Riot Games has temporarily disabled League of Legends character Neeko after she unexpectedly developed the ability to transform into a massive tower that can kill enemy players in a single shot.
Neeko is actually a shapeshifter: Her character bio says she "can blend into any crowd by borrowing the appearances of others, even absorbing something of their emotional state to tell friend from foe in an instant." Her passive ability enables her to take the form of an allied champion: While disguised she can employ basic attacks, but will revert to her natural form if she takes any damage.
That's how it's supposed to work, anyway. But a new bug was recently discovered that gave Neeko the ability to transform into a tower—specifically, a Nexus Obelisk, a type of turret that possesses the highest structural damage output in the game. According to the LoL fan wiki, they're actually designed as a defensive murder machine: They're positioned near spawn platforms to keep enemy players from spawn camping them.
This clip, from League streamer Vandiril, pretty clearly demonstrates the problem:
And here it is from the other side of the coin—a player eating a one-shot kill from a transformed Neeko:
Still not fixed, huh? Thanks for this great experience @riotgames @Vandiril pic.twitter.com/4Hks3wWkKmNovember 22, 2022
As you might imagine, the ability of one character to transform into one of these one-shot death fortresses, immediately and anywhere on the map, throws the game into complete imbalance. It's basically the LoL equivalent of Anakin Skywalker's big showdown with the younglings: There's just no defense against it.
Because of that, Riot was forced to disable Neeko while it tries to fix whatever went wrong.
Some League players on Reddit were surprised that this could happen at all, given that Nexus Obelisks aren't characters, but fixed turrets. "How is that even a possible bug?" Rumbleinthejungle8 asked. "The game's code must be a real mess for that to be possible. I guess everything being coded as a minion isn't just a meme."
That's a reference to the fact that more than just minions are coded as "minions" in League of Legends. This Reddit post from 2015 breaks it down in detail: Just about everything in the game shares basic, underlying characteristics, although their complexity varies widely.
"The phrase 'everything is a minion' is more or less true but it's closer to saying something like 'everything is an object' rather than 'everything is a lane minion'," RiotXypherous explained in the post. "Lane minions are actually pretty complicated, given they have a model, animations and an AI—something that the basic minion object doesn't have (depending on which one is being used, I think they're all idle cubes.)"
Some players have suggested that the problem might be as simple as a failed or mistaken entity type check, but the fact that Neeko has been disabled for more than 24 hours suggests that the problem is more serious than a simple scripting error. Of course, the timing isn't ideal either: November 24 is the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, a major holiday that sees most businesses in the country shut down for a long weekend of food, booze, and (I think, I'm Canadian so not super-clear on the details of the ritual) football. So that's another reason why this Neeko Obelisk business might take a little longer than normal to fix.
Regardless of all that, the Neeko bug is yet another example of the challenges faced by live-game developers, who have to deal with a steady stream of updates that are constantly changing characters, worlds, and gameplay. It's the nature of the beast: In October, Blizzard had to disable Bastion and Torbjörn in Overwatch 2 because of similarly overpowered glitches in their ultimates, and two weeks later shut down Mei because she'd become just a little bit more mobile than she was meant to be. Riot was also forced to pull the plug on Valorant's new hero Harbor just last week, because his ultimate had gone screwy as well.
There's no indication at this point as to when Neeko will be back: Riot Games declined to comment on the situation or offer a possible timeline for the character's return to action.