Originally Posted by Valexi
I too have a spent a lot of time considering how I would go about addressing older champions that now seem mismatched or dull in terms of theme. Being a concept artist my solution is to leave mechanics (that are currently balanced) alone, but develop stronger visual themes for characters that give you cues for their play style. What Mark Rosewater calls Resonance: when the champions do what you expect.
For example Sion, being the obvious choice lately, could still be an undead menace but I would change a number of physical features to match his kit. I'd make him less fat and solid - more of a traditional magical zombie as he isn't a physical fighter. Probably reduce the size of and menace his axe as well. I'd give him a big frankensteinien battery/electric coil on his back - a magical battery charging up then overloading and exploding would be perfect for his shield. Then with more of a 'Reanimated' theme the energy could power one large baleful eye in place of his current face. Referencing the Eye of Sauron or a malevolent Searchlight would allow the stun to make perfect sense; what do you do when the searchlight hits you?
I'm glad this extensive post has opened a forum for discussion, but I disagree that every character needs to have a theme that permeates their entire kit. Having Brand's theme only expressed in 3 out of 5 abilities is, in my opinion, often enough. I also believe some characters should have simple kits or play that is based around Taric-stuns and Fiddle-fears. As for the burden of knowledge it is somewhat balanced by the rewards of learning. I remember really enjoying the feeling of perpetual discovery as I encountered new opponents on the field of battle. The first time Akali threw down her shroud, Trydamere ran onto our fountain and killed us as we spawned (old Tryn) or Leblanc teleported over a wall instantly killed me under my tower then disappeared were terrifying but incredibly cool! Mordekaiser's R+Ignite much less so, and I feel that is the issue that is being addressed here.
I'd have to disagree with you on multiple fronts here, but primarily in the case of more-or-less trying to bend over backwards to make Sion's abilities make slightly more sense with his visual design (regardless of particle effects tying abilities to champions, it doesn't make them any more readable and still betrays expectations because it isn't fitting in terms of function
, not just form). Not only are you just saying "well, it's okay, we can fix all of this if we make excuses and take the easy way out"--you're still preventing positive growth in terms of kits as a whole. You could change Sion's visual appearance and kit particles all you want, but that still doesn't make him more unified as a champion. You can make his abilities look
less out of place on him, but that doesn't mean they still won't fit on him as a champion. If you read the Sion redesign, not only have I created a kit that finds unity within the fact that all of his abilities work towards the same, clear goal ("make this dude a bulky badass that just won't go down, and shakes off crowd control like it's nothing"), but also within the fact that the goal in question resonates with his theming--"resilient, slow, terrifying, and persistent" are elements that are both characteristic of his kit and how it makes him function as a champion, as well as easily connected to his "undead warrior" theming.
This is what I aim for here--complete and total cohesion and unity, that not only allows champions to be readable at a glance (which is important, again, considering that LoL is a fast-paced competitive game with over 100 playable characters), but creates a champion that plays unlike any other in the process.
Also, I'd have to strongly disagree with you on the "well, burden of knowledge is okay" statement--giving the player homework is never
okay, especially as a competitive game, because not knowing what a champion is capable of will
leave a player at a distinct disadvantage. Making the player connect 500+ blocks of text and numbers to 500+ particle effects, organizing those into 5-9 text/particle groups, and then associating those groups with the appearances of different champions is homework--not only is it unnecessary (as I've exemplified with my redesigns and as Riot has exemplified with their most recent champions--particularly Vi and Thresh), it's a roadblock between "the player" and "fun"
(with "fun" here being "not being inhibited on a competitive level due to a lack of understanding regarding the basic functions of the game"), which isn't really something you want when your aim is to create good game design and the best experience possible for players.
In short? Kit unity is important to create champions with strong foundations and satisfactory play, and helps remove some burden of knowledge. Using recognizable themes (ie. stuff that exists outside of LoL) to resonate with that unified kit and tie it together to create even greater unity can almost eliminate that burden of knowledge altogether. Not having readable kits only gives the player homework, and homework gets in the way of fun so it's a problem factor and must be eliminated with extreme prejudice.
Also, on your point regarding Taric stuns and Fiddle fears--I'm typically not in favor of "click for instant crowd control without any real drawbacks" mechanics on champions, as they don't really leave much room for counterplay which is where all of the fun of playing against other people comes from. Also, regarding "I don't think champions need to have a resonating theme that permeates their entire kit"--allow me to redirect you to the Champion Retrospective and Riot's ideals for champion design.