We met up with some of the folks behind Illaoi’s creation to find out how they turned some early ideas into the battle priestess preparing to test the Rift. Here’s their story.
Before Illaoi was a thing, we had this cool idea of having a character in our game literally punch the spirit out of their target. We had to shelve it as we were still finishing up Rek’Sai, but once we cycled back around into new champion ideation, we were super happy to find out that our pod had been tasked with creating League’s next brawler. Brawlers like punching, we could have ours punch spirits… things were starting out great.
We were a little way through ideation when the champion update guys spun up a new team tasked with identifying roles in the game and making sure all the champions in that role brought a unique playstyle to a game of League. They’re the guys who most recently updated the marksmen, but before that, they tackled a whole new class: the juggernauts. These were League’s League's lumbering, tanky, melee class. The champion update team rounded up all the champs who fit their juggernaut definition, and as they did, we realized that our new brawling champion would fit perfectly into that bunch. But they were all guys, even the dog-shaped ones, so we started thinking about a lady to mix things up a bit.
Before we started on this new lady brawler’s look, we knew we wanted to do something different. This isn’t a commonly known fact, but a huge chunk of League’s female characters actually share an identical (or near identical) face and body, and are only differentiated by their hair and clothing. We wanted to try something different, and so set about creating someone significantly apart from the crowd for our brawler. She’s a bunch bigger, obviously, but alongside her larger frame we gave her a larger personality, too. We wanted her to be confident and comfortable in her own skin, a woman who knows exactly who she is and what she wants. We started tooling her up to be someone who was genuinely beautiful in her own unique way. The sketching began in earnest.
We wanted Illaoi to be confident and comfortable in her own skin, a woman who knows exactly who she is and what she wants.
Armor quickly became a pretty contentious point. Brawler was known as Battle Cleric at one point, a name which naturally led to us giving her buckets of armor. But straight away that didn’t feel right. Armor implied tankiness which implied Brawler was someone you hit, rather than someone who hit you. We pulled off the armor to emphasize her muscles, which in turn accentuated her confidence and power. Taking her armor away brought her tattoos into play, too, which played up her strong religious aspect and gave her a more immediate connection to her god. At one point, her tattoos actually came to life and formed her tentacles, although that overlapped with Braum and even Udyr a little too hard for our liking. Eventually we settled on Brawler carrying a symbol of her god around as she traveled, an idol which she could wield to conjure aspects of her deity.
And what about those tentacles? They first squirmed their way in with Brawler’s Q, which stayed pretty much constant throughout her development. But as we got further in, as we really started figuring out who Illaoi was - how central her god was to her - we started looking for ways we could make her tentacles more central to her kit. We tinkered around with a few ideas, the coolest of which involved Illaoi actually showing her ulted enemies the truth of the world around them. We had an overlay in place that changed the whole map, revealing tentacles snaking all over the walls and structures around them. It was awesome to look at, but ultimately the tentacles were just there - they didn’t actually do anything. Then we got to thinking: what if they did?
Adding independent tentacles to lllaoi’s kit was really the last piece of the burgeoning champion’s puzzle. By adding them in, we gave Illaoi a really unique space within the juggernauts: she’d be the set-up queen, a champion who grew in strength when she settled in an area and had enough time to grow a tentacle or two. The independent tentacles fit perfectly into her theme, too. By adding them in, Illaoi players would never feel alone in-game, while Illaoi’s enemies would always feel outnumbered against her, even 1v1. Everything worked together, and after months of iteration, we had a kit-locked brawling champion with a compelling and consistent playstyle, look and character. Illaoi.