Say what you will about balance, I think Riot is sincerely trying to make the game better.
I not sure they're pulling the right levers though. They are constantly moving damages and cooldowns and resource costs around, but what about more fundamental aspects of the game like ranges and move speed and even the way health and resistances and basic attacks work?
They have played with some of these things before, but progress is slow, and I'm concerned. Many champions still linger in a torpid state while others flaunt overloaded kits, lower counterplay abilities, and / or ridiculous damage ratios. Worse still, entire core pieces of the game, like stealth, are ignored almost entirely.
Everyone has their 'obvious' solutions, but I have to wonder why Riot does what they do the way they do it, instead of some other way? Are they really concerned with 'balance'? How can they be when they inject, almost haphazardly, entirely new variables into the game, as was demonstrated this Pre-Season? Just what, exaclty, is off limits in terms of change?
This is, admittedly, only tangentially related to League. I've been thinking about some of these things for a while now, using League as reference, but incorporating other elements from RTSs and, especially, FPSs like Halo, TF2, Unreal Tournament, and even *gasp* Call of Duty. I want to see the game be better (I strongly believe it can be) but I'm curious as to what it would take to make an even better game.
Accuracy, range, and sight have an interesting relationship, not just in League but in real life. The more you think about them, the more you realize just what League (or any other video game simulating combat) could do, but doesn't.
Range, even in League, is, as an old Italian proverb goes, 'the best armor'. League however, does not have tremendously huge distances to cover and has no 'accuracy' stat, even though it once had 'dodge'. In reality, we can see further than the champions can in League (barring obstructions) but at such ranges sight poses some issues. It isn't that we can't see enemies or allies coming toward us, but that we cannot easily tell friend from foe. Defining features are obscured at excessive range, and so too is our accuracy.
Small projectiles can fail to hit their targets, but the odds of that decrease the closer the enemy is to us, of course. Strangely enough, however, agility helps the attacker less while they are at great range, as the distance mitigates the effectiveness of their agility relative to our perspective. They may serpentine, but the change in position is relatively small and we are already likely to miss anyway.
As a melee attacker approaches, our defender at range simultaneously has increased chance of hitting him but his agility will become a larger factor in whether or not he is successfully hit (ignoring projectile speed). Not surprisingly, the damage that is done will (assuming a successful hit) often be more than what would've been done at a greater range but this also applies to our attacker! The odds of scoring a 'critical hit' increase as distance decreases.
Finally, at close range the chances of enormous damage (critical hits) are higher. At point-blank range, we have maximum likely-hood of critically striking. This rule might only apply to modern weapons, but could conceivably apply to more ancient ones as well. Our ranged person is is danger now too. Once in melee combat, the person with the knife or crowbar or brass knuckles effectively has 100% critical chance as well.
Now we come to another factor: armor. In the game, armor reduces damage, but what about IRL? Armor is primarily there to reduce, not the damage one would take, but the odds of that damage striking critically. Damage that is still taken is often damage that would have immediately killed, or seriously (critically) wounded a person.
There is also this notion of mobility creep. The standard view is that CC counters mobility, which is true. But there is also another gameplay mechanic which 'counters' mobility: sight. This should really be called 'information' as ideally there would be more forms of detection in the game. Having ample time to respond to an approaching enemy, and maneuver accordingly, is a valid tactic and one that we see in League.
There is also the notion that non-ranged and / or non-mobile champions lose to ranged and / or mobile champions. It's not that I'd like to see this changed, but what if the champions who were didn't have exception range were exceptionally defensive? The implication is that the counter to 'range' is, in fact, tanks.
In League, tanks are kited easily, and slowly (or quickly) eaten up by the continuous damage our marksmen put out. Yet historically, tanks and siege engines have always been the bane of ranged infantry men. They are implacable, inexorable in their approach. They have a habit of zoning and pushing back the enemy line. You need special defenses to stop tanks, heavy artillery to outright destroy them, or individual units to outmaneuver them and strike their weak points.
So mobility counters tanks through being able to outmaneuver them, and tanks counter range through their innate defense.
What does all this mean for League?
I'm not sure. I think the idea of the marksmen 'class' having even greater range has merit, as it emphasizes their core strength. Changing the way critical strikes work so that it is dependent on distance and / or the enemy's armor would also be cool, IMO. The notion of marksmen being a constant source of damage, in my mind, pushes them into more of a supporting role (suppressive fire, anyone?) while still dealing the most damage over the course of a game, rather than the current massive damage in three hits that their AD and crit allows.
Likewise, I think that each 'class' should have it's primary strength emphasized. Tanks should be slower, hit harder, be tenacious, and have more health. Assassin's should have their mobility emphasized through their movement speed, attack speed, and have lower health and armor in general.
I understand League is currently finely-tuned. No doubt changes like this would upset that balance. I don't think that League should be changed in this way, but I do think there is still room for improvement, and that moving damages, cooldowns, and costs around is not what Riot needs to be focusing on.