Aurora took 7 years to make — in the process, she birthed these two League of Legends champions

Alexia “Riot Lexical” Gao, League of Legends’ Lead Champion Producer, has been part of the Riot Games team for over 8 years. For 7 of those years, she kept a character named Aurora tucked away in a folder, patiently waiting for the right time to bring her to life. In 2018, Lead Concept Artist Sunny “Riot Kindlejack” Pandita and Lead Champion Designer Blake “Riot Squad5” Smith began brainstorming ideas for Aurora. They envisioned her as a dancer who could tell stories through smoke, or a mage who could wield elemental magic. After much deliberation, they eventually settled on the “bunny concept” that would define Aurora’s final design.

The journey to creating Aurora was a long and winding one. “There were so many iterations, so many ideas we went through,” Pandita shared in an exclusive media preview at Riot Games HQ. “We really wanted to get her character and kit right, to make sure she felt impactful and memorable.” Gao echoed this sentiment, noting that the team was committed to imbuing Aurora with a sense of grace, power, and enchantment. “We wanted her to be this elegant, mystical figure that players would be drawn to,” she explained. “But we also wanted her abilities to feel satisfying and meaningful in the context of League of Legends.”

The hard work and attention to detail paid off. When Aurora is finally unveiled, she will not only captivate players with her striking visual design, but also introduce two new champions inspired by her creation. These champions, Gao revealed, will showcase different aspects of Aurora’s multifaceted nature, expanding the narrative and gameplay possibilities for League of Legends. “Aurora has been a labor of love for us,” said Gao. “We’ve poured our hearts and souls into bringing her to life, and we can’t wait for players to meet her and the champions she has birthed. It’s been a long journey, but we’re confident it will all be worth it in the end.”

Why the process of designing League of Legends mage champion Aurora took so long

Riot’s champion development process is often an iterative one, with many ideas and concepts getting explored before the final design emerges. Such was the case with Aurora, the enchanting new character who has inspired two brand new League of Legends champions. “Honestly, it’s an archetype that gamers are no stranger to,” shared Riot Lexical, the Lead Champion Producer. “I personally do a lot of onboarding for Rioters, and one of the exercises we do is to pitch a champion. And it’s an idea that comes up again and again.” Indeed, the “bunny concept” that eventually defined Aurora’s visual identity was one that numerous new Rioters proposed during these pitching sessions. And when the rest of the dev team caught onto the idea, they were equally enthusiastic about it. Lead Champion Designer Riot Squad5 then set out to conceptualize Aurora’s abilities to fit this adorable yet powerful aesthetic. One of the ideas the team explored was a “genius mage who could copy other people’s magic.” “By this point people were playtesting her. They really loved the kit and felt like spell stealing was a fun skill expression, but we got pretty mixed results for everything combined,” Riot Squad5 shared in Champion Insights. “People kept saying stealing spells felt too evil for her!”

Based on this feedback, the team made the tough call to create a new champion instead – the now-popular Sylas. However, a significant part of Aurora’s personality found its way into Lillia, the “bashful fawn-like champion” who debuted in 2020. Additionally, the notions around the spirit realm that had been explored for Aurora morphed into the Spirit Blossom skinline, found their way into Yone, and even contributed to Fiddlesticks’ demon lore, the blog post revealed. It’s a testament to Riot’s dedication and willingness to evolve their ideas that Aurora’s journey has had such a lasting impact on the League of Legends universe. Though she may not have made it to the live game in her original form, her spirit and essence have certainly lived on in unexpected and delightful ways. The story of Aurora’s development is a fascinating glimpse into the meticulous and creative process behind champion creation at Riot Games. It’s a process that is often marked by experimentation, iteration, and a deep commitment to bringing characters to life that resonate with players on a meaningful level.

At the heart of Aurora’s journey is the team’s unwavering dedication to crafting a champion that feels truly special and impactful. “We really wanted to get her character and kit right, to make sure she felt impactful and memorable,” Pandita, the Lead Concept Artist, shared. This attention to detail and desire to get things just right is a hallmark of Riot’s approach. They understand that each new champion is not just a set of abilities and stats, but a living, breathing character with their own story, personality, and place within the wider League of Legends universe. “We wanted her to be this elegant, mystical figure that players would be drawn to,” Gao, the Lead Champion Producer, explained. “But we also wanted her abilities to feel satisfying and meaningful in the context of League of Legends.” It’s a delicate balance – creating a champion that is visually striking and narratively compelling, while also ensuring that their gameplay mechanics are polished and engaging. And it’s a balance that the Riot team has clearly mastered, judging by the overwhelming popularity and success of their champion releases. But the story of Aurora’s development also highlights the reality that not every idea will make it to the final product. The team’s initial concept of a “genius mage who could copy other people’s magic” ultimately didn’t quite fit the character they had envisioned. It was a tough but necessary decision to pivot and create Sylas instead.

“People kept saying stealing spells felt too evil for her!” Riot Squad5 shared, underscoring the importance of player feedback and the team’s willingness to make bold changes in the pursuit of crafting the best possible champion. This iterative process, with its ups and downs, twists and turns, is what ultimately leads to the rich and diverse cast of characters that populate the League of Legends universe. And it’s a process that the Riot team approaches with a deep sense of passion, creativity, and an unwavering commitment to delivering an exceptional experience for their players. As Aurora and the champions she has inspired make their grand debut, it’s a testament to the team’s dedication and the depth of their storytelling abilities. Players can look forward to exploring the enchanting world of Aurora, and discovering the ways in which her spirit has left an indelible mark on the League of Legends landscape.

How Riot Games ended up taking Aurora’s bunny concept even further

When Riot Lexical, the Lead Champion Producer for League of Legends, took on the role in 2021, she was determined to revisit the concept of Aurora. The team was eager to explore a champion that embodied a unique dichotomy – a prey animal with a strong, unapologetic personality. “Aurora is such a confident and unapologetic character. It would be fascinating to explore the contrast between her strong personality and the image of a prey animal,” Riot Lexical shared with the press. The team not only looked at bunnies as inspiration, but also considered other small, nimble creatures like squirrels, as they wanted to capture the essence of a resilient, agile being. One of the original concept arts featuring Aurora in a witch hat and rabbit ears was something the team kept coming back to, despite exploring numerous iterations. They were drawn to the whimsical and endearing qualities of this design. “There was just something about that combination of the witch hat and the rabbit ears that really resonated with us,” Riot Lexical explained. “It captured Aurora’s playful and mischievous nature, while also hinting at the depth and complexity of her character.”

As the team delved deeper into Aurora’s development, they decided to explore her Vastayan heritage, placing her in the Freljord region. This decision was driven by a desire to showcase the diversity of Vastayan cultures within the League of Legends universe. “We wanted to challenge the assumption that Vastayans are only found in Ionia,” Riot Lexical said. “By placing Aurora in the Freljord, we could demonstrate that these mystical, nature-attuned beings exist throughout Runeterra, each with their own unique traditions and characteristics.” To further accentuate Aurora’s Vastayan roots, the team incorporated unique Vastayan markings in the form of delicate freckles on her face, shoulders, and thighs. “These freckles weren’t just a decorative element,” Riot Lexical explained. “They were meant to be a tangible representation of Aurora’s deep connection to the natural world and her Vastayan heritage. We wanted players to feel a sense of wonder and curiosity when they looked at her, as if she were a living, breathing part of the Freljordian landscape.”

As for the decision to have Aurora wear a large witch’s hat, Riot Lexical shared an intriguing story. “When we started discussing her friendship with Ornn, one of the ideas we kept circling back to was the notion of the Rabadon’s Friend Cap, rather than the traditional Rabadon’s Death Cap,” she explained. “We just thought it was such a charming and unique interaction that we really wanted to explore. Imagine the bond between this small, nimble Vastayan and the great, hulking Freljordian forge-god – it just seemed like such a delightful and unexpected pairing. The witch’s hat became a symbol of their friendship, a whimsical touch that hinted at the depth of their connection.”

Riot Lexical’s passion for the character and her willingness to experiment with different concepts highlights the team’s dedication to bringing their most ambitious ideas to life. “Personally, I may be a little biased, but I’m quite fond of the witch’s hat,” she said with a smile. “It’s just such a perfect representation of Aurora’s playful spirit and her ability to forge unexpected bonds with the most unlikely of allies.” The journey of Aurora’s development showcases Riot’s commitment to crafting champions that not only possess captivating visual designs, but also have compelling narratives and meaningful relationships within the League of Legends universe. By delving into Aurora’s Vastayan heritage, exploring her unique personality, and crafting a distinctive visual identity, the team has created a champion that promises to captivate players and leave a lasting impression on the League of Legends community.

What aspect of Aurora's design and characterization do you find most intriguing?
Her strong, unapologetic personality and the contrast with her prey animal-inspired appearance.
Her Vastayan heritage and the incorporation of unique Vastayan markings into her design.
Voted: 2

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