Every League of Legends champion has that one ability that stands out most in their kit, and for the new champion Akshan, that ability is most certainly "Going Rogue." Part of this ability gives Akshan the chance to revive his recently killed teammates if he can help eliminate the champion who killed them, and with the "Revive" Summoner Spell long since removed from League, Akshan's Going Rogue is now the only ability or spell that can affect a death timer in any way. This ability went through "many iterations" when it was being developed, and as some might've anticipated, it applied learnings from Garen's old Villain mechanic to make sure it felt right.
Amid Akshan's multi-game launch, ComicBook.com spoke to several Riot Games developers who worked on the champion across the four games he was planned for. One of those developers was associate champion designer Glenn Anderson who created Akshan alongside lead designer Jeevun Sidhu. Anderson said the designers wanted to reflect Akshan's vengeful nature in his gameplay by giving him an ability that incentivized him to "target enemies that did his team dirty" which led to tense moments between Akshan, his teammates, and their opponents.
During development, Akshan's revive didn't always fully revive teammates. It at one point refunded only a portion of a champion's death timer to make them respawn quicker, but Anderson said that impact wasn't flashy for how powerful the ability was meant to be. Once Riot opted for the full revive, Anderson said that version of the ability produced the best results.
"For a while we were scared to change it from partial to full resurrection, but when we did it was the most noticeable and best feeling change throughout his entire development," Anderson said. "It completely changed the way the champion felt and the way he looked in game."
After deciding on that version of the ability, Riot balanced Akshan around it. Anderson said there were games during testing where the revive did nothing at all and others where it single-handedly one a game. He compared the ability to other spells with key impact in League and the intent to make it stronger as Akshan grows weaker.
"In the same way that Orianna can win with a five-person R or Blitzcrank can win by threading the needle and hitting a Q on the carry, Akshan should sometimes win by resurrecting the team," Anderson said. "To balance such an ability, the main philosophy was to alter the reliability inversely with its power. What that basically manifests into is that late game, when Akshan's resurrections are at their most powerful, Akshan is at his weakest."
While reviving champions is certainly exclusive to Akshan, targeting an enemy champion who teammates dirty isn't. That idea was first pioneered by Garen who once had a Villain mechanic which allowed him to obliterate enemies who recent kills against his teammates. That ability was eventually removed, and in the process of creating Akshan, Riot took learnings from Garen and applied them to Going Rogue.
"There were two main problems with Garen's old Villain mechanic that we tried to avoid while developing Akshan," Anderson said. "The first was that the mark was hard to access for Garen players. Garen lacked the ability to specifically target the Villain, which meant he would often be staring longingly at a mega-fed enemy with no way of capitalizing on it. If the game is telling you to target a specific enemy, having tools to do so makes that experience much more exciting. The second change we made based on Villains was to involve allies. We intentionally involved Akshan's allies in the mechanic to lean into the team play of League of Legends. While it may have been difficult for Garen to explain why his allies should care about the marked Villain, Akshan's allies have an obvious reason to care about Scoundrels."
The response to Akshan's revive was swift with players wondering how Riot could put an ability like Going Rogue on a champion like Akshan instead of a support. Anderson said Riot anticipated these sorts of reactions and concluded that Akshan's vengeful backstory makes the ability fit.
"We definitely expected and hoped for a strong reaction," Anderson said. "No other champion can revive multiple champions, and we hope that anything that is a large part of a champion's power budget drops some jaws. While we expected this reaction regardless of what type of champion it was on, we do think the narrative helps connect a mechanic typically associated with supports to an assassin style of play."
Even though Akshan was balanced around his revive, he's still been regarded as a bit on the weak side upon release. Riot responded by buffing the champion with a hotfix that's live now.
Akshan is currently available in Legends of Runeterra, Teamfight Tactics, and League of Legends with his League of Legends: Wild Rift debut coming soon. To learn more about how Riot pulled off a four-game champion release, you can check out our larger feature about Akshan's launch.