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Today, it’s all about skins and Little Ledgies.
What’s the most popular skin or skin line?
It’s hard to narrow down the single most popular skin or skin line in League because there are a lot of ways of looking at popularity. You can look at sentiment, total purchased, total use time, fan art created, use by players who main that champ… the list goes on. But if we try to take all (or most) of these things into account, we can get a pretty good idea of what’s the most popular.
In no particular order, the most popular skins of all time are Elementalist Lux, Star Guardian Jinx, and PROJECT: Vayne. So far in Season 2019, Dark Cosmic Jhin has been the most popular. One surprising—or not so surprising, depending on how you look at it—skin that did well this year is Corgi Corki. (But who doesn’t love a guy riding around in a corgi-shaped plane?)
As for skin lines, it’s probably no surprise that K/DA is one of the most popular, alongside PROJECT and Star Guardian. In general, the most popular skin lines tend to go hand-in-hand with the overall popular skins.
Nowadays, every skin and splash art is much nicer than they were in the past. What changed? New software? Techniques?
So much has changed over the past few years that it’s really difficult to pinpoint any one turning point. If I really had to boil it down to just two areas, it’d probably broadly be tech improvements and a maturing team.
We’ve made a huge and deliberate effort over the last few years to overcome a lot of the “tech debt” that a game as complex and old as League has built up. Through these efforts, we’ve created better tools that empower us to create new features and push the experience of skins—rather than feeling like we’re creating these things in spite of the tools. One example is our VFX software, which went from a text editor a few years ago to a really robust tool that now allows our artists to not only make better looking effects, but also to make them faster. This time we save working with the tool can then go towards trying new looks or adding new art and features.
The second big reason for the gradual improvement is that the skins team has matured in a healthy way. This is most clear when we’re working on long-term projects like Battle Academia, where we can iterate on our process throughout development. Everyone on the team wants to grow and improve, and that shared commitment builds a high level of trust among the team, which encourages us to try wild new ideas or styles. Battle Academia is a great example of this in action. While developing this new thematic, we asked ourselves questions like, “Are we pushing the animations too far? Do these VFX break our style guide? How do we make something feel both ‘League’ and anime at the same time without compromising both?” By taking the chance on brand new skin styles and having a deep respect and trust for each other, we’ve been able to really evolve the look and quality of skins.
Also, the team is just overflowing with extremely talented devs who are deeply passionate about both surprising and delighting players as well as pushing their craft and the skills of those around them to the next level.
I agree that splash art has evolved tremendously over the history of League. Some of us remember the days of painted-over 3D models, followed by the first fully handcrafted illustrations, then the rest of the evolution that led us to today—although the software is largely the same. We use Adobe Photoshop, with a sprinkling of 3D modeling depending on the artist and the need.
I think the first big part of the more recent evolution came from a change in our philosophy. We now see splashes as a really important part of a skin—kind of like a movie poster or the box cover to a game. Splashes aspire to be the most iconic and vivid representation of a champion or skin, to give a sense of the rich fantasy world they could actually exist in. It should make a strong first statement and deep lasting impression. That means we think a lot about the storytelling and impact an illustration can bring to the champion or skin, on top of the exciting things a player would experience in game.
I think the other big thing that defines modern splash art is something we’ve been calling “cinematic believability” (I’m open to suggestions on that one). When designing skins and champions, gameplay clarity and functionality are the most important things to consider, so we have to respect restrictions on how much memory a skin can take up in the game. Things like the 3D models are limited in detail and size. Splash art doesn’t have these same technical considerations, so we can dream bigger and in high-fidelity, and we express this with invented details in costume, armor, textures, environments and materials—like that next-level detail you can see in superhero costumes or big-budget CGI scenes. We use tons of reference throughout the splash process to push the realism in our materials.
The “cinematic” part of “cinematic believability” means we take a lot of inspiration from the movies that we love. Being a splash artist is almost like being a movie director. For just one still frame, we are focusing on things like the moment and acting, lighting and set design, cinematography and camera angles, and even things like lens distortion, depth of field, and film grain. I find this particularly resonant because so much of what we see of the world is through the medium of film, and we can replicate that feeling to make a splash illustration so much more believable and impactful.
Who would win in a fight? Featherknight or Poro?
Well, as I am sure we all know, poros are made of the purest source of love, truth, valor, and innocence, and as such they wouldn’t be able to fight anyone.
Stepping back from that, though, if we imagine an alternate universe where a crazed fluft of poros have decided to ravage Runeterra and take their anger out on the poor, beady-eyed Featherknight…
- Travel in flufts, so they have a numbers combat advantage
- Who knows what is hidden under their fur? Armor? Weapons? Are they made of pure steel?
- Small and hard to hit
- They don’t have hands or thumbs
- Even though they’re small, their legs are so stubby that they are not very fast
- Easily distracted by Poro Snax
- Fully trained swordsman (who somehow holds a sword without thumbs… )
- Has armor to fend off attacks
In the end, I think it’s pretty clear who wins. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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