Riot animator breaks down design choices that go into making new League of Legends skins

"We strive to create something that allows players to express themselves without degrading gameplay clarity."

Image via Riot Games

League of Legends skins are a huge commodity for Riot’s profits, with many fans willing to spend money on unique cosmetics to customize their gameplay experience. And now, one animator has given fans an inside look into the skin production process.

League animator Ohmu responded to a Reddit post yesterday, which expressed a fan’s desire for more skins that focus on character animation instead of effect changes. Ohmu’s in-depth and robust reply could easily have made it as a League blog post since the animator broke down exactly what goes into creating a skin.

Gameplay clarity

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Image via Riot Games

Ohmu admits that the only true way to have complete gameplay clarity is to keep animations and visual effects the same as the base skin. But animators strive to create skins “that allow players to express themselves without degrading gameplay clarity.”

There’s only a certain amount of modifications that can be made to a skin before the original character becomes unrecognizable. If animators throw in new models, textures, animations, VFX, and sounds, the skin could potentially impact game clarity and would be flagged by QA testers.

New skins for older champions can be even trickier because players have grown accustomed to their outdated animations. Changing a champion like Blitzcrank too much would adversely affect matchmaking and player experience.

Animation cost

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Image via Riot Games

Many skins, especially legendary ones, can have anywhere from three to six animators working on it during production, according to Ohmu. And an eight-second recall animation could take one to two weeks to complete depending on the champion’s complexity.

A whole animation team is required to make these skins work. And while skins worth 1,350 RP may suffer from short development cycles, legendary skins give creators more time to flesh out a thorough cosmetic with its own emotes, movements, and abilities.

Due to the slow process needed to dish out an impressive skin, it likely can’t touch on all the VFX and animation needed to impress all fans.

Skins that appeal to all players

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Image via Riot Games

The ultimate intention for skins is to please fans—and to make money. Ohmu explains that each player may resonate with a different part of a skin.

“Much like how some League players are competitive soloq rankers while others are lore fanatics or Yordle-only sadists, certain things about a skin like its VO or a really subtle model change excite certain kinds of players, and we have LOTS of different kinds of players,” Ohmu said.

While some players may appreciate unique animations, others may want to see cool visual effects light up the screen or a new demonic voice over to scare competitors. The appeal of skins should be universal, with something for every fan to enjoy.