The Birth of Evil: Teemo
You love him, or you hate him - but if you love him, you're crazy.is the worst.
We talked to Jeff Jew (Producer), Colt Hallam (Senior Game Designer), and Brandon Beck (CEO) to delve into what went into creating League's greatest monster - and more importantly, why someone would decide to inflict him upon the world.
- Teemo's Nightmarish Origins
What kind of sadist thought Teemo was a good idea?
BRANDON BECK: Teemo comes from an earlier time, really. It was the wild west back then—we were all over the place with ideation; the League Universe was just starting to come together. Yordles emerged as a result of Teemo and became a bucket for champs not originally conceived as such, like Amumu. You could say Teemo made that all possible.
JEFF JEW: We knew we wanted a diverse cast of characters, with everything from terrifying evil badasses to cute little guys you could root for. Personally, I've always been a fan of moogles, ewoks, and things like that, so I was really interested in developing some small but mighty champions that could embody the inspirational / underdog end of the champion spectrum. After Teemo and Amumu, we began designing more tiny, intrepid characters like Corki and Tristana, and they all ended up coalescing as this group that brought a really fun, plucky personality to the champion roster.
- "...But he's so cute!"
Why is Teemo so (frustratingly) adorable?
JEFF JEW: I love Teemo's look, I really do. It's a pretty timeless take on League's style, with a great niche on the more light-hearted end of the spectrum. There's a reason he's a lot of players' first favorite. The funny thing is that his look contrasts so much with his gameplay identity—you see this cute little guy and don't realize he's a huge asshole until you see him work his magic in game.
COLT HALLAM: Based on his look we pretty quickly pegged him for a cute scout identity in-game. I actually have a real-life Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster buddy, so I drew a lot of inspiration from him.
JEFF JEW: We'd ended up with a couple of these similarly small and cute characters, and decided since they were all such good buds they might as well be the same race. We started theorycrafting (they can't lie, they love hats, that kind of thing), but actually didn't have a name yet. Then Paul “Pabro” Bellezza showed up one day and was like “Jeff, I'VE GOT IT.” Apparently, the night before he'd had a dream about Yoda and Yaddle from Star Wars, and woke up saying “Yordles.”
- Inside Teemo's Toolbag
How'd Teemo end up so trolly?
BRANDON BECK: I definitely recall my first time seeing this little scout-looking dude with a frakkin' blow gun, and immediately seeing something trolly about what he'd represent in game. It's no surprise he became the annoying little shit he did.
JEFF JEW: We knew we wanted him to be fast. Like, in a world of Garens and Katarinas, how does this little guy fight you? He's not gonna overpower you—he's gonna be fast, use his blowgun to blind you, and wear you down. It really started to come together once we hit on the mushroom idea. His personality started to really emerge and he changed from a guy who just kited you to a mischievous shit who could lock down whole areas and really piss off the entire enemy team.
We had some interesting steps along the way. I shit you not, he used to shoot a nuke. We've always loved making homages to our favorite games, and this was pretty much NUCLEAR LAUNCH DETECTED, complete with laser targeting from stealth. While it was certainly cool, we eventually came to our senses and saw that it wasn't super interactive and didn't really fit with the flavor and pace we were going for.
COLT HALLAM: This was way before we'd solidified champs into roles like ADC and Mage, so we were just looking for unique play patterns. We started developing Teemo as this guy who would go out scouting and lead the way for his teammates. His original passive was “Pathfinder” or “Leading the Way” or something like that—basically he left a trail behind him that temporarily granted vision and made allies faster. Two pretty funny things about that though. One, Teemo is, of course, squishy as **** so pathfinding tended to get him obliterated, and two, our tools weren't great. The ability worked by leaving—you guessed it—an invisible minion every 100 units. Of course, it didn't take too long for that to create MASSIVE slowdown.
The nuke was actually our second ult idea. The first one, while smaller in scope, was a true terror. Basically, it was a beefed-up poison dart that whacked you with a super strong DoT and put you to sleep for six seconds. Originally the target would wake on damage, but we switched it to invulnerability after a bit. It also burned mana, and a flat rate at that, so it would basically leave non-mages completely dry. Bruiser hell, I tell you. That obviously didn't last too long, nor did the nuke, and after those we settled on the idea of him setting traps to fit his whole scout thing.
- Finishing Touches
What inspired Teemo's iconic mushrooms?
COLT HALLAM: We were close to lock on Teemo and I was banging my head against a wall trying to figure out how to make landmines work, since they easily can be pretty dang toxic. Eventually, we settled on making it a DoT effect. At that point we didn't have any visual resources, though, and I had no idea what we were gonna do. One morning, I was just zoning out, staring at Summoner's Rift, at nothing in particular, when I saw something. There, in the jungle somewhere, was a tiny little mushroom. I ran over to the artists, asked them frantically if they could cut it out from the map, yelled 'ENHANCE' and all that... It was perfect. Exploding mushroom = poison DoT. It happened to spin, but we just said hey, it'll read better. I actually don't think we ever figured out why they spin.
So obviously, that's what we ended up shipping with, though he still had a couple post-launch changes. We gave him the badger dance at some point, and his stealth / speed aspects eventually got updated a bit. I never got to make the most important change though—Badger Teemo already has mushrooms, but I meant to get his dart changed to a snake and complete the homage.
- The Many Skins of Teemo
What went into Teemo's wardrobe?
JEFF JEW: I headed up skins for a while back in the day, and I guess Teemo just somehow ended up with seven skins before some champs had two. I mean, I had the data—Teemo skins were super popular with players, but let's just say I never met a Teemo skin I didn't like.
My favorite skin is Astronaut Teemo, but I've got a heck of a good reason. When I ran skins I'd joke about the idea all the time, until my birthday rolled around and Chance “SpaceStallion” Rowe dropped by my desk saying he had a present for me. He'd mocked up a prototype in his spare time. Being 100% impartial of course, I gave it a hearty “SHIP IT!”
- Love Him or Hate Him
Wait, you mean some people actually like Teemo?!
JEFF JEW: He really is that polarizing cute yet asshole character—whether you like him or not, he's fodder for discussion. He's arguably one of the most unique and recognizable champions, which makes him a huge League connector. His hat is cool, he's cute, and he's probably responsible for bringing more players to League than any other champion. He's a great mascot—neutral yet interesting on the spectrum of champion identities, and really representative of League's diversity. To top it off, he's the kind of cute that has worldwide appeal.
COLT HALLAM: Every game needs a villain, ours is just adorable. Love him or hate him, there's so much passion around him. The global taunt is real, and there's nothing in League quite like killing the little bugger or, conversely, getting surprise shroomed to death when you're low. There's just this great dichotomy between the player having so much fun and his opponent shaking with hate.
BRANDON BECK: Teemo's ended up repping something super iconic about League today, namely the vast diversity in the champ roster. He straddles the grim vs. whimsical line that you see throughout League's roster, which I think is a big part of why he appeals to so many different players. Teemo lightens the game, and so many other champs are possible because of him. It's just gravy that all his elements came together in the perfect way to make him one of the most polarizing characters in League.
The fact that players have latched on so strongly to Teemo has inspired so much—be it hats, his inexplicably large skin collection (sorry!), the Astro Teemo mini-game, or even the teemodies stream. I love the dimensionality he brings, the unique stuff he offers for players to connect to and engage with League. I mean, he's a freakin' unit of in-game measurement!
He's a great League indicator for new players—we want to capture the badass, but also to chuckle. The irony in his cute theme is that he's actually one bad mother****** who'll take pleasure in dancing on your corpse. Think about that leaked, never-finished Dominion cinematic from a couple years ago—Teemo shows up, chuckles while doing a cool flip, blinds Mordekaiser, then dies brutally. That's Teemo at his best.