Players might be drawn to a game for its tight mechanics, its precise gameplay balance, or its gorgeous world design. We at Riot Games find that players resonate most deeply with expressive characters. Riot’s titles feature rosters of unique heroes, each with their own story, personality, and visual style. And we are constantly adding new ones, not only to provide fresh content, but to represent as many diverse cultures, viewpoints, and even human flaws as possible.
While the dev teams create these characters, it’s the role of publishing to celebrate their introductions in a way that syncs with local culture. I wrote about one such example with the launch of the VALORANT character Yoru in Japan. But sometimes, we really feel like there’s a potential to go all out, creating something that’s above and beyond even our own standards.
For the release of the League of Legends champion Yone in 2020, Riot’s team in China realized we had such a chance. At that moment, the team recognized two key opportunities in the local market. First, the passion that Chinese players had for League characters was so strong that we could lean heavily into a narrative beat, way beyond a simple trailer. Second, the Chinese film and TV market had matured to the point that Riot could find a partner to create a sophisticated project with emotional depth and top-quality visuals.
The team, in collaboration with Riot’s central IP, Creative and Publishing teams in Los Angeles, decided to take the plunge and produce a 10-minute long animated film, showcasing Yone and his brother Yasuo. Working alongside teams at Riot’s LA headquarters as well as long-time Chinese animation partner Haoliners Studio, they made Kin of the Stained Blade.
The piece reflects local Chinese sensibilities in both its art and its storyline. Most Chinese players are deeply familiar with anime, and those focusing on swordsmen are particularly popular. The film also centers on themes of family, brotherhood, and faith, which are highly valued in local culture.
I am so proud of the team for pulling off a film of this length and complexity, and I’m happy to see that players — both in China and around the world — responded with tremendous enthusiasm. The film was viewed over 32 million times in just seven days, and in China, it has become one of Riot’s most-viewed pieces of League of Legends content. These players have taught us that there’s a massive untapped potential for storytelling outside of our games, and we are so excited to see where that takes us down the road.
Kin of the Stained Blade is a fantastic first step, but it’s only a beginning.