The charming blue-haired menace Jinx makes an emotional splash as the lead in Netflix’s heart-tugging Arcane. Growing up in Zaun, the poverty-stricken undercity of Piltover, was rough for her. Now, she’s constantly grappling with her grief and shame while keeping a twisted smile on her face as she willingly incites chaos. All at once, she is nutty, soft-hearted, violent, and funny — her personality traits are constantly at each other’s throats, fighting for dominance.
Exhibiting a remarkable level of sentimental depth that raises the storytelling standard in character-based battlers, Jinx stands out from the crowd of over 150 League of Legends champions. From the knockout debut of the animated Arcane series to adding its champions into Fortnite, League of Legends is swiftly breaking free from standard MOBA boundaries. Nuanced transmedia narrative work is its escape method, and at the core of that universe-crafting is Jinx, the “Loose Cannon” of Zaun.
To better understand the twisted trickster Jinx, we caught up with two of the minds who created her: Paul Bellezza, Lead Champion Producer, and August Browning, Gameplay Designer. Join us as we dive into the development process, discuss inspirations for her character, and get a peek at some exclusive Jinx concept art.
“To me, Jinx is a different type of character — we wanted to ensure she stood apart from all the existing Attack Damage Carries [ADC] we had in the game at the time,” Bellezza says. “She has her own playstyle that marries her aesthetic, narrative, and gameplay together in a way that is more than the sum of all her parts. A lot of our characters in that era were either super serious, super attractive or super cute, so Jinx really stood out to me as a punk character who was thumbing her nose at what we had done for years before that. She was a great combination of dangerous, funny, silly, fun, and wild.”
Even though there are death lasers and colossal, all-consuming void monsters in the world of League of Legends, Browning and Bellezza explain it was difficult to find a clear place for guns in its fantasy-focused universe. In particular, it proved challenging to suggest adding a minigun and cartoonishly large rocket launcher into Runeterra’s setting.
“I think we had to work hard to ensure her weapons didn’t feel too anachronistic to the types of weapons you’d see in League of Legends overall,” Bellezza says. “That’s why her weapons have a ‘DIY’ built-them-myself type of vibe to them.
The two bypassed that issue by doubling down on their shared love for interconnecting worlds of conflicting characters. They made the best case they could for implementing Jinx’s arsenal and tying her backstory to Vi, her partner Caitlyn Kiramman, and the undercity. “I think whenever it makes sense to give characters relationship ties to other characters in the universe, it creates the chance for building out our world,” he continues. “Not only does it further flesh out existing characters, but it gives us a chance to introduce new elements to the world and mix it up.”
Back in 2012, it normally took the dev team around three to four months to move from conceptualizing to shipping. But for Jinx, they spent a little over a year putting together her finishing touches. That extra time was spent ensuring she would serve as the antithesis to Piltover and its enforcers. It was particularly important to the design team that she wasn’t posh and that she represented the free spirit and rebelliousness of her home. Jinx was meant to be the chaotic, scrappy criminal who would cause conflict in the relationships between Vi, Caitlyn, and herself. Needless to say, the original devs are very happy with the anarchy Jinx caused in Arcane.
“When designing Jinx’s abilities, Harley Quinn and the Joker were both characters I was thinking about,” Browning says. “I also personally drew a lot of inspiration from anime. There’s a number of shows that have these small person/giant weapon types of characters. I love the hectic over-the-top fight scenes in shows like that and I tried to think of different ways to capture the feeling of those fights on Jinx.”
The development team had many different directions in mind when they started with Jinx, and both Bellezza and Browning credit Concept Artist Katie De Sousa for finding the perfect balance for her design. They wanted her to permanently exude a “whimsical but slightly unhinged gaze” that no other character could possess. Browning reveals that Jinx’s original kit was rigid and stance-based, but they ultimately went with what was most fun.
“[Prototype Jinx] had three different guns she could equip and run around with and that was it,” Browning explains. “She also went through 10 different ultimates. She had a bomb that turned people into cats, seeker missiles that would randomly find and kill the enemy jungler taking blue buff, an orbital laser cannon that could summon a deathbeam anywhere on the map… It’s funny because Super Mega Death Rocket was the first ultimate we tried, and it ended up being what we came back to after everything else didn’t work. There’s just something that feels Jinx about shooting a giant rocket across the map.”
Jinx was originally developed two full years before Arcane started pre-production, all the way back in 2015. Riot Games partnered with studios Passion Paris and Fortiche to produce the music video for punk-rock anthem “Get Jinxed.” While the initial music video partnership was for Jinx’s theme song, many of the producers who worked on “Get Jinxed” went on to work on Arcane a couple of years later.
Bellezza and Browning tell me that back in 2013, they couldn’t fathom the idea of Jinx, Vi, and the Piltover crew getting a whole series dedicated to their stories. As Arcane entered production, they gave light feedback on Vi’s design after watching early versions of pilot episodes. Showrunners Christian Linke and Alex Yee used to work on the League of Legends Champion Team, which gave them an intimate understanding of Zaun and Piltover’s inhabitants, its power conflicts, and the cruel metamorphosis narcotic that is Shimmer. Now that the world has seen the fruits of the team’s labor, they’re excited that their character has opportunities to blossom while still staying true to her nature.
“Seeing the show, and how it brought Jinx, Vi, Ekko, and the other champions to life was pretty emotional for me,” Browning says. “I cried a few times. I’ve been thinking about these characters for almost a decade and seeing the impact they were able to have in Arcane, in a TV show that even my family who doesn’t play League of Legends can watch and appreciate, was incredible.”
“I think the manifestation of Jinx in Arcane is definitely the most fleshed out change we’ve seen in recent times,” Bellezza says. “But if you look at some of our skinlines, you’ll see alternate versions of Jinx in places like Star Guardian, Odyssey, and more. Each of those other [versions of Jinx] share her spirit but are completely different manifestations of who she is and who she has relationships with in those alternative canons.”
Other than slight updates for Arcane, the dev team says Jinx hasn’t altered much from her initial release eight years ago. The main shift lies in the myriad ways people can interact with and experience her as a character through her role as an ADC in League of Legends, a protagonist in Arcane, a five cost carry unit in Teamfight Tactics, and a collectible card in Legends of Runeterra.
During the RiotX Arcane event, the borders of Riot Games fell, and you could interact with characters from the tactical shooter Valorant inside of the League of Legends browser game. Even more recently, Riot co-developed the electrifying characters Zeri and Neon and added them to League of Legends and Valorant respectively, hinting at even more potential cross-game collaboration. Since Bellezza and Browning also design and produce characters for Valorant, we asked them if there is any chance of a fully cross-universe character.
“Many Valorant developers were League of Legends veterans, so they definitely brought their learnings to Valorant’s agent development process,” Bellezza says. “So while League of Legends and Valorant are different games, we did utilize similar methodologies when it came to character art, game design prototyping methods, and validation of the core gameplay. As for crossovers and character’s influencing each other… It’s not currently planned, but you never know!”
Bellezza says the whole development team fell in love with Jinx’s attitude, aesthetic, and arsenal of weapons immediately after seeing her concept art. The instant connection allowed them to come up with a variety of ways to bring her to life narratively, mechanically, and design-wise. As for what’s next for the Loose Cannon, we’ll have to wait until Arcane’s second season drops sometime in 2023 to find out.
[Disclaimer: Both Riot Games and Fanbyte are owned by the same parent company, Tencent. We don’t often, like, chill together or anything, though. I think Riot’s office is pretty close to the L.A. office where our bosses work? That’s about it.]