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10-09-2012   #1 (permalink)
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Default IronStylus Discussing Gender Diversity and Representation

IronStylus, one of Riot's Senior Concept Artists, has been quite the busy bird lately! He has contributed over 50 replies to a forum thread entitled "@Riot A serious discussion about gender. Please read".

Continue reading for selection of the aforementioned replies, including Iron Stylus's thoughts about gender diversity as it relates to the champion roster, some overarching ideals Riot is grasping for, a little bit about the projects he's worked on, and so much more!

For starters, I'd like to warn you that this is a very long series of posts and replies. The thread doesn't come right out and spoil future content or mention concrete changes to anything, but it does ooze with the thoughts and ideas that fuel the some of the bright minds who shape League of Legends.

The well thought out, summoner created thread that started the whole thing was poised with the thesis " My argument is that female champions are treated differently, and that there is less diversity amongst the female cast members." and good ole IronStylus did a fantastic job at engaging the community in a relevant discussion, including about character interpretation, theme, and future creative plans. If you have time, I'd highly recommend you read through the entire post , even if you just skim through the Red Posts. Seeing as how I imagine you wouldn't have got this far if you DID have all that extra time, here is a recap including some of the more interesting or revealing posts ( rearranged a little so they flow better ) :

For a bit of context, I'll preface the whole thing with a post about what IronStylus has worked that comes about mid way through the thread. Everyone in the community knows him as the artist behind Leona and Diana, but he has had a hand in so much more!
"From the ground up: Leona, Talon, Skarner, Xerath, Graves, Diana.

Concept/Production art: Sejuani, Ahri, Viktor, Volibear.

Skins: Midnight Ahri, Subterranean Nautilus, and a pile of others you haven't seen.

Currently working on 2 other champions in the pipeline and a few reworks.

The next champion you'll see that I worked on.. good god.. it's got me written all over it."
In his first reply of the thread, he speaks to his thoughts on the issue of diversifying the female form and comments that it is something his fellow employees, including the art director, are aware of.
"Funny thing is that a very nice young lady came and talked to me on the floor of the finals about this very same issue. She made similar points which I.. ya know.. agreed with, like I tend to on these subjects. That said, I don't think I can possibly address the entirely of this pose aside from stating what I've stated before. I believe we need to have breadth, depth and contrast in our characters. We need to have archetypal characters and non-conventional. This goes the same for body types, in this particular case, female body types.

Recently I've been doing some core exploratory work on our champions, past and present. I've developed an even more concrete belief that we need to vary female forms as our game angle requires pretty drastic differentiation in proportions between characters, especially females, to make them truly read as different. Right now, on paper, many of our females read differently, but when plugged into game angle they read as very similar body types. Diana, though having a pretty curvy lower body (larger thighs) and trimmer upper body with smaller breasts still looks in the same general category as Syndra though she's pretty overall standard voluptuous. My bad there. I might have pushed proportions on Diana even further. In fact, I'd like to go back to Diana and push proportions. I think we've standardized our females far too much, producing mainly costume changes. I really want us to focus on stylizing our females as much as we do with our males.

Make no mistake, this is something we have our eye on. I had a discussion with our Art Director about this issue just the other day. We want that barbarian woman who can smash any guy she might encounter, we want us to get the spindly tank-girl type who's far less exposed, we want utilitarian, we want majestic, we want creepy, we want it all. We also do want sexy, in all it's variations. "
Sort of speaking to the same topic, he later gave a small run down of a few female champions who have worked and translated well
"Consensus wise, and these might be more archetypal, some designs we feel work when it comes to females (and this is going to be contrast-y because this is all dependent on context) are Miss Fortune, the new Katarina, Lux, the new Soraka, Ahri, Vayne, Leona, Riven, and a bunch of others. This means that these are widely agreed on as examples which are cohesive themes. Are some of them well covered? Yes. Are some of them busting out of their clothes? Yes. Are some in armor? Yes. Are some in elegant dress or next to nothing? Yes. Because this is all about context. If theme is cohesive, the character works.

There are a lot more successes, and indeed some failures that we agree on."
With all this talk of making things "sexy" and "attractive", IronStylus had this to say in response to concerns from summoners worried Riot may redesign an aesthetically displeasing champions in an effort to "force it" into being visually attractive.
"There is no such effort to force ugly champions as we have decided and mentioned that we don't feel our traditionally "ugly" characters work on certain levels, but the past is the past. Our goal is to make the appropriate choices for a character driven by the goals that we establish early on, namely, again, what is best for the character in its context of theme, kit, etc. There is never an effort, nor an edict, nor an initiative to "de-uglify" or "up-uglify" our characters. They will be as "attractive", "sexy", "ugly", "monstrous", or whatever other subjective descriptors that exist as they need to be for their own unique cases."
Interestingly enough, he also hosted a story time regarding a creating more variety by giving the example of himself taking a champion that is currently in development and shifting it from a male to a female character in order to help diversity the female roster.
"Never have I EVER heard at Riot that we are motivated by *** to sell content. Do I think we on occasion reduce the solution to our challenges via the easy route of stripping down a character? Yes. As I said, I want us to be more clever. We can always remove, we can't always add.

True story: There's a champion in the pipeline which I saw a prime example to make into a strong, non-sexualized, and heroic female because it was fertile ground. It was initially supposed to be a guy. So what did I do? I made it. When are you going to see it? Probably not until next year. In the meantime you will indeed see some "sexy" here and there. That's that whole variety thing, and maybe some cases (which might irk players who want a bit more skin coverage) are situations that I couldn't come in on my grand steed of prudence to say, "hey! cover up that boob window!", because I HATE undermining an artists' confidence in their ability or creativity. I am not the lone voice on what is appealing. I should never dictate my views unless I take substantial issue with the content being created."
He also jumped over to discussing male champions a bit by mentioning Varus in particular, as he was referenced in the original post as being the only over sexualized male character.
"You also brought up something in there interesting about Varus. He is one of the only examples we have of a different take on males. We tend to make our males of sort of three types. Athletic, Heroic, or Hulk. So, Singed, Garen, and Mundo respectively. That generalization but there you have it. Varus hits a great sweet spot. He's quite androgynous, a bit more anime archetype. He's sleek, trim and mildly feminine, but dang is that ever sexy as far as Iím concerned! "
He also talked a bit about Sejuani and the problems she faces identity wise
"We actually had a ridiculously heavy armored version of the Dark Rider Sejuani, it was epic. I however was working on other stuff when that was getting worked on and somehow we ended up stripping off tons of armor. I have no idea why.

You can be harsh on the base Sejuani. I am! I've talked a whole lot about how I like it's concept but not it's context. Chick on giant pig in leather bikini? Cool, she must be from a wasteland where cow remnants are scant and ridable pigs prevelant. Chick on giant pig in leather bikini from the tundra? *record scratch* Yeah, I have a problem now. We did a cool concept and a cool character, but we needed to tie those together better and even push Sejuani's body type more barbaric. Hind-sight is 20/20 though. (Also I was pretty new then)

You'll never see heels on a female that I design, I cannot vouch for the rest of the team, though. There may be heels incoming, please don't hurt me!"
He brought her up again in another post, within the same thread, saying:
"Because in my opinion Sejuani looks genuinely out of place. If I can so easily go into her splash art and change a) the color of her horn, hair, pig, and flail b) put her in a desert and she can be right at home, we've fallen short.

Also, I'm actually completely with you in that I think it's silly that Tryn is from the frozen wastes and he's sans shirt. I think even that Ashe is wearing thigh-highs is a bit silly. But, I am in no way going to go back and nuke what has become iconic and cool.

Regardless of that practicality, they're iconic. I think Sejuani is what I spoke about before. An easy solution which could have been more clever."
Replying to someone who begged Riot to refrain from "tampering" with their old favorites with visual updates, IronStylus responded appropriately with and explanation of what this reworks accomplish, mentioning Sivir as an example.
"...We're going to go back into champions that need visual reworks to up fidelity but retain iconicism, but also to maintain or more heavily reinforce their theme. So, theoretically, if I were to rework Sivir I'd keep her that Wonder Woman/Xena style powerhouse that she is. I would keep her outfit minimal and I'd push her proportions more to make her as imposing and powerful as she should be."
In closing IronStylus built up a big, yet informative, wall of text for us, summarizing his thoughts throughout the thread and reiterating a few of the major points.
"If we as content producers hope to keep producing content we must evolve and diversify. I will still maintain that we have a LOT of diversity in League of Legends. Could we have more? Absolutely. We're going to make plenty more champions, and we're going to push our limits. Yes, we may now and again float back to a place where things standardize for a while, but the hope is that even when we produce something archetypal is that it's fresh in it's own way and released in a cadence with possibly more experimental or unconventional characters.

We will be producing characters which push our silhouettes, not just costumes. We will be exploring characters that appeal to our female audience, we will visit the subject of diversity in shape, color, size, etc. My belief is that we do have a good handle on things. We have produced characters that last. We will take another look at characters we feel could use some updating. This will take time to work through the backlog an into release however, please be patient. This won't come in a torrent either, it will come in the form of hopefully a steady cadence which is refreshing each time. Will every character cater to everyone? No, nor should they. The job of our game is to create a world where everyone can identify with one or many characters, not a world where each character is appealing across the board. Some designs will enamor certain people, other designs might turn some people off. That's the nature of producing a rich world. Eliciting an emotion either way.

Any character content however is not produced to cater to a specific group. It is never the intention to appease or be reactionary. The motivation for any choice when developing a character is simply to do what's best for the character, to create a living fantasy which someone will latch onto. The creation of that fantasy alone dictates where we go from there. Luckily, fantasy comes in so many varied and wonderful forms. We are only limited to how much we may constrain ourselves.

We have so much to draw from and to create. A great start is always what comes from our community, what comes from threads like these. You should know that you do indeed have the power to shape what we release. We want to be clever just like you."

Surrender at 20: IronStylus Discussing Gender Diversity and Representation
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10-10-2012   #2 (permalink)
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I actually didn't realise the human male champs (minus Ezreal, Varus) were a bunch of middle aged/older men until reading this. lol interesting.
10-10-2012   #3 (permalink)
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Didn't think of Ezreal as middle-aged at all. :|
10-10-2012   #4 (permalink)
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I want more sexy, shirtless male support characters.
That's all I'm asking for.


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