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How Riot reinvents old League of Legends champions like comic book superheroes

League of Legends is now over a decade old and during this time the competitive strategy game has amassed a list of almost 150 characters. Some become so popular that they join virtual pop groups or have designer outfits at Louis Vuitton. Others … well, others can be left behind. For this reason, developer Riot regularly visits some of his older champions to revive them for modern players.

It’s a process that producer Ryan Mireles compares to superheroes in which someone like Batman can be reinvented in countless comics and films to better match the moment. Even before he started in the studio in 201

5, Mireles liked to think about how these unloved characters could be reinterpreted in a similar way. “I’ve always thought this was an exciting approach,” he says. “So I’ve always thought about what these older champions could be under the lens of modernization.”

The latest treatment that Riot calls VGU, short for “Visual Gameplay Update,” is Volibear, a giant armored bear, the update of which is now available in the game’s public beta. According to Mireles, there is a procedure for selecting champions that classifies various factors such as gameplay, graphics, lore / sound and takes into account the diversity and diversity of the youngest characters. Last year, the team narrowed it down to five fighters that needed a makeover, and then let the fans vote to choose the next two to work on. The result was fiddlesticks – which may have recently returned leagueThe most terrible champion – and Volibear. “His topic was pretty bad,” says Mireles of the Volibear admission. “He was just that random armored bear.”

The goal with Volibear’s redesign was to update his theme to make him an intimidating demigod who has the power to use lightning and thunder. At the same time, the Riot team wanted to make the champion stickier for players who like to play than him. “Our goal is not really to suddenly make him the most popular champion,” says Mireles. “But we want people who play it to like it and keep playing it.”

The VGU process can take around nine months, around half of which is dedicated to experimentation and brainstorming. Conceptual artists will reject wild ideas and designers will develop new gameplay elements. “We just try really crazy things. Then we will find out what’s coolest, what sticks, ”says Mireles. For Volibear, early ideas included an “Eldritch horror” design that turned the demigod into something grotesque, and a special attack actually destroyed the site. Since Volibear is an unstoppable force, they also played with the idea of ​​making him insensitive to stun attacks. While some of these ideas were fun, they weren’t all related to the character’s theme or broke elements of game balance.

As soon as the team has a clear direction, it goes into production. This includes the expansion to attract animators, visual effects artists, and other people who can bring the character to life. This usually takes another four to five months.

VGUs are not a new phenomenon for League of Legends, but the process has changed significantly over the years. Initially, the team aimed at characters with extremely low game rates and tried to completely revise them to increase engagement. Then Aatrox came. In 2018, Riot reworked a demonic sword bearer named Aatrox, which had a terrible game rate because fans asked for a change. They turned him into something like a Dark souls Boss, with big, heavy attacks and a dark background story. In many ways, VGU was a hit: Aatrox is more popular than ever. But his dedicated fans weren’t happy with the drastic change.

“We really upset a lot of players who played Aatrox before,” said Mireles. “That made us rethink our strategy as we switched to more champions with larger player bases.” While engagement is still an important reason to bring older champions up to date, maintaining player trust is just as important. Riot doesn’t want dedicated fans to get scared when their favorite characters show up for a redesign.

It’s a tricky balancing act, and that’s one of the reasons why the process can take so long. In fact, Mireles says that redesigning an old champion takes about as long as creating a new one from scratch. “The process is different in that both have very different challenges, but the time it takes to solve these challenges is about the same,” he explains. “Because with a new champion, you don’t have to worry about unbalancing a lot of current players.”

Over the years, the process has also become more complex than leagueStorytelling has become a more coordinated effort. For example, when Riot introduced a new champion named Senna last year, she was not only a new element in the game’s ever-evolving tradition, but also part of a new virtual hip-hop group called True Damage Likewise a holographic concert at the League of Legends World Championships in Paris.

The version of Volibear that is available today has gone through many iterations, but is also much more interesting. The champion is no longer just a “random armored bear”, but an intimidating force with a new move set, including the ability to summon lightning and go insane. It still has the appeal of a big intimidating bear, but with new layers to keep players excited.

“It’s the main reason we make champions: to get people excited about playing.” league“Says Mireles.” They’re like mini-expansion packs. “

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