Hot off the news of its 2014 World Championship selling out the Sangam Stadium, a renewed focus on narrative content might not be the obvious direction for the League of Legends –but according to a dev blog by Riot Game's Tommy Gnox, that's exactly what's on the cards for the hugely popular MOBA.
Gnox states that evolution is 'one of the core elements' of the game, and as such the team at Riot Games have a desire to keep League of Legends current by continually iterating upon each individual component of it–including its backstory.
According to Gnox, most of the lore behind the game's setting of Runeterra was simply created to give some context to the actions of the player and their conflict with the opposing team. However, as time went on and development of the game continued, the initial decisions that the team made in terms of narrative became something of a hindrance:
"The institutions we’d designed fostered creative stagnation, limiting the ways that champions, factions and Runeterra itself could grow and change. Furthermore, the very idea of all-powerful Summoners made Champions little more than puppets manipulated by godlike powers. The background we’d created to explain in-game action was ultimately restricting the potential narrative development of the game’s defining characters."
As a result of this, the narrative content of League of Legends began to move away from platforms like the popular Journals of Justice newsletter and towards more experimental ideas. Last year, the game held the 'Battle for Freljord,' its first major lore event. Well-received by a community hungry for more narrative content, it seems that the success of Freljord has encouraged Riot Games to further expand the way that they approach in-game narrative.
The way that new story content is being added to League of Legends has some parallels in MMO games, for one - but a more direct comparison can perhaps be made with trading card games like Magic: The Gathering. Narratives in Magic are delivered to the player across novels and comic books, as well as through flavor text on new sets of cards released for use in the game itself.
Similarly, Gnox suggests that the future of storytelling in League of Legends will grow both in terms of depth as well as in terms of the breadth of ways that it is related to its millions of fans:
"At a very broad level, we’ve decided to push League’s story beyond its original focus on explaining in-game action and forge a new narrative path for Runeterra — a world in which the factions and champions we all know and love have full freedom to grow, travel, and kick ass on a worldwide scale. From champion interactions to bios to events (and beyond), we aim to expand the scope of League’s story and pursue a more dynamic and wide-ranging world fit for the outsized capabilities and personalities of our champions."
For the millions of League fans around the world who have been clamoring for more lore, this announcement will certainly bode well for the future of the game. However, Gnox is quick to reassure long-time players that the changes to come won't be at the cost of that which the players already know and love.
It seems true that some aspects of the game's narrative will be changed as part of this new direction, but Gnox notes that the game's "original lore remains a cherished part of its history" and beloved characters will remain consistent between narrative strands. He goes on to say that communication with fans will be paramount to Riot Games as they make these changes, and that he hopes members of the community will join the conversation regarding the game's narrative.
Like development of the game in general, the changes being outlined for its narrative content will happen incrementally over time rather than all at once. League of Legends is free-to-play and is available to download from its official website.