Article about LoL Lore from Kitae Talk

First Riot Post
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Gixia

Senior Member

11-17-2012

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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kitae View Post
We don't have great narrative tools right now to deliver a complex story, so we need to focus on characters with simple compelling stories. Despite that, we want to achieve character depth, so we can deliver more over time.
Then stop trying to tell a complex story until you have those tools. Use the tools you have, tell the stories that work for those tools, and bring the complex stuff out once you actually have the framework in place to tell them properly. It sounds like I'm repeating your point, except...

Quote:
The main interest is in building narrative outside the gameplay, Norman explained; narrative that peeks through at key moments of the experience.
Gameplay is the tool that you have. It is almost the only tool that you currently have, because all the others that used to exist have been discontinued. Ergo, it is what you should be using, and you should be telling stories that work with it. You want to tell stories that go beyond it? Then get to work on acquiring some new tools.

Quote:
Norman also said that she and other Rioters look to the way that narratives happen in the NFL and in pro wrestling. Where the weeks-long season of pro football is an emergent narrative, what happens in the WWE is authored. Both can change but shifts in one happen suddenly and get built up to in the other. Norman also said that they do note the importance of sports narrative—rivalry, signature tics, etc.—-and are always trying to learn about players on the teams and their relationships to each other.
And in both the case of the NFL and WWE, conflicts ultimately get built up to a point where they can/will be settled on the field/in the ring. But we're getting more and more conflicts, by your own admission, that can not be settled on the field in LoL.

I should never have to ask 'why is this champion in the league?'. Even when the main narrative is focused outside of the league, every character should still have a clear reason for being present as a playable character in-game. They should have a goal/motivation, either primary, secondary, or tertiary that is compatible with gameplay. Narratives that go beyond the league should be encouraged, but should not come at the expense of gameplay justification, because gameplay is currently our only means of experiencing these characters and their stories.


Quote:
We're going to focus on telling stories where champions have agency and fight for what they believe in, over stories where champions are influenced by summoners and fight for moral causes they do not believe in.
Why are these two goals mutually exclusive? Unless this is another retcon that hasn't been delivered yet, the vast majority of champions joined the league of their own free will, which means there must be summoners and champions who have goals that align or mutually beneficial objectives.


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SoBeNirvana

Adjudicator

11-18-2012

Quote:
We're going to focus on telling stories where champions have agency and fight for what they believe in, over stories where champions are influenced by summoners and fight for moral causes they do not believe in. This is choosing the kinds of stories we want to tell, not changing the entire story.
Um, as far as I know, the only Champions in the League unwillingly were Brand, Cho'Gath, and Nocturne. I mean sure, you can change their lore, but don't make it sound like the majority of Champions are slaves to the League. I can only think of three off the top of my head.


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1Eredale

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Senior Member

11-18-2012

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.


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ThorRush

Senior Member

11-18-2012

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.


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maxterdexter

Senior Member

11-18-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoBeNirvana View Post
Um, as far as I know, the only Champions in the League unwillingly were Brand, Cho'Gath, and Nocturne. I mean sure, you can change their lore, but don't make it sound like the majority of Champions are slaves to the League. I can only think of three off the top of my head.
Also:
- Renekton, but he would participate willingly,
- Kog Maw, but he's more of a deathly puppy being feed
- Fiddlesticks: but the lore makes it seems like he wants to be there, or just doesn't care


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exe3

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Senior Member

11-18-2012

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? ;_;


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Larcent

Senior Member

11-18-2012

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.


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Double Delta

Junior Member

11-18-2012

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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Gixia

Senior Member

11-18-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by exe3 View Post
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 don't see how it would be difficult to have a meaningful story with that setup at all. It's just a matter of working within your limitations to develop a story that fits the setting.

As such, in this case, the ideal storyline would be one of political intrigue, featuring pitched battles between the various city states, with frequent bouts of backroom shenanigans, political manoeuvring, and machiavellian plots as different factions and the summoners aligned with them cut deals with one another and work out arrangements with champions in order to convince them to fight on their behalf.

Say there's a conflict brewing between Demacia and Noxus, a big one. Something so huge that Swain and Jarvan themselves are scheduled to lead their respective sides in a LoL match to determine the outcome, with the summoners being ones closely aligned to their respective city states. Swain's a clever tactician, and ruthless. He'll want to ensure that he's got the very best team he can put together fighting on his behalf. So now, maybe a piltover scientist is working on an invention so great it'll put the greatest minds of Zaun to shame, so Zaun cuts a deal with Noxus. Noxus'll send Katarina secretly to assassinate the piltover scientist, in exchange Zaun lets Swain borrow Warwick for the match against Demacia. But Caitlyn's not having any of that in her hometown, setting up a conflict between Katarina and Caitlyn while one seeks to carry out her mission, and the other seeks to arrest her. Succeed or fail in her mission, Katarina slips away, and now Jayce isn't too fond of Noxus making an intrusion into Piltover territory, but Noxus is denying involvement and he's got no evidence evidence to justify a counter assault. He's not gonna let Noxus walk all over Piltover though, so he figures he can deliver a blow to Noxian pride by helping Demacia win their fight, demanding to be allowed to participate. Meanwhile, Kayle, working as an investigator for the League, uncovers a plot to murder some high ranking Demacians, and through some conflicts and plot twists out-of-game, she discovers the scheme was orchestrated by someone on the Noxian team, so, with her morals already so closely aligned to Demacia's, she arranges to be put on their team to get in closer and find the perpetrator. But this was all intended on Swain's part, dropping clues intentionally, because now that Kayle's involved, convincing Morgana to fight for him is a snap. And of course, Swain has his pet Darius fighting for him as well, and for the finishing touch, he uses a bit of backdoor bargaining with high-ranking league officials to let him have access to the league's prison system, arranging for one of the Noxian summoners to be allowed to call on Cho'Gath's bulk and power. Cho'Gath meanwhile is content to bide his time for now, letting the league think he's under their thumb while simply awaiting the perfect moment to strike, and in the meantime, he's content to be allowed onto the fields to sow as much carnage as possible. Meanwhile, Jarvan brings in Shyvana with him, the loyal half-dragon eager to cause a little mayhem herself. Demacia isn't completely without tricks of their own however. At Garen's insistance, they manage to uncover some crucial information about the missing General Du Couteau. With hope in his heart that Katarina isn't completely morally bankrupt and that perhaps she might be convinced to step closer to Demacian ideals, he offers her an olive branch, exchanging information about her missing father in exchange for perhaps a little bit of aid herself. Katarina's far too loyal to Noxus though and won't go for that, but Talon? He has no such convictions, bearing allegiance to Du Couteau alone, so now Talon is joining the Demacian team as a temporary 5th member to get that information. If anyone asks, he's being forced against his will to help out the summoner that requests his aid, even while being fully complicit. Talon may not really work with Demacian's moral standards, but they still take the subtle offer of aid from house Du Couteau when they can, knowing it'll undermine Swain's leadership and deal a blow to Noxian morale to have one of their own amidst the enemy.

There, a half-assed storyline I came up with in 5 minutes, mixing conflicts and character interaction out of game, while ever keeping an eye on the fact that it relates to gameplay in some way, building up to an actual match that could be played out between players. Is it great? Probably not, I came up with it in 5 minutes afterall, putting forth a minimum of effort. But I'm certain somebody else who put more time into it could come up with something greater, with more fleshed out detail and character interactions, and could polish that into a good story, with just one little flaw...

Why the hell would Warwick be willing to participate? All the champs involved either have a throwaway line to explain their induction into the league, or are just plain obvious (Shyvana, loyal to Jarvan, would join to fight on his behalf, Jayce would initially do the same to defend Piltover's interests, etc.). Warwick's story expresses no loyalty to any greater cause, and no motivation other than murdering Soraka, which wouldn't even be possible through the League even if she was on the opposing team, leaving him no actual reason to be present. And sure, it's possible to come up with a reason, but it shouldn't be a requirement. Individual matches may or may not need an explanation as to why somebody's participating. They can be left up to the imagination to fill in with detail as to what's at stake during the game, and how each team was chosen the way they were, but it should just be a given that you know why any character is present in the league to begin with.

Quote:
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)
She likely wouldn't, but there's no need to tell those stories. Riven WOULD care about a conflict that gives her the opportunity to pit her vision of true Noxian strength against the scheming, backstabbing, underhanded tactics of the current Noxian leadership.

Quote:
and would Noxus even accept her to fight on their behalf?
Likely, she'd prefer to fight against Noxus. If the story is being told properly, things like that can be taken into account, events arranged and setup so that a champion's goals and their summoner's goals intersect. Hell, the league judgments, with their method of testing every champion to make sure they were prepared and willing to let a summoner into their head, always gave me the impression that if a champion and a summoner don't really see eye to eye, it can result in internal strife and the summoner having weaker control over the champion than they otherwise would, leading to summoners taking on champions who's motivations mesh with their own, while the imprisoned champions (Nocturne, Cho'Gath, Brand, Xerath), suffer through some sort of spellbinding that makes them naturally more easily controlled.

Quote:
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.
It's not a lapse in logic, it just requires more effort, because now you suddenly don't have free reign to come up with whatever you want, but rather have to work within the confines of certain limitations. But as one of my favourite game designers has said in the past, limitations breed creativity. Working under a set of guidelines can force you to be more creative to solve a problem than you otherwise might be.


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Riot has since realized this and are working to rectify this, remove the silly stuff and expand the world in a more logical way.
Except that now the actual gameplay has less logic and becomes more silly.

Quote:
As someone who never ever read the Journal of Justice or the League Judgements and rarely reads character bios either
It's too bad. Some of those League Judgements were really good.

Quote:
The point is that while some might not like a distancing from the League the League in all truth was silly and illogical
I don't see what was silly or illogical at all.


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Akesgeroth

Senior Member

11-18-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoBeNirvana View Post
Um, as far as I know, the only Champions in the League unwillingly were Brand, Cho'Gath, and Nocturne. I mean sure, you can change their lore, but don't make it sound like the majority of Champions are slaves to the League. I can only think of three off the top of my head.
Actually, it's pretty obvious that quite a few of them would prefer to go back to total warfare, notably Jarvan and Swain. And quite a few are there for their own glory (DRAAAAAAAAVEN).