Dev Diary: Ahri's Art Sustainability Update

Dev Diary: Ahri's Art Sustainability Update

Hi everyone! I'm Layla "yoganinja" Jean, the producer in charge of this Ahri Art Continuity Update. We recently shared some progress on Ahri's basic concept and visual effects work. Today we want to take you behind the scenes to learn more about Ahri's Art Sustainability Update. But don't rush to meet the nine-tailed fox first, let's talk about what "art persistence update" is.

The key to the so-called Art Sustainability Update (ASU) is to improve the art survivability of a hero, making it easier for future skin development. As you can imagine, some old hero skins are difficult to make, and our production capabilities and standards are improving year by year. We want these heroes to have a smoother skin development process in the future. For this, we have to do a lot of preparation, such as refactoring the data configuration in the engine, creating the art materials in the source material package, and updating the hero with modern tools and technologies.

Art quality itself is another area of ​​focus for us, with the goal of bringing older champions to their current level. Each art survivability update is specifically planned based on the needs of a specific hero, so the size of the update will vary from hero to hero. But in general, we need to update the hero's base skin and a total of 1350 skins (and subsequent processes), so that the hero's visual, action, voice and other elements meet the current standards, and also better present the hero's DNA and the core concepts it represents.

The Art Sustainability update is different from other updates (Visual Gameplay Update - VGU, and Comprehensive Gameplay Update - CGU) in that it doesn't change any gameplay and skill effects, and it doesn't significantly refactor the hero's backstory.

When it comes to hero picks for the Art Sustainability Update, we take into account many of the factors listed above. Also include previous technical debt, complexity, art quality, or the popularity of the hero.

That's it for Ahri! She's a huge fan favorite, and every time she launches a new skin, we get a lot of feedback on how her model and moves are outdated. Her base skin doesn't even have basic motion animations and recall animations - which are standard for new heroes these days. So she is very suitable as the object of artistic persistence update.

Having said that, let's talk about how Ahri's update works!


Elyse “Riot apothecarie” Lemoine, Senior Narrative Writer:

Ahri is the second time I've worked with the Art Sustainability Update team after Caitlin, and I'm so excited to be working together again! (Plus Ahri is still my life.) Having said that, giving Ahri such a backup It's actually quite stressful for a beloved hero to write lines.

For the Art Sustainability Update, the story-wise goals were twofold: to achieve narrative harmony by working closely with the update team, and to bring the hero's narrative level to our current standards.

When updating a hero, I usually divide it into four steps:

  1. In-depth understanding of existing content and research on heroes.

  2. Understand the character's most endearing feature to the player - what is the fantasy that the character gives the player?

  3. Create an eclectic story outline that disassembles and analyzes the character's personality pillars, backstory, life goals, beliefs, and relationships.

  4. Write the final version of the dubbing script.

There are also many subdivided steps in between, such as reading existing scripts, finding lines to inherit, or writing scene clips and exploratory lines to determine the character's vocal characteristics. But at the end of the day, we'll have a narrative document that will serve as a baseline for the dubbing script, making sure that the character's dubbing doesn't stray or show timidity.

At first glance, a 160-line script can be done in one go, but you must first have all the previous work to make this step not off-center (not every writer will use this creative method)! I think this process can help Let me always maintain the focus of my creation, but also as a narrative material to share with the team.

Ahri's update comes right after the release of Ruined King: A League of Legends Story. This, however, required us to make a decision: should the rewritten Ahri lines come before or after the events of The Ruined King? Or Ahri after the story of "The Ruined King" will make players like it more. It would be a pity to let her go back to her former state after seeing the growth she experienced in the biography. She no longer escaped the pain of the past, but strode forward with her head held high.

The updated Ahri made my creative process a lot of fun, and her unknown future gave us a lot of room to play. Now she has finally let go of the burden of the past and the pain of remorse, to see the world clearly, and to go to the future with anticipation!

concept illustration

homas “Riot Hylia” Randby, concept illustration lead:

With the release of new heroes, new events, and new animated shorts, players can immerse themselves in the world of League of Legends in a variety of new and exciting ways. Many times, though, the speed at which the narrative progresses and advances can leave some characters out of date. For example, Caitlin used to be like an antique left over from the early days of "League of Legends", representing the original Piltover, the common steampunk-style technology city.

As for Ahri, players have had several opportunities to see a clearer and more refined Ahri. She has appeared in animated shorts for "League of Legends", "League of Legends Mobile Games" and "Legend of Runeterra", and is also a key character in "The Ruined King", with a new design and more unique interactions. So we're not just going to remake Ahri, we're going to make her up to the standards that players have in mind.

In the end we incorporated many elements, including her image in the animated short "New Dawn", her model in "League of Legends Mobile Games", and a tribute to her look in "The Ruined King", using gorgeous Her silk clothing and long black hair, while retaining certain beast elements, emphasize her fox identity and innate vastaya elegance. Her hair will be a little frantic, a nod to her image in The Ruined King, as she struggles to control her powers against her instinctual desires. When she uses Soul Assault, she unleashes the beast side. Her eyes will emit a dangerous dim light, and her tail will be fully unfolded, fully showing her power.

Ahri has a lot of skins, which is a big challenge. Many of her skins, like the base skins, have appeared in more refined forms on other occasions, which provided a good source of inspiration for our update.

For example, K/DA and K/DA All Out, these two looks of Ali have shown more delicate details in music videos. These relatively new model bones and parameters can be used in her updated visual effects.

In the past, every time we released a new skin, the most common feedback centered on her tail. Previously, Ahri's tail wasn't attached to the same point, but would go through her thighs, back and even her calves! To address this, we created multiple layers of fabric on each skin to allow Ahri's tail is attached to her body in the right way. One cloth layer is draped over the initial point, and the other cloth layers are cushioned under the tail to interact with the initial point.

Working with the team to bring Ahri's visuals up to the modern level of League of Legends has been a joy and a blessing, and I can't wait to see her run wild in the canyon!

technical art

Izzy Cheng, Senior Technical Artist:

In terms of model bones, I knew from the beginning that Ahri's tail was important. The tail is both her symbol in the game and a source of fantasy. These nine tails should not only make people feel reasonable, but also make it easier for developers to make future skins. This is also the essence of persistent updates.

With several animators and character artists, I did many tests and iterations of Nine Tails to make the tails more interesting, smoother, and furier. I increased the realism on the model bones of the tails, so that each tail can swing independently and be integrated as one. My goal was for each tail to have a smooth arc that maximizes her grace.

In addition to the tail, I also thoroughly cleaned up the model so that Ahri's model skeleton is in line with the current standard of the new hero.

Action animation

Einar “Riot Beinhar” Langfjord, Senior Action Animator:

This is another update on my involvement with art persistence after Caitlin. I'm excited to bring one of the league's most beloved characters to modern standards. I have a lot to say about Ahri because she is such a complex character, but today I want to focus on one of Ahri's most special aspects: her nine tails, and how we can refurbish them to present best effect.

Asking what is most important for action animation, we immediately realized that the highest priority should be to bring the fantasy nine-tailed fox to life. Nine tails are both a character trait and have a lot of potential for expressiveness, so we wanted to put time and energy into the performance of the tails.

However, having nine tails on a character means a lot of work, especially if you also want the tails to look natural. I worked a lot with technical artist Izzy to make Ahri's tail as reasonable as possible. We've found that switching between one large tail and nine small tails can make for an excellent end result. And in this way, we do not need to perform fine management of each tail at all times. We did a lot of testing numerically and finally came up with a system that produced a satisfying tail motion.

Early motion animation tests on tails, with the goal of creating a sustainable development pipeline

A solid and reliable system can make the animation of the tail more effective, but if the nine-tailed fox's fantasy is to be believable enough, her tail must respond to the player's actions. So we went deep into the simulation system in the game and took a real-time simulation of each tail. The action parameters of each tail are slightly different, so that it can feel like a natural fox tail, but also bring a little magic charm. Just manipulating Ahri to run around is fun, and it's even more satisfying when you successfully dodge abilities and hunt down targets.

Before and after comparison of tail physics

Charm Hex is one of Ahri's most iconic abilities, and we hope her tail makes this move more punchy. We wanted to show both her flirtatious nature and how beautifully the new bones of her tail could pose.

We ran into a problem though, and that was the camera angle. If you adjust the screen of the skill from one angle, but the angle is changed, it will not look good.

From a certain angle, this skill looks beautiful, but from another angle, this skill is no longer "charming".

We still found this direction interesting, so decided to make four different motion animations for the skill. Each action animation corresponds to an angle. Yes, depending on where Ahri faces the map, the actions of skill casting are different.

Each angle corresponds to an action animation, so that no matter which angle Ali faces, it is the most beautiful.

Visual effects

Riot Sirhaian, Senior VFX Artist:

Like Caitlyn, Ahri's art persistence update is relatively simple, as the overall game VFX update has been done before, so the workload is now a lot lighter. Because the art persistence update doesn't change the gameplay, and most of our old VFX has been updated with the game, Ahri didn't need much VFX work. Ahri's main needs are to adjust the size of some spells to match the actual collision volume, and to clean up some old particle effects. She needs some love, and there are some scattered details that can be improved, but they are not big projects.

A visual update to the base skin Ahri's Q skill. The VFX for this ability has been reworked several times, as the implementation of the effect had to be modified directly in the code.

One of the main goals of the Art Continuity Update was to fix the way old heroes work in the background. And Ali has a lot of strange code behind it. We unraveled this mess, which required a complete rewrite or major change for certain effects. For example, her Q skill is set to run at half speed. This means that the speed of the VFX needs to be doubled to display correctly at the "standard" speed in the game.

Fixing this would require resetting the full VFX timing of Q to match the new normal speed. In addition, she has tons of discarded VFX left on her body, like variables that control the effect of the orb's healing, and some old redundancies that may even date back to before she went live. Moreover, Ahri even retains the character-specific particle effects from the early beta version of Extreme Blitz Mode. We cleaned up all those effects so that future VFX artists can develop and maintain her so they won't have to wonder what the oddly named particle effects "Ahri_Base_R_Tumblekick_tar_02" are for.

We had a fun bug where Ahri would temporarily turn into a noodle after casting Q

Before Ahri's project, there was no very precise definition of psychic energy in League of Legends. Regarding the source of Ahri's power, we only know that it is "primitive spiritual energy", which is the same as saying nothing. What does this spiritual energy look like? How does it flow? What color does it look like? What form, what shape? How can we unify it into the classification of magic without changing the player's perception of Ahri? Question Too much. Answering these questions one by one takes a lot of time and requires a lot of collaboration between different teams. In the end we settled on a soft pale blue energy, like the plume of smoke from a calmly burning candle.

A visual upgrade to the base skin Ahri's W skill. The arc trajectory of the missile has been adjusted for more elegant lines.

Ahri's Orb of Deception is also one of the most important visual presentations. It took us many iterations to find the best fit. Some schemes feature elaborate fox designs on orbs, others are smaller and more transparent ones, and so on.

Considering the height of the shot and the speed at which she was moving, we settled on a well-defined sphere with a spinning fox shape inside, and increasing energy, plus an afterimage. The afterimage can help us strengthen her sense of speed, and the looming fox shape will reflect her fox spirit identity in her return animation. We tried adding more detail to the outline of the fox in the orb, but after testing we found that adding too much detail in such a small area would make the overall effect very blurry.

The shape of a fox will appear and disappear in the orb, with little detail but enough to be recognized, without causing noise at normal viewing distances.

Ahri's Charm Hex has always been a controversial skill. It is difficult to read at certain angles, sometimes 3D, sometimes 2D, and sometimes it is difficult to show its width, making it impossible to judge its collision volume. We've done tons of iterations on this skill. After a lot of discussions with different teams, we finally settled on a 3D heart shape. It spins quickly at first, then settles on a straight trajectory. This allows the heart to be recognizable at any angle, and the width is always indicated accordingly. We kept the 2D heart shape in some of her skins (but adjusted them accordingly for sizing consistency) to fit the theme of specific skins (eg video game series). But in other skins, 3D hearts with similar motion trajectories continue to be used.

The team finally finalized the basic skin Ahri's E skill visual effects, whether from the perspective of aesthetics or gameplay, everyone's unanimous evaluation is the best solution

We wanted her ultimate to stop relying on textures on the ground, but to show how powerful Ahri is - by adding a magical aura to her. We toned down and repurposed the ground map to show how many layers of ultimate she currently has. The current Ahri may look more oppressive after opening her ultimate - but she still maintains her elegance.

You guys will soon know (and see!) the rest of Ahri's VFX! Now we're going back to work and tweaking her to the best possible shape!

sound effect

Emmanuel “Riot Gunlap” Lagumbay Sound Designer:

While we basically tweak the hero's voice every time we make a skin, the base skin's sound is the definitive template for all other skins, so caution must be exercised. Plus my current team manager was involved in the sound design of the original Ahri, so you can imagine my reaction at the time: "Isn't that good.

Having said that, being able to communicate directly with Ahri's experts is simply too convenient. We had a lot of discussions, which gave me a sense of Ahri's history in sound design at the time, as well as how to evolve her ethereal sound experience to fit the current League of Legends aesthetic. Our conversations feel like lines from the "Legend of Ionian" animated short, and Ahri's project work is well underway in the gears of fate.

The modernization of Ahri's voice revolves around the spiritual magic within her, and we as a team explore that power. Her skill set includes many intense sound elements, such as the crackling and rumbling of fire, and various fire-related sound effects. To differentiate her from the other fire-themed heroes (Brand and Annie), we aimed to inject more of a psychic-energy tone into her skills. So the question is, what kind of sound should this blue spiritual magic make?

We looked at the existing catalog of sound effects (the various sound effects we've made for League of Legends over the years, which can be stitched together like building blocks), and it turns out that we haven't explored the magic of the spiritual realm very deeply. Yes, we have the Soul Blossom Soul Lotus series, but we decided not to get too close to that theme because that's what the inhabitants of Runeterra imagined spiritual magic. So, after exploring spiritual magic, we decided to use a "bell ringing"-like tone with some jingles, rather than the wind music of the Spirit Blossom Soul Lotus skin. In addition, although there are some elements of human voice mixed in the sound effects of spiritual magic, compared to the heroes of Shadow Island, the human voice here is not so terrifying.

Cold knowledge, the hit sound effect of Ahri's Q skill was actually the same as the hit sound effect of her normal attack! At the time, this was not uncommon, especially for mage heroes, because their basic attack sound effects were not as good as skill sound effects. important. Save time and space by reusing sound effects in similar situations!

Taking this opportunity, I reviewed these reused effects and added more different tones to the hit effects. We've added several sound effects to her Q ability to differentiate between hitting the first target and hitting multiple targets later. In addition, Q's return sound is also richer. In this way, the player can distinguish the first damage from the sound and the real damage when returning, and we have also cleaned up the mixed sound effects, through the layers of different frequencies and shortening the duration of the sound effects, so that she can clear the line and hit more. It sounds clearer when it's a target.

She has some skill effects that linger too long and shouldn't be there by our current standards. I keep saying, "Ari already has nine tails, so I can't add any more." I mean the lingering tails of the sound effect material.

The last major change in Ahri's sound design was to add a looping sound to Ahri's power up. We feel that in Soul Assault form, it's important to let players know that the ultimate isn't over yet. Since Ahri adds stacks when he takes part in kills during the duration of his ultimate, we wanted a sound that would last without being too loud and give players the information they need to make decisions. For the same reason, there will also be another sound effect when the ultimate ends.

see you later

Regarding Ahri, there is still a lot of work to be done, I hope you enjoy what we share today, and we will work hard for a while until this update is officially launched early next year.

Thank you, everyone, and your opinions are welcome!

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