League of Legends champion designer Since the end of 2012 and recently promoted to head of this apartment, Riot August is one of the members of the developer with more experience in front of production. She has a direct responsibility for the creation of VI, Jinx, Gnar, Ekko, Jhin, Senna, Viego and Zeri. Well, since MGG we have had the opportunity to chat with him for forty-five minutes when we learned how the new champions are made , what are the next characters that would like to create, how the balance decisions are made more Difficult or how much Riot Games has changed.
All these topics can be treated in detail, but for file and transparency purposes , we would also like to share with you the integrity.
We talked with August, head of production of League of Legends champions
First of all… What does it mean to be a champion designer at League of Legends?
_ What it means to be a League of Legends champions designer is to be responsible for designing champions (laughs)… mainly we focus on creating your mechanics. When I say mechanics, I mean things what the characters do in the game. If you look at Jinx, it’s like… I gave Jinx a rocket launcher. It’s rockets exploit in a specific area, they do a certain damage and have a defined range. Those are the things that he was directly responsible. Jinx has a W, so I have to decide whatever it is that he does and create it. I did sparkle (the weapon that he uses on that ability), also deciding what would be their reach or launch time. Basically, create a complete skill kit and adjust it so that he feels like a special and reasonable character; Have a cohesion with each other… Create a League of Legend champion that feels good over the next few years.
_Ite to this, the designer of a champion is the person who spends the most time with a character. We work on them from day one, when there is not even an idea, there we are. We continue with them until the launch and very habitually until after this. Normally we are responsible in case he needs any adjustment of power or arrangement. We are all the process, which means that we can help the rest of the development team to have a character as cohesive as possible. At first we work with writers to decide how it should be the biography of it or what to say in the games. They do those things, but we help them decide if they should say interesting or somewhat stupid things. We are with them from the beginning and we also work with conceptual artists.
_Is the DNA (art, development and narrative). We all work together to create a cohesive character in which Kit, narrative and development so that the different elements do not go against each other. We help each other. Designers are going to be there when we move on to production or are created the ‘Assets’ that will reach the game, to avoid problems with animations or VFX. We help the team. Basically, we are those who put themselves in all parts of development so that the character feels good from a point of view of a gameplay, but also in the rest of the aspects. We make sure everything works well and that the champion fulfills all the requirements.
On these first steps of a champion, I have always had a curiosity. What do you know about the champions when the development begins? What do they tell you? They tell you a position… What exactly happens?
_ Champions can start from very different development points. One of the ways in which they are born is in the “opportunity space”. This is the idea that there is a group of League of Legends players who could enjoy the launch of a champion, with which we can give in the nail. It can be just a position in something like ‘eh, we have not done a mid laner in a long time, so let’s try to do something for them.’
It can also be something different for a certain role. For example, one of the things we thought about Senna was ‘Let’s make a shooter for the support position’. We had a lot of support characters, but none that will be played similarly to a shooter. We thought that if we put a character as well as Support there should be a lot of players who would find you and enjoy playing a viable shooter in that position._
_Other possibility is that, simply, we want to make a certain champion. This also applies with Senna. We wanted her to be Lucian’s wife because we wanted to do something special for the tenth anniversary of League of Legends and give the community a special character that took a long time waiting for. Something that really made them have a lot of Hype. There were years of Lore with the relationship between Thresh and Lucian with the theme of Senna and the lantern.
Then we had to decide how to get Senna from the lantern. You had to decide how that character would be seen in League of Legends and then we thought that he fit into the Support shooter role. The players took time trying to make this combination viable, you will feel like a good connection with Lucian because both have weapons and are shooters and… you can play together! They were the perfect couple in the Bot Lane.
_ Characters can come from very different perspectives. Sometimes it is enough with an artistic concept that calls a lot of attention. That happened to Jinx.Jinx was born thanks to Katie de Sousa, who published this piece of art with a woman with a very characteristic blue hair, two pigtails, manic expression and lots of weapons. People like me fell in love immediately from the champion. It was like ‘Wow, that character is beautiful, I really want to create it.’ Then I started thinking about a version of it for her to be like an UDYR attacking distance with many different weapons. There was the idea… I talked to the team and we started it. Basically… Quick Summary: The characters arise in many ways. They can be groups of players that we want to please, an artistic design or ideas. Draven was born from the idea of how it would be like in League of Legends a character that was simply a prepotent and knew that he is better than you. The new champion come from all over.
For what you say, it seems that designers have a lot of freedom to do what you want as long as you exceed the minimum quality
Yes. Even so, sometimes the spaces of opportunity are determined by the production team. A lot of times designers can have an assigned character. For example, Viego was assigned to me directly. Basically I was told ‘Your next champion is at X moment and during the same the story of ruin will come out. We think that the perfect way to do it is that you design the ruined king ‘. So it was how ‘eh August, you are free to make a character at this time and we would like to do the ruined king… Do you encourage him?’.
_ You have a lot of freedom to try infinite things, but it is common for things decided in the production team. It is very variable, it is also possible that you have a good idea and want to put it on the table because you think it is better_
Once we have all this, we are ready to start our champion. We have all the basics, what is the first thing we do?
_Hey variety, a funny design thing is that there are different ways of approaching it and everything can give great results. What I do is not necessarily what many of my colleagues will do. I try to ask myself who the character is and how I want him to sit down. For example, with Jinx he wanted him to feel like a crazy mania and very unstable. In the case of VI expected something more aggressive and claw that made him think that the attack is the best defense. With Senna, the artists created their incredible weapon, the Redeess, and I wanted him to feel like you were shooting a cannon of light while playing it.
_ For me is a ‘how do I want this champion to feel?’, ‘What kind of sensations do I want to capture, what parts of your imagination do I want to appeal? With Jhin I wanted you out a sniper shooting a magnum of games like Borderlands, Call of Duty or Apex Legends. Those weapons of six bullets that have a feeling of unique shooting and a characteristic recharge pattern._
“First, I begin with those sensations and then we go with the skill kit. When we arrive at this point we tested with a lot of spells. Most of my characters have like three different kits before I find one that is really interesting. For me it is very difficult to find the first something that is fine, but I make many ‘kits on paper’, which are those written fragments in which we describe a series of skills and I share them with the team: ‘EY, that you seem these skills’. If this paper kit has some traction and likes the rest of the team, we put it in the game and we started trying. Many times, at least in my case, there is a skill that is fine and the rest has to go away for us to try new things. They are terrible._
_Zeri, my most recent champion, was created in parallel to Neon. One of the things I wanted with her is that he felt like you were playing a first-person shooter. A little that you had that fantasy of targeted and accuracy of the FPS. Obviously it is something very difficult to convey identically in League of Legends, but it was what I was looking for with it. In this way, one of the original skills was the Q of it. On paper it is simply a self-authority in the form of skill. She was good looking, we tried it and went very well. She was there from day 1. However, the rest of the skills we tried were very bad and they simply eliminated.
I had several objectives and one of those skills was the W, where I wanted to give him that touch of sniper rifle, as if it were an operator. He had about three seconds of cooling, 3,000 rank and threw a very fine projectile that executed enemies when they had less than 30% of life. It was not a great idea, it was very difficult to play with this skill and he felt very clumsy, besides that he was unjust to go against her. The ultimate of him also changed, Erauna Species of Rammus that lasted forever, although he was canceled upon receiving harm. She was too binary and she felt bad for everyone too.
_The thing is that, even with all these skills that did not work, we had one yes. That gave us a pillar to create everything else. The important thing at this point of development is to find that ability that allows you to build everything else.
How many variations does a champion suffer? That is, how many times do you have to repeat until the kit is completed? From what you say… they are enough.
_ As for almost everything, the answer is that it depends on the character. I would say that, for me, on average, in my characters, the normal thing is that the champions have three skill kits. Normally I have a kit that is terrible and it is completely deleted, then one that is fine and finally needed a lot of skills to find that definitive piece that closes everything. The last skill is the most difficult because at those you usually have everything the champion needs. Then what you need is a good piece that snaps out well. The problem here is that when you have everything there are a lot of things you can not do. Because you know, you can not make all the characters do everything.
_ For my last ability is the most difficult and I usually need three kits. However, there are other designers who are very good at this. There is one called CertainTyt and many of its champions have very few iterations. Thresh had the full skill kit with the exception of the Ultimate in the first playable tests of him. The Ultimate is the only thing that changed significantly. It is possible that a character that a character does not need as many tests, but it depends a lot on the character and the situation.
_Even there are cases in which we make a lot of kits and nothing works. Then it is when we must go in completely different directions.
_Yes, the time it takes to create a character also varies. The champions at the Modern League of Legends are created in a year or a little more. Take a lot of time from many people. Designers, writers and artists are there all year. Some of the most difficult to complete can be developed for more than two years. I think Sylas was one of them. Some of the shortest in this modern design can be ready in five or six months; Although this is very rare.
_The reason why I speak of modern design is because the champion that was faster, was complete in three days. The old Yorick, the original, only three days. Well, this is… difficult. I still was not there and I can not tell that story exactly, but it’s the legend of Riot: the kit made in three days.
Now let’s talk a little about your champions… Even when I was not interested in the design of League of Legends, your characters did not seem too broken. They were righteous. If you play against Jinx I know what to do, because it’s strong. With VI, the same thing happens to me, but it is not something that happens in all the characters. When I play against Yone… Well, the more it is worth not being on your screen..
_The first thing I want to say is that there are many times that people tell me that my champions are quite righteous and usually do it over the characters that attack at a distance as Jinx or Jhin. However, I do not think people thought the same about Jhin if he had had to turn it into a body-to-hand champion. What I want to say is that League of Legends Melé fighters need a lot of things to work. I mean those who have to hurt and do not have too many defenses.
“In this sense, a lot of things that players think are unfair for MELÉ champions are essential for them to work and have interesting patterns. A good example is Yasuo’s wind wall. It is something that many players do not find fair, but it is essential to make sense of their game. In addition, it allows us to adjust other things and make Yasuo do not have to do, literally, ‘One Shoot’. Because it has a wall that gives time to play the game. Things like that._
This is my first idea, but there are also more things. You mentioned VI as a fair champion, but that is subjective and there is one thing that maybe you do not know. Players tend to catalog as just the things they understand and know. If you know what is going to happen and you understand how it is going to happen it seems fairer. When I saw, she came out one of the most unjust champions of all the game. Nobody thinks, of course, but when he came out the players were like: ‘What the hell do you do. This bug, it catches me by clicking from 800 units away and then kills me punching. There is no Counterplay. It is unreasonable ‘.
_Hoy in day you compare VI with other characters and it’s how ‘Oh is not running for me… What fear! (Laughter) ‘. The thing is that she is now she feels much fairer is that everyone knows what she does from her and have understood how to play against her. This happens in many pitches. Even Jhin and Jinx seemed unreasonable at the time because the players had not become accustomed. I do not know if my champions are fairer, but it is much simpler to make an ADC that is fair.
_When we talk about the shooters, everything is a matter of jumping on them and killing them. They have that weakness marked by being very fragile. Meanwhile, a Melé champion usually needs many more tools. The important part is that when you play against something you leave that game thinking that you have a plan for the next time. ‘Eh this did not work, but I have an idea about what I will do the next time I find this character. I know how to beat him ‘. That is the idea, the dangerous territory would be that too often you had to think ‘eh, because I do not have an answer for the next’. This is how I understand the problem of unjust characters.
_When something thus happens, we want their weaknesses even more. Recently I did a launch that many considered unfair… Have you heard about Viego? _
I do not know if he is as broken as people say…
Quay you do not see it that way, but many players think about it. So, one of the things we did after his release, in his most recent nerf was like… ‘Well, a lot of people think it’s unfair… Why do not we do that, if you use your tank constructions and want to survive, I peeked And he cured even less? ‘That’s how we said to the community that if they were going for that build it is not going to end up with you so fast nor will he cure so much. With this we did to play against your tank version, it feels more just and easy because you do less damage. If you go for your critic construction because you can do more damage and cure more. Is assuming much more risk to do it
About Viego, it seems that you talk to me about the ‘pain points‘ those not so good things that make players suffer. I always think about this as one of the most difficult things in League of Legends, because you must abandon the data to work on the feeling of the community. How do you decide what is time to make changes such as those of Ahri, crossing the power of some skills to others?
_Yes… Our balance strategy is usually focused on statistics and we have our action. From X% of victories in a given skill group we must increase their power and if it happens otherwise, we need it. We assume your problems and make decisions. Sometimes there are also problems with the bathing, so we can nerfemar to the characters that have these very high data. For example, ZED or YUUMI are not as powerful, but they generate a lot of frustration in the players and many of their nerfeos are due to that.
It is easy to make adjustments in extreme cases, but the characters that are in the middle like Ahri is where the thing is complicated. What we do with characters that are well adjusted is to have a discussion related to your design: What kind of designs do improvements need? What characters need improvements because they do not feel too powerful?…_
_The particular case of Ahri was like… The designer had the idea that he was a powerful character and earned many games, but he did not do anything brilliant. She worked well, but that was not necessarily a reason to choose it over any other champion. She was good at all without feeling powerful at all. Recent changes were in the idea of reinforcing her personality. It was something like ‘Eh Ahri is a magician magician, so let’s make him win games with his jumps’… something like that. The old Ahri was safe and good, by the way, what he wins games in Lol is not dying. She was not weak because she was sure, but when you play a champion so you hope there are moments that make you think that you are the player, are you carrying the game. Something that makes you say ‘this is why I like this champion. For this it fits with me ‘. So, we focus on mobility to give you that feeling.
Speaking about the launch of champions, sometimes I think that the marketing team is your greatest enemy. You need them, but make the champions look superpower. Renata is a great example. I think that in the trailer the Ulti of her seems very strong, but I do not think she will be for so much. She will be unique and fun, but not as strong as she seems. That generates many criticism after trailer…
_ I think that the marketing team makes it incredible. One of the greatest values of a new champion is to create a new gameplay pattern. The new characters are the most expected news by many players. There are many times that happens that you say in plan ‘God, is already League of Legends launching those Megarotos characters that you do not know what they do.’ Many players want to try these new champions and even if you are not playing you, your presence makes the game different and gives you more value. That makes people play with League of Legends.
_If you play 20,000 games with Garen, heading number 20.001 is going to be different. That is very important and a reason why the game is still alive after more than ten years. Of course they seem very strong, extremely strong. The issue is that they always sell ‘thinking about the most favorable scenarios. It does not matter, because people will realize when playing. Even if it seems very crazy, when they play they will see if it really is true. In the end, what matters is that players have a reason to experiment.
_Many times things that seem crazy do not are and those that likem simple are a headache. I never worry too much. It’s good that people think it’s too crazy or broken. Once they jump to the game is when it matters that it really feels adjusted and there is counterplay. Things do not always go well… Zeri is ‘a little strong’ (laughs) and we have that nerfear. But there is a structure on which we can work. The goal with her is that she is fast and feels powerful, but balanced. We just have to decide how to weaken it without taking that.
_ To see I played as thirty games with her and I’m going up, do not hurry… Now, what do you think if we had a little trivial questions, curious and fun things. Let’s start this: What ability of any other game would you want to have in League of Legends? _
_ One of the things that I would like to do is a vampire. I know it’s not a skill and we have Vladimir. He is a wizard of blood, but I would like to make a real vampire. I never had the opportunity, but I would love it. I would like him to turn into a bat and suck his blood to the enemies. That would be superguay._
Also, I like to put new weapons in my characters. My shooters tend to be a good proof that I try to capture that essence. The jinx launcher or the minigun of him, the magnum of Jhin… I still have not thought about what next weapon I would like to create, but it is something I usually ask me. It is a very difficult question because Zeri has just left and I usually rest after the launch of a character… I am in a period of destroying a little.
One thing in which I think is… Well, have you played Dark Souls using the ultraSPADAS?
BUFF, I happen to me difficult…
Many times I have imagined what a character would be like a gigantic sword. Aatrox is a bit like that, but I want that feeling of having a gigantic, but gigantic sword. What different things we could do with it.
What is the biggest change that Riot Games has done in its approach to the launch or design of the champions?
The greater change of recent years that is incredibly good is that we have focused on diversity and representation. League of Legends is a global game. With this in mind, we now believe that it is very important that players around the world are represented. There has to be a champion for you, but not only in terms of gameplay. Also in terms of how they speak, who are or their appearance. We try to focus on that in recent years and it has been a great change for the design of champions and the roster of League of Legends.
What Mechanics have you wanted to create but have never been able to put in the game?
_Con Ekko tried to create a mechanics in which he rewounded the whole map. He pulled a button and everything returned to how he was eight seconds ago. Cooldowns, life bars and everything else. The only immovable was the death of a champion (laughs). It was… well, it was not right. I tried it eh… I looked for that temporary fantasy… _
_ I also did the same with one that I call Sand Storm. This was an idea for a very very old version of Azir. The idea was that you will launch a storm of giant sand that prevented the vision of all enemy champions globally and slowing them. In the middle there was an explosion of damage to which you were trying to take all the rivals. It was chaos trying to try to catch them in the eye of the storm. It would have been very epic, but I did not find the character in which he could fit it. It has not done many magicians, it would be appropriate for a magician… _
_The last and we are leaving… we are closely close to the stories about canceled champions, we are very curious. As for you, how many of your champions stayed out of the game after a reasonable time of work? _
Mi second champion was canceled, but only that. He was called Yordle in tank, which is explained alone, and was canceled because he was the second champion after I saw and he was starting. I just did not do a good skill kit. It was very bad, it felt bad to play it and I do not know… it just was not good. The narrative and art of him were great, but I was just not able to do well me.
In other times there were many champions that were canceled or postponed indefinitely. Lucian postponed many times, but now the champions come out well they prepare very well. Today we work very well previously and we have things ready in advance so that they can be launched…._
Well, at least I saw it was not bad, she even she is the protagonist of Arcane. I would not complain (laughs). AUGUST, thank you very much for your time.
_ Thank you Bruno, it was a pleasure. Have a great day_
I see you on twitch!