Riot Colin here to share some context on changes to stealth abilities, vision and the new Control Ward.
**STEALTH Goals/Problem Statement**
After finishing up our normal preseason vision analysis, we came up with a handful of high value vision-related projects. We decided to tackle Stealth not only for its relevance to the Assassins, but because of its status as a long standing pain point in our game. We identified two systemic problems with stealth abilities in League:
**Unhealthy and Inaccessible Counter-play:** A player’s response to stealth abilities on live is Vision Wards (“Pinks”). There are a handful of problems with Vision Wards as a counter:
__1. Vision Wards remove all the power from a stealth state since they both reveal you and make you targetable.__
Plainly put, they are a hard-counter. When you combine this binary counter with immediate activation, stealth abilities’ power and satisfaction are detrimentally eroded by this counter-play. For example: Akali’s Twilight Shroud, an ability that should give Akali a moment of respite, feels unreliable and frankly unsafe.
This hard counter also causes a secondary problem for champion balance. Dropping Vision Wards in-combat is a skill that is not well developed in a majority of LoL players, but which is ever-present at high skill levels. This causes stealth champions to be powerful at average skill levels and hamstrung in higher level play.This distortion in Vision Ward usage forces us between a rock and a hard place. If stealth champions can’t rely on their stealth then we have to increase power elsewhere in their kit. This additional power exacerbates the balance for a majority of our players where champions get increased power and effective stealth due to infrequent countering.
__2. Vision Wards cost money and take up an inventory slot.__
When a stealth champion is picked, it is common for the opposing team’s champions to have to keep Vision Wards on-hand to tactically counter the stealth. We do not think it is appropriate for the choice of a stealth champion to impose such a large financial restriction on the opposing team. This restriction means that the opposing team has to pour their resources into temporary tactical advantages at the expense of investing in their character’s permanent power. The Stealth champion, however just builds permanent power.
**Stealth is Unnecessarily Hard to Parse:** Each of our stealth abilities’ VFX, SFX and tooltips are different.
This lack of shared language makes it difficult for* players to quickly recognize stealth as well as learn it as a general concept. This increases player frustration and leads to slower recognition of stealth’s mechanics and counters (Pink Wards, Sweeper).
**Stealth Keywords and Unified Visuals**
There are two general use cases for stealth: the strategic (Evelynn) and the tactical (Akali). We created two keywords so we can introduce counters that are appropriate for each case and to increase clarity.
**Stealth - Camouflage:** This is stealth that is primarily strategic in nature. It allows you to hide your position on the map, but not reliably in combat. You are revealed by nearby Turrets, Enemy Champions and Control Wards. (Will be further discussed below)
**Stealth - Invisibility:** This is stealth that is primarily tactical in nature. It allows you to safely maneuver and mitigate damage in fights. You are still revealed by nearby turrets because turrets are important as safe places for champions to retreat to in times of danger.
Along with these new keywords we are introducing common visuals for entering and exiting stealth states. These should help with legibility when you are playing against stealth units.
**Soft-counters for Stealth**
To avoid the hard countering problem we are introducing a soft-counter that should be accessible to most champions. If you damage an enemy champion while they are stealthed you will get a ghostly outline at their position. This should feel fairly intuitive and allows you to track stealthed enemies without completely nullifying the power of their abilities.
**Champion Ability Counter’s for Stealth**
There are currently champion abilities which reveal enemy units. We think that this generally adds interesting counter-play between champions. That being said, the reliability of an abilities stealth reveal makes a big difference here. E.G: Lee Sin’s Q has counterplay. His E however is a lot more reliable and could invalidate enemy stealthed champions abilities. We want to see how the stealth world shakes out before we decide what to do these abilities, but we will be keeping an eye on these matchups.
**Replace Vision Wards with Control Wards**
We are removing warding as a hard-counter against stealth. Control Wards will not reveal Invisible units. Control Wards will still reveal Camouflage as we think their is fair gameplay around a Camouflaged character skirting around enemy wards.
**CONTROL WARDS and VISION:**
For this preseason, we took a look at the different ways players could deny vision:
**Sweepers:** Used to clear pre-existing vision.
**Vision Wards:** Used to clear pre-existing vision and provide awareness of future vision that enters an area.
One chunk of design space that is not represented above is the ability to define an explicitly vision-free area. Can you drop a ward that will pre-emptively let you erect vision defenses. This was our inspiration for the Control Ward.
The Control Ward not only reveals nearby enemy wards and traps, but also disables them allowing you to create a safe place. We call this effect, “Jamming” a ward. When a Control Ward is jamming something, it will reveal itself through of Fog of War. This allows players to react to their wards’ denial and clear the Control Ward from a distance. The vision blocking mechanic adds a sizeable amount of power to vision denial. For this reason, there are some levers we can change if Control Wards prove to be overly punishing to net vision. (EG: Vision/Jamming range, ward health, ward health regeneration)
**The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors:** A final note on vision: We are going to be keeping a close eye on how dark/light the map is. We know you all have concerns over an overly dark map (especially with Assassins arriving). We do too. Still, rest assured that we will be monitoring vision closely to make necessary changes.