Red Post Collection: Champion Insights: Zoe, /Dev: Downloading PROJECT// Overcharge, & more

Posted on at 2:22 PM by Aznbeat
Today's red post collection includes a look at how Zoe was created in her Champion Insights article, as well as a /Dev article on the PROJECT// Overcharge gamemode!
Continue reading for more information!

Table of Contents

Champion Insights: Zoe 

With Zoe now live, here is her champion insights, covering her creation and design:
"Zoe is totally a normal kid. She likes going on adventures, has an obnoxious amount of energy, and loves her pet dog. Except Zoe’s “adventures” often involve zooming through the stars, her endless energy can turn cities to dust, and her pet doggo is actually a sassy space dragon
She might act (and sometimes feel) like a normal girl, but in reality, she’s far from it. Zoe’s the cosmic messenger of Targon, tasked with giving others a heads-up when cataclysmic change is coming. It’s a duty she’ll certainly fulfill, so long as she isn’t distracted by butterflies. Or sparkles. Or a certain blonde-haired explorer. 
Thousands of years ago, Zoe was a normal girl living in the foothills of Mount Targon. Her mischievous, imaginative personality got her into a lot of trouble with her strict Lunari teachers, but it was this very playfulness that caught the attention of an ancient and powerful aspect. On an afternoon where Zoe had caused quite a kerfuffle, this aspect appeared and presented her with a trial. Zoe was offered six objects, five of which would help diffuse the situation… and a toy ball. Of course, Zoe kicked the toy ball, singing exuberantly as it ricocheted off the walls. 
Upon seeing Zoe’s unwavering light-heartedness, the aspect opened her a portal to the top of Mount Targon. When Zoe stepped through, she was forever merged with the ancient being. She’s spent a millennia journeying to (and playing with) dimensions and realities beyond human comprehension. Now she’s returned to Runeterra and has hardly aged a year.
“Emotionally, she’s still a young girl,” says narrative writer Odin “WAAAARGHbobo” Shafer. “But it’s like she grew up in Tibet, experiencing metaphysics and transcendental meditation, and now she’s in Manhattan like, ‘This is a hot dog. Have you ever seen a hot dog? THIS IS AMAZING!’” Zoe’s traversed galaxies and jumped through black holes, but she’s done it for so long that it’s boring now. In contrast, the seemingly mundane things of Runeterra are new and exciting to her. She may have lived in Mount Targon once, but that was literally ages ago in a rather secluded community. Now she’s back, and there are so many places to explore and things to rediscover. 
Cosmic Trickster Exploration
One of the strongest inspirations for Zoe’s character were tricksters from various mythologies. Tricksters are clever, mischievous beings who can bend the rules of reality and who know things others don’t. Also, they’re usually jerks. Everything they do is in an attempt to entertain themselves, and they really don’t care if they hurt others along the way; in fact, that’s often the best part. 
Like her trickster god counterparts, Zoe loves having fun. Sometimes, that comes at the expense of others, but it’s never her intention to cause harm. Really, Zoe wants to help people. She even tries to help people. It’s just that two things sometimes conflict with this. 1) Zoe serves the bigger picture, aka humanity as a whole, and sometimes helping humanity happens at the expense of individuals. And 2) Zoe’s ways of helping can be a little unconventional and may also (unwittingly) cause destruction. “Zoe is more of a chaotic good character, whereas traditional tricksters are chaotic evil to chaotic neutral,” says WAAAARGHbobo. “When Zoe tricks and teases you, it’s usually just her way of preparing you for what’s to come.” 
As the Aspect of Twilight, Zoe’s character is all about change. Just like twilight is the transition between day and night, Zoe is between childhood and adulthood, and her very presence indicates that a colossal shift is coming. Moving from one stage of life to another can be tough, which is why Zoe is always there to help you when you need it. Just… in her own way. 
Zoe and her aspect merged together thousands of years before champions like Taric, Leona, and Pantheon were even born. She grew up in an ancient version of Mount Targon, which meant her visual design didn’t necessarily have to adhere to any one group found there today. “I moved away from modern Targonian styles and tried to imagine what clothes would’ve looked like back then,” says concept artist Sunny “Kindlejack” Pandita. “Then I combined that with a little girl who’s dressed herself from her parents’ wardrobe, with giant bangles and an oversized scarf.” 
Zoe also carries around a handful of trinkets she’s collected over the years. A normal kid’s collection might contain things like shiny rocks or dead bugs, but not Zoe’s. The items she keeps are powerful trinkets that are more on her level, such as one of Bard’s chimes and a moonstone. 
Zoe’s color palette drew from several existing Targonian champions: Golden hair from Leona, blue clothes from Diana, silver tones from Taric, and the colors of the sky from Aurelion Sol.
The cosmic trickster’s excessively long, colorful, sparkly hair wasn’t always so long, colorful, or sparkly. The further Zoe moved through development, the longer and more dramatic her hair became. “It was one of her defining features,” says WAAAARGHbobo. “So it just kept on growing.” 
This eventually raised some concerns, not because her hair was too long, but because it was unclear if it’d be possible to recreate her glittering locks in game. “Zoe’s hair was really important to her silhouette and how people felt about her,” says Kindlejack, “so we committed to finding a way to make it work.” There was no individual technique or technology that could’ve been used to bring Zoe’s hair to life, but combining a bunch of them did the trick. Some of tech used includes: The flowing-cloth technology used for the Immortal Journey skins, the dragon-tail tech used for spacy doggy, multiple bone chains to help make the animation look more natural, and a ton of VFX (aka sparklez!).

Animating Zoe’s Hair  
The original goal for Zoe was to create a light-hearted burst mage with accessible mechanics; she turned out to be some of those things. “The early goals for a champion are more like guidelines,” says senior game designer Bradford “CertainlyT” Wenban. “And for mages, the gameplay can change more rapidly and more drastically than any other role.” This is because a champion like Irelia—a melee top laner with short-ranged abilities—comes with a checklist of kit requirements, including healing and a way to deal with tanks. But mages don’t really have any of those inherent needs, so it’s basically a blank slate. 
The thing that shaped Zoe’s kit most was her Q, which was always a long-ranged, high-damage, redirectable skill shot. “The big question for Zoe became, ‘What do you give to a girl who doesn’t really need anything else?’” says CertainlyT. “She has one high damage nuke. You could probably get through a game of League with all your other buttons broken.” Because so much of Zoe’s power is loaded into her Paddle Star, the rest of her kit was designed to help her land Qs more reliably while still giving opponents a fighting chance. 
For example, Zoe’s Sleepy Trouble Bubble has a delayed CC effect, and this makes it much more effective as an offensive spell than a defensive one. Throwing it at a Master Yi rushing at you probably won’t stop him, but it can help you land a max-ranged Q on that pesky, boyfriend-stealing light mage. Plus, the delayed sleep effect plays into Zoe’s role as a cosmic messenger. It’s like she’s saying, “Hi! You’re going to be CCed soon… and then you’re going to be struck by a meteor!”
That’s the thing about Zoe—even though she’s a powerful mage, she really just wants to have fun. Sometimes that means jumping through a portal to toss sparkles at her enemies, blowing raspberries on the way out. Other times, it’s skipping over to a freshly-dropped flash so she can keep up with her new friend. And once in awhile, it can be exciting to launch a shooting star at somebody’s face. 
But hey, at least she’ll warn you first."

/Dev: Downloading PROJECT// Overcharge 

Curious about how the PROJECT// Overcharge gamemode was created? Check out this /Dev article:
"League’s newest gamemode, Overcharge, was our first ever exploration into expressing the universe of PROJECT through gameplay. It’s a chance to let players tangibly interact with the thematic, and from a new perspective too—it’s world removed from the shiny elegance of PROJECT we’re familiar with. For Overcharge, we journeyed down into the underbelly in search of new gameplay and a visual map style that hadn’t been tried before in League of Legends. 
From cybernetically enhanced champions with peerless precision to the process of augmenting endlessly towards perfection, the PROJECT world offers lots of unique thematic hooks. So for this project, we decided to alter our gameplay design approach and cast a wide net with rapid initial prototyping. We first spent a few weeks rapidly iterating through multiple, wildly different modes. Ultimately however, narrative’s vision of exploring the darker underworld in the PROJECT universe got us really excited to support them. 
We chose to challenge ourselves to craft a game mode that was born out of this thematic. Running through dark, rainy alleyways; looking over your shoulder frantically before ducking behind a corner; scoping your target and waiting for the right moment to jump them: These are some of the things we felt when we heard narrative’s pitch. We wanted players to experience the heart-racing, adrenaline-pumping action as they just barely beat out their opponents. 
We knew then that the finished product should invoke a specific sense of tension—BUT HOW???
Our first instinct was to literally create a dark alleyway. This was already an immense departure from the standard terrain players are used to. With combat spaces constricted to extremes and blind corners everywhere, playing a simple PvP deathmatch on that map certainly succeeded at creating tension. This is the benefit of having really powerful driving vision. 
With such a unique idea for a map layout (for LoL at least), it was time to start developing the gameplay mechanics that would support it. A couple of different gameplay ideas were floated: zone capture, pac-man, race to a point, attack/defense… Each of these emphasized different aspects of the map and thematic. From playtests, we found that players were having the most fun with prolonged chases and hiding/stalking—conveniently but not surprisingly in line with the initial narrative drive. 
We also found that the PROJECT champion pool, which was the initial pool we tested for the mode, was an extremely warped one. Basically there were marksmen (Ashe, Lucian, Jhin, Vayne), and then champions that were really good at killing marksmen, especially in tight corridors (Zed, Kat, Master Yi, Ekko, Yasuo, Vi, Fiora). And then there was Leona just chilling on the side. Not only was this pool not creating engaging combat, it also generally evolved into deathball, so we made the call to change the champion pool restriction to all marksmen instead of PROJECT champions. Sorry Vi. 
From this point, it was a matter of creating mechanics to facilitate these “cat and mouse” moments. Our first approach was to just smash it with a hammer: teams literally alternated being invulnerable for 30 seconds on a set clock. This combined with the champion pool changes were fairly successful at solving out deathball. It also created lots of satisfying moments when you did manage to escape because you knew your opponent had all the advantages—you just outplayed them. 
We worked on level designing the map—which is where we adjust the location of walls, brushes, and paths—to make sure there were lots of juking spots and that the map was really amplifying the gameplay loop. To that end, we iterated rapidly through lots of different terrain setups. We identified that champions with mobility would have heavy advantages in the mode, so we focused on adding built-in mobility options to help equalize the playing field. 
On top of adding objects like the blast nodes for general mobility, we added teleport pads that blink you from point A to point B. This helped solve for the fact that, normally, being on the perimeter of the map would mean one or two fewer directions you could move. We knew these tools were working when we started seeing immobile champions like Jhin dodging and escaping from Sivir and Vayne. 
We started the Section 43 map with some trepidation. We wanted to immerse players in the amazing world of PROJECT, but up until this map, we’d never done a League environment in the sci-fi space. 
This mood piece was the first big breakthrough for the art team. In the mood piece, David painted the platform between the glowing upper world of the original Overdrive video and the gloomy slums of The Hunt video; this location allowed us to capture both sides of a PROJECT city. With alignment around the mood we wanted to hit, everyone could focus on different sections of the Overcharge map while also knowing it’d all fit together in the end. 
We also focused on finding ways to capture the darker side of PROJECT into and around the gameplay space. It was challenging to slot compelling art into the tight corridors of the map without obstructing the characters or the places they could walk. On top of that, we had to keep the pathable areas of the map clear while maintaining the cluttered city feel of Sector 43. Early on we found that keeping the high detail in the non-playable space and simplifying the rest was a good way to convey where you could run without sacrificing the vibe. This “contrast of detail” was one method we used to make the gameplay area obvious, in addition to the contrast of lighting, value, and color.
As the block-in of the map progressed, we began to realize it was impossible to tell how big the characters were. The buildings were too foreign to show scale, so David focused on making a series of human-scaled objects; things with handles and displays help ground the world in a scale our eyes can understand. On top of that, these small props and objects added a ton of story and believability to the world. It’s interesting to think about what people would use in their daily lives and what kind of equipment and tools they’d interact with. 
In the dark gritty underbelly of the PROJECT universe, we wanted everything to feel super industrial and less delicate than the fancy high-tech city above. Everything has self-locking and anti-theft mechanisms and is made out of heavy duty material to prevent tampering. Power cables and key pads are sealed and structurally reinforced to stave off corrosion from the damp environment of the undercity. 
As the surrounding map began to take shape, our attention turned to the interactive elements of the mode. The bomb plant mechanics on the map offered an interesting artistic challenge. After a few iterations of an entirely new pink triangular PROJECT blast cone, we realized nobody was understanding how it functioned. At this point Sharkcromancer circled back to the Summoners Rift cone and pulled its spiky silhouette and color palette into our sci-fi universe. With the new design, all of the confusion vanished and playtests went much smoother. 
Once everything was placed and we had a general sense of where we wanted to put all of the major focal points, Sharkcromancer spent some time doing cohesion paintovers to further enrich the environment with visual elements of story and scale. He tried to balance the values of the play areas against non-playable areas to make the pathable terrain very clear, and he also added small-scale lights towards the bottom of the structures to make them feel truly massive. We had to (visually) cheat like crazy to get that humungous feel of the structures, but doing so worked well with the thematic of the loss of humanity and feeling insignificant in a huge industrial world. Seeing tons of repeating windows and structural shapes that seem to go down forever into the depths of the city below drove the point home, and I hope when you all play on this map, you really sense the scale of everything around you. 
That’s all from us for now…happy hunting!"


To round out this red post collection, here are a few reminders on current promotions or limited time events!
  • The PROJECT: Hunters event has begun! Running from 11/22 - 12/4, you can now play in the new PROJECT: Overcharge gamemode, participate in PROJECT: themed mission to earn exclusive rewards, three new PROJECT: skins for JhinVayne, and Vi, and more!

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