Choose a Champion Update Voting Result: Fiddlesticks
Blake “Squad5” Smith, Gameplay Designer: We’re doubling down on Fiddlestick’s identity as THE iconic ambusher in League. Catching enemies by surprise is the true art of playing Fiddle, and we’re testing new tricks and ways to terrify his opponents.
Sunny “Kindlejack” Pandita, Concept Artist: I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who voted for Fiddlesticks! He’s been tied with Rumble for my favourite champion since Season 1, and I can’t wait to help bring him up to modern standards. When I joined Riot, I hoped to one day be a part of this exact project, so I’m excited to deliver the update we’ve been having terrifying dreams about.
In fact, I’m so excited that I’ve already been scribblin’ in my sketchbook, exploring a pretty radical range of directions that we could take the Harbinger of Doom. Am I afraid? Yes. I’m afraid this update is going to be so spooky we’ll have players who would rather ff than face their fears.
Jared “Carnival Knights” Rosen, Narrative Writer: I want Fiddlesticks to be the most terrifying champion in the game, without exception. He begs questions like, “What is a scarecrow? What is the facsimile of a person, and why does it move around? What compels it to kill?” There’s a deeply unsettling logic at work within that champion, and I’m excited to drag it out and give it new, monstrous life.
There are of course sillier elements of Fiddle, and I have the strangest feeling these will be embraced and celebrated using his skins. A surprise-party-birthday-clown feeling.
Fiddlesticks and Volibear: Dev Update #1
A few months ago, you all voted on which champion you’d most like to see updated in 2020. The poll was so close that we decided to update both Fiddlesticks and Volibear next year, and today we’re here to share the latest progress on their VGUs!
We started early discovery on both champions around the same time. As of right now, we’ve found what we think is a strong, exciting direction for Fiddlesticks. He’s made it through ideation—which is where we lock down the direction of a champ’s gameplay, narrative, and art—and moved into early production, which is when we start moving towards getting the ideas into the game. Volibear is pretty close to early production as well, but we’re taking a bit more time to make sure we’re equally confident in the Freljoridian demigod’s direction.
Let’s kick things off with the latest on Fiddlesticks.
- Designing the Most Horrifying Champion in League
Blake “Squad5” Smith, Gameplay Designer: When approaching Fiddlesticks, we wanted to focus on highlighting the identity Fiddle already had—a teamfight-winning ambush mage. Crowstorm is such an iconic spell that we wanted to have the rest of the kit support what that ability tells Fiddle to do. That pushed us toward the idea of Fiddle being one of, if not the best, “ambush” character in the game.
For gameplay, this means giving Fiddle players tools to keep hidden and to find (or create) ways to ambush and trick their enemies. When a player succeeds in ambushing their opponents, we want to make sure they’re in a powerful position to win the fight. Fiddle’s going to have some fun new mechanics both inside and outside of teamfights that are going to give him a real advantage… especially if enemies refuse to face their fears and find the scarecrow before it finds them.
- Conjuring Pure Terror
Fiddlesticks’ concept artist Sunny “Kindlejack” Pandita is temporarily out and wasn’t able to do a full breakdown today, but he’s still really excited to be updating one of his favourite champions of all time. Here’s the latest terrifying spread of concept art!
- Uncovering an Ancient Evil
Jared “Carnival Knights” Rosen, Narrative Writer: During very early story development, we brainstormed where the “new” Fiddlesticks could fall and what faction or race it might fill. Demon? Ionian spirit? Cursed object? Angry Freljordian ghost? Fiddle doesn’t really look like anything else in the game, so it could hypothetically be placed in the rural wilderness of almost anywhere. Then there’s that name: Fiddlesticks. A necromancer probably wouldn’t call their bloodthirsty new creation Fiddlesticks, nor would a warlock read from the grimoire of Dread Lord Fiddle In The Middle.
“Fiddlesticks” is a name a child would coin; something you might invoke around a campfire to scare your friends.
When we look at truly ancient champions like Ornn or Tahm Kench, they have hundreds or even thousands of origin stories and tales surrounding them, with dozens of names depending on the individuals or cultures that came into contact with them over the centuries. Fiddlesticks could easily fit in among them, having preyed on mankind for godless ages, so it would make sense that there would be nursery rhymes and storybook fables and old wive’s tales about a living scarecrow. Monster? Harvest deity? Eldritch artifact, controlled by some other person or creature? Instead of settling on one, Fiddle could invoke them all, an ancient malevolence with unclear origins, gone from the world long enough for warnings to become stories, stories to become myths, and myths to become simple children’s tales… until now.
Then there’s the question of what Fiddle could sound like. As an utterly inhuman entity (regardless of what its true origins are), Fiddle lacks internal organs, a brain to think, or vocal chords to form sentences. Any type of voice it might have wouldn’t sound like a person, but rather a projection: Just as a scarecrow is the crude facsimile of a human being, its voice could be a crude mimicry of people it has come across/killed. We’re still in the early stages of exploration there, but I did float the idea of having five separate voice actors all whispering at once, repeating odd, overlapping phrases as though Fiddle was trying to appear human at a distance, and a terrifying monster up close.
Turns out that having a cacophony of random people saying things at you is extremely off putting in a gameplay environment (for the player as well as their opponents). Whoops. But on its face the concept was pretty well received, so there might be a way to execute on it more effectively… with one or two little tweaks I want to try, for when Fiddlesticks finally drops the mask, and the odd, thin man standing at the edge of the field turns out not to be a man at all.
(Oh, and don’t worry. I’m also thinking about surprise-party-birthday-clown stuff. Honk honk.)
Champion Roadmap: October 2019
- An Ancient Evil Begins to Take Form
We’ve made a lot of progress on Fiddlesticks since the last dev blog, using your feedback to iterate on and polish its new visual design. A lot of you were excited about Fiddle being this terrifying thing with a bunch of different voices, so this is something we want to try and make work one way or another for its VO.
Fiddlesticks’ new kit will be centered around the concept of fear, but it’ll include much more than a point-click status effect (which is staying on the kit). Experienced Fiddlesticks players will wreak mental havoc on their victims as they question what is real and what is merely a terrifying effigy. Horror will fill the Rift whenever Fiddle is in the game, and if it finds you before you find it, only death will follow.
/dev: The Latest on Fiddlesticks' VGU
By The Fiddlesticks VGU Team
Hey all, with the Player Choice Fiddlesticks VGU now in full production, we thought it’d be a good time to do a deep dive into our current progress. The team has some truly horrifying stuff planned for its release a little later this year, so this blog might not be for the faint of heart. We’ll be getting really nitty-gritty with some of Fiddle’s work-in-progress animations, VFX, modeling, and more, so consider this your final warning: spoilers, spooky stuff, and dense info lie ahead.
- An Ancient Evil Takes Form
In case you missed the previous posts, our goal with updating Fiddlesticks is to transform it into the most terrifying champion in League of Legends.
As far as gameplay goes, we want Fiddle to be the iconic ambush champion, with a kit that’s centered around the concept of fear. This goes deeper than just a point-click status effect, which is staying on the kit. But beyond that, we’re giving Fiddle new mechanics that are built around its iconic Crowstorm. This includes giving Fiddlesticks more ways to stay hidden and find—or create—opportunities to ambush enemies. When a player succeeds at executing the perfect jump scare, we want to also make sure they’re in a powerful position to win the fight.
Experienced Fiddlesticks players will wreak mental havoc on their victims as they question what is real and what is a terrifying effigy.
During early story development, we brainstormed where the “new” Fiddlesticks could fall and what faction or race it might fill. Fiddle doesn’t really look like anything else in the game, so it could hypothetically be placed almost anywhere. And there’s that name: Fiddlesticks. A necromancer probably wouldn’t call their bloodthirsty new creation Fiddlesticks, nor would a warlock read from the grimoire of Dread Lord Fiddle In The Middle.
“Fiddlesticks” is a name a child would coin; something you might invoke around a campfire to scare your friends.
When we look at truly ancient champions likeor , they have hundreds or even thousands of origin stories and tales surrounding them. Fiddlesticks could easily fit in among them, having preyed on mankind for godless ages, so it would make sense that there would be nursery rhymes and storybook fables and old wive’s tales about a living scarecrow. Monster? Harvest deity? Eldritch artifact, controlled by some other person or creature? Instead of settling on one, Fiddle could invoke them all, an ancient malevolence with unclear origins, gone from the world long enough for warnings to become stories, stories to become myths, and myths to become simple children’s tales… until now.
As an utterly inhuman entity (regardless of what its true origins are), Fiddle lacks internal organs, a brain to think, or vocal chords to form sentences. Any type of voice it might have wouldn’t sound like a person, but rather a projection: Just as a scarecrow is the crude facsimile of a human being, its voice could be a crude mimicry of people it has come across/killed. We’re still super excited about this direction, and it’s something we want to implement for its VO.
And as for visuals… Well, Fiddlesticks is a demon who feeds on fear, so we wanted to create something that’d incite terror in those who stumble upon it in the dark.
Now for the new stuff! Let’s jump into how the Fiddlesticks team transformed the concept art into something playable in game. Keep in mind that all work shown below is still very work in progress!
- Fabricating a Monstrosity
Jason “00Y00” Namgung, Character Artist: Modeling a character is two easy steps, you start with a sphere and then… final product. EZPZ.
On a more serious note, jumping into the Fiddle project, I was given an in-progress concept, and we had questions that needed answering. To name a few: How does its silhouette read in-game? How should it move? Are there any elements on the model that don’t work? How are the proportions of its body parts? To find those answers, I started out with creating a really quick and dirty proxy model just to get it into the game.
Once we finished all our testing and experimentation during pre-production, we moved into the production phase and really started building out the final high-poly model. A high-poly model is a higher polygon density model that we can digitally sculpt on (feels very similar to clay). I started replacing all the super simple, basic geometry pieces with the more complex mechanical pieces that Fiddle is made out of. This is the part where 3d artists normally go crazy on tiny detailing, but for League, it’s actually better for us to do really clean and simple sculpt with only big- and medium-detail shapes.
Once Fiddle’s high-poly model was finished, I went back to the refined proxy as the base for the final in-game model, just to save on time and sanity… I mean, efficiency. I come from a sculpting background and have less experience in painting, so rather than starting off from scratch, I used multiple maps baked from of the high-poly model such as the Normal, Ambient Occlusion, Curvature, and more to push the character’s textures further along. Then I throw it into a painting program and begin the “real” work of getting it to look good in League.
Just sit and paint, paint, and paint some more ’til it starts looking better. Still a work in progress!
Coming to a nightmare near you.
- Rigging an Eldritch Puppet
Dawon “Riot WONY” Lee, Technical Artist: As a tech artist, I make the rig, which is comprised of bones and controllers in the model—the stuff that enables animators to move around specific parts of the model and bring the character to life.
Normally, when I set up champions, I consider how the character moves naturally. For example, Yuumi’s face rig can make natural and cute facial expressions, and Senna’s ghost cloak setup flows in a natural way. However, developing Fiddlesticks’ rig was different. When we started to set up Fiddlesticks, who’s basically a puppet, my goal was to create a setup that supports both unnatural and natural movements that feel similar to a demon or ghost.
The animator suggested putting an unnatural head shake into the animation when Fiddlesticks moves. I thought it was a really cool idea so I added a rig element that we call “jiggle” that helps animators create naturally flowing animation along a chain of joints. We usually use it for parts such as capes and tails. We haven’t used this function on champions’ head and jaw, so I wasn’t sure if it would work successfully. However, the results were exactly the unnatural head and jaw movements we wanted, making Fiddlesticks look eerie.
One of the biggest changes in the new concept of Fiddlesticks is a long right arm with big sharp claws to accentuate its spookiness. The animator wanted to create a walk animation to highlight its terrifying right arm where Fiddlesticks drags its sharp claws on the ground as it walks toward the enemy. Imagine in a horror movie, the enemy dragging his bloody weapon to the ground and walking toward the main character… super spooky.
I wanted to find the best way to make its arm look like a huge weapon and move in the same direction of its body, but to also make it look creepy and unnatural. A function called “Dragon Turn Tech” was set up on its right arm to make the arm follow its body naturally while also adding a creepy element to the movement. It may seem to be a minor change in animation, but it has a major impact and makes the animation look more realistic in game.
- Bringing an Inanimate Object to Life
Luke “LukeHop” Hu, Animator: When I first saw its character design, I knew that animating Fiddlesticks wouldn’t be easy. Firstly, we need to figure out its character. Fiddlesticks is a mysterious ancient demon living in the body of a scarecrow. It’s a dangerous predator, so its poses and movements need to look a bit intimidating. At the same time, its body proportion is weird. Its right arm is long and heavy, and its legs are very slim and weak (especially with the little nail/fork feet), so its movements need to be a little unnatural and lack stability.
Another important thing I always kept in my mind was that Fiddle’s brain isn’t in its head, but in a cage in its chest. So its head can be treated as a decoration, since what’s really doing the “thinking” is the demon living inside the cage. This demon has no substance. But when it’s eager to hunt, you’ll see it try to break through the cage and reach its prey with two demon arms.
The concept of a scarecrow is also an important thing for Fiddlesticks, so you’ll often see Fiddle’s iconic “T-pose” during its idle, complete with a lantern swinging animation.
- Visualizing an Ancient Evil
Jason “Riot Lanky Tree” Chisolm, VFX Artist: Green is oftentimes not a very terrifying color unless you’re from the Shadow Isles (then it’s horrifying). Fiddlesticks, however, isn’t a shadowy entity from a far-off island. It’s a demonic entity ready to appear when you least expect it, and Fiddle needed a new color palette to reinforce this. As some players noticed when we revealed the new concept, there’s a new color palette made up of mostly reds and blacks on the scythe, and this carries over into the VFX. We went with red and black to make the demonic origin even more apparent, but color is only one of the many aspects that make up a champion’s VFX.
After the colors were decided, it was time to focus on the shapes and textures that would be utilized throughout the kit. Shape plays a huge role in creating iconic VFX for champions. To contrast Fiddle’s newer, more mechanical appearance and to allude more to the demonic entity within, I wanted to create a mix of ambiguous organic shapes, soft wispy shapes, and sharp dangerous ones.
Even with these changes, there were still core parts of Fiddlesticks’ previous identity we wanted to keep and enhance. Let’s take a look at Crowstorm. Crowstorm is a pretty unique ability—it takes up a lot of screen space, lasts for a while, moves with Fiddlesticks, and Fiddle can cast other abilities while it’s active. Plus, the name “Crowstorm” conjures up an image of an intense flurry of feathers, dark wind, and demonic energy. All in all, creating the VFX for Crowstorm is a careful balancing act to make it easily readable without downplaying the importance of it in a fight.
I knew I would need a solid plan going into Crowstorm’s update in order to fully deliver on the fantasy of this ability. I focused on what I wanted players to feel, both for the channel and for what happens once Fiddlesticks blinks into the fight looking for kills. For the channel, I really wanted to push the sense of the demon having an uncontrollable urge to kill to the point where it’s literally bursting out of Fiddlesticks. Once channeled, this ability needs to grab attention since it’s a new player entering the fight often from out of vision. In order to do this, I played up a lot of the initial blink with thematic-reinforcing elements such as demonic script, bursts of dark smoke, a bit of distortion, and of course lots of crows.
- What’s Next for Champions?
We’re also talking about the Volibear VGU and some upcoming champions in today’s Champion Roadmap video. We’ll share more details about Volibear in a dev blog later this year.
We can’t wait to finally get the Fiddlesticks update into your hands. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with one last thing from development…
Ask Riot: Making Fiddle's VO
- How’d you make the VO for Fiddlesticks? It’s spooky af.
As you might expect, crafting the iconic voice of a champion begins with a compelling—and in this case, brilliantly spine-tingling—performance from the voice talent. When you start with a deeply evocative portrayal of the character through sublime voice acting, my job as a VO designer becomes a lot easier. It unlocks the ability to take a really interesting starting point and push it to the next level of the otherworldly, the unsettling, and the downright weird.
As soon as I heard the early auditions for Fiddlesticks, I was hooked. Kellen Goff, the voice actor, brought a stunning range of dynamic textures and colors to Fiddle’s voice during records, which gave me an amazing performance to push and pull, splice and enhance to unearth those special and bone-chilling moments. The sessions with Kellen yielded gem after gem of self-contained horrifying textures that I simply needed to glue together into a mosaic of death.
To see how Kellen does it, check out his video below (3:40 and 4:58 are both spooky spots.)
When it came to the core design, it felt only appropriate that the voice of Fiddlesticks would serve as a sonic parallel to the creature itself: a dry, rattling, disjointed, vaguely humanoid form with a terrible demonic presence just out of sight, occasionally peeking through and threatening to burst forth. To this end, I started tinkering with a lot of different effects: some subtle, deeper doubled textures that would intensify on certain sinister words; a hint of a dark, cold, oppressive reverb; and even some inhuman animal and insect textures woven throughout. It was important that Fiddle never felt like it was utilizing the anatomical tools of a human with a voice: lips, lungs, or any other organic matter. It couldn’t get too wet, too gurgly, too feral. That’s not who Fiddle is. It’s a macabre, breathless monster driven by a deep need to hunt without truly understanding speech.
- -Riot Zimberfly, VO Director
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