For most preteens, an adventure can be as simple as zooming around the neighborhood on your bike with the mandate to be home for dinner, being moody and broody at the local mall, or just checking to see if your duo is home for a little post-school grind. The stakes aren’t all that high.
But for Milio the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Accompanied by his adorable fire buddies (fuemigos), enormous backpack (furnasita), and natural magical gifts, Milio is setting off on the adventure of a lifetime to restore his family’s honor. And his journey might just change the course of Ixtal’s future.
At just 12 years old, Milio has impressive control over the fire axiom, possessing rare abilities for any citizen of Ixtal, much less someone his age. Where most Ixtali study for a lifetime to understand the Axiomata—an intricate, rigid, near-mathematical system of elemental magic—Milio has an inherent understanding of his powers, and that he must use them for good.
Fire as a power source typically calls to mind offensive spells that burn and scorch. But the soft glow of Milio’s healing flame is a far cry from the aggressive fireballs of champions like Brand or Annie.
Milio’s kit is all about using fire to heal and empower his allies, with help from the giant, bulbous fuemigo that’s cozied up in his backpack.
“The goal was to make an enchanter that felt like they fit in with the rest of the enchanter roster and didn't stick out like a sore thumb. But still someone who brought something new to the role so enchanter players would have a new and interesting gameplay experience,” explains game designer Myles “Riot Emizery” Salholm.
At first glance Milio is a classic enchanter. He’s smol, cute, and sweet. But he’s a HE. While players have plenty of enchanters to choose from in the game, they’re all ethereal ladies, or girlbosses, or universally beloved cats. Over the years we’ve tried to diversify our portfolio of champs to appeal to everyone. Plus we’ve long heard your requests for a new male enchanter. Even though Taric wields the supreme power of Targon with sparkle and finesse, it’s high time for another lad on the roster.
And there’s an obvious difference between our existing enchanters and Milio: he’s 12 years old. The game design team wanted to make sure Milio’s playful, youthful energy was clear in his kit. Beyond locking in spell names like Cozy Campfire and Ultra Mega Fire Kick, there’s a sense of fast-paced exuberance in his playstyle.
“One: he’s high energy. I wanted to try to make it feel like there's a lot of movement and a lot of excitement in his actions. But two is making him feel kind of annoying like a bratty younger brother to some degree. The way that he ends up interacting with you in lane is that he's not going to outright kill you, but he'll keep annoying you until you get so fed up that you try and kill him,” says Riot Emizery.
Like the classic enchanter he is, Milio is always looking for ways to help his teammates secure kills or get out of sticky situations. He increases ally damage with his passive, kicks fuemigos (don’t worry, they love it) at his enemies, and heals allies and extends their attack range with a campfire zone.
He also has a two-charge shield that both shields and increases move speed for allies or himself. And his ultimate is a wash of purifying flames, cleansing crowd control effects and healing all nearby allies. Amumu’s tears are falling a little bit harder these days.
“It's basically Cleanse the Summoner spell on steroids,” laughs Riot Emizery.
But interestingly enough, Milio didn’t always have a heal in his kit outside of his ultimate.
“Milio’s W originally gave attack speed and made him this hyper-aggressive enchanter, so your ally basically needed to go in every time that you pressed W. But based off of the storyline that we were giving him, his personality, and also what enchanter players prefer, I felt like there was a heal that was missing outside of his ultimate,” explains Riot Emizery.
“Because his ultimate is so powerful, it's also a long cooldown. So if you're only healing with your ultimate, you're rarely ever healing throughout the game. So we ended up putting heal into his campfire move, but I wrestled for a long time on whether to keep the heal, get rid of the attack speed, keep both, or do something else entirely. Ultimately we made a shot call that because he is using healing fire and protective flames, it makes sense for him to have a heal over time.”
And for any ADC mains out there reading this, fear not; There are ways to counter this formidable tween.
Milio’s range extension buffs, for instance, can seem a little scary, but countering an aggressive lane like Milio and Cait or Kog’Maw with a hook champ like Thresh or Pyke can be really effective. And just like a pesky Soraka, if Milio is hanging out in the back of a teamfight and the enemy team just won’t die, target him in the back and get rid of the enemy’s sustain.
Just don’t let this kid venture too far into the late game. “He scales really powerfully, kind of like Sona,” says Riot Emizery. “In the late game he's gonna do a lot of healing that will make his team really strong, so don't let him get to that point.”
Where most of Ixtal sees magic as intricate and precise, Milio’s innate gifts come from his unique view of the world. He’s earnest, heroic, and capital-g Good. Having grown up in a remote village far from the capital city of Ixaocan, his entire world is very different from that of someone like Qiyana, who sits at the top of Ixtal’s social hierarchy.
When creating Milio’s character and story, narrative writer Elyse “Riot apothecarie” Lemoine wanted to ensure that his warmth and ease with magic were pillars of his personality.
“He's very playful, very fun, and very intuitive, which is the opposite of the way Ixtal does magic. To them, elemental magic is science and it's approached in a very rigid and formulaic way. Milio has a little bit more flexibility because he tends to just figure things out on his own rather than sticking to a rigid formula. He just has no patience for learning,” Riot apothecarie laughs.
“Milio is like an unwitting genius. He's really smart. He's discovered a new axiom—a whole new magic ability that no one else has. He just has no idea that he's smart because he intuits stuff and then is like, ‘Oh that's easy.’”
Milio’s grandmother, Lupé, sees her grandson’s effortless brilliance as a gateway for him to become Yun Tal, masters of elemental magic and Ixtal’s ruling caste. Once Yun Tal herself but now exiled, Milio’s grandmother desperately hopes he will restore his family’s former honor and station. And Milio will do everything he can for his omele, because she knows best…right?
“Having Milio be this optimistic, fun-loving 12-year-old who sees the good in everything really positions him as someone who can break that cycle of generational trauma and help heal his family,” says Riot apothecarie.
To become Yun Tal, students of elemental magic must undergo a test before the Vidalion, a massive, magical loom that weaves robes for Ixtal’s highest caste. Brought in believing their magical abilities will be tested, those who face the Vidalion are shown a bitter truth that’s been hidden from the Ixtali people: Ixtal is not the only civilization that survived the Rune Wars and Runeterra beyond Ixtal’s borders is no unpopulated wasteland. How you react to this truth is the ultimate test.
If you pass, the Vidalion will weave a unique set of magic-infused robes that mark you as an elemental master.
For Milio, family is everything—he’d go to the ends of Runeterra to make his family proud.
So he’s now preparing to face the Vidalion. And if he succeeds, he’d unseat Qiyana as the youngest person ever to join the Yun Tal.
Until then, Milio spends his time writing letters home about his (slightly exaggerated) experiences and talking with his fuemigos, even though they can’t actually talk back. Although he is far from his small village, his heart is never far from his family.
Milio’s youth and heroism are pillars of his champion theme, as are his Ixtali origins, inspired by Latin American cultures. Though Ixtal draws inspiration from countries in Latin America, it was important to composer J.D. “Riot Zibarr0” Spears that the theme sounded unique to Runeterra.
“I knew I wanted to bring in some really unique and less common instruments from those regions. Anytime I'm doing something like that, I feel like I need to lean on people who are experts in those areas,” says Riot Zibarr0.
And experts he found. When it came time to record, the music team brought in legendary musicians to add their own flair and cultural twist to the track, including percussionist Alex Acuña and flautist Pedro Eustache (yes, you heard right, Flute Guy from the Game Awards).
“We knocked out all of the written material pretty quickly at the sessions. But ultimately, the musicians brought so much of their own performance… they brought so much character to the piece that did not exist before,” says Riot Zibarr0. “These are world-class musicians, and they became a part of Milio’s theme in a way that I could not have planned for. Aside from the core melodic material, a lot of what you hear on the track are things that they did in the moment.”
Though Milio’s musical theme begins with a soft, meandering melody, by the end it has built into a bold chorus of instruments bursting with power and fearlessness. Just like our sweet boy.
The art team spent a lot of time figuring out how to differentiate Milio from League’s other fire-based champions. Since Milio is a healer and a helper, they wanted to make sure his spells looked warm and cozy instead of harsh and aggressive.
“We said ‘How do we convey a character that's not aggressive and has this kind of healing, soft flame?’” recalls concept artist Nancy “Sojyoo” Kim. “We decided to use a lot of round shapes and made sure that there weren’t any spikes or things like that coming out of him.”
Milio’s fuemigos are round and bouncy, with a soft glow. And his visual effects feel more like gentle, warming flames than angry, fiery bursts of energy.
Since Milio is one of League’s few child champions, his art development came with some interesting challenges. While we all might think we know what a 12 year old looks like, there’s a lot of hidden precision that goes into drawing age accurately.
“Honing in on Milio’s age proved to be a process in itself. Even if you change the slightest features, a character can look a lot older,” explains Sojyoo. “So trying to find the exact age we were going for was a little difficult. We could show somebody a portrait and they'd be like, ‘Oh, I think they're 13’ and another person might say they look 11 or 14. It’s dependent on their own experiences with children.”
On top of creating a literal child, the Champions team wanted to bring another dimension of representation into Milio’s character.
From the beginning of development, a major goal was to create a male enchanter that brought Latino representation to League. In champion development and worldbuilding, there’s a delicate balance to strike between relatable, authentic representation for players and creating something unique and fantastical for Runeterra.
For Milio, Riot Unidos (our Employee Resource Group for Latin-American Rioters) was brought in early to participate in playtests and give feedback on everything from his name to dance selection, to voiceover lines. On the art side of things, Sojyoo worked closely with Riot Unidos to gather feedback on each new version of Milio’s concept art. When she had a new piece ready, she’d share it to gather feedback and personal experiences to guide everything from his nose shape to the color of his clothing to how curly his hair texture should be.
For QA engineer Riot Pehrek, getting involved with Milio’s feedback process through Riot Unidos was a bit of a side project—until he made his way onto the champions team.
“They were asking for people from Riot Unidos to give feedback for a new champion who had no name at the time. So I decided to help out and I got very passionate and involved in the character,” Riot Pehrek says. “Eventually I applied to the Champions team and when I was interviewing, I told them ‘I would love to work on Milio. I'm already involved on the project and I would love to actually see him through.’”
Now, as Milio’s QA engineer, he’s been in charge of protecting the player experience for Milio throughout the development process, finding bugs and issues and finding the right people to work on them. And of course he and the rest of the team make sure Riot Unidos is involved in every step of the dev process.
“I really hope that there’s a good balance between players that enjoy playing a support character and players who enjoy playing a character for their representation,” says Riot Pehrek.
“I want there to be those players that when they play Milio they think ‘he sounds just like me when I'm talking to my grandma.’ Or when I'm going through this troublesome part of my life, his dialogue reflects how I'm trying to be brave in front of the strange new things that I'm gonna have to challenge and face.”