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Skins and Champions

How we approach designing new skins, champs with simple kits, and new champions.

Welcome to Ask Riot! Have a question?

This week, it’s new skins and new champions.

Q

Some of my favorite champs in the past have been the ones with simple, more straightforward kits and gameplay: old cho’gath, old swain, old taric. Are there any plans to make new champions with simple and easy playstyles?

A

Simple, straightforward champs have a lot of pros and cons, but overall we agree that they are an important and fun part of the LoL roster. The big benefit is that it opens up a more decision-based and less input-mechanics-based playstyle that’s really appealing to some types of players (especially new ones). A cost and common drawback is that they’re often much more powerful in low elo play, so when balanced, they end up being a non-viable option in higher levels of play. Simple champions can also devolve much more quickly into “stat check” gameplay when they’re snowballed ahead or behind because they don’t have enough tools to outplay their opponents.

To answer your original question—we will likely not be adding a lot more of the “old Taric” style of champions to the game because we think that the amount we have right now is serving that niche pretty well. In the cases of VGUs, we are trying to keep the simple champs simple when we can. I think Warwick was a good example of this, where we made a lot of good changes to his kit without pushing it into a high mechanics space.

Lead Champion Designer
Q

Do you ever worry that a new champion you are working on will be so good that everyone will want to play it and abandon older champions?

A

Honestly this isn’t something we worry about at all. We always strive to make our champions as good as we can, and we don’t really mind if people abandon their current champions to play them. In fact, this has to happen to some extent with every champion release in order for them to have their own dedicated player base. Ideally, all our champions are high quality so that players are mainly picking champions based on what gameplay or theme excites them, rather than how new or old they are. We have a long road ahead of us to get our entire cast up to those standards, which is why we have been doing more and more VGUs over the years.

Lead Producer of Champions
Q

How often do you design skins as “let’s make a new super galaxy skin” versus “let’s make a new darius skin,” for example? Does it tend to be one much more than the other?

A

A while back, our strategy was much more, “Let’s make a new Darius skin, what should we make?” But once we started seeing how much players enjoyed getting skins in theme packs, and how we could use those themes to run bigger events in League, we definitely shifted in the opposite direction. It became more about, “Players would probably enjoy another VS event this year AND two Legendary skins to go with it, which champions would be awesome for this?”

In that model, there IS an extra step where we look at how many skins the potential champions have in their catalog, time since last skin, etc. Otherwise you’d have three Jhin skins in one year just because he fits in a bunch of cool thematics we have planned… oh wait…  

Still, there are many times where we look at champs we want to make a skin for and do a little bit of both. I think the recent Galio, Illaoi, and Shen skins are all good examples of this. Even though Galio hadn’t had a new skin in quite some time, we felt we could give him a lighthearted April Fool’s skin (funny skins theme pack) because he has a fair amount of serious skins in his catalog. Illaoi on the other hand was a champion that hadn’t had a skin since launch. As much as we loved the community idea of “Used Car Salesperson Illaoi,” we were concerned that her first skin since launch being more on the trolly side would be disappointing to players who had waited so long for a skin. With her it became more about, “What theme really works for Illaoi, regardless of theme packs this year?” And then, as you know, a community vote.

And then sometimes, the stars align. Shen was way overdue for a skin and we found an exciting home for him in the Pulsefire universe as part of that theme pack for this year.

So… all of that to say both? It depends? Let’s go with 70% “let’s make a new <insert theme name here> skin for Darius,” and 30% “let’s make a new Darius skin.” But, don’t quote me on my math, despite my making this post completely quotable.  : )

P.S. The skins coming out for Aurelion Sol and Urgot in the next few months are one of each.

Product Manager

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Bilgewater and Balance