Hi everyone! We’re the the visual effects team at Riot Games and, with a few of our mini “VFX updates” heading out into the world, we wanted to take this opportunity to talk about what visual effects are in League of Legends.
When explaining visual effects - or VFX for short - it’s easy to say, “we design the look of champion abilities,” but what does that really mean?
When you think of your favorite champions in a game of League, you usually include their Q, W, E, and R abilities but, from the VFX perspective, there’s much more that makes up a character. Xerath, for instance, is a being of pure arcane power. Here is what we start with:
And then we add VFX!
Quite a lot of feeling is portrayed with visual effects!
One of the main goals of visual effects is to convey the fantasy. Imagine you’re a sexy gunner named Miss Fortune. When you press R, you want to be shooting waves of bullets, destroying your enemies while you laugh hysterically. You want those bullets to feel powerful! Now let’s add the Arcade Miss Fortune skin on top of that; the effect still has to read as Bullet Time while also conveying that simple, pixelated theme that classic arcade games are known for. We work closely with the amazing concept department to help us narrow down the shape and color of an effect.
You can see the in-game version is our own interpretation of the desired concept. That’s not to say we are limited as artists to the concept, but it’s a great starting point to have the framework of what shapes and colors you are working toward before you actually dive into production.
Along with conveying the fantasy, gameplay clarity plays a key role in VFX. League of Legends, after all, is a competitive game, and ideally no visual should take away from clarity. Clearly designing the visual to fit gameplay space is imperative for a fast paced, competitive game.
It’s important that the elements that make up an effect clearly tell the size and directionality of an ability without being distracting or too subtle. Sometimes maintaining a spell’s clarity can be a difficult task, especially when working with thematics that just don’t work with clear constraints. A Nami Bubble lends itself well as a round, targeted spot on the ground, but what about Mordekaiser’s Siphon of Destruction? There’s a generally accepted ‘cone of fire,’ but the challenge comes in clearly communicating that area of effect while also representing that in an artistically pleasing way.
When it comes to executing against the above values, there are always opportunities for us to improve. We mentioned this earlier, but the main reason we kicked off this dev blog was because the VFX team, like other parts of the Champion Update team, realized we could add value in our own unique way. As such, several VFX artists have worked tirelessly on updating a few champions to better align them with League’s current art style, champion fantasy, and gameplay clarity. The first four of these champions are: Galio, Nautilus, Corki, and Brand. We’ll soon follow up with Shyvana, Nunu, Mordekaiser, and Rumble!
Obviously the League of Legends Champion Update team is continuing to work hard on full-scale updates but, like how we’ve done with texture updates, we’re always looking for opportunities to add value where we can. This round of VFX updates are the first in our experimental wave and, if we hear good feedback from everyone, maybe we can continue to do work in this space!
We will be doing a few more in-depth posts on how we actually go about creating visual effects, so stay tuned!