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Forging the Loose Cannon

From robot cowboy snipers to napkin doodles, each of League’s 138 champions started somewhere. This is the story of Jinx.

A Girl and Her Guns

There was once a bulletin board at Riot where anyone could share their awesome (or slightly less awesome) ideas for future champions. Always crowded with artwork and kit designs, the board was a place of inspiration for champ designers, even if most of the ideas never made it to official development.

Years ago, illustrator Katie De Sousa posted to that board a picture of a gun-toting, braid-rocking criminal. Prompted by a love for villains and playing ADC, Katie hoped to bring a little bit of chaos to the marksman roster.

The gameplay fantasy for the champion was legit—a weapon-swapping maniac—but when it came to appearances, she looked like a knockoff of Miss Fortune, with a new haircut and fresh ink.

Original Concept Art for Psycho Arsenal (Jinx)

Psycho Arsenal, Jinx’s codename at the time, had a lot of potential, but she wasn’t quite inspiring enough to enter development. Thus she remained on the literal drawing board for months…until a small group of advocates made it their mission to bring Psycho Arsenal to the Rift.

One of those early advocates was champion designer August “jinxylord” Browning, who says, “I’ve always wanted to make a weapon-swapping ADC, like a ranged Udyr, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.” While August worked on Jinx’s arch nemesis Vi by day, he rallied with Katie (and a few others) for Psycho Arsenal by night. Eventually support started rolling in, and about six months after that fateful drawing was first posted, Jinx was chosen for official development.

Defining Jinx

Psycho Arsenal had the green light, so it was time to tackle one of her biggest issues: her generic-ness. Most of League’s female champions at that time looked pretty similar, with a sexy persona and voluptuous hourglass figure. “My instinct is to diversify wherever I can,” Katie says. “I started thinking it’d be cool if she was more wiry and spunky, like maybe she survives on Skittles because she’s so busy causing mayhem.”

Psycho Arsenal became more slender and sinewy while her guns got bigger and bigger. Eventually, her proportions basically reversed; she became a tiny girl carrying oversized, heavy weapons—weapons there’s probably no way she’d actually be able to carry in real life. “That’s when my excitement and confidence really multiplied,” August says. “She felt so much more original and resonant.”

Concept Art for Psycho Arsenal (Jinx)

Even though Jinx’s appearance changed quite a bit during development, there were three things that remained the same: her signature floor-length blue pigtails, her manic expression, and guns… lots and lots of guns.

Come On, Shoot Faster

True to the name Psycho Arsenal, Jinx wielded a ridiculous variety of weapons during her development: Pistols, rifles, crossbows, tasers, taser crossbows, semi-automatic machine guns, mini-guns, grenades, a rocket launcher, and even a flamethrower. Katie says, “We just put a bunch of different weapons on her while trying to figure out what her gameplay was going to look like.”

In Jinx’s original kit design, each of her basic abilities caused her to swap weapons—much like the way Udyr switches forms—and her ultimate changed based on which gun she was holding. This ended up feeling pretty boring to play because you were almost exclusively right-clicking on things the entire game. “It just didn’t feel like she had enough fun buttons to press,” August says.

The weapon-swapping mechanic was moved to Q, and the focus became creating two stances with distinct strengths and weaknesses. This was done by distinguishing the attack speed and AoE damage of the weapons: For quick-firing, single-target damage, there was a mini-gun, and for slow-shooting, AoE damage, a rocket launcher was the perfect fit.

Jinx Concept Art

Now that Jinx’s kit had the weapons, it was time to add the chaos. “Making Jinx’s gameplay feel crazy was probably the hardest part about designing her,” August says. If you look at her without her passive, she feels like a sniper with long-ranged rockets and traps to keep people away, but that’s just not Jinx—she likes to be in-on the action. In the end, one conversation between QA analyst Blake “Squad5” Smith and August (basically) solved everything:

“What if when you killed someone, you went really, really, really fast?”

“How fast?”

“Like, super fast.”

“Blake, that’s crazy.”

“…that’s the point.”

On the first day of playtesting this new passive, Jinx ran into a fight, flashed past the enemy team to kill Xerath, got her passive proc, lost control of the character, and ran into the enemy tower and died. “It was just like, ‘Yep, that’s Jinx,’” August says. “We knew after that playtest that she was finally starting to feel like the crazy girl we wanted her to be.”

And now, hold onto your bullets as we present a list of ults-that-didn’t-make-it, with commentary by August.

Drop the Hammer: Jinx could activate a global cannon floating above the map, causing an oversized bomb to detonate at a target location…after ten seconds. Why it didn’t make it: “People would just walk out of it.”

Homing Missiles: Jinx would fire six missiles that automatically targeted enemy champions, chased them down, and straight-up killed them if they didn’t dodge ‘em. Why it didn’t make it: “She’d use it on bot lane and then randomly kill the enemy jungler, so that felt wrong.”

WTF Missiles: Jinx would fire a massive amount of missiles, which would then travel in unpredictable directions. Why it didn’t make it: “This was way too random.”

Circle of Cats: Jinx shot a bomb across the map, surrounding the first enemy hit with magical smoke—anyone who ran through it was then transformed into a harmless, cuddly kitten. Why it didn’t make it: “Although adorable, it felt a little too indirect and impractical for Jinx.”

Super Mega Death Rocket: Jinx shoots a rocket that explodes upon hitting an enemy champion, dealing AoE damage. Why it didn’t make it: Wait a second…

Actually, Super Mega Death Rocket was one of the first spells tested for Jinx, but the team moved away from the idea. At the time, it did flat damage, so Jinx would just fire it at the start of a fight—it was effective but also pretty lame.

The execute damage wasn’t added until way later in development, when the balance team urged for the change. “I felt pretty reluctant about it at first,” August says, “Because it seemed like a Garen ult, but better because it was AoE and ranged.” Still, it was unique to the ADC space and created a condition on when to use the ult—to secure kills. Plus, Super Mega Death Rocket synergized really well with the rest of her kit, where she could make a pick, then use her crazy passive speed to get to the next fight and continue the carnage.

Rules Are Made to Be Broken, Like Buildings… Or People

One question about Jinx’s personality lingered throughout development: Just how evil is she? Sure, she was inspired by villainy, but is Jinx out to murder people in cold blood? Or is she just trying to have fun, but her version of “fun” happens to involve a whole lot of destruction? August says, “Even though Jinx has killed a lot of people, we don’t really think of her as a blood-drenched serial killer.”

Jinx is just bored and looking for excitement. Sure, she doesn’t really care if people die during the explosions, but she’s not in it for the casualties.

Community Specialist Robert “Ransom” Lo puts it this way:

“If Jinx were walking past a stranger in a dark alley, she wouldn’t just automatically stab them and take their money. But if she were walking past a stranger in a dark alley near a PILE OF FIREWORKS, she would totally blow up the fireworks and unintentionally light the stranger on fire, because fireworks are freakin’ fun.”

Illustrator Katie De Sousa says, “I think I secretly wanted Jinx to be even more evil.”

Ultimately, Jinx’s personality and gameplay was about striking a balance between unhinged, dangerous, and crazy while also being fun, approachable, and cute. “The perfect representation  of Jinx is probably her music video,” August says. “She’s laughing, having a good time, and blowing shit up, but she’s not necessarily covered in the blood of her enemies. That’s Jinx.”

ORIGINS is a new series where we deep-dive into the development of champions. Feel free to drop some thoughts and feels on the series below and let us know which champs you’re most interested in hearing about!

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