Research Reforged - An in-depth look at the research behind the largest game-play update to League of Legends

Nathan Blau

How do we research massive systemic changes to lasting game experiences? The conversations have pivoted from “what’s the next holiday blockbuster we’re shipping?” to “how can we maintain a lasting ecosystem that will keep players engaged for years, decades, and even generations?” Games research is evolving from polishing games before they launch to helping designers and developers build lasting experiences for their players. This story focuses on Runes Reforged: the largest gameplay change in League of Legends’ 8 year history. Runes Reforged was a cross-disciplinary undertaking to remove one of the largest pain points of our players as well as redefine the gameplay in League of Legends.


  • Updates as New Games – Treating major game updates as new games; working with designers to include major tests in their development roadmap
  • Holistic Insight – Use of telemetry, research, and strategic advisement
  • Pro-Player Testing – Structuring goals and methodologies differently for professional play
  • Multi-ecosystem Testing – Focusing research on signal from one specific area in a broader change (gameplay, progression, economy)
  • International Testing – Creating different protocols and goals for testing in multiple countries (North America, China, Korea)
  • Embedding and Total Ownership – Working with design and product teams from ideation through post launch; fully understanding and committing to both the research and the product
  • Category: Talk
Nathan Blau

Nathan Blau is the research lead for Gameplay Insights at Riot Games. He works to improve products and direct strategy on League of Legends, as well as empower teams with data and the player perspective. He previously worked as a UX researcher at Sony PlayStation, working titles such as Bloodborne and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Prior to joining the games industry, Nathan studied psychology and political science at the University of Chicago.