When we heard that League of Legend's Lunar Beast theme was going to be a mix of "High-fashioned Streetwear with a touch of traditional elegance" we were intrigued. When we saw the first glimpses of the skins, we knew we needed to find out more about these amazing looks. Lucky for us, Charles Liu—the Principal Concept Artist on Wild Rift that helped develop the Lunar Beast aesthetic and design—had time to sit down and chat.
We hope you enjoy the interview, and are able to snag all the skins you desire (which in this case is probably all of them). Make sure to scroll down to see all the amazing art behind the skins.
How long have you been with Riot Games?
"I started working with Riot in 2012 as a freelancer, and in 2015 started working full time inhouse as a skins concept artist. I’m currently the Principal Concept Artist on Wild Rift."
What are some projects people may know you from?
"My first splash piece was High Noon Twisted Fate, and my first skin concept was Popstar Ahri. Early on, I worked on splash pieces such as PROJECT: Yasuo, Gladiator Draven, Arctic Ops Varus, and Base Warwick, and I helped on some champion designs such as Azir, Aurelion Sol, Gnar, Renekton, and Alistar.
However, my main focus for about 6 years was working on skin concepts, including Gun Goddess Miss Fortune, God King Garen and Darius, Dawnbringer Riven, Pool Party Graves and Renekton, and Dunkmaster Darius to name a few."
What differences exist when designing for Wild Rift versus League of Legends?
"Overall, there are probably more similarities than differences. We carry over our experiences from PC, so it's still very much the “League” style. It's important that we keep the experience authentic. This is especially true for in-game, where the main difference would be optimizing for mobile readability on small screens.
Another major addition we have is our model viewer. Whereas the ingame design is simplified, the fidelity here is higher, aiming for the look of splash art or cinematic. Each character here is
reconcepted and newly built to match that style. The background environment is another element that we’ve added to deepen the experience of Runeterra and major skin universes. We also make an effort to keep champion faces, height, and proportions consistent across their base and skins.
Most of our design freedom comes when developing either new skins or updating older content from PC. The challenge with older content is that each piece is unique and requires a different approach and amount of rework. This can range from simply bringing the style and execution up to date, to re-establishing a skin theme. With new skins, the challenge is to really carve out a new exciting space, and to dive deep into building a rich world around it. "
What were some of your initial goals when creating the Lunar Beast aesthetic?
"We wanted a fresh take on Lunar Revel this year, something that would resonate with modern times but still pays homage to the celebration’s traditional roots. This along with the idea of a guardian’s protection of the New Year’s celebration helped shape the Lunar Beast skinline you'll see."
When developing the look, what sort of inspiration did you look to?
"For the theme, I was reminded of Nian, the Lunar Beast, whose story is tied to the origins of the celebration. That, combined with the idea of how tradition still inhabits modern lives.
In Asia, when we look at bustling cities with futuristic skyscrapers, chances are you will find some kind of ancient temple or historical monument close by. It's this sort of cool cultural contrast that brought me to the idea of fusing modern with tradition.
We also thought of how it would be cool if the squad members would just parkour through the city, while fending off the beast. The futuristic landscape is a perfect playground for that type of freedom.
As you can see from the aesthetics, inspiration also came in the form of streetwear, urban cityscapes, tactical gear, and traditional clothing."
What challenges did you find in balancing cool/trendy with elegant/traditional?
"There was definitely the debate on which element should be the highlight: modern or tradition. Conservatively, we would have gone with tradition being the focus, as we’ve done before. But we decided to double down on the future setting and really portray the Lunar guardians as people who live in that world and culture, with a more urban street look, and some modern tactical style. While the weapons and props would be inherited from their predecessors as more traditional, ancient artifacts."
What ways did you bring the "Year of the Ox" into the designs (visually and thematically)?
"I wanted Lunar Beasts to be a theme that could potentially live on in the future. This year would be the Ox God and his chosen squad members who are tasked with protecting the New Year’s
celebration. Visually, the guardians are imbued with the Ox’s blessing which manifest as magical horns. We also carefully stitched in Ox motifs in the character’s costumes and props. One of the pieces that I’m most proud of is the background in the model viewer of Wild Rift, that really set the tone on how cool this world can be."
How do you go about applying that style to a character? What factors do you keep in mind?
"We first establish a style guide that includes visual pillars, references for costumes, props, the world setting, etc. We then build out the shape language, which we can then use as a “bible” to propagate the design.
Things to keep in mind are the fundamental characteristics of each champion, like what sort of outfit would make sense, what’s their role, what’s necessary to preserve the champion’s identity in this alternate universe.
Instead of applying the Lunar Beast aesthetic to any one specific character, I had the most fun when working with the other artists on setting up the initial pitch."
What is your favorite skin from the theme? Which will you be picking up? Any that you wish you could wear in real life? Let us know on social media at @InvenGlobal or @ggMattB! Thanks again to Charles Liu and Riot games for this InvenCulture exclusive interview!
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