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Visual Upgrades & Downgrades – StrategyZero
Oct 162015
Zombie Brand Splash Art

A visual update is supposedly good news and an event too look forward to. When they are effective they can rejuvenate a champion and make them shine by reigniting the dimming light they once had. Some updates are more extensive than others but in all cases they should feel as an upgrade. It was like that initially, the first visual update, for Kayle, and subsequent ones until Master Yi were quite effective in polishing the visuals while keeping their style intact.

Kayle Visual Update

With the updates successes and the growth of the game it became evident that a more organized approach was necessary. That prompted the birth of the visual upgrade team. It’s not clear when they were completely established but looking at the visual upgrades there is an evident change in their approach. The process was optimized to make the most of the classic appearance and that’s an aspect where it has largely succeeded. Sadly, the visual update of skins feels like an afterthought. All resources go to classic and the skin updates seem standardized so as to do the minimum necessary with the least possible. The turning point was Master Yi but as he had mostly old and cheap skins they largely benefitted from the update. Not Headhunter though and that was the first indicator. The next visual upgrade still is the most eloquent example: Garen.

The Effects of Standardization

Garen Visual Update

A quick look at Garen’s visual update reveals the improvement on his classic look: more polished yet perfectly recognizable. On the other hand, his skins, except for Steel Legion, turned into retouched versions of the classic incarnation. For former re-textures, like Sanguine and Desert Trooper, it was an upgrade but for those that were full re-models the adherence to the classic style has taken away part of their unique identity; Dreadknight and Rugged are good examples. Therefore, while Classic Garen might as well be upgraded some skins can seem downgraded.

When dealing with human champions it’s understandable that their physiognomy won’t be altered significantly but the clothes and weapons should seek as much variation as possible to make up for it. The small modifications of the classic armour leave the skins feeling too similar as if produced serially. It makes them less satisfying as a result of not communicating their message as clearly as they once did. It also means that opportunities are missed to make small but relevant and desirable changes to skins that can considerable help in making them stand on their own. For instance, Bewitching Nidalee’s received bat particles after the visual upgrade; though the model didn’t get better when comparing with the old one.

Miss Fortune Visual Update

Things have improved a bit lately as Miss Fortune’s visual upgrade demonstrates. The classic human base is clearly familiar but the clothes have tried to set each skin concept apart. There’s still a noticeable influence of the classic style on the other skins. Road Warrior was notable for skewing high heels in favour of more practical boots which were more suitable for a wasteland. The visual upgrade returned the high heels even though the sexy angle is clear enough without them. In general, while the skins may not be considered improved strictly speaking the refinement of the looks is appreciated and none have actually gotten worse.

Gangplank Visual Update

The evolution seems to go on, or so it’s expected. Gangplank’s skins not only make radical changes to his gear but also dare to touch his human body and make some minor but welcome alterations to better present each skin concept. Perhaps it’s due to the notorious transformation that Gangplank suffered that his skins managed to receive deeper changes. Whatever the reason, it’s a certain step in the right direction. Maybe not all skins really improved but some definitely did and in all cases none lost any features. That’s something that should never happen whether by offering less model changes or reusing particles.

Particle Updates

Zombie Brand was never the best example of how to make distinct particles but the wavy flames and their gaseous feel gave the abilities a unique style. It was nothing groundbreaking but it showed that some care went into making a legendary skin feel different in all aspects. Come Brand’s visual effects upgrade and all that is practically gone. There are some traces left but Zombie Brand’s particles look almost the same as Classic and so it goes down a star in its rating.

Brand Particle Update

Ghost Bride Morgana also suffered from a similar issue. Her particles were the base for the VFX update and so it no longer looks as special as it did; which made the skin lose a star. It’s agreeable that in general terms the look of Morgana’s abilities is better. However, part of what set Ghost Bride apart was lost but not simply because its particles were used as a base. The real problem is that the other skins copy the visuals too closely and don’t differentiate themselves enough from it: they merely repaint them for the most part.

Ghost Bride Morgana

It could be that Headhunter Master Yi was the first example of a skin that lost particles after a visual update: Wuju Style no longer has flames and Alpha Strike looks flatter. This is a serious matter because we are not only talking about paid products that lose features but also about the fact that it’s not an isolated occurrence. It affects normal 975 RP skins just as it affects Zombie Brand, an expensive legacy and legendary skin. These skins, among others, have practically lost its special particles, a relevant feature, and that is unacceptable. Besides, the fact that for some time skins have been losing features in the name of visual updates makes for a bad trend and a poor irony.

It also raises some eyebrows that just after special particles are removed from the most expensive Brand skin a new one comes offering exactly that. While Zombie Brand particles were never revolutionary they felt different enough so as to have a different style and not be just a re-colour like Cryocore’s. Now Spirit Fire arrives to feel the void of new particles in Brand and at 1350 RP to boot. Even if it’s a coincidence, as a legendary skin Zombie Brand shouldn’t have to be treated like an average product that can lose features without anyone batting an eye. In fact, no skin should.

Spirit Fire Brand Splash Art

This trend is particularly undesirable to players but also to Riot because it makes skins less desirable in two ways. First, if you own a skin you can never tell for how long a feature that you like will remain until and update removes it or reduces it considerably. Second, if you don’t own a skin you have to consider liking more than just one feature as it could be removed at any time. Therefore, it affects past costumers but also future buyers equally.

In the end, features in any paid product should never be lost. We can argue about how much of an improvement a visual update manages and there are examples of some that are better than others. In all cases, if a skin has special effects a visual upgrade not only shouldn’t remove them but should improve and accentuate them. It’s the ideal chance to make a champion more interesting but also the skins more attractive.

For a small, indie developer, as Riot was in its beginnings, cutting corners is excusable. For the most played game on the planet, one that reaches to millions of players and that has access to vast resources as demonstrated by their tournament excesses, well, cutting corners becomes a little bit more difficult to justify. Tournaments can and should shine but so should the game itself; in all aspects.

References: Champion Update Schedule

  12 Responses to “Visual Upgrades & Downgrades”

  1. This was a pleasure to read, I can empathize with everything that is said here. I am very happy to see something new like this, since usually it is just sales, bundles, new skin reviews, etc.. I would just like to point out there are a couple of spelling mistakes up there, you should always consider spellchecking everything more than once before posting.
    All that you said really does leave one thinking: Should I buy this skin now or not? Take for example Ravenborn LeBlanc, I had been wanting to buy that skin for such a long time now, and the Harrowing is just around the corner, when I will have the chance. However, looking at LeBlanc, it is clear she could use some visual work: make her movements smoother, her particles less solid, somewhat on the scale of Miss Fortune’s visual upgrade. If they did that yes the classic would be much better, but what will be left of Ravenborn? That is one reason I am hesitant to buy it. I do love everything about the skin, from the dress to the particles to their lovely sounds. So I suppose even if LeBlanc gets visual love from Riot, Ravenborn will still remain appealing.

    • Glad that you like the article. We definitely would like to write more about other stuff that isn’t just reviews but we also want to have something worth saying. For that reason, the article took a while and we don’t write articles as often as we would like.

      Believe it or not we always read everything several times before publishing, even with a spellchecker, but somehow errors keep escaping through the seams. If you spot some we’d be grateful for the corrections. One of these days we’ll do something drastic about them: this tovn isn’t big enough for both spelling mistakes and us.

      With regards to Ravenborn LeBlanc we think that even with a visual upgrade it would still stand out among the Deceiver’s skins. It’s true that she doesn’t have that many and that all the others are just re-models. Still, unless Classic LeBlanc unashamedly copied most of Ravenborn the skin would still be worthwhile.

      There’s also the fact that there isn’t yet a proper visual upgrade announced for LeBlanc so in the meantime Ravenborn has much to offer. You could even catch it on a bundle along a discount if you find one that includes it and that has skins that you like. It has happened, twice, but more often than not bundles are all over the place with the skins included.

      It’s difficult, at the least, to say if Ravenborn would always stay as special as it is now. A visual upgrade should, ideally, improve all skins equally but we know that it’s not what always happens. In the end, the best approach is probably to buy what you really like. If you like everything that Ravenborn offers then a visual upgrade could take away a thing or two but not everything; unless Classic became Ravenborn. It’s still something possible, anything is in this world, but a bit of a stretch we think; especially without some compensation yet, still.

  2. Great point made here. As an avid follower of your blog, i’d love to see more news related articles aside from just the the reviews and sale updates. Keep it up!

    • Glad that you like the article. We’d like to write more that isn’t just news and reviews. We need to have something worth saying and let it simmer for a while to make it a good read. Nevertheless, it’s an angle that we should explore more.

      • Not just that though. It’s been FOREVER since I’ve seen articles over strategies or item analyses from you guys. Don’t get me wrong, I read and enjoy every post you guys put up, but I really miss that stuff too. I mean c’mon, it’s in the subtitle to the website. Either way, thanks for being one of my favorite sites on the internet.

        • The point is that item analysis were rather mathy and there are other places with advice from the pros that are better at providing strategies. Besides, the vast majority of visits go straight for the reviews.

          We still have a few useful articles like the Effective Health article. As that is all about game theory it hasn’t felt the passing of time.

          With the constant update of items the analysis have lost much of their use. Besides, it’s all about builds and not sheer numbers so their use is also questionable.

          That being said, we agree that we should write more content that isn’t just reviews. This article seems to have had a good reception and the game is more than just skins and champions.

  3. I cant agree more Zero. me too think that no skins should lost its own special feel because of visual update. riot could make them look different from another couldn’t they. maybe the guys at riot just being lazy

    • Indeed, it’s somewhat unfair that a skin loses features because of a visual upgrade. We wouldn’t really say that Riot is being lazy; unless we wanted to work them up a bit. It’s more probable that Riot is biting more than it can chew. After all, there are well over one hundred champions in the game and more than five hundred skins. On top of that, all content has to be kept up to date as the game has a permanent nature instead of relying on sequels. Add to that that they are always creating more content and there’s simply no dam that can hold this river.

      While we don’t think that Riot should stop creating content we do think that they should concentrate more in updating and improving what’s already there. It’s a huge resource that often seems to be ignored in favour of new additions. We understand that new content sells the most at release but why can’t they re-release content? For instance, do a pass on some skins adding some necessary features like a few particles and then make it a special event.

      Riot has scaled down the champion release lately but skins keep pouring nonstop. There was a time when they slowed down a bit but nowadays there’s no way of having a patch without new skins; most of the time more than one. Fair enough, they need to sell to stay profitable but new content it’s not all they have and there’s interest in old content as legacy sales and limited skins have proved. At the very least, it’s something that should be seriously explored as it could improve the game in a more general way than simply adding more to the huge lot that is already there.

  4. Love you guys down and SZ HQ. Nice to see a mix-up of the articles you are choosing to wright. Hate to be that guy, but just trying to help that under the particles section “make distinct particles but they wavy flames” think they should be the if im not mistaken. Anyways keep doin what your doin guys!

  5. Love these articles! Nice as always, Zero.

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