Riven – The CCC Mistress

Posted: September 12, 2011 by xenocidebrm in Champions, Patch

When I first heard the rumblings about Riven, I was quite excited: a female bruiser champ? Finally, Riot’s getting around to gender equality! Then I remembered that all the good AD carries are female. Ezreal jokes aside, Riven has me questioning the design methodology of Riot. While I understand that popular concepts are marketable, that doesn’t make them good. Enter Riven.

Riven, as Riot has stated, is a Tanky DPS who is more straightforward to play than Renekton. Woah, stop right there. A few months ago Riot was up in arms against the Tanky DPS meta, introducing characters like Vayne and Brand to stop that. And a character more straightforward than Renekton? Accessibility is nice, but I think we have enough Sona-skill-floor characters already. Riot has already slipped up three times here in my book by making three C mistakes game developers fall into: cheap gimmicks, cookie-cutting, and casualization.

The first mistake, cheap gimmicks, requires a bit of background information on Riot’s champions to fully understand. It’s been no secret that players have been clamoring for female characters who aren’t a pair of boobs with damage and the recent champion, Leona, definitely broke the mold when it came to League female champions. She was a strong, independent woman wearing heavy armor and wielding a sword and shield. The only other female champion whom that had been done with was Poppy, and she was hard to empathize with, being a blue little person. The fact that Poppy was a blue little person is very gimmicky. “I’m super unique so you should love me! Tee-hee!” Leona is not gimmicky: she was a valid, progressive representation of feminine persona based around level-headedness instead of giving head.

Riven, on the other hand is just one enormous gimmick. A quick look at her splash art starts with the most obvious: she is a female brawler without any clothes. Even Gragas is covered with a protective layer of fat. Riven is barely wearing a toga. To their credit, Riot has finally made a female character without enormous tits; I just wish they were secured or something, how does she expect to fight with those flying around? Her weapon is a shattered sword which looks like it was embarassingly huge… and probably stolen right out of World of Warcraft. White hair? How edgy. But I think Ashe and Irelia would object that their hair is the whitest and far too original a color to use on a new champion. The asymmetry is the real deal breaker for me: a giant belt loosened and falling to one side along with a giant green pauldron and armor plate contrasting with thin, minimalist brown leather. In short I think the character concept needs more innovation without resorting to giant broken swords, white hair, and skimpy clothing. (Also I can’t tell if her face was taken from the Sivir or the Xin Zhao splash art)

Cookie-cutting is the act of taking a delicious batch of cookie dough and crushing its hopes and dreams. Instead of permitting special snowflakes and original ideas, cookie-cutting takes a successful idea and uses it over and over again, hoping that the successive iterations will somehow meet or exceed the original. While no one can argue that this is good marketing, academics and hipsters agree: cookie-cutting is bad. So how is Riven a cookie-cutter? Well, there are three reasons, all relating to her abilities, but we’ll cover her cool abilities first.

Her passive, Runic Blade is great: use an ability, get a charge. Autoattack expends the charge, dealing more damage the more charges you have. Broken Wing, while simplistic, is similarly unique and interesting. Use Broken Wing up to three times in quick succession. The first two times cause Riven to step forward and slash in front of her, dealing damage, while the third steps forward, smashes the ground, and knocks enemies back. Neat!

From here, the cookie-cutter reigns. Ki Shout is an AoE damage/stun. Seriously, that’s it. For some reason, Riot is falling into the Heroes of Newerth habit of giving all characters stuns. While this is great for encouraging items like Quicksilver Sash and Mercury’s Treads, it obsoletes and punishes characters who are interesting and fun but don’t have a stun. Valor lets Riven dash forward and grants her a temporary shield. Don’t we have enough characters with movement plus shield abilities? This ability, like Ki Shout, is just plain boring. Finally, her ultimate, Blade of the Exile, gives her more damage, more range on her abilities, and lets you use Wind Slash by activating the ultimate again. Wind Slash does damage to nearby enemies depending on how much life they’ve lost. While the range increase is a welcome new mechanic, more damage and another Garen ultimate ability is pretty damn cookie-cutter.

Riven’s final nail comes in the form of casualization, which is more related to the cookie-cutter than the cheap gimmick. In short, casualization is the implementation of new mechanics and lore that are more accessible to the average player than previous mechanics and lore. More importantly, casualization also rewards the average player as equally as the hardcore one. Again, from a marketing standpoint this makes perfect sense: mo’ players equal mo’ money. However, it does so at the expense of originality and dedication to the concepts that made original gameplay great. Take a look at Riven’s lore: she was a Noxian officer who was so badass that she didn’t care until one day she did and was very sad. Riot’s never been known for engaging story, but this is just insultingly simple. It is clearly intended to drag in new players, rewarding them with their own lore while leaving other characters with more complex lore behind. In the same vein, Riven’s mechanics permit simplified gameplay while retaining competitive-level balance. Basically people no longer have to work as hard to be good at League of Legends.

Riven might have been an interesting concept, but in reality she’s just a prime example of the three C’s in games. It’s a shame that developers do this, because it ultimately ends in the horrific destruction of their own franchise. Personally, I won’t be picking up Riven: things designed for everybody tend to end up pleasing no one.

Comments
  1. Hol Hols says:

    She has Xin Zhao´s dash that ends by turning into Gragas´ ultimate.
    She´s equipped with Rumble´s Scrap Shield and an AoE stun.
    And her ultimate is Demacian Justice strapped to Trueshot Barrage.

    I *know* Xypherous designed her specifically so Sheen would suck on her, repeatedly hinting that people shouldn’t build triforce on her and *should* stack AD, but without seeing the pure numbers of her skills I can only call her OP.

    It’s funny how she has a kit that looks horrifyingly OP, yet people (inbetween spitting on her splash art) keep cheering about how they want her.
    Yet Irelia (who doesn’t have white hair, bro.) is getting nerfed because her kit’s too strong.
    And Orianna’s not getting anything done to her despite having a strong as hell kit.

    Bottom line?
    Riot doesn’t know the first thing about balance. They have no clue. They claim they balance around the high-level players, but how does that work? They don’t even *play* unviable champs!

    All this gives you is champs getting nerfed into the ground for whatever silly reason. Only to have Riot admit they *overdid it* after a couple of MONTHS and give them an unsubstantial and silly “buff” that doesn’t fix the damage they did by nerfing them in the first place. But who cares? You got your buff, now we’re not going to look at the champion for another couple of months.

    After Gamescom they foresaw that Jax (who is OP solely because he can HARD COUNTER some champs. Talk about poisonous gameplay!) would become flavor of the month, so they NERFED him by taking off a WHOPPING 15 DAMAGE off rank 1 skills. That sure fixed the problem with dodge being a shitty mechanic and Jax hard countering anyone who isn’t a caster!

    Morde, Garen, Singed snowballing ridiculously if early game so much as wafts in their favor with the community being very vocal about something needing to be done about this? Nothing.

    Pretty balanced champion with an admittedly too handy kit and probably too much sustain? We must nerf this champion for the sixth time in a row, even though she hardly shows up anymore.

    And SWAIN. Pretty rare sight. Then he got nerfed. Now he’s extinct.
    Riot just kept on nerfing.
    And nerfing.
    And nerfing untill you only see Brand, Annie, Orianna, Gangplank, Caitlyn, Lee Sin, Mordekaizer, Amumu and Singed.

    AP caster? Anivia, Swain, Veigar, CASSIOPEIA? Why the fuck would anyone bother when Annie and Brand fill the same role with 1% of the effort needed. (Orianna’s a special case. Her kit’s too good, same with her harass, but at least she requires skill to play.)

    Tank? Galio, Rammus, Shen (oh god I’m pissing myself with laughter almost)? LEONA? Lmao, you can literally ignore Leona so hard it’s sad. Why bother playing the other tanks when Amumu (who I love dearly by the way) shits out all the CC you need to win while being durable and dangerous as fuck. Or when Singed can disrupt what he wants.

    Disruptor? Gragas, Alistar, Urgot? All you really need is Singed, baby. Look at my bottle. It ain’t gonna suck itself…

    Morde being another fun case of someone who can dish out damage and farm with little skill or effort needed, after which he just stomps around like godzilla. God forbid he’s playing against someone who doesn’t realize it’s bad to keep standing between your minions.

    Gangplanks insane damage can be forgiven. Sure, crits are somewhat ridiculous at all times.
    Sure he has crazy utility with a team buff steroid and a global ult. Sure his passive adds a DoT that comes out of fucking nowhere and has nothing to do with any of his other skills. You can call it a Grog Soaked Blade but for fucks sake the man eats off of it!
    All that is fine, up to a point. It’s that ridiculous inbuilt quicksilver sash that is Remove Scurvy that just I don’t even.

    What about Alistar? Guys, he kicks too much ass as an AP mage. The damage combined with his disruptiveness is just crazy. So they nerf his AP ratios. Not a bad move.
    WHAT’S THAT? 70% DAMAGE REDUCTION OFF HIS ULTIMATE?
    Causing people to simply *not GIVE a fuck* about the nerfed AP ratios and continue to build him glass cannon AP. Because all he needs to do is POP that ULT and get in there and Pulverise and Headbutt some sorry fool into oblivion. And even later they finally fixed this by making the damage reduction scale with rank. What an excellent oversight.

    Buff the other champions to bring them up to the level of the most common/popular/op champions?
    No. We must single out several champions at a time and nerf them to bits, poisoning the metagame.

    But it’s okay.

    And I’ll tell you why.

    It’s because League is a casual game.
    It’s not competitive. It *can’t* be competitive, because it has
    absolutely
    no balance whatsoever.

    It might have *had* balance at some point, but you can rest assured that Riot will continue failing to balance the game.
    Gamescom was fun. I enjoyed watching it. But it wasn’t competitive gaming I was watching.
    Since this isn’t a competitive game, remember?
    I was basically watching teams full of talented gamers play DotA-flavored Farmville against eachother.

    PS. I’m really sorry about opening these cans of worms and just wall-of-texting all over your comments, but some of these articles really hit a sore note concerning what’s WRONG with this game (that I like, I guess? Otherwise I wouldn’t have spent all that time typing this.) and it just feels so good to get it off my chest.

    • damndirtycat says:

      Well, I’m glad that you got all that off your chest, but barring Irelia’s in-game hair not matching her splash art hair, I don’t think any of this relates to this particular article. Still, thanks for the comment!

      • Hol Hols says:

        Yeah, I feel mildly bad for replying to an article about design choices with a torrent of words concerning balance (which entails a different kind of design choices, I guess? No, that probably doesn’t excuse me.).

        Attempt to redeem self, ho!

        She’s a melee AD female. The fourth to be released to be precise. Counting Akali she’s the fifth melee female. There’s something about this community and NOT wanting more female AD carries and wanting more female melee dps.
        All tanks are male (Leona getting ignored~), all the AD carries are female (Not counting… Kog’Maw) and tanky dps are mostly male. Only casters really see an even distribution between genders.
        To be honest it’s nice to see them mix it up, since predictability hurts how people react to your latest champion (I don’t think anyone really fell off their chair when Vayne was revealed to be an AD carry…).

        Her design itself is indeed very bad. Made by a 12-year-old bad. I can understand the toga, since she’s been in self-imposed exile ever since she lost faith in the Noxian military. But those shoulderpads just reek of generic. One typically Noxian pauldron and one square of leather that mystically stays on her shoulder. Same deal with the gloves and the boots. It’s like the designer wanted her to be half vagrant, half soldier-in-uniform and did this by just taking bits of both and dividing them 50-50 all over the place. It’s bad design.

        Incidentally it also opens up the way for EASY skin design. Full armor Riven. Full vagrant Riven (they’d never do this.). Quick way to cash in on skins? Since the default skin is pretty horribad, you could assume people would get the Full armor Riven skin just to have something decent to look at. Whether this is intentional Riot moneygrubbing or just a consequence of bad design is up to you to decide.

        I did take a moment to say that her kit is basically a chimera of already existing champions’ abilities. There’s nothing there that hasn’t been seen before aside from her ultimate granting her temporary range on everything.
        She can chase (or escape) with Broken Wing, chase with the shield and CC with Ki shout.
        You can call this cookie cutter, but it’s pretty necessary with the meta and Riot’s previous champs.
        Not having a stun makes you less useful. Not being able to chase makes you less useful. Not having any form of damage mitigation makes you less useful.
        This applies to TEAMS. Having all of this on a single champion means that you have someone who fills all roles and can (should be able to~) carry singlehandedly.

        I’m already in the subject of casualisation here, since she has very straightforward mechanics that will get the job done quite easily. Between Broken Wing and Ki Shout AND the dash shield I don’t think people will be able to escape. The first two activations of Broken Wing along with the dash and stun will be enough to stick to people already, but with you repositioning your enemy with the third Broken Wing activation, people should just give up any hope of running unless Flash is up.
        (Incidentally I’d build Rylai’s other than Frozen Mallet on her, simply because it’s her skills that you depend on for slowing (even though she has 0 use for AP), though you could build both and an Atma’s impaler.)

        As far as mechanics go this is indeed a very casualized champ, though I’m not bothered by her lore. It’s not incredibly original, but on the other hand we don’t have a lot of Noxians who aren’t completely batshit insane and puppy-stranglingly evil.
        Having complex lore is nice, but I think we can leave that to the Journal of Justice before we have to start retconning a lot of previous champions’ backstories.

        “Basically people no longer have to work as hard to be good at League of Legends.” is what you nearly ended with, and especially with this champion I can see that being true. Shout/Dash/Wings will let her play the role of an assassin while the ultimate will let her fill the role of nuker (while facing low health enemies, but still), meaning that you won’t be as dependent on your team as with other champions.

        Of course all of this remains to be seen since she’s not even out yet, nobody knows how to play her yet and none of her numbers are known.

  2. jisho23 says:

    You mention a lot of great points, hell I should give you my slot as a writer here (since I haven’t written in a while). But in a nutshell, if you are seeing the same exact champions used over and over then you have a balance problem.

    The only team role that still has some contention is the ranged AD but frankly the ranged AD (baring Ashe because she has such a diverse kit) category just adds flavor; any one of them will do.

    • Hol Hols says:

      Any of them will do, indeed, but it’s Caitlyn who’s being chosen most for some odd reason.
      Miss Fortune is decently popular too, with Ashe being pretty rare.
      For the life of me I can’t remember the last time anyone played Vayne (who is arguably the strongest just because of true damage, mobility and the ability to push enemies around), Corki or Tristana.

      This is all EU West though; things could be different in the US environment.

  3. xFreshness says:

    Poppy wouldn’t be caught dead going tee-hee and I take her more seriously than most of the champions in this game (which is based on fantasy, hence the blue). And lets not wait until Riven actually comes out or anything before we call her boring and a cookie cutter champion.

  4. […] today’s article for me is something triggered by DamnDirtyCat. He wrote this article here about how he disliked riven, and I’m inclined to agree. So let’s look at why we are […]

  5. TLE says:

    I’d be interested to see damndirtycat’s follow-up now that she’s been out for a couple days. This seems more like a case of “This champion doesn’t appeal to my aesthetics” moreso than “This champion is as bland and uninteresting as generic Pop Rock.”

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