The land of Runeterra has erupted in magical world attire as of late, and it’s all thanks to the Star Guardian meta event taking place across League of Legends, Wild Rift, and Legends of Runeterra. This means in-game twists and rewards across all titles, as well as newly-recorded musical tracks and some impressive real-world displays here and there.
I wanted to learn more about this event, including how it improves on prior events, how it came about, and why Star Guardians were picked in the first place. That’s why I sat down with Ryan Mireles – product lead for the Star Guardian event and newly promoted lead of gameplay for League of Legends – to dig into the meat of the latest big celebration across Riot Games.
Why Star Guardians, this time around?
Mireles: Star Guardians was one of our first big skin lines. Back when Star Guardian Lux came out, the skins team made something that people really loved – so much that we did like a big Star Guardian thing later. It was Project and Star Guardians that were kind of the really big ones where we started doing like five skins in a single drop instead of like a lot of individual skin releases we were doing in the past. Both of those skin lines are really near and dear to our players and every time we return to them, tons of players get excited. They resonate very deeply.
So, when we finished doing our multi game events with Spirit Blossom, we were looking at what we wanted to do next. We hadn't touched on Star Guardians for a long time, it had been around two and a half years since the Neeko skin was released.
It made sense that we would try to do one of these big multi-game events with it, bringing in other teams like Wild Rift and Legends of Runeterra which had players who hadn't even experienced a big kind of Star Guardians event.
How do you have to approach a legacy skin line different with events like this, as opposed to a whole new line of skins like we saw with Sentinels or Spirit Blossom?
Mireles: Well, first of all we have to look at all the lore. Luckily, something like Star Guardians doesn't have too much lore already established. But even so we did have to look back at every kind of all the story we've told players with it from previous events and stories so far. We got in a room all together, looked at the whole storyline with Jared Rosen – one of our lead narrative writers on this event, to look at the whole timeline and figure out what are the stories that our players are excited to see continue.
Take Zoe, who had a big storyline that we wanted to continue. You'll see in this event that some progression is made there. We also wanted to look at what other stories we could tell, because unlike Sentinels, we weren’t trying to tell the same story across multiple games. For Star Guardians, we wanted to tell different stories across our different games. So you can enjoy it if you're playing just one title, or if you're playing Wild Rift and you're playing League, you can experience different stories in different places that compliment each other.
I’ve got a sort of chicken or the egg question; does the decision to start a Star Guardian event come before the desire to create a new line of skins, or vice-versa? Or are both simultaneous?
Mireles: I think it was March of last year – before Sentinels. We got together with the Wild Rift team alongside the leads on the skins team and other teams too! We basically got together in a room and we were like, 'okay, what are we all excited about?' We actually looked at three different options. I don't want to talk about other options we looked at in case we pursue them in the future. But we put three things on the table and looked at the pros and cons of each and what was more exciting. When we laid them all out, Star Guardians was just the one everyone in the room was super buzzed about.
Then we kind of started building! I think sometimes the events come first, and sometimes it starts the other way around. Like for this I know the skins team were already planning to do Star Guardians this year, even if we didn't do a big event. They were like, “Hey, cool, we're planning on doing Star Guardian anyway! Maybe we'll do something for Kai'Sa and Akali.” So it wasn't like skin work hadn't started at all.
In terms of the gameplay aspect of this event, what lessons were learned from previous in-game events like Spirit Blossom, or the Sentinels event?
With Spirit Blossom, we've kind of wanted to do storytelling in a major way, for a long time, but it was kind of hard to do it in League of Legends. So we kind of explored the visual novel aspect to get some storytelling that you could do in between games. One of the things that I think worked really well is that, for the average player that was just playing a couple games a week, you could get through all the stuff you wanted to get through. Then if you were hard engaged, you can like get like super bonds with characters and earn like emotes and stuff. I think a lot of players really liked that because we saw like 25%-ish reading it.
With Sentinels, we saw that it was a little too grindy for a lot of players. It made them tune out because they had to play so many games, way more than they would normally play just to experience the main story. So the gameplay thing we've learned this time is we made you know a through-line story where you basically can just get through it just playing a normal number of games, and then we have like kind of a Spirit Blossom esque system with each of the Guardians so you can play more games to develop individual relationships.
What are your main goals for this event? The most obvious one people are going to think of is getting people excited about Star Guardians. But, since each game involved is getting different narrative and cosmetic additions, it seems to me it could be more than that. What are you hoping to achieve with it, aside from the surface level stuff?
Part of it is obviously like, hey, if I'm into Star Guardian, and you know, Legends of Runeterra is doing a Star Guardian thing, I might go check it out right? I think the main reason we do these kinds of big moments is to kind of create this like, immersive Riot Games moment. If I'm playing any of these games – regardless of the amount I'm playing – for a while it feels like I’m immersed in the Star Guardian universe. If I go play some League, there's this really cool Star Guardian metagame system. If I go to my friend's house, and I'm playing some Wild Rift, I'm still kind of in this immersive Star Guardian universe. The idea is to create this super immersive environment, where our whole ecosystem and brand kind of transforms into Star Guardian universe for a period of time.