With the approaching release of League of Legends: Dominion, we wanted to give you insight into the art design of the Crystal Scar. With this in mind we decided to touch base with Senior Concept Artist Eduardo Gonzalez to ask him about what inspiration some of the terrain you’ll encounter in the new game mode.
Riot: We’re here with Eduardo Gonzalez, our Lead Artist for Crystal Scar project. He’s here to talk to us a little bit about the art of League of Legends: Dominion and about some of the goals of the visual style were with this new game mode. Eduardo, would you like to introduce yourself?
Eduardo: My name is Eduardo Gonzalez. I’m the Senior Concept artist behind some of the champions in League of Legends. Champions like Vladimir, Miss Fortune, Sona, Irelia… well you get the picture. I started off doing all the concepts early on with Dominion. I was dealing with the lore side of it, and trying to turn it into visuals. As the team was working hard on going through the design of what Dominion gameplay might be, I started conceptualizing types of structures, capture points. I was just attempting to really bring Kalamanda to life.
There were all kinds of locations. We wanted to show people what Kalamanda was and what its surroundings were like. So I was doing a lot of studying where it was on the map, and what was around it. It was really lore based, and that really gave me a lot of information in the long run to use as a starting point. We really wanted to be able to tie all of those things together and show a little bit of the lore in the map.
Riot: So what were some of the story elements that you really wanted to capture in the design of the map?
Eduardo: The story elements that we really wanted to capture were about how Kalamanda used to be this small mining town to which nobody had really ever paid any attention. And I wanted to find reasons why Demacia and Noxus were fighting so heavily for these minerals. So I was really trying to delve into how much more powerful each side would be if they were able to control these wild kind of organic nexuses.
These are the opposite of the nexuses that you see in Summoner’s Rift, which were man made. These were more grown, with these roots and attachments and underground crystal chambers that can be transformed into sources of physical magic.
Riot: So looking at the art of Summoner’s Rift, what were some of the ways that you really wanted to really bring the environment to the next level with the Crystal Scar?
Eduardo: One of the things was that we really tried to create a little bit of parallaxing, and really try to push the sense of depth. We wanted to really push things either towards the camera or away from the camera to create a real sense of height, but without disturbing the gameplay. That’s easier said than done, and I think that we found a nice little balance without messing with the player. I know that that’s something that everybody on the Art Team was looking at very carefully and helping us to achieve. Even though Summoner’s Rift has structures and things that are coming up, we kind of wanted to push that even more.
Riot: So what were some of the challenges that you ran into while you were working to create this sense of depth and move into making a more dynamic looking map?
Eduardo: The major challenge that just making holes in the ground and making buildings taller really isn’t enough. We wanted to make sure that there was a reason why. It is a mining facility, so we really wanted to show what’s down there. So having these mining tracks going down into the deep, with these crystals attached to the walls and so forth really showing that people are mining down there. So we were able to get the underground just right.
Pushing these houses up taller and taller, however, it was difficult not to make them too tall. In the gameplay, the houses themselves and the roofs would sometimes hide the actual lane behind it. So we had to make sure that somebody couldn’t literally just hide behind the house and then gank you without actually using the brush. So we had to achieve some of those things by moving the structures onto the exterior, and – when we had things in the foreground – we would move the heavy, bigger parts onto an island away from the lanes.
Riot: So what was the most exciting thing about working on Dominion for you?
Eduardo: I think the most exciting part is being given the opportunity to really create a whole different world that I think is so full of life, and that isn’t depicted in the first map. There’s no real storytelling taking place in the first map; there isn’t a real sense of connection between the towers and the inhibitors and the nexus, and all the way to the summoner’s platform. Those are real clear defining stages, but in the first map it didn’t really show that relationship.
We wanted to show with each one of these capture points, why they’re there and what they’re doing. And then we wanted to drive and tell a story. Everything around the map is focused on mining these crystals and making some kind of giant production line. At the end of the day it’s all about using that magic. This map really tells why we’re all fighting through the backstory and the lore. It tells why we’re summoners, and why all these champions are being brought out. There’s a magic power struggle going on, and whoever has the most magic is going to win. And that’s just one aspect of this whole entire world, and I really wanted to be a part of bring that story to the players.
Riot: What are some of things that you learned over the course of the Dominion project that you think are going to stick with you moving forward?
Eduardo: I think that what we achieved with really pushing the style and aesthetic to really bring Dominion to the next level was really important. We have that really sort of painterly style, and people feel like what we did with the Crystal Scar was an improvement, yet we kept everything that we really loved about the original look and feel. We were always afraid that we would change something that might be too dramatic, where the players and the fans might think that it was too much and might not like it anymore.
I think that we achieved something special in that, when we upgraded, we didn’t lose what League of Legends is. That’s really what I would bring to the next big project that we do.
Riot: Alright, thanks a lot Eduardo. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us about the art of Dominion, and what it was like to work on the Crystal Scar.