'The questions that need to be asked in the face of conflict': A conversation with the co-creators of Arcane

Riot Games has shocked the world once again with their latest project. Their animated series, ‘Arcane’ is now streaming worldwide on Netflix; it has since then become the number one show on Netflix in the World, overtaking critically acclaimed shows such as Squid Game.

 

Over the years, Riot Games have released countless video content; one of the most famous ones being the ‘Get Jinxed’ music video, to celebrate the release of the champion Jinx in League of Legends. Riot Games partnered up with the same production company who worked on ‘Get Jinxed’ to create Arcane, a show that explores the story behind some of the most iconic champions in LoL.

 

On Oct 28, a handful of Korean media outlets had a chance to speak with the co-creators of the show, Christian Linke and Alex Yee. As Riot Games’ employees for over 10 years, they’re veterans who worked on various cinematics and champion related content.

 

In our conversation, the two co-creators revealed that through the show, they hoped to create meaningful discussions about conflict.


 

Co-creator Christian Linke

The art style used to illustrate the story of Arcane seems very familiar to League of Legends and Legends of Runeterra, but it feels very different from the traditional style of animated series. Was this an intentional aspect of the show?

 

Christian Linke: That’s correct. You may have realized that we also used a familiar style in one of our music videos in the past as well. We’ve used the same art style when we work with Fortiche [Productions], and with Arcane this time, we focused on not only making the show have this huge cinematic vibe to it, but also staying true to the traditional artwork style from Riot Games.



Can you tell us the reason behind why you guys chose Jinx and Vi as the main cast for the show, as well as choosing Piltover/Zaun as the main environments of the story?

 

Alex Yee: First, we’re huge fans of both the two champions. We even helped with the two champions’ releases.

 

Vi’s theme song was the first song with lyrics that we incorporated into the client’s log in screen, and at the time, we felt that we’ve achieved something big and made a huge advancement. The music video for the song, ‘Get Jinxed’, was also a project that we worked on with Fortiche.

 

In terms of our choice for the environment, I felt that the two regions would have a very fresh visual appeal to the viewers, and felt that Zaun was the optimal choice to be the starting point in expanding the universe. We felt that the origin story of how Hextech all came to be in the vast land of Runeterra felt like a good place to start, and also wanted to share the story behind how the balance of power between cities shifted from it.



Throughout the history of LoL, there’ve been multiple massive regional updates through large scale in-game events such as Ruination and Sentinel of Light. Will there also be animated series based on other regions as well?

 

Christian: We hope to do that in the long run. However, we’ve just unveiled Arcane, so we’ll have to see how the viewers react to the show first. We have to go through the process to confirm for ourselves whether or not we create more animated series. If the feedback from the fans, especially Korean fans, are positive, I think that there are many more stories to be told, just like Arcane.

 

As you may fully be aware, Riot Games’ IP consists of a lot of champions, and they’re all connected with various regions. If the feedback is great, then we hope that we get a chance to tell these stories.

Massive updates to the regions through events such as this

Is there a chance that one of the characters from the show can potentially be designed as a champion in the game? If so, which character from the show do you think it’ll be?

 

Alex: That’s something we thought about a lot when creating this show. We tried to put as many of the existing champions into the show, and at the same time, also tried to make the world of Arcane as vibrant as possible; this resulted in creating original characters for the show.

 

In the process, we thought about how these new characters will be connected to the champion characters, and how we’re going to express it in the show. Thanks to our voice actors/actresses and concept artists, they’ve been expressed very well in the show.

 

When we were creating the new characters, we didn’t tell them to make them have potential for future release in the game, but I wanted to give them a chance. If fans really take a liking to one of those new characters, then it can potentially be released as champions in the future.

 

If I had to personally choose one, I think Mel would be a very interesting choice. Her character design is very intricate.

However, there are differences in creating a character for Arcane and champion design. Champion design prioritizes how the champion combats, as well as the source of their power [Jinx - Rockets/Weapons, Vi - power fists]. With Arcane, those aspects aren’t prioritized. There are characters that don’t fight in the show, as well as those that don’t fight with weapons or their fists. I think it’s important to respect the differences between the processes.



Piltover and Zaun are two regions that had little to no updates in the history of the game. Is it safe to say that Arcane was what updated the region’s lores? How will the story of Arcane affect the champions’ respective lores?

 

Christian: We purposely avoided doing massive updates with Piltover and Zaun because we were creating Arcane. Now that Arcane has been unveiled, I think it’s the most ample time to breathe more life into the stories of Piltover and Zaun. Eventually, our plan is to expand the in-game universe with a bigger story.

 

Champion lore is always changing, and there will definitely change this time around as well. However, it’s hard to say how much change there will be at this time, because this is our first time releasing an animated series on the scale of Arcane. As I said earlier, our direction will change based on feedback from the fans.



What was the creative drive behind the making of Arcane? Is Arcane the entry project for expanding the cinematic universe of League of Legends?

 

Alex: Marvel was our biggest inspiration in creating Arcane, but it’s not correct to say that our goals align with that of Marvels.

 

League of Legends IP is based on an environment that’s alive. There are a lot of champions and regions, and there’s not one that’s less important than the other. Marvel’s stories have a tendency to be focused on the characters; the universe keeps changing based on those characters. And there’s an ending.

 

The LoL universe is very dynamic. There’s always a constant shift in the balance of power. When we were creating the show, we didn’t want to end the show with a huge finale at the end, because that means that we cannot expand, and the story itself becomes very alienated.

 

One of our goals with Arcane is to give everyone the time to share opinions. While it’s highly likely that active players will be the ones to watch the show, there will also be those that don’t play the game. Ultimately, we wanted to offer everyone a place to gather around and provide them with some time to enjoy.

 

Co-creator Alex Yee

How many years did it take to create Arcane, and what can you tell us what the team internally discussed when choosing the right background for the show?

 

Christian: If we’re talking about from the very beginning, this project took six years to complete. It was enough time for someone to be born in the year that we started creating the show to be heading to school for the first time; we’ve had an incredible experience in those six years.

 

We were very lost on how we’re going to reenact the stories at first, so we could never tell how successful this show would be. In a way, it was a very bold and ambitious plan. So we planned to create various pilot productions to slowly build the scale of it, and our CEO heavily supported us in our decision.

 

Alex: The voice acting for Powder [young Jinx] was done very early in the production process. At the time, a very young voice actress named Mia Sinclair Jenness recorded for us; fast forward to right before the release of the show, we heard that she recently got her driver’s license [laughter]. It was definitely a moment when I realized that six years had passed.



For myself, because I had knowledge about League of Legends and champion lores, I was able to immerse myself into the show a lot deeper. What are some of the steps that you guys took to appeal to those that don’t have the same level of knowledge about the game?

 

Alex: Our goal has always been for those that don’t play the game to be able to enjoy Arcane just as much as those that do. While a lot of people may play LoL, it’s true that there are those that don’t. Non-players may look at players and go, ‘What kind of game is that?’ Through Arcane, we want to provide an opportunity to players to be able to reference the show and say, ‘This is the game I play’.

 

Truth be told, it’s a very tough job to appeal to both players and non-players, because players with years of experience in the game are very knowledgeable about the champions and their lores. Arcane highlights why these champions say the things and act the way they do, so this is a question we’ve always asked during production.

 

That’s why we decided to collaborate with talent that aren’t too familiar with the LoL IP, and tried to find the right balance with them. I think we got lucky and hit the mark in finding the right balance.



What can you tell us about some of your future plans with the LoL IP, apart from an animated series like Arcane?

 

Christian: You’re talking about from a storytelling perspective, correct? We’re definitely going to pursue new ways to tell new stories. I think a live-action project is still a bit far away from making it happen, but I think that it’s definitely an option in the future.

What’s the main theme of Arcane?

 

Christian: Rather than trying to deliver a certain message, we focused on having people think about what the questions that need to be asked in the face of conflict.

 

If you look at Piltover and Zaun, it’s not that different from the world we live in today. All societies are divided by conflict, and just like the two regions, polarization is something that occurs in almost all worlds. If people fail to understand each others’ perspective and thoughts, it’s easy to misunderstand and bear hatred against that person.

 

Through this, we contemplated on what the questions we need to be asking are. For example, what kind of changes would take in a relationship with someone very close to you if that person had conflicting beliefs? What would be the end result? We felt that these types of things are the realistic values that we can all relate to the world we live in today.



Are there future plans for cinematic projects as well? A lot of game companies have failed their cinematic ventures; is Riot Games confident that their project will be a success in the future?

 

Christian: On the matter of confidence; I’ll say that we aren’t confident. However, with Arcane, it was undecided at first whether or not this project will be a TV series or a movie. We had to figure out the best method to tell our story, and our decision for this project was a TV series, episode by episode.

 

If we continue to improve the way we share these stories, there’ll definitely come an opportunity for a movie in the future. If given the chance, we recommend that you watch Arcane on the big screen. We had a chance to watch it in the theaters, and it was a very worthwhile experience.

 

What ultimately matters is not in the format of how the story is told, but rather in the story itself. One thing I can say here with confidence is that Riot Games is full of people with incredible talent for storytelling. However, as I said before, we’re all still students of the game, so we’ll be opening our ears to the feedback from the fans at first.

Photo taken from the Arcane pop-up store in Seoul, Korea

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