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Dev Blog: Exploring Runeterra

By Tommy Gnox
First of all, though these are technically my words, I m just one of the many peop
le involved with storytelling at Riot, and what you re about to read is inspired b
y their collective passion. League of Legends covers a lot of ground at this poi
nt, but is ultimately always centered on the gameplay at its heart, so the idea
that there are a lot of Rioters connected to narrative might surprise some. That s
a big part of why we d like to talk to you about the current state of League s stor
y, as well as some of the changes you ve seen (and will continue to see) as part o
f our evolving approach to storytelling.
Storytelling as league evolves
Evolution is one of the core elements of League of Legends. Champions, events, s
kins, splash art, and the maps themselves are just some of the avenues through w
hich we seek to continually level up every facet of the game. We want League to
always feel current through design balance, art updates, and new character theme
s and stories.
We want League to always feel current through design balance, art updates, and n
ew character themes and stories.
That means we have to be willing to look at work we ve done in the past and honest
ly reevaluate it. In some cases
say, with a champion update
the original concept
is mostly sound (or even timelessly awesome!) and all we have to do is bump thi
ngs up to modern standards. Sometimes, however, we look back at decisions that m
ade perfect sense when we originally made them, but are now at odds with our des
ign values and ultimately limit our ability to continually improve League of Leg
ends. That s unacceptable, and in such situations we seek to aggressively reimagin
e content in a way that realizes its full potential.
As players ourselves, it s easy to get excited about upcoming developments but you
, the players, don t always have visibility into what s coming down the pipe, or why
. And so we ve learned how crucial it is to communicate changes in ways that give
you a sense of why choices are being made and what benefits can be expected. In
this case, that first requires a bit of backstory.
A bit of backstory
In the early days of League, we created a fictional background that would justif
y how players could control champions during games. We came up with concepts lik
e Summoners, Fields of Justice, an Institute of War, and indeed, the League of L
egends itself
all in an attempt to provide fictional context for in-game action.
After a while, these early choices began to create unexpected problems. Every ne
w champion needed a reason to join and remain in the League, and as their number
grew, the net result was that over time the world started to feel, well, small,
and eventually less interesting. The institutions we d designed fostered creative
stagnation, limiting the ways that champions, factions and Runeterra itself cou
ld grow and change. Furthermore, the very idea of all-powerful Summoners made Ch
ampions little more than puppets manipulated by godlike powers. The background w
e d created to explain in-game action was ultimately restricting the potential nar
rative development of the game s defining characters.
Faced with these limitations, our use of narrative elements tightly bound to the
original vision (Journals of Justice, Judgments, etc.) dwindled, because they f
elt fundamentally restrictive to our hopes for a more vibrant and expansive worl
d. In response, we started (with efforts like the Freljord event and recent cham
pion bios) to tell stories that explored the furthest limits of League s original

creative framework.
Time and again, we ve heard players clamor for more story, fueling our desire to m
ake the necessary changes to bring you bigger and better glimpses of Runeterra a
nd its inhabitants. A lot of you have voiced your thoughts on these changes, and
in a variety of ways
with enthusiasm, ideas for further new approaches, or even
concern. In all these cases, we re grateful for your interest, and we re committed
to both pushing narrative development further and doing a better job of providin
g insight into what s going on under the hood with story.
Where we are today
At a very broad level, we ve decided to push League s story beyond its original focu
s on explaining in-game action and forge a new narrative path for Runeterra
a wo
rld in which the factions and champions we all know and love have full freedom t
o grow, travel, and kick ass on a worldwide scale. From champion interactions to
bios to events (and beyond), we aim to expand the scope of League s story and pur
sue a more dynamic and wide-ranging world fit for the outsized capabilities and
personalities of our champions.
Story has the potential to affect every element of League of Legends, so the dec
ision to venture into new narrative territory wasn t made quickly or capriciously.
The need for change only became apparent over time, and the choice was made onl
y after a great deal of deliberation. Further, we want you to know that this new
approach is focused on opening up possibilities and unlocking a wider, more ful
ly-fledged world the point isn t to tear up older stories that form their own cher
ished part of League s history.
At a very broad level, we ve decided to push League s story beyond its original focu
s on explaining in-game action and forge a new narrative path for Runeterra...
But what does that mean?
Essentially, it means that the game and story aren t one-to-one copies of each oth
er. League as a game is about creating awesome gameplay, while League as a story
is about creating deep, vibrant characters and factions inhabiting an expansive
world. We don t want to limit story because of gameplay, just like we wouldn t limi
t gameplay because of story
we want both of them (and all the other elements of
League) to have the freedom to be as great as they possibly can be.
Does this mean older story efforts like the Journal of Justice and League Judgme
nts are meaningless? Of course not. In the same way that we can go back and enjo
y old books, shows, films, art, and comics that have been superseded by more rec
ent interpretations of the same material, League s original lore remains a cherish
ed part of its history. From comic books to classic literature, exploration of t
he same creative space in vastly different ways is a natural part of storytellin
g.
Runeterra is a big place, with lots of room to be explored in different ways by
different people including players.
Where we're going
When it comes to storytelling, things will continue forward much as they have do
ne already League as a whole evolves steadily over time, often in small steps, an
d the same is true of its story. We ll continue to explore Runeterra through vario
us mediums, in chunks both large and small, and we hope you ll come along for the
ride and continue to share your ideas and feedback.
The point is simply that League of Legends constantly evolves, and, as it does,

its narrative needs to evolve as well.


Communication is where you should really notice a difference. Similarly to the g
ameplay team s ongoing Design Values series, we ll be back with future Dev Blogs dis
cussing both our latest narrative efforts and our general principles when it com
es to developing story in League. For example, one of the principles we d love to
discuss further is our focus on ensuring that champion identities remain consist
ent regardless of where you encounter them; for example, Darius should always fe
el the same regardless of whether he s administering an axe in a story piece, the
game, or a cinematic. Exploring champions backstories and motivations beyond what
you see in the game doesn t mean they ll suddenly start feeling like different char
acters; what it does do is offer a huge spectrum of options for fleshing out per
sonalities and deepening connections.
The point is simply that League of Legends constantly evolves, and, as it does,
its narrative needs to evolve as well. We couldn t be more thrilled to share this
process with you and to hear what you have to say about it. More than anything,
we want to rekindle the conversation with you. What stories do you want us to te
ll? What parts of Runeterra would you like to see?
We re excited to keep exploring the possibilities, and we hope you are too.
Tommy Gnox (but really the whole Narrative team)