Lorra Lorra Lore: League Of Legends’ Do-Over

See, this is the field of Zhankhor, named after the seventh son of the seventh son of the Archmage Riglaro'khar...

Philippa recently wondered in Dote Night about lore in Dote ’em ups. Does a grand over-arching narrative matter? How could or should lore affect game systems? League of Legends players were technically controlling “a neutral magician working on conflict resolution for the wizard UN”, as Pip put it, but not any more. After five years of resolving political disagreements through magical violence, Riot Games have called a do-over on LoL’s backstory. It was holding them back, they say, stopping them from doing interesting things with characters.

LoL’s narrative team explained in a blog post:

The institutions we’d designed fostered creative stagnation, limiting the ways that champions, factions and Runeterra itself could grow and change. Furthermore, the very idea of all-powerful Summoners made Champions little more than puppets manipulated by godlike powers. The background we’d created to explain in-game action was ultimately restricting the potential narrative development of the game’s defining characters.

So that’s all going. A Rioteer clarified in the comments that “Summoners, the Fields of Justice and the Institute are not canon within the fictional world of Runeterra”. They want to tell bigger, grander stories and let their characters be more, well, characters–tricky when they’re drones. Which all sounds very sensible.

For fans who’ll miss the old stories, Riot offer the nice view that we can still enjoy old books and films that are technically superseded by newer interpretations. It seems a fine stance to me, as someone wary of rigid adherence to ‘lore’ and ‘canon’. All too often it feels stifling or tedious. Stories are stories, and game stories especially get to be playful. And no ‘outdated’ story is ever pointless or wrong if you enjoyed it.

Though I worry that the recent cinematic trailer titled ‘A New Dawn’ was presumably supposed to be the first step towards this change. It was a mite unpleasant, with the tone all off as uninteresting semi-realistic characters went from smirking to mutilation within seconds:

36 Comments

  1. skyturnedred says:

    Because the story is why I play(ed) LoL.

  2. PedroTheHutt says:

    It’ll probably still be in a grander scale and scope than their writers can handle and be filled to the rim with Mary Sues. I fail to see how it “stifled creativity” though, a good writer can make a compelling story with interesting characters within limitations set by the lore. A bad writer changes the lore to fit their characters and story.

    • Xocrates says:

      The problem was that the old lore was set in place to justify the gameplay, which essentially meant the players themselves were characters in the lore. The decision just means that the gameplay will no longer directly affect the lore, all the rest remains as it was.

    • clopin says:

      The issue with the lore prior is that it was pure crap to justify gameplay. There really wasn’t anywhere they could go with it.

  3. Xocrates says:

    Yeah, the lore update is very understandable. They had ran out of reasons why the champions were joining the Leaque long ago.

    For those who say the story didn’t matter: It’s true, it didn’t really matter to the players, but it helps to contextualize the various champions design which allows for a more coherent style.

    On the cinematic: I don’t think it’s supposed to be the “first step” towards this change. It very much follows the same style as the previous ones (champions fighting each other for ill-defined reasons), and it very likely was in production way before this decision was made.
    The cinematic is kind of fun if you know the characters, but much of it makes little sense if you don’t play the game, for instances, if you don’t know the character it’s essentially impossible to know what Nautilus (the Big Daddy look-alike) was trying to do just before being crushed.

  4. DrollRemark says:

    There are films?

  5. Asherie says:

    That short was brilliant n I don’t even like LoL. I’d love a singleplayer ARPG with those characters.

  6. noodlecake says:

    Someone is an Adam Buxton fan.

  7. ravencheek says:

    Good god that trailer…. it’s awful.
    It reminds me why I don’t like anime. Over the top, super skilled ninja-fu, flip kicking, women wearing “armour” that has less material than a napkin, big muscle machismo men doing manly man things…

    I think there should be an industry law that all video game trailers not made using the game engine should have a big giant label in the middle of the screen saying something like “THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU WILL BE PLAYING”.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      Leona contests your point about the armour.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        Leona contests your point about the armour.

        1 out of 40 or so does not a good example set.

        • Xocrates says:

          She was in the video though, which I believe was the point he was trying to make.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            Well it was a shitty point considering the articles linked from these hallowed pages in recent months such as link to obligatoryspiderqueen.wordpress.com and link to gentlemangustaf.com

          • Xocrates says:

            I play the game, I’ve read those articles before, I know those things – and in fact even mentioned the problem bellow. I wasn’t trying to contest your point, I know it’s a recurring problem with the game, I was saying that I did not think the discussion was relating to that specific point.

          • Philomelle says:

            A 2-year old article featuring character designs that were flushed down the toilet months ago and replaced by considerably more sensible ones doesn’t make much of a point either.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            A 2-year old article featuring character designs that were flushed down the toilet months ago and replaced by considerably more sensible ones doesn’t make much of a point either.

            You must be talking about some alternate reality as the video embedded in the article we’re commenting on shows pretty much those same ridiculous character designs that were criticised over 2 years ago.

            Also the 2nd Article is I linked is from 6 months ago but feel free to take a second attempt at crafting your strawman.

          • Philomelle says:

            The video shows three female characters, one of which is dressed in full platemail and another one is the last female character with a revealing design who was released (unless you count Elise, who is an undead spiderthing). That release happened back in July of 2012, incidentally. There were 9 female characters released since then, most of whom were dressed in full armor. On top of that, there were multiple visual reworks which covered up several characters (most notoriously Sejuani). The article shows none of them; it does, however, ignore Leona in several charts of “revealing vs. non-revealing” designs while at the same adding her to the list of “non-revealing designs who have revealing skins”. It is painfully outdated and doesn’t represent the game’s current state at all.

            Meanwhile, the other article spends only a third of the time discussing the gender disparity. It spends the rest discussing how the anatomy on League’s splash arts is shit for both male and female characters, which is a very valid point but has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re trying to prove. It does, however, spend a paragraph to explain why Ahri’s revealing design is justified by both her backstory and abilities within the game, Ahri being the third character in the trailer who I didn’t address in my first paragraph.

            In other words, the references you use to prove why League’s current state is problematic are either outdated or contradict you.

            So please, don’t get hostile with me and accuse me of “crafting a strawman”. It not only fails to hide the fact that you’re presenting outdated information as persisting fact, but also makes it look like you can’t even argue your points without resorting to ad hominem.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Lighten up, man. It’s just some terrific animation for the fans, and for the newcomers. Everybody knows already that is not in-game footage, moba users are not grandparents trying to learn e-mail.

      It was rather dark, though, wasn’t it? Some deaths were pretty grisly.

  8. Tei says:

    I find interesting, but unnecesary, that you can “reboot” the lore of a game.

    I find unnecesary because a good writter can always find ways to give agenda to any character in the writting.

    They could have write that the heroes “will not take your shit anymore” and are revolting against the summoners. Or that some summoners are evil, and they have some vil masterplan, and heroes are here, not only to win, but to stop these summoners.

    Theres one billion ways to flesh this.

    Anyway, I wellcome whatever new lore they can generate.

    DEMACIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Oh dear Lord, a spinning Tei. Run away!

    • Philomelle says:

      That’s pretty much the issue everyone seems to have with this “reboot”. It’s not that the idea is bad, it’s that it’s approached very lazily. There are numerous ways how they could keep the Institute of War as an organization within the lore (thus not screwing over massive amounts of established political climate within the game’s world), especially since the last issue of Journal of Justice (their old in-universe newspaper) dealt with the Institute losing most of its credibility after an investigation uncovered severe corruption that reached through the entire organization and instigated a massive conflict that almost started another world war.

      I suspect their lore team are realizing now that their current approach is somewhere between lazy and completely bonkers though, given that they beat a hasty retreat out of the forums once all of their comments got buried with hundreds of downvotes.

    • ssh83 says:

      Exactly. Reboot here is just lazy. Complete reboot usually means they just don’t care about their roots and history. Reboot is the one reason why american comics don’t do as well as manga even though comic has a ton of rich character and story.

  9. Meat Circus says:

    What they apparently haven’t “done over” is letting twelve year old boys design all their female armour.

    • Xocrates says:

      League is really inconsistent on their female armour design. You as easily have your Diana or Quinn with full armour, as you do your Zyra or Elise which are dressed mostly on wishful thinking.

      They’re still all young attractive women though – with the exception of the rare female yordle and Annie + Anivia

    • ssh83 says:

      Character designs are style over function, get out of your bedroom and see what real women in real life are wearing when they want to be stylish. Don’t use what your mom and teacher wear as standard of cutting edge fashion in real life, and stop attacking artists’ freedom of expression. No one is forcing anyone to draw any character a certain way… Except one self righteous group of ppl.

    • joa says:

      Kinda amusing that a strategy game of all things has become some kind of indicator for the status of female characters in games. In games like this the ‘characters’ are just window dressing for the gameplay mechanics anyway, and sex sells.

  10. Koozer says:

    That trailer was about 3 minutes too long and terribly meandering.

  11. Horg says:

    Once again the lane creeps are left out of the picture. I feel like it’s past time they unionised and stood up for themselves.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Wouldn’t work.
      Riot would just release “Thatcher the Witch” as their next champion and she would fuck them over completely.

    • BooleanBob says:

      The creeps are the ones watching the trailer with their trou- no, you know what? That’s a cheap shot.

  12. xfstef says:

    Wow … that was bad. The story was shit and the fighting was over the top nonsense. The characters either looked overly naked or overly manly.

    Riot listen to me, if you don’t die the hero, you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

  13. NordicNinja says:

    As a League player, I very much enjoyed the cinematic. It had a surprising amount of detail, and I thought it did a great job giving life to the characters. It’s curious that people didn’t find them interesting, though I’m inclined to agree with @Xocrates about not being familiar with the characters beforehand.

    Draven’s nonchalant shrug when he steps on Leona’s sword, and Graves’ humored exasperation after seeing Rengar’s mauling are too perfect.

    I’d also like to note that at Comic-Con Riot acknowledged their history of character design and promised even more diversity in body types. It’s obvious they’re getting better – though a bit slower than I’d like. There’s some splash art they should definitely update before others (like Miss Fortune’s grotesque breasts).