League of Legends: How Riot Decides on Ability Placement

by Matt Best

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(Photo: League of Legends)

One of the biggest things within League of Legends is being able to execute your combos correctly. In order to do that, you need to know what your spells are and more importantly, what buttons they are. Ever wonder why your Q ability is the way it is or why your W ability is usually a passive?

Riot apparently has guidelines when it comes to assigning abilities to keys on your keyboard!

"First, if an ability is shaping up to be the bread-and-butter spell, the one that’s cast most frequently and ranked up first, we tend to assign it to Q," said Harrow, Game Designer for League of Legends. "While players will eventually try all kinds of skill orders, we try and make sure that for a player trying a champion for the first time, maxing Q is a decent choice."

Hitting back at an earlier point, W seems to be the home for some passives on champions. According to Harrow, this is planned. "Some types of abilities have trended into certain slots, and we try to follow those trends. When working on Kled, for instance, we were prototyping an early version of Jousting, his dash ability. We looked at similar melee fighter champions like Riven and Yasuo, saw that their dash abilities were in the E slot, and followed suit with Kled’s dash. Similarly, his purely passive attack modifier, Violent Tendencies, has similarities to abilities like Vi’s Denting Blows and Vayne’s Silver Bolts, which both live in the W slot."

Having these common abilities live on the same key (Q for highly used abilities, W for passives) creates a Pavlov's Dog scenario. "By following existing trends, we can leverage skills players have already learned from other champions to help get over the hump of playing an unfamiliar champion. It’s similar to how games in other genres follow shared conventions - if you’re playing a new, complicated FPS, for instance, you at least know that pointing the cursor and clicking the left mouse button will (generally) shoot your gun."

Ever wonder why the ultimate is on the "R" key?

"We like putting ultimate abilities on the R button. It just feels like the most powerful letter, you know?"

Troll on, Riot, troll on.

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By Matt Best

Matt Best is the Lead On Air Host and Producer for WWG. He has spent his professional career submerged in both the traditional sports world as well as esports. As one of the only Canadians at WWG, if you want to tilt Matt, just bring up awful Canadian stereotypes.