Light over dark: Creating Lunar Revel’s triptych

By Rumtumtummers

The origins of Lunar New Year are slightly different depending on who you ask. But most versions involve a giant monster named Nian (“year” in Chinese). The story goes that, threatened by Nian, a village pounded on drums and lit fireworks to scare the beast away. Fast forward a few thousand years or so and most modern Lunar New Year celebrations still pay homage to the fireworks and thunderous celebration that spooked Nian, including League of Legends’ Lunar Revel celebration.

This year with Lunar Revel, we wanted to dive a little deeper into these core mythical elements of Lunar New Year and create something new and exciting for players to explore.

More than lanterns

“When we were looking back at previous Lunar Revels, it was like ‘Oh, red, gold, lanterns,” says art lead Lisa Thorn. “It didn’t have much of a narrative arc.” The team behind Lunar Revel worked to weave specific Lunar Revel themes into this year’s experience, focusing on the battle between light and dark and the idea of starting the new year with an optimistic outlook. Creating a massive triptych (a single image spread across three panes or frames) and using it to craft a Lunar Revel story felt like a great way to communicate these themes while still giving the new skins room to shine.

The team explored a huge range of art styles and gathered voluminous examples of Chinese art as it searched for the perfect Lunar Revel idea. “We started looking into traditional Chinese art, and that was sort of the moment where we thought, ‘Okay, triptychs are really cool,’” says Thorn. “It felt traditional and respectful, but also super unique from what we’ve done in the past.”

Senior concept artist Suke says, “We really wanted to show more respect for the mythology and culture that inspires this event.” Suke skipped over Chinese art tropes like bold reds, wispy dragons, and glowing lanterns. “I played with different colors and techniques. The gold foil, for instance, is more contemporary, but the clouds and lines are more traditional. We were really trying to mix classical and modern elements into the triptych without leaning on tropes.”

The story of the skins

The Lunar Revel triptych is more than a pretty picture. It tells the story of this year’s Revel and the skins that accompany it. “I think this is one of the first times we’ve done a single illustration that tells a full story,” says Thorn. “Everything we did for Lunar Revel is focused on the idea of light vs. dark. It’s more than Wukong in a badass pose, and the triptych is the most obvious representation of the theme.”

Writer Matthew Manarino explains, “Caitlyn and Morgana’s designs are based on demons common to Chinese mythology. Wukong’s design is based on the idea of the radiant hero who always bests these demons in famous Chinese myths.” With the triptych, says Manarino, the Lunar Revel team was able to capture the darkness of the demons and the radiance of Wukong, while creating a legend that ties all the skins together and pays homage to their influences.

Telling the light vs. dark story also helps add meaning to the way people experience the skins. “I think it’s so cool that we’re introducing the skins with an epic story this time,” says Thorn. “We’re trying to evolve Lunar Revel and connect it to deeper themes rooted in cultural mythology.” She continues, “It’s really compelling to be a part of a fantasy with meaningful characters.

That’s not to say there’s nothing for fans of old-school Lunar Revel skins to enjoy. Suke says, “There are references to champions of previous years and their Lunar Revel skins -- we put a lot of effort into small touches that make the image more meaningful to all of our Lunar Revel champs and the players who love them.” Players who look closely will find Lunar Revel favorites like Firecracker Jinx and Dragonwing Corki tucked away in different parts of the image.

In the end, the team is hopeful the triptych provides something players can enjoy beyond the expected Lunar Revel stuff. Says Thorn, “We hope it’s meaningful in addition to being cool. We want players to have fun exploring it and finding its secrets, and to enjoy the story it tells: light always wins out over dark.”


2 years ago

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Lunar Revel