Riot interview: How LoL devs celebrated Dr Mundo’s decade-long legacy in rework

Dr Mundo Rework LoL Riot interviewRiot Games

Dr Mundo’s League of Legends rework is more than just a visual and gameplay overhaul. It’s trying to distill the essence of 11 years of history into a bottle that’ll live beyond the Madman of Zaun’s original design.

As League of Legends pushes past the decade mark and enters its troublesome teens, some of the champions start to get rebellious. The older ones tend to stand out like acne, a blemish of years gone by, as more modern designs take center stage.

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However, what’s old is new again ⁠— at least for Dr Mundo. The iconic League of Legends juggernaut is finally receiving his long-awaited rework in patch 11.12, over a full year after Riot started the overhaul.

His kit maintains the simplicity ⁠— that essence of Mundo being a goofball doctor ⁠— while also bringing it up to date with some of the game’s newest releases. Mundo didn’t need two dashes and an essay for a passive to be playable. That goes against the champion’s entire philosophy.

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Instead, Riot wanted to celebrate one of their “Original 40” characters and give him a legacy players old and new could commemorate. And they hit that note perfectly.

Dr Mundo League of Legends reworkRiot Games
Dr Mundo’s long-awaited League of Legends rework has arrived.

Giving an old dog new tricks, and a new role

Speaking to Dexerto, lead champion producer Ryan ‘Reav3’ Mireles and game designer Glenn ‘Twin Enso’ Anderson said Riot’s plans from the get-go were always to keep his soul intact.

“The vision for Mundo stayed pretty similar from beginning to end,” Reav3 said.

“This is due to the fact that Mundo was already a pretty solid champion, so the goal was mostly just to modernize him and bit but keep his core theme and gameplay intact. We never really strayed from who Mundo already was on live during his development.”

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Mundo still throws cleavers. He still bulks up massively in his ultimate. And, most importantly of all, he still goes where he pleases.

Which is rather fitting, considering Mundo’s identity on Summoner’s Rift has shifted from being a top laner to a jungler. His rework has only solidified that ⁠— in fact, that might be the only shard of Mundo’s previous existence that could be fading away with the overhaul.

“We always planned to support both Top and Jungle, though actually focused more on Top at first,” Twin Enso said.

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“As development went on we realized that there was a lot of player love for Jungle, and so made more efforts to support both a little more evenly. So overall we hope he’ll be played in both roles.”

Pool Party MundoRiot Games
Riot kept Mundo’s kit simple to not alienate mains of the juggernaut.

They went through a few wild iterations of a reworked kit to try and find the perfect match. However, there was one major problem with almost every change they tried to implement ⁠— it became too complex, too quick.

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“We wanted to make Mundo feel more modern and upgraded but at the same time still super simple to play. We went through a ton of cool and thematically interesting abilities, but most of them made him a lot harder to play,” Reav3 admitted.

“The first passive we tried was ‘Mundo gains one max health every time he takes damage.’ It was fun, but way too snowbally and encouraged Mundo to make some pretty suicidal plays. ” Twin Enso added.

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“We also tried having Mundo convert all of his armor and magic resist into more max health. While it was fun seeing Mundo run around with 11,000 health, it sharpened a lot of his already sharp matchups. For example, Blade of the Ruined King absolutely obliterated him.”

Riot did add some modern changes that were inconceivable to League of Legends players a decade ago when the game launched ⁠— although, giving Riot credit, they did put Twisted Fate’s ultimate on a regular ability with a sub-30 second cooldown.

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Adding crowd control immunity into his kit was one of the most contentious decisions behind closed doors, and will likely receive mixed reactions. However, Riot believe they’ve found a fair medium that’ll make Mundo feel good to play, and fair to play against.

Rageborn Mundo LoLRiot Games
Dr Mundo had two reworked passives that gave him tons of bonus health. Both were ditched.

“We wanted to push the whole ‘Mundo goes where he pleases’ theme to the max for his rework, and very early on we centered on CC immunity as an interesting and unique way to push that fantasy. Making it feel fair, however, was where the challenge began,” Reav3 said.

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“Mundo had early iterations where he was just 100% immune to hard CC and convert those effects into slows instead, but it could be extremely frustrating for some champions to play against.

“We ended up settling for a slightly more tame version where Mundo is immune to one hard CC effect but has to pick up a destructible canister to regain immunity (think Poppy’s shield). We think this still gives Mundo that unstoppable feel while also feeling a lot better to play against.”

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The pressure of reworking an icon

However, all of this tinkering comes back to one core thing. Riot wanted to keep the spirit of Dr Mundo the same, no matter how much they actually changed with his kit. In fact, they wanted to grow on the culture that has blown up around Mundo’s existence in League fandom.

This, obviously, comes with a lot of pressure. However, it gives Riot the creative freedom to make not necessarily a champion they would have on launch, but one that lines up with the community’s expectations of their original favorites.

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“Reworks are totally different from new champs in how we approach and think about them. It can be nice since we already understand what about the champion resonates with the playerbase and what doesn’t,” Reav3 said.

“There’s a lot more pressure as well, since if we mess something up a lot of players will be upset if they feel their champion got downgraded, whereas with new champions people just won’t play the new champion.”

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Dr Mundo splash arts lolRiot Games
Dr Mundo may have gotten new looks throughout the years, but his spirit remains untouched.

There is one important thing to remember too. The devs are also players. They grew up with the same roster of League of Legends champions we all did. Getting to make an icon one of their own, and really live it up to its fantasy, is the most exciting experience of all.

“Many of us on the Champions team grew up with these champs, so giving them a fresh coat of paint can be some of the most fun projects we get to work on,” Reav3 said.

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That’s exactly what the Dr Mundo rework feels like. The Madman of Zaun we’re getting in Season 11 feels even more like the one Riot intended when they released him 11 years ago.

This rework, above all others, hits a soft spot in League players’ hearts, and developers too. His legacy has truly been commemorated.

From now, and into the future, Mundo will always go where he pleases.