For those unfamiliar with how an AMA works, a person or group of people start a thread about a certain subject. In this case the topic is Freljord and all the other goodies that came along with it - Howling Abyss, Lissandra, New skins, and more. The AMA is being conduced by Michael “IronStylus” Maurino, Devon "Riot Runaan" Giehl, Richard "Riot Nome" Liu, Ryan "Morello" Scott, Richard "Brackhar" Hough, Peet "3PEET" Cooper, Andrei "Meddler" Van Roon, Christina "kitae" Norman, and Randy "RiotEntropy" Begel
I've attempted to sort answers and questions into fairly board categories and then clump similar answers but there will definitely end up being overlap. The [ ] questions aren't always going to be the exact phrasing of the question asked. I did my best to modify them for more readability.
[ How long ago did you guys start developing Freljord? ]
A ) "Around 9 months ago I'd say but nothing concrete was ever said, like, WE WILL MAKE A FRELJORD EVENT, until Lissandra evolved. That sparked the fire for Freljord.. or made the idea.. snowball. HEH!" - IronStylus
B) "What iron stylus said. We knew we wanted to do a faction themed patch that would be bigger and better than Shadow Isles. When Lissandra started to evolve, we all got really excited about making Freljord that event." - kitae
[ Will we see more of these bigger themed patches in the future? ]
A) "A lot of this depends on you guys, if you like faction themed patches we would love to keep doing them! We have a lot of cool factions that deserve a chance to be in the spotlight." - kitae
Follow Up for A) "We're hoping that the reception has been positive so we can bring about more piles of content that furthers the depth of our world!" - IronStylus
B) "Fun Stuff is in the works ;)" - IronStylus
Follow up for B) "I'd really love to. I'd love to see us really bust out and create a deep exploration of all of our territories! I'd love to see the inner workings of Piltover, or what Noxian standard military soldiers look like. Also.. I'd really like to know what Mount Targon is like ;)" - IronStylus
[Are there further plans for large-scale content patches like this or was this a one time thing?]
" We have some stuff in the works ;) As per usual we don't have time tables because content and context is always evolving. I do feel as though we'll break out other patches like this, at least if players feel Freljord in particular was valuable. So, thanks for your support! I do very much want us to flesh out areas which are ambiguous and less developed.... especially Mount Targon ;)" - IronStylus
[ Would you have considered releasing this Freljord content in a large patch like this if there weren't a map launch associated with it? Is Riot considering any large lore patches that don't come with an associated map launch? ]
"We definitely don't think new maps are a requirement for faction lore events. We have more factions than maps by far! However, with the Howling Abyss we had a cool opportunity to upgrade the map and set it in the Freljord, so we took it." - kitae
[ I want to know more about the world of League of Legends and I very much enjoyed this event. Will we see more to help learn about the other factions? ]
"I can answer a bit here. I really want to see us expand upon the world and make it a living breathing place. I'm not really sure about integrating it into maps, that can be a big task. However, I really want to see us at least do this sort of thing where we do the website treatment, maybe something through the client, interactive maps, etc, that really show us a peak into the world." - IronStylus
[ Which of the Three Freljord tribe icons is the most popular?]
"It's actually neck-and-neck.
We wanted all three tribes to be appealing in their own way. What we're seeing is broad support for all three tribes. That's awesome, it makes their conflict way more interesting!" - kitae
Howling Abyss Game Play
[ Are we going to see ARAM-specific balance changes like you promised for TT and Dominion? Like map-specific nerfs to Janna, Jayce, Nid, Yi, Soraka, etc. and buffs to Shyvana and Trynd? ] - " It's unlikely you'll see any ARAM-specific balance changes immediately. We may decide to come back and do slight adjustments in the future based on data and how well the TT/CS changes are received." - Riot Nome
[ Is the MMR for matchmaking into Howling Abyss separate from the number you use to match us into Summoner's rift? I'd hate to play a bunch of ARAM games and find my skill level in other game modes radically adjusted one way or the other. ]
"Yeap, it is." - Brackhar
[ Why reduce the Shop buying range? On PG you could walk back to the shop and buy as long as you didn't pass your inhibitor. This gave defenders a chance and made the map less one-sided. A lot of people are unhappy about this change. ] - "We'll be expanding the shop buying range in a future patch." - Nome
[ Why removal Warmogs armor from ARAM? Warmogs countered poke teams and gave melee a chance. Why would you remove it?] - "Warmog's didn't counter poke teams; poke teams dominated early game, and used that advantage to snowball into late game. What Warmog's did was counter ranged teams, and allows melee champions toeventually become useful, but among good players, almost always win. We added the Guardian's Horn to fulfill the niche that a health/regen item should have filled early, but still remain useful mfrom mid-to-late game." - Nome
[ Is it intended that Poros run away from champion in the bushes thus revealing their presence to the enemy team? ] - "They're a gameplay mechanic now, and it's intended ;)" - Riot Nome
[ Is there a solution in the pipeline for framerate issues on HA? ]
"We're working on performance!" - Riot Nome
[ The original question was deleted but Nome did take time to reveal two SCRAPPED mechanics on Howling Abyss ]
"For Howling Abyss, there were two scrapped gameplay mechanics that were attached to the high winds state.
1. When the high winds started, players would lose linked vision a la Nocturne's ultimate. This would allow players to make big scrambles and jostle for position.
2. When the high winds started, icicles would fall from overhead onto the bridge, forming destructible walls that blocked skill shots (they were destructible after one shot). They formed in semi-random (designer-determined) layouts. We didn't have enough time to iterate on the mechanic before committing to the art, so we scrapped it. A lot of people liked it, so maybe we'll revisit the idea in the future!" - Riot Nome
Howling Abyss Aesthetics
[ Would you consider doing a Howling Abyss caliber update to Summoner's rift? ]
"Summoner's Rift is our most popular map, so it means we'll have to do a lot of performance investigations and research before porting a change like this over. On Howling Abyss for example, there's a fairly complex logic system that swaps out the current turret mesh with the appropriate destructible/destroyed mesh at the appropriate time. There's performance considerations for every little bit of visual flair we do, and we'd want to make sure we do it right." - Riot Nome
[ Howling Abyss is so beautiful! Can we get an overhaul of Summoner's Rift to match that amazing attention to details? ]
"The goal of the Environment team is to bring the immersion and visual quality of League of Legends to the highest point possible while improving the clarity and gameplay experience.
The rework of Twisted Treeline was a good step in the right direction. We implemented a lot of new techniques and technology and worked with creative to push the Shadow Isles lore.
With Howling Abyss we tackled a lot of tough challenges such as pushing depth, destruction, weather, ambient creatures, unique shop keepers and many other aspects.
We will continue pushing the quality bar while answering as many tough questions for what we can and cant do in our game. I don't have any specific details about Summoners Rift, but I can say we will eventually be overhauling everything that is not at the highest quality. :)" - 3PEET
[ What made you use Freljord for the location new ARAM map instead of some other place? ]
A) "A bit of it was a result of timing - we were discussing the idea of a Freljord event back even while we were working on Twisted Treeline, and given that we wanted to upgrade Proving Grounds in general we saw a nice opportunity to tie it into a larger event as a whole. Additionally, a big icy bridge over an infinite abyss seemed like a pretty cool idea in general. :)" - Brackhar
B) "When we were developing Lissandra's lore, we were inspired by the visuals of the proving grounds and the idea of a bottomless chasm. What is at the bottom of a bottomless chasm? Something evil. That core idea grew into the idea of the Watchers which form the basis for Lissandra's lore.
So in some ways, the proving grounds inspired the Freljord event! " - kitae
[ Will we be able to see some more of that awesome Freljord concept art like what was shown in the music of Freljord video? ]
"We have tons.. like.. TONS of concept art. Most of what you saw in the mini-doc was done for that component of our IP development. We're deep in the process of fleshing our the world of Runterra. That process was expedited by the Freljord event and that created a wealth of very polished art that inspired everything from champions, skins, Howling Abyss, etc.
I'd love to see how we can make this art available, I'll check with our art director to see if there are any plans!" - IronStylus
[ I've noticed the towers crumble after certain in game events. Care to explain more? ]
"On the live client, the map determines at the beginning of each match whether each individual tower can be destroyed. If it can, a nearby champion death will cause it (and the accompanying chains) to crumble.
In the next patch, the system has been reworked. Instead, each time you die near an intact statue, there's a chance for the statue to be destroyed. Once a statue is successfully destroyed, there's a smaller chance for the next one to be destroyed. On the other hand, if a statue fails to be destroyed, then the chance for the next one will be slightly increased.
It's a small systems tweak that should make the experience feel better by stretching out the destruction, but still offer the "every game is different" experience the original system was trying to accomplish." - Riot Nome
[ Why did you add so many sound effects to the shopkeepers on Howling Abyss? ]
"Shopkeepers were an unobtrusive way for us reveal lore and backstory to players without interfering with the game. We're always looking for ways to combine lore with gameplay, but never at the expense of gameplay." - kitae
[ I’ve noticed that the music in the Howling Abyss has a lot of really cool stingers added in for different in game events, for example taking a tower brings in some massive drums and dying fades in some drones and creepy whispers. What else did you do to make the music in the Howling Abyss so fluid and seemingly endless? ]
"Basically, apart from the victory/defeat and the death-track, there are 5 different music tracks and phases with different intensity to support a conscious emotional development of the individual game. The music shouldn't just feel the same throughout the whole game, but progress with it. We also added a few other ambiences to glue the whole sonic experience together, so the sound effects have a nice "cushion" to sit on." - Praeco
"The environment art team had a meeting to discuss the overly aggressive feel of the map. We decided we needed some some whimsical elements to balance it out. We did some simple concepts and Poro came up. :)" - 3PEET
[ REVEAL THE SECRETS OF THE POROS!]
"The secret's been long discovered! We're working on some additional Easter Eggs though" - RiotNome
[ I really appreciate the design of Lissandra, it's a very coopl depature from the typical lady type we get in the League. What inspired her? ]
"Lissandra had always been a topic of discussion. We had two Freljord sisters, where was the 3rd? Initially she was “The Ice Dervish” and was envisioned to be more of an assassin, with ice blades growing out of her. She was regal and almost “good” looking. She had some elemental aspects to her but she was very traditionally human.
Not much traction was gained with those particular concepts. It just wasn’t really striking a chord with anyone. One of our newest concept artists at the time, Trevor Claxton, tried to take a stab at her soon after he came in. He proceeded to create something truely unique, and almost alien. His image of an otherworldly type woman carried upon a trail of black ice was a spark. It was that concept that spurred new ideas of how super-natural and strange Lissandra could be.
What worked about this concept was that this person felt like a queen, but not in the standard crown wearing way. She was indeed regal, but she was terrifying. She was almost abstract in her anatomy and shapes. It was this real breath of fresh air that spurred something that everyone could get behind on. It created a lot of momentum in helping Lissandra turn out as amazing as her concept.
I'll have to ask Trevor, but Elesh Norn might have been inspiration! " - IronStylus
[ What inspired lissandra? She seems so unique to the other mid champs and her play seems drastically different as well and what do you think of her from a player stand point? ]
"Visually we wanted something with a somewhat alien, no longer human look, hence the unusual proportions, head dress etc. On the gameplay side we really wanted to capture some of Lissandra's personality in her abilities - vicious, manipulative, dominating. We also wanted to explore a niche we haven't used as much, a shorter range mage with strong initiation potential, whether in lane, team fights or ganks." - Meddler
[ What's the motivation behind Lissandra's ultimate? Both how it functions and how it translates into feeling like an ice witch in game. ]
"We were aiming for a few things with Lissandra's ultimate. The first was to try and create an interesting choice between two different uses (self cast/enemy cast) to add some extra tension to fights as both the Lissandra player and as the enemy. The second was to try and create a gameplay link to a key element of Lissandra's lore, the desire to see the cold return and everything freeze. The final big reason was that we wanted to give her a high impact, short range ability, that, when needed, would allow her to survive in team fights, so that she could continue to build/play more like a mage than a tank, despite having both initiation capability and short range CC." - Meddler
Other Champion Changes
[ Why did Ashe's voice over get changed? ]
"As one of the oldest champions in League of Legends, Ashe had a very limited VO script. We wanted to bring her up to the amount of lines we give our new champions (similar to the way champions like Twisted Fate and Annie got updated scripts with their visual upgrades) as well as give her tie-ins with other champions for the Freljord event. Her voice actress is the same." - Riot Nome
[ Am I crazy or did Anivia's voice over get changed as well? ]
"Yes, Anivia's voice over was updated as well for many of the same reasons. " - Riot Nome
[ I am an avid Sejuani players and I have bunch of questions / comments about Sejuani ( very long questions, click this to check them our or just figure them out based on the context of the answers below ) ]
"1 Our goal with the Sejuani rework was to shift power around, make it more visible and increase her risk reward on a couple of skills a bit, not to nerf or buff. I believe that the change in perception of Sejuani is a combination of some successes there (the addition of the knockup on the charge for example, in exchange for harder to perceive damage on the W) and all the extra attention she's got due to the Freljord event/her visual rework.
2 Primary reason for making the charge single target was power. While testing the rework internally we had Sejuani consistently dominating games and removing a bit of AOE damage helped bring that under control. A secondary reason was consistency, having enemy champions take the damage but not the knock up felt odd and making the skill an AOE knockup wasn't an option.
3 We've found permaslows to be really difficult to make both satisfying and balanced when they're available throughout the game and not gated in some form (mana/CDs/something else). Something we wanted to do with Sejuani was increase her high moments but also give a few more options for counter play for the enemy in exchange, and the removal of the permaslow was a part of that trade off. Having said that Sejuani still has a knockup, one of the strongest multi target slows in the game and an AOE stun/slow, so she's still pretty sticky compared to most champions.
4 Most tanks fall off late game to some degree and Sejuani does follow that pattern. Her damage is pretty solid/arguably a bit on the high side compared to other similar champions and she brings a lot of utility/disruption to a fight so we're not currently concerned about her having a lack of late game impact. We are keeping a really close eye on both her and Trundle in terms of performance though and will be tweaking them as needed.
5 We wanted to involve Sejuani's flail in her kit a bit more, give a small optimisation moment (correct use of auto attack reset) and give the enemy another small moment of counterplay (avoid the auto attack reset, take a bit less damage).
6 The burst radius on the ult hasn't changed, though both it's range and speed have been increased slightly. The full stun for everyone versus slow if you miss is a shift towards a higher risk/reward patten. The worst case scenario for the Sejuani player is definitely weaker, a 2 second AOE stun at long range though is incredibly powerful and a substantial increase in power compared to 2 second primary target/1 second others, so we're happy with that change at present." - Meddler
[ Why change Gragas's lore? ]
"Gragas needed a change. While his original motivation left us room to explore, his old story made him a hermit who did little other than pursue the art of brewing on his remote plot of land and occasionally wander into Noxus to make mischief. By taking away his crutch, the nexus on his land that gives his alcohol power, we could give him agency in the world and even agency into his own source of power. Gragas is now someone who wanders the world searching to become the best brewmaster in history and he became powerful because he had the audacity to make concoctions no one else would dream of and possessed the constitution to stomach them.
What you see in the bio is one excerpt of Gragas’s life long quest, not the end all be all of his life’s work." - RiotEntropy
[ Why more Udyr to Freljord? ]
"Udyr's primal nature and shaman-like abilities felt very at home in the Freljord, so we looked at ways to involve him in the upcoming event. In the end we decided to expand his open-ended origins to the Freljord and empower him as a guardian of the natural order on Runeterra. Lissandra and the Frozen Watcher give him an immediate motive to be involved in the events unfolding in the Freljord." - RiotEntropy
[ Will be Brand be getting a lore update to place him in the Freljord as well, given that his host found him in Lokfar (which is now part of the Freljord)? ]
"Brand - Brand was never from Lokfar, the body he possessed was from Lokfar. While Brand definitely wants to burn the Freljord, that's because the Freljord is part of the world and he wants the world to burn.
But Brand may know something about Lissandra and the Watchers." - Kitae
[His host found brand locked in an ice cage, did he not? ]
"Yup! I wonder who made that cage....hmmmm." - Kitae
[ Why does Lissandra not have an explicit reason for joining the league? It seems the last couple of champions don't have anything in their lore that explains why they would join the league. ]
"We used to put one liners in bios to describe why champions joined the League. These weren't satisfying, and they weren't good stories. Our focus now is on telling compelling stories that help players understand who a champion is. If you look at all of Lissandra’s story elements (bio, login screen VO, howling abyss easter egg, video, Quinn’s journals) you can build a complete understanding of her character and motivation." - kitae
[ How will you continue the story of the Freljord? ]
"The Story of the Freljord will take a while to tell, it won't be resolved in the next few months!
We're not specifically setting out to consolidate factions, but we are looking to tell stories involving multiple champions, and we want to establish relationships between champions. We will shuffle things around occasionally to hit this goal.
We're really open about how we will do further Freljord storytelling. For the patch we had: a video, multiple voiceovers, lore shopkeepers, Quinn's journals. Nothing is off the table for future storytelling." - kitae
[ Will there ever be a true "winner" between the three tribes or will the story stay deadlocked after the event is over? ]
"We are definitely going to progress the Freljord story and big changes are totally possible. We could see champions switching tribes etc. In the end there will be only one Queen of the Freljord." - kitae
[ What is Demcia going to do with all this knowledge, about Freljord, that Quinn and Valor brought back with them? ]
"Demacia has acknowledged that the Freljord could potentially become a threat in the future, but as the war there is just beginning to unravel, they're not going to interfere just yet. So long as the Freljord is busy fighting itself, Demacia has no need to fear a united barbarian front crashing down on their borders. Jarvan will certainly be keeping an eye on the Freljord, though, and maybe Quinn will go on another scouting mission eventually." - RiotRunaan
[ Demacia is very preoccupied with what's happening in the north, but what about Noxus? What side are they on? Does the Frelojordian threat to Demacia mean an advantage for Noxus? ]
"A united Freljord could be a danger to any of the factions of Runeterra. Their divided nature is the only thing that has stopped Freljord from rising to become a dangerous power.
If Ashe is victorious that would be the safest outcome, due to her diplomatic nature, but even then Freljord is a dangerous sleeping giant." - kitae
[ What are Poros?? ]
"Mysterious, ice-dwelling fuzz balls who have found a home near the Howling Abyss. They enjoy mocking and toying with those who cross the bridge." - Riot Runaan
[ Why did you make it so if you feed them enough poro snacks the poros explode? :( ]
"Well, our animator CaptainLx made a death animation, and we wanted to find a way to use it, so naturally it turned into "how many awful ways can Poros die". We threw around ideas like "what if the Poros got squished when the turrets crumbled over them" and "what if they ran really quickly, so if you actually caught them, you would step on them and they'd explode." Brackhar vetoed them those ideas... blame him. Poros exploding after eating snacks ended up being a pretty innocuous way to use the animation" - RiotNome
[ Why did Shyvana get a Freljord skin if she has no relation to Freljord in her lore? ]
"We sort of wanted to explore some "alternate reality" here, showing what champions might look like in an interaction with this event. Sometimes the theme just makes for a nice treatment for the champion!" - IronStylus
[ Can you explain what's up with Blackfrost Anivia? ]"Blackfrost Anivia is the vision of a possibility - what would happen if the Frostguard were successful. Specifically, we wanted to make this still be Anivia, but under the shackles of being warped and corrupted. She still wants to protect the land and the world, but her method is twisted...she sees freezing the world solid, so it can't hurt itself anymore, as the only viable option. It's a tragic glimpse into what would happen to such a noble character should the land become warped by Lissandra." - Morello
"The actual answer was lack of time - this is something we really like as an idea." - Morello
[ Where are the CC timer bars that we've seen on and off on the PBE? ]
A) "We're still ironing out a few of the details with the CC timer bars, hence their extended time on the PBE and in internal testing. They're definitely on the way though." - Meddler
B) "We've been doing various different tweaks to the feature to get player feedback, so we've been turning it on and off as we've been making changes." - Brackhar
[ Where is Scorched Earth Renekton? ]
"I know he's not shelved." - IronStylus
"A little bit exhausting... but EXTREMELY rewarding. :) Everyone involved poured tons of love and extreme effort into this thing, and it's amazing to see it finally get out to you guys. " - RiotRunaan
[ What is the biggest lesson Riot has learned from the this whole giant Freljord update process? ]
"To me, I think the biggest takeaway is how to more smoothly apply changes. This is something we already have a bit of practice with in game balance, but I think talking a little earlier and getting people's expectations set before we make changes (and understanding how to both meet our long-term goals and be less disruptive) is a big lesson. See my Sion thread on the forums to see what I mean." - Morello