There is a limit to the seemingly ever-expanding League of Legends champion roster, with Riot Games devs already penciling in a time when they’ll stop designing new characters in an effort to avoid scaring new players away.
League stands alone in modern gaming with its monolithic roster.
Several long-running franchises do hold a candle to the MOBA, of course, including the Mortal Kombat—the Netherealm giant has 97 fighters—and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. with its cast of 80 characters.
Other character driven titles like apex legends (23 across the main game and its mobile spinoff) and Overwatch (32, with more on the way) struggle to keep up. riot’s shooter, VALORANThas a growing list of eighteen and League arch-rival dota 2 recently clocked over 123 with the arrival of Primal Beast in February.
Riot’s thirteen-year old franchise leader retains its throne via relatively regular character releases—we’ve already had four this year.
Those good times will eventually end though, Riot says.
Final League champ is coming, Riot says
At least, that’s the discussion the Riot Games teams are already having, dev Matt “Phroxzon” Leung-Harrison told League Broken by Concept podcast.
Leung-Harrison (who was recently promoted to top boss in the balance team) admitted the League squad is already considering an “end” point where the roster will hit a big red stop sign. In all likelihood, the Australian dev said, that final release will come when Riot can no longer add intuitive characters.
“We’ve still got a lot of flex to go [there],” I added.
“There are a few things that make a lot of champions unsustainable. One is if champions are unintuitive. Let’s say I run into Thresh, he throws a hook, and it looks like a hook, but it just goes over somebody. You’d be like ‘what the hell is that?’
“If we make unintuitive champs, making more of them is an issue because it massively multiplies the number of things you need to understand to play the game.”
Gwen is Riot’s best example of ‘unintuitive’
One example Leung-Harrison pointed to was Gwen. In her case, the core of her kit was based around an ability that presented a “difficult visualization challenge.” New players often struggle to identify The Hallowed Seamstress’ moves.
Even worse, they are sometimes driven away from LOL by her abilities.
That is a huge “no-no” for the team. New League players already faced a steep learning curve around 160 plus characters: Riot doesn’t want to make that any harder.
When will Riot stop making League champions?
Luckily, the League roster max cap isn’t coming anytime soon.
In fact, the Riot development team is as eager as ever to design new characters for their title. The gurus firmly believe “part of League’s magic is its never-ending mastery curve.” It’s what keeps players coming back again and again.
According to lead League dev Ryan Mireles, “Once you’ve learned the game and all its many characters, the game can start to become less engaging. Every new champion we create adds new gameplay to learn, which is one of the reasons why we ensure all new champions have a unique playstyle.”
Nilah was the most recent addition to the game’s roster.
Next up are actually reworks. Udyr is finally getting his kit and design tweaked to bring him into modern League and Aurelion Sol is getting a much-needed update.