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

Nathan Blau

Games have changed. The conversations have pivoted from “how can we create the next holiday blockbuster” 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.

While all of Riot aligns to the mission of being player focused, Insights takes a particular angle on this. Our goal is to assist Riot in being player focused by finding ways to represent player experiences in one of the largest game ecosystems: League of Legends. This particular 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 pre-game of League of Legends.

Like all changes to League of Legends, we tested this new system with players. A typical player lab at Riot will have 1 to 3 sessions, and sees about 10 players per session. Runes Reforged totaled 32 sessions with more than 250 players over the course of a year, making it the largest effort for an update. Among all those players, we had the additional challenges of testing the system internationally in our largest region (China) and our most competitive region (Korea). Additionally, Runes Reforged had to be an improvement for all of our players: from Bronze League all the way to the highest level of professional play in the Korean Pro leagues.

This presentation will cover the journey of through Runes Reforged: from inception, challenges, discoveries, and the overall impact that the Runes Reforged research had on the product and the broader League of Legends world.

  • Category: Talk
Nathan Blau

Nathan Blau is a researcher dedicated to League of Legends gameplay, working to connect and empower teams with data and player perspectives. Nathan has given academic presentations on games user research for student organizations at the University of Chicago (50-80 attendees) as well as gaming analytics lectures for undergrad and graduate courses at the University of Southern California (20-30 attendees).

While attending the University of Chicago, Nathan was the keynote student speaker to incoming freshman families, delivering speaches in front of 1000+ member audiences for his junior and senior year.

Session Schedule
#gamesUR US 2018 Schedule
8:00 Track A (Room B) Track B (Room C) Foyer
8:15 Empty Registration and Setup
9:00 Opening Address
Phil Keck (Activision)
9:15 Keynote: How to Win Friends and Influence Developers Posters/ Exhibitors
10:00 Break Break
10:15 Your Survey Sucks: Exposing Truth to Mobile Game Dev Teams Through Better Quant
Sarah Romoslawski (Glu)
Rapid Mentoring
James Berg (EA)
Posters/ Exhibitors
10:45 Context and Game Analytics: Hearthstone and Overwatch gotchas
Aleksandar Mirkovic
11:15 Solving the Mystery Using the Wizard of Oz Method
Lanie Dixon (Octothorpe Games)
GUR Lessons Learned over the Course of Fortnite Development
Alex Trowbridge (Epic Games)
12:00 Break Lunch
1:00 Research Reforged – An in-depth look at the research behind the largest game-play update to League of Legends
Nathan Blau (Riot Games)
Roundtable: Constructive Conversations About Racism and Sexism
Deborah Hendersen, Melissa Boone, & Jerome Hagen (Microsoft)
Posters/ Exhibitors
2:00 A Player-centered look at Spending and Advertising in mobile games
Allen Bevans & Pat Samermit (Google)
Building Confidence in Topics of Games User Research
Seb Long (Player Research) &,Lanie Dixon (Ubisoft)
3:00 Vendors + Poster Sessions Vendors + Poster Sessions
3:30 Challenges in the Game Analytics Pipeline
Panel led by Nic VanMeerten (GLITCH)
Experimental Research Showcase
Multiple Speakers
Posters/ Exhibitors
4:15 Player segmentation: a practical mixed method approach
John Hopson (Blizzard)
VR PLAY: Usability and Playability Guidelines for VR Games
Heather Desurvire and Max Kreminski (USC)
4:45 Fishbowl: Overcoming Challenges in GUR
5:15 Break Break
5:30 GUR Salary Survey
Jonathan Dankoff (WB Games)
5:45 Games User Research SIG Chair Update
Ben Lewis-Evans (Epic games)