As we've tuned the visuals on Taric's co-stars, the crystal-coated, pizza-footed Demacian has begun to feel like an eyesore by comparison. Couple his outrageous visuals with an outdated kit, and we had a prime candidate for a rework—but our goal wasn't to completely replace him. Instead, we sent the Gem Knight on an epic journey to transform him into the Shield of Valoran.
When we originally created Taric, we came up with this pretty vague backstory about him being a space alien obsessed with gems. As a result, most players had the impression that he was just a weird dude who's always moaning about gems. The challenge was to write a story that could turn Taric into a believable character with a purpose and a justifiable explanation of his obsession with geology.
We began by looking for a place for Taric to live that fit him thematically. He's supposedly a Demacian, but nothing about his gameplay or pointy wardrobe particularly fit that region's theme. Our first impulse was to do away with that aspect of his story and reinvent him from scratch, but we had a better idea: what if we made the old Taric better by giving him a second act? We began writing a draft for "chapter two" in the tale of the Gem Knight: one which would send Taric on a perilous journey up the epic Mt. Targon.
Sometimes, as with Sion, we actually do have to melt a character down and start fresh when we rework them, but we prefer to avoid complete retcons when we can. “My personal mandate is do no harm and make it better,” says senior narrative writer George "Glorft" Krstic. “Don’t wreck a champ by destroying the things that players really like. You can’t make Wolverine suddenly not have claws.”
Upon reaching the summit, Taric fought and defeated a celestial entity known as "The Protector." The epic creature was impressed by Taric's determination, and it bestowed new protective powers upon the fallen Demacian. Thus the Gem Knight became Valoran’s Shield.
The newer, more glorious Taric is the same absurdly handsome Demacian you know and love. But his new story tells how he fell from grace, then found it again atop Mt. Targon. Taric's journey redefines him as someone who fights for beauty, who defends the delicate. He'd fight two armies at once to defend a flower (or two juggernauts at once to defend an Ezreal ADC, which is sort of the same thing).
Taric's trip to the mountaintop gave him new purpose, but he needed more than that before he was ready for the Rift. He needed some fresh duds.
Old Taric’s model is the most conspicuously heinous aspect of the champ; it's about 75 percent gems and crystals exploding out of every part of him. Frankly, it doesn’t look like it belongs in a video game from this decade.
But his crystals don't have to look bad, nor should his epic, flowing, cover-of-a-romance-novel hair. We wanted to keep both of these things but execute them in a way that felt in tune with our current standards. Once we got Taric near Mt. Targon, we just needed to ask ourselves what his crystals actually are: Are they like regular gemstones that you could mine and find in the ground, or might they be something more interesting? We landed on the idea that the crystals represent a power that Taric received during his journey up Mt. Targon.
The crystals aren't stones; they're made of starlight. Throw away your physics textbook, unfollow Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter, and believe us when we tell you that if you slow down starlight and concentrate it, it will condense into a solid object imbued with strange, kinetic powers. These crystals (or gems, if you will) are the source of Taric's newfound powers.
To preserve Taric's unique vibe, we tuned up the over-the-top visual aspects of his visual design. When the Shield of Valoran struts around the Rift, his luscious mane flows wildly behind him, as if he’s constantly standing near a fan. It’s longer, wavier, more eye-catching. This is a man who could star in a shampoo commercial. And you'd buy that shampoo.
Emphasizing the best parts of Taric meant embracing and surgically enhancing his masculine, handsome beauty. We gave Taric's base model a stronger jaw and gave his jacket a plunging V-neck. In early playtests, we had his V-neck going to the bottom of his pecs, but during internal testing a few Rioters gave the feedback that the V-neck needed to reveal more, to go deeper. They wanted all the Taric they could get. So deeper we went.
Old Taric's kit wasn't obviously terrible, but it did suffer from one big problem: almost nothing he did felt or looked impactful. The Taric player pressed a button, and that caused something to happen, but the result was rarely clear to everyone in the fight. Playing as old Taric rarely offered you the chance to feel the sparkling glee of landing a Lux Q or the earth-shattering BOOM of a Malphite ult—the fun was all in quietly prolonging fights while shrugging off truly outrageous amounts of damage. His abilities were functional, but we needed to make them stylish.
This was in part a visual clarity issue, but it was also a result of how widely dispersed and invisible Taric's abilities were—it mattered to the team as a whole when Taric gave 12 percent of his armor to his teammates, but those players were unlikely to notice the impact on their individual play and react accordingly. To make abilities feel more impactful, we make them more concentrated; so we killed some of his messy stat-boosting abilities and replaced them with noticeably flashier moves like his new ult, Cosmic Radiance, which grants his allies temporary invulnerability. You'll feel like a star when it hits.
Point-and-click abilities have their place, but Taric's old stun was taking up far too much of his power budget. By turning his E (Dazzle) into a skillshot, we were able to ramp up its potential power (it now stuns all struck enemies instead of just one targeted baddie) in lieu of the lower guaranteed power of his old on-click ability. Talented Taric players will have more, clearer opportunities to make lock-down plays for their team, and bad Taric players will have more opportunities to disappoint you.
Taric is still a tank, and he still heals his friends with his Q (Starlight's Touch), but the crystal-sharing mechanic of his new W (Bastion) further cements Taric's role as a protector of those in need. That the Shield of Valoran can only link up with one ally at a time would suggest that he's best when he focuses on helping only that champion, but this isn't the case; he can use his Bastion-buddy as a way to be two places at once, both stunning enemy backline carries and peeling for his own squishies as needed. He's here healing his Wukong, there peeling for his Lucian. Taric is everywhere, always protecting those in need.
Taric has descended from Mt. Targon and is looking gorgeous on the PBE now. Expect to feel the protective embrace of his crystals soon.