"You belong in a museum!"
Featured game modes are mechanically separate game modes in League of Legends made available seasonably or through the Rotating Game Mode queue. Each of the modes have unique challenges and twists to the permanent game modes ( Classic / Summoner's Rift, Twisted Treeline, Murder Bridge / All Random) These modes are featured during seasonal and ordinary events or spaced throughout the year.
- Featured Game modes are most of the time directly connected with the release of a special event such as skin, story, or seasonal events.
- One for All was around 12.5% of hours around its end. ARURF around 20-25%, and Odyssey ~3%. Odyssey dropped off real fast though, as you can expect from somewhat limited content.
- By the end of the first and second run Nexus Blitz was around 3% of hours. The second run was looking better until missions were turned off and then it went down to the same spot as the first run.
- In China, OFA was ~20% of hours and ARURF around 50% by the end of the runs, while NB was struggling to crack 2% and Odyssey at 3%.
- On 27th August 2019 Teamfight Tactics was having 20-40% of hours depending on the region, while holding steady. The mode also added net hours to the overall, whereas every other LoL-like mode tends to just move hours around (except ARURF).
Feature Game Mode Development
- By L4T3NCY
"2014 has come and gone, taking with it the creation of seven new featured game modes for League of Legends! Looking back, we had fun making each and every mode, tackling the unique challenges each one presented, and hope you guys had just as much fun playing them. This feels like a good time to look back at 2014's Featured Game Modes, what we learned from some of them, and how we arrived at a variety of design decisions along the way. But first...
- What makes a successful Featured Gameplay Mode?
"This is something we're continuously defining for ourselves as Featured Gameplay Modes evolve. We want to learn from previous modes to help us make even cooler new things, but it's not as simple as just which mode was played the most. What does “the most” even mean? Is it the highest single spike of concurrent players? The game you played for the longest? Modes also need to be unique in some way and not just replace or overwrite themselves and other permanent modes. As we've mentioned before, we have a few design pillars that help guide the creation of each mode, but we'd like you to discover new or interesting ways to engage with your favourite champions in League of Legends. We undoubtedly also want you to have FUN! :D
Then there are modes which produce amazingly cool stuff from you guys in the community that we can't even measure with numbers. How do you measure fun? Or cool streams, videos, comics, fanart (the list goes on)? Sometimes it's even nice for the mode to help you train in skills (team fights, skill shots) that are transferable over to SR, but should that be a core pillar? We've said before how we like that each Featured Gameplay Mode feels like a wild west of meta for their duration. Anything goes initially and you guys theory craft cool ideas about the most OP comps and champions for each mode, and surprise us every time. There's always a few sleeper champions that appear who we could NEVER forecast. So healthy champion pick diversity is also good, but is it something we should weigh the success of a mode on? These are all just some of the things we consider when both designing and then weighing an individual mode's success.
- Why are Featured Gameplay Modes temporary?
Featured Game Modes are designed from the ground up to be short-term engagement experiences. This transience is what gives us the creative space try new things and see what works, listen to your feedback, then improve a mode before re-releasing it. Trying to build a long-term sustainable game mode would actually constrain us from doing things like Doom Bots, URF, Legend of the Poro King, Ascension, etc.
The main design concern (which is personally the most important as it = less fun) is that Featured Gameplay Modes are not designed to be long term engagement experiences. They're designed to make a big splash, with the knowledge they will be removed shortly thereafter. Adding permanency would constrain the design wiggle room we have to make each mode as unique as possible. As we've since learned, it would also add additional balance and maintenance costs that we'll share some examples of later in this retro. For now though, let's get into the modes!"
Featured Game Modes of 2014
- By L4T3NCY
"2014 started with a Featured Game Mode meta changeup. With the original Hexakill, we wanted to try exploring a new space that modes hadn't really touched yet at that point. The end result was the closest we'd ever brushed up against the ‘regular Summoner's Rift meta', but with the twist of an extra player. Our goal was to still preserve the feel of Summoner's Rift, but change up how you interacted with your champion and played within the map's meta.
- Ultra Rapid Fire (U.R.F.)
Originally planned as an April Fool's Day joke intended only to last one day, we were blown away by the response Ultra Rapid Fire received. Based on the response from players around the world in multiple regions and languages, we extended the length of the mode (twice). Who doesn't like making more plays?! URF also taught us a fantastic lesson about the novelty of game modes over time and the cost of ongoing maintenance. Featured Gameplay Modes have been shown to taper off in popularity sharply after a short period of time. People often forget that URF actually broke our golden rule of not touching Featured Gameplay Modes post-launch, but to try and keep it from becoming stale in the face of wildly toxic champion play patterns, we did anyway. And yet, despite our consecutive on the run tweaks to keep URF treading water balance-wise, we still saw the same declining engagement and burnout that we see with other modes. That doesn't mean players don't have a blast with each mode like this before they fade away. However, being designed as a can of whoopass in the first place ultimately means that the flame burns twice as bright and half as long. And that's okay!
- One For All Mirror Mode
The original One For All was one of more heavily played modes we made in 2013. Before it was even released though, some enterprising players hacked their clients and were hosting ad-hoc games of One For All on Howling Abyss. After the mode's first outing on Summoner's Rift, many players heavily requested that we bring the mode back on Howling Abyss to replicate their ad-hoc games, so we got to work on the resurrection. In the end, One For All: Mirror Mode may have lost a lot of the strategic choice of Summoner's Rift (naturally absent on Howling Abyss where your only option is to “push”). By homogenising both teams into the same champion, we also lost the nuance in gameplay between two champion's kits. Engagement with the mode proved out that this maybe wasn't the best experiment, but that's what learning is for!
We also learned a lesson about the cost of resurrecting a mode. Each time we bring a mode back, along with any improvements or additions we might want to make, time has to be spent QA'ing it against the latest patch release (one of the costs of having a game that evolves constantly). For example: The original One For All required about 80 champions to be hand edited to work with the mode's mechanics. When we wanted to bring it back as One For All: Mirror Mode, about 35 champions had changed since the last time (yay champ updates and improvements!) which required another whole round of editing, plus entirely new champions had been released. If we ever made a mode permanent, we'd need to weigh the impact this would have on the ability to create new modes VS maintaining existing modes.
The map change isn't always necessary though. Sometimes smoothing over the experience and some bug fixes could generate the original experience we were looking for. URF would be nice simply to not have 9 champions disabled. It always depends on the mode.
- Doom Bots of Doom
The idea of building some ‘absurdly challenging' AI bots had come up before, so when the AI team was updating what are now the intermediate bots, we saw a chance to do a cool collaboration with them. The Doom Bots of Doom became the first PvE mode we'd ever done, and it they were pretty fun to make. Unlike other modes though, the Doom Bots were extremely content heavy, as we hand-crafted 15 alternate kits (not mentioning the ones that got thrown out). It ended up being super rewarding though, watching player's reactions the first time they see Doom Lux ult or try and 1v1 a Doom Galio or Doom Malzahar. As a bit of trivia, the Doom Bot with the highest winrate on 5 bombs actually turned out to be Doom Amumu. Too many tears.
The goal of Ascension was to highlight the Shurima event and bring gameplay to some of the reigning lore themes like “power corrupts”. We wanted a scrappy, team deathmatch kind of feel right from the start, and it took some crazy prototypes before we landed on the right mix. In response to players asking for more ways to express their skill level visually, we also experimented with the Perfect Ascension icon; a true challenge mode icon rewarding exceptional play. For those of you who did earn it, it's one of the rarest summoner icon's in all of league. The making of Ascension has been discussed before in quite a bit of detail with a dev blog, which can be found here.
- Hexakill Twisted Treeline
After the first outing of Hexakill and the warm reception it received, we felt like it was a good candidate to bring back. As with One For All: Mirror Mode though, we don't want to just resurrect exactly the same mode from last time. We wanted to turn up the volume on the design goals of the original Hexakill (being to shake up how you think about and execute on established meta on a given map). That led us to port the mode over to the Twisted Treeline. This is a good example of how we want to improve modes each time before we re-release them.
What do you mean by “improve a mode before re-releasing it”? It depends on the mode, but it's always heavily informed by player feedback. In the case of Hexakill, we wanted that exaggeration of the original design intention. Hexakill on SR just wasn't different enough; going from 5 to only 6 players didn't really make you change the way you played that much. Twisted Treeline felt much higher impact because we were essentially doubling the player count on the map.
- Legend of the Poro King
Don't worry, he lives on... inside of YOU! *little tear* Legend of the Poro King was seeking to change the way players thought about combat on the Howling Abyss. That we were able to introduce everyone to the grandest most splendiferous King of all the Poro's himself was just an added bonus.
I want to call out the Poro Toss summoner spell here as well, which gave an across-the-board bump in viability to some historically unpopular picks. Even with picking your champs, engage from the Poro Toss summoner spell was able to wing clip the power of some notoriously strong Howling Abyss champs. It was an overall healthier experience, seeing good champion diversity and lots of big plays."
Announcing the rotating game mode queue
From the original clone-tastic One For All to the frenetic manatee magic of Ultra Rapid Fire, featured game modes provide unique spins on the classic League formula. Now, more than two years after the debut of our first game mode, we're announcing a rotating queue that'll bring the alternative action on weekends with a suite of familiar game modes and maybe a fresh face or two.
We've specially tuned Champion Mastery so you can earn points in each mode, whether you're summoning our poro overlord in Legend of the Poro King or chaining Final Sparks in a One For All laser light show. Once Hextech Crafting and loot is live, because the rotating game mode queue is optimized for champ mastery, you'll also be able to earn keys for your wins and loot chests for your (or your premade's) S-, S, and S+ games.
Rotating queue will join Classic and ARAM in an upcoming patch, but part of why we're announcing it now is because two years in a row, we delivered the Ultra Rapid Fire game mode in increasingly absurd ways. While we're pretty sure you aren't going to believe us anyway, we're telling you right now that URF will not return on the first of April. We're not quite ready to announce the full slate of game modes that'll feature in the new Rotating queue, but we are ready to share that Ultra Rapid Fire will appear at least twice in 2016.
As for the other modes, we'll publish the schedule ahead of time once it's locked down, but we wanted to get in front of any ultra rapid speculation this year so you know you'll be slapping buttons with a spatula eventually, just maybe not when you were expecting it.
We're excited for the debut of Rotating queue, so stay tuned for the first rotation schedule and let us know what modes you're hoping to see make it!
Ask Riot: Game Modes and Metals
BY RIOT_MORT, SCATHLOCKE, RAEZ & KNEECAPPHILLY 
- RIOT_MORT (Principal Game Designer)
- Are you ever going to bring back old game modes, like Dark Star Singularity or Definitely Not Crystal Scar or Ascension?
Someday? It’s possible. Any time soon? Unfortunately not likely.
What we found with many of the RGMs like Dark Star Singularity and Ascension is that they were really exciting and novel for the first release. However with the second release of these game modes, players didn’t really engage. This was especially true of modes with limited champion pools, like Dark Star.
We often get asked, “Why don’t you just turn it back on or allow it in custom games?” Which would be nice, but there’s a surprisingly large cost in getting the modes back to a high enough quality to release. Often since the last time the mode has been on, there’s been a large amount of changes to the core game that affect these modes (champ changes, items, runes, bugs, etc.) that would need to be fixed, since we don’t think it’s right to give players a broken mode.
Right now, we’re focused on exploring modes that do remain engaging long after the initial release—Nexus Blitz and ARURF+ are examples of modes that we think you could want to play for a long time over and over. This means we’re putting a pause on the other RGMs for now, but we’ve got some new stuff in the works that we think (and hope!) you will love.
Dev: State of Modes
BY RIOT_MORT 
A lot has changed since we last talked broadly about the state of alternative game modes in League. With Teamfight Tactics fully launched worldwide, now seems like a good time to provide some updates about the current state of our game modes and where we’re heading in the future.
Our goal with alternative game modes has changed quite a bit over the last year. In the past, we’ve explored modes that put a unique spin on the core League of Legends gameplay. Game modes like Odyssey: Extraction, Star Guardian: Invasion, and PROJECT// Overcharge were exciting for a while, but they didn’t continue to hold your interest for very long. In other words, players were excited to try these modes but would quickly return to Summoner’s Rift after the novelty wore off.
On the flip side, we saw that modes like ARURF and One-For-All kept you queueing up for more even beyond their initial run due to their replayability and similarity to SR. What we found was that modes that focused on being unique could never keep interest in the same way modes that focused on high replayability could. So to that end, the Modes Team is focusing all of our attention on improving the existing long-term game modes and discovering new, potentially long-term modes that you can play for years.
- Teamfight Tactics
A very recent example of this new focus can be seen with our latest game mode, Teamfight Tactics. TFT doesn’t share the usual long-term mode trait of being similar to SR, but it’s not a spin on core League gameplay either: Instead of controlling a single champion and using their abilities, we created League’s take on the new auto-battler genre. One of our main goals behind TFT was to make a mode you could play for a long time, which meant it was really important to create variant experiences and high moments. In other words, you should always have something new to try or chase after, and it should feel exciting to do so.
Because TFT’s core gameplay is fundamentally different from Summoner’s Rift and the other modes we’ve released before, we’ve seen players use it as a way to unwind between ranked games or as something to do with friends of different skill levels. But we’ve also seen that TFT is deep enough to support players who want to be TFT mains.
We’ve been blown away by how much everyone seems to be enjoying the mode, so even though it’s still early, we’ve made the call to make Teamfight Tactics permanent! Moving forward, we’ll continue to support this mode with changes almost every patch and multiple new champion sets (and ranked seasons) each year.
If all continues to go well, we hope we’ll eventually be able to create more modes with completely unique gameplay for you!
URF has been our most popular alternative mode (though TFT is giving it a run for its money!), and we made some pretty big changes earlier this year when we ran ARURF+. From the gameplay changes, we currently plan on keeping the Catapult of Champions because it sped up the pace of matches and enabled lots of big plays. The buffed-up dragon was also exciting, but securing it gave teams too much power too early in the game, so expect to see some adjustments there.
But the biggest change wasn’t a gameplay adjustment—it was how long we left the mode on for. Previously, our longest run of ARURF was 16 days, but this time we left it running for 42 days straight! During this time, we saw players play a ton of ARURF+ all the way up until the very last day, and once we turned it off everything went back to normal.
We think URF is our best example of a mode that can bring a ton of excitement each time it comes back, and I can happily say that some form of URF will be back one more time this year.
- Nexus Blitz
Nexus Blitz was our first attempt at a new always-on mode that could last a long time. As we discussed before, players overall really enjoy Nexus Blitz for the first few weeks of availability but stop playing pretty quickly after that. While Nexus Blitz didn’t have the level of consistent engagement we’re looking for in an always-on mode, it still makes for a really strong game mode we’d like to bring back a couple times a year. Look forward to all the same fun events and rewards when it returns!
During last year’s Pyke/Bilgewater event, we experimented with ARAM to see how making gameplay changes would affect the way different audiences (both casual and hardcore) play the mode. We found that these changes didn’t really modify how or how much people play ARAM, but the most dedicated ARAM players appreciated that the mode received balance adjustments and improvements like Summoner’s Rift.
So with this year’s Bilgewater mini-event, we tried out a few more changes. Some of them were a bit more ambitious, like a new ARAM-exclusive Summoner Spell, and others were a bit simpler, like runes and champion balance. For a full breakdown of the results of these changes, you can check out this wrap-up post.
Notably, our approach to balancing ARAM was more successful than we expected. Champs that were at a huge disadvantage before balancing now at least had ways to win, and champs that were almost free wins now had to work a little harder. We saw players initially struggle to adjust since the mode had previously been in almost the same state of champion balance for years, but overall we think this has made the mode higher-quality in the long run. This is why we’re going to continue balancing ARAM every few patches, with some bigger changes once a year or so—a decision that’s in line with our new approach of investing more in our existing long-term modes.
- Twisted Treeline
Since we’ve been focusing on modes like ARAM a bit more, we’ve seen a few people ask, “What about Twisted Treeline?” One of League’s original alternative game modes, Twisted Treeline has been a place for League players to get the MOBA experience of Summoner’s Rift on a different map with a different meta. However, Treeline has always suffered from low queue sizes, even in times when we added new items, map-specific champion balance, and even the Twisted Treeline redesign waaayy back in 2012. At present, it falls short of even the numbers we saw at the end of Nexus Blitz’s second run. This small population leads to long queue times, poor matchmaking, and ultimately an unsatisfying PvP experience for many of the players who do queue up for Treeline.
Outside of the player population, Twisted Treeline’s art, map design, and even game pacing don’t meet today’s current quality bar and player needs. We debated on whether an ARAM-esque level of support would bring it up to standard, but the lack of growth from the previous efforts we mentioned led us to the conclusion that it just wouldn’t be enough to make Treeline a healthy long-term mode. So at the end of this season, we will be retiring Twisted Treeline. Like Dominion before it, we’re sad to see a longtime part of the game disappear. But we feel this is the best decision for League, as it lets us keep our focus on our larger game modes.
You’ll still be able to earn end of season rewards via Twisted Treeline this season, so a rank of Gold or higher will still get you the Victorious skin. There won’t be a TT specific chroma this year though, as we’ve seen in past seasons that non-Treeline players sometimes spam ranked 3s for the chroma, and we don’t want that to be your final experience with the mode.
We will have a few small rewards for the most dedicated of TT players which we’ll grant once the mode is retired. Eligibility will be based on games played before today to ensure the integrity of the rewards. Details will be announced in the future.
- Other Modes and the Future
As for other older modes, we’ll be looking for opportunities to bring back the ones we think have long-term potential, like One-for-All. These modes are still really fun ways to mix up the core League experience, and we think that lots of people are excited to try out five Yuumi’s. We’re also still exploring even more ideas for other new modes with long-term potential.
That’s it for now. We hope you continue to enjoy all the fun ways to play League of Legends. Until next time, good luck with your ranked games and may all your TFT champs be 3 stars!
Ask Riot: Events and Game Modes
BY XENOGENIC, RIOT POPC0RNER & RIOTIAMWALRUS 
- XENOGENIC (Game Design Lead)
- You regularly offer events around themes, champions, or skin series (like Project), but these events have become less quality over time. The gaming experience doesn’t bring anything new to players (like game modes), and we have very limited tasks compared to former events, which makes it banal. Will you do more substantial and interesting events for players?
Yes, absolutely! We’ve heard this feedback and wholeheartedly agree—events have become more stale this year. We want each event to feel like a unique experience that all players can be excited for, which is why our goal moving forward is to make participating in events more rewarding, more novel, and more memorable for everyone.
Here are some of the ways we hope to achieve this:
- Bring back game modes (new and old) to events
- Improve how missions interact with events, similarly to Trials (ex: Trials gave you a progress bar you filled up by doing missions, which in turn gave you house-specific rewards for the event, so it all felt more cohesive)
- Deliver more missions and a greater variety of missions beyond just “farm minions,” “get kills,” or “earn gold”
You’ll begin to see some of these changes soon, starting with our first small steps for the upcoming Worlds event, and we’ll continue making improvements into 2020. I hope you enjoy the Worlds event, and we look forward to hearing your feedback during and afterwards!
- RIOT POPC0RNER & RIOT AETHER
- Why can’t we play custom games of URF and the other game modes?
We’ve talked before about the type of work that goes into keeping rotating game modes functional: Things like new and updated champs, abilities, items, runes, and skins don’t always play nice with modes. Changes or refactors to the game’s underlying code—like how damage is recorded or how textures are loaded into game—can be even more problematic, as the rapid development cycle of RGMs often means we’re building them with duct tape and bubble gum. Back when we were releasing modes more frequently, this type of upkeep work took about half of the Modes team’s total time.
But what about customs? Wouldn’t it be okay for rotating game modes to be a bit buggy if there’s nothing on the line, and shouldn’t that make it easy for Riot to offer rotating game modes in customs?
The answer is no. We aren’t willing to offer a knowingly—basically intentionally—buggy experience for customs because we want your League experience to be high quality regardless of how you’re playing. Principled stances aside, some bugs are bad enough that they can crash entire game servers, meaning hundreds of matches would crash, not just the customs they occur in. So even if we were willing to let players opt into a buggy experience in custom games, it’d still lead to risks for the rest of League players as well.
That means it takes the same amount of work to bring a mode back for customs as it does to bring it back for queues, which takes us back to our previous discussions around why we’ve chosen to invest our time into developing new modes, rather than keeping older modes on rotation.
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