I've written before about how the vision game isn't in a great state, and recently made this post on the forums. It didn't garner much attention, which is to be expected, but it is still disheartening to see a lack of interest in the vision game. Then, much to my dismay but not to my surprise, I discovered that the sight page on LoL Wiki had no comments.
An ill omen? Perhaps. As I commented there, I think it says something profound about the League community and Riot HQ that vision is not a primary lever of balance. Riot has recently introduced (or adopted) the nearsight mechanic, which is a step in the right direction, IMO. It is a great way to add power to a kit without adding a slew of effects (lifesteal, stuns, shields, etc) or damage. It is only a single step though, and we still have miles to go.
In other news, people seem displeased with Quinn's new blind, and with the current state of wards and trinkets (the lack of true sight has not gone unnoticed). Oddly, no one comments on the stealth-based champions outside of calling for buffs / nerfs / complete kit overhaul / deletion. What can be done for these champions? I think Riot already has the answer though they are either oblivious or terrified of its implementation (I strongly suspect the former).
Consider Illaoi's Test of Spirit. It is a pretty exciting ability, but not for the reasons you might think. Don't be distracted by the slow or the tentacles - the real secret is the overlay. The visual effect that you perceive while a Vessel is really groundbreaking. Overlays are nothing new, however. Many ages ago Riot gave all the stealth champs an overlay to indicate when they were stealthed, but only Rengar gets a unique one which tints the screen red and grants you a form of true sight letting you see / feel the pulse of the enemy champions within a certain distance.
Why stop there? Is there no way to cleverly implement overlays for the other stealth champions in a way that enhances their flavor / theme while simultaneously increasing their counterplay and / or outplay potential? Let me paint a picture for you.
Akali, as with most assassins, is despised because of her burst / snowball potential and her escape abilities. Interestingly, her stealth is considered the most 'balanced' of all the stealth crew, as you 'know where she is'. Yet it doesn't change the fact that you need a specific item (or counterpick) in order to interact with her while she is stealthed. Her stealth is (still) largely binary.
So let's tweak her ability. What if, while Akali is inside her Twilight Shroud, she were invisible, and stepping into her shroud revealed her, but robbed you of sight of her allies? Let's take it a bit further. What if, like Rengar and Illaoi, she had an overlay? Well, for whatever reason, Akali invokes a sense of 'autumn' from me, so I imagine that while you (either as Akali, as her ally, or as her opponent) are in her AoE you would see a pink overlay with cherry blossom petals drifting past.
Perhaps the direction of the blossoms gave some clue as to her movement or relative position - a 'tell-tale' sign, if you will. I also imagine that if she were to leave her AoE with you still inside, she retains 'invisibility' due to the AoE preventing sight of enemy champions while inside it. I also want to stress that the Fog of War would not 'envelope' your champion, as with Graves' Smoke Screen. Instead, I imagine that any areas of the map where you had / have vision would remain 'lit up' but it is as though all allied units have disappeared (effectively stealthing your team from you while inside the AoE). Maybe that last clause is too strong, or should be reserved for another ability. Personally, I would love to see Riot adopt overlays as a larger part of stealth. Can you imagine what Evelynn's overlay could appear like? I also think it would be cool if Lissandra's Frozen Tomb created some kind of visual effect overlay for those trapped inside. I imagine the screen shimmering / gleaming like ice with a subtle blue / white tint. She's all about that ice after all.
There are three major points here that I want to make. The first is that, as it stands, vision is the least explored design space in the game. I don't think that's an understatement either. Tell me why, in game with over 100 unique champions, and 75+ legendary / mythic items, the options for playing against stealth are limited to 2-3 items and a handful of abilities and only then as hard-counters?
The second point is that, I think Riot needs to suck it up and double down on the stealth champions. They need, not to overhaul stealth, but to really work on how stealth is presented both to the player using it and the player facing against it. It would, in my mind, solidify / enhance their fantasy and identity, while ideally increasing their outplay potential and granting more counterplay to their opponents.
Finally, my third point is that the state of the game, of assassins, of the stealth crew, will never be as healthy (fair and fun for everyone) as it could be until Riot really starts playing with stealth, detection, and denial. Overlays, it turns out, might just be the key. For the love of stealth, Riot, please consider taking another look at vision!