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LoL, Interview Riot Games: Behind the scenes of Volibear's rework

LoL, Interview Riot Games: Behind the scenes of Volibear's rework

While the rework of Volibear should arrive in the Rift with Patch 10.11, the development team took the time to answer our questions. Design, gameplay and process, discover the making of the Relentless Storm!

LoL, Interview Riot Games: Behind the scenes of Volibear's rework

A rework is above all a huge challenge for Riot Games' development team. Meeting the expectations of the League of Legends community, while respecting the very essence of the character means hours of hard work and reflection before reaching a complying result.

After Fiddlesticks last March, Riot will soon introduce the new version of the Ursidae demigod, Volibear.

All about the Volibear rework

Volibear's rework is now available, check out his new appearance as well as his completely revamped ability kit!

We had the chance to ask a few questions to Riot about the making of Volibear's rework, — Ryan “Reav3” Mirereles, Lead Producer of Champions Team, Justin "Riot Earp" Albers, Concept Artist, and Nathan “Lutzburg” Lutz, Senior Game Designer, were kind enough to answer them.


  • Fiddlestick and Volibear were chosen by the community to be reworked, is this a process you intend to use more in the future? Where do you draw the line between what the community can influence and what they can't?

This is definitely something we plan on doing more of in the future as we feel the overall process was very successful. The community loved being involved, and we also got a lot of great feedback that helped us shape Volibear and Fiddle into more successful VGUs in my opinion. As to where we draw the line, the honest answer is that there isn’t really a line. Whenever we do devblogs we read through the comments, and then we discuss the feedback. We discuss what pieces of feedback were the most common, which ones resonated with us, and then do a pass at incorporating those changes into the VGU.

Ryan “Reav3” Mirereles, Lead Producer of Champions Team

  • What comes first when you're reworking a champion: the lore, the visual aspect, the spell kit? Is one more important? What's your process and how long can it take?

We start with what we call the “Core Pod” which is a gameplay designer, concept artist and narrative writer. As the product manager I share some product goals for the Champion, which include the reasons the Champion was chosen for a VGU. We then kick-off the discovery phase, where all 3 members start working on art, narrative or gameplay to hit those goals. There isn’t any one aspect that is more important than the other—each member inspires and influences the others as we continue to iterate on the Champion, getting feedback from player labs, Rioters, and internal leaders on League. We continue this process until we feel like the art, narrative and gameplay are going to hit our goals and excite players. This usually takes around 3-6 months. From there, it takes another several months to finish rebuilding the champion and ship it to players.

Ryan “Reav3” Mirereles, Lead Producer of Champions Team

A facelift more than necessary... - League of Legends
A facelift more than necessary...


  • What bothered you the most about Volibear's old visual design?

When Volibear was first created, the Freljord and many regions were still a bit of a mystery - so I think some of the shape language and motifs on him just feel outdated now that we know more about what all these factions are about.

Justin "Riot Earp" Albers, Concept Artist

Speaking personally, I never liked the way he walked. It was dopey and uncoordinated, and he just felt like a loose bag of potatoes. He lacked the domineering stance and entrenched power you’d expect from a bear god.

Nathan “Lutzburg” Lutz, Senior Game Designer

  • What was your starting point? 

Bears, storms, ancient gods. We were hoping to make Volibear feel like not just a common soldier, or a warrior, or even a general, but a character who has been all of those things and is now up to deity status because of his experience. We wanted Volibear to feel old and ancient - something that even the earliest inhabitants of the Freljord would tell legends about. He shaped the land and created a culture that would last for ages! Also, we wanted the wild fury of not only bears but of storms and thunder to be very apparent in his visuals.

Justin "Riot Earp" Albers, Concept Artist

The ancestral confrontation between Volibear and his half-brother, Ornn - League of Legends
The ancestral confrontation between Volibear and his half-brother, Ornn
  • What is the intention behind Volibear's wilder look?

A huge part of this idea was to contrast with his brother Ornn, who of course is all about armor and forging and creation. We thought it would be far more interesting and true to character (and bears) for Voli to take the opposite stance and be more primal and wild and reject any sort of human manifestations. This would also leave room and visual space open for lightning and clouds to be more a part of his character.

Justin "Riot Earp" Albers, Concept Artist


  • Do you feel that Volibear's old kit was really outdated? Were you then intending to make it more dynamic?

Volibear’s old kid had a simplistic beauty to it, which I’ve tried to capture in the rework. However, he was tuned around having spells that, by design, didn’t really work most of the time. He was super kiteable, couldn’t survive long enough to ramp up properly, and had trouble sticking to targets for more than a few seconds. As a result, he was balanced around dealing ABSURD damage to his target IF he caught them. This was an unhealthy combat pattern because Volibear felt bad every time he got kited, and his enemies felt bad when he murdered them in 3 seconds. The new kit has a lot more variance, outplay potential and tension around who’s going to win a duel.

Nathan “Lutzburg” Lutz, Senior Game Designer

  • Is the new Volibear a jungler or a toplaner?

We are positioning Volibear primarily as a Jungler, but from the beginning we were committed to supporting him in the Top Lane, as well. It was a tough balance to strike because new Volibear has a lot of diving and kiting tools, which are stronger for ganks but not as much when you’re in a brutal fist-to-claw fight in the top lane. This has resulted in his matchups in top lane being pretty lopsided in many cases, which is a price we were willing to pay in order to give him the best jungling tools possible. For decisions like this, we look at things like meeting player expectations (most existing Volibear players play him jungle), where his kit can be best utilized, and where a Champion of his class would have the most impact. Since we already have a lot of Juggernaut top laners, positioning him in the jungle felt like a unique selling point for the character.

Nathan “Lutzburg” Lutz, Senior Game Designer

Is he still a Juggernaut or should we consider that he's changed to another class?

Initially, I tried keeping Volibear firmly entrenched in the Juggernaut space, but his themes and gameplay identity were all pushing him more towards a fast, unpredictable diving style of combat. Additionally, one of the problems we wanted to solve with Live Volibear’s kit was that he pretty much always killed his target if he could eventually reach them. This pattern felt too flat and frustrating on both sides of the Rift, so we finally made the call to evolve Volibear into a hybrid role. While his damage isn’t as universally high as many Juggernauts (who have tools like penetration or true damage), he still utilizes a ramping pattern that eventually snowballs him into a powerful duelist. In exchange for less Juggernaut tools, we gave him tools similar to that of a Vanguard, letting him dive into the backlines and soak up a lot of damage. This combination of strengths and weaknesses gives Volibear the ability to keep up with today’s highly mobile roster, while still retaining the in-combat feeling of a Juggernaut.

Nathan “Lutzburg” Lutz, Senior Game Designer

  • Some early rumors suggested that the new Volibear would convert Hard CC that targets him into slow — why did you backtrack?

This was a mechanic we announced in an early dev blog and something we played around with for quite a while during development. While we were ultimately happy with the mechanic itself, we couldn’t justify the amount of power it granted Volibear when utilized in conjunction with his other tools. We saw more value in retaining other strengths (high damage, crowd control, etc.) so we ultimately decided to move away from the permanent unstoppability mechanic.

Nathan “Lutzburg” Lutz, Senior Game Designer

League of Legends
  • Without his former passive, do you feel Volibear will remain tanky enough?

Live Volibear actually doesn’t have any defensive tools outside of his regeneration passive, which I always found unreliable and easily countered. If anything, new Volibear will be considerably tankier, as he possesses two defensive tools on his kit (E's shield and R's bonus health) AND a form of sustain (W's heal). Going back to my original pitch for the Champion, I wanted Volibear to feel relentless. Enemies should feel tension around whether they can finally take him down before he’s able to finish them off. Improving Volibear’s tankiness was crucial in order to facilitate that gameplay sensation.

Nathan “Lutzburg” Lutz, Senior Game Designer

  • While Volibear's pickrate is very low at high ELO, it remains quite decent for more casual players. Does this rework intend to bring the bear back into high elo and, maybe, into pro play?

Increasing Volibear’s play rate in skilled/pro play wasn’t actually a goal of this VGU. In fact, our goal was the opposite: We wanted to broaden Volibear’s appeal to more players across different regions and demographics, which means targeting more average skill levels where his pick rate is actually lower than we want. While we don’t expect him to be as broadly appealing as someone like Sett, we are hoping a lot more players give the Bear a try.

Nathan “Lutzburg” Lutz, Senior Game Designer

The new Volibear should land on the PBE when Patch 10.10 will be deployed 1 meaning you can already give it a try!

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