Interview with Marc Merrill, Executive Producer for League of Legends
by Matt Yeager on May 14, 2009

Diehard GameFAN Interview: League of Legends: Clash of Fates

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Interview with Marc Merrill, Executive Producer

DHGF- The visual style of League of Legends is very similar to other fantasy RPG games, what separates League of Legends from other fantasy games?

MM- League of Legends has a very distinct look and feel, which is immediately apparent as soon as you enter the game. Instead of the traditional Tolkein-esque world inhabited by elves, humans, orcs, and goblins, we opted toward an original and unique stylization spearheaded by our Art Director, Hokyo Lim. In League of Legends, users play as dozens of uniquely stylized characters like a fire-toting school girl with a ferocious teddy bear pet or a Yeti-riding Eskimo boy with mystical ice-energy.

Additionally, our early screenshots initial video did not have a number of unique shader effects that add to the unique stylization in League of Legends. When we release new assets in the near future, we look forward to seeing if people still compare us to other products.
From a gameplay perspective, League of Legends provides the unique experience of an online multiplayer action RPG that combines the best elements of MMO PvP with the innovative gameplay mechanics pioneered in DotA. League of Legends offers fast-paced, team based, strategic combat in highly replayable game sessions where players form competitive teams to battle with other players over strategic objectives. At the beginning of each match, players select any one of dozens of Champions, each with a unique style of play.

DHGF- The Summoner system seems like a very different approach to both building a community as well as interacting with a game like this, but could you explain in more detail how playing as a Summoner works?

MM- In League of Legends players take on the role of Summoners, who have the ability to call forth Champions to do battle on their behalf in a variety of strategic objectives. The Summoner is a unique avatar tied to a player’s account, and it represents the in-game identity of the player. Summoners will be customizable in various elements such as masteries (talent), abilities, and more giving the player enormous freedom to craft their online identity. League of Legends will also track stats, rank, teams, and clans through the Summoner system reinforcing the players’ identity within the community and adding weight to a player’s reputation (who wants to be branded as a leaver?).

DHGF- It has been mentioned that there are dozens of different Champions in the game, but that there are no classes. I understand the Summoner can choose certain skills paths, but aside from that are there any individual characteristics of the Champions that make each one unique?

MM- Each Champion is built around a lore, theme, and ability set providing a differentiated play experience. Think Street Fighter, where Blanka has a unique background and ability set that makes him play and feel substantially different from Ryu. In the same way, each Champion in League of Legends will have a distinct look and feel with a unique style of play. As an example, our Champion Annie is a cute little girl who wields powerful fire spells and can summon her teddy bear Tibbers to protect her and slay her enemies – she plays very differently than Master Yi – who darts around the battle field and cuts down enemies.

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In addition, through the course of a match Champions will grow from weak to powerful, and players will have to decide how to advance skills, abilities, and equipment to supplement their Champion’s power and strategic value. With dozens of Champions and hundreds of items at launch, players will have countless strategic options available to them.

DHGF- How many players can join together in a party online?

MM- League of Legends will have several highly stylized environments and map scenarios known as Fields of Justice, and the number of players that can participate in a team will depend heavily on the map scenario. The first of which is the oldest and most venerated of the Fields of Justice, known as Summoner’s Rift. The maximum number of players for Summoner’s Rift is six per team – but the default mode for competitive play will be 5v5.

DHGF- What steps have been taken to prevent some of the more negative aspect of online gaming, such as people leaving mid-game, griefing, etc?

MM-To list a few things, we are currently building Leaverbuster™ technology to disincentivizes players to prematurely leave games, intelligent matchmaking to align players of appropriate skill, stat tracking and a persistent identity to reduce anonymity in player interaction which improves player accountability and behavior, community reporting technology to empower self policing within the community, robust tutorials to facilitate quick and seamless assimilation into the game, and deep relationships with the community to help drive culture and positive community interaction.

We wanted to build robust “around game” features because community is very important to us. We are committed to offering premium online games that are deep and fun with features that promote positive user experiences and vibrant communities. We’ve been very happy to hear how positively the League of Legends community has reacted to our proactive stance towards engagement with them – and the exciting thing is that we’re just scratching the surface of what we want to do.

DHGF- It appears that much of the game is focused around the multiplayer experience. Is there a single player campaign in League of Legends, or is this meant to be purely a multiplayer title?

MM- League of Legends will offer single player and co-op modes, where players can battle against AI controlled champions in a “skirmish” type fashion. The single player experience (at launch) will not be a deeply involved campaign, but we are heavily committed to creating game modes where players can have meaningful and challenging games either by themselves or with friends against computer controlled entities that are relevant for their skill.

Story is very important to us and we are working to infuse the rich lore of the League of Legends world into the game – in fact, we just hired Shawn Carnes from Blizzard to take ownership of our story and conceptual design. Shawn’s background includes playing key roles on the story / flavor of World of Warcraft, as well as being a heavy influencer on all of their around game extensions such as the trading card game, board games, etc. Prior to that he was at Wizards of the Coast where he was a key creative designer on Magic the Gathering.

DHGF- Some of the members of Riot Games were also behind the popular Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients. How tired of you guys of hearing people comparing and asking what the differences are between the two games?

MM- We are not tired of the comparisons to DotA, since DotA really was one of the key inspirations for why we are creating League of Legends and some of the key creators of DotA Allstars, Steve “Guinsoo” Feak and Steve “Pendragon” Mescon are playing hugely important roles in shaping the game. One of the main goals of League of Legends is to expand on the innovative and fun gameplay mechanics pioneered in DotA by deepening the experience to satisfy core DotA players while also simultaneously lowering the barriers to entry in order to reach an even broader online gaming audience. Simply put, we want to be what World of Warcraft was to Everquest. So whenever anyone asks for the differences between the two games, League of Legends and DotA, we are excited at the opportunity to discuss the features that will accomplish this goal.

DHGF- So, what are the differences between League of Legends and DotA?

MM- That is a very large question. In a nutshell, EVERYTHING is different in League of Legends, with the exception of the extremely fun “moment to moment” gameplay experience that people who have played DotA will be familiar with. The pacing, the characters, the world, the interface, the meta-game experience, the monsters, the multiple maps (!), the spells, the abilities, the controls, the visual style… everything is different, yet fans of DotA will be immediately comfortable playing League of Legends. DotA, for all of its awesomeness, has major limitations that cannot be overcome because it is a mod. Being able to create something from the ground up has allowed us unlimited freedom to improve the game experience.

Just to name a couple features that aren’t available in DotA, League of Legends will offer matchmaking, stats tracking, the ability to deter leavers from ruining games, new maps, a persistent summoner with customization options to tout your achievements, tutorials, robust bot AI, anti-cheat functionality and much more.

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DHGF- I’ve read that League of Legends will not require a subscription fee to play. To clarify, will there be a fee for some features, such as participating in player vs player matches, or will there be no type of fee at all?

MM- That is correct, League of Legends will be operated as a service with frequent updates and patches with no subscription fee required. We want to make the game as accessible as possible to the online gaming community, and while some people think we are crazy, we are committed to offering maximum value at minimum cost to the player.

DHGF- What types of different online modes are there to play around with?

MM- League of Legends will launch with several core map types. We want to ensure that each map scenario is thoroughly tested for both fun and balance with gameplay elements that segment the player base across differentiated fragments. And as League of Legends goes live, we will continue to create and release content on an ongoing basis. We’re confident that players will really enjoy what the team has created and the frequency with which we update. Thus, we aren’t quite ready to commit to how many different modes will be available at launch – we are still working out the kinks with some different map types.

DHGF- Will there be voice chat in the game?

MM- We do not plan on supporting integrated voice chat at launch – we do not want to force players to verbally communicate with their teammates and we believe that including voice chat would alienate those that want a “voice free” game. People who want voice chat are often the most competitive gamers and often have access to their own vent servers anyway – so we think it will be commonplace in high end League of Legends play.

That being said, if our community really wants it, we would look at adding it post-launch.

DHGF- Is there anything about League of Legends that hasn’t been covered that you would like to inform our readers about?

MM- We are currently 100% focused on ensuring a quality and fun experience for our players and really are directly interacting with the players on a daily basis. We are currently in our early phases of Closed Beta, and we are continually selecting members of our community for early access. Early participants will receive exclusive prizes as well as early opportunity to send feedback that drives the development of the game. Be sure to stop by www.leagueoflegends.com to sign up for beta and participate in the community. Our community conducts daily events for prizes, beta access, and more! Be sure to check it out!

In other news… there have been rumors of a Manatee being seen around the League of Legends as well as numerous hand scrawled notes saying “Urf will return!!!” We’re a bit confused by this, but hopefully someone will be able to explain…

DHGF- Thank you for your time.



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Matt Yeager

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  • Tom

    Urf will return?

  • Thomas

    HELL Yeah! I’m so stoked for this game. I have been saying they need to do this for years! thank god they finally are!

  • http://www.myspace.com/romancepro Jerry

    This is some really great information. Keep up the excellent work…A great find.

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