Thursday, April 16, 2015

League Analysis: Improving Ultra Rapid Fire Mode (More)

Ultra Rapid Fire mode is rapidly becoming something of a tradition for URF Day, with the initial debut last year on April Fools' Day resulting in a sizable amount of positive feedback to the point that Riot planned to bring it back. As promised, URF mode came back better than ever, with significant tweaks to ensure a more balanced environment that allowed for every champion to be used. However, while there was a significant positive reaction to the return of the mode, voices of concern became louder to the point that some were happy that the mode's existence was only temporary. While I personally enjoyed the mode greatly, I can understand why there's some cause for concern for the mode. Now that the mode is gone and likely to receive more changes for its debut next year (but hopefully sooner), this is a good time to consider changes that would make the game mode even more enjoyable.

The Issues

After playing the mode extensively and gathering data, I find the problems with URF Mode (aside from champion imbalance) to be at least the following:
  • Champion bounties are designed for a normal Summoner's Rift match, allowing players to snowball out of control very fast.
  • Respawn timers are balanced around a slower normal match, making the normally fast-paced game mode feel slower if the player dies.
  • The above two points result in players farming champion kills to the point of ignoring minions because not only does everything die really fast, it is clearly more advantageous to do so.
  • It is very advantageous to build damage (to the point of being a glass cannon) because of the flat 80% cooldown reduction and the high number of offensive skills in the game. The bonus to attack speed is also worth pointing out.
    • This is understandable since the mode is intended to be fast-paced, but there should be a little more room for building defensive stats and even a modest increase in defensive stat power will still allow players to kill each other really fast due to the high amount of base cooldown reduction.
    • This is more of a problem because of how fast players can snowball in URF since the winning team will likely have a massive gold lead in a matter of minutes.
  • Because ability cooldowns are so low and some champion ability ranges are long, it is incredibly easy to camp the fountain much like this.
To summarize, the issues with URF are a consequence of the amazing buff that makes the mode fun. Thankfully, some of the more potentially pertinent issues, such as champion imbalance and high levels of sustain, were addressed this year.

The Solution(?)

At some point last year, there was some mention of putting URF mode on the Crystal Scar or even the Howling Abyss since the fast-paced gameplay better matched the design of those maps (though nowadays there's apparently calls to replace Dominion with URF, making the aforementioned suggestion difficult to find). The general idea of making URF use the Crystal Scar or the Howling Abyss by default has some logical basis. Both of the maps share shorter respawn timers and lower bounties. They also have the added benefit of incentivizing killing champions due to passive experience gain, which helps players keep up in terms of levels, plus creep spawns are generally pretty low as well. These map-wide effects don't address every single issue listed above, but they serve as good points of reference.

With these points in mind, if URF were to stay on Summoner's Rift, a couple small changes should take place:
  • Champion bounties and spawn timers have been reduced by around 60-66%.
    • This change still allows players to farm champion kills, but to get as far head as before, they have to score a lot more kills, giving the other team more room to stop the snowballing effect.
  • When in the upper area of the fountain, friendly champions gains 90% damage reduction.
    • While a buff like this is usually only applied to disconnected players, having this apply in URF mode all the time should give players being camped on the fountain a better chance of fighting against their campers. It'll at least give them the chance to leave the fountain by using Teleport of the like.
    • It applies only in a specific area of the fountain so that it's more difficult for players to abuse the benefits of the buff.
    • The buff is also a flat 90% damage reduction because some champions and items can benefit from a large amount of defensive stats.
While I could suggest more changes, I think these two changes alone are enough to help reduce the frustration of playing URF mode significantly. It would at least serve as a start in terms of making URF more enjoyable to play.

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