How Riot Gave Volibear A New Lease On Life

By Ben Hamill - May 14 2020
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How Riot Gave Volibear A New Lease On Life

Riot, it seems, is all about bringing old-time characters back to life. And it does this by literally re-inventing those beloved old champions much in the same way as comic books would with superheroes like Superman and Batman. In a way, once a game reaches a certain age – League of Legends is now more than a decade old! – reinvention becomes unavoidable. And that’s not at all a bad thing either as it ensures that the in the case of League of Legends, for example, the close to 150 characters developed and incorporated over the course of 10+ years, are made to keep up with modern-time players.

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Some of the game’s characters eventually grow to be so popular that they even have outfits designed for them by fashion designers like Louis Vuitton. Others get inaugurated into virtual pop groups. And even though the idea of characters assuming lives of their own seemed a preposterous idea at first, it very soon became apparent that preposterous was exactly what people wanted. Which is in a way why older characters get to stick around regardless of their age. Many however end up needing a bit of a boost, and this is exactly where people like producer Ryan Mireles come into play.

Reimagination Is The Key

The modernisation process, explains Mireles, involves imagining what characters who have become slightly unloved would look and act like when placed under a modern-day looking glass. In fact, Mireles recalls having pondered upon the reimagination of old characters even before he joined Riot back in 2015.

In order to explain the process that Riot has officially coined “VGU”, which is short for “visual gameplay update”, Mireles uses the example of Volibear, a super-sized heavily armored bear. Volibear was chosen as one of the characters due for a VGU resulted from a series of considerations and a ranking of several factors: lore / tone, visuals, actual gameplay, the diversity of more recent characters, etc.

From Random To Ruffian

Perhaps best of all is that Riot has allowed fans to have a say in the matter too. The company last year invited fans to vote on which 5 characters they (fans) deemed deserving of a VGU revamp. Two unexpected choices turned out to be Fiddlesticks and Volibear.

The choice of Volibear was perhaps the most unexpected one of all, says Mireles, especially since the “old” Volibear was nothing more exciting that some “random armored bear”. But that was of course before the big revamp turned Volibear into an intimidating force of nature able to harness and control lightning and thunder – a bit like a demigod, really.

A demigod that’s bound to make people excited about gaming all over again.

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