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who’ll miss the old stories, Riot offer the nice view that we can still enjoy old books and films that are technically superseded by newer interpretations.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 And no ‘outdated’ story is ever pointless or wrong if you enjoyed it.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: