LoL Naafiri - How the Darkin Dog Champion Came to Be | RiftFeed
WHho's a good doggo? Not Naafiri, that's for sure!

LoL Naafiri - How the Darkin Dog Champion Came to Be

News 22-06-2023 23:40
Naafiri Header Concet
A trio of killing machines | © Riot Games

It was about time League of Legends got a monster champion that does not toe the line with humanoids the way Bel'Veth does. And Riot devs agreed, and Naafiri was their answer.

One of the staples of the gaming and fantasy genre are, well, dogs. A lot of gamers have them as companions, and they are featured in various pieces of pop culture. Thus Naafiri was chosen to become a LoL representative of the doggos, as Warwick and Nasus haven't been doing it very well, due to how humanoid they look.

LoL Naafiri - Design Aspects of the Darkin Dog

When designing a champion, there are a few fundamentals that need to be taken into account. Each champion must have a fleshed-out story, abilities, looks, and a niche to fill in the game, that is not taken by another champion.

When it comes to Naafiri, however, problem-solving each of these took a lot of creativity, as Naafiri is a pack-being, and is not similar to any other League champion in any aspect of her design.

LoL Naafiri - Lore

The lore of the Darkin starts out similarly due to their need to possess mortal bodies to be able to interact with the material realm, as they are all trapped in their weapons. Naafiri is not any different.

However, unlike the other Darkin, whose bodies, even if they're created from multiple mortals, are all one whole, she is a pack of hive-mind desert hounds. And even though it may seem that way at first, she is not only the biggest hound, something considered as an old-school "alpha".

Naafiri eyes
There is a reason none of these eyes is brighter than others | © Riot Games

She embodies the entire pack. Which is the defining characteristic of this champion. She was discovered by a crypt-robber, who recognized what the throwing dagger she was trapped in was and refused to touch it.

After getting attacked by a pack of desert hounds, who picked up the dagger, Naafiri possessed the entire pack, and after a period of revulsion, found that the Darkin could learn from their relationship, which allows the pack to survive the harsh Shuriman deserts.

Now, with this enlightenment, she seeks to unite the Darkin once again, so they could hunt as one pack, and not only survive on Runeterra but thrive and rule it.

LoL Naafiri - Class

While it would make sense from a writing perspective to have a backstory for a character before introducing them anywhere, when designing a champion that is not the case.

Instead, the first thing to Riot devs need to decide on is which class should the new Darking champion have. That takes research, which was conducted last year, and Riot concluded that the game did not represent two things enough.

These were a high-skill tank, which resulted in the release of K'Sante, and a simple-to-play assassin, that relies more on macro gameplay than micro gameplay. That led to the creation of Naafiri.

  • Naafiri's voice lines are exquisite, so get a matching new LoL headset to truly immerse yourself in the hunt

LoL Naafiri - Gameplay and New AI

Not for the first time, Riot Games found themselves designing a champion that the current tools at their disposal just couldn't support. One of the first instances of that was designing Sylas, for example.

Naafiri is a pack monster, and devs wanted to bring the feeling of leading multiple units from RTS games into League, while keeping the gameplay simple and easy to pick up.

Naafiri Trailer Header
Imagine hearing that howl in the dead of night | © Riot Games

After designing the abilities, it became obvious that the pack of hounds making up Naafiri would need new tech, making them something which will not act mindlessly the way Yorick's ghouls do,

"We knew the packmates needed to path correctly, respond to attack commands quickly, stay at the appropriate range, attack the correct target, and of course, stay out of the way of an assassin’s gameplay patterns."

So, when Naafiri gets released, we can expect her gameplay to find itself between the formations of AoE and quick-to-action movement mechanics in Starcraft II.

LoL Naafiri - Why is Naafiri a Dog?

Aside from the reasons listed above, where Riot wanted to represent dogs more in League of Legends, there is another, more particular reason why Naafiri ended up being a pack of dogs, or more precisely, hounds.

Most people, perhaps all of us, have at least once in our lives felt the terror of encountering a wild dog while alone, activating our fight or flight response. Naafiri's design is meant to touch upon that exact feeling.

Naafiri concept hound
There is malice in that grin | © Riot Games

After all, League of Legends assassins are fearsome enemies, and Riot wanted players to feel afraid of Naafiri, always checking to see if they are being watched, uncomfortable with her presence on Summoner's Rift.

And the scariest thing of all, is that we are not afraid of a single hound in front of us. It's the knowledge that others in its pack are waiting for the opportunity to pounce on our backs.

When it came to the design of the looks themselves, after experimenting with various demonic dogs, connecting Naafiri to Shurima felt the best choice, and the biggest inspiration for dune hounds of Shruima, were African wild dogs. Thus, Naafiri's looks came to fruition.

Rijad Kamberovic

Graduating from Sarajevo university in 2020, with a Bachelor's Degree in Islamic Theology, I never believed that my fascination with comparative religions and their myths would mesh so well together with the fantasy genre of the video games I play....