Greg Street, known as Ghostcrawler to World of Warcraft and League of Legends players around the world, has been Riot Games’ Lead Game Designer since January 2014. Now entering his fourth preseason with League, Street took the time to catch up with The Rift Herald last week about this season’s changes, feedback from players and the direction of the game’s design choices.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. This is part two of a three-part interview. You can read part one, which covers plants and the assassin update, right here. Part three will be released Friday.
PV: One of the other positions that got a big tune-up was the support position, which is one that you guys as a team have been trying to make more appealing to players. You’ve got the two new active items supports are using — is there a fear at all of making the support position too dependent on active items?
GS: That is definitely a concern. We know that active items are kind of a big ask of players. Even relatively high-tier players, we look at the usage rate on the active items, they’re not using them as much as we expect. I don’t know if that’s true of the new items, but historically we have to be really careful of active items. I think that’s a really valid concern: is too much of the support role’s agency tied up in using those items correctly?
We also don’t expect this to be a huge band-aid, we know that support has some fundamental problems and it’s hurting our matchmaking because, saying nobody is an overstatement, but it would be great if let’s say 20 percent of players wanted to play each position, because that makes matchmaking really awesome. The system’s robust enough that it doesn’t have to be literally 20 percent but support is, like, half that, so we really need to try to bring it up or try to think of something radically different if we want to offer good matchmaking.
PV: Has there been any thought to ideas like extra IP rewards or Hextech loot for playing a position with less of a playerbase?
GS: We’ve talked about that, our history with kind of extrinsic rewards like that is it will increase usage rate in the short-term, but those aren’t sustainable, and once you take the rewards away players feel, you know, kind of like they were promised something and you’re removing it from them. If we have to do that, we will. We’d like to see if we can just make the position more attractive to begin with to get there.
PV: One of the highest win rates over the last few patches has actually been support Sion, and as a Sion main I find that very interesting, because I feel like he is stronger as a support than as a top laner right now. I remember last year, it was pretty similar with Poppy before the nerfs. Is that something you’re keeping an eye on? How do you feel about a primarily top-lane champion going down to the support role and doing so well?
GS: Tahm Kench is another one, kind of the same pattern. I mean, supports traditionally are either high utility mages or super tanky initiator types. Overall, we think that’s a pretty healthy spot, and in fact, if we want to make support more attractive, one of the things that we can do is make sure there are a lot of different play styles in there. Kind of the stereotypical support is kind of a low-agency, I just kind of wait around until someone gets close enough and then either initiate or stop them from hurting my marksman, so getting a bigger variety of champions down there I think actually can help with those challenges.
There’s always the problem that like, what if Sion becomes support only and players feel like he’s not viable in top lane? Well that kind of sucks. It’s awesome to have non-traditional supports like Sion down there, we just don’t want it to come at the expense of top lane Sion, we don’t want Sion mains to feel like ‘I’ve played this champion for hundreds of games and now you’re telling me I have to be a support?’, and similarly we don’t want a bunch of tanky supports to crowd out Janna and Sona, who really don’t have anywhere else to go if they can’t play bottom lane.
PV: Back to the active items, it does seem like Redemption and Locket are extremely strong right now, is that something the team is looking at in terms of pricing or something else?
GS: Definitely looking at it. They are getting a ton of feedback, like ‘Oh my god, Redemption feels like a Soraka ult, surely this isn’t intended!’ It is kind of fun, and it is helping support players get a little more agency, so knock on wood, there’s no immediate plans to nerf them, but there’s a lot of talk about it so it wouldn’t surprise me if we get there.