Ask a question about League or Riot, and we’ll try to answer it. Answers go live every other Thursday at 1:30 pm (PT)
Making a new skin for League is kind of like rowing a boat across the open seas—there are endless possibilities, but the only way to get anywhere is to know the destination. Because of this, we create a vision statement for each skin at the beginning of development. This brief description outlines what we want the future skin to look like (and sound like, and feel like), and acts as a compass that guides everyone towards the same goal.
God Fist Lee Sin’s vision statement was, perhaps unsurprisingly, “Lee Sin is a god.” Every step of the way, the team would stop, look at their work, and ask each other, “Does this make you feel like Lee Sin is a god?” If the answer is yes, full speed ahead, and if not, well…it might be time to change course.
Here are just a few of the ways God Fist Lee Sin’s vision statement shaped the skin throughout its development.
Master Yourself, Master the Enemy
When we say, “Lee Sin is a god,” what does that really mean? Who is this guy? Is he actually a god, or is he like 99.9% god?
In other words, what’s his story?
To explore those questions, the team crafted the tale of the God Fist: Through training, discipline, and fighting stronger opponents, Lee Sin had practically become a god. “He’s always looking for someone to push him to that next level,” product manager Paul “Pabro” Bellezza says, “but really, it’s about himself—he’s holding himself back.” Still, the lack of competent opponents has made him pretty salty.
As a result of his vigorous training, Lee Sin is now powerful enough to detect the energy of the world around him. He’s still blind, but he’s so damn close to godhood that he’s beyond mortal sight (in other words, he can land a Q with his eyes closed, much like your ally jungler, amirite?).
I Am Not a Man, I Am a God
Base Lee Sin is a pretty lean dude, so we wanted to bulk him up to convey his superhuman strength. However, the first versions of the model were so excessively swole that you couldn’t tell it was Lee Sin anymore. Concept artist Elena “Hellstern” Bespalova says, “We wanted people to see the skin and think, ‘That feels like a god!’ not, ‘I’m not sure who I’m seeing.’” Even though we wanted him to feel over-the-top, we toned him down a bit and went for a more “ripped” figure than a “super buff” one.
The God Fist also tried on a whole spectrum of colors throughout development; Hellstern jokes, “It was like 50 shades of Lee Sin.” After some research and internal feedback, we felt like gold was the best choice because of it’s association with divinity.
Your Will, My Hands
It’s tricky to alter Lee Sin’s animations and visual effects because his gameplay is so precise. “Players really rely on his visuals to understand exactly what he’s doing,” VFX artist Seth “MechaHawk” Haak says, “so we tried to make him feel godly while still clearly being clearly distinguishable as Lee Sin.”
Animator Drew “sandwichtown” Morgan used Lee Sin’s ultimate to show off the God Fist’s kung fu finesse. Sandwichtown created multiple variations of punches and kicks for his ult… including a massive axe kick. When the team first saw the WIP animation, they weren’t totally convinced. “But when he did that kick in-game, we were like, ‘That was amazing! Did it feel godly?’” development manager Elie “Riot Ve1vet” Lehman says. “Then we were like, ‘Hell yeah it felt godly! He just axe-kicked that Yordle in the face!’”
Finding the right visual effects for Lee Sin’s hands took some time; for a while, the God Fist had fiery hands, but it felt too Brand-like. It then became electricity, which seemed pretty darn powerful, but it was chaotic and didn’t feel particularly ascended. MechaHawk says, “Finding the VFX that conveyed his theme without feeling elemental or low-magic was tough, but when we tried the glowing golden aura, it felt divine.”
The “Lee Sin is a god” vision statement even helped shape his death animation. Since gods, or almost gods, probably don’t die, we separated his physical body from his ethereal spirit; when Lee Sin’s health bar reaches zero, his golden aura ascends as his body falls to the ground.
Can You Hear My Fists?
Audio lead Boon “Boondingo” Sim started developing the God Fist Lee Sin’s sound effects before his animations and VFX were complete, but because everyone was working towards the same vision statement, they fit in perfectly. “I was really trying to capture his divinity in a nonverbal way,” Boondingo says, “and I went for a Tibetan Buddhist feel, with lots of bells, chimes, and gongs.”
God Fist Lee Sin’s Q
God Fist Lee Sin’s Ult
God Fist Lee Sin’s dialogue was defined by one of the first things we decided about the skin: the backstory. Because Lee Sin believes the lack of challenging opponents is the sole reason he hasn’t achieved godhood, he’s become impatient, bitter, and rather arrogant… but he doesn’t realize the thing keeping him grounded is himself. His dialogue was crafted to tell this story.
God Fist Lee Sin’s Voice Over
Defining the Future
Creating a new skin is a collaborative effort, so making sure everyone is on the same page ahead of time is really important. Having a clear and inspirational vision statement, even if it’s as simple as “Lee Sin is a god,” helps guide everyone towards the same goal while also acting as a quick-check for all decisions made along the way. Ultimately, vision statements help ensure everything makes sense together, from the visual effects to the voice over to the character model.
And for the God Fist…it was a match made in (vision statement) heaven.