Preseason 2022: Intro to First Strike
A quick introduction to the new Inspiration Keystone, First Strike.
“After I finished Senna, our lead producer Ryan ‘Reav3’ Mireles made an offhand comment about how players seem to enjoy lore connections between champions, especially if they’ve heard about them for a while. Players loved seeing Senna, Lucian, and Thresh’s stories move forward,” recalls champion designer August “August” Browning. “I joked that we should make the Ruined King next to finish that storyline, and he looked at me and said, ‘That’s an amazing idea. That’s your next champion.’”
“Working on Viego was particularly interesting because he lived 1,000 years in the past in a nation that doesn’t exist in Runeterra. So that meant we needed to create an entire civilization in addition to Viego” explains narrative lead Jared “Carnival Knights” Rosen.
“I started by thinking about the type of person who would throw away everything to save the woman he loves—which was pretty much all we knew about Viego at that point. What’s he like? What was his world like? What motivates him?”
Second son to the King of Camavor, Viego knew only conquest and domination. Camavor is a long-dead expansionist empire that existed on a continent far east of Runeterra. Inspired by Conquistador-era Spain with influences from Camelot, Camavor is an empire of aggressive conquerors. But unlike Noxus, they have no interest in integrating with the societies they rule—they wish only to claim ownership.
“Viego was a young, untested king of Camavor who was never prepared for the role. He only received the crown after his older brother—Kalista’s father—died in battle,” Carnival Knights shares. “Viego’s selfish and self-centered, young and immature, and he has a lot of power. So when he sees this beautiful woman, Isolde, he knows he has to have her. And, being a commoner, she accepts.”
Brought up in a world where what you desire is yours for the taking, it’s hard to know whether Viego truly loved Isolde or loved that she was his. Regardless, he doted on her, ignoring his duties as king and instead focusing on romancing the love of his life.
But because Viego was a shitty king of a shitty expansionist empire, he gained numerous enemies—one of which attempted to usurp Viego, by means of a poisoned blade. Instead of freeing Camavor from a useless king, the blade found Isolde, and in doing so set the world down the path to ruin.
In a desperate attempt to save what he loved most, Viego brought Isolde to the Waters of Life on the Blessed Isles. But instead of Isolde returning with an outpouring of love, she lashed out in pain, fear, and rage. She stabbed Viego through the chest with his sword, and in doing so unleashed the Ruination—a blast which devastated the Isles, twisting all those present into monstrosities, including the land itself.
“My part of Viego’s process was a bit different from the usual process. Reav3 asked me what I thought the Ruined King would look like, and I immediately said he’d pretty much be Mordekaiser’s cousin,” laughs concept art lead Gem “Lonewingy” Lim. “But when I actually thought about it, I knew that wouldn’t really fit. He’s League’s big bad! I needed to make sure I did that justice, so I wanted to create something more unexpected than just another guy in armor.”
Using the Camelot and Conquistador-era influence from Camavor, his undying “love” for Isolde, and the absolute obsession with reclaiming what was his, she created the Viego we have now: Young, angry, ruined. But there was one thing she added as a finishing touch...
“When I was drawing my original Viego concept I put a hole in his chest—the one left by Isolde when she stabbed him with his sword. And I thought there was nothing more hopelessly romantic than a big, weeping hole in his chest where his heart should be,” says Lonewingy. “The Black Mist pours out from the hole, searching for his wife. It’s like his heart is crying for her! I just thought it was a beautiful physical representation of the pain he felt from Isolde’s loss. Plus it looks metal as f&^%.”
But a long dead king, ancient expansionist empire, and weeping-hearted-wraith do not a champion make. It was time for champion designer August “August” Browning to take everything the team had discovered and turn it into a playable champ.
“One of the things I really enjoy about making champions like Viego—and Senna, Jinx, and Vi—is that I’m making characters who already have distinct personalities attached to them. This type of champion design is a really cool space to explore, where I need to figure out how the mechanics tell the story of who the person is,” August shares. “Viego's obsessed with his wife, but that's not his source of power—it's his motivation. His power comes from being a young, petulant king and lord of the Shadow Isles and Black Mist.”
There’s nothing more kingly than being carted around in a litter, so August tried a kit similar to Yuumi’s.
Viego attached to an ally and followed them around the map, leaping out and attacking enemies whenever the opportunity struck. As fun as that design was, it didn’t feel like a king. He was bound to the whims of whoever he was attached to, incapable of commanding them to do his bidding.
Kings are sovereign over their people. Rulers by right, commanders by nature. So what kind of regal power over others would Viego have carried over into his post-life wraith state? The power to take over the dead, of course.
“I had an early idea that he’d possess his enemies, but there’s no fun in running around and just auto attacking—it’s only enjoyable if you get to do more than that. And stealing enemies’ abilities just fit so well with Viego,” August says. “He’s obsessive, he’s a wraith, and he’s a king. So he controls his dead subjects. And from there he just became this character where if he can kill someone he can become them. It’s his reward for converting them to his side. And it’s chaining that passive that leads to his most exciting gameplay moments.”
Creating a champion whose passive is to be an entirely different champion could be confusing to play against, but unlike Sylas, Viego takes over his enemy’s body. “Annie” doing Annie things makes sense. What the team really needed to do was find a way to make it obvious that “Annie” was still Viego.
An earlier iteration of Viego’s passive VFX by Riot Temcampy
“I needed to make sure that the dominated character read as themselves, but also said ‘I am Viego’ so players wouldn’t be confused when their mid laner was attacking them. We also needed to make sure it was simple enough to translate to every champion and every skin, both present and future,” explains VFX artist Trevor “Riot Temcampy” McTavish. “In one of the early iterations we used a shader to replace the entire champion as a ghostly figure. But this was too difficult to discern in the heat of battle. The solution we found was applying his crown and giving them a slightly different shade over their model to match.”
Viego’s other source of power is the Black Mist, which he has complete command over. It ravages the land, transforming any living thing it comes in contact with, and brings everything back to its master. For the most part the Mist is contained to the Shadow Isles, but every so often a Harrowing (a super-concentrated manifestation of the Mist) allows the Mist to creep further into Runeterra.
So that left the team wondering: if Harrowings happened across Runeterra, why not the Rift?
“I originally wanted Viego to start a Harrowing on the Rift, covering the entire map in Mist, or slowly taking it over throughout a game. And when inside, Viego would be camouflaged,” August shares. “In another iteration the Mist was filled with ghosts and goblins, and his ultimate would summon an army of ghouls to attack his target. But covering the entire map with Black Mist didn’t feel good to play against because fighting against a permanently camouflaged Viego felt too similar to Evelynn and was frustrating to deal with.”
The design August landed on is a more localized Harrowing. Viego summons the Black Mist and haunts a section of terrain. When inside of it, he gains camouflage, dons his armor, and takes off, ready to hunt down his victim.
“Viego’s fantasy moment is killing someone and using their body to chain kill into four more bodies, eventually Penta’ing the entire team,” August explains. “He’s a champion who’s sped up to multi-kill.”
With the domination-and-Mist kit locked, that left the team to think about the type of weapon Viego would wield. If only there was some sort of sword that has existed since 2012...
Blade of the Ruined King is one of the most iconic items in League. Maybe you’ve seen your ADC build it, maybe you’ve built it yourself, or maybe you were one of those Sett players. Regardless, how could we make the Ruined King without incorporating his i c o n i c weapon?“I knew players would look for the Blade of the Ruined King when looking at Viego,” says Lonewingy. “But the icons in League are only so big, and I wanted Viego’s weapon to be bigger. I took inspiration from the Zweihänder, which is a German two-handed sword. In the item icon you’re only seeing a fraction of what it looks like, but when you play as Viego you get to use the weapon in its fullest.”
“When we initially started on Viego I knew that he’d have to buy Blade of the Ruined King. Like, it would be ridiculous if it wasn’t a good item on him,” August laughs. “Originally Viego would start the game with the item already in his inventory. The idea was that it’d start off weak and gather power throughout the game in the form of souls. He started off with a small broken blade that had the old active that slowed people. But as he fed it souls, it eventually became the normal item, and then he could unlock it even further to become unleashed.”
The team planned on making this representative in his in-game model. So he’d start off the game wielding a little baby dagger and then end with the massive two-handed sword Lonewingy concepted. However, that design ended up on the chopping block—by the time August had come up with this version of the Blade of the Ruined King, he had already fleshed out the rest of Viego’s kit. So the soul-collecting sword felt a bit disconnected from the rest of his design.
The solution was to give Viego the August special: another passive. Viego’s Q is called Blade of the Ruined King, and grants him the ability to apply on-hit effects twice. When paired with the in-game item, Viego can get double the on-hit effect on each target as long as he weaves abilities with autos.
Seems the sword is happy to be once again wielded by its master.