Join two of Zyra’s developers, lead champion designer Ryan “Morello” Scott and Bradford “CertainlyT” Wenban, as they take you into the depths of the champion design process, giving you an inside look at how champions are born.
Riot: Start at the beginning. Where did Zyra’s development start?
Morello: We were looking at the archetype for a long time now; maybe a year. We’d just been calling her “plant girl.” Originally, she was a take on the nymph or dryad from traditional fantasy with a distinct League of Legends flair. Dryads are kind of “hey, heal you with nature” and soft and flighty, not the most fleshed out concept. So what is cool in nature? Strangling you with vines, man-eating plants – these were brutal. What if our dryad was focused around this sharper side of nature?
Zyra is also one of the champions that had a ton of developers working on her. At least three designers had a hand in in iterating on her kit.
Riot: CertainlyT, you were the final designer to work on Zyra. What was unique about your time finalizing her?
CertainlyT: When I came onto the Zyra project, a lot of the problems were about going “too far” in the seed direction. There were too many choices as to what you could turn your plants into. Having so many different plants to create made it so that you always felt bad about the choice you made. It was very overwhelming. The seeds themselves had also been a challenge, from their function granting vision to how long they can live in the world.
Riot: So how did you solve the issues with her seeds?
CertainlyT: We wanted to put more emphasis on planting seeds out in the world and making that a decision-point about whether you should create a plant or not. This way, you never feel like you are wasting a seed because it could always become something else and serve a function.
Riot: How has Zyra’s kit changed over the course of her development?
CertainlyT: We had to cut down on a lot of variables. There were dozens of balance problems resulting with Zyra. Having too many plants felt like the kit wasn’t clean. We wanted to add depth to the play experience by enabling the player to doing clever things with their plants, rather than just giving you a huge number of plants to choose from. That way, it’s more about the way you play Zyra than the complexity of her kit that defines her.
Morello: Yeah, it’s done nothing but help the character, trimming down the number of ways you could interact with plants.
CertainlyT: It’s actually given Zyra more options by opening up more possibilities for the remainder of her kit. We could increase her ranges and give seeds more flexibility, for instance, since she doesn’t have a plant for every job. It was a balance between the awesome toolbox-aspect of the character, where she could whip out one of a plethora of plants versus using your plants in strategic, fun ways. Everything is a lot cleaner, she plays better and you never feel punished for your choices when it comes to seeds. It’s about how I use my plants versus choosing which plant for the job.
Morello: There is a lot of decision making with Zyra and her abilities.
CertainlyT: What I’ve noticed is that Zyra is played in dramatically different ways based on how people approach mages or how they think about the game. We’ve seen Zyra played as a controller-type, creeping around and always knowing where you are so she’s ready to strike. We’ve seen her played extremely aggressive, waiting for her moment to strike and placing plants in the path of his enemy’s escape, trapping them between two powerful damage sources. Zyra can even be played like a tricky, trap-setting, defensive mage who rolls with the punches. She moves back, kind of kiting her enemy with an obstacle course of seeds and plants.
Zyra’s plant-play is much more open in terms of how you can combo her spells and set the map up for yourself, and she will be fulfilling for many different players in many different ways.
Riot: Were you looking to fill a role with Zyra?
Morello: It was archetype first and then whichever role would make sense for that archetype. For a more open champion like Zyra, I expect that we’re going to see some crazier stuff. Unexpected bottom support Zyra might turn out to be incredibly powerful. Jungle Zyra might turn out to be the greatest counter-jungler because of her seeds. She’s so open-ended, since she doesn’t bring the same guns to the fight like other AP champions. She’s not going to go toe-to-toe with other pure APs – she needs to use her abilities and combos to dish it out. Her play is important.
CertainlyT: Once her kit was set, we focused on where she would most likely appear most – mid lane. That’s where we might have to rein her in. But the real take-away is how emergent her gameplay can be, and the anticipation of seeing what people are going to do with her.
One thing I was really happy with that came from Zyra’s development was that she doesn’t actually have a bright line role to play in game. We could add usefulness and fun to this champion and not pigeon-hole her into a role.
Morello: Orianna, Blitzcrank, Lulu to some extent – these are champions that are more open-ended and can live in multiple places in the game. Their open-ended abilities and play styles let players who are into that sort of thing -- the player who wants to be creative with this type of ability set -- really think about how their champion can affect the battle.
Darius, on the other hand, was always going to be a top lane fighter and a killer of men. Sometimes you want that type of focus. The players want lots of different types of champions.
Riot: How did you go about balancing seeds? They are critical to her kit, right?
Morello: There are different costs for everything, and Zyra’s seeds are more about opportunity cost. Since you can only have two seeds stored up at once, it’s up to you to create the opportunity to use or not use them. If you drop two seeds immediately on top of your opponent and grow them into plants, that’s two plants that you’ve got and no seeds for other uses, like preventing a jungle gank or for scouting. They’ll come back, sure, but the limits to her power come from these opportunities to use seeds.
Read the full interview here: