Matthew Leung-Harrison, League of Legends designer: “We have to think about each player and their skill level”

With the start of the 2023 Season of League of LegendsMillions of players around the world are currently fighting on Summoner’s Rift in search of reaching the top, after the series of changes that the preseason brought with it.

To prepare all this, within Riot Games there is a group of developers and designers in charge of the updates that come every 2 weeks to its flagship title, known as the Summoner’s Rift Team.

In charge of this great team is Matthew Leung-Harrison, also known as Riot Phroxzon, with whom we were able to share a space prior to the start of the new season to learn how they prepare for each patch, and how the community influences the changes. What do we see in the game?

Related Video: The Story Behind League of Legends

Interview with Matthew Leung-Harrison, Design and Balance Lead at League of Legends

LEVEL UP: First of all, we would like you to tell us a little about your role within Riot Games.

Riot Phroxson: I’ve been a part of Riot for 8 years, and I’m currently the design lead within the Summoner’s Rift Team, which handles gameplay balance, preseason planning, and all game updates.

Basically, we are in charge of everything within League of Legendsexcept for the new champions.

LEVEL UP: What’s the best thing about being part of such an influential developer in the esports industry?

Riot Phroxson: I think it is very enriching and exciting at the same time. It’s amazing to me to be that person who listens to the community and brings to the game everything that gives them joy.

And being a player like everyone else, it’s interesting to be able to provide input on what’s coming to the Rift to some degree. Thinking of all those who enjoy the game and cross-regional competition, I am delighted to be able to be a crucial part of this.

LEVEL UP: With each patch, we see how multiple champions are positively or negatively affected by changing various aspects of them, which impacts their performance on the Rift. What is the most difficult thing to face when planning all this series of changes and updates?

Riot Phroxson: One of our challenges is that, when designing everything related to League of Legends, we must think about each player and their skill level. So the game environment is always the same for everyone, but each change is focused on different groups of players.

Balancing different types of audience is quite difficult, so we have divided them into four segments: average gamers (Iron IV to Platinum IV), skill gamers (Platinum IV to Diamond I), elite gamers (Diamond I to Challenger) and professional players.

So for example, during the run-up to international tournaments, we focus on balancing things out for professional players, just like we did during the Worlds 2022 patches. However, for most of the year we usually bring changes for all players. segments, which is more challenging than doing one alone, but enhances the specific experience for each player.

The League of Legends competitive ladder is a challenge few manage to conquer
The League of Legends competitive ladder is a challenge few manage to conquer

LEVEL UP: Regarding the feedback you receive from casual players, professionals and even content creators, at what level does all this influence when defining what will be in each patch?

Riot Phroxson: We usually use a series of internal data to evaluate the current state of the game, such as champion statistics, pick and ban percentage, game duration, among others. We combine all of this with the feedback we receive from players, as it’s important to get player feedback no matter what segment or region they belong to.

For example, early last year, the community expressed dissatisfaction with the damage output of various champions in the game, which led to the release of the durability update in patch 12.10.

So in summary, we use our own collected information plus the feedback received to define the next changes.

LEVEL UP: In the face of big events like MSI or Worlds and even for regional leagues, we know that the Summoner’s Rift Team is in charge of preparing even the smallest detail so that everything is a success. How is the atmosphere or the preparation on your part when it comes to tournaments like this?

Riot Phroxson: I would describe him as intense, but also very methodical. At this point, the slightest tweak can make a champion relevant or not, so we always try to think carefully about each change.

We have a very specific process and each designer is in charge of a different role, who is in charge of analyzing the current state of these, which champions are dominating and how they affect the metagame, in order to make changes that benefit everyone.

All of us who work on this are excited about it and really passionate about doing it, despite how stressful it can be.

LEVEL UP: Despite finding ourselves with certain constant picks, last season’s finale proved to have one of the most varied goals in competitive history. What do you think was what most promoted this panorama among professional teams and their players?

Riot Phroxson: I feel like it was an amalgamation of several factors, including the good development of the metagame and the wide-ranging patches that occurred during 2022.

Before the durability update, it was hard to see champions who didn’t have a lot of armor or magic resist in competition, which led to a single AD carry-focused playstyle dominating.

After this, it became more common to find champion comps for early and late game, giving more variety to each game. And if we add to this the most recent patches, and the creativity of the teams in their drafts, all this contributes to further push the barriers of what we see selected in each tournament.

The start of the 2023 Season changed many key systems in the game.
The start of the 2023 Season changed many key systems in the game.

LEVEL UP: Regarding the preseason, what were the changes that generated the most expectation in the team?

Riot Phroxson: I would say the return of the jungle pets, I think it will be fun to see them around as they help players deal with the complexity of this role. We are also excited to see the update to communication pings and the boost to tanky champions, who after a long time can return to battle without being afraid of falling so easily against their rivals.

LEVEL UP: And if you could have changed one thing out of everything we saw in the preseason updates, what would it be and why?

Riot Phroxson: One of the things that I would really like to make adjustments to would be the speed of the early game, as I feel like it tends to be very slow or stagnant at times. From then on, I feel like everything we did in 2022 and 2023 paid off big, as we encouraged different playstyles and more variety in champ select.

When it comes to individual champions, there are several champions who have shown quite a notable presence like Camille, K’Sante, and Kassadin, and Yuumi is also a very interesting case that has been in the community’s sights for a long time.

LEVEL UP: To close, would you like to send a message to the players in Latin America, who are already enjoying the start of this new season?

Riot Phroxson: I would like to send my most sincere thanks to all that community, they are honestly one of the most passionate and diverse for a global game like it is. League of Legends.

The level of enthusiasm we see from Latino fans is usually astronomical, and we are seriously excited as developers to see that player base grow with each season, so from all of us, thank you very much.

As lead designer, Matthew Leung-Harrison is a pillar in the development of League of Legends.
As lead designer, Matthew Leung-Harrison is a pillar in the development of League of Legends.

From LEVEL UP we appreciate the attention that both the Riot Games team and Pulpo PR gave us for conducting this interview, and we invite everyone to enjoy this competitive season, wishing them good games and good luck.

League of Legends is available for PC and Mac. Follow this link to see more news related to this MOBA. On the other hand, here you will find all our coverage on the world of esports.

Stay informed with us, at LEVEL UP.

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