Morello on Karma, Visual Upgrades, and Skins

Posted on at 9:35 AM by Moobeat
Morello has been quite the busy bee over on the forums! Over the past day, he's been posting consistently about all sorts of things, including what's up with Karma's rework, discussing this thoughts on who should be up for a visual upgrade, and hinting at some upcoming skins. 
Continuing reading for a ginormous block of red posts concerning Karma, Visual upgrades, and skins.

Karma Rework
Regarding the long awaited Karma update, Morello sympathized with the long wait and commented on  managing player expectation.
"Yes, it's been a long time and I understand the frustration, there's just not a lot of valuable conversation I can have about it because we basically had to restart the rework about 6 weeks ago. It's moving along very well now though - this is the danger of us telling stuff before it's ready, because the Karma subject is now a larger subject because we didn't manage expectations here.

Things get weird in development sometimes, and cause things to change - it's more painful when we make that more visible though'
Elaborating further on this talk of restarting the rework in relation to what we've previously heard on twitter, Morello simply commented:
"Different direction."
This, of course, stirred up a bit of concern. One concerned summoner remarked " Couldn't you have caught your mistakes earlier? " to which Morello responded:
"This is normal in development - ideas are worthless, testing and iteration is the work. This takes time and to allow people to be creative, you need to allow them freedom to fail so they can find what's right.

I keep being reinforced that I should never talk about anything that's not locked down, because I always have to clean up the mess on the boards if anything unexpected happens - and game development is a very unexpected job :P"

When asked why Karma is getting a visual update at all, Morello commented:
"Mostly because Karma is one of the most unappealing champions, creatively, to our fans - a lot of our research dudes have looked at this, plus it makes sense. Gal in a monochrome dress is a weak theme that isn't really doing anything.

Since we needed to do a gameplay remake anyway, the art team is on board to update her visuals and thematics also."
Elaborating on why Karma's current theme is so unappealing, he says:
"For how we get this data, it's through "appeal" - a study set that our researchers do that measures thematic attraction via non-gameplay elements of a champion. Karma's low appeal is unsurprising to me, as is Urgot's and Trundle's. 
I think the thematic is really hard to pull off in the space that League of Legends has, and she's not the only character like this. The theme needs to be overt, but some of the details can contain interesting subtleties - this is different than something like an RPG, where a designer can use more storytelling tools to communicate the character.

I do think a lot of this lies in the execution (balance is a good theme, but nothing about her really portrays it heavily enough) and the idea not exploring how that works in League enough. And I'm pretty sure every single person who likes Karma in NA is talking about it in this thread :) The execution error is why we're redoing her visuals, and I know IronStylus was more involved on the art side there."
However, he did have a warning about Karma's VU:
"Be warned that we have done significant changes - but we've tried to balance the approach between new and legacy."

Good ole IronStylus also popped in to comment on the VU, saying:
"We are NOT making her a stripper or ANYTHING CLOSE. I have made EXTRA SURE that visual rework efforts steered away from this trend. We are retaining classy and elegant. There might be a bit more skin but it's going to be damn tasteful."
Visual Upgrades
When asked why Riot can churn out new champions so quickly but it takes them so long to update/rework old champions, Morello replied:
"Because we don't have to meet current expectations, find the balance between what we need to keep/discard, and do all the skins - reworks actually take significantly more time than new champions. 
Additionally, we made a "relaunches team" a few months back, so the results of the increased clip should become more apparent as that stuff gets released."
He also mentioned why Riot chose to give Annie a visual upgrade over someone like Sion and gave a bit of a time frame on Sion's VU.
"Yi and Sion are definitely on the list (in my mind, Sion is the WORST offender). In this case, how we prioritize has a lot of complexities - specifically for Sion, we also want to fix his gameplay, but we're not doing Sion before we get through Karma, and hopefully Heimer. 
So we chose a rework that was art-only. Sivir was a runner-up, but the art team wanted to get Annie done first as it also shows a definition for non-standard age characters in our updated art style - specifically, Annie shows what children look like in League."

Morello also addressed, in relation to visual upgrades, several champions individually.

When asked about Sivir's place on the visual update list, Morello responded:
"We need to redo Sivir, it's just not right-this-second now. We agree she needs it pretty badly."

As for Taric's place on this VU list, he said:
"Eventually. Not in the top 5."
Elaborating on Taric, he agreed with a summoner that Taric's "joke" status with the community ( cheesy voice, armor of the fifth age being a bit of a joke ) can create problems when attempting to change his aesthetics.
"That's part of it - where we take Taric is a tough problem to solve creatively. Additionally, how that informs his visual is a bigger ball of wax.

Taric, Sion, Twitch and Sivir are probably the worst-looking, from a raw aesthetics standpoint, but other things inform this like release cadence/work to complete, if gameplay is involved, number of skins, etc."

One summoner asked if Heimerdinger getting a visual update to go along with his long awaited game play rework, to which Morello responded :
"Visual - I'm not sure. Gameplay definitely, but visual is up in the air because a lot of his charm is his derpiness."
Regarding Warwick's position on the VU list, Morello commented:
"I believe so, but not before a lot of the others mentioned. He's older and needs art love, but it's not elephant-feet bad. :)"
As for Anivia potentially getting a visual update, Morello responded:
"Not currently, though it is a bit out of date. It's just not on the top offenders list.'

When asked point blank if he knew who will be the next visual update after Annie will be, Morello  replied:
"Yes, but not telling yet, because the expectation will be "tomorrow" if I do

I'll shed some light on this as we get closer."

IronStylus also flew by to drop off his thoughts on Garen, saying:
"Garen also needs a VU.. that's what I'm calling Visual Updates now.. spread the word.

He's not a huge priority, but since he's such a staple of the IP he really needs a good once-ver."
When questioned why Annie, who's visual update is right around the corner, is receiving a new skin when others still need new skins badly, Morello explained that some of the champions who need skins the most are in line for updates and won't be getting a skin until after the VU is completed. He also, to the pleasure of many, mentioned that new Nidalee and Soraka skins are coming down the pipeline!
"Typically, reworks are accompanied by a new skin (and if not right away, shortly after). Many of the champions that need skins badly are getting visual reworks also, preventing us from making the new skin until that's completed. 
Nidalee and Soraka are getting new skins in the immediate future, they were just delayed to improve them a bit. 
EDIT: Need to amend this - we chose to do this in a few specific cases, but this is not a "rule", especially as we can't keep that cadence with skins as we speed up reworks. Adding to original post."
Elaborating further on "skin fairness", he said:
"For the reason I said above. If we can't make skins for them (Diana notwithstanding, but I think that's personal/anecdotal and not representative) because they need new art, or in many of these cases we do have a skin for them coming very soon, then I see no reason to not do the Annie one with the rework.

I do understand the expectations on the skin fairness issue, and I'll be coming to speak about how we prioritize (something we've changed a lot since Annie and Teemo got all the skins!), but it's not going to be "hold all this content until this other champion's skin gets done." Especially, in many cases a skin wants to be done by X date and gets additional work to be up to par"

When warned that this new Soraka skin "better be bad ass", Morello replied:
"We scrapped and reworked the old one, that's a fair expectation. I think it delivers. :)"
Interestingly, Morello also mentioned that Norse King Darius, a currently unreleased skin present in the PBE around the time Darius's release, hasn't actually been cancelled.
"No - Norse King just needs more work overall. I think this is a good example of where we should have prioritized better though."
Model view cap of the UNFINISHED Norse King Darius from May 2012 
When asked if there were any plans for an upcoming Zyra skin, he assured us there is one on the way but other champs need a new skin more.
"Not right away, but we are concepting one - and it will be good

There are other champs that I want to get skins out for first"
Similarly, Morello mentioned there is a new Anivia skin on the way!
"We are going to give Anivia a skin soon - which I'm obviously quite excited about myself. It's a doozy :)" 

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