League Of Legends Skin Project Manager: 'We Are At War With The Memes'

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Beekeeper Singed and Arclight Yorick, who knew Riot read my dream journal?
Beekeeper Singed and Arclight Yorick, who knew Riot read my dream journal? Player.One

Riot Games has been on a League of Legends meme-squashing stampede this year. League has one of the most vocal fan bases of any online game, and they cope with their frustration over balance changes, lack of updates or broken promises with inside jokes. One of League’s longest-running memes, “Better Nerf Irelia,” a result of Riot messing with the champion for multiple patches in a row after her release, is still a common cry on LoL fan pages.

“We are at war with the memes, and we will prevail,” Carlos Giffoni, a project manager on League’s skins team, told Player.One. “No meme will be left standing.”

It’s true. Riot created a sandbox mode, reworked Urgot and Galio, franchised the NA LCS, got rid of IP and are reworking runes: fans are running out of things to complain about. It has also been an amazing year for hyped skins, with showstoppers like Star Guardian Ezreal, God Fist Lee Sin and Dragon Sorceress Zyra. Summoners lost their minds and opened their wallets.

“This year, we have made an effort to look at champions that have not had a skin for a while,” Giffoni said. We have already seen new skins for bare champions like Janna, Kayle and Brand, with even more on the way.

Giffoni also told Player.One more about the design process behind two of the longest-awaited skins: Arclight Yorick and Beekeeper Singed. These skins aim to reimagine a champion’s core identity. What if a shepherd of souls switched over to the light side? Or what if a mad Hextech scientist turned himself into a bee?

When making a skin, Giffoni and his team take the same approach as those who work on champion design, which involves “a lot of asking ‘what are the most important moments in the game for this champion?’ and then trying to concentrate on elevating those,” Giffoni said. “Some of the most fun skins to make are the ones where you can really turn the character around and imagine ‘what if’ and push that as far as you can.”

League Of Legends has 138 playable champions, with more added every few months. With a roster that robust, certain characters are bound to be less popular, receiving fewer updates and skins than the faces that appear on nearly every piece of promotional material. Ahri, Ashe and Fizz receive a new skin nearly every year, while other champions, like Skarner and Aatrox, disappear into the void.

It finally happened.
It finally happened. Leaguememe

It’s been more than 2,280 days since poor Yorick got a new skin. Arclight Yorick is the first cosmetic donned by the gravekeeper since his launch. After his rework earlier this year, Giffoni and his team felt it was a perfect time to give him some love. They wanted to make sure they “did right by Yorick players, finding a thematic that felt different and exciting for him and visually gave players something new.” They tried several concepts before Arclight, including fan-favorite Cat Lady Yorick, but “for his first skin in a long time, we decided we should go with something more serious,” Giffoni said.

Beekeeper Singed was a dream project for Giffoni, a skin that’s been discussed for more than three years. “I basically had to product manage 87 skins first to get to him,” Giffoni said. As a Singed main, he jumped on the opportunity to give life to one of the longest running inside jokes in the history of the MOBA.

In this reimagining of the Mad Chemist, Singed doesn’t create Warwick, instead choosing to experiment on bees. “He’s genetically modifying both the bees and himself so that he can control them at will, but he went just little bit too far and is now a bee,” Giffoni said. In his insane recall animation, which Giffoni takes credit for, a bee literally shoots out of his suit because he’s so entranced by the smell of a flower. It’s ridiculous, but that’s exactly the vibe they wanted.

Fans have been making their own versions of Beekeeper Singed since 2012, though Giffoni says that the skin is entirely their own. “We took inspiration from the desire of players for this skin, but when we designed him we started from scratch,” Giffoni said. “We never just execute on a fan concept 1:1, but if it’s great it might become part of our inspiration when we start a skin from scratch.”

No matter how many awesome skins, new modes or patch tweaks get introduced, League Of Legends will never be perfect. The nature of a constantly evolving online game creates new things to complain about, like Jungle Ezreal. As long as fans still want to play, the memes will never die.


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