Champion insights roundtable: Gangplank

By RiotExLibris

TLDR: As part of our ongoing commitment to keep League of Legends fresh, we often update champions both visually and in their gameplay. If you followed along with the Bilgewater: Burning Tides event, you know that with Gangplank’s champion update, we went even further. Catch up on the story here, or if you’re already a Bilgewater veteran, dive into a conversation between the devs behind the update below.

How did Gangplank become the biggest champion update since Sion?

Michael “IronStylus” Maurino, senior concept artist: So, there’s this thing called scope creep. But seriously, we needed a lot of buy-in, for one. We were shopping around [Gangplank-related] ideas a lot, whether to teams involved in Bilgewater, stakeholders, all the way up to Marc and Brandon [co-founders of Riot Games].

Scott “Jaredan” Hawkes, narrative lead: Gangplank’s lore was actually quite different from Gangplank in game. In-game, he didn’t seem like the baddest bastard in Bilgewater. He wasn’t convincing, he wasn’t brutal enough to rule it. So, that meant finding that essence in the stories that had been told about Gangplank, because in a city full of people you don’t want to meet in a dark alley, he’s the guy they don’t want to meet in a dark alley.

Because in a city full of people you don’t want to meet in a dark alley, he’s the guy they don’t want to meet in a dark alley.

James “Statikk” Bach, champion designer: I think one of the bigger challenges was that the character, you just couldn’t take him seriously, he was too over-the-top. And if we wanted him to be a serious character, we had to show, “this guy is a badass,” we had to go to an extreme.

George Krstic, senior writer: Multiple teams, multiple dependencies, and the nature of an international release. From the moment we started to what we landed on, things changed drastically. But all for the better. It’s one of the things I like most about Riot. We have flexibility here. If something isn’t working and needs to change, people will support you. So, everything changed, every day, all the time. So that was a challenge, but it kept us energized.

What was behind the decision to basically make two champion updates for Gangplank?

Michael Maurino: So we had all of these crazy ideas, but we couldn’t really execute on them. And then as we heard the story come along, and the event being potentially a couple of pieces including a before and after scenario, we went, “hmmm…” and then we learned that we were gonna scope up into a much bigger visual update. So we thought, instead of banging our heads trying to make one Gangplank that covers all of the things we want to cover, why not just make two Gangplanks? One for before the narrative and one for after?

Scott Hawkes: The biggest narrative goal for the Bilgewater event was to show characters and a place changing. So everything that happens to him shows the same man experiencing the high and the low, and having that reflected visually by the art was huge, because it’s not just who he is, but also shows how he’s changed.

Instead of banging our heads trying to make one Gangplank that covers all of the things we want to cover, why not just make two Gangplanks? One for before the narrative and one for after?

In the explosion of the Dead Pool, Gangplank ends up losing his arm. Why’d we do that?

Scott: He’s going through his own trial by fire. He had to change physically. This is the most extreme trial by fire he’s been through, perhaps since he killed his own father. And so he can’t just walk away, there has to be a physical toll in addition to an emotional one.

George: To speak to that, this is also partly a response to feedback from players that nothing ever changes. We wanted to meaningfully change champions and a faction. We wanted to set things up and pay them off in a single self-contained story.

Statikk mentioned the great hat conspiracy of 2015?

Michael Maurino: I didn’t even want to bring it up,’s kinda interesting, because it basically divided the company. We started out: obviously he has to have a hat, right? But then we decided to do “Pre-plank” and “Post-plank,” and somebody drew “Post-plank” without a hat. I remember a meeting with the biggest stakeholders in the company, and the room was split. Some executive stakeholders were like, “Hat!” And the others were like, “No hat!” Then someone said, “Let’s be bold and not ship a hat,” which was immediately met by, “No, let’s be bold and keep the hat!”

James Bach: I remember everyone in design was like, “He’s gotta keep the hat, he’s not Gangplank without the hat.” And then all the artists were like, “But look how cool he looks without a hat.” And we had to admit, he looked good without the hat. It just became this huge thing.

Michael Maurino: I remember meetings specifically about the hat. They’re still on my calendar somewhere.

Scott Hawkes: From a narrative perspective, some of us said, “Well, he’s a changed person and he’s lost his ship, maybe he doesn’t give a shit about the hat right now.”

George Krstic: At the core, it’s because everybody cares so damn much. That’s the reason we have these meetings that get so tense. Luckily, we work at a place where we’re not ever like, “Okay, good enough, ship it.” It’s instead, “No, let’s beat it up, let’s make the best thing possible.” So that’s why we have meetings about hats.

Was there anything we knew we weren’t going to change?

Michael Maurino: Oranges.

James Bach: Even on the gameplay side, everyone knew oranges were gonna stay. Even when we were like, let’s make him really, really, dark, he still had oranges. There were small things, at least on the design side, where we were like, we want to make sure that people understand that he’s still having fun up there in top lane--like keeping his laugh during his ultimate.

Michael Maurino: B-arrr-els.

James Bach: He still enjoys vitamin C and violence.

Michael Maurino: It’s the darker shade of fun. It is absurd for the guy to do the juggling thing with the oranges, and then slice throats with a flaming sword, but it’s great contrast and it’s kinda neat.

We’re nodding backwards but looking forwards.

George Krstic: When it comes to what we decided to keep the same, we were very mindful of what the important things were to players. Across the board. Every team. We were nodding backwards but looking forwards. We wanted something for new players to discover, and for old players to say, “Yeah, they got it.” So...that’s what we aimed for, we’ll see if we were successful.

Can’t get enough of the Gangplank dev insights roundtable? [Check out a longer, unabridged version here.] Bilgewater: Burning Tides may be over, but the Saltwater Scourge lives on. Is one-hitting minions something you wish? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll see you on the battlefields.

3 years ago

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