Ask Riot: Let’s Talk Clarity

Hiding skins in game, Lancer Blitzcrank’s walk animation, Storm Dragon Lee Sin, and more.

Welcome to Ask Riot

This week we’re answering your questions about gameplay clarity.

Also, please send us all your questions! Each one you submit progresses your Buried Sun Disc one round.

Hi I just read your "Clarity in League" post and was wondering if you've considered adding an option to not show skins in game which one could toggle on/off as they please?

Real talk here - cosmetics are how we pay our bills and fund ongoing development on League. Skins are a huge part of that, and many players like skins because they’re displayed to others. Introducing uncertainty as to whether anyone sees a skin you love and purchased risks significantly undercutting our ability to run as a business.

It sounds kind of cold to put it like that, but really we want to keep League running for the long haul so you can keep playing and we can keep working on the game we all love. Our belief is that the “free-to-play model supported by power-neutral cosmetics” is quite player friendly overall, and we’ll keep working to level up gameplay clarity across the board so League can stick around for years (decades?) to come.

Meddler, Game Director

How do you determine clarity with chromas?

Chroma clarity is measured by the same gameplay clarity guidelines as any other skin in League. You can read more about our approach here, but in short—as a player or spectator, you should easily and quickly be able to identify a champion, even when it’s using a skin. The same goes for chromas, because those are skins too after all. As such, they go through the same feedback channels and vetting process as skins.

The guiding light and main pillars of a chroma, from a creative perspective, are that it remains in the same theme and universe as the “parent" skin—it should maintain the original thematic while being limited to only a texture change. In most cases, it should feel like this is just another outfit that champ pulled out of their closet on Tuesday, instead of Monday, with the same thematic shape language and design sensibilities.


As skin catalogs grow and chroma catalogs grow with them, clarity does become more of a challenge. There are only so many colors in the color wheel, and we use a lot of the same color theory techniques when designing skins and chromas (complementary, analogous, triadic, tertiary color combinations). Sometimes there is visual overlap between a chroma and a base champion, or another skin, or even overlap between two skins in a champion’s catalogue. However, with the combination of materials, shape language, themes, and proportions of those colors we can use, we should see unique skins designs that are only limited by our imaginations.

MechaHawk, Skins Art Director

Why couldn’t Lancer Blitz have a new walk animation when Space Groove Blitz is piloted by literal cats and has a new walk animation?

Great question! I would say it’s a combination of factors.

First and foremost, from a product standpoint, Space Groove Blitzcrank is a Legendary skin, which typically includes animation changes, while Lancer Blitz is an Epic skin, which typically doesn’t. This is a pretty important factor, but it doesn’t address the fact that we once said Lancer Blitz couldn’t have a floaty animation for clarity reasons… and then we gave Space Groove Blitz a floaty walk. So what changed?

Going back a few years to when Lancer Blitz was created in 2017, League didn't have as clear of standards for clarity. We knew that certain things broke it, but we hadn’t done as much of a deep dive, so sometimes we’d play it too safe and sometimes we’d go too far. Since then, we’ve solidified our approach, which includes overarching guidelines as well as craft-level considerations for champions and skins.


One of the things we now view as key for champion recognition in 2021 is their silhouette, which is basically their shadow. So when we were working on Space Groove Blitz+Crank, we put a lot of effort into making sure the silhouette was still quickly and easily recognizable at Blitz—if you were to give him the “who’s-this-champ?” test, his large hands read similarly to base, as do his head and shoulder pads. This combined with readable VFX and SFX made us feel confident we could give Space Groove a floaty walk without putting clarity at risk. His updated walk is still pretty jerky to mimic the base, but it’s much more stylized and “dance-y” now.


Going back to Lancer Blitzcrank, we didn’t have these well-defined standards yet and were mostly going off of intuition. But if we apply our new frameworks retroactively, I still think we made the right call (as controversial as it might be). Lancer Blitzcrank’s silhouette is harder to read than Space Groove’s, particularly because he has pointy drills instead of “hands.” This muddies his silhouette when he’s standing in lane, running around, and when his Q is coming at you. He also has really large shoulder pauldrons. In short, we’d already pushed Lancer Blitzcrank to the limit in so many other aspects of gameplay and visual clarity that we had to pull back in other places.

MechaHawk, Skins Art Director

I understand some spells are super loud because it's important, like Sera casting her ult. But why is PsyOps Pyke's camouflage sound the loudest thing in the game? It's incredibly distracting and stressful, far beyond its importance, especially given how much it’s spammed in lane. Mecha Kingdoms Draven catching his axes is another example.

This is something that happens from time to time in the process of sound designing a skin or champion. Like you said, there are moments we think certain abilities should be louder than others in priority of the sound set. But you, the players, are ultimately the ones that help us determine if we need to adjust certain sounds that could be distracting to gameplay. When these moments are identified, we try our best to discuss these concerns as a discipline to prioritize the issues to make sure the clarity and readability is there, and fix it if needed.

In other words... Thank you for bringing these up! We’ll definitely look into it.

OCRAM818, Sound Design Lead

Can you address Storm Dragon Lee Sin? It feels terrible in terms of clarity.

Ah, Storm Dragon Lee Sin. We talked a bit about this in the recent lol pls video, and while we don’t have much to add, we wanted to recap here.

When Storm Dragon Lee Sin first went to PBE, we heard he was difficult to recognize and very flashy. With this info, we decided to make some changes before he went live, including cutting his ponytail. This was a case of us trying to make a kickass skin but going too hard, so we had to rein things in.

This might be a little spicy, but we’re okay with the clarity level now. That said, we think Lee Sin and his skins across the board are suffering from a larger clarity issue, which is that Lee doesn’t really have a distinct character model silhouette. Most of his character recognition is carried through animation, which becomes particularly tricky when we’re making Legendary skins. At some point we’ll want to take a look at Lee Sin and adjust him across all skins and his base in order to define a clear and distinct silhouette, but we don’t have concrete plans to make changes any time soon.

Bellissimoh, Director of Production

I read the clarity blog, and I was wondering if VO was a part of it? Some champs have VO that’s repetitive and can be distracting.

We have a LOT of VO in our game, and as the game evolves, older voice-over systems are in continuous need of modernization. Whether that is “stop saying 'throw another rock!'” or “stop calling me Summoner!,” we hear you when you say a champ is missing the Goldilocks sweet spot of enjoyable, aspirational champion fantasies and a clear audio mix that empowers rock-solid gameplay.

To that end, we have a multi-faceted approach to clarity in the voice-over space. In particular, we're working on some new efforts that you can expect to see more of over the coming months:

  • Refining our volume standards across our champion roster (both old champs and new) as well as consistency across languages.
  • Starting a holistic modernization effort to address remastering, dialogue editorial, audio fidelity, and quality improvements, with a focus on clear intelligibility of lines. You can probably think of champions whose VO is hard to understand, and we’re looking to touch on those over time.
  • Enacting standards around both line length as well as a performance emphasis on tighter, projected, MOBA-ready lines (actors shouldn't speak too slowly or quietly). Some of our older champions could get pretty long-winded at times, but hopefully our most recent projects feel better. We have put much greater emphasis on context sensitivity: Lines are brief when they need to be brief, and champs can open up and monologue a bit more when there’s a lull in action.
  • Holding ourselves to a less-is-more approach, such as culling unnecessary or distracting lines and reining in spell casts to be consistent and recognizable. This is most important for ults, which should have immediately recognizable, memorable callouts similar in importance as the champ’s silhouette.
  • Making strategic decisions around which players need to hear what information. For example, recall lines were moved to self-only and kill lines were moved to self/enemy team only.
  • Using VGUs, VUs, and VO updates to refresh and modernize champ VO to benefit from much more variety (old champs like Teemo and Jax only have around 10 lines!), add new life and lore, and most importantly, to stop saying Summoner.

We’re always looking to do what we can both to address the behaviors of currently existing champions and new products, so please continue to talk to us about what you like and don’t like. While we can’t address everything overnight (so many champs!), it’s invaluable insight for the team.

Riot Zimberfly, Voice-Over Audio Lead

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