Red Post Collection: Sion Champion Update Q&A

Posted on at 12:07 AM by Moobeat
Earlier today, several members of the champion update team gathered around the boards to discuss to answer YOUR questions on the imminent updates to Sion, The Undead Juggernaut!
Continue reading for a recap of the Q&A, including context on why there will not be a traditional Sion skin, the backstory of Sion's battle wounds, and much, much more!

To kick things off, here's Seb with an an introduction to the Q&A:
"Hey guys, 
We’ve gathered a bunch of Rioters from the Champion Update team for some Sion Q&A. If you want to get to know the big guy’s design, story or art, ask away and we'll be happy to chat with you! 
Dig into Sion’s past here:

The following Rioters popped in to answer questions this evening:
  • Seb
  • IronStylus 
  • Entropy 
  • HUGEnFAST
  • Riot Scruffy 
  • Riot Phoenix
  • Ququroon 
  • ZenonTheStoic

I've went ahead and sorted all of the axe-cellent answers into the categories of Gameplay, Art/ Concept, Lore, and other!

First though, I've compiled all the answers regarding one of the most popular questions of the Q&A: "Why isn't there a traditional Sion skin?"

Traditional Sion Discussion

When asked if the update will increase Sion's IP/RP price and if he will be getting a "traditional" skin like Karma and Trundle, Seb commented:
"First of all, Sion will definitely not be getting a price increase with the update. We're still considering how the increased Champ update pipeline might affect overall pricing (if at all), but that's still pretty long-term at this point. 
As for your other question, Sion will not be getting a Traditional skin. We focused 100% of our effort on the base Sion and his existing skins, to make sure our new Sion is the best version of Sion we can possibly deliver."

When asked why they waited so long to comment on the lack of a Traditional Sion skin, Seb noted:
"Great question, especially since the Champ Update team is usually very vocal about our projects with the community. We made the call to not make the Traditional skin a while ago, but since we knew that some players would be disappointed in the short term, decided to wait till this Q&A to discuss the details. That way, we can have a more reliable back-and-forth about this subject with players."

IronStylus added on to the traditional skin discussion, saying:
"In retrospect we discovered the return on creating those traditional skins wasn't worth the redirecting of resources away from the new base. While they were something we emotionally felt in our gut was important, the information we went through and the conclusions we reached made us reach the opinion that traditional skins were not where wanted to focus our effort, despite them being a nod back to the original. They didn't quite "pay off", not in a literal sense, but in a sense of a cohesive new base, the allocation of resources and other factors. 
This conversation really has affected how we treat traditional skins in general, and we're going to have to use discretion going forward. My feeling is that we're going to be changing our general stances towards traditional skins, but Seb should be the one to talk mostly to that."
Ququroon also added in:
"Hey Arkhammer, 
As you've said, we did create three traditional skins a while back. In the past, we used Traditional skins as a way of allowing players to represent the older merits of a character that we may have glazed over during the creation process. We weren't always confident in what we were shipping, and in extreme cases, necessitated a traditional skin to execute on them in a way they should have been done. This is shown to an extreme in the case of Karma's fans, something that we know we could have done better. 
The team has been doing updates for two years or so now, and we have a bit more moxie as to how this whole rodeo goes. We feel we're able to better respect the old, while pushing the bar as hard as we can. We didn't up and change Sion from an undead to a frozen warrior. He's still the same exact fantasy he was before, just executed in a way that he was originally meant to be. 
If the team as it is now existed in the past, there are mistakes that we wouldn't have repeated. Karma wouldn't have lacked her fans. Trundle would have better enveloped the 'leper jesus' he was so affectionately known for. Sejuani would have just realized that a bikini wasn't appropriate snow wear. These are things that could be fixed in the future, but we prefer to continue moving forward, as there are still a large amount of characters that need some love coughpoppycoughevecough
Essentially, we don't feel like traditional skins are the correct answer- the only way to show our love for older content. We still push for constant and continuous improvement in our updates, but we want to do so in a way that best shows respect for older content as a whole package."
When asked about the future of traditional skins with regard to the above conversation, Ququroon commented:
"Well... our current line of thinking is that if we do it correctly and give them respect, we won't need to create a Traditional skin at all. When we make any mega changes, it would still fall in line with who the character is. We can never be 100%, but hopefully we're still getting an A."

Seb elaborated on the problems with a traditional VO later in the Q&A, saying:
"Like I mentioned in other posts, we're not doing a Traditional skin for Sion, because ultimately we don't believe that we can faithfully and fully deliver on an "Old Sion experience" with the Sion update within scope. For this particular post I'll focus on the VO aspect: 
Some players are really attached to the Arnie quotes, but that's only really describing the English voice-over experience, for a reference most meaningful to only specific players around the world. I'm not saying that delivering on that isn't valuable, but rather that we decided it was more valuable to focus on the more advanced and full VO experience for all Sions and skins that would be meaningful regardless of region or language. 
Sion's updated VO is more cohesive with his identity, and for the first time in League of Legends, he is able to ramp up and down in overall intensity as the battlefield conditions change. Retrofitting his existing Arnie VO into this new system and supporting it long-term so that the few players that currently own Sion are able to have what we believe to be a low-quality (non-cohesive and extremely short-script) experience, was not worth it, especially when taking into account how little the existing Traditional skins are owned or used in-game."
IronStylus also commented on the appeal of Sion having a traditional skin featuring the old Arnie voice:
"I'd like to see our sound gent C3sound speak to that but I know there were some serious technical issues in getting all that hooked up. Also, speaking to the audience of Sion players, the voice is really specifically an NA component, and considering the amount of work it would take to technically add back in the old VO, that effort was directed entirely to giving players the world over a quality experience."
He continued:
"Sorry, let me clarify. English is what I'm referring to. (sorry to lump all that together :P) 
Yes, while English speakers and fans of Western media that involves Arnold is charming to us, we're sort of in the minority actually. By a wide margin the accent, the mannerisms, the reference, aren't understood by a huge chunk of the world. 
Again, I appreciate the charm, but 1) those fairly "cheesy" chunks of old content don't really translate, and 2) we wanted to really let the new Sion shine and not be diluted by things we wanted to evolve past. We have a lot of confidence in new Sion. This is indeed a bit of a blank slate, but we decided that after a huge discussion on the matter. The call was not made easily."
C3Sound continued the new vs old VO discussion, explaining:
"I'll chime in here on the VO decision. 
Sion before the champion update, while charming, was thematically thin. The "ambiguous" nature of the old Sion lent itself to a very flexible understanding of what the champion should sound like... Ending up with somewhat of a comical decision in making him sound the way he did. What the Champion Update team strives to do is not only up the quality bar of these champions in all aspects, but to deliver what we believed to be the original intention of the champion. The original intention, aside from the comical VO lines, was never for Sion to become less-than-serious champion. 
Artistic Reason:
Old Sion VO is different in quality and content than the other old traditional skin VO. Mainly, because the old VO is so drastically different than the new that we couldn't retain the feel of new Sion if we used it. Even from today's skins standards, if old Sion's voice never existed and we were to make a skin - the VO choice that old Sion has wouldn't even be considered unless it was thematically appropriate. Making a skin that would look like old Sion does not thematically connect with the old Voice. 
Tech Reason:
We developed a very special type of VO tech to use with Sion. It allows the expanded script, what was few lines now over 200, to take advantage of the tech. Unfortunately, the old VO wouldn't work with this tech. 
We made the decisions on the back of an artistic and technical foundation. (IMO) I think it would be cool if this opened up an ideation for a Body Builder Sion and explore it with a more relevant VO set! 
Old Sion VO will live on in our hearts, memories, and YouTube videos. And, in my opinion, is something that old Sion players will all remember as "Back in the day when Sion sounded ~insert heartwarming memory adjective here.~""

Gameplay

When asked why they chose to give Sion's passive such high attack speed and % damage on hit, Scruffy explained:
"We want to let Sion player build pretty tanky and still feel like their passive gives them significant damage threat. This is where the attack speed and % health on hit come in."
Scruffy also commented on what happens when Sion is interrupted during his Q's channel time:
"The spell does not go off, but he is given a cooldown refund (sets cooldown back down to 2s). 
As a Sion player, I often feel like if I'm eating CC for my team I'm doing my job. He's great at "soft taunting" enemies to focus him instead of his squishy allies."
He also mentioned that Sion's Q charge up isn't visible if Sion is hidden, much like Nunu's ult!
"Currently it will act in the same way as Nunu's ult. If the enemy can't see Sion they wont see the Q charge. Brushes OP"
When asked why Sion's health scaling on minion kills was something the team decided to keep from his old kit, Scruffy explained:
"When we took a step back and thought about what type of gameplay would fit with an "Undead Juggernaught" (with a huge axe) we settled on a very tanky guy that has heavy hitting physical abilities. 
That said, this helped inform us that the W (health stacking) and the shield ability with some tweaking would be good gameplay fits for this type of character."
As for the purpose of Sion's new E, Scruffy explained:
"The E was a move that we wanted to be both a soft setup for his Q and provide some interesting play for him in lane around the minion line. It's early iterations actually had an extremely short (almost melee range) initial cast and he could only hit far away opponents by punting minions. This was actually working out very well when he was in lane, but in mid/late game when a lot of fights were happening away from minions he didn't have much use for it. This resulted in us extending the first cast's range a bit to allow for some medium range use without minions."
Scruffy also noted that Sion's E was a bit different in earlier iterations:
"The E was originally more of a melee range "backhand" that he used to knock minions into his opponents. When we realized that it was cool in lane but didn't provide him the tools that he needed for mid/late game when no minions are present it became a short range skillshot."
As for what inspired Sion's new ultimate, Scruffy commented:
"We tried a few different ultimates before we eventually found the one you see now. The first few focused on him smashing the ground and creating massive areas of new terrain (think of a giant trundle pillar). As you have likely inferred, those didn't work out because they blocked off too much of the map space creating some awkward gameplay spaces. 
We then decided to try the slowly accelerating charge that gave him CC immunity. Then we added the steering, then we made it go a huge distance etc. These things usually start in one place and over days of iteration we end up with something awesome."
He continued:
"As for inspiration, I think many of us remember the xmen cartoons from the 90s..."

When asked if Sion's ultimate will stop when colliding with player made terrain, Seb noted:
"Yes, he'll stun himself on Anivia walls and such. If you have the reactions to to put a Cataclysm around him, then more power to you! 
Related note: being stuck inside a Cataclysm with a Glory in Death Sion is not a positive experience."
Seb also commented on the camera change that happens when you use Sion's new R:
"The game camera indeed follows Sion as he ults, but it is more involved than just locked camera. During the ult, the camera leads Sion so he can see better the area in front of him, and doesn't pay attention to the area behind him. Sion is locked but off-center so you can drive better. 
This is a new camera feature we made for Sion and we're still working on it, but we're very happy with how it's working out!"
Scruffy also added in:
"What you're seeing is some new camera tech we're trying for Sion. It's similar to camera lock but we focus more on the space in front of sion instead of centered on the character. 
Having to both steer and push the screen boundary was creating a pretty bad usability problem so we used this camera setting to let the sion player focus on steering only. It also adds some unique feel to the spell, almost like "tunnel vision" where Sion is so focused on charging that he has his blinders on."

As for old scrapped abilities they tried out on Sion's kit, Scruffy shared:
"I mentioned in another reply the giant mountain of terrain ult that was scrapped in favor of the unstoppable charge. 
There was also an old passive that was letting him root enemies with his auto attacks as a bit of a Q setup, but this ended up feeling like too much overlap with j4 and nautilus 
The E as well went through a slew of iterations including a passive where he built up strength the longer he stayed in combat and unleashed the built up power with an active ability."
Seb also commented on a funny bug between Sion and Azir while they were both in testing:
"My favorite was when Azir and Sion were both in testing, and when Sion would ult the Azir wall, he'd get knocked back-- but he'd still be in the charge. So he'd bounce off the wall over and over, trying to get through faster and faster. It looked like an enormous Noxian fireball jumping on a Shuriman trampoline!"

Art & Concept

When asked why Sion is so big in comparison to other champions, IronStylus commented:
"Simply because of the character he's supposed to be. If we were to remake Malph entirely we'd probably make him bigger."
When asked about the inspiration glowing red hole in Sion's stomach, HUGEnFAST explained:
"The gaping hole in his stomach serves a few purposes. Mainly, it exposes his core, which attracts and absorbs the life essence of his enemies. This in turn fuels his locomotion and rage. Secondly, it's a way of denoting his zombie nature. You know he's got to be undead of he's as hallowed out as a pumpkin."

HUGEnFAST also commented on why Sion has a peg leg:
"The main idea behind the peg leg was to show history. After decades upon decades of battle, even the greatest warriors are bound to lose a limb or two (or heck, even die once or twice in Sion's case)."
As for the knife in Sion's head, HUGEnFAST explained it's origins as:
"The knife was part of his final resurrection ritual, the equivalent of putting a key into an ignition. It is Noxian in origin and may very well have tasted Jarvan blood in the past..."

HUGEnFAST reiterated these in a later post, explaining:
"Glad you like it! 
Most of the ideas arise through conversation within the team, particularly when discussing his lore and gameplay. The knife felt very appropriate with his new personality and story. It was a key part of his resurrection. The soul furnace is where he absorbs and processes the souls of his slain enemies and ended up being a cool way to describe how his W functions. His false leg, as I mentioned in another post, was a way to suggest that he has participated in hundreds of battles, as well as a way to enhance his "zombie-ness." 
Check out the dev blog, we get into some of this stuff."
Entropy added:
"We did, in fact, have a meeting during the concepting phase entirely focused on brainstorming interesting battle wounds and history that we could tie into Sion's visual design. I believe the idea to use J1's crown in some form emerged from that, among other things."
ZenonTheStoic also jokingly added:
"I also heard that the soul furnace is powered by an evil poro living inside Sion. IS THIS TRUE?"

Riot Phoenix also commented on the visuals of his new R, saying:
"For visuals I looked at a lot of meteor reference :) I thought adding a lens flair would be pretty cheesy, so I stuck with the hot leading edge and cone like air waves. Because he doesn't have much left or right mobility I was able to put a nice long trail on him without it looking jittery. Who wouldn't fear a flaming juggernaut barreling towards you? :D"

IronStylus also responded to someone concerned that Sion is too far away from the current champion art style, saying:
"Personally I see him fitting in with our current style and setting a bar as to how we execute in the future."

When asked about a new Sion skin, IronStylus commented:
"I can only really address 2 here, but a big part of VU's and other updates is getting a champion in good shape for new skins. So while I don't know about any skins specifically in development, updates allow us to make high quality new skins!"

When asked if Sion's skin splashes will be updated to reflect their new look, HUGEnFAST replied:
"Yes! We are working on these, along with skin splash updates for previously reworked champions (Trundle, Nidalee, etc)."

Lore

When asked about the decision to change Sion's title to "the Undead Juggernaut, Entropy explained:
"Sion was always described as a Juggernaut in his original story. A "human battering ram." It was always sort of there, it just wasn't really exemplified in the gameplay. We decided to dig into that angle more heavily this go round."
IronStylus also added in:
"Actually "juggernaut" as a concept, being something unstoppable, is one of the key words we used when we had our first meetings on Sion. We often do this when we want to distill a champion down to it's essence and make sure we're building on a solid foundation."

When asked about the writing team for the project and if we can expect similar stories for future champion updates, Entropy commented:
"There is a single Narrative team that works with product teams to produce content. Champ, Champ Update, Events, Promotions, etc. 
Currently promotions are developed based on the product, so each might have different needs or desired outcomes. There will definitely be more, though they won't necessarily try to fit the model we used for Sion."

In response to a comment on transitioning Sion to a serious character from a goofy character, Entropy commented:
"Interesting question. Adjustments to the tone of a character is something we definitely look at when updating Champs. We take it on a case by case basis. Being a goofy Noxian killer wasn't really doing Sion any favors, but Twitch being kooky compliments his unhinged personality. Grimdark Heimer was a missed opportunity. >.> 
I'd say that Swain, Vlad, and LeBlanc already have fairly serious characters (in spite of Vlad being a Punomancer). They all have a lot of potential to be complex antagonists going forward."
When asked aboutSion's new unique taunts for Galio, Entropy noted:
"There's a natural opposition between the two that I wanted to lay the groundwork for. The dichotomy between the eternal guardian and the undying destroyer felt really compelling for a rivalry that would endure ages. Plus there's a certain irony to the fact that Galio is an artificial being who's gained a sense of humanity and Sion is a man who's become more of a warmachine than anything. 
"Time to cut your strings, puppet." If only he knew."

Entropy also commented on the voice actor casting and process:
"Our casting process has gotten much more rigorous, even within the last year. We start by putting together an audition description with a short sample script, character details, and some references for the actors and actresses to use as inspiration. We work with a few studios that send out the casting call and deliver us the audition reels. Then we review them all and narrow down our top picks. If we're having trouble deciding on one, we'll usually reaudition that short list with some additional direction and see who really stands out. Once we've made our final pick we then move into an exploratory session. That's basically an opportunity for us to work directly with the talent, give them direction, try out a few different takes and see what works and what doesn't. Provided all goes well, we book our final recording sessions and finish out the complete script. 
Azog the Defiler was definitely one of the character references, so we did have to dial back on things like snorts, snarls, and grunts because he was sounding too much like an orc. We also tried a much more vacant "zombie" style for the death passive that we abandoned in favor of the more feral bloodlust. 
We're trying to be a lot more diligent about keeping unique space between the voices and performances of our Champions, so if we see a high amount of overlap that definitely comes into consideration. 
Whenever possible we reaudition the original talent for the role and provide them with the context of what we're shifting around. Ultimately we make our decisions based on what we think will get the best performance, even if it means tackling change aversion head on."

Other

When asked who will get an update next, Seb commented:
"It's definitely early to commit to anything (we're still trying to make sure Sion is good to ship!) but the most likely scenario is that the team will focus briefly on less high-risk projects to make sure to deliver a good amount of cool stuff as the holiday season approaches. If the team focused on only enormous projects like Sion, we'd be delivering once every couple of months-- but we want to become more reliable so people don't have to wait for too long. 
Long story short: there will be some smaller-scope and lower-risk projects coming out after Sion and before the next high-scope project, to maintain reliable delivery and the sanity of the team."
He continued:
"As of this moment, Fiora and Warwick are not in progress. Soon after Sion is out, we'll be updating this page that documents upcoming Champion updates with who's coming up next. 
https://support.leagueoflegends.com/entries/40116190-Champion-Update-Schedule"

As for if Riot is planning on slowing down the production of new champions to better facilitate updating older champions, Scruffy commented:
"We are definitely focusing more resources and effort to updating the existing champions in the game, as you have seen over the last few patches. This becomes increasingly more important as the game gets older and we have more champions to maintain. 
That said, this doesn't affect the rate that we want to put out new champions. Those won't be slowing down."
IronStylus also added in:
"New champion cadence has slowed a bit, and I think that, for this team at least, it provides us an opportunity to deliver love to older champions that really need it. Since we're a completely different team than the Champion team, we're able to sort of swoop in and help deliver quality content in the time between large champion releases. We also however can take time to give slightly smaller scope project some attention, like Cass and Renekton which received model and texture updates."
Interested in a better look at the Sion update? Check out our PBE coverage for more info, including skin previews, kit details, and more!

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