Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Champion Concept: Elle

Concept Lore
Elle is the last of her kind. She arrived on the shores of Valoran from a distant continent, half dead and missing an arm. When Elle was healthy and able to communicate -- she told stories about how an unstoppable evil burnt and leveled her forest home, and people, to ash. Now she participates in the League to hone her skills, and prepare for the time that evil finds it's path to Valoran's shores as well.

Concept Game-Play
Elle is an AD assassin that focuses on quick bursts of damage and Eve-like stealth mechanics. Additionally -- Elle abilities have an after effect of healing allies who happen to be in the path of her bursts. Assassin's usually have one role in games, and as their namesake states -- it's to assassinate single targets, or targets with low health. While Elle may not (and should not) be able to do this as easily as other assassins, I thought that she would be a character who brings more to team-fights than traditional assassins, by healing allies who get caught in her abilities' paths.

Art Direction
Elle's art direction comes from a myriad of archetypes and tropes. There's a dual reasoning behind this. The first was to combine aspects of my favorite characters from other games, shows, and movies. The second was to make an attempt at new techniques I've been studying (which are hopefully improving myself as an artist). Elle's major influences come from traditional woodland elves, and League has no traditional Elven race.

So let's talk the details of the art direction here. I'm sure many viewing this can spot some really obvious aspects and traits of some of my favorite things in this character...

1. I've been reading a lot of books by Andrew Loomis in an attempt to push my work further into the next level. So to start, I played at making the character proportionate. So after a quick sketch, I made the character seven heads tall. So yes -- she is proportionate. I knew this character was going to be an elf assassin, so she's not bearing any heavy armor, and she's thin. She also uses a long handled blade, (the actual name of this weapon eludes me at the moment) it's purposes is for quick, ranged slashing (not stabbing, parrying, or deflecting). She has a scarf to designate speed and agility. Originally, Elle did not have a missing arm. But during the sketch, I made her right arm thinner and thought; if Elle had a mechanical arm, her right side would seem like a frightening fast extension of her already quick blade. So I gave her a hextech arm in place of a real one. I also enjoy characters who are slightly "damaged" because their faults have visual history; "how did that happen?".

2. After the initial sketch, I started in on my line work. This phase of the line work is tighter than the sketch, but still fairly loose. It's is merely an attempt to pull out the details from the scribbles of #1. It was here I decided that Elle would have a body suit, as opposed to a thin suit of intertwining plates or scales.

3. #3 is a line work stage that defines the details and the character as a whole. It's the final tight stage before more intricate work begins.

4. In this stage, I started thinking of what influences were coming to the table, and where Elle would end up. I dropped a base light source on her -- nothing final, just something to get an idea of light.

5. I knew, as an Elf -- I wanted to dictate Elle's color scheme as "woodland". So I went with a strong green for her character base, bronze for her shadows, and yellow-green for her highlights.

6. After I had all the color bases down, Elle started to take shape. And now I'll explain her influences by addressing her own traits. Her scarf is to designate agility and speed. This was something I always loved from Hotsuma of PS2's "Shinobi". I decided that the scarf would be the visual silhouette that set Elle apart from other champions on screen. So as her "banner", it would of course have to be green to represent her woodland nature and former home.

Her body suit is a bronze, saturated khaki color. The reason I chose the body suit for Elle is because it is another easy way to designate agility and speed. But additionally, I wanted to make Elle something of a "survivor". Her entire life has changed, and battle has become her new life. This character is the last of her race -- she has a tragic origin. So I took influence of making the body suit a little more military in looks, as the BB Corps wear body suits in "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots". Now Elle is designated as still agile, still fast, but in preparation for a coming war.

Lastly, Elle's overall look (and what I envision as her fighting looks like) comes from the character Lightning of "Final Fantasy XIII". Elle bears a heavier design on one side and a sleeker bearing on the other, akin to Lightning. Elle is no longer a warmhearted elf -- her homeland has been razed and her people murdered -- she herself has become cold, and closed to others.

7. This is where I took what I learned and started moving forward with Elle's design -- keeping in mind all that I wanted to accomplish with her character (while still pulling from so many influences). I added a realism base to eradicate sketch lines and outlines.

8. Finally, I detailed Elle in realist style painting, making sure to pronounce her attributes as militaristic and agile. To further the effect, I chose to tone back the green in her scarf, and up the green in her body suit. While this did ultimately make Elle appealing in a military aimed fashion -- I feel it derailed her too much. Additionally, Elle received a leaf pendent inlaid with emeralds to provide further evidence of her previous life, and what she is about. Feeling that Elle still needing something, I added a pack strapped to her hip. This was added to balance out the offset weight, caused by the difference in her arms, and the negative space provided by her body suit.

9. The final version had it's colors reverted, and additional care was placed on Elle's design. I thoroughly enjoyed working on Elle, and I feel that the concepts came together quite nicely. This was much needed practice with new techniques -- so while I am happy with the result, it is still a ways off of what I aim to accomplish with my concepts. I hope you enjoyed Elle's design, and kudos to you if you made it this far in the text.