The evolution of Teamfight Tactics

Michelle Lojo - Philstar.com
The evolution of Teamfight Tactics

MANILA, Philippines – Teamfight Tactics (TFT) is an eight-person, free-for-all strategy game where players combine League of Legends champions and items in different formations on a grid-shaped game board, competing in a highly social battle against seven other opponents by building a team to be the last one standing.

Since its PC launch back in 2019, the game has emerged as one of the top titles in its genre, providing a fun and chess-like gameplay experience for fans of the League of Legends universe. A mobile version was launched in 2020 in select regions, with the Philippines seeing the launch of TFT Mobile just late last year.

Looking back at the early stages of the game as it approaches its fifth anniversary, Teamfight Tactics game director Peter Whalen shared how the game has evolved since it was first conceptualized.

"It’s been an amazing journey for the team, from what was a relatively small team within League of Legends, building out this cool experimental game mode to what is now, a full-fledge game, delivering content at a quick pace, delivering three sets a year, new event modes, lots more cosmetics content, more robust sets. There’s been so much evolution overtime from that early game to where it is now. You see all of those core pieces of TFT, that balance between skill and luck, League of Legends champions fighting it out at a board that is fun and cool to watch. It’s easy to get into. It’s easy to play it with a huge amount of skill potential. And then you see the evolution over time like the portal mechanic, the augments, they way we handle items now. We continue to talk to our community, to listen to our players, and evolve TFT in ways we are excited about and we hope the players are excited about it too." shared Whalen in an exclusive interview with Philstar.com

As Whalen mentioned, one of the key features that sets TFT apart from other games in the genre is its constant innovation and variety. Every few months, the game introduces a new themed set that sees new champions, items, traits and mechanics that change the way the game is played and offer new challenges and strategies for players to enjoy. Most notable was Set 10 (which ran from November 2023 to March 2024), which saw the game's first music themed set. Set 7 saw a focus on dragons while its predecessor Set 6 saw the introduction of augments.

Whalen adds, "[Choosing what to focus on per set] is a process that's been continuing to evolve. It's a balance of a number of things. We work with a bunch of the creators on the team, both the people who are going to be designing the set, artists who are going to be working and making it come to life, some of the publishing folks who are going to be working on things like the marquee video that gets players so hyped about the set, some of the folks that are going to be writing some of the narrative and the back story that goes into it. And we all try and figure out what is something that the team is really excited to do, what is something that speaks to our players, and then what also makes sense as an arc for TFT. We want to have a contrast like a darker set is followed up with a more silly set. We all talk about what we're excited about and we plan out these things about 12 months ahead, what works together and what has a good contrast."

But that shift from the first set to its second set has been one of the most challenging moments that TFT had faced. Whalen shared how at the beginning everyone just saw it as a game mode of League of Legends that people enjoyed but what was next?

The answer was preserving that idea of strategy and puzzle-solving within the game that not only made it unique but also introduced new experiences that pushed the launch of the second set.

He recalled, "I think that is an extremely risky moment for a game where we're saying, 'Hey lots of these things that you've learned before, they're going to be different now'. And yes, there's lots of stuff that stays the same set over set, but that's still a very risky point, and our players loved it. Our players really resonated with making sure that there is novel content, that there's always new things to explore, that there's things to try out."

Another aspect of TFT that entices players is its connection to the overall Runeterra, the fictional world of League of Legends where most of the game's lore takes place.

"I think TFT is a wonderful opportunity for people to be introduced to the Runeterra IP. It's a good way that players can take their love for that IP and relive it in a strategy game. One of the things that we talk about with the TFT is, it's a place to celebrate fan fics. You can have the stories that you want to tell with these League of Legends characters and reenact them on your board. Like get Garen and Katarina together and see what happens, with Yasuo dashing around the board or Azir summoning his soldiers...to be able to live out those ideas and champion interactions that they want to see." said Whalen.

As TFT celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, Whalen teased what is to come for the game besides the current anniversary event, 5 Year Bash, which sees players treated to a handful of in-game rewards, as well as experience a new game mode called Pengu's Party that allows players to use traits from the past sets of the game.

"The current set will wind down sometime in July and we're excited for something magical to take its place. Following that will be the dawn of our second set revival and we've then got Set 13 sometime towards the end of the year. We've got some new event stuff that we're talking about for next year and a couple of surprises that we hope everyone will enjoy," hinted Whalen.

The Teamfight Tactics: 5 Year Bash anniversary event is now available on both PC and mobile until July 15.

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