Narrative in 201818.02.2018

SO, ABOUT THE LORE TEAM…
There's a little misconception floating around the internet, that when it comes to Riot and League of Legends, there is a single "lore team" who write all the stories, decide all the character backgrounds, and is solely responsible for building out Runeterra. The truth is, the history of our lore is a lot more disjointed than that. Real talk… over the years many elements of our storytelling and lore-building have been handled (somewhat haphazardly) by enthusiastic people from across many different teams. If it felt like the left hand didn’t always know what the right was doing, it was because those hands were often separated, and on vastly different products.
 
At the end of last year, we—that is, Ariel “Thermal Kitten” Lawrence and Laurie “Scathlocke” Goulding—started managing and reviewing every new piece of lore, every story, script, and bio created by our narrative writers, to help fix and improve this. The content still comes from different teams, but now there are people (us!) responsible for trying to ensure all these separate pieces make sense together.
 
Our new, primary mission is to take Runeterra to the next level—something we can develop and expand on as much as needed in the future—and to give every champion a unique place within it.
 
With that in mind, we want to talk to you about 2018. We’ve got a few goals for the year ahead:
 
  • Keep releasing content, keep developing the lore. We’re going to put out more material, more regularly, in more manageable chunks. There are so many great themes and ideas we can look at from patch to patch, so we’ll be using those to guide our efforts, to some extent. For example, releasing a champion at the same time as updating their faction (like Swain with Noxus)  is something we want to keep doing as often as we can.

 
  • Be better at communicating with, and listening to, players. Expect more behind-the-scenes looks at how the narrative folk do what we do, and more opportunities to interact and engage with our writers and editors directly. We can’t promise that you’ll agree with every decision we make, but we certainly want to know when you like what we’re doing, and when you think we messed up.

 
  • Answer some long-standing questions. We know there is confusion about how we make those always-tricky lore decisions, and why we might seem not to “get” a particular champion. We want to help clear all of that up, and hopefully share a little of our reasoning and excitement for what’s coming in the future.

 
 
So, in the spirit of better communication, we’d like to tackle two of the questions we get asked frequently (especially recently): Why do you update a champion’s lore? and How will lore updates match up with gameplay updates?
 
WHY WE UPDATE THE LORE
With League, our philosophy has always been to evolve the game—not just by making changes, but by making improvements. If there’s a bug in the client, we patch it… and likewise, we shouldn’t be afraid to patch the lore, if need be. (Go ahead, give us your meme hit list. Inconsistency is a bug that drives us crazy too!)
 
Our aim is to improve the experience, improve the setting, make it more robust, build a framework for something greater. We’re not satisfied with champs having “okay” backstories. We’re not satisfied with generic tropes, or in-jokes referencing stuff that just doesn’t really fit into the Runeterra setting. We’re not satisfied with a world only certain people can understand or enjoy.
 
 
We spend a lot of time with our champions and we love them. (Yes, even Amumu.) Because of that, we don’t want you to just “like” a champion—we want you to LOVE them too. Love them enough to main them on the Rift, talk about them, cosplay them, write fan-fiction, create artwork, and want to learn more about their world.
 
We’re trying to set up Runeterra for the long haul, to create a place that can tell stories about our champions for a long time—and that means we’ve had to make some changes. Many of the changes made to our lore in recent years have been aimed at consolidating characters, regions, cultures, and histories to allow that to happen, but sometimes those changes have been painfully abrupt. We know there are champions that were over-simplified, or under-explained, and we want to avoid that wherever possible from 2018 onward. No more surprise Varus updates. Where it seemed like Riot hasn’t always considered the way you feel about your favorite parts of the lore before adjustments are made, we aim to change that.
 
Let’s start by talking about when and how we update champions.
 
WHEN AND HOW WE UPDATE CHAMPIONS
While we usually accompany gameplay and visual updates with a new bio and/or color story for a champ, there’s a couple ways we can also do “character updates” without anything changing in-game.
 
Sometimes, we’ll show characters visually in their lore environment, rather than an abstract gaming context like Summoner’s Rift. You’ve hopefully watched the new Annie Video and read the latest Miss Fortune comic. These types of storytelling can go deeper into a champ’s themes and character than their VO lines and gameplay alone.
 
 
Other times, we’ll post new written lore content to the Universe website—this can be anything, from an illustrative quote to a full short story (Demacia and the vastaya got a handful of these in 2017). It’s another way of worldbuilding across everything we publish, and we believe that if a story doesn’t give you a new piece of information about a character or the world in the telling, then it’s not fully doing its job.
 
But why do we bother? If there’s no Visual/Gameplay Update, why touch the lore?
 
The reason is, doing a full VGU can take a long time. If we were waiting for those releases, it would take more than ten years (!) to update just the champions… let alone the factions, locations, historical events, magic, runes, and all the other elements of the setting around them. We also want to get to a place where these updates can be inspired by the lore. If we experiment and take our characters to new places in stories beyond the game, we can develop and progress them more authentically.

SO, WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE REST OF 2018?
New champions? Of course. Champion updates? For sure. But we’re busy working on a lot more.
 
So far this year, we dove into Noxus with Swain and saw how the empire operates at its highest level. Boram Darkwill is gone, and the ill-advised invasion of Ionia is over (or IS it...?) There were also four new bios—Swain, Darius, Katarina, and LeBlanc—a new color story (“The Black Powder Plot”), and the slightly longer tale “The Principles of Strength,” which reveals how the Trifarix runs things.
 
 
Some other factions we’re looking at hitting in the coming months, Nagakabouros willing:
  • Ionia, in all its harmonious (and disharmonious) glory

  • Bilgewater, and the dark, cold seas around it

  • The mysterious darkin...

 
Don’t expect any let-up in the rate we’ve been releasing the new bios and color stories. We’re hoping to bring you more connected and consequential fiction, multimedia content, hidden Easter Eggs for the real lore-heads… everything is back on the table this year.
 
We also have more comics in the works! Reception to the first few standalone issues has been great, but we want to deliver even more content. We’re already looking at multi-issue miniseries, focusing on some big plot arcs for some very well-known champions in 2018, and beyond.
 
In addition to all of the actual narrative content, you can expect more communication from us on what we’ve done and what we’re doing next, in the form of articles, dev diaries, and more.
 
HIT US UP
That’s all from us for now, but we genuinely want to know what you think, and how we’re doing. Which parts of Runeterra would you like to explore? Which champions do you think need a tune-up? Give us your questions in the comments section below or in a carefully inked and wax-sealed parchment letter. Whatever you prefer.