League of Legends (LoL) is an online multiplayer game with an extremely large cast of characters, called champions, to choose from. These champions must be careful balanced in terms of power and abilities so that both the high-level and regular play feels fair and rewarding.
Colt Hallam is one of the designers tasked with balancing the champions. To him, it is important that the balancing does not preference high-level or regular play but rather works on both levels. Skill level and team coordination are the two biggest differences that Hallam (2015) sees between these types of play. As such, the champions need to feel good to play with and against at a low level while scaling up to the higher levels of play, such as competitive play.
According to Hallam (2015) there a several reasons for re-balancing and reworking a champion but the main one would be that a champion is not “delivering on their core fantasy”. What Hallam means by this is whether the champion is fulfilling the role, character and play style that they promise. A quick look at the LoL champions will show that they are categorized by their roles:
By giving each champion a specific role, and a unique style and characterisation within that role, LoL is constructing a fantasy aesthetic. Each champion gives a unique role-playing experience to the player, with full backstory and personality if the player wants to delve deeper into it.
This fantasy aesthetic is important within the game and heavily influences how the balancing will work. Because each champion needs to feel unique and true to their character, and needs to scale with skill level, careful consideration goes into counter-play, abilities and skill. From there, buffing or nerfing can fix smaller imbalances.
On an additional note, the variety of characters, team-based tactics and range of play styles helps to prevent the “perfect build” or “objectively best”. While high-level players may have team combinations which are more effective than others, they still need a variety of roles. This prevents an issue seen in other games where a specific character or layout is the one often chosen for high level competitive play.
This helps to keep the game fresh and interesting.
Having not played League of Legends, this is something that I have seen in other games such as Skullgirls. The characters within Skullgirls also have a variety of abilities, play style, strengths and weaknesses and each offers a unique role-play experience.
There are a range of characters that might suit your play style or might simply appeal to you on a role-playing level. As I had not played many fighting games prior to Skullgirls (apart from SF), I picked a character who was appealed to me the most, in terms of narrative, abilities and fighting style.
As such, I understand and appreciate the effort that goes into balancing unique and varied characters that still feel fair to play with and against. The fantasy aesthetic helps make the game stickier to players as they feel connected to their characters and helps to keep the game fresh.
Hallam, C. & Warr, P. (2015). LoL: How A Champion Designer Watches Worlds. Retrieved from