Riot Games took its first step into major entertainment and storytelling last month when it released the first issue of Ashe: Warmother. This release was the first of many upcoming comic series as part of Riot’s partnership with Marvel Entertainment.
While this doesn’t mean that League of Legends will now be featured in the Marvel cinematic universe or anything, it’s still a major leap forward in IP (intellectual property) development for Riot and its flagship game. It’s also significant for the gaming industry as a whole, which is familiar with games being turned into films, but not multi-series comic book universes. Riot’s head of creative development Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street told Dot Esports that these comics are only the beginning, and that Riot has big plans for storytelling.
We asked Ghostcrawler to shed some light on what went into the partnership, as well as why Riot chose comics instead of television or the big screen for its first major storytelling medium.
Did you have a major partnership like the one with Marvel already in mind when you moved to Riot’s creative development team?
Ghostcrawler: We had a few partners in mind, but wanted to fully develop our strategy before selecting a partner. I sat down with the team leads and some of the Riot executives, and we worked out our long-term plans. Roughly, the strategy is that the best way to expose people to our universe is through League and our future games. However, that doesn’t mean the only products we should make are games. Comics might not have the huge reach our games do, but are a great way to test out stories, explore the world, and maybe even bring new players to our games. Once we established that strategy, it was clear how a Marvel partnership made a ton of sense. We didn’t want to get into the comic publishing and distribution business, we wanted to tell stories and have a seasoned partner who could do the rest.
Do you expect the stories coming out of the Marvel deal to re-tell or redo much existing League lore?
There are three main kinds of stories we will tell, though possibly there are more ideas in the future. First, we want to expand on the stories players might know, but in more detail, and with more visuals than we were able to do through short stories alone. Ashe falls in this category. Second, we want to move the universe into the future and talk about what happens next, especially when champions interact with each other. Finally, we’d like to consider stories in our alternate universes, like Odyssey, PROJECT, or K/DA.
What do you think this deal means for the future of the League and Runeterra IP?
While it was never really our intention when we first developed League, we suddenly found ourselves sitting on a very rich IP. Players spend hundreds of hours with these characters and often grow to care about them. And we have a huge number of characters in a world where launching universes, not just stand-alone stories, is all the rage. Suffice to say we have big plans, and if the things we make resonate with players, we’ll do even more.
Did Riot consider any other entertainment mediums before landing on comics and graphic novels?
We do have explorations in a few mediums that we can’t talk about yet, and we are incredibly excited about those as well. What we love about comics though is that they let us explore visuals as well as the written narrative. For example, in the Ashe series, you can see the Freljord geography, what their clothing and architecture look like, how they go to war, and so on. We hope to be able to tell a lot of stories and bounce all around the world.
Revealing what you can, could you tell me if there are any other big picture plans cooking to develop the League IP?
Yes, there are big plans. And, no, we can’t talk about them yet.
When Riot began to really dive back into lore at the end of 2017, did you or anyone else at Riot picture it turning into something like this?
We knew we had a lot of foundational work to do before we could tell stories that advanced the timeline. We didn’t have great ideas about how far apart cities were, or if champions regularly ran into each other, or knew about each other’s existence. We didn’t have a world map. Even today, we still have a lot of work to do. What are the currencies of Runeterra? What languages do they speak? What are their holidays? We don’t want to just answer every question abstractly, because some of those are best answered within the confines of what a game needs. But when those questions come up, comics can help us answer them.
Are there any other stories scheduled to come out of the Marvel partnership?
We’re not ready to talk about which champions we are visiting after Ashe, but we do want the relationship we have with Marvel to be a long one, because there are a lot of stories to tell in our universe.
Will Riot explore parallel universes for skins, like the High Noon or K/DA universes, with the Marvel comics?
Definitely. We know players want to learn more about these alternate universes and they are fun for us to work in for a few reasons. For example, it’s interesting to see how a particular part of Runeterra manifests in different universes. What does Demacia look like in High Noon? Is there a K/DA Skarner? Okay, probably not.
Will any of the artists and storytellers from Riot’s own comics be working with Marvel to create any of the new stories?
The writer for Ashe is Riot’s own Odin Shafer, who has written a lot of champions for us. Future series will definitely use some of Marvel’s amazing stable of writers and artists as well. That is one of the many benefits of partnering with them.