- The lead champion producer for League of Legends Reav3 discussed why designers create more human-like characters
- According to him, they are more appealing as they are easier for players to identify with
- Reav3 promises to make up to creature-lovers by adding a new “darker” monster champion in 2022
Riot's lead champion producer discusses tendencies in the design of playable characters.
Humanoids: Appealing and Easy to Understand
Riot Games' widely popular game League of Legends has a plethora of playable champions. Some are scary, and others are cute, some are elegant, others grotesque: the company has been long trying to flesh out the world of Runeterra, which will soon receive its own animated series.
However, with all that said, players have noticed that a large majority of the inhabitants of League of Legends' world are more or fewer humans or at least strikingly humanoid, and much fewer are more creature-esque or monstrous. The game's lead champion producer Ryan “Reav3” Mireles, stepped in to explain those tendencies in a dev post.
According to Reav3, champions, especially new ones, HAVE to be appealing in order for players to pick them. Although there will always be disparities between how beloved characters are, Reav3 considers that each character should have its own fans and a consistent pick rate. In order for that to happen, each character should offer both interesting skills and mechanics and an appealing design.
Reav3 revealed that since 2017 the team had been focused exactly on making characters as marketable as possible. He shares:
“We did a lot of research into what makes a champion broadly appealing or niche by surveying players all over the world. What we found was that one of the major things that made a champion more relatable and appealing was when they were humans. Based on our data, it looks like a champion's play rate is a combination of actual power, perceived power, and thematic resonance, with the theme being one of the BIG parts of that equation.”
The Roots of the Bias
Although it's a shame that players' preferences are limiting to the dev team's creativity, it isn't hard to get why those biases towards humanoid characters exist – most people seek a character to either identify with, idolize, or both. A champion is the player's proxy inside the game world, after all. Most people want their chosen champions to have some traits that they personally like: for example, Xin Zhao's pick rate is higher in China than it is in Europe because of the ethnic inspirations behind his design.
Speaking of that, humanoid characters can be a canvas for representing different cultures. And although creatures can also represent a certain culture and its mythology, they will be less identifiable to people outside of that culture.
Reav3 added that his team might have gone a little bit overboard on focusing on humans. To make up for fans of more exotic champions such as Teamo, Yuumi, and Kha'Zix, the developer promises that a new “darker” creature will be arriving in the champion roster in 2022.
Reav3 concluded by emphasizing the designer team won't be reorienting towards creatures but will try to keep the roster varied with a new creature every now and then.
Despite the tendency of humanoid characters prevailing, the game still offers a vast choice of champions to pick. The richness of the game is one of the things that has cemented it in video game history and what got it to the current popularity. League of Legends' mobile version Wild Rift reaped such successes that it got a World Championship announced in the very first year of its release.