With support from our central IP Strategy team, I wrote a champion brief that sums up what makes Illaoi special, and what it is that players across the world love about her.
Illaoi is the Truth Bearer of Nagakabouros, the deity of life, ocean storms, and motion, who is often depicted as a colossal kraken. Illaoi and her people come from the Serpent Isles, an island archipelago that includes Bilgewater and her home island of Buhru.
In League of Legends, Illaoi’s gameplay focuses on testing the worthiness of individuals using the golden artifact known as the Eye of God. Wielding the massive idol, she rips souls from their host bodies, and summons spectral tentacles to repeatedly slam into them.
In our story world, those who survive Nagakabouros’ test are deemed to be on the correct path and can move forward to pursue their true purpose in life. While those who fall are left in no uncertain terms that they are failing in their duty to move their own lives forward, and are hindering the flow of the universe. An experience that not all survive.
Using all of this information, we defined Illaoi’s core truth as: “A powerful and charismatic spiritual leader who inspires others to be their own unstoppable force.” She turns heads and dominates a room with her physical presence and confident, purposeful swagger.
Then, using the brief, I worked with the other discipline leads—like design and art—to create a north star for her development. This way we ensure that Illaoi is instantly identifiable, even in a genre we’ve never seen her in. And, even more important, we used it to look for opportunities to grow her legend. Because a fighting game is the perfect place for Illaoi to shine.
With a clear picture of her in our minds, we can make sure that anyone who already knows Illaoi beyond the surface level also finds the character they love, while still empowering the development team to delight even her most devoted followers with a version that will blow the doors off. Or, in her case, rip the doors off their hinges with magical tentacles and beat you senseless with them.
On a personal note, I’ve loved who Illaoi is and who she could be since we developed her for League back in 2015. And although she’s not one of the more popular champions in League, I think it’s easy to see how Illaoi’s combination of bruised knuckles, devout heart, and joyful swagger (combined with all the new experiences we can put in players’ hands) can make her a superstar in Project L.
Mike “zatransis” Henry, Creative Director:
Once Narrative has given us a good understanding of who a champion is, we move into their visual direction. You can infuse so much more into a champion when you know who they are, especially when we compare all of their visual representations—which Illaoi certainly wasn’t lacking.
Some of our champions lend themselves well to being altered quite a bit, whereas for others it wouldn’t make sense for them to drastically change their appearance. When we started on Illaoi, it became clear that she would be the latter.
She has a really iconic look: Tall, muscular, and imposing. But more than that, she’s joyful, spirited, and believes in challenging others to live their lives to the fullest. And all of these things needed to be reflected in her appearance.
Illaoi’s physical build is pretty unique in the roster of League of Legends champions, and we referenced a lot of athletes with a focus on weightlifters and shot putters. Mainly women who spend a lot of time lifting things as easily as Illaoi lifts her massive weapon.