Red Post Collection: Meddler Q&A - New Champion a Top Laner, discussion on champion development and concepts, Ao Shin "not for a long time", and much more!

Posted on at 5:59 PM by Moobeat
[ Update: Added in more questions and answers! New stuff is marked with a * ]

Tonight's red post collection features a recap of Meddler's recent community beta Q&A, including the reveal that the next champion is a top laner, Ao Shin is still "not for a long time", insights on the development of Braum and Ziggs, discussion on champion design and concept, a look at a few scrapped ability ideas from over the years, and much more!
Continue reading for more information!

[ Doom Bots of Doom will be available between July 17th and July 27th! See the post for more info!

Meddler Q&A Roundup 

Earlier today, Meddler hosted a Q&A over on the recently updated community beta! He took a few hours to answer any questions summoners had on champions that he has designed or worked on as well as general questions on design and conception!
"Hey all, 
Lead champion designer Andrei van Roon here. I've meddled in the origins of more than a half-dozen champs, having designed Ziggs  as well as Syndra, Lissandra, and Varus. All the while I've also contributed to a number of other designs including most of our recent champions. 
Whether you’re looking for a few more answers to your moustachiest Braum questions, or wondering how Vel'Koz  got his death ray, or just curious about new champion ideation, concepting and execution, ask away below! 
Edit: Thanks for the discussion folks, I've got to get back to work though at this point. Will drop back and answer a few more questions later on though."

now on to the show! I've organized Meddler's responses based on general topics. Enoy!

Next Champion

First and foremost, Meddler confirmed that our next champion is a TOP LANER!
"Next champ's a top laner. Balancing a lane or the meta's not something we try to do with a single release though, the roster's too big and the game too complex for that to be a viable approach."

Ao Shin

[ One of Ao Shin's early concept previews. Check out the original sneak peak here! ]
Ao Shin, a storm dragon champion originally previewed late last year, also came up but Meddler only reiterated that he is still a ways out:
"Not for a long time. We do still plan to make Ao Shin, but we ran into a number of issues with how we were approaching him. As a result we basically took his concept back to the really early stages - would rather go for slow, but good, than quick but disappointing."

*He continued:
"Ao Shin's likely to be the next dragon champ we make, he's a way off though (can say with certainty he won't be this year)."

General - Design and Concepts

As for how many champion concepts are toss around in regard to how many actually make it through and into the game, Meddler explained that most never make it:
"Most suggested champions never get made. A lot of ideas stop in their early stages when they're no more than a sketch or some discussion about abilities that might be interesting. Some do end up getting put aside later in the process though, either because the character's not working out or because we've got something we feel's better. A number of those ideas do later get revisited and often work out the second or third time though (Lucian and Vi are good examples of that). Finally champions do occasionally get cancelled late in the process, that's pretty rare though."
He elaborated on this in another comment, saying:
"I've never sat down and actually counted. Gut reaction would be of concepts that have at least some work done on them (concept art or partially prototyped kit in game for example) at most 25% are released? A lot of other concepts get put aside before that though, when they're still just abilities on paper, a rough sketch, a possible story hook etc."

He continued, expanding on how other champion's lore can play a role on new champions:
"Some of both - some champs are great opportunities to expose or strengthen existing lore, others a chance to start something new. We generally do want to link champions together where appropriate, we'd rather go for what makes the best character though than force something. Additionally not every character mentioned in a champion's lore is necessarily a good fit for a new champion."

When asked if the team makes a new champion with a role in mind ahead of time or go with a concept and see how it turns out, Meddler shared:
Glad to have a chance to ask questions! 
First question (if you don't mind me jumping right into things): I'm curious, when making a new champ, do you have a role in mind ahead of time, or do you just start with an idea and decide on a role as the creative process continues? For example, do you set out intending to make, say, a new support? Or does a champ you are working on just end up being a support? 
We do have a rough layout of what roles we want to release over the course of the year. As a result if we're trying to come up with an idea for a particular release slot then yes, we do tend to target a particular role. Having said that if, during the exploration of a champion, we find out that a different role's a better fit for the character we're creating we'll embrace that new role and then usually change which slot we're planning to release said champion in.
The other thing though is that not all champion ideas are targeted at a particular release slot. 
Some are instead explorations of what might be cool, with no fixed timeframe in mind. Those by contrast are pretty open, with the goals (gameplay, art and story) eventually deciding what role's a good fit."

Meddler also answer a question regarding if the team ever runs into a cool concept that is too similiar to one of the existing champions, saying:
Is there ever a time where you run into a problem when you have a really cool design, but a previous champion already fits that space? Like lets say you guys come up with a cool sword and shield champion, but you already have a champion such as Leona, a sword and bulwark like champ?
Happens occasionally, there's almost always a way to differentiate characters though, assuming you're actually trying to make something different in the first place (and if not, what's the point?). Leona for example's a paladin like warrior who dives into a fight. Sword and shield however could also work well on a giant, slow, heavy warrior with a massive greatsword and tower shield or a nimble lightly armored fighter with a scimitar and buckler."

When asked "What would you say is the biggest piece of design space that is currently unexplored" with champion creation, Meddler replied:
"We went through a period where we avoided doing creatures much at all and that's something we're looking to remedy now, so less human/humanoid would be my answer on the visual side. Gameplay wise I think there's a lot of interesting stuff to be done with clickable objects (like Thresh's lantern) and we're playtesting a few things at the moment I'm hoping see release sometime this year (no promises, but fingers crossed)."

*As for the amount of time it usually takes to start a new champion until release, Meddler shared:
"8-10 months isn't unusual, depends how long we spend iterating on concept art, possible backstories, kit ideas etc though. Some champions also get put aside for a while (in some cases years) until we figure out exactly how we want to do them."

*When asked about the idea of ability costs that remove other stats ( such as lowering base AD after using an ability ), Meddler replied:
"Abilities with costs that aren't just mana/CD/health is something we're certainly open to. Important thing is to ensure that the cost results in some real choice though, or serves a useful balance need that can't be met in other, less frustrating ways. If the correct play's always 'use this and then just suffer a bit' there's low value to a penalty. On the other hand if it's a case of 'think about when it's worth paying this price, the impact of which will change with the situation" then there'll be a lot of mastery in assessing when it's worth it and potentially a lot of gameplay value in such an ability."

* and if we'll see another yordle in the future:
"Very high. No promises that'll be soon though."

*Meddler also replied to a summoner asking if they would ever design a champion that doesn't really fit into the meta:
"Definitely. Metas change, so designing for a limited period of time's not appropriate. What we instead want is champions that, whether they're currently really popular picks or not, are good additions to the game. 
Sometimes champs get picked up and played a lot immediately. Braum's a good example of that - he was released strong (and we're working on fixing that), but he's also a good fit with what's popular bot lane at the moment. Sometimes champs take a while to be picked up though. Zed's a good example of that sort of case, on release assassins weren't picked much and so he didn't really get picked up until the following season's itemization changes and meta shift. Both cases are fine with us - we're creating champions for the long term, not just today, and champions falling in and out of favor's expected."

* He also commented on the amount of new champions that are typically being worked on at the same time:
"Usually about half a dozen in actual playtesting at any one time, though not all of those are guaranteed to ever get released. There'll then be a number of other champions in the really early stages, where they're often not much more than a series of sketches or some ideas for a kit on paper."

Champion - Design and Concepts

When asked "What makes a champion? Kit or lore?", Meddler answered they are equally important and shared an example of how Braum changed throughout his concepts originally development - he started out as a female Piltover engineer!
"Gameplay, lore and art are the pillars of how we approach making a champion. The initial idea can be any of the above - someone's got an image they'd like to draw, a story they'd like to tell or an ability they'd like to play with. Working from that starting point we then explore what the rest of the champion might look like and what opportunities there are to offer something new. Braum for example started off as a female Piltover engineer, with a giant mechanical shield. We tested a kit for that initial idea in game and hit on some abilities we really liked (similar to Braum's current passive and E), the art and personality weren't coming together however. We consequently took another look at who such a kit could fit on and, after a fair bit of exploration of different possible personalities and origin factions hit on Braum."
As for the chances of ever seeing this female Piltover engineer return in some other form, he noted:
"It's a possibility, though we'd want to do something other than a shield now of course. No firm plans, but it's a concept we have talked about occasionally since."

When asked if Alex Armstrong  from the show Full Metal Alchemist was a direct reference for Braum, Meddler noted:
"Armstrong's a good example of the archetype we wanted to tap into with Braum, and was one of around half a dozen reference points we had for the sort of character we wanted to make. He wasn't the initial inspiration though."

Speaking of BraumMeddler also mentioned why they chose a Ram for Braum's shield:
"We went for a ram with Braum since it was a great fit with the sort of character we wanted to convey - tough, at home on a mountain, headstrong, forceful but kinda fluffy etc."

When asked about the development process for Ziggs, Meddler noted:
"I just started on a Ziggs dev blog the other day actually, which should give a bunch of details about how his development went. That's probably quite a way off though, we've got other dev blogs we'd like to get out first, so the short answer is that nailing down his initial personality and appearance was one of the hardest things for the team (Ziggs actually started off as a human in a bomb disposal suit for example, not a manic Yordle)."
Meddler also answered a question concerning if they ever tried a different blast pattern for Vel'Koz's Q and how his ultimate was decided on:
"Subninja, who did the gameplay design on Vel'koz, did try out a 45 degree split instead of a 90 degree one. Was generally both less useful and harder to land, so didn't show much promise. 
The ult was driven by a desire to make a real disintegration ray, something that gave the player the feeling of melting a target under a blowtorch if they could keep the flame on it."

As for what made the team decided to go with Battlecast Vel'Koz and if there were any other ideas they tossed around, Meddler noted:
"We did look at Deep Sea and Jurassic as options, the visual mockup for the Battlecast skin however was a clear winner for the team though, in terms of personality fit and visual opportunities. 
When asked how they came up with the concept for Syndra, Meddler commented:
"We'd been talking about doing a mage that used magic to manipulate objects for a while and also had some origin story ideas in a sort of Magneto like line. RiotZeronis then put some concept art together."

As for other ideas for Syndra's design during development, Meddler noted:
"Tried a lot of different versions of sphere manipulation, some of which consumed the spheres on use. Also tried some other stuff that didn't work out at all, like a giant nova effect, slow moving extremely powerful skillshot (think a line of Veigar meteors) and an ultimate that let you throw enemy champions (suspect we'll go back to a variant on that for someone someday, Syndra wasn't the right fit for it though)."

Meddler continued, explaining Jinx's concept absorbed her "chain gun" bits from another champion that was being developed at the time:
"We did have another concept that was competing for the same space as Jinx at one point, a heavy hextech chaingunner. There were some cool bits and pieces to the idea, it never really got off the ground though and if we were to revisit it we'd want to do something pretty different - Jinx does the chaingun space well."

Live Balance

When asked how the team approaches balance with new champions and if they would delay them if they were too strong in the meta, Meddler replied:
"If we know a champ's overpowered for the current state of the game we'll reduce their power as appropriate. Generally that's just part of the balancing process. We have occasionally delayed a champion a few days or a week if we've found something right at the end of the testing phase though that's really concerning."

When asked if he still intends to update Lissandra's passive, Meddler noted:
"Still planning to test out a defensive effect after CCing enemies, probably with a greater effect against ranged attacks than melee, given Lissandra struggles in some ranged match ups . Hoping to put some time into that after getting some Urgot tweaks out."

* As for item balance and how the team comes up with new items, Meddler replied:
"Early on there's a lot of conceptual work - what's this item intended to do, who's it for, when should you want to buy it, when should you not want to buy it etc. After that there's a lot of in game testing and refinement - does this item actually do what it's intended to do, is it abusive under certain circumstances, do players appreciate its power, is it balanced etc."

Scrapped, Unused, or Future  Ideas

Meddler also shared a unique champion concept that Xypherous has played around with in the past:
"Xypherous played around with a champion that could attach themselves to an ally, soaking damage for them and casting spells as the ally moved around. Would love to try that again sometime on a tank or support."
He continued:
That sounds pretty interesting. I don't think the champion would look humanoid, though. Maybe an insectoid? 
"Yeah, creature or shapeshifter seems likely. I believe (before my time at Riot) the original concept was for a swarm of insects for example. It's an idea we've tested a couple of times since but haven't found the right fit for."

As for a champion who has a permanent pet, Meddler commented:
"Yeah, we'd like to explore a champion with a more permanent and significant pet at some point. Would definitely want engineering support to do that properly, the current system works well enough for straightforward pets like Tibbers but wouldn't support a pet that was around constantly, with a bigger skillset, well. Can't make any promises on timeframe though, besides not for a while at the very least."

When asked if we'll see more abilities that interact with projectiles like Yasuo's wind wall or Braum's shield, Meddler noted it is likely but not planned:
"Spells that interact with other missiles in flight is something we'll likely visit again at some point, certainly. No plans to do so in the near to moderate future at least though, that's gameplay space we've tapped into enough for now. Would definitely see a variant on that sort of spell someday though that's all about a single, brief cast, rather than an extended effect in the world, would have noticeably different use cases."

As for vacuum ults ( an ability like Diana's E that sucks everyone in around her ), Meddler shared:
"We've talked about vacuums a lot. They're extremely powerful however, in terms of how they amplify other abilities' effectiveness, to the degree that a champion with an accessible ranged vacuum is going to have to be balanced around their best case scenario to a degree that will leave them feeling pretty mediocre otherwise. As a result we've opted to limit vacuum like effects in other ways instead, whether that's with a melee requirement and short range (Diana's E) or movement compensation (Orianna's ult, which is as much a flip as a vacuum much of the time)."

As for if Omen, an identity crisis of a creature champion that has long been confirmed cancelled, would ever be released, Meddler replied:
"No plans to bring back Omen, though we do have some more creature ideas we're planning to give a shot that may offer something somewhat similar (appearance wise, not gameplay).
Not sure on Gangplank sorry, let me follow up on that and get back to you though."
He continued:
"We've got some concepts that hit on that sort of menace, and others that do playful that you might find interesting assuming they work out, nothing that quite hits on that exact combination at present though. Agree that's a cool space, impression I get is that Omen didn't deliver on that potential though. 
Gangplank wise we've got a direction we like and plan to follow at some point, as Gmang discussed a while back. He's not one of our main priorities at the moment though, so will be a way off still. Apologies that's pretty vague."


When asked about his thoughts on the recently updated Community Beta, Meddler noted:
"Liking the flexibility of these RE 'pick your own layout'. Bit dark for me though, going to pass on some thoughts to the folks working on them, find out if color scheme modification's something on their mind."

As for how the Sion rework ( which will be visual and gameplay ) is coming along, Meddler replied:
"He is, it's coming along well, and it's a huge job (new champion basically, though with a lot of extra skins)."

When asked if it was true that designers weren't allowed to visit the  player creations forum ( where players share their fan art or kit designs for new champions ), Meddler noted:
"Not to the best of my knowledge, I'm not aware of anyone on the champion design team that frequents them though. Good starting ideas aren't usually the issue we run into, it's how you refine, implement, iterate, balance etc that's the bigger challenge."

* When asked about the team's plans for Poppy, Meddler noted:
"We'd like to do a gameplay rework and visual update for her, likely at the same time. No fixed timetable for that yet though."

Grab Bags

[ Multiple questions in one answer! ]

 Grab Bag #1
  1. When you guys release champions do you look in to the future and think of possible skins that could be released for the champ, you obviously need some sort of long term plan?
  2. Alot of people seem to think that due to the SR VU we aren't going to see as many champions released over the next while. Obviously riot has more then one person working on different aspects of the game, Could you just clear up that this is just a rumour and is not true?
  3. Another related to the new SR, With the new SR differences in colour and lighting will all new champions released have there look's made to blend with the new SR Because looking at it now some champs will not look as good on the new SR?"
  1. We brainstorm a lot of possible skins in order to come up with a champion's launch skin. We don't create a rigid roadmap of what skins we'll do beyond that though, preferring instead to leave our options open until we're closer to starting work on that next skin.
  2. We have deliberately slowed down on new champion production, both in order to work on other things (gameplay updates/visual updates especially, SR VU as well though) and because we felt a slower release rate was better for the game overall. It's likely, though not guaranteed, you'll see slightly more champion releases over the second half of this year than the first half half however.
  3. I believe we are creating new champs' appearances with the upgraded SR in mind, that's a better question for an artist though, apologies, outside of my expertise.
Next champ is one we believe will be played primarily as a top laner."

Grab Bag #2
Hey Mister Meddling. Here are a few of my questions:
  • What's the general number for "successful" champion pitches versus "unsuccessful"? I'm not talking about ones that need refining or reworking, I'm talking about the ones who are 100% "We don't think this will ever work in LoL".
  • From what someone told me, generally the Game Designers/Champion Designers usually have the most successful pitches. Is this the case or do you think it's an even spread all around Riot?
  • I heard a long time ago Wukong had an extremely different kit, as did Yasuo. Will we ever get to see these ideas and know what was lost or are these a case of "NDA" or "We may use these again so we can't tell you yet"?
  • What has been your hardest task in being a champion designer?
  • Conversely, what do you feel has been the most rewarding/greatest thing you've done in designing a champion?
  • Finally, has there ever been a fan concept that you were such a fan of you used it as the basis for a champion or is it mostly "take the bits someone nails and work on what didn't fit as well"?
Wukong did have a really different kit at one point I'm told, based around more clone usage. I wasn't at Riot at that point though so don't know the details of what was changed/why. Yasuo however has always had a fairly similar kit to his current one. Lot of the details changed during his development, very much an evolution rather than a replacement though. 
Hardest part of designing champs I've found is narrowing down all the possible ideas you've got to just those that are a good fit for the character you're currently working on. Sometimes you'll have a fantastic idea for an ability, find that it's really fun and interesting in testing and still have to put it aside because it's not right for the champion in question. Ideally you'll go back to it of course for a later champion, at the time though that's pretty disheartening. 
The most rewarding thing? Gonna cheat and answer two things here. The first one's seeing a character you've been working on for a long time finally coming to life in the game. Instead of just ideas on paper, a prototype using other characters abilities recolored, no voice etc you finally get to see the result of months of work as their model gets finished, animations added, voice recorded, spells made etc. Second one's then getting to release that character and, hopefully, getting to watch people play and enjoy it."

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