I'm trying really hard not to sound rude or belligerent, but I grow more and more frustrated by this every single time, and it's genuinely hard to suppress, so please forgive me if I come off as too antagonistic.
Hello there, Kitae.
I think that the key point that may have been missed in the creative process, is the Summoners and their part in the world of Runeterra. It was established ever since League of Legends started out as a game, that players in the game take the role of a Summoner who directly connects his mind to the Champion they control and battle it out on the Fields of Justice. The Institute of War is the most important political force of the continent too, which has a lot of secrets, mysteries, and conspiracies to it as well.
I think that no one would deny that we, as the players, want to hear more about the Institute and Summoner's interactions with the world and the Champions that are not tied to gameplay. The Judgements and the JoJ had this sense of immersion that let you 'feel' the existence of the actual Institute - when you read the Judgements, you would read about the large stone gates and marble floors, and you could pick out the details from there; when you read the Journal of Justice, you would read how Summoners interact with the political situation on the continent. When Dominion came, it was a huge event that made it feel like Summoners were not just invisible figures somewhere deep inside their halls, but actual living beings who could change the world actively as they see fit.
Now, here you say that you don't have the necessary tools to convey complicated stories; but as you said yourself, they don't have to be complicated. Just one sentence, or just a few words mentioning the existence of the Institute in the character bio was always just enough; and yet, it is being phased out entirely, and it's frightening, because with the latest character biographies, the Institute may as well not exist altogether, as there is no explanation of why can we play the character at all.
The two tools you currently have is the character bio and the character gameplay. Obviously, one of them should contain a certain reason why the character is here, but both of them are now entirely focused on the Champion himself. While it is true that we would like to know how this character feels, what are his inner thoughts, and his lifestyle, we would also like to hear about our own part in this. Just a sentence, a hint, something. It is hard to convey something like this using ingame interaction, because all you could work with is the voiceover and the animations; but it's still possible. For example, when Zeus in Dota2 dies, he sometimes says 'For this, I gave up immortality?' - and it's already a HUGE hint at the amount of motivation he has to be present here, and the challenges he had to face to do so. And Zed, in turn, creates a shadow portal upon death, which also is a great addition.
My point is, if you are totally able to convey character depth with in-game interactions, then why not describe the reason of their presence within their biography? It can clearly be seen that voiceover, animation, and other visuals can give you an immense vision of the Champion, while biography is where the average Joe goes for extras - such as why is he here, where is he from, and how did he come to be the awesome guy that he is. And that's how it's supposed to be.
For us, Lore folks, it's the opposite - we read the bio first, and estimate if we like this character or not. Then we go to see him in game, and only with that we can decide if we want to play it or not. Yes, we have a lot higher expectations of the text we see; but the general public of League of Legends is not a kindergarten too. If they ever decide to go read the character bio, they expect it to be written well, and answer their questions. Of course, not telling players the hidden agenda of the character adds mystery, and it's cool; but not telling how did some person from the other side of the continent end up here, is not.
While it's true that we like depth, the first and foremost thing that we want, is for the story to at least make sense to the gameplay, and vice versa.
I think by agency, the team means they want champions to have some free will, as opposed to being manipulated by others. There are champions like Malphite and Taric, whose stories are basically that someone told them they should fight in the League. They have attitudes and motivations, but so far they are separate from the story. You have to figure out what they're like. They just react to circumstances around them.
On the other hand, there are characters whose stories actually depend on choices that they make, so that their personalities show in the story. Swain is ambitious and treacherous and it shows in the way he takes over Noxus. Kha'Zix runs on instinct and he just wants to assimilate to become stronger. Their actions are unique to their characters.
Depth and complexity can be subjective. Everyone interprets stories differently (Demacia and Noxus, Syndra, Viktor and Jayce, etc.). In the end though, I think the greatest appeal comes from a story with memorable characters.
Nothing wrong with what was said in the article.* Basically riot has realized that the mere concept of the League was utterly illogical (and to be frank, idiotic) and are working to distance itself from the League itself without removing it and focusing on stories and character motives and actions beyond the League.
Just think about it for a second. An all powerful organization that essentially has the capabilities to control the world hosts these tournaments to settle disputes between nations by having these 'summoners' possess and take over veteran warriors (or random children) to decide the fate of all. this is fine if you don't intend to have any meaningful story to your game but that's not the case with League and the further you take the lore the more this basic premise sticks out like a sore thumb and prevents people from taking the world and characters seriously.
I'm actually curious as to what the League would be used for beyond things like deciding the Noxus v Ionia war. Are there tournaments to settle a farmers dispute? Not to mention that for 90% of champions in the League I can't think of a single situation for which they'd even be summoned, why would Riven give two sh!ts about a farmer dispute (and by extension why should I give 2 sh!ts if the character doesn't give 2 sh!ts? nothing more boring than watching some characters go about doing stuff they have no particular interest or stake in) and would Noxus even accept her to fight on their behalf? That's the issue the lore had previously, a complete lapse in logic which is usually what happens when you try to create a story to explain gameplay. Riot has since realized this and are working to rectify this, remove the silly stuff and expand the world in a more logical way. As someone who never ever read the Journal of Justice or the League Judgements and rarely reads character bios either (Viktor and Riven have been the only ones so far that have come across as immediately interesting characters that i've wanted to know more about so far) this is a good thing and what we have seen so far such as the story linked to TT's Altars is a great direction that has already made me more interested in the lore. I guess we're just going to have to wait and see what happens next.
Not that I always agree with the changes Riot has made so far to Lore. While Warwicks lore is only slightly better than before (he was a master chemist that in game was a ravenous wolf, disconnected much?) Soraka's lore was gutted imo as her fall from grace was a very powerful and character defining (for both her and with WW embracing his curse) story imo but this is more besides the point.
The point is that while some might not like a distancing from the League the League in all truth was silly and illogical and Riot moving away from it to pursue more personal and believable stories that could have an impact on the world at large is only a good thing.
*Except about Mass Effect. You weren't really the one that caused Mass Effect to eventually forget it was an RPG were you? ;_;
Everybody needs to stop confusing "writing" with "storytelling" right now or there will be trouble. I have a Mafia Graves and I'm not afraid to use him. He makes Film Critic Hulk seem like a puppy.
I hereby order everybody to go watch the very first Extra Credits video about writing and games. YOU WATCH RIGHT NOW.
The problem is that recent lore and story has regressed in both of those.
Recent champions are often seen criticized for lacking a reason to join the League, and various rework which may or may not change characters (writing problem).
Then, we have the disappearance of the JoJ and judgements, which made storytelling take a dive, leaving only the champion bios and their in game quotes...
Admittedly, the team is trying to do more things on that : on the hunt, the altar quotes, the champion monologues when they are released...
But while it's a pretty great way to build character, it not only lacks world building, which the JoJ provided plenty of, but I also assume that it's harder to come up with (coding the specific quests/events in the game, making it so that it doesn't break game balance, writing a short and impactful speech...).
The JoJ was simple and effective, it was text in the form of a newspaper that reported various incidents and events in the world, it was a great way to setup many things, we got inside views of the League, of the countries and of champions themselves.
So it's pretty much what Kitae said : they lack proper tools to give more story experience... And I'll agree with what someone else said : make those tools!
The LoL lore community is surprisingly active (there are tons of online games with more focus on the RPG part of MO games that have pretty much no RP at all), it's a shame that we get less lore because of a lack of proper methods.
The decision to focus more on characters is not a bad idea at all, but I feel that we are forgetting something along the line : the player's impact on the story.
Players are Summoners, and summoners work at the League to ensure that people don't start blowing up each others with magic, for that, we battle by linking with champions... (on a different subject, I still have no idea what summoners can do in terms of magic outside of summoning for the League)
The lore battle was a great idea, sadly there was only one (and the Udyr ownage reduced the dramatic tension of the battle). It involved players, champions and the world.
Now another big problem is tied to the League itself : without the League, no game, but with the League, our lore team seem to feel restricted. Currently the trend seem to be attempts at moving away from it with the focus on champions... Which isn't working out particularly well these days (cf : all those threads about "why did they join the League?").
The game will need either a new, reliable lore-giving tool or lots and lots of new champion interactions... In my opinion, at least.
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