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Opinion: Champion Design And Player Consent

Opinion: Champion Design And Player Consent


Anyone who’s been playing League of Legends for the last couple of champion releases will likely have noticed a trend in recent designs. It’s a mechanic that began long ago with Thresh, but has since come to a head with more recent champions like Kalista, Bard and Tahm Kench. The mechanic I’m talking about is, of course, the ability for one of your team mates to affect your positioning and movement. Don’t get me wrong, this is a brilliant mechanic, and one which not only fosters a lot more team play and trust between players, but also can really pull you from a tight spot and turn a fight around when used effectively. Everyone has their epic water cooler stories about how you managed to escape a 5v1 maxresdefaultwith a lucky Thresh lantern or managed to turn a fight when you launched your Nautilus support directly into the enemy team as Kalista. However, for every good play and every good player, there are always those that aren’t so good.
That’s what I’ve been experiencing a lot in the Rift recently since Tahm Kench has been running around swallowing everyone whole and leaving you to do nothing but scream “WHY?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” at the top of your lungs while you get carried into a fight you never wanted any part of. It doesn’t so much foster good, healthy team play as it does just make you furious at Riot for making a champion that essentially takes away your ability to play the game. There are probably a million examples of good plays made with Tahm Kench and, realistically, I know I should give players more than a few weeks to learn his full potential. But the rash of bad plays I’ve seen lately have simply left me to wonder what direction Riot is going towards in the future of champion design, and why in particular Bard and Tahm Kench stand out to me as bad designs.
As for the ‘why?’ I can only think of one thing; consent. A couple years ago at ArcadeCon, CertainlyT, a champion designer at Riot Games, spoke a little bit about his thought process when it came to Thresh’s lantern. He said that while everyone in the office thought that a mechanic like that was doomed to fail, he was adamant that he could make it work. The idea that another person on your team could affect your own positioning is a horrible prospect to long term League players, however Thresh’s lantern works well because of one simple fact; you have to click the lantern in order to use it. Not only does this cut down on any potential you had to troll your team mates, it also fosters a feeling of synergy and team work between players. If you’re in a tight spot, it’s not just your responsibility or Thresh’s to get you out of it, you both have to do your parts.
The same can be said of Kalista, another CertainlyT champion, who can bind herself to an ally, and use her ultimate ability to throw that ally in a direction. Reading that, it sounds like a horrible disaster waiting to happen, except that Kalista doesn’t choose your direction, you do. If kal-wallpaperyou want to go balls to the wall into the enemy team, you can, but if you want to run away and avoid the fight you can do that as well. There’s no one forcing you into a situation you don’t want; it’s all about choice along with tactics and, of course, consent.
When it comes to champion designs like Bard or Tahm Kench, that feeling of consent is gone. You can’t cancel Bard’s ultimate or Tahm Kench’s Devour; you are simply frozen, unable to do anything while everything happens around you, and that isn’t what I’d call ‘helping’. It doesn’t foster any sense of team work, because if those abilities are used badly there nothing I can do about it. All those abilities really do is make you think “This player is an idiot, and now I don’t trust him.” Now realistically, that can be said for any ability in the game, but honestly, if you see your Karthus firing off his ultimate when the entire enemy team is full health, it’s not gonna really affect you long term. You can still do whatever you need to do to take advantage of the situation and turn it in your favour, while still trusting your own skill as a player to bring you to a victory screen.
Being swallowed by a Tahm Kench doesn’t only make you feel frustrated, it makes you feel powerless. It makes you feel as if you can’t trust your team, which is not only a poor design to give to a champion, but also seems to be the exact opposite of what Riot Games wants to do with League. League of Legends is a game that, when played well, is a team effort. You have to work together with your team and trust everyone to do their part if you want to succeed, and when you reach that victory screen you should know that everyone has worked their hardest, and deserves that win. Even in defeat, you should be able to feel like you did everything in your power to prevent it. Tahm Kench and Bard go against that ideal, and take away that power. For that reason, I sincerely hope they aren’t any indicator of future champion designs, but at the end of the day, that choice is up to Riot. I just wanna ask; Do you want a game full of team play, and a shared sense of accomplishment, or do you want to be swallowed up and taken along against your will? I know which one I’d prefer.
Do you agree? Leave any thoughts in the comments below!