The League of Legends community has spoken, and the next Illaoi skin has been chosen. Tentatively named the Battlecast Illaoi skin, the team behind the latest project for the popular MOBA is giving fans a little insight as to how the concept will come alive. From what the skin even is, to how it ties in with Illaoi's backstory - here's a deeper look at the skin choice that won the community over.
So what even is 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."
Since Illaoi isn't a machine, the creative team's approach to this specific skin has to be even more precise in order to capture the rebellious spirit while staying ultimately true to the character. In an effort to make the fusion more organic, they revealed exactly the thought process that went into the melding of concept and actuality:
"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."
It was important to balance what the community voted on and what was actually doable for her character. For a juxtaposition like this, it would be easy to miss the mark in a big way and slip away from what is the essence of Illaoi. Which brings us to the fun part (oh, my): the tentacles.
"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."
“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
Animation concerns also inhibited some of the creative control. The team wanted to make the tentacles a bit more "ethereal" looking while in attack mode, but the animation style just wouldn't allow for that to be realistic.
After finalizing the tentacle overall concept, the rest of the focus lied within how the team wanted to project the totem. Not only as a weapon, they also wanted it to be a remote control for machines as well as a primary mode of transport. Because of that, their initial design of a flaming skull got nixed rather early on. Sans flame but fully equipped with everything else badass, the below image is her final concept art look, "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."