Riot Forge Wants to Do Justice to Your Favorite League Champion

Published: July 17, 2023 11:18 AM /


riot forge games

It's been years since I've played anything more than a stray ARAM game or two in League of Legends, but my memories of the MOBA's lore and expansive cast of champions are still crystal clear. This is a testament to Riot Games' expansive efforts into crafting high-quality stories.

If you're like me, then, you yearn for a way to experience more League of Legends lore. With the announcement of Ruined King: A League of Legends Story at The Game Awards 2019, it was like a gift from the heavens.

Published by Riot Forge, a label under League developer Riot Games, a singleplayer game was seemingly out of left field. For Riot Forge co-founder and Creative Director Rowan Parker, it was time to show the world that Riot was more than just a multiplayer-only company.

Yasuo, Illaoi, and Miss Fortune fighting against a monster in Ruined King: A League of Legends Story
A combat encounter in Ruined King: A League of Legends Story.

"There's this narrative of like, single player games are dead and no one wants to make single-player games anymore, and no one's making storytelling games," said Parker. "And at the time that this narrative, at like 2019, it was peak.

"Of all of the companies to come out with, 'No, we're going to do a bespoke single-player story label,' it was the company that literally made the giant MOBA, online free-to-play type game. I love the idea that we kind of counter-narrative that with Forge at the time."

Whenever we put a champion on screen, we want them to feel like a legend.

With four games published under Riot Forge and a fifth on the way, each developed by a different studio, this publisher intends to show the world that League of Legends can be enjoyed in many different forms. To that end, Parker walks us through all facets of Riot Forge, including how the publisher sources talented indie developers, as well as the overall approach when handling such a large and cherished IP as League of Legends.

A photo of Rowan Parker, the co-founder and creative director at Riot Forge
Riot Forge co-founder and Creative Director Rowan Parker

Forging a Path Ahead

The interest in creating singleplayer content for League of Legends was always on the mind of Riot Games developers, but a concerted effort to create new games based on the League of Legends IP only came into fruition with the establishment of Riot Forge in late 2018.

Riot Forge utilizes different studios for games published under its label. Studios they've worked with -- Airship Syndicate, Choice Provisions, Digital Sun, Double Stallion, and Tequila Works -- have created successful indie titles and, while sourcing talent for new projects, Parker said Riot Forge often reaches out to such companies that have developed games they enjoy.

Yasuo from Ruined King: A League of Legends Story is displayed in a cutscene.
A stylized cutscene featuring Yasuo in Ruined King: A League of Legends Story.

"We do not have game ideas or pitches when we reach out to studios," said Parker. "That's something that I have to be very firm on when we work with the studios. We don't come with a preconceived game idea."

Parker said they don't want Riot Forge developers to rehash or "reskin" a game they've made before. He takes into account a studio's expertise in a certain genre and asks them how they want to innovate and grow their own company.

"I will not greenlight any project until I'm convinced it is a compelling game agnostic of the League of Legends IP."

Ziggs and Heimerdinger are central characters in the rhythm game Hextech Mayhem: A League of Legends Story.
Heimerdinger and Ziggs are two prominent champions in Hextech Mayhem: A League of Legends Story.

Once a partnership is established with a developer, the process is highly collaborative. Parker adheres by the "rule of cool," so if a specific genre fits the vision of the game they are trying to make, he's excited to develop it alongside them.

Specifically, he looks for games that handle narrative in a natural way. Riot Forge's games are filled with lore and act as a way to flesh out existing characters and locations within League of Legends' universe.

"I think the question to ask, though, is what genres are great narrative, load-bearing vehicles?" said Parker. "Or what genres are great ways to convey story and to bring us into the world of Runeterra? Because that's the thing that we can do, which the MOBA can't do. There's no point us doing something which the MOBA already does."

Braum, Miss Fortune, and Pyke battle an enemy in Ruined King: A League of Legends Story.
Another look at some party members in Ruined King: A League of Legends Story, this time featuring Braum, Miss Fortune, and Pyke.

​​​Bringing League Lore to a New Audience

Riot Forge's games might have the League of Legends name attached to them, but Parker makes it clear these are experiences that can be enjoyed with or without knowledge of the MOBA's lore. There are several ways in which Riot Forge makes its games accessible to newcomers.

Much of Riot Forge's playtesting is done by those who don't play or know much about League of Legends at all. After these sessions, the publisher asks its testers questions about the story. Parker says he often utilizes Hollywood script writers to review and revise the story as needed.

So while knowledge of League of Legends lore isn't required, there's still plenty of information players familiar with the IP will find valuable. Most Riot Forge games feature lore notes scattered throughout the game to flesh out the world even a bit more and act as Easter eggs. As an example, Fiddlesticks doesn't physically appear in The Mageseeker, but players can come across a note mentioning him.

Journal entries can be found throughout The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story.
One of many journal entries found in The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story.

"All of those journal entries are actually written by Riot narrative writers and narrative people," said Parker, "so we actually crowdsource them internally from Riot. So we have the headcanons and the story threads from dozens of writers internally at Riot baked into each of those games."

While champions like Fiddlesticks and others might not appear in the title itself, their absence is quite deliberate. One important goal these titles aim for is staying true to the champions represented within. The appearance of champions should not be forced. This can be a difficult task when there is a pool of over 150 champions to pull from.

"Whenever we put a champion on screen, we want them to feel like a legend," said Parker.

Jinx makes an appearance as a character in the new Convergence: A League of Legends Story.
Convergence: A League of Legends Story features fan favorites like Jinx.

"So we have this balance we have to play of when we bring champions on screen, we have to live up to the hopes and dreams of the players that [are] like, that's their champion that they love."

Thus far, Riot Forge's titles have seen the likes of Silas, Ziggs, Ekko, Jinx, Yasuo, and more. For many people, these names mean nothing; for League of Legends players, this could be a character they've devoted hundreds or even thousands of hours to. Not everyone makes the cut, but when they do, it feels organic to the contents of the game they're in.

"We don't forget about anyone," said Parker. "We look at literally every single option with every single champion for every possibility, and every combination that could be in the story or in the faction, and we eventually choose what makes sense."

A look at Silas from the action brawler The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story.
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story stars the spell-stealing mage Silas.

The publisher also doesn't pursue favorites when creating their games. The upcoming Song of Nunu features the eponymous Nunu and his friendly yeti Willump, a champion duo that isn't nearly as popular as, say, Convergence's Ekko. At the end of the day, Riot Forge aims to engage players with compelling stories and characters within the League of Legends franchise.

"You know, League of Legends is a wild anomaly in the world of video games, but what will live on 10-20 years from now, there's no one specific game as much as it is the world and the characters that those games have."

Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story is an upcoming adventure game developed by Tequila Works.
A screenshot from the upcoming fifth Riot Forge game Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story.

What's Next for Riot Forge?

With Song of Nunu on the way, its release will mark three full game launches this year alone. Though Parker didn't mention or hint at any additional games, it's not a stretch to say much more is coming from Riot Forge and its indie partners. Meanwhile, feedback is important to the publisher, so your ideas for future games and feedback for existing ones are paramount to Parker and his team.

"I mean, personally, I read and watch everything," said Parker.

Of course, fans hold very high expectations for the League of Legends IP, whether its a real-life tournament or a new skin for your favorite champion. The studio is also aware that fans hold League of Legends in such high regard.

"We don't want to disappoint anyone. We want to surprise and delight them."

Another look at Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story, an upcoming adventure game developed by Tequila Works.
Another screenshot from the upcoming fifth Riot Forge game Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story.

With multiple titles spanning different genres, we can expect much more to come from the label. And if you're burned out by the competitive and high-stakes nature of League of Legends but still have a love for the lore and characters, Parker has some words that might persuade you to try a Riot Forge game for yourself.

"Forge games have a pause button. That's it, there's a pause button. You know, if something happens in life, if you've got kids, or if you need to pause, you need to go do something, you can just hit the pause button. I can't do that in ranked."


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