Red Post Collection: QGT: 7/29, /dev: Composing Bel'Veth's Theme, Developing the Star Nemesis Villians, & More

Posted on at 2:21 PM by Aznbeat
Today's red post collection includes this week's quick gameplay thoughts on Healing, a patch preview for 12.15, a write-up on composing Bel'Veth's theme, a look at the development of the Star Guardian villians, and more!
Continue reading for more information!

Table of Contents

Quick Gameplay Thoughts: 7/29

Here's Riot Phroxzon with the latest quick gameplay thoughts post on Healing - "Our philosophy on healing in League."
With the healing changes that were released in patch 12.14 we thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss healing in League. We’ve been seeing a lot of player feedback on the state of healing and Grievous Wounds recently, so we’d like to share how we’ve been thinking about these mechanics and how we’re looking to balance them moving forward. 
Considerations around Healing Mechanics 
Simply put, satisfying healing mechanics are typically frustrating for opponents to play against. Watching an opponent burst heal through your damage output and survive is typically a frustrating experience. There is also “sustained, burst healing” which allows champions to heal seemingly infinitely (eg. “Drain Tanking”). If a drain tanking champion gets ahead, there is little room for counterplay as they are neither “burstable” nor able to be killed in extended combat. It also reduces the quality of gameplay by creating a strong incentive to not fight. As a result, we tend to be very careful about designing champions and systems with “sustained, burst healing” as an output or ensure they have heavily exploitable counterplay opportunities for their opponents to capitalize on. E.g. Red Kayn is easier to kite, has worse target access compared to other members of his class and is reliant on landing his spells to heal. 
Healing in League can also be snowbally. Healing spells are often fairly ratio and level driven to ensure that they remain at a satisfying value throughout the game. Secondly, healing can also take the form of Lifesteal or Omnivamp, which directly scales with how ahead you are. Combined, these effects can result in champions that are ahead feeling “unkillable”, due to their healing outpacing your damage. 
While healing can present many challenges, we still think it’s a valuable and satisfying mechanic in League and it’s a core expectation for certain champions and subclasses. Let’s look at what good versions of healing gameplay look like. 
Healing Gameplay 
We tend to separate healing into two primary categories. The first category is for champions that have a majority of their power in healing and it’s tied to their gameplay identity (Aatrox, Soraka, Dr. Mundo, Red Kayn, etc.), these are “Core Healers”. The second category is where healing is included in a champion’s kit, but is not a primary source of power (e.g. Nami, Ahri, Irelia, etc.), who we’ll refer to as “Incidental Healers”. 
Even if a champion is meant to heal a lot, how much is too much? On Patch 12.13, some of these champions in the first category were healing so much that their intended counterplay doesn’t work, even if their winrate is balanced. Let’s look at Aatrox as an example of this. 
You’re kiting out Aatrox, he’s missing half his spells, and then he activates Goredrinker with his Passive and gets back to full health immediately. This probably feels off to most players. Aatrox is an example of a champion that has their gameplay identity directly tied to being a “Core Healer”. This is generally fine, but when they are still able to do it without being ahead, then something is off. This would spur us to align Aatrox’s healing more closely with his intended counterplay (e.g. more baseline durability, but less healing, so when he continuously misses, he’s more likely to die) 
For incidental healers, when healing is a higher portion of the power budget than intended to create healthy gameplay for the kit, gameplay can begin to suffer. Let’s look at Irelia as an example. She's intended to be a low/moderate healer (from her Q and itemization) and therefore should have a moderate reliance on her W to mitigate damage. However, when she no longer needs to use her W skillfully and can facetank and heal through her opponent's damage, then that is an example of healing deteriorating gameplay. In these cases, we think healing has gone too far. 
What makes balancing these cases tricky is that “acceptable healing” for healthy gameplay varies based on who you’re asking. Ultimately, the design team will use a combination of their assessment of what makes healthy gameplay and community perception of fairness to make this adjudication. 
Grievous Wounds 
In the same way that buying a Chain Vest against Zed does not guarantee that you will survive against his burst, you should not expect buying Grievous Wounds to mean that you win against these champions, especially if they get ahead. Grievous Wounds was not designed to be purchased against only one heavy healer. Instead, we expect that in the majority of cases, these champions should succeed and fail based on their inherent kit counterplay. E.g. finding flanks is intended to be easy against Soraka with her delayed hard CC and low 325 base Move Speed. 
However, similar to buying Armor against a full AD comp, for every heavy healer on the enemy team, Grievous Wounds becomes more valuable. We intend to balance Grievous Wounds to be optimal when the enemy team has more than 2 heavy healers doing moderately well. Given the complexities of item based decision making, this calculus may change in game (e.g. if the healing composition scales, it may be better to just optimize for burst and try to end the game fast), but should be a good general rule to start with. 
Grievous Wounds exists as an outlet to prevent healing stacking being an uncounterable strategy. While we would prefer players didn’t have to opt into Grievous Wounds items over other, more exciting options, it’s a necessary mechanic to prevent a team of 5 healers resulting in a degeneration of League’s gameplay. 
Future State 
Starting with Patch 12.14, we’re taking down some of these outlier healing cases and will continue to adjust healing to be more in line with designer and player expectations. As always, thanks for playing with us and see you on the Rift!"


/dev: Composing Bel'veth's Theme

Here's Riot Breezee with a look at how he composed Bel'Veth's theme - "Making music worthy of the Void Empress."
"Hi everyone! We’re the audio team that composed Bel’Veth’s theme and brought you into the sonic depths of the Lavender Sea. We’ll talk about how we captured the deception and horror of Bel’Veth and deepened the musical identity of the Void. Plus, we’ll share how a dying laundry machine clicked its way into the theme. 
The Essence of Bel’Veth

Composer Jason “Riot Breezee” Walsh: 
Hi! I’m Jason Walsh. I’m a composer on the Riot Music Team writing music for League of Legends, TFT, and Wild Rift. Some of the music I wrote includes Psyops, Project 2021, Vex’s Champion Theme, Burn It All Down, and most recently Bel’Veth! 
When I begin working on a champion theme, I find it useful to start thinking about what questions I’d want answers to. Things like “How is Bel’Veth supposed to make you feel?” or “What does this champion represent?” General questions like this are great to ask people on the narrative, gameplay, and marketing teams to get a holistic idea of the champion and start drafting up music ideas. 
Design and thematic is everything. With Bel’Veth being the first Void champ in a while, we wanted to make sure her theme was not only bringing the character and feeling of Bel’Veth to players, but developing a deeper musical identity for the Void. 
I instantly latched onto a few things about Bel’Veth’s design and story after reading Jared “Carnival Knights” Rosen’s Pinwheel. I wanted to convey the regal and queen-like qualities she has, the alluring and peaceful, yet dead and decaying beauty of the Lavender Sea, and the underlying alien horror that created it. 
Composer Ludvig Forssell: 
Hello! I’m Ludvig Forssell and I’m a composer working out of Tokyo, Japan. In the past I’ve worked on titles such as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, DEATH STRANDING and most recently I wrote music for anime legend Mamoru Hosoda’s new film Belle. 
Writing a champion theme in many ways reminded me of writing a song. The process was much more centered around finding the essence of a character rather than a situation. Instead of trying to progress a story within the confines of a few minutes, I was more focused on pouring the soul of Bel’Veth onto a canvas.
‘Interpreted Humanity’

Jason Walsh: 
One huge creative connection I was really excited about doing musically was incorporating twisted and fragmented “human” musical elements into the music. Bel’Veth’s birth stems from the death and destruction of the whole city of Belveth—like a black hole consumed everything and everyone and spit out corrupted fragments. In the music we hear these woozy, alien-sounding strings and mangled voices, reflecting the aftermath of what remains after the city was consumed. 
Ludvig Forssell: 
I wanted to create the sound of a creature mimicking human sounds in order to present itself as something it’s not and lure its prey closer. To represent this with sound I wanted to use classical instruments like strings, but played in a way that interprets classical writing but doesn’t quite understand it or disregards the theory behind it. 
The idea was to have something that sounded like “interpreted humanity.” Think of how artificial intelligence interprets human faces: You can tell who AI-generated art is trying to show you, but it doesn’t look quite right. The strings in Bel’Veth’s theme are supposed to feel this way—like they were pieces picked from random places and forced together, some reversed and completely unnatural while still feeling regal. In terms of harmony, I completely threw out the rulebook in terms of scale and key and instead opted for a mostly chromatic 12-tone scale approach. 
The Lavender Sea, with its twisted version of reality, fed the idea of this approach—we twisted and combined strings and human voices with all manner of things to create her theme. 
One of the most unconventional pieces of hardware we used was my dying washing machine. It’s been making this erratic rhythmical clicking sound and I remember thinking I wanted to try and make sense of its rhythm. In the same sense here, you have something creating something “musical” while not understanding it itself. So I sampled it and it became the core of how rhythms for this theme work in a somewhat unusual way.

I also recorded my own stomach sounds to give a sense of this song all taking place “in the belly of a beast.” Jason was quite impressed with my malnourishment. Jason combined this with sound design on modular synths to create the undulating and gurgling sounds familiar to the Void.

UNPROCESSED SYNTHS 

Composing Together 
Jason Walsh: 
For Bel’Veth, I wanted to co-write the Champion Theme with another composer so that it would sound like the amalgamation of our styles: part Ludvig, part me, all Bel’Veth. 
I felt it was important to work with someone who was equally skilled in both traditional and synth focused composition, but furthermore has an ear for weird, dark, narrative-driven music. When we first began working together, I had initially passed some of my early concept work over to him full of processed vocals and synth basses, and it was so awesome to get back a bunch of new material that seamlessly worked in my concepts. We hit the ground running from there. 
I remember in his first demo, Ludvig thought up this really nice gesture that was an introduction before we got into the melody and substance of that version. It hit me so strongly that I built around that and made adjustments to let the melody breathe more, making each moment feel more important while luring the listeners in. We were stoked on how memorable and haunting it felt. 
EARLY VERSION OF THEME MELODY 

Ludvig Forssell: 
Collaborating when writing music isn’t an easy thing to do; you need a lot of trust between all parties involved as there has to be give and take. Ideally you can be in the same room experimenting together, but with me being in Tokyo and Jason being in Los Angeles, we weren’t able to work in the same space. We also had a huge time difference between us. 
I think the fact that we got the infrastructure in place for us to easily and constantly be in touch and share ideas helped make the process very smooth. Jason was able to help me understand what we were aiming to do and even though we’ve only known each other for a short while, we were able to work together as if we’d been friends in the same band since high school." 

Developing The Star Nemesis Villians


Here's Karnifexlol with a write-up on creating Star Nemesis Morgana & Fiddlesticks - "Darkness comes for the guardians of light."
"In Valoran City, the light of the Star Guardians and the neon-soaked alleyways of the metropolis have long served as a beacon reaching out to the darkest corners of the universe. 
Now, the darkness is reaching back… 
If you’ve followed the Star Guardian saga so far, you know there’s always been a chaotic force at work—a dark power that stirs conflict within the Guardians and makes them question their pact with the First Star. Some fall to this corruption and go mad like Zoe, the Twilight Star. Her sole purpose is to kill the Star Guardians and resurrect them as her allies using powerful chaos magic. 
During the battle of the Twilight Star, the Guardians were able to defeat Zoe and send her back to Dark Space. But the question remains—what (or who) sent Zoe down this destructive path in the first place? 
A Queen Sacrificed 
When the news broke that some ominous, new villains were headed to the Star Guardians in the latest visual novel, “Another Sky,” it’s safe to say that Fiddlesticks probably wasn’t too high on anybody’s list of prospective new-joiners. Morgana? Sure, she fits the bill. And we’ll get to her later. But Fiddlesticks? What the hay? 
“When Fiddlesticks first appears in the story, it is very much this force of fear,” explains principal narrative writer Jared “Carnival Knights” Rosen. “It’s a character that’s stalking Akali specifically, but it also infiltrates the dreams of the other Star Guardians. Fiddlesticks is like a hunter that’s slowly stalking its prey, getting closer and closer, and none of the Star Guardians can figure out why or what the connection is.” 
The Guardians watch helplessly as Akali begins to dwell on her traumatic pastand pull away from the rest of the group. Kai’Sa and the rest of her team are deeply concerned for Akali and wonder what’s pulling their friend toward the darkness of the Chaos Dimension. But during Fiddle’s assault on the city, the Star Guardians get their answers from a most unlikely source.
AKALI BEFORE TAKING HER STAR GUARDIAN OATH, WATCHING IN HORROR AS ZOE DESTROYS VALORAN CITY. 
Zoe and Syndra return to Valoran City, only this time it’s to aid the Guardians in their efforts to defeat Fiddlesticks. The two reveal that Fiddlesticks is more than just a monster from nowhere—it represents the fate of all Guardians. This mindless beast from the Chaos Dimension was actually once a girl named Harp, one of Zoe’s best friends, and part of the very first class of Star Guardians. 
“Harp was literally the first Star Guardian who ever fell and is the reason that Zoe is violently insane,” says Carnival Knights, “Her falling is kind of the thing that triggered a lot of problems for the Star Guardians overall. Up until that point, nobody knew that becoming a Star Guardian meant that you had to burn out.” 
When Harp fell to true darkness, she was consumed by chaos and transformed into the monster named Fiddlesticks. All that remains of Harp today is her familiar, Geist, trapped in a cage at the center of Fiddle’s body. A similar fate awaits all oathsworn Guardians who don’t die in battle. And as the Guardians start to discover these details, Zoe’s purpose becomes more clear to the team. She’s merely trying to prevent this inevitable fate from happening to the other Guardians in her own twisted way.
GEIST BEFORE AND AFTER BECOMING TRAPPED WITHIN FIDDLESTICKS. 
“We wanted Fiddle to have some sort of tie to Zoe,” says concept lead and Star Guardian art director Oscar “gay lil frog” Vega. “So we started thinking about things that Harp would have done with Zoe before she fell. There was an idea that maybe Harp played music for Zoe—or maybe she liked to read her books. And then we ultimately landed on the chess theme.”
EARLY IDEATIONS ON A THEME THAT TIES FIDDLESTICKS TO HARP. 
“We thought chess was nice because Zoe and Fiddle’s playstyles are both very tactical,” Oscar goes on to explain. “With Fiddle, you’re positioning your effigies and trying to find your best angle in, and with Zoe you’re doing all this math and geometry to hit someone. So we thought that felt really true to both characters.”
AN EARLY VISUAL CONCEPT OF HARP MORPHING INTO HER ULTIMATE FATE AS FIDDLESTICKS. 
If you look closely, subtle elements from Harp and Zoe’s chess-playing Star Guardian past are evident in the details of the skin. Oussama “Whiteleyth” Agazzoum, concept artist for Star Nemesis Fiddlesticks, used that backstory as a strong opening for his final concepts on the skin. 
“I took that chess theme and ran with it, trying to explore different versions with different pieces, mainly pawn and knight,” says Whiteleyth. “Also, when doing the lantern design, we tried to add a subtle hint of the backstory with a little star inside the lantern that’s broken, hinting how it was a Star Guardian before.
ORTHOGRAPHIC VIEW DEPICTING THE CAGE AT THE MIDDLE OF FIDDLE AS WELL AS THE BROKEN STAR GUARDIAN GEM IN ITS LANTERN. 
Even Fiddle’s visual effects have been influenced by Harp’s love of chess. When it strikes opponents on the battlefield with its Reap and Crowstorm abilities, the landscape around Fiddle’s target becomes a twisted and macabre chess board from the chaos realm.
STAR NEMESIS FIDDLESTICKS USING HIS KNIGHT-INSPIRED SCYTHE TO REAP [E] CHESS-LIKE TERROR FROM THE RIFT.
CROWSTORM [R], BUT MAKE IT CHAOS DIMENSION. 
As the Star Guardians unravel Fiddle’s endgame, they’ll soon find out that it’s not the only thing harrying Valoran City. 
Homeroom Horrors

While Valoran City and the Star Guardians are distracted by the powerful Fiddlesticks, a more cunning and strategic agent of chaos lurks in plain sight. 
At first glance, Star Nemesis Morgana looks like an obvious villain for the Star Guardian universe. But little does everyone know, the space villainess has a day job. And where would an evil space queen work? Somewhere she can keep her enemies close. 
“In her characterization in Star Guardian, Morgana is very anti-justice. She’s very anti-order,” Carnival Knights explains. “But also, she spends a lot of her time masquerading as a minimum-wage, part-time teacher at Valoran High School. So her true purpose is being sort of masked and she eventually unveils it at the height of her power.” 
As Morgana interacts with Kai’Sa, the newest Star Guardian leader, and Akali, the guardian who’s most skeptical of her oath, it becomes clear that Morgana’s got more in mind than just teaching these star pupils. Morgana seeks to expose all the Guardians to darkness through subliminal subversion, and if necessary, through death. 
For the keen observer, there are some subtle hints at Morgana’s true motives even while she’s in disguise. Concept artist for Star Nemesis Morgana, Vlad “Darkrown” Bacescu, drew heavily on these details in his approach to designing this space-wolf in sheep’s clothing.
ORTHOGRAPHIC VIEWS OF STAR NEMESIS MORGANA’S FINAL CONCEPT WITH HER FAMILIAR, RIGEL. 
“It’s funny because Morgana is very Star Guardian at first glance,” Darkrown explains. “She’s got the white bodice, she’s draped in gems, all the shiny materials, but she’s got a subtle sort of uncanny valley thing going on. Her eyes don’t look natural and anime-like like all the other Star Guardians. She’s got tendrils wrapped around her instead of a skirt, and her wings and her crown are more chaos realm than Star Guardian.” 
But that’s not all. If you’ve got a keen eye, you might notice something a bit… familiar… about her belt.
STAR NEMESIS MORGANA AND HER DISGUISE, HOMEROOM MORGANA. 
“She’s got a belt made of Star Guardian gems draped around her waist,” Darkrown reveals. “They’re like trophies stolen from fallen Star Guardians that she casually wears around like an accessory. Something I was really keen about is that she also keeps the belt on her in her teacher form. If you think about it, it’s quite scary.” 
Aside from wearing death as an accessory, Morgana also seeks to intimidate the Guardians with chaotic energy in her abilities. Even her familiar, Rigel, is a bit of an edgelord who gets their kicks from, well, kicking other familiars’ asses.
MORGANA CHANNELING SOUL SHACKLES WITH RIGEL POPPING UP TO REMIND ANY OTHER FAMILIARS ON THE RIFT WHO’S IN CHARGE. 
Rigel showing up above Morgana’s head during her ult is just one of the many details present in her visual effects for her Star Nemesis debut. 
“We worked closely with Vlad to make Morgana better and better in game,” says visual effects artist Dmitry “Destroyeer” Bogatov. “I tried to focus on her color palette and character concept. For example, we turned her W, Tormented Shadow, into a dark pond with a starry sky in it. The surface of the water reflects the characters walking on the pond and Morgana herself. It also has a mirror reflection of her Q ability.”
MORGANA CASTING DARK BINDING [Q] ABOVE HER TORMENTED SHADOW [W] ABILITY. CHECK OUT THAT SWEET, STARRY REFLECTION. 
Bringing Darkness to the Light 

In a universe full of bright, shimmering, magical anime girls, adding a touch of evil can seem jarring if executed (no pun intended) without some strong visual and narrative guidelines. So how did the team make these two villains seem like natural baddies in “Another Sky”? 
“I think the approach with Star Guardian art-wise is usually like a really traumatic, sad, tragic story in a candy-coated wrapper. So we never want to make the art feel as if it’s gonna give away how sad the story is,” gay lil frog says about how the new villains fit into the Star Guardian stories. 
“I think Fiddle was actually early on in my mind when we knew we wanted to do villains because I think of what Fiddle’s character fantasy is,” gay lil frog adds. “Fiddle’s fantasy is all about fear right? It’s all about throwing fear at your enemies which is good for Star Guardian because a lot of their stories are set around fear and doubt and anxiety and all these things coming to them.” 
Yep. Even the magical beings known as the Star Guardians are still teenagers, first and foremost, each one dealing with their own versions of fear, self-doubt, and anxiety. Naturally, each of the new Star Nemesis villains prey on these weaknesses in their own way. While Fiddle throws fear (quite literally) at the Guardians, Morgana uses her influence to attempt to undermine the legitimacy of their pact with the First Star. 
“The ideals of justice and order in an organized society are antithetical to her being,” Carnival Knights reveals. “It’s a very human darkness. I’m into the idea of entropy and freedom and nothingness. It becomes clear later on to the Guardians that she’s antithetical to the very concept of Star Guardians being a thing.”
THE CURRENT CLASS OF STAR GUARDIANS.

As the villains in Star Guardian become deeper and more layered, so too does the opportunity to pay off the complexity of the magical girl universe trope as a whole. And according to Carnival Knights, the narrative team is really just getting started on that work. 
“Another Sky is a story about, first and foremost, generational trauma experienced by young people,” says Carnival Knight. “Which is a thing that’s kind of like happening actively now. That wasn’t the intent when we started putting the story together over a year ago, but as things in the world have progressed, it’s like ‘ok well, there’s a bit of a theme going on right now.’ As for the story itself, we’re just now really digging into the meat of what Star Guardian is.” 
But if there’s one thing that’s for certain, when it comes to Star Guardian, there’s nowhere to look but up."


Miscellaneous

  • Here's Riot Mort with a preview for the upcoming 12.14b TFT patch:




Other Games

Project L
"Hi all, I’m Shaun “UNCONKABLE!!!!” Rivera, associate game director and gameplay design lead for Project L, Riot’s upcoming 2D fighting game. You just got an update from Tom Cannon about our aspirations and current focuses as a development team, and I’m super excited for us to be able to provide a small update on Illaoi, an upcoming fighter (or champion, in our game). Before the team working on her shares some early insight into her development, I wanted to talk a little bit about the dev process in Project L overall."

[Full blog here!]

  • Here's a look at the article in video format:



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