Developer Riot Games has been most well-known over the past decade for creating the mega-hit MOBA League of Legends. As the game has continued to grow larger over the years, though, Riot’s ambitions for the IP have continued to evolve as well. Now, those aspirations within the company have resulted in the studio’s first foray into television with Arcane, which has been releasing in three-episode chunks on Netflix over the course of the past couple of weeks.
Prior to the release of the final three episodes of Arcane on Netflix this weekend, we chatted with co-creators and producers Alex Yee and Christian Linke about what it has been like for Riot to work on a project of this magnitude. Over the course of the conversation, Yee and Linke opened up about the process of creating the show’s story, collaborating with outside partners, and working with other teams at the studio to establish something that fits into the larger League of Legends universe. The duo also teased that this might not be the only project of this type that the studio will look to create within the coming years.
Deciding on Which Champions to Feature
ComicBook.com: There are roughly 150 champions in League of Legends at this point in time, but Arcane only focuses on a select group of characters from the game. How did you decide on which champs you wanted to focus on in this series?
Alex Yee: Well, Jinx and Vi have always been very close to us. We grew up with them. Both Christian and I worked on the teams that were part of their original release. And then, Christian, one of the first things he did when he started moving into music at Riot, was working on champion themes. Vi was one of the first themes that had lyrics. It was a big step forward for us.
And then, with Get Jinxed, that was the first music video that we did. And it was also the first time that we worked with Fortiche. So, I think in a lot of ways, they’re characters that we’re very close to, part of our time at Riot, also part of Fortiche’s legacy.
Beyond that, Piltover and Zaun offer a unique visual opportunity amongst the different regions in Runeterra. Technology is really the thing that binds them. And we always felt like we wanted to start this story in a place where, if we wanted to go to other regions, we could feel like this was an inciting incident that reverberated through the world. So the birth of Hextech, we thought was a great moment to check in with the story.
But at the end of the day, I think these are characters we love. We think they provide a lot of narrative opportunity, and I think that’s most of it.
Arcane’s Visual Style
So you talked about the Jinx video that you had done with Fortiche previously. Was the art style of Arcane really influenced by that video that had been done with the Jinx previously? And how did you land on this sort of airbrushed art style that you’ve gone with for the show?
Christian Linke: Yeah, we actually partnered with Fortiche, the studio that made the first music videos that we worked on; the Jinx music video, the Warriors music video, and the Pop/Stars and K/DA music video. So we just always loved that look. It’s very cinematic, but it also feels really animated. I know there’s some animation that also tries too much to be live-action. It’s not that. It’s something that really embraces being animated, and so it just felt right. It felt like it was larger than life. When you watch it on the big screen, it feels like it belongs there.
At the same time, it was also more efficient. We could even make something like Arcane with a season long of content without having to rob every bank in the world. So it was just the right fit.
The Process of Creating New Characters
So we talked a little bit about some of the familiar faces that are in Arcane, but you have also created a lot of new characters that are in the show that are showing up in this world for the first time. Obviously, you are primarily a video game company, and I’m sure there might be considerations with how those characters would potentially one day fit in if you decide to include them in League of Legends proper. What’s the process like of creating new characters in general at Riot? Are there other verticals at the studio that have to provide input on these new characters when they’re made?
AY: In the beginning, I think we weren’t really trying to plant major flags in the lore with these characters. We just felt if the show was only inhabited with champions, it made the world feel small. So in a lot of ways, it was helping to also define the world that these champions live in and create context for them.
I think as we continued developing for the show, we started thinking about how they might play larger roles. But at the end of the day, it really is just in trying to figure out how to tell a good story and create these avenues for a story that players and the audience wouldn’t necessarily be expecting.
In terms of how that would be adopted by other teams and everything, I think there are lots of different teams working at Riot on different products, different games. The goal, I think, is to give us the capability to be force multipliers for each other without feeling like we are closing doors or creating an ultimatum for people in other parts of the company. So at the end of the day, I think we’ll see. I think Arcane is really a first foray into this kind of storytelling for Riot. And I think we’re anxious to see how people react, and to use what we learn to figure out how to best build that into the overall ecosystem.
Creating the Soundtrack of Arcane
Music has obviously always been a huge element of League of Legends and Arcane is no different. Once again, you’ve got a lot of big names attached to this soundtrack for this show. A lot of these artists you’ve worked with before, so was it just natural to go back to those people and see if they want to be involved with the TV show this time around? What was the process behind getting everyone on board?
CL: Yeah, a lot of it, I think, was just people finding people that had a similar dream, that care enough about this video game IP to go this deep. And I think a really important aspect was to find people that could work on this and feel like they really are working on something that is going to make a difference in their careers and in their outlet creatively.
When I think about sound, music, writing, the voice acting talent, the animators… I think what was one of the best parts of Arcane was talking to all these people and also noticing that they all feel like they’re working on something that takes their craft to the next level. I don’t think you get to explore these things that we have in Arcane on a lot of different projects because it’s been new territory for how deep we go on the subtleties of animation, how crazy we went on the music stuff, how nuanced things are in the sound design.
An animated series having as many details as we have is just pretty rare. So I think that’s how you create those experiences where you feel like everybody is putting the rest of their life on hold to be like, ‘This is the thing I really want to crack, or this is the thing that I really want to master.” So I feel really, really proud about that because I think Arcane means a lot to everybody that works on it.
Looking to the Future
You mentioned the future a moment ago and how you might want to do more things like this down the road. While you don’t have any grand announcements to make right now, how much of a goal is it internally at Riot to start doing more of these kind of productions in the future? Whether it be TV or movies.
AY: I think the company has always wanted to allow players to get to spend time with their champions, not in the throws of combat, and get to understand who they are when they’re off the battlefield. And so many people over time have really poured a lot of love and energy into making the world and the characters feel robust and three-dimensional. So I think there is certainly the appetite to explore more of those stories. Like you said, of course, we’re primarily focused on Arcane and learning what we can from that right now, but I think everyone would be really happy to be able to share more stories in many different types of media for other champions in other regions.