With the vote closed and the winner announced, it's time to start locking down the complete concept for the next Illaoi skin, Battlecast Illaoi (name TBD). But before we can finalize the concept, we first need to work out some details about the theme.
What’s the Battlecast Universe?
Battlecast uses a lot of metal and tech, but it’s grimy and imperfect. Contrast this with something like PROJECT, which is sleek/shiny, or with Program, which is more digital/cyber. Battlecast is sci-fi, but the tech isn’t as advanced or clean as some of those other universes, so it’s got a retro, dirty sci-fi feel to it.
Additionally, we have to nail down what makes Illaoi special in this world. She’s not a machine—she’s an organic rebelling against the machines. How does that change how we approach the skin?
As we start to concept a skin, we want to avoid just copypastaing a theme onto a champion and saying, “Looks cool, time to go home!” We really try to think hard about both the theme and the champion, and then find a place that makes sense for both of them within an alternate Runeterra. For Battlecast Illaoi, we came up with a brief backstory about who she is, why she’s here, and why she’s carrying a giant robot head:
Creator Viktor’s machines destroy and hunt humans in this war-torn world. But his plan quickly runs into a problem.
Viktor attempts to assimilate Illaoi, but she proves too strong. Illaoi breaks free from her bonds and, armed with only her new robotic arm, she tears the head from the giant mechanized guard and carries it with her. She quickly learns that the components implanted in her allow her to interface with Viktor’s machines and central computer system. Hacking into it, she is able to escape to relative safety, where she starts planning her resistance.
There was lots of debate over Illaoi's outfit. In the end, we looked for a solution that balanced the concept that players voted on and what might make more sense for Illaoi as a character.
A key goal for any skin is that it communicates a clear theme and general story within the first three seconds of a player seeing it in-lane. Building stories like this before sketching out ideas helps inform our designs. Her clothing, machine oil warpaint, color scheme, and of course the giant robot head, were all chosen to scream out this story.*
Now it’s up to us to use the model, visual effects, animations, and sound effects to make Illaoi the most badass resistance fighter the machines will ever face.
*It’s worth noting that a lot of times, these napkin-written stories are used more for inspiration than they are as lore, and sometimes they change or are never overtly confirmed or spoken.
Illaoi's tentacles are her defining feature, so nailing these is vital to the success of the skin.
We had the mech-hand in our early concepts, but got some feedback from the gameplay team that the idea of a “hand-tentacle” was going to be an issue.
The hand concept was pretty popular when we put out the vote; making a change of this magnitude isn’t something we take lightly. Unfortunately, it’s part of the development process that a lot of interesting ideas get left on the cutting room floor—even stuff we love. Gameplay gave us some insight into their reasoning, though: During Illaoi’s development, the champ team tried a few different tentacles for her and learned that solid or opaque tentacles made teamfighting a nightmare. Illaoi would ult and no one could see what was happening because of all the tentacles flopping around. It can already be difficult keeping track of everything during a teamfight, and transparent robo-hands kind of don’t make sense, so we weighed our options and decided to keep exploring.
We all learned what "Trypophobia" is with concept B when a Rioter called it out. The more solid metal tentacles suffer from the same issue as the robo-hands: no transparency.
“These are some great explorations. I think I'm reading 'eternum' more than Battlecast at the moment. 'C' feels really close though. The exposed cables underneath feel really good. I think if we make it feel a bit more hard-edged and more like bulky iron rather than sleek titanium, it will nearly be there. For Battlecast, think something more along the lines of tanks, or weaponized tractors. This feels too much like sleek sc-ifi at the moment.” – MechaHawk, Art Lead
One idea was to have the tentacles be solid when idling, but more ethereal when attacking, that way we could give them the solid look we wanted without the included gameplay issues. But when we looked into that approach, we realized it would require completely reanimating the tentacles. We like the idea, but the animation concerns are enough to make us keep looking.
A quick proof of concept for what solid-to-ethereal tentacles would look like in game
Finally, we get a little closer with these:
The glowing red look is a key element of Battlecast technology, and these new tentacles are capturing that well. We aren’t as concerned with these cluttering the game because they will be mostly ethereal, while hopefully still feeling solid and appropriate for Battlecast. We think the base needs the most work from here (figuring out where Illaoi’s tentacles come from is one big challenge in designing visuals for her).
Going back to our original concepting story: Once Illaoi has decapitated her robotic guard, she uses its dismembered head to fly to safety. Alright... but what EXACTLY does that look like?
We’re looking at her totem as not only a weapon, but a remote control for the machines and her main mode of transport. A flaming skull probably doesn’t fit this well.
A little totem flambé maybe?
Instead, we’re opting for something a little in between:
Putting the Pieces Together
Finally, we have just about everything we need to lock down the look of the skin:
This is the 90% final look for her. Through development, we will need to make tweaks and adjustments, but this is pretty close.
Now that we have the concepts close to finished, we’ll be figuring out how to take Illaoi’s kit into the Battlecast Universe.