Gangplank Dev Insights Roundtable Longform Version

_If you’ve wandered here unawares, this is the longer, mostly unedited version of the Gangplank developer insights roundtable. Walls of text aren’t for everyone, so [click here to check out]( the abridged version if that’s more palatable._ **How did Gangplank become the biggest champion update since Sion?** _Michael "IronStylus" Maurino, senior concept artist:_ So, there’s this thing called scope creep. But seriously, we needed a lot of buy-in, for one. We were shopping around the ideas a lot, whether to teams involved in Bilgewater, stakeholders, all the way up to Marc and Brandon. Especially the idea of “Post-plank” and “Pre-plank.” _Scott "Jaredan" Hawkes, narrative lead:_ So, the team behind events, awhile back, was like “Bilgewater!” Because everyone loves Bilgewater. So me, George [Krstic], Ant [Reynolds], Giancarlo [Volpe], and a few others all got together intent on making Bilgewater a little more fascinating and less piratey, generic pirate. Now, Gangplank’s lore was actually quite different from Gangplank in game. In-game, he didn’t seem like the baddest bastard in Bilgewater. He wasn’t convincing, he wasn’t brutal enough to rule it. So, that meant finding that essence in the stories that had been told about Gangplank, because in a city full of people you don’t want to meet in a dark alley, he’s the guy they don’t want to meet in a dark alley. _James “Statikk” Bach, champion designer:_ I think one of the bigger challenges was that the character, you just couldn’t take him seriously, he was too over-the-top. And if we wanted him to be a serious character, we had to show, “this guy is a badass,” we had to go to an extreme. _George Krstic, senior writer:_ Multiple teams, multiple dependencies, and the nature of an international release. It’s a constant moving target, especially when you’re trying to service all the different teams and their needs, while also trying to serve the characters in the story. But that was an awesome challenge, because it got us to these high moments. Things changed drastically. But all for the better. It’s one of the things I like most about Riot, compared my previous gig in TV: we have flexibility here. If something isn’t working and needs to change, people will support you, many people will support you. So, everything changed, every day, all the time. So that was a challenge, but it kept us energized. **How did we make the decision that Miss Fortune would appear to kill him?** _James Bach:_ It was like a week or two into it and [the design team] started hearing that [narrative] wanted to kill him off, and I was like, “Oh shit.” _George Krstic:_ It came about organically, but it did seem to gain traction amongst all of the teams, so you know, we decided to talk about it. But how do you show that? And then Seb Rhee, [product owner of ChampUp], said, “What if we turn him off?” And we were all like, “Are you fucking crazy? That’s beautiful!” But it wasn’t that easy, we basically scared everyone at Riot. _Scott Hawkes:_ Having something, like seeing two Gangplanks, one from before and one after he’s been through the wringer, and also is in a very different social position, so reflecting that in his attitude, he’s realized, he’s been too nice on people. That’s what he thinks, “I’ve been complacent,” “I’ve been way too helpful,” because he’s lost most of his power. We mentioned the mob boss, and one of the questions we wanted to explore was what happens when the mob boss’ power is shaken, because he was so intent on keeping people in certain positions of authority beholden to him, but these are incredibly dangerous people in Bilgewater, so if you’re shown to be weak in any way, which is what TF and Graves do, just by getting in his warehouse. He has to respond big. And that all goes wrong for him, of course, because MF knew that he was going to do it. **What was behind the decision to basically make two champion updates for Gangplank?** _Michael Maurino:_ So we had all of these crazy ideas, but we couldn’t really execute on them. And then as we heard the story come along, and the event being potentially a couple of pieces including a before and after scenario, we went, “hmmm…” and then we learned that we were gonna scope up into a much bigger visual update, we thought, instead of banging our heads trying to make one Gangplank that covers all of the things we want to cover, why not just make two Gangplanks? One for before the narrative and one for after? _Scott Hawkes:_ The biggest goal for the Bilgewater event was to show characters and a place changing. So everything that happens to him shows the same man experiencing the high and the low, and having that reflected visually by the art was huge, because it’s not just who he is, but also shows how he’s changed. **In the explosion of the Dead Pool, Gangplank ends up losing his arm. Why change the character like that?** _Scott Hawkes:_ He’s going through his own trial by fire. He had to change physically. This is the most extreme trial by fire he’s been through, perhaps since he killed his own father. And so he can’t just walk away, there has to be a physical toll in addition to an emotional one. _George Krstic:_ To speak to that, this is also partly a response to feedback from players that nothing ever changes. We wanted to meaningfully change champions; we changed a faction. We set things up and pay them off in a single self-contained story. We showed the relationship between two guys who’ve spent years as enemies go back to being potentially partners again. We’ve given a character her pay-off. She’s spent her entire life chasing vengeance, and now she’s got it, and it tastes awful, and now she has to deal with it. _Scott Hawkes:_ We wanted to make sure that every character in “The Reckoning” changed pretty comprehensively. Like George said, TF and Graves, the band is back together. For MF, she’s got a sense of power she never had, and the ramifications of that for her, and for Bilgewater, are huge. _Michael Maurino:_ We wanted a change to a character that had to be noticed. _James Bach:_ I remember there were a couple of crazy concepts, like a blade arm. _Michael Maurino:_ Yeah, he basically had a robot sword arm at one point. _James Bach:_ I remember seeing the face drawings, where he looked so depressed and angry. And then someone drew him with a smile, and it was like, oh okay, he can do that. _George Krstic:_ Yeah, well, we wanted to make a complex character--actually we wanted every character involved in the event to feel real, and not just like caricatures, but also still accessible to players. _Scott Hawkes:_ [Bilgewater’s] a place people get messed up on the regular, you don’t need to be hunting sea monsters to end up missing some part you’d rather have back. Just going to a pub. _Michael Maurino:_ Or looking at someone wrong. _Scott Hawkes:_ Yeah, you’ll have something by the end of the night you’ll take home to remember. _George Krstic:_ Or leave behind. _James Bach:_ There’s also the great hat conspiracy of 2015. **The great hat conspiracy of 2015?** _Michael Maurino:_ I didn’t even want to bring it up,’s kinda interesting, because it basically divided a company. I remember every single point. We started out: obviously he has to have a hat, right? But then we decided to do “Pre-plank” and “Post-plank,” somebody drew him without a hat. And some people really liked that. But others were like, “Well, you can’t remove that hat or that’s not Gangplank.” It was epic. It went all the way up to the top, and I remember a meeting with the biggest stakeholders in the company, and the room was split. Some executives were like, “Hat!” And the others were like, “No hat!” Then someone said, “Let’s be bold and not ship a hat,” which was immediately met by, “No. Let’s be bold and keep the hat!” _James Bach:_ I remember everyone in design was like, “He’s gotta keep the hat, players just aren’t going to see him as Gangplank without the hat.” And then all the artists were like, “But look how cool he looks without a hat.” And we had to admit, he looked good without the hat. It just became this huge thing. _Michael Maurino:_ I remember meetings specifically about the hat. They’re still on my calendar somewhere. _Scott Hawkes:_ From a narrative perspective, some of us said, “Well, he’s a changed person and he’s lost his ship, maybe he doesn’t give a shit about the hat right now.” _George Krstic:_ At the core, it’s because everybody cares so damn much. That’s the reason we have these meetings and that get so tense. It’s not because we...We’re very passionate that’s why we’re all here and the company supports that. We stay up at night, arguing about art and design. Luckily, we work at a place where we’re not ever like, “Okay, good enough, ship it.” It’s instead, “No, let’s beat it up, let’s make the best thing possible.” So that’s why we have meetings about hats. **Was there anything we knew we weren’t going to change?** _Michael Maurino:_ Oranges. _James Bach:_ Even on the gameplay side, everyone knew oranges were gonna stay. Even when we were like, let’s make him really, really, dark, he still had oranges. There were small things, at least on the design side, where we were like, we want to make sure that people understand that he’s still having fun up there in top lane. _Michael Maurino:_ B-_arrr_-els. _James Bach:_ He still enjoys vitamin C and violence. _Michael Maurino:_ It’s the darker shade of fun. It’s almost a goofy, surreal thing, but he’s getting a lot of masochistic flavor or fun from it. It is absurd for the guy to do the juggling thing with the oranges, and then slice throats with a flaming sword, but it’s great contrast and it’s kinda neat. _George Krstic:_ When it comes to what we decided to keep the same, we were very mindful of what the important things were to players. Like, we did not do a retcon. That word gets bandied about, but no, we’re honoring the core of Gangplank. Across the board. Every team. We were nodding backwards but looking forwards. We wanted something for new players to discover, and for old players to say, “Yeah, they got it.” So...that’s what we aimed for, we’ll see if we were successful. **Let’s talk about the gameplay during his update--it didn’t change between the beginning of the event and the end, but there were a number of changes from old GP. How was the gameplay design influenced by the story? Was there anything in gameplay that circled back to impact the narrative?** _James Bach:_ One thing that we did come up with in gameplay based on the story was the fire sword. Me and [Mark] Yetter were talking about his old passive and how it was like a poisoned sword, and it wasn’t exactly the most exciting thing we could do, and I just remember narrative sharing stories about how Gangplank would be so bad that he’d torture people and just mess with them, and then Yetter asked, “what if he just burns people?” I was like, yeah, he just burns people. And it was different, the old Gangplank was much more happy-go-lucky, kinda silly, and this is that darker side. When we were talking about the barrel mechanics, we went to narrative and we were like, “Are barrels a thing? Like are explosives stuff he would do?” And George was like, “Yeah, he’d roll a barrel of explosives into an orphanage if he had to.” _Michael Maurino:_ Barrels verified. _Scott Hawkes:_ Especially after everything that has happened, blowing shit up is not something he’s averse to. _James Bach:_ We wanted to make a Gangplank who didn’t necessarily build like a tank but in one early concept he looked like a giant metallic juggernaut man. We had so many different ultimates. At one point, we were like, “he’ll call down cannons!” And not cannon-balls, but actual cannons that would march down the lanes and try to actively siege for him. And it got to the point where the cannon evolved into like, a pirate mech. We were asking narrative for explanations for how Gangplank could have a mech. How could this make sense? We obviously didn’t ship it. But, it was a big challenge, figuring out the ultimate. _Sol "Solcrushed" Kim, champion designer:_ He’s a character that has kinda come in a full loop, actually. Like, he used to build very glass-cannon, extremely squishy, and he transitioned to the split-pushing, tankier role eventually, and now we were back to trying to make him a potentially squishier than expected skirmisher. _James Bach:_ And that’s when we realized maybe he should build like, one tank item. It wouldn’t be bad if he had a Randuin’s or whatever. **So, there were no gameplay changes between Captain Gangplank and the current version, but there were VO changes?** _George Krstic:_ We did an insane thing. We actually wrote two sets of full VO. I think someone told me, I’m not sure on this, but it was close to 900 lines that we shipped between the two versions. _Michael Maurino:_ What?! You guys are crazy. _George Krstic:_ We really committed to this. We wanted both aspects to have a clear motivation, clear personality. And again, we wanted players to be able to connect to the character, because he’s not a caricature anymore but he feels real. **What were some of the bigger art challenges?** _Michael Maurino:_ Even more than usual, there was a ton of collaboration and feedback. Not that there isn’t always, but on this scale? It was pretty unprecedented. Additionally, one of the things we’re trying to do is make more sophisticated, and more clear what our style is for art in the game. We’re very focused on clarity, on what something is and how it reads in game. Cleanliness when it comes to how textures are applied or how proportions are communicated, and we did a lot of back and forth and there were a lot of artists involved to make sure he’d fit in stylistically. It wasn’t just one person’s designs, it was like five or six people’s ideas. We collaborated extensively, like in the beginning with sketch jams and pow-wowing ideas, even before we knew the scope of changes we could make, we probably did seventy concepts. **What about some of the challenges working with a longer form story?** _Geroge Krstic:_ It’s all well and good to say, here’s the stats of this person, and that kind of thing, but I’m more interested in who they are and how they’ll react to things. This story gets at that, the new bios get at that. _Scott Hawkes:_ We knew so many of the teams were relying on the story. So at a certain point, it was like, if we change too much, entire teams at Riot would be like, “Why are you doing this now?” We don’t want to break anything anyone was working on. _George Krstic:_ The theme never changed. We clarified the themes early on and that stayed consistent throughout. Revenge and control; throughout the entire process. _Scott Hawkes:_ The arcs for the characters were pretty consistent, too. It was just how we were gonna execute on them. Figuring out how to show things was important. Saying that Gangplank’s the bastard in charge is one thing, showing him slicing a design into someone’s flayed leg bone is a very different thing. _George Krstic:_ It was a challenge not to use the word pirate. _Scott Hawkes:_ We wanted to make sure that every character in “The Reckoning” changed pretty comprehensively. Like George said, TF and Graves, the band is back together. For MF, she’s got a sense of power she never had, and the ramifications of that for her, and for Bilgewater, are huge. The story tells a complete arc, that introduces a new status quo rife with new opportunities. The main characters, TF and Graves, their story is basically complete at this point, at least as far as Bilgewater is concerned. But for MF and Gangplank, for those two, and for the city, the battle for Bilgewater is hardly over. **Burning Tides: The Reckoning may be over, but the Saltwater Scourge lives on. Is one-hitting minions something you wish? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll see you on the battlefields. **
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