Champion Insights: Kai’Sa18.03.2018

When her world was reduced to predator versus prey, Kai’Sa became a survivor. Despite years spent on the edge of the Void, she remains uncorrupted and unconsumed by the the uninhabitable purple doom. But no matter how many nightmarish creatures she outlasts, she’s encumbered by a constant struggle for life.
 
The Daughter of the Void has a symbiotic second skin, a parasite-turned-bio-armor that would probably eat her if she didn’t feed it so well. While still hunted by endless horrors, she’s learned by observation and has evolved her own highly effective feeding habits. As both a character and a champion, Kai’Sa occupies a unique role: a vulnerable target that’s also a lethal predator.
 
THE HUNTED BECOMES THE HUNTER
“I never thought this would work,” says Jeevun “Riot Jag” Sidhu. “It’s a scary term, ADC assassin. I was just waiting for someone to tell me, ‘Please stop.’”
 
The goal was to make an aggressive marksman, someone who fought in-your-face, up-close and personal. The twist would be their ability to force engagements and pick fights when it suited them—a “high agency” champion, in gameplay design lingo.
 
Kai’Sa needed a kit that gave her not just options, but choices. “The hallmark of a good ADC is intelligent target selection,” says Riot Jag. Normally, marksmen do this from a safe distance, sniping targets and attacking from afar. But Kai’Sa has ways to demonstrate that you’re more than just a kiting bot who keeps out of the thick of it.
 
Thematic Study for an Unnamed “Void ADC”
 
With her ult, Kai’Sa can be literally anywhere in a team fight, making plays other ADCs couldn’t dream of. Your Maokai just made a Twisted Advance into their backline? Kai’Sa can follow up instantly, diving deep with a buddy and blowing up any enemy unlucky enough to catch the crowd control. But there’s a price to pay for that kind of mobility.
 
“She’s the first champ in… I think five years? With absolutely no crowd control of her own,” says Riot Jag. “She’s just there to do damage.” Not to mention that while she’s got a few ways into a fight, she has exactly zero ways to get out.
 
In the end, that’s what removed much of the dread from the phrase “ADC assassin.” Kai’Sa is forced to outmaneuver and outwit opponents through agility and forethought, rather than taking them down with brute force and better burst.
 
A NEW VISION FOR THE VOID
While it was always known that the next marksman would be geared towards all-in offense, it was never a given that the character would be from the Void.
 
“We were exploring a Zaunite life-essence-drainer for a while,” says Willem “Riot Tokkelossie” van der Schyf.  “But everything about this champ felt very predatory, so tying in to something that was an actual predator made sense. The Void kept coming up as a way to explain that animal instinct.”
 
Champion concept exploration: an ex-Purifier, a “vampire,” and a human bonded with a Void virus.
 
Refined “Engine” Design
 
 
  
While the team was exploring possible sources for her predatory nature, they found a concept that complemented the aggressive playstyle they envisioned: a Void “jetpack.” Not only did it have a distinct visual read, or silhouette, but it instantly suggested both speed and power.
 
The jetpack idea helped clarify the unique take on the Void embodied by a champion that was more agile than brutal.
 
“We homed in on a vector shape for her. Her whole body takes the shape of a chevron, like an arrow pointing forward,” says Riot Tokkelossie. “Everything about her feels like she’s moving.”
Then there was the question of what she was actually shooting with.
 
The team explored weapons that grew out of her hands, including a Void rifle made from the same biomass of her suit, but the bulky firearm didn’t fit with Kai’Sa’s nimble movement and symmetrical visual design. Besides, a rifle wasn’t exactly a novel approach to the marksman role.
 
“We didn’t want to literally give her a gun,” says Riot Tokkelossie. “She was an opportunity to do something different from other ADCs.” Eventually the team landed on crystalline Void weapons, formed out of energy flowing from the carapace element on Kai’Sa’s lower body.
 
It’s 100% authentic pure unaltered raw Void crystal.
 
The team also wanted to do something different with Kai’Sa’s particular degree of Void-ness.
 
“We knew she was gonna be humanoid—not a monstress,” says Michael “CoolRadius” McCarthy. “We have monsters born in the Void, we have people whose minds and bodies were corrupted by the Void. Instead, we wanted to make someone who was a survivor.”
 
A human view of the Void, told from the perspective of a survivor, became a core pillar of Kai’Sa’s character design—as did the particular trauma of being abandoned and forced to fight for her life.
 
Void Rifle Exploration
 
“I did a lot of research on survivor mentality and coping with extreme trauma,” says CoolRadius. “It can make you a shell of who you were—but those who came through didn’t let it take everything from them. They held on to something.”
 
Kai’Sa started as a victim, nearly broken by the Void, but by refusing to relinquish all of her humanity, she managed to resist and adapt. She turned her struggle into the source of her power, converting dangerous creatures into protective armor and finding balance by accepting all parts of herself. Even as she embodied a monster, she maintained her humanity.

“If she had the Void suit and mask as a permanent feature, it would have felt like she had lost her sense of self,” says Riot Tokkelossie. “We wanted to make it her choice to tap into the full power of the suit, or let that part of herself recede.”
 
SOUNDS LIKE PURPLE
Nowhere is that choice more obvious than with Kai’Sa’s helmet. Built from the same tech powering DJ Sona’s controllable jams, Kai’Sa’s helmet—automatically activated when she uses her dash—can also be toggled on and off at will. And when the mask is on, so is the predator.
 
Mask off, mask on.
 
“You really feel like you’ve stepped into her skin,” says Brandon “Riot Sound Bear” Reader. Since that skin is a living Void creature, Kai’Sa’s voice is far more Void-like while masked, sharing a very specific sonic quality with other apostrophe’d champs.
 
“Her sound is very round and purple” says Riot Sound Bear. That means the audio tends to be darker, deeper, and full of bass. A pink sound, by comparison, would be a lot higher in the midrange.
 
“It’s kinda lasery, but sticky and gooey, not sharp and staticky. More guttural,” he adds.
 
Using similar sounds for champions from the same region not only helps with thematic cohesion, but creates a foundation that can be built on, remixed, and transformed. “I actually repurposed some of the movement of Vel’Koz’s eye on recall,” says Riot Sound Bear. “I morphed that into Kai’Sa’s general movement.”
 
Once an eyeball rotating, now Kai’Sa moving.
 
Finding Kai’Sa’s unique take on the Void sound led to tons of experimentation and play—and accidents.
 
“I hit the low register key with my pinky on accident at one point and percolated a plugin that made a really cool bass swell,” says Riot Sound Bear.  “That’s the fifth hit of her passive now.”
 

The accident, and then the final sound.

Combining all of these sounds paints an audible portrait of a Void predator—and the human underneath it all.
 
“That’s the headspace I hope players will be in,” says Riot Sound Bear. “I’m dealing with the Void, here are my weapons, now how do I survive?”
 
The answer is up to you.