Riot Discusses Its Diversity Efforts For Wild Rift And The Power Spike Update
During a roundtable discussion from Wild Rift’s developers on the latest patch, we learned about the champions added, new items, skins released, history, diversity, and more.
League of Legends: Wild Rift was released in October 2020 and has already amassed more than 20 million average monthly players. Wild Rift takes many favorites from League of Legends proper such as Ahri, Senna, Lucian, Vi, Jinx, and Caitlyn to name a few, and lets players use them in mobile team matches. If you're unfamiliar, Wild Rift works from the core League of Legends as a pivotal foundation but employs mechanics, game length, and even character choices differently from the PC game.
The characters, however, do stay true to their PC counterparts mechanically and aesthetically. Wild Rift matches are about 15 minutes long in comparison to League of Legends' typical 45 minutes. Wild Rift is basically an expedited version of playing League of Legends on your phone, but flourishes in its own right, grabbing players from all over with the ease of playing with mobile. GameSpot recently sat in on a roundtable discussion of Wild Rift’s newest patch, 3.14: Power Spike. This patch adds new items, characters, and balance changes to the Wild Rift roster and it's available now.
If you want to check out exact balance changes, and specific stats buffs/nerfs to characters, you can check out the Champion Changes for Wild Rift 3.4 that goes into detail on all of your number needs. You can go here for the patch notes but below you can learn about what's new and on the horizon for Wild Rift from the developers directly.
The additions to Wild Rift’s roster will be added over time with patch 3.14: Power Spike. Gwen, the Hallowed Seamstress, and Yone the Forgotten made their debut in Wild Rift on September 15 and September 22 respectively. “2022 is going to have a lot of edgelords,” David Xu, product manager on Wild Rift, quipped about the upcoming character releases of Gwen, Yone, Vex, and Warwick.
Gwen brings her fabled Hallowed Mist with her iconic scissors in hand and is able to burst down enemies. Yone brings his dual swords, and his spirited mechanics of slashing enemies with elegance, grace, and swift death. “2022 is very much going to be focused on bringing some of what we believe are some of our heavy hitters--the heavily requested Champions,” Xu said. “In 2023, this is when we'll start to bring in some more niche Champions. Champions that are more filling specific thematics or specific gameplay [mechanics] that we’re looking for. Expect to see some of the other treasure trove of Champions from League of Legends PC in subsequent milestones.”
Outside of the Power Spike update, Wild Rift also received its first considerable map update with Elemental Rift. “We made huge changes to the objective system as well as the map changing throughout the game.”
Wild Rift itself has different issues and priorities to tackle in contrast with League of Legends PC such as the pinging system. There is less functionality on a mobile platform to be communicative with teammates in relation to League of Legends on PC, the developers said. "For Wild Rift, oftentimes, there are unique challenges and differences for our game that are specific for Wild Rift compared to League. We really wanted to tune [the] Elemental Rift to help players get better agency over their games, and feel better overall when it comes to pacing and how much game stress there was,” Adnan Mirza, gameplay producer for Wild Rift, said.
One example offered by Mirza is that communication is generally more difficult between players on mobile devices as the audience doesn't really like to speak or use headsets. Sometimes this means changing things that are working in League of Legends to fit better on mobile. “Whenever [players] would see any content, even if it’s from League PC, we’re always thinking about how it would best fit Wild Rift. [For example], we've tuned out some of the complexities in the game and some of the decision points because that was causing a lot of fatigue for our players.”
In-game communication in team-based games can be arduous on a mobile platform, but this Wild Rift update will have new ping system options. These new options do not replace the default ones, but are extra preferences. “Improving communication’s going to always be a big [aspect] for us,” Mirza said.
Similar to League of Legends PC, Wild Rift's latest update will also add additional items to the game. New item releases can aid in providing improved benefits to players that previous items could not contend with. Sometimes specific roles need to be given more options of items to equip, so they can be in a better state for the match or the game on the whole.
“We wanted to make the gameplay experience better for supports. We made a lot of balance changes in those spaces to add new Enchants, tune some parts of the game, and now add support items. The supports now have a better ability to control their own experience, and have more agency, Mirza said.”
Player feedback is always given to developers for MOBAs such as Wild Rift, and the team at Riot wants to take into account the feedback or qualms players may find themselves in while playing Wild Rift. “We’ve been seeing [increased] success with either player feedback [and] the other different metrics we have,” Mirza stated. A prime example is feedback from players having a tougher time using supports in-game in compared to other roles. The developers would like to bring future Wild Rift content that is not solely from, or has prior foundational elements, from League of Legends PC.
Skins have been a mainstay with League of Legends PC for years. They are meticulously, extravagantly, and wonderfully crafted themes or aesthetic modifications for already-released Champions. Some of the skins released in the Power Spike update are Space Groove Gwen, Crystal Rose Yone, Bewitching Vex, and Superhero Jayce.
“We still want to keep releasing fan-favorite skins from PC that people really liked, and making sure that players of Wild Rift have the opportunity to choose something that really resonates with them or speaks to them in a particular way,” Jared Berbach, the game director for Wild Rift, said.
Like the other developers of Wild Rift have stated, Berbach is also looking forward to future releases in 2023, “Our story is really about, how can we make things that feel more uniquely Wild Rift and are potentially even exclusive to Wild Rift? Just kind of a treat for our player base that we want them to enjoy.” Berbach said, “We have a lot of players that choose to stick with us [exclusively] on Wild Rift, and we want to reward that investment with our time with really cool, new thematics they can enjoy.”
History and Diversity
League of Legends, and Wild Rift in particular, are played by players from all over, with many different groups of color, marginalized identities, and ethnoreligious backgrounds. In the past, Riot Games has had explicit problems in its release of characters, where there is a prevalent whitewashing of ethnicities from characters of color such as Lucian. The company has even had white characters receive very Orientalist aesthetics, tropes, or skins over the years with Lunar reveals, for example.
When asked, if they induce more forethought, when creating skins for Wild Rift, Berbach said, “We know that to reach global audiences, we need to be able to represent all of those underrepresented groups.”
Riot has established RIGs (Rioter Inclusion Groups) with the idea of bringing together groups of people to represent people of underrepresented identities. "They are always part of a process that we use in [the] creation of Champs and skins. For example, when we created Lucian, we had a very extensive process between the game team and that RIG to specifically support them, their thoughts about how we could authentically bring that character in, and avoid a lot of the tropes that [Veerender Singh Jubbal] is describing,” Berbach said.
Mirza chimed in from a personal standpoint, “I worked on a lot of the gameplay and have less direct involvement with the art, but I do see the conversations and the feedback. I am also South Asian, and know that colorism occurs, sometimes, and am reminded of pretty prominent marketing slogans in Urdu like ‘Ab gora ho gaa’. They will be light-skinned or fair-skinned now. Something I am pretty well aware of, and from my perspective it’s never felt really intentional at all from [Riot Games]."
When moving across mediums within a company, concerns or problems can arise solely from the switch of different teams or developers in the creation process. An immense amount of creative effort goes into the concept art of a character all throughout until it is playable to the public. Errors such as authenticity may not be translated completely into the entire process.
“Sometimes I think there’s been a loss from a translation aspect when you go from one medium to another either in-game or 2D art. Sometimes these things don’t quite line up, but the team tries very hard to get ahead of these [aspects], and when you mess up--you try really hard to fix it." Mirza said. "I do have the sense of sensitivity from my sense because of the culture I am from. We never claim to be perfect, but we try really hard and try to listen to feedback [to] make changes when these different arts don’t quite line up with what they are supposed to be.”
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