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[S2]Nome's Blog - The Monkey King

By kustodian - 18th July 2011 - 23:50 PM

This post is a mirror of my forum post regarding the same matter. I will most a more detailed breakdown of the development process, focusing on the transition of Harlequin to Monkey King, at a later date.

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The Monkey King stands triumphantly atop the snow-capped peak. Who will challenge this conqueror of the heavens and proprietor of chaos? He has endured a grueling journey to completion, rife with change and sacrifice. Let's see his transformation from a humble harlequin to a peerless disciple of immortals.

The Harlequin was one of my first submitted designs as a community member in 2009; an agility hero who manipulated opponents’ movement, whose gameplay was not just at the behest of the player, but followed an implied cadence that dictated a forceful, forward flow. Even after I was hired, I had long desired to implement some form of the Harlequin, but ran into a myriad of problems in its practical implementation, specifically with Carousel. Though it seemed innovative on paper, the manipulation of facing direction and turn rate felt unnatural and unintuitive to the affected players. I decided to effectively start from scratch with the abilities, only keeping an activated, targeted version of the Hop passive that eventually became Heavenly Vault, an ability that became characteristic of the hero’s new identity as the Monkey King. This motif is of special importance–it’s one of China’s most valued mythological figures, and so it was an honor to take inspiration from its rich lore.

(W) Heavenly Vault: The Monkey King plays a game of leap frog on a series of opponents, using their heads as springboards to launch himself further. Unfortunately for his victims, monkey feet are heavy, and they are knocked backwards.


From the start, we knew that this would be the centerpiece of the hero; it was a unique movement mechanic that depended heavily on player reaction and positioning. Landing successive Heavenly Vaultswas incredibly satisfying to pull off and rewarded the player with additional movement and displacement. From here, two additional abilities were built that satisfied the original theme of the Harlequin, which was to strike without being struck. Instead of Harlequin manipulating your opponents and causing frustration, the Monkey King would manipulate himself in different ways.

(Q) Illusive Dash: The Monkey King quickly dashes forward a short distance, striking every enemy he contacts. Seconds later, he performs a second dash.


(E) Thousand Jin Slam: The Monkey King brings down his magic staff at full force, causing a mountain of earth to erupt in front of him, thrusting victims into the air before imploding.


Key to these three abilities would be the interplay between them. All three skills synergistically boost each other: you may perform a Heavenly Vault from a Thousand Jin Slam to vault over a cliff that would normally block movement, or use Illusive Dash between successive Heavenly Vaults to cover distance towards your next target. The core gameplay of the hero had been established firmly, which made conceiving a unique, fun, yet impactful ultimate fairly difficult. We toyed with several ideas, including leaving a trail of fire (while playing the Guile Themefor moral support), breaking out of CC in a burst of power (scrapped due to our unwillingness to make an exception to the “silenced/stunned” rule), and various passives that synergized with the Monkey King’s playstyle but ultimately failed to fulfill the sense of epicness that the hero deserved. Conceptually, the ultimate had to feel like an ultimate, yet could not steal the show from the basic abilities, making the perfect middle ground very difficult to reach. In the end, we drew from the Monkey King’s lore.

®Flying Nimbus: Noncombat mount. When not taking damage, the Monkey King may choose to coast upon a magic cloud, granting movement speed and other bonuses.


Though it’s simple, Flying Nimbus served as an out-of-combat foil to the speedy combat design, and was able to be impactful without being overwhelming or unnecessarily adding additional unwanted dimensions to an intricate clockwork of existing basic abilities.

Crucial to the design was the aforementioned rhythm that originated with the Harlequin: the set pace at which the hero glides through battle and the distance the hero travels for each skill have all been timed and tested meticulously, optimized in order to never leave a lull in battle. In psychology we describe a phenomenon called flow, a mental state of deep immersion that results in peak performance during the process. It would be presumptuous to declare that the Monkey King has reached this nirvana, but it is designed to facilitate it. Designing, scripting, and testing the Monkey King has been a labor of love for us, and we certainly hope you will share that enjoyment when you play him.

The Monkey King arrives… very soon

PS: Matt Mercer, who voiced Fei Long in Street Fighter 4, will be performing the Monkey King lines! Thanks to Warchamp7 for the hookup!

Author: [S2]Nome


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Richard Liu, also known as [S2]Nome, is a game designer for S2 Games and an avid gamer. He is an alumnus of Emory University with a BA in Psychology.