Ah summer. A time when the heat is sweltering, the kids are out of school, the wage slaves pretend their vacations don't suck worse than work itself did, and Hep C for all who vacation abroad.
A time when people realize "Wait a second, I haven't made a champion in awhile!", and decide to throw something together in half an hour and call the resulting cesspool of virulent half-baked ideas and poorly composed concepts "finished".
*Slaps a ruler on the desk*
Well we won't be having any of that around here! Oh, no we won't! You're here to learn how to turn that sludge heap you call a champion into GOLD! Alright, maybe not gold, it's pretty heavy and honestly silver looks better anyway, even if it tarnishes. Maybe gems? I dunno. I think I've long since passed the usefulness of this analogy anyway.
The point I'm trying, and likely failing miserably, to make, is that we can do better than that! Sure it's fun to make new stuff, and the tiny details can be monotonous at times, but honestly, it's for the better, isn't it? To have something that makes you proud to look back on it, rather than something which resembles the lunch you... deposited... from the E.Coli from that half-done burger down by the pier?
I'll just assume you want the former.
So, class is in session!
Today, we'll be discussing Purpose and Specific Roles.
Oooh, fancy title. It almost makes me sound like I know what I'm talking about, doesn't it? Yeah, I could totally go into marketing if I had that on a few powerpoint slides. Like nothing else for a presentation, just "PURPOSE" "AND" "SPECIFIC" "ROLES" as single words on each slide.
...Alright maybe not.
Anyway, first off we need to cover what purpose even is, and why you need this very early on in champion development. Often people will "finish" their design, then decide after the fact what it was they were trying to build, so this is kind of important.
Second on our "To-do" list, is to go over the importance of making sure the purpose meshes with everything else in the character design.
Third, we then will be discussing the differences of purpose from role. While similar, they're not quite the same, and both should really be developed individually.
Last on the list, we'll then be doing a bit of a once over on the concept of largest purposes in general.
Part 1: There's no escaping reason, no denying purpose, for as we both know, without purpose we would not exist. It is purpose that created us, purpose that connects us, purpose that pulls us, that guides us, that drives us, that binds us. It is purpose that defines us. ~Agent Smith, The Matrix Reloaded
So, what exactly is this "purpose"? Sure Smith ranted on and on about it, but he didn't do all that great a job of defining it.
In short, purpose is that which defines why you're here. Without purpose, your champion is going to turn out, almost guaranteed, a failure.
You generally want to start with an overall appearance and personality to your champion... essentially, build their "character" before anything else. This ensures they're at least interesting on a personable level that will draw players into them.
After you have a character, however, you then want to instill them with a purpose which suits them. This can even occur in the middle of their character creation process, so it's a little blurry here, but generally you don't want purpose first. It's true what Smith says; it can define you as a person.
The thing is, you don't want purpose to define your character. It leaves them bland and flat, one dimensional constructs that have no life to them. Kog'maw's purpose is to eat. Past that, Koggy just doesn't really have any real personality. Kog's stomach is all that matters, and nothing else has any effect.
For Riven, she's a warrior first, and a proud citizen of a pure Noxus. Her purpose is to reclaim that dream of a pure Noxus, and it defines her to a point, but she had a personality and such before that purpose began.
Now, this is describing purpose on a personal level, but not in terms of game mechanics. For that... purpose changes a little bit.
Kog'maw is listed as being "living artillery", and thus has a bunch of long ranged attacks which really hurt. The thing is, when you start a champion design by listing your end goals for them to have, you restrict them, refusing to let them grow during character creation. They get stifled, and rarely get the chance to grow to be more than they currently are.
Kog'maw had "stomach + food" added to purpose in character... but because the purpose of long ranged artillery had already been focused upon, it never really made it's way into the actual abilities and design as a whole.
If we take another example, let's say... Annie, then we see the two forms blended together fairly nicely. Annie's mechanical purpose is "nuker", but her personality's purpose is "Cute little devil girl", and as such, she's able to blend these two things together, such as through Tibbers being a fluffy adorable psychotic killer teddy bear. Adorable <3
You may notice I've listed two kinds of purpose here. Mechanical, and Personality. These are two things which both need to be addressed, and the lack of one or the other will lead to the design failing, such as how Hecarim has no purpose for his personality whatsoever, as he doesn't actually have one.
So, let's cover these both in detail.
[CENTER]Purpose of Personality
By having a character, we don't just need them to exist as being likeable, but we need a purpose behind why we're giving them a personality at all. Who are our targeted audiences going to be? Why do we have this particular personality? What do they do differently that other champions fail to scratch the itch of?
If you have a character design without a purpose to their personality, they're not going to be that interesting. They won't be sculpted into a finely wrought masterpiece, because you're not even sure where you're going or what you're aiming for. You just chisel and chip away at them, bit by bit, seemingly at random, without any real idea of what it is you're trying to accomplish, and in the end, you will just end up with a mangled, twisted mess of nonsense.
The "purpose of personality", is to direct and define what you want them to be in a broad, generalized sense. Ezreal is an "explorer". He reaches out, personality-wise, to those individuals who like to make their way off the beaten path and do things not done before them. His entire personality revolves around that purpose, where he strives to give the feeling of exploration, newness, and adventure.
In contrast, you have Draven, whose purpose behind his personality is self-idolization. He caters to the ego of the player by proxy, as we "step into our character" in a sense, when we play them. As someone playing Draven, you get constant compliments about just how awesome you're doing, in the form of self-congratulations where Draven talks to himself as being "all that". Some people really love this kind of thing, and he fills the role admirably.
Note that these are still fairly broadly defined, as purpose is meant to be. Tristana, Teemo, Annie... they're all examples of a champion whose purpose of personality is to be "cute yet dangerous". The specific role thereof, however, is a specialized format.
Where Annie is a little kid obsessed with fire, yet a bit grim through her playfulness, Tristana's clearly an adult, yet able to pull off "bouncy and fun" while still being determined at the same time. They're both "cute" in their own ways, and cater to the crowd who wants cute adorable things that leave a swath of destruction in their wake (I'll confess I'm part of that crowd XD ), but at the same time, they focus their attentions more so to a specific minority amongst that broader spectrum of players.
And of course there's Teemo, who caters to the "I want to see him DIE" crowd. Supposedly, some people actually like him, and I have two friends who state they're in this grouping, but honestly, who's going to believe that? Teemo lovers are just a myth, after all ^.~
Anyway, the point is that you want your character to have some overarching purpose behind their design that makes them unique and special in some way. It's possible to overlap their purpose with other champions who are fairly similar, without stepping on their toes, so long as the difference is notable in the specific context of how that purpose is implemented.
[CENTER]Purpose of Mechanics
Now that we have personality out of the way, and you've given your champion one, let's now see about mechanics.
This is a little different from personality, in that the goal here is to specify a way in which they actually play.
Note that "DPS" is not a purpose. It's a role.
What's the difference you may ask?
Honestly, it's mostly a level of scale, more than anything else. The purpose you have behind making a champion, or picking them to play as, is "damage", perhaps mixed with some sub-variants such as "mobile damage" or "excessively high output, but squishy damage".
Regardless, the purpose behind that character is to KILL things. The specifics behind HOW they kill them is where their role comes into play.
Annie instagibs a target from full life, and does immense AoE damage + stun to a group, turning an entire team fight in her advantage, whereas Tristana stays really far in the back, and is able to either push enemies away, or move herself to a new location, all the time pouring out consistent damage. (Under normal builds, of course)
The specific roles are a burst caster, and a sustained DPS respectively, but they both do "damage" as their overarching purpose for why you'd even have them in the game in the first place.
When you're making your champion, you don't need to start out too specific. Keep in mind that, even if you do have this awesomesauce ability you just ADORE, you may have to edit or remove it, and the entire champion can't just be revolving around a single spell. You can have them revolve around a purpose, such as "AoE damage", or "pushes lanes really fast", which is fine. There's lots of ways to go about doing those things. You just can't limit yourself to "all their abilities are based off of bleed effects", or you get stuck with the mechanically precise tunnelvision that brought us Darius, who works great in terms of his personal mechanics... but was built to make himself fun, and did a horrible job of making him actually have any real "purpose" in the game.
To explain a little better, Darius doesn't bring anything new to the game. His mechanics are neat, on an individual basis, but he doesn't do anything that someone else can't do better. He kill steals nicely, but in a team fight, he needs to be useful for more than just the last hit, and to be blunt... he isn't. He's a wasted team slot who has no value because he has no purpose of mechanics behind him. No one ever sat down and said "what do we want him to bring to the game?". The answer "he does bleed effects!" is the implementation of how he carries through on his purpose, but he doesn't actually have a purpose to begin with, so it kinda falls flat on it's face.
If we take say... Vayne, and ask what her purpose is, it's pretty clear. She's intended to kill any single target and butcher them mercilessly. Her mechanics all revolve around this concept, from her chasing, to avoiding skill shot CC, to stunning, to killing even those who specifically try to build tanky. No matter what you do, Vayne is going to kill you unless you kill her first. Her sole purpose is to pick someone out, and make them disappear.
Since Vayne was built from the ground up around this concept, she works very well mechanically. Unfortunately, she doesn't have a purpose behind her personality, so although she's technically effective at her job, she's kind of boring, and you don't really get any thrill out of playing her in the way you do playing Mundo. This means that, although she might be played because she's considered to be powerful and easy to use, overall she's just not really "fun" to play in the sense of playing a character. This leads directly into her skin sales being a bit lackluster, and it has nothing to do with how "sexy" they are. Give her skimpy outfits and inflate her breasts with a tire pump, it won't matter, because she's simply lacking in purpose of personality, and doesn't actually have a target audience that she appeals to personality-wise.
At this point, you've probably (or at least hopefully) started to have the truth dawn upon you. Both of these forms of purpose are equally important, in the long run. One without the other does not equate to a truly enjoyable design. Having neat mechanics but no distinctive personality leads to a boring champion that honestly isn't that fun to play. Having a great personality but bland game play still leads to a champion that just feels lackluster.
The difference lies in how they present themselves, more than anything.
A champion with strong mechanics will show up at higher levels of play, where they simply are more interesting, and people tend to prefer characters that take a little bit of skill to use overfacerollers, whereas a champion with strong personality will earn a lot of revenue in the way of skins and impulse buys.
Without mechanics, you can't have a professional circuit, but without personality you can't have profits to drive that professional circuit. Both must coexist, hand in hand, and it's there that you get champions which do well overall.
Aiming too harshly down the path of mechanical perfection will eventually lead to the game running dry of resources, as players won't be interested in the champions any longer. Sure they're fun to play, on a technical level, but they just don't "click" with the players, and it'll hurt long term.
Aiming too harshly down the path of personality perfection, conversely, will eventually lead to the game becoming little more than a casual gamer's haven, but wherein the professional circuit is non-existent, to the point that much of the player base will drop off due to just not having anything to aspire to, or feeling embarrassed to play it.
No matter what you do, you need to cater to both. In most cases, your design will lean heavily one way or the other, and it's very rare to get a design which is capable of catering to both in adequate measure.
Regardless, now that we know what purpose is, let's see what we can do about ensuring that it works throughout the whole design!
Part 2: A little yang in every yin, and a little yin in every yang.
So we have a champion that's under production, but we really, really, really want them to be awesomesauce across the board. I know, I'm using that word too often. Toughbeans to you, huh? ^.~
Regardless, the point here is that we want to ensure that our purpose is actually met in all aspects of our design. We technically have two forms of purpose, as we just covered, so this is a little tricky to pull off, since we also have to ensure that those two place nicely as well!
First and foremost, before we do anything else, we're going to have to get the purpose of personality and the purpose of mechanics to work as a well oiled machine. If this doesn't occur, then our champion simply isn't going to be as good as it could've been otherwise.
Now, this is easier to do than it looks, but it can be a little tricky. "Cute little kid" and "TONS OF DAMAGE" don't normally work together, unless you're specifically playing up to particular stereotypes, such as comedic value in the whole "refuge in audacity", where it's so ridiculous of a concept that it WORKS (Urf the manatee), or where you're pulling for a concept of "poking those hidden fears" a la children of the corn style (also a la Annie style).
In short, normally you want your personality and game play to coincide, where an archer uses her bow for long ranged combat. Ashe would be rather silly as a melee champion, all things considered.
If, however, you want to break your players expectations, you either are going to do so in a way that plays upon a hidden fear (a woman being stronger than a man, a child being anything but innocent, cute being dangerous), or a comedic value. You can't break an audience's expectations and expect them to accept it without overruling their initial feelings of confusion and discomfort, with a stronger emotion. Fear and Joy are two of the strongest emotions out there, so you're going to have to pick one or the other to drown their complaints in, to the point that they don't even notice that they were going to complain to begin with.
Seriously, Annie could *NOT* work as a support champion. Without that "fear" she forces onto the player, they would reject her presence on the fields of justice entirely. Without the comical value of Urf, he, too, would have been rejected outright at an emotional level before even processing if he was fun to play as.
In some cases, this isn't as big of a problem as others. Annie's pretty much forced to be damage, no matter what you do. You have to be scared of her for her character to work. Urf, on the other hand, could fit practically any role. He could use his spatula to whack people away as a tank, or to flip burgers for buffs as a support just as easily. Sillyness is pretty open to interpretation, whereas fear requires a level of imminent danger to be present.
Regardless, the point is that you will want to consider your personality you're aiming for, consider who it appeals to, and then consider which champions they're likely to enjoy the most.
Ie: Draven would never have worked as a support champion with that personality.
Anyway, our next order of business, now that we will assume that you have the two purposes playing nicely together, is to then move onto other areas.
Personality has to fit flush across the board. No gaps, no holes, no mistakes and bumps that stick up in odd areas that make people ask awkward questions. This means you need your appearance, your game play, and your voice acting, as well as the lines the voice actor/actress reads to be consistent.
So, too, does mechanical purpose have to fit well. You can actually have a bit of variation here, more so than in personality, but not by much. If you make a tank, they have to have tankyish abilities. If every ability they have is offensive in nature and feels like it should be on a DPS champion, it doesn't matter how tanky you "claim" they are, they just won't feel right.
Strangely enough, this actually isn't that difficult to do, so long as you're following your purposes you have set out.
Personality - Fun, energetic, bubbly, happy. Make them look cute, give them a big smile, and a bouncy voice actress. Ta-da, Tristana's in good shape!
Mechanics - Consistent damage output, high safety net. Toss her a way to escape if surrounded, a way to remove a singular threat, and long range and she's safe to attack all she wants in a fight. Drop in some long term damage buffs (7 seconds is a looong time in a team fight =3 ), and she's able to maintain her damage output throughout the entire fight without having to worry about stopping to run away, or to worry about getting spells spammed on her. Tristana's still in good shape!
So... you have a champion who's now capable of fulfilling their purposes due to simply having the things they need to do both of them.
But, if that's the case, what do we do next?
Aha, ROLES. Yes, those things I talked about earlier on. Let's go have a gander, shall we?
Part 3: My girlfriend likes to role-play. For the last 5 years, she's been playing the role of my ex-girlfriend.
Alright, creeeepy title. Also, if you honestly believe this yourself, you may need to go see professional help. Quickly, preferably.
Anyway, your roles for your character are basically the specific things you intend for them to do to perform their purpose.
In the case of a purpose of "damage", we have a few ways to express that purpose into specific roles which can be valuable to a team.
- Burst damage, where it applies upfront in very large amounts, then kind of peters out afterward.
- Sustained damage, which is consistently high, though usually takes a few seconds to kill anyone, unlike burst.
- Physical damage is typically high, but easily defended against with armour items being much easier to get than spell resistance.
- Magical damage tends to be more adept at burst than sustain, but Cassiopeia and Rumble show that it's possible to do otherwise so long as you "replace" your basic auto-attack.
- Melee damage puts themselves in harm's way, so tend to either have to be abnormally tanky, limiting damage output, or to have a method of avoiding CC to allow for them to do their job.
- Ranged damage allows one to do damage on a more consistent basis over time, so typically has lower overall firepower to make up for the fact that they're almost always raining down terror the whole time through a fight.
These are just a few examples, but the end result is that there are many, many roles and hybridizations between these in order to get a final role.
You'll notice, as well, that due to having so many different roles, in comparison to purposes, you'll actually have a relatively easy time making your champion unique, in that it's near impossible to have every single possible combination of roles available.
For the rest of this section of the guide (the next few articles), I'll be discussing the most common purposes, divided by various roles. Many of them actually overlap, however.
For example, a tank's job and a support's job are very similar in many ways. They both tend to try to keep their damage dealers up, they both tend to focus on negating the enemy's capacity to be effective, and they both tend to build for tanky items with high cool down reduction on them.
The specific purpose each has is different, but the methods of implementation often overlap. This is a large part of why Leona isn't quite 100% sure if she's a tank or a support.
I can't realistically go through all the possible incarnations and variations of every role in the game. There's literally HUNDREDS of them, and they can be arranged in a nearly infinite number of ways. It's to the point that a mere 100 champions simply isn't enough to even make a slight dent in the ways you have available to make a champion.
In short... you have no excuse for your champion to be boring or a carbon copy of an idea that already exists.
On the plus side, it means if you simply pick a purpose for what you want your champion to do (say... I want my champion to kill bases! ), then you select a few roles which allow them to do that in particular (Ranged damage to kill turrets easier, strong AoE damage to wipe out minion waves fast to push quickly to a base, attack speed buffs to benefit me whether AD or AP vs towers, and great escape mechanics) and you get... Nidalee or the old Sivir pre-remake. Even so, these are just two ways of doing the same purpose, and they go about doing so in vastly different methods, even despite having very similar roles attached to them!
The personality's pretty much the same concept as the mechanical aspect, so I won't go into much detail here, since the same rules apply. Pick a starting point of a purpose (cute!), apply a few variations of roles (sugary sweet, innocent, oblivious to causing harm) and you get... Lulu!
At least, that's what you can end up with. It's not hard to make something end up unique and interesting, so long as you build it up, from base to structure, branching out into finer detail as you go.
Just make sure you have an idea of where you want to end up, but don't be afraid to let it wander on it's own as you go. Let your mind do other stuff, such as watching tv, listening to music, that sort of stuff; the less focused your mind is when trying to come up with concepts such as these, generally the better your overall output will be, I find. Thinking about it too hard mostly just limits you to only things that your conscious intellectual mind can come up with, and stifles the emotional and creative sides, which often have the best stuff for content stowed away.
Anyway, we're in the home stretch now!
Part 4: If you wanted to take damage, why the hell'd you pick Kog'maw? ~LilyPichu
So we have some broad ended purposes, which often break down into more specialized roles. The purpose of a champion is a bit hard to define since it's often so broad in scope, however.
Sure, there's a few big ones, but it's really quite rough at times!
Let's take a look, shall we?
- TANK: It sounds easy doesn't it? But... there's damage soaks, initiators, off-tanks, main tanks, support-tanks, and so on and so forth! Honestly, a "tank" isn't a purpose, it's a mixture of various roles. In general, the "purpose" here would be more "keeps my allies alive long enough to do their job". Interestingly enough, this also applies to...
- SUPPORT: Once again, they keep their allies alive long enough to do their job. Sometimes this is through stunning an enemy team, other times it's through healing them, the list goes on and on. Supports are one of the most open ended of classes, capable of doing so much "stuff", with that definition of "stuff" being so broad that it's hard to nail down. In short, though, support champions tend to focus on indirect benefits other than just raw damage. A "high damage support", such as Karma, Orianna, or Lulu, aren't really supports, so much as a weird hybrid between a low damage burst caster and a hybrid.
- DAMAGE: Well that's... vague. Burst mage? Melee AD carry? Assassin? How can you tell!? Damage in and of itself is a broad reaching concept that covers quite a lot of the game! From old Sivir's pushing, to Fiddlestick's surprise ultimate from the brush for a whole team, to Poppy's single target beat down, each does damage, but often to different target choices, and in different ways. The end goal, however, is they kill stuff. One way or another, something dies when they're around.
Is that really it? Not by a long shot, no. But honestly, there's only really three main ways to deal with this game. Doing damage, taking that damage, and preventing the damage from happening in the first place. There's really not much for alternatives beyond that. Everything else is... well... a variation on a theme.
Roles break things down further, but even these are messy. Is Karma a support? She has a heal, shield and a slow/haste, but on the other hand, she also does terrifying burst damage and honestly acts very similar to a bruiser in some ways, strangely enough.
Saying "We need a damage!" doesn't help, that much, because you haven't specified much past that point. Do you need physical or magic? Do you need someone capable of fighting lots of enemies at once, or single target removal? Poppy's great for killing a single target, but if you needed AoE damage, perhaps you would've been better off with even an AP Soraka of all things.
In the end, the "metagame" that people go on about... it's not quite as real as people think. The roles that it dictates (jungle, tank, ap carry, ad carry, support) are all very broad and generic in scope, and some just don't work well together. Nidalee's a great top lane, but so is Riven. They have almost completely unrelated roles in terms of what they do to help their team (I suppose Nidalee can be similar if she goes tanky AD though), but they both fit in different team compositions.
See, if you have a team that's dedicated towards a base siege, such as say... long range firepower and heavy sustainability, you might actually want Soraka and Nidalee both on your team, whereas many people would panic and throw a fit that you're not following the meta.
The meta, as it's become twisted to mean, now just means "this is a generic basic outline of a team comp that sort of vaguely works in most cases". It does not, however, define that composition all that well. It doesn't know the difference between Ashe, with initiation and strong support capacity, and Vayne, with single target terrifying damage output, or even Corki with broad target AoE damage. They each serve a completely different role, and yet, as far as the metagame's considered, they each are the same thing: AD DPS.
In various team compositions, one may work better than another. Even if that champion is "countered" in lane, you may still want to pick them because they work with their team better for team fights.
The end point is, pick some roles for what you want your champion to accomplish in the game, both in team fights, and in lane or the jungle. Identify what you WANT them to do, and then go about giving them the tools to accomplish it.
Overall, "role" is a remarkably broad term, even though it's more narrowed down than "purpose", and it still leaves a lot of room to maneuver within.
More than anything, this isn't about specific "I want to be a melee DPS champion!". It's about setting goals you want your champion to accomplish, and making them able to do just that. So long as you follow that line of reasoning, they're going to turn out reasonably okay, without too many problems.
Think on that awhile, because the next few articles we're going to be delving into the main "meta roles" (I know, I just covered this as inaccurate, but whatever!), and breaking them down for what they need to do their jobs.
Until then... class dismissed!