With Riot’s big games both releasing new characters at around the same time, fans began wondering whether Neon from VALORANT and Zeri from League of Legends were essentially the same. Several weeks of speculation and theory-crafting later, developers from both games have finally spoken up and settled the debate in a new blog. VALORANT developer John Goscicki and League developer Ryan Mireles revealed that Neon and Zeri are not the same character, and explained the design process that went into the new agent and new champion.
Neon and Zeri are not the same
Neon’s arrival came first, with the new Philippine-based agent already available to play in VALORANT Episode 4. But much of the speculation started when Filipino voice actress Vanille Velasquez revealed that she performed the voiceovers for both Neon and Zeri. By then, players began noticing that both had very similar character concepts and gameplay kits. Their themes both center around electricity and speed, firing bolts of lighting and zipping their way around the map.
It also wouldn’t be the first time that we see characters blending between worlds across Riot’s titles. After all, several crossovers emerged upon the release of the hit League of Legends Netflix show, Arcane. But the devs have shut down those theories, insisting that the two are separate characters and their lore as well as launch dates are separate happenings in the games.
“To officially set the record straight: No, they’re not the same characters. No, they’re not related, but they were made in tandem by the League and VALORANT teams,” Riot wrote.
In the end, the revelation doesn’t affect the gameplay at all. However, for those more invested in the lore and character backstories, we can now put the speculation to rest. Still, it might have been nice if the two were related, seeing how similar character concepts unfold in different realms and different types of games. It also has ramifications for the cast of characters that we do expect to see for League and VALORANT, given that Neon is explicitly branded as a Filipino agent. Meanwhile, League champions of course stick to the existing worlds within Runeterra as Zeri hails from the undercity of Zaun.
Co-developing Neon and Zeri led to electricity and speed themes
The VALORANT Agents team and the League Champions team did work together a lot during the creation of Zeri and Neon. According to the blog, Arcane‘s launch had catalyzed the game designers to create the two characters in tandem.
“I messaged Goscicki to ask if he wanted to co-launch a champion and agent together during the Arcane event,” Mireles shared. “A lot of Riot players play both League and VALORANT. We thought it’d be cool if they could play these two characters in both games.”
They also explained how Neon’s background as a Filipino agent influenced a lot of the design process, and how the devs wanted that cultural aspect to shine through. In contrast, those considerations were not explicitly part of Zeri’s development, even though they were co-creating the two characters. Moreover, character development did not only involve in-game kits, but also the narrative considerations, which are fundamentally different between Neon and Zeri.
“Neon’s the negative charge and Zeri’s the positive,” said Narrative Writer Michael Luo. “Neon’s prickly and a bit more guarded—blunt, sarcastic, slightly biting. It seems like she doesn’t care about you, but deep down she does care and wants to do the right thing. Compared to Zeri’s warm, bright—but still stubborn and impatient at times—personality, we just felt like it was a cool way to tie their electricity theme into who they are.”
The electricity and speed aspects naturally arose out of designing a kit around electricity as a power source. They also wanted to explore mobility in VALORANT, which poses much different implications for gameplay compared to speed boosts in League. In the end, the developers emphasized that the mechanics of each game still guided the character creation process to make Neon and Zeri stand out as their own heroes.