Inside Design: the Evolution of Kha’Zix
The Fields of Justice are about to get even more dangerous, as Kha’Zix, the Voidreaver arrives to claim his place at the top of the food chain. Kha’Zix’s evolution gameplay influenced his entire design, from the abilities down through art, animation, voice, and story. To learn more about this apex predator, we caught up with some of the Rioters that helped make him a reality.
- David “Volty” Abecassis (Champion Designer)
- Steven “Socratocracy” Clay (Associate QA Analyst)
- Alex “CaptainLx” Lehman (Senior Animator)
- Jon “20thCenturyFaux” Herlache (Associate Creative Designer)
- Josh “Huge and Fast” Smith (Associate Concept Artist)
ByronicHero: How did the concept for Kha’Zix originate, and how did it evolve (no pun intended) into the Voidreaver we know now?
Volty: The core idea of Kha’Zix was that this is the guy that evolves. He mutates over the course of the match. We wanted to capture that gameplay. That was just such a strong and compelling thing.
It was so compelling that when we finally got to do it we had like five designers all sit down and be like, “Okay, what is evolution going to mean?” There were all these possibilities and different directions we could take. When would you upgrade? How would you upgrade? Would you be picking one evolution from a first tier and then another from a second tier?
What we ultimately went with was to pick three from four and focus the evolution mechanic around the role. We just decided that Kha’Zix was going to do the assassin role, and you’d pick from fun, cool assassin tricks for him to evolve. Ultimately that seemed more focused and fun than having to decide to pick between fighter Kha’Zix and tank Kha’Zix... that seemed too broad.
What made you want to make Kha’Zix a part of the Void?
Volty: He wasn’t voidy at the start. Instead he was just a praying mantis type monster, but the Void just ended up fitting so well with the story of this creature that is out to consume things to become the ultimate predator. He has these evolution powers, and that’s already a theme in the Void. You have Cho’Gath who grows and Kog’Maw whose range gets larger and larger. There’s that whole notion of increasing power through biological enhancement.
20thCenturyFaux: We all felt very strongly that he should be Void, because a big part of the terror of the Void is that they come into your world to destroy your way of life and replace it with their own, spooky Void way of life. And that really fits with the themes of evolution and extinction. There’s this idea that there are massive, unstoppable big scary things in the Void. Growth into terrifying forms of life is a huge part of the Void.
The idea is that he kills his foes, grows stronger, and then adapts depending on what he fights. All of that is part of his core identity, and it makes sense for the Void to sort of send an infiltrator to coopt the traits of a world they’re going to be invading.
ByronicHero: What were some of the challenges in making Kha’Zix’s evolution system work?
Volty: One of the immediate challenges was to make sure that the evolutions weren’t just tied to the skill you rank up. You don’t have to evolve the one that you rank to maximum first. In fact there are many cases where you don’t want to do that. Making that a separate choice was extremely important from a gameplay standpoint because otherwise evolutions don’t really add anything. It’s just, “Oh, I rank my Q, so I evolve my Q.” You might as well just build that into the Q at that point. You wouldn’t actually be creating a second decision point, and evolutions wouldn’t be giving you anything new gameplay-wise. That was our first challenge, and we worked very hard to satisfy the requirements.
Socratocracy: Kha’Zix was also extremely challenging to balance. Unlike a traditional character where you have four active abilities that you need to balance, you have these four abilities in concert with four evolutions. One of the problems that we had to deal with was making sure that all the evolutions were balanced in relation to each other. We wanted to make sure that there wasn’t one that was really a must-have.
Volty: You have so much build diversity because you’re not only choosing your rank-up order. You’re making a second choice about what your evolution order is. That actually made testing really challenging. People play him, and then they’re like, “Oh, what if I evolve W first?” And then they wind up with a completely different character and play style.
We really want to make sure that every combination of evolutions is impactful. We didn’t want to hear people saying, “I evolved Q, W, and R, so now I’m going to do that every game.” And we haven’t been getting that feedback. People seem to be excited by the evolutions that they choose, and even more excited to try different combinations afterward.
CaptainLx: Yeah, when I get my third evolution, it always makes me want the fourth, and I end up playing another round because I want to have the one I’m missing.
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The Darkin Blade
- Physical Attack4
- Skill Attack3
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- Physical Attack2
- Skill Attack8
- Operation Difficulty8
The Secret Weapon
- Physical Attack5
- Skill Attack6
- Operation Difficulty9
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