Monitoring the way forward for League of Legends with Riot’s new studio head


The League of Legends franchise has inexorably expanded over the previous few years, rising from simply being a MOBA to having a multiverse full of colourful takes on acquainted characters — there’s a stand-alone RPG, a cellular port, a critically acclaimed animated present on Netflix, and a forthcoming novel. League of Legends itself is 10 years previous, and regardless of these new additions, it has remained, at its core, League — a aggressive 5v5 sport that takes place throughout a map with three lanes and a jungle stuffed with harmful monsters.

On Wednesday, Riot introduced that Andrei Van Roon, a veteran of the studio who has designed champions like Ziggs and Lissandra, can be taking up the position of head of League Studio. Van Roon will oversee manufacturing of League of Legends, its cellular port Wild Rift, and the auto-chess spinoff Teamfight Ways.

As of 2022, the League franchise has dozens of characters unfold throughout its mainline titles, every of whom has their very own wants by way of each technical upkeep and new content material. Riot is confronted with the daunting activity of holding issues recent, all whereas engaged on a title that has accrued a decade of varied visible and technical money owed. Polygon spoke with Van Roon about how League will develop within the coming years.

Splash art for new Udyr

Picture: Riot Video games

Speedy iteration

League of Legends has a two-week patch cycle; there’s persistently one thing popping out, even when it’s simply stability changes or smaller adjustments. This cadence is standard with followers; Van Roon says it’s essential to each League’s success and to avoiding a tradition of continuous crunch.

“I discovered pretty not too long ago that earlier than League launched, one of many necessities that Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck had was that they have been prepared to sacrifice numerous different performance to get the flexibility to patch each two weeks,” says Van Roon in a name with Polygon. He notes that the smaller patches additionally permit the builders to shift mission timelines round with relative flexibility. “We’re not at all times going to get issues proper the primary time — however we’ve obtained a bunch of probabilities to get it proper, and a willingness to maintain entering into issues till we discover out what the great things does seem like.”

League has a roster of over 160 champions; there are almost 80 ported to Wild Rift. Whereas champions usually get freshened up with new fashions for Wild Rift, League of Legends on PC is the place followers see main overhauls to champions like Udyr, Volibear, or Fiddlesticks. Champion updates are dealt with throughout three groups: There’s one group for Summoner’s Rift that handles the main patches and pre-season changes; one group of champion designers that overhauls previous champions and recreates them from the bottom up; and one group on the Skins workforce that does artwork and sustainability updates to deliver older, janky characters like Ahri and Caitlyn into the fashionable period.

League of Legends - Nilah, the Joy Unbound, is an agile woman with dark hair, brown skin, and a magical water whip. In the background, a massive demon tears through the scenery.

Picture: Riot Video games

Whereas it may be irritating to look at older characters, like Rammus, languish with their previous fashions and animations whereas newer, shinier champions like Nilah rock up, Van Roon says there’s a stability to strike with regards to revisiting previous, beloved champions.

“Now we have some teams of gamers who don’t need new stuff, they like the present state of the sport, or they don’t get pleasure from new champions and wish the older ones up to date,” he says. “We additionally see some teams of gamers and areas who’ve starvation for brand spanking new stuff. Assembly the wants of these totally different gamers is a balancing act. The opposite factor we see is an perspective of ‘I would like extra updates — aside from my champions, go do one thing to the champions I don’t like and don’t contact my stuff.’”

Change is tough, and generally an replace — even when it brings an previous, dusty champion again into the mainstream — can scare away its previous mains. “I feel we’ve gotten higher with our updates of preserving the core of what a participant was there for within the first place. However we’re at all times going to overlook for some specific gamers,” says Van Roon. Within the meantime, League releases smaller, mid-scope updates to assist previous champions sustain. With a roster so massive, it’s unimaginable to offer everybody some love, however common patches and a number of groups preserve League afloat.

League of Legends: Wild Rift - Rammus, the Armordillo, is a big silly lizard in a spiked shell. He stands in front of the Sun Disc of Shurima, looking guileless and cute.

Picture: Riot Video games

Future ahead

Whereas different video games change and evolve, introducing new modes or remodeling their core idea, League remains to be performed on a really comparable map, and among the sport’s earliest champions nonetheless exist in largely the identical type. Restricted-time PvE occasions, like Star Guardian: Invasion or Odyssey: Extraction, battle with participant retention, in keeping with Van Roon.

“I feel one of many causes the concept is standard, and I share this sense, is the concept of ‘I wish to play my favourite champion in a PvE factor,” he says. “Candy, that sounds nice — however how a lot in a MOBA is the bones you wish to construct that have on?”

Riot has experimented with including issues onto and round League, the place taking part in video games is only a technique to unlock new chapters in a visible novel or get beauty rewards. As Van Roon notes, a 5v5 aggressive MOBA isn’t the very best avenue for storytelling.

League of Legends - Sentinel Riven’s splash art, which shows a white-haired young woman in armor wielding a giant glowing sword made out of pale gold stone.

Picture: Riot Video games

Wild Rift has included extra storytelling parts with its occasions and Guilds vs. Guilds characteristic, via which gamers uncover small-scale narratives and rivalries between champions. On PC, there are the large occasions — first Spirit Blossom, then the large Sentinels of Mild occasion, and the current alternate universe magical woman Star Guardians story.

“Total, we’re nonetheless figuring [events] out, particularly now that we’ve extra locations we will do storytelling than simply League, and what tales to inform via League,” says Van Roon. “Like, how a lot we should always do Act One introductions for characters versus how a lot ought to we attempt to conclude massive epic plots? I feel we’re seeing that the visible novel might be one thing we shouldn’t be doing this usually. It was nice for Spirit Blossom, it’s an ideal device to have in our repertoire, nevertheless it’s not one thing to lean on continuously.”

Riot will proceed to assist League of Legends, Wild Rift, and Teamfight Ways, and the success of those modes can result in fascinating experiments; the comics, Riot Forge titles, and Legends of Runeterra are all proof of that. Because the universe of the franchise continues to develop, there are extra avenues for characters to seem and construct out the world — and there’s room for surprises.

“A couple of years down the street, as soon as we’ve obtained everybody’s favourite champions over and so forth, however then we’ll wish to discover — what does a Wild Rift-unique champion seem like?” asks Van Roon.

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