Mass Exodus: Bioware Senior Dev Joins LoL

By Alec Meer on July 13th, 2011 at 11:20 am.

That's her on the right

We don’t tend to do too much in the way of ‘person x changes job’ stories here, which is primarily because the knowledge that disgusting organic creatures are responsible for our beautiful, clean, matter-free digital worlds is a horrifying truth we can’t accept, but also because… well, people do change jobs. This one stood out to me, however, due to both source and destination. The lead gameplay designer on Mass Effect 2 and 3, Christina Norman, has left Bioware – but to go where? Oh, that’s right, it says it in the headline. Yeah, League of Legends dev Riot Games.

So, from a console-straddling mainstream RPG/action developer that’s bigger than it’s ever been to the young home of devoutly hardcore multiplayer PC games.

Of course, Riot Games is not without big names already – there’s quite a cartel of Blizzard and DoTA folks there. Question is, will Christina Norman, in her new role as lead designer, be put onto League of Legends, a League of Legends sequel or something entirely different? She perhaps doesn’t seem entirely suited to a ferociously competitive strategy game, but for all I know that is where her true passions lie.

However, with LoL having quietly been quite the success for Riot, it’s entirely possible they’re now sitting on a towering money-pile and are planning to come up with something entirely different next.

All we’ve got to go on is Norman’s statement to Gamasutra: “”I’m looking forward to working with Riot on innovative new approaches to game design and game development in the rapidly-changing video game market.”

LoL is a free to play game, interestingly – a direction the entire damned industry seems to be trying to head in at the moment. Maybe a faster-turning ship held more appeal than a big-franchise firm like Bioware?

Over in Biowaretown, Mass Effect 1 and 2 lead designer Preston Watamaniuk will take up the lead gameplay reins in Norman’s stead.

Oh, and if you want a little more from Christina Norman, John interviewed her about Mass Effect 2 last year.

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93 Comments »

  1. Super Bladesman says:

    What? You do loads of people-changing-jobs stories…

    Kelron, Iron Quinns… :D

    • McDan says:

      Arguably kelron never left, he stays around and makes tea in the castle because he’s too old to do anything else. That drawing thing of his is just a passing fancy.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rinox says:

      Every time someone uses the name ‘Kelron’, I think ‘but I chunked that guy in the sewers of Amn’. Then I realise that was Keldorn, not Kelron.

  2. busfahrer says:

    Will be interesting to see whether this gives them enough momentum to be able to fend off the undoubtedly noticeable impact on the MOBA scene that DOTA2′s release will cause

    • Acefrog says:

      People actually care for DOTA2? Tbh I have no interest in it at all, and I love these kind of games, LoL is just getting started with a succesful end of Season 1, the competative scene is just going to grow and the updates keeps coming.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I don’t think League and Dota II will have quite the same audience. I imagine Dota II will attract some new Steam players, people who buy every valve game, a lot of the old Dota hardcore, and most everyone on HoN. I don’t think that it will offer much attraction to LoL players though. The gameplay is something that’s been available for ten years, the graphics won’t be bleeding edge new, and Dota is less friendly with an even worse community than LoL.

    • Taospark says:

      Personally, I think they hired her solely because someone assumed having a female lead designer would lend them some legitamacy.

    • JerreyRough says:

      There is something that not very many people see that’s going for Dota 2: the Source engine. That thing that people just love to mod and have modded servers everywhere. With that powering Dota 2, I have no doupt that we’ll start seeing custom heroes on server chains and specialized game modes.

    • runtheplacered says:

      @ acefrog

      “People actually care for DOTA2?”

      Nope, not a single person anywhere. We all have a hive mind and we all like exactly the same things as you do. Joyous, isn’t it?

    • greydt says:

      (comment ended up under wrong message)

    • gritz says:

      Taospark, you’re going to have to elaborate on that ridiculously offensive comment.

  3. Bungle says:

    Am I the only one that thought the gameplay in ME2 sucked? Advance forward into fighting arena which is blocked off until you kill wave after wave of enemies. It was the same thing every time. The higher difficulty levels had more waves. It tested my patience more than my skill.

    • Ovno says:

      Was a hell of a lot better than 1′s…

    • ChromeBallz says:

      @Ovno

      Would have to strongly disagree. ME1 had much better level design – Less loading screens for one, at least in the main missions, and while the levels were all (strongly) linear they never felt like the extremely narrow and straight corridors of ME2 – And lets leave the ridiculous use of chest high walls out of the picture for the moment since that put ME2 very much over the top of “gears of war wannabe” rather than an RPG shooter like the first game.

      ME2 was streamlined literally to a fault. They made it a pure shooter with an overload of cutscenes. Personally i hope ME3 goes back to a more ‘free-roaming’ feel that ME1 had – After all, if i wanted to play something like Gears of War, i’d play Gears of War, you know?

      They need to come up with a much simpler cover mechanic that doesnt rely on chest high walls in any case. I think the strong over emphasis on that kind of ‘gameplay’ ruined the level design for most of ME2, if the extreme focus on consoles didn’t do that already (small, short and very linear levels).

    • FKD says:

      I think I am one of the few people who agree with you. ME1′s was not perfect by any way, but ME2 felt like every other shooter (aside from things like the origional R6s) where you run around picking up “ammo”. I also disliked how it forced you to keep shooting/moving forward with a endless spawn of enemies until you get to a certain point and then HEY! Suddenly no more bad guys are coming from here! There was one point when I was fighting waves and waves of robot people (I forget what they are called now) inside the Reaper I think it was..and it started to get some dang tough that I almost gave up on the game right there.

    • sinister agent says:

      I also disliked how it forced you to keep shooting/moving forward with a endless spawn of enemies until you get to a certain point and then HEY! Suddenly no more bad guys are coming from here!

      Huh. I played every mission I could find, and this never happened.

    • Casimir Effect says:

      agent is right. There were no constant respawning baddies in the majority of the game. I think there is a bit right at the end of the derelict Reaper where they keep coming until you kill the ‘heart’ and then maybe another one right at the final boss, but that’s it.

      After replaying ME directly after a ME2 playthrough twice now I can happily say I far prefer the ME2 combat. It flows more smoothly and incorporates the Techa and Biotic powers in a better way. Don’t care that there are obvious, chest-high walls everywhere because at least the game knows it wants to be a cover shooter this time. ME had a cover option and made you vulnerable enough to think cover was necessary, but too often the cover wasn’t present or the game just wouldn’t let you go into it (or keep you in it well enough to avoid bulelts).

    • bleeters says:

      The husks in the derelict reaper section also stop coming whilst the heart/core/thingymajig is vulnerable, and resume once you’ve done enough damage that it becomes shielded again.

      So, uhm. Yeah. Let’s at least be critical of things that are actually true. Like, I don’t know, thermal clip hoovering after every firefight.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I thought it was better. Mass Effect was a bad shooter wearing an RPGs clothes. Mass Effect II was a moderate shooter that had some cool talking in it (even if the dialog was significantly weaker than it should have been because of Shepard).

      In the first game I seriously forgot the cover mechanic even existed, on normal. I really just did a run and gun while ignoring my teammates. I remembered it halfway through the boss fight. In the second game at least I had to use a core mechanic half way through the game.

    • jackflash says:

      I couldn’t stand ME2 either. One of my least favorite games of all time. Got it 50% off on a Steam sale and I still never play it.

    • Nalano says:

      I, too, prefer ME2′s combat to ME1:

      Enemies actually reacted to getting shot (where in ME1 they’d just bull-rush me despite getting a face full of bullet), cover mechanics were more polished, and no geth hoppers!

      The only infinite respawn I remember was at the very end of the derelict reaper. Since I always play a sniper in most games, infinite respawns are the bane of my existence, as they punish you for NOT charging into fire, but I honestly have to say that ME2 was not guilty of such.

    • Blackseraph says:

      I also thought me1 was much better than 2. I played first one through 4 times, and only had patience to play me2 once.

      Of course me2 was more of a cover shooter than rpg, so I am bit biased.

    • undu says:

      Ammo got added, it destroyed the pistols because of the lack of ammo, and forced me to use the shitty smgs, which me rely on the habilities, which have shared cooldown, which made me fight battles that were pure boredom because I could only deal damage from time to time.
      ME2′s gameplay was just awful because of ammo and the shared cooldowns. At least with “caster” classes.
      Let’s just hope they don’t do this to LoL 2. If they do it’ll be fun to read all the rage they get.

    • Nalano says:

      “Of course me2 was more of a cover shooter than rpg, so I am bit biased.”

      I fail to see how the two are mutually exclusive. Could you, perhaps, help me out by telling me what your definition of an RPG is?

    • Blackseraph says:

      Does it really matter Nalano?

      I have learned before that this particular conversation does not really go anywhere.

      It is just my personal opinion, that you might not share.

    • greydt says:

      Undu – You might have been playing it wrong. Submachine guns are good for stripping away shielding (but suck vs. armor), but the pistol is absolutely a beast at taking armor down. Swapping between guns is part of the strategy – the soldier might get away with using the LMG on everything, but other classes need to swap weapons around. I finished ME2 on the insane difficulty with the “caster” class of a biotic, and did well enough with the SMG & pistol (rounded out later when you get an assault rifle). Even finished the insanity difficulty with 2 other biotics in the final battle – it was a challenge, but it was the weapon juggling that eventually won the day.

    • Yosharian says:

      You most certainly are NOT. I hated ME2′s gameplay. It was fucking boring. This so-called designer can sod off as far as I’m concerned.

    • malkav11 says:

      You are not the only one, no. To this day I remain mystified that so many people think Mass Effect 2 was a good move for the franchise.

  4. Alexander Norris says:

    Best of luck to Christina, then. Looking forward to her helping Riot take DotA-likes to new places.

  5. MrMud says:

    LoL has a much bigger player base than Mass Effect does (it has more players than wow), so im not sure you could call it a departure to a hardcore pc crowd.

    • Styrium says:

      Exactly.

      RIOT generally portray themselves as a small developer, accentuating their single, “free to play”, “niche” game. It tends to afford them many of the same perks and concessions offered to indie developers whilst being a large and hugely successful international operation.

      They have in excess of 100 job postings advertised on their site currently.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      We actually try to point out that we’re not exactly small anymore, but it’s been hard getting people to notice (as evidenced by this post ;P)

      We’ve hit 300 employees world-wide now I think, with our two main offices (in LA and Dublin) expanding like CRAZY. To put it very simply, giving players a really really good game that never stops improving and then offering them the option to pay for non-gameplay affecting niceties is paying off. Also it doesn’t hurt us that we’re super community oriented. I’ve never seen this many employees in a company post on their forums and play with their wider community etc.

      I’ve been working for Riot for one year and nearly three months now, and if there’s one thing I’d love for the world to catch on to it is just how different Riot is. How amazing and open-minded and friendly the company is, how cluefully the management manages it, and also how wide-reaching our vision is. It all tends to get swept under the “but it’s just a goddamn free to play game” rug, and, frankly, that’s a shame.

      If I had the choice to work anywhere else in the gaming industry, anywhere at all–I wouldn’t. We have a game that after 2000 matches or so I still can’t get enough of, we have one of the most amazing commmunities out there, and our success is simultaneously incredible and well deserved.

      Hey, Rock-Paper-Shotgunites! Some of you will surely be at GamesCom, yeah? Come find us. Come talk to us. Get an interview scheduled or just hang out. Hell, come talk to me (if you want to talk eSports). Riot is amazing. The world needs to know.

      Oh, and as for Christina, I’ve yet to meet her, but I’ve talked to Tom Cadwell about her, and he seemed really excited to have her on board, and if there is higher praise for a game designer I can’t think of it now.

  6. Tei says:

    I bet, christina resume is not as awesome as this ones.

    Anyway, is kinda awesome. Helping make the Mass Effect effect serie is hella cool. More in a world like today world, with money scared of “new IP’s”. Mass Effect was Star Wars withouth Star Wars, and more cool than anything based on Star Wars could have possibley exist.

  7. SinisterDex says:

    Ah crap, there goes Mass Effect 3 then :P

    • MSJ says:

      I thought you hated Christina because she streamlined ME2 so much, and her departure coincides with Bioware wanting to expand the RPG mechanics.

  8. Dana says:

    I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite MOBA game on the market.

  9. Very Real Talker says:

    levels in mass effect 2 suck to a extreme degree, and they also look ugly and very boring

  10. Very Real Talker says:

    also I have absolutely no hope whatsoever in bioware and their future endeavours.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Darkelp says:

    I looked at the header too quickly and thought this was to do with her leaving for Lulzsec. That would of been an interesting career move.

  12. Unaco says:

    What? No Staring Eyes tag?

  13. Imperialles says:

    “So, from a console-straddling mainstream RPG/action developer that’s bigger than it’s ever been to the young home of devoutly hardcore multiplayer PC games.”
    What? There is nothing hardcore about LoL. It is to DotA as Hello Kitty Online is to Everquest. At least learn what terms mean before you start throwing them around.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Oh god, *they’re* here.

    • Unaco says:

      It was always the risk Alec, running a story about LoL and LoL-Likes.

    • Faceless says:

      There are more definitions of hardcore than there are colours in Gaga’s wardrobe. It seems every would-be hardcore gamer has his own belief how many finger bones you have to break before you can call a game ‘hardcore’.

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorManiac says:

      Wait…there’s a Hello Kitty Online game?!

      See trailer here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdkGv2uk2xo

      Warning, I think that trailer may have given me diabetes. I recon surviving that level of cacophonic cutesy colour and sound, hour after hour is pretty hardcore.

    • OpT1mUs says:

      Seriously LoL is as casual as it gets in dotalike genre.

    • Starky says:

      Quick Alec fill your pants with sand and stones to prove you’re hardcore enough!

    • Deano2099 says:

      “Seriously LoL is as casual as it gets in dotalike genre.”

      That’s kind of like saying Ken Clarke is as liberal as it gets in the Tory party though.

    • Premium User Badge

      Daiv says:

      You’re all casual compared to the way I drive shattered fragments of Starcraft 2 DVDs into my eyes before breakfast.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Hardcore? For fuck’s sake it’s named LOL. XD
      (No, I’ve no idea what LoL, or DotA, plays like.)

    • Evilpigeon says:

      Don’t get why people get so angry about DotA/HoN vs LoL, they’re different games in the same genre, one is far more accessible why is that such a huge problem for some people? Do you really think your preferred game would be better if it were more popular?

    • Nick says:

      Who cares anyway? They are all shit.

      ¬_¬

  14. myaltisa says:

    Alec, just a quick comment about the following statement….

    “LoL is a free to play game, interestingly – a direction the entire damned industry seems to be trying to head in at the moment.”

    As an *ahem* 40 something year old gamer, I was never interested in the ‘beige box’ until Id release DOOM as freeware. Until then PC’s were something for office staff, and I bought my first PC to play DOOM nd happily paid to unlock the whole game!!

    As Id are one of the ‘daddies’ in the FPS genre, it is more fair to say that the whole industry is moving back to FTP!!

  15. Premium User Badge

    yhancik says:

    Someone should make a game called Realm of the Flying Lions.

  16. Inigo says:

    Is there something up with the colours in that photo or does she really have a disturbingly worm-like segmented neck?

    • UnravThreads says:

      It explains how BioWare came to give FemShep a stupidly long neck.

  17. jackflash says:

    Hmm.

  18. Duffin says:

    What! They have a WOMAN designing my games!?!

    • skyturnedred says:

      Preposterous! Surely she must be a MAN-made robot!

    • CaspianRoach says:

      Well, that explains why I loved Mass Effect2 so much!

    • Yosharian says:

      More like it explains why the gameplay in ME2 was shit.

      No, I really don’t want to say that it was because she’s a woman, but… I can’t help it.. the thought keeps creeping in there.

    • dethtoll says:

      “More like it explains why the gameplay in ME2 was shit.
      No, I really don’t want to say that it was because she’s a woman, but… I can’t help it.. the thought keeps creeping in there.”
      rrRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

      > FISTTHROUGHMONITOR.JPG
      NO
      IT IS NOT ENOUGH
      I HAVE TO MAKE A NEW MACRO
      http://i160.photobucket.com/albums/t185/dethtoll/goddammitrps.jpg

    • Yosharian says:

      Bahaha.

      You know you were thinking it too.

      Fact is, man or woman behind the scenes, ME2′s gameplay was a bit crap.

  19. Zyrxil says:

    to the young home of devoutly hardcore multiplayer PC games.

    Fixed. I kind of wonder how they’re gonna continue on as a company. I mean, are they just going to make new LoL champions forever? I already kind of think there’s too many to balance; just imagine a Street Fighter game where you had to know 60 matchups. However, making new champs is the only way they bring in money. I just don’t see how they can sustain this.

  20. Velvetmeds says:

    Off from great games to crap game. Goodbye then.

    • Cherokee Jack says:

      I can’t wait to see what fantastic, intellectually stirring debate springs from this gem of a comment.

      “MY SUBMARINE IS BETTER THAN YOUR JET!!!!111!” Sweet jesus.

    • Premium User Badge

      Daiv says:

      ROFL UR SUB IZ TEH LAME BCOZ IT IS NOT AIRODINAMIC AN MY JET DOESNT AFRAID OF EVERYTHING

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      I have a jet that is also a submarine.

    • Gvaz says:

      more like from crap game to crappier game

  21. dark_silverstar says:

    looks like mass effect gonna be hard for success from the predecessor

  22. marcauron says:

    I guess She will make LoL now a linear corridor shooter . Maybe a good thing She’s gone for ME3.
    The annoyance that the “past paced “gameplay or better said railroaded gameplay was should die.
    ME3 will never be a RPG anyway, it just gets RPG labels, but the shooting wasn’t that spectacular either.
    Without the soundtrack the game was boring.
    “Entering combat sequence no5- and ACTION.
    1st wave,2nd wave, turn left, 3ird wave, dialogue sequence, press F to exit.
    Just fast and faster, don’t look, don’t deduce the music makes You run, You shall not notice…”
    Strange, so many people left Bioware must be the unwillingness to frequently bow and bend for the weapons of mass production, or like in the past they slowly get replaced by EA staff.

    • Nalano says:

      I define anything with choices and emphasis on dialogue to be an RPG. How do the differences during the action sequences matter – whether I’m doing a cover-based shooter or a stat-based hack’n'slash?

    • malkav11 says:

      Your definition says virtually nothing useful about gameplay, and the form combat takes is just one of many important things when sitting down to actually play a game.

  23. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    Great, more lesbian sex in LOL

  24. DarkByke says:

    The only reason i can think of is that she wanted to get out of Edmonton. I live here, it’s not a great city and nowhere near the gaming industry. Wouldn’t you do the same for your career?

    • marcauron says:

      What about Fairfax, Montreal, Austin,some EA place, She moved anyway it’s all Bioware.
      And what about the others?
      DA2 wasn’t even remotely a good game,so the Pandemic aura is somehow spreading over them.

  25. DaFishes says:

    I’m sad that she’s going. If you’ve ever read her dev diaries over on Giantbomb, you can see that she worked hard to make the weapon sets and skills interesting, etc. BioWare’s loss.

  26. Kyrelle says:

    Riot lost the Lead Creative Designer on LoL, Shawn Carnes, just over a month ago. I suspect she’s part of the reshuffle that has resulted.

  27. Gvaz says:

    God damn she looks like a weasel

  28. Barman1942 says:

    Now if only some of Bioware’s writers would leave too.

  29. innociv says:

    Doesn’t Riot Games have about 200 employees now?

    That’s an MMO team size to make a little 2 map game that has a really indie feel to it.

  30. Howl says:

    Free to play needs to die a death already. My status-obsessed friend has sunk £120 into World of Tanks in a matter of weeks, shooting poor people with his gold-plated ammo as they desperately try and fight back firing their cotton balls at him.

    By all means make pay monthly games where everyone is on an even playing field but games that have a competitive edge and offer consumables that cost real money, are the devil.

    • Mopo says:

      What are you talking about? You don’t get any advantage with LoL if you spend money on it. You basically pay for new skins or buy more champs; it is cosmetic. You can pay to get more xp, but this is not an MMO and it is not game breaking. You just get to max level faster.

  31. Rii says:

    Depending on how you count ‘em, there are at least 5 and as many as 10 comments (of 80 to date) in this thread concerning Christina Norman’s appearance and/or status as a female, some of which are outright offensive. And it’s safe to say that this is actually pretty good by the standards of the gaming community.

    Shame.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Ooh, I’ll summarise the rest:

      1. Mass Effect grumbling
      2. LoL grumbling
      3. F2p grumbling
      4. Definition of RPG

      We’re like a broken mp3 at this stage.

      edit: 5. Comment by Tei

    • Schmitzkater says:

      A comment from Tei can save every dysfunctional comment thread.

      I proclaim they should be mandatory from here on everytime DRM, genre definitions or women are mentioned on RPS.

  32. Kaldor says:

    That’s so typical of Bioware to have those highly career-oriented, efficiency-addicted personalities. It’s the spirit of Mass Effect itself.