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

Posted Mon, Aug 15, 2011 by Stow

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.  Is this in preparation for Dominion since global teleporting would be pretty gamebreaking in most capture-and-hold type games?

Tom Cadwell – 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.

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

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

Tom – 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.

Stow – 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 the like.  Will we be seeing those items on Summoner’s Rift and Twisted Treeline as well?

Tom – 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 rather than the massive team battles that inevitably happen in Summoner’s Rift.  A lot of items that were balanced for Summoner’s Rift, such as Banshee’s Veil, won’t be in Dominion until they’re overhauled.

Stow – I hate that item.  The community does as well.  What 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?

Tom – 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.  If you’re Annie and you run into someone with your stun up and they have a Veil, 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 future, because they both have similar problems.

Stow – How long has Dominion been in the works?

Tom – 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.  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.

Stow – So we’ll never see Magma Chamber?

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

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.  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 excellent standard we maintain.


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