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.

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 GUR Lessons Learned over the Course of Fortnite Development
Alex Trowbridge (Epic Games)
Solving the Mystery Using the Wizard of Oz Method
Lanie Dixon (Octothorpe Games)
12:00 Break Lunch
1:00 Researching League of Legends’ Largest Update
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
Multiple Speakers
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 (User Behavioristics)
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)