, as
you gain a mastery of the map lane control does begin to come into play
not nearly to the same extent.

– Some of the power ups seem
weak though.  The
Health Pack, for instance, only restores
about 10% health and mana. 

– That is a decision we made to
ensure that there still
is some form of attrition in battles. 
you could just retreat to a pack and join the fight again, that would
be hell
for the defender.  We
don’t want it to
turn into Team Fortress 2 where a Medic and a Heavy can’t be displaced
easily, or a Druid in WoW.

– Our audience certainly knows
how annoying those
Druids can be.

– But at this point we’ve played
thousands of games
internally of Dominion, and we are working to ensure that everything is
balanced twice over before suddenly millions of players are playing
millions of
games daily of it.  We
might not be able
to catch everything, but we remain committed to fixing everything that
brought up ASAP.

– Speaking of balance, about a
month ago we received a
major forums post about the new stealth changes, featuring permanent
but all heroes having a stealth sighting radius. 
That sounds like it’s going to be hell to
balance for this game mode!

– We’re assessing it very
carefully, and we’re going to
make sure we do the right thing and make these heroes both fun to play
as, and
not awful to play against.  There
are a
lot of subtle changes we can make to make it work. 
Just like we went through with multiple
iterations of Dominion internally to make it the game it is today, it
take multiple iterations of the Stealth system before it’s ready to go.

– Hopefully both it and Dominion
are ready to go
soon.  Thanks for
your time, Tom!

My pleasure.

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