In our discussion about The Creation of Diana, we looked at the how the Scorn of the Moon was inspired by another story within the League. This impact isnít limited to personality, art or sound. Dianaís complicated tale affected her gameplay as well. Her kit reflects her tragic story and her relationships with Leona, the Solari and the moon. We spoke with a few of the Designers involved in execution of Dianaís gameplay and they explained this aggressive championís origins.
- David ďVoltyĒ Abecassis (Champion Designer)
- Mike ďIronStylusĒ Maurino (Senior Concept Artist)
- ďDavinĒ Pavlas (User Researcher)
- Ryan ďMorelloĒ Scott (Lead Champion Designer)
How did Dianaís story and relationship with Leona affect gameplay design?
Morello: Draven was born from a personality. Zyra was born from a gameplay hook. Diana was born from a story. She was a story before she was those other things. The inspiration comes from many places and all those things can inform gameplay, but it doesnít always start there. Every conversation you have about Diana will be couched in Creative because thatís what started everything.
Volty: After working on Leona, there always seemed to be an opportunity to revisit the female-with-heavy-plate concept and do a counterpart because the sun and the moon were such an obvious relationship. We had a hard time finding exactly what that meant. It had to be cool, interesting, unique and stand on its own as well. Itís not satisfactory to release a champion that is just a counterpoint to someone else. Diana had to have an identity that works even though there is a tie-in.
IronStylus: Once we had an identity for her, that spawned mechanics discussions.
Volty: The emotional fantasy is the idea of Diana having this arc where she innocently questions the orthodoxy, which is a part of growing up as a Solari, and how that transforms into cynicism and violence as sheís pushed further by people around her to accept things blindly. So, Dianaís story is very much about rebelling. This translates into her mechanics.
Morello: Thereís an uncovered truth, but the right course of action is unclear.
Volty: Where the truth comes into play in the story is when Diana finds evidence she then returns to the Solari and says, ďPlease understand, I found this evidence that suggests your orthodoxy is incorrect.Ē And only when they reject her again in spite of the evidence, does she turn to aggression.
Where we started with gameplay was to make the anti-Leona, so we thought, ďanti-tank, right?Ē We thought about things tanks like to do in the game and then thought about how Diana could basically ruin their day. And that ended up not working at all. Itís not fun to think about a role in the game and then try to punish it.
Morello: The anti-tank thing also limited the breadth of things we could explore. She had to have so many things that were anti-tank that she couldnít be the cool moon knight. And at the end of the day, being the cool moon knight was much more important.
Volty: What ultimately guided the design for me was that if she wasnít going to be anti-Leona, the thing I wanted to hype up on was the aggressive nature. Where Leona is defensive and protective, I wanted Diana to be vicious and aggressive and in your face. There is a sub-theme of self-destruction. Diana commits. She strongly commits. Her beliefs are so strong that when she attacks, sheís all in. That helped inform the design.
How did the art influence the design and vice versa?
Morello: Diana is the champion of the moon. What does the moon look like and how does that make you feel and then how does that latch into the gameplay? Itís a big chain. Game design, art and story are not these separate guys who go work in their own caves and write stuff down and go, ďLook what I made!Ē You do that and you make bad ****. In this case a lot of what weíve done on the gameplay side has been influenced by how the story has informed the visuals has informed the gameplay. And back and forth. This canít be stated enough in design. How far we went with this was really important with Diana even more than with other characters.
Davin: The visuals reinforce the rest of how the character is designed. Crescent Strike is suggested by the weapon. Pale Cascade and Moonfall have the symbolism built into them, so it feels like a holistic experience. The first time you realize Moonfall leaves the mark on the ground, thatís a touchstone moment for experiencing a character.
Can you describe Dianaís aggressive, committal gameplay design?
Morello: The design aspect you are talking about is her closing and chasing and stickiness ability. She doesnít really have the ability to easily escape situations, but when the advantage arises, she goes in and sheís all in.
Davin: She can escape a little bit, but then it limits her, right?
Volty: Situation permitting, you might be able to use your ultimate to escape. But youíre either going to have Lunar Rush go on cooldown, which takes you out of the fight, or blow your Cresent Strike combo on a less ideal target. While it might save your life, itís going to significantly limit your damage.
Davin: The correct path is to balls-to-wall it.
Volty: With Diana, identify a situation where you should dive in and go balls-to-wall.
So Moonfall is just awesome because itís gigantic. In retrospect, itís a 360 spell. You generally donít have enemies on all sides of you that youíre pulling in all at once. Generally youíre using it to pull in people in front of you that are running away or whatever. The definition of the spell as a 360 means that the particle, the visual gets to be big. And this pays off a lot more. The skill is more satisfying than the actual power because it has such a huge effect on the battlefield.
IronStylus: She is about impactful moments, telling a story with her gameplay. Sheís making dramatic statements of ideology.
Morello: How you create big epic moments is through tension as a gameplay mechanic, which is something we talked about a lot with Diana. Earlier iterations had less tension with frequent skills you could use often with low consequence for use and we moved away from that to big punishments if you use your ultimate, Lunar Rush, incorrectly, long cooldown on Moonfall... using skills at the right time and putting a little bit of forethought into them makes the big moments bigger and makes it so that since they canít happen all the time, you appreciate them more when they do.
Volty: The design of the Q-R combo came out of envisioning the absolute best case where you chaining them one after another and that feels great, so we were very happy. We were consciously going after an interaction that creates an absurdly awesome best case.
Morello: And then failing that takes the wind out of your sails for a little bit and you need to recover from that and make different decisions if that happens and come back with a different approach. Thatís interesting gameplay decision-making right there.
How would you classify Dianaís gameplay style?
Volty: I consider her a fighter or assassin. What I mean by that is that other comparable assassins in the game, characters that can dive in quickly on a vulnerable target, generally have ways to avoid taking damage or get out of that sticky situation and Diana doesnít have any of those things, but instead has durability. Her base durability is a little bit higher than you would expect for an assassin and Pale Cascade adds a lot of durability, specifically durability that comes with building Ability Power to begin with. We tested a lot of builds with Diana. Is it a full AP build or more tanky with more inherited ability from items? We believe the most potent build is the full AP build, which Iím happy about because that reinforces Pale Cascade.
Davin: I am really happy about that ability because itís much more of a risk/reward skill. If youíre ok at it, youíre going to absorb some damage and have a good time. If youíre great at it, youíre going to absorb a lot of damage while dealing damage.
Volty: It rewards aggression, too. You get more shield for using up the orbs. They detonate; you refresh the shield.
Davin: You canít just roll your face and do it. If you plan well, itís going to be better.
Dianaís Q, the curved skillshot Crescent Strike, is pretty special. Can you tell us more about that?
IronStylus: Crescent Strike is a really novel move. People have glommed onto it. Itís really innovative and very simple, but something novel and interesting and something we havenít seen before.
Morello: Weíd wanted to do this kind of move for a while and we finally found the right place.
Davin: As a skill, itís superbly satisfying when you arc it correctly. And when someoneís watching you arc it correctly, itís impressive, which will lead to some cool visuals in Spectator Mode. Itís fun to watch.
IronStylus: Itís a cool sparkly fireworks show, and leaves you a little bit in awe. Itís fun to light up targets, even if itís not doing anything to them except using them as a way to transport.
How difficult is Dianaís gameplay?
IronStylus: As the novice player I am, sheís still really approachable, but has the scalability from novice to pro to be very viable on a higher level of play.
Volty: Her skills are still very potent on their own, so they feel impactful the first time you use them. But she really shines when youíve mastered your combos, and can take advantage of the mobility provided by the combination of Cresent Strike and Lunar Rush.
IronStylus: I think we sometimes present champions as having an intimidating learning curve. With her I can step into her shoes and have a really fun time at the really low level of my understanding, but engaging with her more competitively is really interesting, too. Itís easy to step into playing her, but you also want to increase your skills to play with her.
When you play Diana, you really feel connected to what youíre doing. How did you create this immersion aside from story and art?
Davin: One of the ways you create immersion in design is with feedback loops.
Volty: There are two things that come to mind immediately. Lunar Rush plays its special effect when you connect the ultimate to Moonlight, or Moonlight to it. Thatís a huge vertical flash and different sound effect. Thatís a point that really has to stand out, that she did her combo. That happened, I feel good about it and my ultimate is off cooldown. Thatís a huge moment for her. We wanted to sell that strongly with sounds and effects. Similarly, the shield refresh on Pale Cascade. We want to make it obvious that you hit those three orbs, bam new shield Ė thatís clear.
Davin: Sound design sells it really well. Whenever you succeed with a skill with her, thereís this harsh sound, but a sound you want to hear. Itís a really nice reward bell. If you chain Crescent Strike across several minions, it plays progressive tones and that feels fantastic.
Morello: One thing this represents is that Diana has multiple conditional components to her kit. This skill does a thing, but it really only does half of what it needs to do unless you meet some other condition or combo mechanic. How does it feel strong? How do you communicate that to Diana players and enemies, so they can counter her? These are art and sound decisions we were able to inform with gameplay decisions, so that everyone on the battlefield understands whatís going on.
One of the most important things game design needs to do other than be fun and mechanically interesting -- which are two things it does need to do -- is sell the fantasy that youíve bought into. When you see this character and you look at this character and you hear this character, you watch her, what do you expect? What does your brain tell you instantly, psychologically? Our job in a lot of ways is to distill what that expectation is and either deliver on that fully or deliver on that and surprise you in a pleasant way as opposed to a unpleasant way where it does something you donít want it to. I think Diana is a good representation of that.