. Last update: August 02, 2022
League of Legends already has 161 champions, with players long asking Riot to significantly slow down or halt new releases. The developers have admitted that they will eventually cap the number of champions, but they are nowhere near the cap.
League of Legends has one of the largest character rosters of any game with 161 different playable champions at the time of publication —and that number is only growing.
Each new champion introduces a new mechanic that keeps players on their toes and adds to the complexity of getting started with the game. For a new player, or even a veteran player returning from a break, all additions — plus items and map reshuffles — are a daunting learning curve.
Riot has been asking for a long time to limit the number of champions in League of Legends, or at least slow versions. Ever since the game brought in over 100 champions over five years ago, players have wondered when the developers would actually stop.
Behind closed doors, there have been discussions about this topic, developer Matt “Phroxzon” Leung-Harrison admitted on a podcast. However, there’s no solid number yet, and there’s still a lot of experimentation that Riot wants to push forward in League of Legends.
“We still have a lot of flexibility to do because there are certain things that make a lot of champions unsustainable,” Phroxzon explained. “One is if champions aren’t intuitive – say I meet Thresh and he throws a hook, and it looks like a hook, but he goes right over someone. You’d be like ‘ what is that?’
“If we’re creating unintuitive champions, then creating more of them is a problem because it massively multiplies the number of things you need to understand to play the game.”
Champions Hook all work intuitively to try and reduce League’s learning curve and allow Riot to continue creating new champions.
It’s a relatively simple marker —champions aren’t so incredibly complex yet that Riot has run out of ideas. No matter what you think of Viego, Akshan, Zeri, or even Bel’Veth and Nilah, their concept remains relatively clear even if a little overpowered.
However, it’s getting harder and harder to make things as unique to each champion as before. To solve this problem, Riot must try to keep the same things and streamline the mechanics.
“Every champion that comes out is unique in some way. We try to make what’s unique be as intuitive as possible so we don’t consume that shared budget. We’re at 160 right now, so every player has to consume and understand 160 champions to effectively play the game,” Phroxzon continued.
“It gets a lot harder when every hook champion has their hook function in a slightly different way. If Blitzcrank’s Q can do a 90 degree turn? It gets a lot harder to figure out. But most hooks work Most Mystic Shot-like items work the same way.
“It’s only when we do something that completely subverts the expectation of that spell or that missile or what that VFX means —then we have trouble.”
That’s not to say Riot has missed the mark in the past with champion clarity and uniqueness. Gwen is an example that devs often refer to, especially with her Hallowed Mist.
The issues surrounding its release have changed the way Riot views the champion creation process. Uniqueness is slowly becoming less of a necessity and more of an “aspirational value”, and new champions might vary only slightly from previous releases when it comes to filling an entirely new niche —say like what Nilah did for the lane bottom.
“In the case of Gwen W, she needed this mechanic because we wanted her to work in melee —to get to the front line —without getting blown up by ranged champions,” Phroxzon said. .
“So it’s like it’s a mechanic that makes sense. Gwen was built around that mechanic. It’s a very difficult mechanic to visualize. Xin Zhao does it well because he can put a invulnerable tag, but Gwen’s is a bit different because she’s not invulnerable. It presents a different visualization challenge. Sometimes a mechanic is just unique enough to be too difficult to visualize.
Riot admits they slightly missed the mark on Gwen, but her uniqueness still shines through.
“Champion designer, animators, visual effects and sound [guys] will try to consult and figure out the best way to represent it, but sometimes with unique mechanics it’s just too hard to get a “perfect solution” for it. “Gwen is immune” is the meme, but we had to resort to adding text because the status was unclear. We wouldn’t do that in an ideal world.
Until Riot runs out of ideas — or falls into oblivion for another obscure champion mechanic — League of Legends isn’t going to run out of new characters anytime soon. Releases may vary in frequency, but there’s still plenty to explore in the MOBA 13 years later.