Imagine having a favorite dish at a restaurant. You go there pretty frequently—maybe once a week—and only ever order this thing because it’s just that good. Then one day, you order this same meal, but something isn’t right. It looks different, it smells different, and it definitely tastes different. You tell the server they messed up your order. They insist it’s right. After a few minutes of back and forth, you ask to see the manager about it. The manager impatiently tells you that your favorite dish has been changed to this strange new oddity to update the menu to newer standards. They say that more people like the item in its new form. It was changed, and you can’t do anything about it.
When the companies behind video games and other fictional worlds make changes to preexisting characters, that’s how many fans feel. Take League of Legends (LoL) as an example. It came out in 2009 while trying to be one of the first games to jump on the MOBA craze that DOTA (Defence of the Ancients) had spawned. A MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) is a game where players control a single character in a team with the objective of destroying the other team’s base. As LoL aged, Riot Games made adjustments to the overall gameplay in order to improve it. But this came with sweeping changes to individual characters. In a game like League of Legends—where learning and becoming skilled with one or two characters is the preferred way of play for many—this is a big deal.
Sometimes characters are changed to give them more of an identity or entice more people to play them. Alistar is a defensive character that could use his abilities to hold enemies in place and heal his allies, but in his original form, his basic attacks did double damage to structures. This presented all kinds of problems for the character’s identity. Eventually, that was changed to instead make him do damage to nearby enemies for a few seconds after he used an ability. That made a lot more sense for the character based on how he was
Other times developers change a character because they are oppressive and changes are required to make the game more fun for people who have to play against that character. Alistar’s ability to heal nearby allies as well as apply crowd-controlling effects made him a far superior pick to other support characters, so Riot Games made some changes to pull back his healing and have him focus more on his ability to hold enemies in place. Trample changed into an active ability that he could use to stun an enemy, and triumphant roar (his area of effect healing) became a passive effect with much smaller numbers.
Urgot is one example of a character that went through a full rework. His art, backstory, voice lines, and abilities were changed all at once in order to make this character more in-line with modern characters. He used to be a Noxian soldier who was cut in half by Garen, a Demacian soldier. After Noxian necromancers and scientists revived him, Urgot sought vengeance against the soldier who humiliated him on the battlefield. He fought from a long range by shooting projectiles from the technology mounted on his body. After his rework, Urgot’s story revolved around how he was betrayed and sent into slavery by Swain, a high ranking leader of Noxus. He then augmented his body with technology in order to survive his new situation. The new Urgot has shotgun-esque weapons attached to each of his robotic legs, and he benefits much more from fighting at shorter ranges.
Galio used to be a magical construct created by a scientist named Durand in order to protect himself from Noxians who sought to prevent him from creating more animated golems to defend his country. Galio had to learn how to defend Demacia independently from his master when a band of assassins finally got to him and Galio lost his purpose. He used to be an anti-mage who could deal burst magic damage from a short range and gained additional ability damage as he gained magic resistance. When he was changed, he became a statue that came to life to defend Demacia only when it was under attack by magical forces before returning to a dormant state. He can use his abilities to protect his allies from attackers by holding them in place.
In both of these cases, the product was a new and interesting character. However, neither held onto the spirit of what the original character was. They were effectively removed from the menu and replaced with new items that happened to have the same name. Good reworks can be done, but now those characters; those ways of interacting with the game, no longer exist. Something that some people loved was destroyed in order to make way for the new, and it can be frustrating to watch.
Media by Deryk Rumbold.