Riot spends a great deal of time tweaking the meta numbers under the hood of its ridiculously popular MOBA, League of Legends. The game has become a fine tuned eSport, with a series of huge changes recently adding a bunch of new features and balance adjustments in hopes to turn the game into the team activity it appears to be. One thing that has been suffering in the games long 6 year history is its story.
Oddly enough, a game with over 125 colorful characters - each with there own backgrounds and motivations - seems to have an incredibly fast and loose approach when it comes to the narrative presence of their over world, Runeterra. It was mostly present as a persistent but minor slow drip of story in the form of bi-monthly newsletters that would inform players about the goings on in the world. Events as big as Swain usurping the Noxian Throne or as small as Jax and Gragas getting drunk and running away together were the sorts of front page topics we would be treated to. Even though they never really brought on game altering changes, they were interesting distractions between queues.
Then last fall, Riot announced that they would be revisiting the game's world. The immediate change was getting rid of this newsletter, which to players seemed like a reasonable concession considering the plans Riot had for upgrades. It's been a year, though, and much of that world building we were promised hasn't been seen much, yet. In a macro sense, anyway.
On a smaller scale, though, Riot has seen its biggest and best lore work done this year. The big Bilgewater event, that framed its crime-ridden port city as a town under siege, added in-game achievements to help reinforce the story they were telling in a series of short stories. In game rewards were given to participants, and it even lead to the "death" and redesign of League veteran Gangplank. It wasn't without controversy, however. Gangplank was actually deactivated for a week because of story reasons, that many fans chalked up to a conspiracy theory involving a glitched item-ability relationship in Gangplank's kit. It was a refreshing event overall, though.
The newer champions have served as experiments for new ways to present their back stories. River demon fish Tahm Kench and death Fox/Hound tag team Kindred both have short, nuanced anecdotal stories instead of the Wikipedia entry-style character history that their older peers have. It serves to frame a better context around these new entrants in comparison. These stories show the characters in action, or the consequences of dealing with them through the eyes of some unfortunate victim.
The latest champion takes the immersive storytelling a step further. Along with Illoai's backstory blurb and supporting stories, there a mini-site featuring a flash game, where the priestess puts you through a gauntlet of clicking and dragging based trials to prove your worth. It's not a great mini-game per se' (Riot has made better) but the effort put into connecting these champions' motivations with their game design, and subsequently our understanding of that relationship, has never been more apparent. Just recently, though, Riot may have hit the nail on the head.
Another long time League stand by, Poppy, is finally getting the update she deserves. Long seen as a one note game changer, Poppy's rework affects more than just mechanics. The new philosophy that Riot has adopted to visual and narrative design are also front and center here, and as it is cool to see how it affects brand new members to Summoner's Rift, seeing how it can potentially freshen up old characters is genuinely exciting. Along with a brand new moniker (The Keeper of the Hammer) and new backstory, Poppy's visuals have turned a corner. She finally looks less like a member of the Lolipop Guild, and takes on more the cute, mousy look the rest of her Yordle breathern have. Poppy has personality now, and Riot is excited to show it to us. The way the decided to do should be the start of something they do way more often.
The best look at the ups and downs of Poppy's personal quest comes in the form of a 6 page digital comic featuring the pint sized warrior-wanderer. The comic is very well done. With bright and evocative colors, and the sort of art, line work, and lettering you'd expect from a mainline Marvel series, Riot has created a fun, easy-to-consume, complete story that frames Poppy's motivations perfectly while showing us a small tidbit of the sort of world she lives in. It's so effective that it's almost strange that they haven't done something like this sooner.
Technically, Valve beat them to this idea earlier this year when they released their own short comic featuring Axe from their popular MOBA, DOTA 2. There's room for both on the Internet, I think.
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.