‘League of Legends’ Skins Product Manager Doesn’t Want to Leave Any Champions Behind

Making skins for League of Legends champions is serious business. Keeping the MOBA profitable depends entirely on selling cosmetics for the game’s powerful, whimsical and outright terrifying champions. If the community doesn’t vibe with a certain skin, or just plain detests it, Riot Games is put in a difficult position. To offset some of the risk, the skins team focuses on popular champions who can reach the largest player base, leaving some of the more niche characters naked. Patch 8.16 brings six new skins to the game, some for champions with full closets of clothes and others for those with more limited options.

Aurelion Sol, the dragon made of stars, hasn’t received a skin since he was released in March 2016. “One of the reasons why it took a while has to do with how different he is from everything else in our game,” Carlos Giffoni, Product Manager for skins on League of Legends told Newsweek. “A lot of our champions tend to be closer to human in size. That took him out of conversations when we were discussing skins thematics.”

Mecha Aurelion Sol Mecha Aurelion Sol is coming in for a landing in patch 8.16 Riot Games

A. Sol’s niche status is another reason he’s remained naked for so long. Star Counter Logic Gaming mid-laner Huhi might love the celestial drake, but the average user barely touches him. According to Champion.gg, Sol has been played in fewer than two percent of games for the majority of season eight.  

“Even though their play rates might be lower, these champs are still loved by a passionate group of players, and the time finally came for us to take a look at Aurelion Sol,” Giffoni said. When discussing the skin’s potential, the team wanted to stray away from fantastical or celestial motifs, focusing on a tech-themed one instead. It took two months from ideation until completion for Mecha Aurelion Sol.

Mafia Braum also took two to three months to complete, transforming the light-hearted Freljordian into a cold-blooded mob boss. “This was one of those thematics and champions that are just straight up fun and a delight to see come to life,” Giffoni said. “We work on a lot of darker, edgier thematics, so when we work on something like this, everyone is having a blast making it and coming up with ideas.”
mafia braum Mafia Braum is breaking into vaults and our hearts Riot Games

Braum’s been a Luchador, Santa Claus and an adventurer who’s never without his trusty poros by his side. Giffoni says the skins team enjoyed developing the backstory behind this skin and exploring why Braum had to turn to a life of crime. “He has reasons that are totally valid,” he explained. “What if you had hundreds of Poros at home that needed to be fed, and the one thing you are really great at is… holding a door? Poros felt bad Braum was going to rob banks to save them, so they decided to grow mustaches, learn how to shoot machine guns and join him.”

The other three skins in the patch add to a more regal theme in League of Legends : Cosmic. According to Giffoni, Cosmic skins are the antithesis of Dark Star. While purple void beasts like Cho’Gath and Thresh want to consume and destroy the universe, Cosmic skins are “gigantic beings in space that are mostly benign and protective of other life.” This year, the skins team explored the royal court of these cosmic gods.

Giffoni explained that Ashe is the queen, Lulu is the space wizard and Xhin is the lead soldier protecting his queen. He says the most challenging part of their design “was weaving the narrative of the royal court into the skins themselves.” Since the team wasn’t making Legendary skins, they weren’t able to add voice overs to push that theme along. A lot of time and effort was spent on the character’s design, recall animations and abilities to help players understand what the team was trying to say.

Aurelion Sol’s base skin is a cosmic entity, so they couldn’t have him join in on the royal court’s fun. They still wanted to have a little bit of Sol flavor, so they transformed Lulu’s faerie companion Pix into a tiny dragon, known internally as “A. Small.”

Giffoni has a fascination with Singed (he was the one that pushed for his Beekeeper skin) and wants to add the mad scientist to the cosmic pantheon. “I would love to see a cosmic Singed, leaving a trail of ever evolving toxic constellations,” Giffoni said. “I am not sure the team will let me make it, but I can dream big and hope.“