Ask a question about League or Riot, and we’ll try to answer it. Answers go live every other Thursday at 1:30 pm (PT)
Nunu & Willump are probably the most wholesome duo in League of Legends, and they’re heading to PBE this week. While you’re waiting for your chance to roll the Biggest Snowball Ever!, here are nine tidbits about their development, featuring game designer Justin “Riot Xenogenic” Hanson, concept artist Justin “Riot Earp” Albers, and narrative writer David “Interlocutioner” Slagle.
1) Nunu and Willump’s new kit has two abilities that have been (basically) locked from day one.
Nunu is one of League’s original 30 champions, which means his ultimate is almost a decade old. Absolute Zero is iconic to both Nunu and League, which is why his ult works the same as before—only now it also provides a shield for the duo to weather the storm of battle. Nunu’s Consume was important to his identity as a jungling objective controller, and with the update, Nunu’s yeti pal can Consume more than just monsters. At last, it’s time to live out your wildest fantasies of Smiting and Consuming enemy champions.
2) Playtesting Biggest Snowball Ever! was a huge moment in development.
“As soon as we tried out rolling a giant snowball in game, that was it,” says Riot Xenogenic. People in playtests were hyped—it made ganking and traversing the jungle fun, even when they missed the target completely and smashed into a wall.
“I think that’s part of what makes playing Nunu special: I can have fun failing,” says Interlocutioner. “It ties into the sense of, ‘We’re here to have a good time,’ which is exactly what Nunu & Willump want.”
3) Creating their E was one the hardest parts—it took nearly 20 spell variations to land on Snowball Barrage.
Most of Nunu & Willump’s kit was ready pretty early, but it still took the full development time to finalize because creating their E was so tough. “We started with a couple of abilities that didn’t really synergize together, so it was hard to even know what we wanted E to do,” says Riot Xenogenic. “We ended up going for something with CC to make their ult more reliable and give them more tools to succeed as a Warden.” (Wardens specialize in keeping their allies safe and disrupting fights, like Braum.)
Plus, Snowball Barrage is a true team effort: Nunu smacks the targets with snowballs, and Willump freezes ‘em into the ground.
4) There’s a storybook about Nunu & Willump’s adventures hanging on the wall where the devs sit. It’s spectacularly hand-written and illustrated. With crayons.
Nunu’s narrative writer Interlocutioner created this masterpiece early in development, and it helped everyone rally behind the playful tone of the characters. “The fact he made it with crayons just felt so right,” says Riot Earp.
5) Willump could’ve been a scary behemoth, but people liked him more as a soft and huggable pal.
A bunch of concept artists kicked off Nunu’s rework by taking a day to explore art directions for Willump. The result was a wide array of yetis ranging from adorable to abominable. “Whenever we’d dig deeper into the monstrous-looking guys, people would be like, ‘Yeah, but what if he was fluffy instead?’” says Riot Earp. “I’m pretty sure it was the huggable factor.”
For the record, Willump’s soft fur and extra arms make him the best hugger in Runeterra. This is indisputable fact. “During their recall, Willump throws Nunu into the air and catches him in a giant yeti hug,” Riot Earp says. “I want to do that. I want Willump to catch me.”
6) One of the (unofficial) goals of Nunu & Willump’s rework was to give them the saddest death animation in the game.
Yes, even sadder than Dragon Trainer Tristana’s. “Playing new Nunu has a lot of fun moments,” says Riot Xenogenic. “The really low note of their death helps ensure players don’t become numb to the constant stream of highs—that way those high notes keep feeling fun.”
And no, we haven’t fully recovered from seeing this either.
7) Every sound Willump makes in-game has been translated into human words.
“We know exactly what Willump is saying because he’s actually talking, Chewbacca-style. Only Nunu can understand him,” Interlocutioner says. The team gave the English translations of Willump’s grunts to his voice actor so he’d know exactly what inflections to put into the sounds.
What does the pair talk about? “Willump has a different perspective on the world because he’s so ancient,” says Interlocutioner. “He sometimes tones down his wisdom so he can have fun with his best friend, but they have moments of mentorship, too.”
8) All the trolliness associated with Nunu’s core character was siphoned out and put into Nunu Bot.
Nunu Bot is troll turned up to 11. He honks a squeaky bike horn while rolling an electrical ball with a terrified robot inside down mid lane, all while saying classic lines such as, “We must tower dive,” and “Rito Plssssss.” And you can sleep soundly tonight—Nunu Bot’s laugh is exactly the same as before. “We used text-to-speech to record his lines again, and the new laugh just didn’t feel right,” says Interlocutioner. “We wanted to do good by players with this skin, which is why we also kept most of his original voice lines.”
9) The AP Nunu dream is alive.
Absolute Zero still scales with Ability Power, and their snowball hits like a snowtruck when you build AP. “I just had a playtest where I drove a snowball into a Lux and one-shot her,” says Riot Xenogenic. “I had Predator boots and came rolling in with like 900 movement speed—so basically a Sion ult—and then SMACK! Deleted.” The AP ratio and movement speed on Snowball were both slightly nerfed after that playtest, but the AP dream is alive and well.
You can send us your one-shot montages in two weeks when Nunu & Willump roll onto the Rift. In the meantime, try not be too jealous of their perfect friendship.