Scouting Ahead on ASUs

A sneak peek into how Lee Sin and Teemo’s ASUs are coming along.

Hey folks! We’re the ASU team back to share some of our work on Lee Sin and Teemo! We’re aiming to check in with you all again later this year, but today you’ll hear from concept art, tech art, and animation about some of the work that goes into ASUs. (Editor’s Note: As a quick reminder, ASU stands for Art and Sustainability Update.)

But before that, let’s talk about release dates. Keep in mind that these dates could still change as anything could happen and both of these characters have extensive skin lists, but currently Lee Sin is scheduled for the first half of 2024 and Teemo in the second half of 2024.

We realize these might be a little later than some of you would like, but we want to make sure that these ASU’s hit the quality bar internally and for players. That said, we can’t wait for you to get the shiny new Lee Sin and Teemo in your hands, but for now let’s dive into how these ASUs are coming to life!

Lee Sin

Modernizing the Monk

Megan “Ze Ocelot” O’Rourke, Concept Artist:

As a concept artist working on ASUs, one of the things we want to solidify is proportions. Not only do proportions define a character’s silhouette and identity, they make concepting skins a lot easier and more consistent.

Making Lee Sin’s proportions consistent is paramount. Lee Sin’s body is muscular and fit, but also thin and lean. There should be some breathing room when we’re working on an ASU, but introducing something too different can feel out of character.

Another big feature we wanted to emphasize was his braid. Having it looped around his head and shoulders felt very limited. Freeing up his braid would not only help his overall silhouette but also add an extra area of interest in terms of animation and design.

Outfit-wise, we didn’t want to depart too far from Lee Sin’s original clothing. Compared to VGUs, ASUs aim to retain the overall look of a champion while adjusting details and refining shapes to help modernize them. A lot of Lee Sin’s new design is translated from his rendition in Wild Rift, but we’ve added some subtle details that feel a little more Ionian, such as additional layers of cloth around his waist and more curved, organic seams or trim on the clothing pieces and accessories.

Early concept art for Lee Sin. As always, concepts may change as the ASU progresses.

A Rig Revamp

David “Riot Duncnasty” Jeka, Technical Artist, Rigging:

Before I get into what we're aiming to fix or change in Lee Sin and Teemo, I want to address the blind monk yordle elephant in the room: What is rigging? To put it simply, rigging is the step before animation—putting joints into characters to mimic anatomy, attaching that champion to the joints in a step called "skinning," and then adding controls to those joints for animators to, well, animate. Now that that’s settled, what is rigging looking to fix in Lee Sin?

It’s a bit too early to show any comparisons with Lee’s old rig and what we're planning to do with his new rig, but I can show you some of the issues we’re trying to fix.

Lee Sin’s current base rig can be a headache for our animators: his controls don't make sense, you can't tell the left from the right, things dont pivot the way they should, and his neck… well, we have to talk about his neck.

We’ve had to get really creative with Lee’s neck movement over the years—from Playmaker Lee Sin onward, we even had to add an additional additive animation to pop his neck into place. And that only kind of worked. Meme about the neck while you can… it’s getting fixed.

It's hard to create a powerful pose with the tools we've given our animators—and Lee Sin’s skeleton isn't helping on that front either. His upper thighs are too low, his upper arms are too far out, his clavicles are too low and crossed (which for sure is a rigging method, but an old one). Anatomically, and technically, much of it doesn't make sense. We're aiming to fix all of this and much more to help our animators deliver as dynamic of poses as possible. We're also aiming to give his iconic ponytail some more options.

Alive and Kicking

Einar “Riot Beinhar” Langfjord and Sean “Riot Redepoka” Yeung, Animation Artists:

The philosophy for us animators when it comes to our beloved ASU champions is bringing them up to modern standards, which usually comes down to three factors:

  • Gameplay feel
  • Gameplay read
  • Character resonance

The importance of each of these factors varies from character to character. As an example, one of our goals for Ahri was for her tails to move smoothly between her different movements to really solidify her fantasy as a nine-tailed fox. For Caitlyn, we focused on making her feel like a highly trained officer who knows how to handle her rifle, while showing off her (once severely lacking) empathetic personality traits. Every character will take into account these three factors, but ultimately their gameplay, personality, and resonance will affect where we direct most of our effort.

With these goals in mind, let’s discuss our animation goals for Lee Sin:

Historically, Lee Sin has had major issues when it comes to animation. His base silhouette isn’t very unique, which makes it hard to distinguish him from other characters with generic human male silhouettes and projectile Q animations like Ezreal and Brand, especially when they all wear skins that change their base look. This is why we’re going to add Lee Sin’s ponytail into his base design to help distinguish him from the others.

Lee Sin also suffers from unclear hitboxes, especially when it comes to his emotes and idle variations where he defies gameplay logic. It's not very easy for a new player to know where to aim your skillshots when fighting this monk.

Another issue we are going to have to face is the gameplay feel of Lee Sin. Some players have spent thousands of hours honing their skills and gotten used to how the current Lee Sin feels. But the biggest issue with base Lee Sin is that his attacks feel floaty, not to mention his body mechanics aren’t rooted very well in real martial arts. With the ASU, we want to make Lee feel like a true professional warrior monk while maintaining the gameplay feel that his mains have fallen in love with.

We really want to think a lot more about what Ionian martial arts look like, taking inspiration from and consulting with real martial artists to make Lee Sin worthy of being the greatest martial artist in the realm.

We’re also doing some extra development work for special skins with unique animation sets, like Muay Thai Lee Sin and Knockout Lee Sin. Since these two skins are popular due to their specific game feels, we are going to try our very best to keep the original feel of their gameplay after the ASU. But at the same time, they’ll benefit from some of the quality of life changes from Lee’s new base.

Now let’s scout ahead to Teemo!


The New Face of Fear

Megan “Ze Ocelot” O’Rourke, Concept Artist:

As we mentioned earlier, proportions are extremely important to a champion’s silhouette and identity in game. And everybody knows that a yordle’s proportions are part of what makes them so special.

Teemo’s stubbiness is a trademark characteristic, but we wanted to lengthen his limbs just enough so he could move around a lot more. So after his ASU he’ll look a lil bit taller and he can reach just a lil bit farther, but he’ll still retain some of that round yordle fluffiness!

As for Teemo’s design itself, there isn’t exactly anything bad about his design. In a way, “HD Teemo” is pretty accurate! But since he’s one of the mascots of League, it was about time to finally freshen him up in game. Details and accessories are clearer, colors and values are adjusted, and shapes and breakups are more visible.

Apart from his updated outfit, one of the most exciting things about a new rig is that Teemo will be able to express himself! To help our technical artist out, I drew out a spread of expressions for Teemo, exploring different emotions. Neutral, happy, laughing, puzzled, sad... an entire range of reactions to help figure out what’s needed in the rig. I also tried out some poses for when he uses his abilities, because Teemo doesn’t exactly gesture very much in his current state! While we’re limited with the number of unique expressions per champion, these pose explorations can help provide some inspiration for our animators.

Seeing Teemo come to life in-game is a ton of fun and translating that to his current skins, as well as new ones, will be just as exciting.

Armed and Ready

David “Riot Duncnasty” Jeka, Technical Artist, Rigging:

With every champion ASU, we’re looking to find the rough edges of a champion and they typically present themselves pretty quickly. Usually, they’re the pieces of an older champion that no longer live up to our standards in modern League. So where are the rough edges that we’re looking to smooth with Teemo’s ASU?

For one, we are looking to update Teemo to the current yordle standards, especially with scale. We want Teemo to have longer limbs like other yordles on the Rift, and to give those limbs SOME LIFE. With these anatomy changes, we’re hoping to give Teemo much more of a silhouette and a more distinctive personality. So, a big shoutout to our awesome concept artists, modelers, and animators here. It’s a whole lot easier to make a good rig when you're surrounded by such sick artists.

Within these longer limbs, we’re also giving Teemo more joints for a larger range of motion, including in his hat tuft and backpack. We're also aiming to make his rig overall more manageable to work with for our animators. Better than the big mess of yellow below, at least.

Teemo's old model, skeleton and extremely yellow rig.

Teemo is also getting a face rig! We want Teemo’s personality to show through his facial expressions. Especially when you’re spamming your emotes!

Going More-dle Yordle

Einar “Riot Beinhar” Langfjord and Sean “Riot Redepoka” Yeung, Animation Artists:

One of our objectives for bringing Teemo into modern League involves updating his animation kit in a way that places him more in-step with his yordle counterparts. Simply put, Teemo lacks the bouncy and magical elements many of the newer yordles enjoy. Take one look at Tristana, Vex, and Heimerdinger, and it should be pretty obvious that they look and feel better than Teemo. So, it’s one of our main goals as animators to inject that Bandle City magic into our little Bandle Scout!

One of the things we're most excited about for Teemo is his functioning face! As of right now, Teemo’s face doesn’t move and in many cases isn’t even visible in game.

With that in consideration, improving Teemo’s animations presents another challenge: He needs to fill a unique animation space that avoids overlapping with other yordles. Achieving that balance of “reading like a yordle” and still being “uniquely Teemo” means we must compare how other yordles move with how we want Teemo to move, including in all of his skins. There are many factors that influence how he reads to players, from his model silhouette, to his pose silhouettes, and in the energy of his movements. The list goes on and on.

All of these elements must be carefully calibrated so we can comfortably distinguish Teemo from, say, Kennen, Lulu, Kled, and any other yordle, in any situation in-game. Then, we have to make sure that not only base Teemo achieves this, but all of his other skins do as well. To this end, we’ll take the extra time to ensure that we do it right, and preserve Teemo’s individuality and sustainability going forward.

And before we call it here, we know some of you are wondering about Jax’s update. Well, unfortunately we don’t have any new updates on Jax since his announcement, but we’ll share information once we have something worth sharing!

We hope you’re as excited as we are that two of League’s most iconic champions are getting ASUs. Thanks for reading—we’ll be back to share more later this year. See you on the Rift!