I've been absent for a while, but not unproductive - I made this infographic that sums up a lot of my ideas about sight, stealth, and the vision game. Hopefully it's coherent.
I wanted the pic to appear on this blog page, but LoL Wiki wouldn't display it properly. :(
The main point of the post (what I hope a Rioter sees and passes along) is the idea of the vision interplay loop. Interplay, as defined by the guys at Critical Gaming Network define interplay as: "Counters or the continual chain of back and forth counters between any two gameplay elements. The essence of gameplay." They state, furthermore: "Causing interesting choices to emerge in gameplay is a matter of making a game complex (rules/properties) and interconnected (dynamics/interplay) enough so that the gameplay (mechanics/choices) is balanced and varied."
These guys are far beyond me in their understanding of games, but I think it's safe to say League is already very complex and has a lot of neat interconnectedness EXCEPT when it comes to League's vision system. Balancing stealth - giving players interesting mechanics and options, each unique (complex) and with subtle interactions (dynmaics/interplay), can only be done by making stealth as interconnected to true sight, detection, and nearsight (the pillars of League's vision system) as Crit Chance, AD, AS, Armor, and Health are interconnected with each other, for example.
Basically, Riot has, knowingly or not, put several gameplay elements into our midst that all have the potential to interact in neat ways. I say 'the potential' because currently the vision game is IMO, an under-explored under-developed facet of the game. But it's one that creates very interesting encounters and scenarios.
Sight Beyond Sight
Our last stealth champion was Kha'Zix in 2012. It looked to us that Riot had simply shelved stealth. Riot never stopped advancing the vision game though. They gave us the trinket update in season 4, and season 5 had the changes to jungle monsters (wolf, raptors, and skuttle), and late in season 5 we got the "Eyestones".
And over those years, we get Thresh, Quinn, Kalista, Rek'Sai, Azir, Illaoi, Tahm Kench, Jhin, and Aurelion Sol. One thing that all these champs have in common is a really unique (powerful, but within reason) way of playing with vision (props if you can name them all.)
We all know that sight 'wins games' but it goes beyond that. The majority of this game's action revolves around imperfect information as each team constantly maneuvers for a new angle of attack, trying to get picks or bait the opposing team into a bad position. Too much sight removes a lot of this dynamic, but the answer isn't to remove player's options for gaining sight. The answer, IMO, is to introduce more stealth, detection, and denial such that the forms of sight are much more vulnerable and no guarantee of safety.
I may be alone in thinking this, but I'm convinced that the health and future of this game is entwined with stealth, detection, and denial. To that end, it is crucial that Riot start thinking of unique and interesting ways to play with those things because as it stands vision, which includes sight, stealth, detection, and denial, is the least explored design space in the game.
Stealth VS 'Stealth'
I'm also challenging the use of the word 'stealth' by Riot and the LoL community, as a misnomer for what is more rightly called 'invisibility'. Stealth is a mindset and a playstyle. It's about skirting the edge's of a ward's sight, approaching from an unexpected direction, and ambushing enemies as they facecheck your brush. It's about assuming the enemy can see you, and reacting appropriately. It's about as giving them as little info as possible to your movements and whereabouts. It's about misdirection and deception. It's about the watching and waiting, stalking and slaying. A game of secrets.
Every champion can already use stealth thanks to brush and terrain and the Fog of War. The pros do it. They're very conscientious of where they saw wards placed and where they suspect the enemy is warding. Likewise, you will see the pros pretend they don't have vision so as to lure a ganker into a countergank. It's beautiful.
Invisibility, on the other hand, is a powerful form of untargetability that also conceals our movements and positioning from the enemy. It's frustrating to play against because there is, for the most part, very little counterplay inherent to invisibility. The tell-tale signs, telegraphing, particle effects, and audio cues are few and far in between. The invisibility that Riot has given us has been near total and absolute in its form, which is why it has required an equally harsh (hard) counter - True Sight.
The Problem With Pink Wards
Currently, True Sight is the primary counter for invisibility. There are at least a dozen champion abilities, andthat give it. Putting aside champion abilities, let us look at these two instances or expressions of True Sight.
Pink Ward is an instant speed consumable. FQC summons two spooky ghosts that, if one reaches you, will reveal you for a short duration. Pink Ward poses a problem for invis, while FQC is much friendlier and better for our invis heroes. This is because FQC has telegraphing and travel times, while Pink Ward in its current iteration, does not allow for much interaction. It is an instant speed hard counter. It's saving grace is that its True Sight radius is only 1000 units, and that it can't move. God help us if the things were still invisible.
An enemy who can get the drop on a champion with an invis ability, and drops a Pink, has a huge advantage. Likewise, if you're reaction time is quick enough, dropping a Pink as the enemy becomes invis totally negates their use of it.
But what is the primary use of invis? Yes, it's a gap closer and escape mechanism, but Stealth feels satisfying to use is because it gives the you, the user, a chance to breathe, to think, to assess the situation, and react to what your opponent does after you enter stealth.
To illustrate my point, consider Vayne. If you're carrying a Pink, and she Ults, dropping the Pink immediately takes away her ability to turn invisible, but what choices does it offer her? Does it allow her a chance to outplay? She can either fight, run, destroy the Pink Ward orthe Pink Ward. Some of those options are better than others, and even then they aren't ideal. I think if Pink Ward had a 1.5 second delay, it would be fairer to the Stealth champs, while also pushing the use of Pink Wards away from being 'combat consumables'.
We need softer ways of countering Stealth. Consider a new True Sight of invisible units that have been within your field of vision for more than X seconds." I'll let Riot decide on the X. Isn't this kind of thing more fair? Delays and casting animations and travel times and telegraphing are all important to giving the opponent a chance to react, i.e. counterplay.that now reads: "Your champion gains
More Detection Is Good For Stealth
The number of Detection effects, which is currently limited to just Rek'Sai's Tremor Sense and (they give info / awareness but don't provide targetability) needs to be increased in order to balance Stealth.
If Riot were to increase the number of champions who had Detection effects, there would be more (soft) counters to Stealth within the champion pool. If it sounds obvious, it may well be. How can Riot do it though?
Consider Warwick's Blood Scent and Quinn's Heightened Senses. I imagine Warwick gets a reddish-orange trail to follow (think Singed's Poison Trail) and maybe Quinn gets an ! icon if an invis enemy is near. On such abilities, the inclusion of Detection effects makes sense and doesn't seem out of place.
With such an increase in Detection effects the Stealth champs would be weaker, due to having more counters in the champion pool, meaning they could be afforded some long overdue QoL buffs and extra utility, since their Stealth doesn't eat up their power budget. It also creates interesting comp scenarios since a team will have to make a conscious choice to opt for more vision / detection or a more reliable enage / peel or superiour movement / range, etc.
This also applies to some more interesting versions of True Sight ( Vel'Koz's Ult would be a great candidate), and sight (all of Lux's basic abilities and Bard's Shrines) Stealth would be less oppressive / weaker, due to having advanced warning or funneling the stealth champ into a particular gank path (because the other paths were warded, trapped, or otherwise zoned out, etc.)
Nearsight & Vision Denial
Nearsight, which operates as a sort of sister / cousin to Stealth, only has 4 instances in the game, not including Rek'Sai's self-nearsight. It takes some of the pressure off of stealth, while simultaneously enhancing a number of champion's flavor and theme. The case for a new 'nearsighting' Ult for Evelynn is a strong one, IMO, as it would actually makes her an assassin. Even Teemo would benefit from his Q applying nearsight, as it would give him a window for using his passive Stealth and probably have as more or more counterplay than his current blind.
A New Ward & Trinket Environment
Wards and trinkets are wonderful, why don't we see more of them? If players had a greater variety of options for gaining information, detering ganks, and interacting with stealthed champions, wouldn't everyone be better for it? Riot, please.