2017 Preseason: Jungle Changes

Guns N’ Roses is probably being blared throughout Riot’s HQ, because they seem to really love the Jungle.

All puns aside, the Jungle of League of Legends has been announced to expect some significant changes during the preseason this year, making it the third year in a row that Riot has dramatically changed the Jungle. Each of the big changes that have rolled through in the past couple of seasons have completely changed the meta of the Jungle and after finding out what Riot has in store for us, it doesn’t look like this year will be an exception.

Some time ago, buffs were added to every major Jungle camp in the game, called Smite Buffs (due to receiving them upon smiting a large monster). Some of these buffs made for easier camp clearing, one of them made it easier to gank, and others just added sustain for the jungler. Was this a good feature to add? I don’t actually think it was. Why? Because Riot has claimed time and time again (especially recently) that every change they make in the game has the end goal of making the game “unsolvable.” This means that they want their changes and additions to make the game seem like you have more free choice, like you can choose multiple paths to reach a victory rather than always picking one or two things. Imagine how you feel during Champ Select. There are some champions that are clearly better than others depending on the current meta, but there are always multiple champions for you to choose from that you feel you could use to help your team win the game. Riot wants to take that feeling and spread it throughout the rest of the game’s choices.

That being said, the Smite Buffs did not accomplish this, and it ended up being a change just for the sake of change. Sure, there were a wide variety of buffs to choose from, but their goal was to make the Jungler’s starting path more diverse- which they did not accomplish. They changed the path, sure, but that new path just became the norm. You either clear Gromp or Krugs first, depending on what side you’re on, make your way to the major buffs, and then gank. There were clearly better choices to start with- and clearly better choices to move on to- which is the opposite of what Riot’s goal is. Not to mention that this makes for a very predictable Jungle path (usually) and as a Jungler who mains champions that excel at counter-jungling, I can say with confidence that it’s an easy system to take advantage of.

Enter Plants.

Riot has announced that a Plants system is going to be added into the game in place of the Smite Buffs. There will be three types of plants that spawn throughout the Rift, mostly within the Jungle. They may add more plants in the future, but Riot has said that after these three, there are no further plants currently in development. As you read through what Riot Fearless has to say about their new Plant system, keep in mind that they mentioned if the Plants System botches, they will pull it out.

“Hi all, Fearless here.
Want to grow some of the understanding around Plants: What they are, and why we think they’re a fertile space to improve the jungle and the game as a whole. The TL;DR is that after a long stretch of enriching the decisions around how to win a whole game, we needed more elements that can change how you approach individual fights.
Many changes we’ve made to the map and objectives have focused on strategic depth (the various elements that change how you attempt to win the whole game). Elemental Dragons and Baron buffing minions, for example, were all about making sure that different strategies produce games that are meaningfully different to play, and reward player adaptation over memorization of “correct” moves.
All awesome, but this left us with a clearly stand out issue: we have too few sources on the map for tactical depth (elements that promote different approaches to specific situations). We wanted to find ways to increase adaptation in individual fights, and we quickly found that the jungle, which already had unique terrain layouts and the red buffs serving as valuable skirmish objectives, had ample opportunities to do better. The Rift Scuttler, for example, creates the gameplay we’re looking for at the edge of the jungle, with constrained randomization as a core part of her identity. In the first few experiments, plants proved that infrequent but impactful interactions could inject a lot of excitement while reintroducing tactical decision making that had been decreasing as players learn to predict the outcome of more and more fights. Put plainly, plants injected excitement into fights that have trended towards predictability and being solved. They also were a fruitful way to double down on the feeling that the jungle was a living, wild space.
Let’s flesh out some details. Plants are small, single use neutral objects that activate when attacked by a champion. They spawn in semi-random locations in the jungle (similar to Bard’s chimes), and respawn after a window of regrowth. Their spawn points are fairly restricted for early game, making sure they can’t have too much impact on early gank routes or invades. We also ensure that plants have extremely strict rules around fairness: teams should have balanced access to each plant that shows up in the game. Plants also telegraph themselves to ensure players have adequate windows to adapt, showing up as a seedling 30 seconds before they can be used.
One plant we decided was ripe with opportunity very early was the Blast Cone. Look, a plant!

Imagine it as a universal Ziggs satchel, throwing all units away from the center point when attacked. These can provide some dramatic jukes or be used to throw an enemy where they don’t want to be. They are also frequently used to allow champions without dashes to hop over key walls and, yes, they spawn behind dragon and Baron Nashor pits.
In development, it also became clear that Plants had a lot of overlap with Smite Rewards, but with much better visibility, mastery and impact across game time. However, We wanted to ensure that Junglers still kept the meaningful difference when it came to jungle routes and being able to optimize the jungle to different goals. The result was changes to the jungle camps themselves to better express the strengths of different types of junglers. That gives us a lever to support a wider range of junglers at the same time, which Smite Rewards struggled with throughout their lifetime. More details about the camps that are changing in the near future.
We moved the interesting tactical reactive power of Red Buff smite into Smite itself, as well as the new restorative Honeyfruit that spawn in the river. This one’s totally designer art, so don’t expect the explosion of oranges when these show up on Summoner’s Rift.

We also found ourselves missing the vision tools of Raptor Buff, and brought those into the Scryer’s Bloom.

Think of this plant like a magic dandelion filled with Hawkshots, revealing champions and wards in a large cone. So while Smite buffs won’t be on our buff bars in Season 2017, I’m confident the best moments they provided will still be in our games.
That said, we are trying some really new things with plants. We’re committed to making sure that they both land well, but also that they have the space to flower into a great addition to the game. We might make significant changes as the plants take root, to things like where they spawn, what they do, and how often you interact with them.
Hope this helps give everyone a better idea of where we’re going with plants, but feel free to leaf any comments below if you still have questions!
-Fearless”

Let us know what you think about the introduction of Jungle Plants below, and make sure to check back in regularly for all news regarding League of Legends and the upcoming preseason changes.

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Editor-in-Chief and Owner of Smite Steal Esports | Follow me on Twitter @aaronmickunas

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