Red Post Collection: "Defining the Rift's Visual Style" dev blog, Kalista Q&A on November 11th, and more!

Posted on at 10:34 PM by Moobeat
[Update: The Kalista Q&A is live! Get your questions in!]

Tonight's Red Post collection features a dev blog on Defining the Summoner''s Rift's visual style, a heads up on the Kalista Q&A on November 11th, Scarizard on the camera changes made in the SR update, & more!
Continue reading for more information!

Table of Contents

Dev Blog: Defining the Rift’s Visual Style

Next up on the developer blog chopping block is Riototown discussing the updated Summoner's Rift's visual style, including breaking down their visual hierarchy!
"Working on the reimagined art style of Summoner’s Rift has been a rewarding, but not small, undertaking - we want to deliver a unique, timeless art style that remains relatable years after its creation. Our goal is to create a style independent of a particular time or place that retains the "inviting, magic-infused forest" vibe of Summoner's Rift. This means improving the style, cohesion & fidelity of the art while not being held back by technological constraints. Finally, the various aspects of this art style must all be aimed at clarifying gameplay in order to truly give players a more meaningful and immersive experience while playing League. 

Timeless Style

Timeless art has to have a uniquely recognizable style all its own, but must also be anchored in reality to be relatable. With that challenge in mind, we drew inspiration from our favorite games, works of art, and animated films in order to come up with the hand-painted, yet graphic style we developed while working on Summoner's Rift. 
We applied these inspirations to Summoner’s Rift in a variety of ways. Whimsical trees juxtaposed with more aggressive and stylized rocks; high contrast with soft, welcoming foliage and flowers abutted by sharp and cracked geological shapes. This pairing is key to the map’s shape language and extends similarly to the creatures living on the Rift, with a carefully balanced proportion of elements inspired from both reality and imagination. These dichotomies, along with the proportions, shape conventions, hues and values of the updated Rift all come together to create the "uniquely LoL" aesthetic we’ve been shooting for.   

Thematic Cohesion

Creating a cohesive theme on the Rift requires all its art to refer back to a singular vision built through story, concept art, and real world reference. This creates consistency among the different elements within the environment and ensures that the things you see in game while playing actually belong together, establishing a more believable and immersive world. Even the scale of buildings and foliage has been addressed. We’re working to create a world where the various elements of the landscape all feel right at home next to champions’ style, scale and overall look. 
One of the main things we have to consider is that Summoner’s Rift is the canvas on which all of our champions must sit. The champion pool holds a broad spectrum of styles – from the whimsical nature of Teemo or Lulu, to the darker aggression of Nocturne or Zed. In order to ensure champions fit into the world, we have to blend the painterly baseline of the environment and monsters with more graphic elements that relate to the art of even the grittiest champions. This spectrum (from painted to graphic) is something we’ll continue to refine as we iterate on SR and League’s overall art style. 

Increasing Clarity 

Increasing gameplay clarity is a primary focus when it comes to updating Summoner’s Rift. Clarity, for art, means creating art that minimizes visual clutter.
Quite simply, in every second of a game of League, we’re communicating a ton of information. So when we talk about working to improve clarity, we’re talking about improving the accuracy and usefulness of all of this information and enabling players to more easily digest what’s going on during gameplay. 
This means simplifying shapes and values to make for easy visual reads no matter where you are on the map or what you’re looking at. The map should always relate to the champions, but it also needs to sit behind and frame them clearly as players run around shooting off abilities in groups of up to 10 at a time.
Another concept we keep in mind when pursuing clarity is “flow” – essentially, the art should be a soft visual indicator that subtlety suggests the path. It should clarify game space, not clutter it. Applying visual design elements to make for readable paths should help players in understanding exactly where they are and where they’re going while navigating the Rift. 

Visual Hierarchy  

We also try to bring more clarity to players by looking at the overall map in layers, as a hierarchy of visual elements, which ties together a lot of the things we’ve discussed above. The images below take a look at this hierarchy, with the accompanying graphs displaying value saturation constraints for each layer.
First is the background which sits behind everything else and serves as a canvas for other elements.
On top of that are the characters, which are second in contrast and visibility so that they stand out from the background. Players need to always be able to clearly understand exactly where their champion (and others) are on the map.
Visual Effects come third, so that in the middle of a busy team fight you can clearly see when a Kog-Maw’s lobbing artillery at you or the Sion train is barreling your way.
Finally, the User Interface sits atop everything and is the easiest element to see. Although it sits on the top layer, it’s slim and small as possible to avoid obscuring gameplay.

Invisible Technology 

Last but not least among our goals is creating an art style without visible technology - things like hard polygon edges or crunchy, overly realistic textures. Thinking back to our favorite games from 5 or 10 years ago, most were using various forms of art technology that look almost archaic to us now. While we loved the vibe of these games, it's clear when looking back at the art that technology was often a limitation. Few games and movies successfully break this boundary, but it’s something we really aspire to with the Rift’s updated art style. 
Some big wins we get from building this way include a fully cohesive look and a unified, painted style across the entire map. We’ve limited ourselves to polygon budgets that would typically create very low-end looking, hard edges; however, the new art uses a technique in which painted elements define edges and hide the tech. Take a look at the evidence in the screenshot of the Golem pit comparison below:
The old map uses visible tech – polygon edges stick out and date the visuals. The new version shows how we’re choosing what edges we like and using alpha-blending and hand-painted geometry to achieve the desired look. This technique can also be done on much “cheaper” geometry for video cards to render, allowing us to improve other map elements like visual effects or animated parts of the environment. 

Looking Ahead 

That’s it on the art for now! Looking ahead to open beta and beyond, we intend to continue adding polish to the updated map and eventually bring the artistic style of League of Legends to other parts of the game. Thanks, and we’ll see you on the Rift!"

Looking for more info on the updated Summoner's Rift? Check out these links!

Kalista Q&A coming 11/11

Get ready because tomorrow, November 11th, the team behind Kalista will be piercing the boards to host a Q&A on on our upcoming champion!
"The crack team behind Kalista is hopping out of the Black Mist to answer your questions at 11AM on 11/11. Just... don’t ask how Kalista got those spears stuck in her back. It’s a touchy subject for the Spear of Vengeance. 
Learn more about Kalista here:
As she is still testing on the PBE, check out our earlier PBE coverage for a better look at Kalista's tentative skills, ratios, release skin, and more!

Background on the camera decisions for the updated Summoner’s Rift

Scarizard also popped on to the forums to share some background information on the teams decision to slightly adjust the in
"Hey y'all,

Anyone who’s played on the new Howling Abyss map will remember we pulled the camera zoom out to deal with long-range skill shots on a narrow strip of land. Even then, a lot of adaptation had to happen, and we realized then we didn’t do a great job of communicating what had actually gone into the decision. Recently we've seen a few players asking about the camera angle choices (specifically keeping the same zoom level / field of view) we made for the updated Summoner's Rift, so I wanted to give some extra context on the forums.

We didn’t arrive at our camera angle choice easily: months of research, lab experiments, and user experience studies went into this. If you’ve read our gameplay dev blog on the updated Rift ( ), you’ll also know what our results were (we kept the zoom level, decreased the field of view, and pulled the camera further back from the ground plane), so let's talk about what we didn’t change: the camera zoom.

Here’s a quick rundown of the issue:

First, mastery’s a key pillar of League of Legends design, and a lot of the core skills of League – positioning, map awareness, skill shots, combat movement – are balanced around our current camera zoom. Creating discrepancies through mods or pulling back the camera zoom disrupts a lot of fundamental skills that all players value. League is an ever-evolving game, but your basic combat instincts – how much time you have to react to an enemy gank, how you move in a team fight, your level of map awareness, etc – are things we definitely want to maintain.

Second, echoing the above through a game health lens: League is balanced precisely around our current level of camera zoom, so we need to consider any implications a change like this would have. Like I mentioned before, we pulled back the camera on Howling Abyss to weaken long-range skill shot champions (many of which are still very strong on the map for obvious reasons), but those same champions do have meaningful weaknesses on a map like Summoner’s Rift. Lux can be super annoying on a 5v5 ARAM, but put her on SR where a Vi can sneak around to punch her in the face, and you get my point.

Third (and finally), there were questions about offering varying levels of zoom in the options menu, but we’ve seen that almost all players (specifically the competitive ones) default to showing the maximum amount of real estate as possible. The competitive advantages are just too much to ignore, so while it might be considered a ‘choice’ for some, max level zoom would be an assumed for anyone who wants to be competitive.

This feeds into our larger philosophy on third-party mods: if they’re perceived to give any form of competitive advantage, then they become the default choice for pros, and that just creates this weird divide between those ‘in the know’ and outsiders. Specifically relating it to camera zoom, this obviously falls into the realms of competitive differences, and it’s why we deliberately do not allow any modifications of FoV or zoom.

TLDR, the camera angle, the field of view, and the level of zoom that we’ve chosen to go with on the updated Summoner’s Rift are ones we’ve considered very carefully. Not only do we need to balance the proper level of information players are receiving at all times on their screen, but we need to ensure the game remains exciting and that even the most map-savvy pro can be surprised by a sneaky play. Hope this gives a little more context behind our decision!

When asked what he thinks the  the adjustment time will be for players to get used to the new angle, Scarizard commented:
"Good question! I think that even in the harshest cases it should only be a few games; for example, when we first tested the change internally we didn't tell any of the playtesters for a while that a camera change had occurred - of the hundred or so testers, not a single one had noticed the camera change until we told them.

That anecdote isn't to say that some of y'all on live won't notice or have a period to adapt, but all signs that we've seen during internal testing and the PBE phase is that adaptation shouldn't take you very long at all."

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