How 'League of Legends' Developers Put the Fright Back Into Fiddlesticks

Lock your doors and hide your trinkets; the Fiddlesticks rework and visual update is almost here. The League of Legends scarecrow has remained fairly stagnant since he was released over a decade ago and Riot Games has decided to put more fright into its fight. As the next champion to receive a full visual and gameplay rework (alongside Volibear), Fiddlesticks' development team has been hard at work turning the bundle of twine and sticks into a literal nightmare.

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Dark Candy Fiddlesticks just wants a taste Riot Games

How Fiddlesticks Became Horrific

Discussions about who the new Fiddlesticks was going to be started briefly before the champion rework vote was cast in May of 2019. Leading the game design team was Blake Smith, who helped design other champions like Ornn, Sylas and Ivern. Smith and his band of designers wanted the new Fiddlesticks' kit to center around its ultimate Crowstorm, which has the monster channel for a few seconds before appearing with an aura of damage around it.

"We've had a pretty consistent vision from the gameplay side throughout almost all of its development," Smith said. "We started with a very strong foundation in Crowstorm, and pretty much all of the iterations revolved around how we could make a kit that felt like it supported the play style afforded by it."

With the Crowstorm foundation in place, the rest of Fiddlesticks' kit was built around the need for an ambush. In its pre-rework form, Fidd was all about dominating the enemy team or getting destroyed with very little wiggle room. If you miss your Crowstorm and the enemy can respond, your squishy twigs will get stomped.

"Fiddle has always been more about creating a scenario where the enemy team has lost before they even see the Crowstorm channel finish," Smith said. "What we wanted to remove were some of the more 'clunky' feeling aspects of the kit." The classic drain ability now applies to all enemies around Fiddle, its bouncing crows ability has been replaced with a disrupting scythe swipe and it can now scatter versions of itself around the map.

While other modern champions are about mechanical outplays, Fiddlesticks has always been about strategic positioning. Smith wanted to keep that aspect of the champion for the rework, saying that "fights should generally play out pretty lopsided - with Fiddle absolutely destroying enemies or being destroyed."

Keeping its kit simplistic with abilities that automatically lock on was important for Fiddlesticks' identity, with the "champion's vulnerability as a compensation for the reliable nature of the fear and the potential damage output of the other abilities," Smith said. The fear that automatically targets enemies will be an ability that makes players fearful of stepping into random bushes. Though it plays similarly to its pre-rework form, Fiddlesticks now has the tools needed to compete on the Rift in 2020.

Writing Fiddlesticks

The Fiddlesticks rework is a massive departure from its previous form. The old Fiddlesticks was a tortured soul inhabiting the body of a scarecrow, terrifying all who crossed its path. When you have a video game with celestial gods like Aurelion Sol, the wooden effigy with a crow kink wasn't going to cut it anymore.

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The main Fiddlesticks skin feeds on your fear Riot Games

"Classic Fiddlesticks was sort of a strange one in League mythology," Jared Rosen, narrative writer on the rework said. "The in-game champion was neither evil looking nor monstrous, and it didn't actually live anywhere or harbinge (sic) anything -- rather it was this goofy looking scarecrow thing that overhanded literal crows at people, and could often wipe out entire teams with a well placed ability."

When Rosen first started thinking about what Fiddlesticks could be, he imagined the potential of "a monster with mysterious origins that attacks without warning or reason" that "feeds entirely on the fear of its victims, but doesn't present any kind of discernible motives or personality." Rosen watches between one and three horror movies a day and has written multiple creepy comics ("Fiddlesticks is the least of my worries," he said).

With original Fiddlesticks being a sort-of goofy looking abomination that makes Wizard of Oz references, the team had to decide how serious to go. "Do we go 80s'-slasher-movie, quipping monster, or something really messed up," Rosen said. "Once you know you want to mess with some heads, the rest falls into place."

A scarecrow is "an eerie facsimile of a man," burlap "obfuscates something from vision" and farm tools can be "sharp, rusty metal?" What if all of these pieces came to life and couldn't talk? "Then it listens and repeats."

The team loved the more serious tone and the new Fiddlesticks became "a primordial entity that predates the rise of civilization," Rosen said. Building its body out of random items and piecing itself together in the shape of the humans it doesn't understand, Fiddlesticks is a "creature of pure emotional instinct that was created from the formless negative energy endemic to all life."

"The world has not seen one its kind in tens of thousands of years," Rosen said. "And there's more of them out there."

Stitching Fiddlesticks Together

When the themes and abilities were being finalized, someone still needed to give shape to the new Fiddlesticks. Sunny Pandita is a concept artist at Riot Games, a self-proclaimed "Fiddle main since season one" and had no problem designing something eerie.

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Surprise Party Fiddlesticks just dropped in to say hello! riot Games

"You could say I joined Riot with the dream to work on a Fiddle update, so I was ready with this pitch about the remains of a demon locked in a medieval style torture cage that manipulated scraps of ghoulish farm-debris," Pandita said. "We committed to the terrifying jump-scare element of his gameplay and supported it through art and narrative."

Building the hook handed Fiddlesticks out of random debris, this champion "is simply trying to mimic a humanoid form because that is what its current prey fears most," Pandita said.

Taking that concept and applying it to all 10 of Fiddlesticks skins was where the real experimentation took place "I feel like some kind of twisted Santa getting to upgrade all the toys in one night" Pandita said. " A lot of those older skins have unrealized potential that is made stronger by having a much clearer thematic direction for the character so it's pretty easy to improve them."

Surprise Party Fiddlesticks, which is Smith's favorite part of the rework, will have custom ability icons. The skin was the only one in the entirety of League of Legends to change the icons of spells and an update a few years back took that gimmick out. With the rework the developers are trying to bring that spark back to older players in unique ways while still giving newer players a new toy to mess around with.

The Fiddlesticks rework will be heading to the Public Beta Environment sometime soon before heading to live servers a few weeks later.