Riot Games picks up the pace in their push to expand the lore of Runeterra in 2020 with two new cinematics

Runeterra lore

As part of their ten year anniversary celebration in 2019, Riot Games released a series of videos announcing a multitude of previously undercover projects as well as their plans for both expanding the lore behind League of Legends and taking it beyond the confines of Summoner’s Rift.

In Riot’s mega announcement video — clocking in at almost 49 minutes long — Greg Street, VP of IP and Entertainment at Riot, shared a brief sample of the content to come. It was only later in his more in-depth Dev Video that Street gave a roadmap for the team’s plans in 2020. To recap, here are the categories he touched on:

Evolution of Storytelling: 2018 was the year for fleshing out the map of Runeterra and what this universe actually looks like geographically, and 2019 was a time for polishing and delving deeper into the histories and connections of a few select characters. With Sett’s recent arrival to the roster of League champions, the team will use his introduction as a gateway to tell more about Ionia.

Comics: In addition to the Lux and Ashe comics made in partnership with Marvel Comics, Zed will get his own volume in 2020 and give readers a chance to not only glimpse into his shadowed relationships with other Ionian champions but to see what lies beneath his mask for the first time.

Arcane: Earlier, Riot released a trailer for Arcane in tandem with their 10th Anniversary announcements. Arcane will be the first animated series from Riot Games, which “will follow the evolution of two of League’s most famous champions as they grew up in the mean streets of Piltover and Zaun.” Based on the trailer, it seems like we’ll finally be invited in to see what tore apart sisters Jinx and Vi. 

Riot Forge: Riot is handing over some of the keys to the castle in order to build out the universe. Riot Forge is Riot Games’ new publishing arm, which allows third parties to take Riot’s IP and develop games within the universe. Street mentioned that “one of the challenges of telling stories inside of our games is that, for the most part, Riot makes these large multi-player competitive games. We recognize that single-player games can be a great way to tell stories.” That being said, already two games published through Riot Forge are on their way: Ruined King, a turn-based RPG developed by Airship Syndicate, and Convergence, a vibrant platformer following the time-traveling antics of Ekko.  

Tellstones: Riot’s team of dedicated tabletop game developers is replicating a fictional game played throughout Demacia called Tellstones. Rumors of Cithria of Cloudfield being the girl playing on the cover have been circulating, and it’s not unlikely as her League of Legends wiki article mentions it as a game she liked to play with her father. 

Tales of Runeterra: Short videos “that take you around places of Runeterra” in order to connect the characters to the world both in and outside of the games will be released periodically throughout the year. A sneak peek of a Tales of Runeterra: Ionia video featuring Akali and Shen bookended the video. 

A lot on the table for 2020, but fans can rest assured Riot is making due on their promises. Within one week, we saw the release of two Tales of Runeterra cinematics under the Legends of Runeterra banner. Legends of Runeterra has simultaneously been Riot’s push for a position in the trading card game market in addition to a seamless new medium to expand on the characters and world in meaningful ways that align with Riot’s goals. 

With these two new cinematics, Riot offers more insight into the moments of daily life as well as the struggles that characterize the kingdom of Demacia and wintry lands of the Freljord; “Tales of Runeterra: Demacia | ‘Before Glory’” tells a heroic — and potentially foreshadowing — tale as Garen and Fiora teach two aspiring young fighters in the city of Ehrenmount about Demacian virtue, and “Tales of Runeterra: Freljord | ‘The Raid’” follows Braum and his cousin at the outskirts of a village called Da’arvong as they are forced to make a handful of difficult decisions in the face of peril. Already theories are springing around the fanbase as to who Braum’s cousin is and if the dragon stepping forth on Demacian soil at the end of “Before Glory” is a nod to Shyvana.

Perhaps most notably, Riot has moved past the myopic perspective of simply creating more content for League of Legends and now sees the importance of respecting and caretaking the world that they’ve built and are responsible for. Like Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft and Overwatch cinematics, the Tales of Runeterra series is powerful in its ability to reach the emotions of players by illuminating the subtle intricacies of a character’s personality through more freedom of movement, more natural dialogue, and the weaving of supporting characters, situations, and conflict to serve as a mirror.

These characters we know so well from League are coming more and more to life, and ultimately, it is the power of storytelling that links us to a character since we are wired for story as a way of deeply connecting to others and understanding ourselves. Cinematics, novels, animated shows, and comics all serve as powerful tools for storytelling and fostering this bond; Street and Riot know this. The depth that these cinematics create cannot be understated; they greatly impact the allegiance between the player and the character(s) and world to which they belong in only a few minutes. It is through story that we are able to personally relate to these characters, making them seem more like friends than pixels organized on a screen.

With Street and his team, Riot is tending to this critical bond between player and character and at an incredibly speedy rate, no less. Now with the League of Legends Universe site, comics, pages of background story, the definitive narrative compendium of Runeterra, the “Tales of Runeterra” series introduced, and more to come, Runeterra’s foundation in the landscape of impactful and rich universes that have shaped the culture of the West is stronger than ever. Runeterra is taking its place and making itself known.

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