/dev: The Voice of the Visionary

Bringing Hwei’s voice to life.

DevAuthorsorkidian, ProfRincewind, Riot Puma Pet
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Hi everyone! We’re the Narrative, Audio, Voiceover (VO) crew who brought Hwei’s in-game voice to life. We’re here to provide insight into how a champion gets their vocal identity—from writing, to casting, to recording, and more—with Hwei’s melancholic musings as our subject.

Craft and Casting: Finding Our Hwei

Isa Mari “orkidian” De Leon, Narrative Writer:

Hello! I’m Isa, a writer on the Champions team for League of Legends. I wrote Varus’ VO update, Jax’s VO with his visual update, and of course, Hwei!

Voice work starts early in a champ’s development, after determining the broad strokes of their backstory, personality, and goals. I write docs that explore these elements of character and help everyone working on the champ understand what we’re aiming to create. These materials include:

  • Decks outlining the champ’s personality, with vocal references from comparable characters. (To summarize Hwei, he’s a melancholic, emotional, kindly painter. He takes inspiration from morally gray antiheroes and tragic, brooding “male anime lead #2” types).
  • Deep dives into our own roster, comparing the characterization of existing champs and identifying vocal overlap risks (Hwei’s tonal overlap risks included Jhin, Viego, Aphelios, and Yone).
  • Sample voice lines.
  • A casting sheet to be distributed to voiceover talent.

With these, we kick off a champ’s voiceover journey in collaborations between narrative, audio, and VO developers.

An in-game example of our collaboration is Hwei’s linear throughlines. Hwei has a unique series of voice lines that are tied together and progress throughout the course of a single game:

“Dark” Throughline Part 1 - First Move

“Something dark clings to me—has always lived in me.”

“Dark” Throughline Part 2 - R Rank 1

“That darkness… takes shape.”

“Dark” Throughline Part 3 - R Rank 2

“I see. Destruction, and despair.”

“Light” Throughline Part 1 - First Move

“There is light in me. I can’t lose sight of it.”

“Light” Throughline Part 2 - R Rank 1

“My light… grows brighter.”

“Light” Throughline Part 3 - R Rank 2

“I understand. Through art, connection.”

There are two routes of thought: a “dark” and a “light” version, representing Hwei’s conflicted mind and the emotional journeys he could go through. The lines fire at different points of a game: First Move, ranking your Ult for the first time, then ranking your Ult for the second time. And—fun fact—an addendum is added to each line if Jhin is in the same game as an ally or enemy, reflecting the significant role he plays in Hwei’s story.

This arose after I presented the personality and story of Hwei to his game designer and VO designer. Game design was enthused by the potential to reflect Hwei’s narrative more closely in-game (shout-out to Myles “Riot Emizery” Salholm), and our awesome VO designer Austin “Riot Puma Pet” Mullen created the structures to make it happen.

You get these throughlines randomly when playing Hwei (you have about a 1/3 chance). Load up a game or several of Hwei and keep an ear out for them!

Nick “ProfRincewind” Lanza, VO Producer:

Hi folks! I’m Nick, the VO Producer for League of Legends. I manage our production timelines for the VO work, help guide the casting and recording process, and keep an eye on the performative quality of the voiceover we create.

Casting takes place over the course of several weeks (sometimes even a few months) as we send out and collect auditions, review submissions, and work with our team to select the top picks for the role.

From there, we bring selected actors in for callbacks and exploratory recording, where we get them in the room with our director to explore the character, performance, and script—and to see if they are indeed the right fit for our champ!

When it came to finding the right voice for Hwei, we needed to select an actor who could project a vulnerable sadness, but could also swap to a broody intensity—sometimes within the same line. He needed to be somber and reflective, but still energetic enough to stand out amongst all the other sounds happening on the Rift. And on top of all that he needed to be someone players could empathize with to make sure we understand what he’s been through. We were able to find all of that in the outstanding work of Stephen Fu.

Once the team has picked the right actor for the job, it’s time to…

Record (and Record, and Record)

Isa Mari De Leon, Narrative Writer:

A champ’s script goes through multiple versions, drafts, and revisions. These script stages include:

  • “Scratch” or sample script: Several lines to explore the writer’s current understanding of the voice, and, if needed, to test audio possibilities (ex: the champ might have multiple speakers, distorted processing or layers added on top of the voice, etc.).
  • Audition script: Lines capturing the extremes of the champ’s emotional and tonal ranges. This is distributed to talent to find our top choices.
  • Exploratory script: An extended script—about half the length of the final script—to further assess and refine our top actor’s performance. Personally, this is my favorite stage! I get a much better ear for the actor’s voice and learn how to write with and for them.
  • Final script: The script that ends up in-game, in all of League’s localized languages.
"Art can shed light...."

Voice actors record multiple options for each line, varying tone, mood, and cadence.

Nick Lanza, VO Producer:

For most champs, we aim to record the entire final script within a single 4-hour VO session. The Audio, Narrative, and VO Production Rioters working on the champ attend the recording session, along with one of several veteran VO directors we work with.

Our directors are a big key to our success in-session. We work with them in advance and during recording to make sure our vision for a champ’s voice is realized. Our team gives feedback, notes, and context to the director during the recording, and they synthesize that into guidance for the actor to get the best performance possible.

Director gives notes to voice actor

VO director gives notes to Hwei’s voice actor on Hwei’s personality and feelings.

Austin “Riot Puma Pet” Mullen, VO Designer:

Hi all, I’m Austin, the VO designer for Hwei. My responsibilities involve ensuring the final in-game voice lives up to our thematic choices. Often this involves creating voice filters and finding impactful game moments to trigger lines from. Hwei’s unique gameplay angle is the large number of spells he can cast. To differentiate these emotionally and energetically, I put together groups of specific grunts and exertions to match each spell that needed them. While recording we paid extra attention to recording sets of distinct efforts that were made unique by their energy, length and their beginning consonant.

Post Recording and Localization

Isa Mari De Leon, Narrative Writer:

Closely after the final recording, us narrative, audio, and VO production folks listen back and select our preferred takes to implement in-game. After this point, my work on a champ’s voice is largely done! I’ll provide our Localization friends some context and notes as they bring Hwei to languages globally, but otherwise, my editors and collaborators across disciplines take the champ’s voice across the finish line.

Nick Lanza, VO Producer:

Our Localization teams are critical to the success of a champ globally. They complete their own version of the VO Production process—casting, script translation, VO recording, and post-processing—all within a much shorter timeline. And in 16 different languages!

They work hard to make sure the vision for the character is represented as authentically and excitingly as possible in each region, so players around the globe can receive the same awesome champ, all at the same time.

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