League of Legends' Swain Almost Lost His Birds During His Rework
With League of Legends newly-reworked Swain now fully unveiled, a champion insights post detailing the rework explained that Swain almost lost one of the most iconic parts of his character: His birds.
His faithful raven Beatrice might not be sitting on his shoulder anymore for Swain to talk to and strategize with, but he still has multi-eyed ravens flapping around him on the battlefield. There was a time, however, when the Riot Games team working on his rework debated on taking out the ravens entirely.
"It's true—there was a time during development where Swain didn't have any ravens. Beatrice and her feathered friends disappeared completely when we were trying to simplify Swain's many themes. (Plus we wanted to clarify that Swain himself was the source of his power, and not the birds.) But homing in on only the 'ruthless dictator' and 'dark mage' elements of his character didn't seem right. It just didn't feel like Swain."
They eventually decided that the birds needed to stay, though not as a core part of his abilities like Beatrice was before. Instead, features such as feathery armor and the wings gained from his ultimate allowed him to keep his birdman identity post-rework.
Aside from the decision about birds and Swain's new identity, the insights post also answered other questions about the new Swain's creation process.
Preserving the Old Swain
When working through the new Swain's rework, another question that was raised was how much of the old version of Swain should make its way into the updated champion.
During the rework, game designer Alex "Wav3break" Huang said that there were three core elements of Swain's old kit that they hoped to maintain in his new form:
- Swain's ability to wade into teamfights as a frontline mage.
- Swain's snare. It's so core to his character.
- The lifestealing and healing mechanic.
Everything else, Wav3break said, was not guaranteed to make it into the new version. Changes such as moving more towards the champ's battlemage identity and less towards the tactician champion title that he previously had were already decided on, but even his powerful transformation that helps build the champ's identity wasn't even a guarantee to stick when the reworked champion was finished.prevnext
Creating Swain's Transformation
While the path for giving Swain a transformation that was new enough to belong in his updated kit while still staying familiar to the champ wasn't a goal from the start, it was eventually decided on that he should still have some kind of transformation. It wasn't always his ultimate, though, and was instead on another ability.
"Up until about two months before his PBE debut, Swain's transformation ability was on his 'E' and worked similarly to his old ultimate, where he'd drain HP from nearby enemies," Wav3break said. "In this version, Swain couldn't cast any spells but he'd gain extra movement speed. Swain collected souls from champions who died around him, and he could spend five souls to cast an empowered version of the transformation, which was basically the same ability but stronger."
That plan was ditched to avoid Swain's ultimate becoming too underwhelming by gating him behind a required amount of souls, and another idea where he transformed into the demon but couldn't cast spells was also scrapped. Eventually, it was decided that the transformation should be kept on his ultimate behind a longer cooldown and a tweaked soul mechanic to better reward Swain players.
"Increasing the cooldown meant we could add a lot more power into the ability. Now, Swain no longer needs a certain number of souls to transform. Instead he has access to a more powerful ability while in his ultimate form, and the damage it deals increases based on how many souls Swain has to "spend." He's also able to cast his other abilities while in demon form. Together, these changes helped create a more memorable ult for players that also better fit Swain's thematic."prevnext
Designing Swain's New Look
With his ability updates came a new model as well, one that was created to reflect the staunch, no-nonsense Noxian attitude that Swain had to have to get to the position he's in.
"We talked about adding more ornate details to his coat, but Swain just doesn't have the desire for dramatic flair like some other Runeterran leaders (lookin' at you, Azir)," said Rioters working on the champion's new look. "We envisioned Swain as more of a Darth Vader character, in the sense that he has a bold, simple design and color scheme."
But even with that goal in mind, there were a few questions to be answered, particularly about his age. Swain's previous appearance and his hobbling walk gave him the appearance of an older champion, but that wasn't as believable for someone who was supposed to be leading the charge with his dark powers. Instead, the new look doubled down on his military prowess by creating a look that was both hardened and experienced while still being young enough to believably lead an army into battle.prevnext
What's the Deal with Swain's Arm?
A core part of his new kit as much as Beatrice was in the old version, Swain now has an ominous demon arm that's fairly hard to miss. Much like the way that Swain's old lore had the champion suffering an injury that left him needing his cane and caused others to doubt him at first, this version of Swain was injured as well and made a pact with a demon to restore his body.
"In Swain's updated backstory, he lost an arm and had an injured leg, but when he made a deal with a demon, his body was restored," the visual designers said. "What others perceived as a weakness was transformed into strength, but now his hand serves as a constant reminder of the choice he made. This is a classic example of Swain turning a handicap into an advantage."
However, while these deals would usually end poorly for the mortals that accept them, Swain wasn't fooled so easily. Instead, the Noxian ruler actually managed to turn the deal around on the demon and harness its power.
"Swain is a dictator who's able to enforce his will because he's made a Faustian bargain… but it's inverted. The demon he made a deal with was outsmarted (as far as we know). And Swain is such a ruthless ruler because he's able to channel the demon's power and see farther than anyone else—Swain plays the long game and is the 'visionary' of Noxus."
In this way, the "master strategist" name still persists, though it now has an explanation for it that hints at Swain's powerful demon magic.
The full champion insights post contains plenty more interesting information about Swain and can be read in full here. Swain is currently on the PBE for testing and is expected to be rereleased in a later patch.prev