Monday, November 30, 2015

poppy: an oral history

The first champion released in 2010, Poppy heralded in a new era of League of Legends.

Coronach (Poppy designer): there was a lot of pressure on us back then to make certain kinds of champions. There were only four Yordles at the time, and Corporate wanted more. Not many people know this, but most champions are coded as two minions, one on top of the other, like Muppets. But Yordles only have to be one minion, so they use half as many resources.

Ryze (co-founder, Riot Games): it was really a different vibe, then, back in the day, at the company that I founded, Riot Games. It’s my company. So if I went in, like, “hey I want everyone to have hamburgers today,” then we had hamburgers. I like burgers a lot. That’s the sort of whimsy you could expect back then, at my company: Riot Games.

Coronach: Ryze comes in with a kid, and the kid’s pretty cute. I don’t know where he got the kid; he’s not married, I don’t think he’s a dad, and we never saw the kid again. But no one questioned it, because he’s a co-founder, you know? Anyway, the kid’s yelling real loud “gonna make a big poopy” when he has to use the bathroom real bad, or “gonna make a small poopy” when it wasn’t that bad. Anyway, I heard Ryze repeating it back, saying “gotta make a small Poopy!” and I thought he was talking to me. So I made a small champion named Poopy, because an order’s an order.

Pendragon (director of community relations): the company wasn’t doing too well financially at that time, so we were reaching out to corporate sponsors to maybe get some product placement for extra income. Burger King was really excited about the game, but they didn’t like the idea of a guy who got strong by always lifting a hamburger with the same hand, so that became Tryndamere instead. But they asked us if maybe a champion could use a hamburger as a weapon, and we said sure. So that’s how the weapon “Whopper” came about.

Coronach: the kit was really cohesive: you would choose someone that you wanted to have a burger with, and you two would eat it together, because that was your Meal Time. But there were some things that BK didn’t feel great about: why did them having a delicious Whopper hurt them? Why couldn’t everyone on the team have some of the great taste of the Whopper at a reasonable price? And, why did the rest of the concept center around the digestive process of what happens after you’ve consumed 1200 calories in a few minutes?

Tryndamere (co-founder, Riot games): that wasn’t going to fly at MY company, Riot Games, which I put so much work into, myself. I had to do everything back then. I carried in the goddamned computers, I set up the internet, and had NO ONE helping me.

Ryze: would have helped you if you didn’t come in every day falling over drunk, Marc.

Tryndamere: well after you sell the company to fucking China of course I’ll have a drink, Brandon.

Zileas (head designer): frankly, the design was a mess. After we got rid of the Burger King tie-in, the champion walked around chopping everyone’s legs off to turn everyone into a short person like her. We didn’t have full VO work done yet, so all she’d say after turning everyone into a Yordle was “just like me” and “all will be united.” And it was way too soon to make another White Supremacist champion right after Nidalee.

Coronach: this is about when she got renamed to “Poppy,” which made the design way easier. So I went with this opium-based kit that was really appealing: instead of mana, she had money, and you’d spend it in order to feel something just for a few seconds. Our playtesters weren’t too happy with that, though; they said it made them think about spending all their time and energy doing something for years and years that they haven’t really enjoyed in a long time, but they can’t do anything else because the only people they know are from doing that thing.

Zileas: I came in late one day, saw that we were going live with this in fifteen minutes, and made up some stuff about a hammer. The ult makes you… invulnerable? Sure. Whatever.

Pendragon: the idea was that champions would go up and up in price: we were going to sell really nice ones for $50, $100, up to $1000 for the really intricate, flashy, hard-to-play ones. But we wanted a “budget” champion for people who weren’t ready to drop that much money on the game. So we chose Poppy to fill that role: you’ll lose to a really expensive champion, buy that one, everyone wins.

Tryndamere: I came in one day to buy a champion, which I certainly should be able to afford, as the most important founder of this company, my company, Riot Games. But I couldn’t even buy a champion made by my own company! So obviously, I needed to change something.

Ryze: you were broke because you had just lost all your money gambling.

Tryndamere: who kept the lights on? I did. Who paid all the bills those first years, made every payroll? I did. Am I proud of everything I did back then? No. I’m not. But it was necessary. Everything I did, I did for Riot Games.

Years later, the Champion Update project is in full swing. Next in their sights: Poppy.

Pendragon: you have to acknowledge the influence of CertainlyT in this era. Just the most amazing, incredibly creative designs, by which I mean they sold an ungodly large amount. Therefore: good designs.

CertainlyT (champion design): i made a ninja named No School Man and he doesnt go to school and if you try to make him go to school he moves away because he doesnt go. also hes really cool and he throws sharp stuff

Coronach: I was proud of Poopy/Poppy. I thought it was a great design. I still think that. But is it a modern design? No. I admit that. Does it stand up to Kalista? Of course not. No design will ever be as great as that. But I do my best.

CertainlyT: i made a ghost and she throws spears and they stick in people. shes really good at throwing spears. she keeps throwing them. she has a lot of spears like um. its so many spears. she throws them until shes thrown INFINITY spears. she wont go to school either she hops away she likes No School Man. theyre friends

Pendragon: Poppy had some issues with her, from a sales standpoint. First of all, we didn’t make any money on her, because you can’t keep selling the same champion over and over. Still working on that part. Anyway, we were trying to reach out to different sections of the community, and I found this great group of guys called “KotakuInAction.” And they didn’t like Poppy because of her ult: she’s a woman, and makes a choice.

CertainlyT: also shes dead and a ghost but not really dead. she has a spear that she pulls out. thats why shes a ghost, and dead

Solcrushed (design lead, Poppy re-release): the idea was that there's this champion who wasn't even supposed to be there and have to do all this bullshit, but everyone else is so goddamned incompetent that there's no one around other than, uh, them to do goddamned anything. It's like there's no one who even tries, like nothing happens for years and years and then they're the only person who can do anything. Holy shit.

Zileas: we gave Solcrushed a couple days to do the entire kit. Plenty of time for a talented designer like that. I asked him, "what's Poppy's ult going to be?" and he said "Fuck Off." What a great ability name! I followed up with, "and what does Fuck Off do?" and he said "makes everyone that shouldn't be bothering her fuck off immediately." Wonderful top-down design. That's why we give Solcrushed all the really intense, time-sensitive design challenges. He always comes up with something wonderful when no one thought it could be done.

Solcrushed: dashes? Fuck dashing. The concept of this champion is, “no one gets to dash and CertainlyT is an overrated hack.”

CertainlyT: i thought you were my friend :(

Tryndamere: what a wonderful champion for my game to release, now that it's a subsidiary of Tencent Holdings. Exactly how I wanted my life's work to end up.

Ryze: I'm surprised you're not in love with the new Poppy. She looks like that woman you met on your last bender. Did you get that annulled?

Previous League of Legends writing:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

do something useful while waiting for your team to give up: philosurrender

At the dawn of season six, players are facing fundamental questions when they lose to yet another fed Graves, such as: “what are we doing here?” “Is this the only way things could be?” “Do my actions have any broader meaning?” And of course, the big one: “At what point is it preferable just to surrender entirely?”

Have no fear, intrepid summoners, for these are questions that philosophers have been grappling with for millennia. This season, be sure to take a few minutes to philosurrender: to think about humanity’s deepest questions while waiting for your team to give up.

With 20-minute games, five of which are completely irrelevant, and another five minutes of between-game time, that’s a solid 20 minutes of philosurrendering per hour of good ol’ League of Legends gaming time.

As an example: when a toplaner spends the first fifteen minutes of the game in their isolated cave, viewing other players only as announcements of “an ally has been slain,” they begin to think that those actually are simply the quadra kill that the opposing Miss Fortune just got. This happens through several layers of abstraction: there are actually champions behind that absurd multikill, and summoners behind those champions, and extremely homophobic 14 year-olds behind those summoners.

When your midlaner starts a surrender vote with some comment like “wtb a fukken jungler,” think about the objectification and commodification of that role. As a role, the jungler is essentially without possessions of their own; anything they have will always be freely plundered by the better-off laners with the justification that they need it more. When a jungler is taking a camp and the midlaner comes right up and takes all the minions, Marx would understand exactly what’s going on.

As previously detailed in my introduction to Vaynespotting, the support must frequently confront the absurd. The absurd can be summarized as the gap between our need for meaning and inability to find any. When the ADC gets caught out and asks “wtf y cant u group???”, they are working tirelessly for something that ends up being entirely pointless. Unable to come up with a reason for their own death, they blame someone else rather than accepting that their 80cs at 23 minutes is for naught.

Think of the distinction between the nature of something, and the word that we use to describe that thing. For example, there is a “support” who does nothing other than stand four Teemos behind the ADC in lane. Our word for the role does us no good in understanding the person; the word “support” instead functions to actively reduce our knowledge of the action, rather than increase it. This is commonly referred to as the signifier (the idea of the “support”) and the signified (the Lux who is outraged that she didn’t get mid as last pick).

Study questions:
  • Why is the jungler the most-relied-upon role by others, and the one that receives the most changes every season? Connect this to the plight of the working class during the Industrial Revolution.
  • You are a carry, and there is a runaway enemy Blitzcrank barreling down the lane. If you do nothing, it will continue down the lane, engage, and kill four teammates. If you take the hook for the team, the rest of the team will run away safely. Explain why you are reporting your team for feeding.
  • Are all Yasuo players colonialists?
  • Why is it called Summoner's Rift and not Summoners' Rift?