Zeri and Neon might not be exactly the same, but the League of Legends champion and the Valorant agent are the first character crossover between the titles – although they’re not exactly the same. Riot have opened up on how it came to life, and what other crossovers the future holds.
Zeri and Neon shocked the gaming world when Riot revealed the two electric characters for their major titles — League of Legends and Valorant — in January. Voiced by the same voice actor, with similar Filipino backstories, they were labeled by fans as Riot’s first true “crossover.”
Sure, there was some Sentinels of Light stuff last year and RiotX Arcane, but this is a much bigger deal.
However, while it seems simple enough to just create a character with similar stories in both games and call it there, it was much more complicated, as developers have shared in a January 14 blog post.
While Riot has reiterated that they’re not the same characters, both Zeri and Neon were designed in tandem. The launch of the two together was inspired by Arcane — like all things Riot-related in the last year.
“A long time ago we were brainstorming what we could do for the launch of Arcane. It was a huge moment for all of us at Riot, so I messaged [John] Goscicki (Character Producer for Valorant) to ask if he wanted to co-launch a champion and Agent together during the event,” League’s lead champion producer Ryan ‘Reav3’ Mireles said.
“It made a lot of sense, a lot of the Valorant Agents team worked on the Champions team before, and we share a lot of the same processes. A lot of Riot players play both League and Valorant. So we thought it’d be cool if they could play these two characters in both games.”
Trying to make the crossover smooth was easier said than done, though. Both League and Valorant devs needed character identities that could fit in both games — and that was more than just giving a League champion a gun and porting them into Valorant with extra flare.
However, the two design teams worked together on both characters at the same time, tying together to the central theme of electricity to hone their powers. Then it was getting a real-life hook — and that was where Manila, Philippines came into play.
“We landed on the idea of electricity, which lent itself to the speed idea, but it also had this nice tie-in to where we wanted these characters to be from in the real-world: the Philippines,” developer Gem ‘Lonewingy’ Lim said.
“I grew up in Manila, and we were planning on making Filipina characters—something that means a lot to me, personally. And in Manila we have a lot of blackouts, and electricity problems in general. It just felt like a nice little nod to life there.”
And just like electricity, there had to be a negative and positive charge. So, Riot designed Neon with the negative, more blunt personality, while Zeri got the bright and bubbly positives (with a smidge of stubbornness).
It also forced the Valorant team specifically to think outside the box for Neon and break some of their long-standing rules to design a truly interesting Agent to play, and that came with her movement.
“We decided to go with giving Neon constant access to speed, at all times, with no cooldowns,” developer August ‘August’ Browning said. “Instead of going with the cooldown we restricted the strength of it in other ways like making it so her guns are down and she can’t jiggle peek at high speeds.”
“Something August really helped with was challenging the way we think about designing Agents overall, not just Neon,” Valorant Agent lead Ryan ‘rycoux’ Cousart added.
“I’m not saying that every guardrail should be smashed, but it taught us to test what we thought was our limit previously, instead of pushing to try new things.”
From there, the kits of both Neon and Zeri came together. With electricity and speed at each of their cores, they feel very similar in terms of playstyle in their respective games. Riot still managed to give them an individual personality and flair — so while Zeri and Neon might be the first “crossover,” it’s not a direct port. However, expect more releases like this down the line.