Originally Posted by IronStylus
I appreciate how this question was asked, so here's the deal with Sejuani.
A lot of what I'll say here has had its way paved by Morello in that he owns up to when we gaff up to something design-wise, I feel we did in fact gaff up art-wise with Sejuani, at least in terms of marrying concept with context. I shall explain..
I worked on Sejuani‘s production art, in that I did a turnaround of her after her concept had been fleshed out and approved. Basically, front, side, back, of both her and the boar. I actually wasn't working at Riot when I began working on her. I was a freelancer at the time and it was an assignment to work on the turnaround externally. The concept had been done in-house. I was actually fine with what I saw at the time as I said.. "Hey, it's a sword and sorcery type barbaric girl on a big boar, I can deal with that" We actually made her fairly muscular, but not beefy. Very in-shape, but attractive. We emphasized a very strong core on her and thicker legs, as she'd have to be really toned and muscular to a) control the animal she was on and b) swing that flail. For a barbarian gal, I thought it was in a decent range. At the time I didn't have much context so I filled in the blanks myself.
I arrived at Riot full time not long after I began working on Sejuani's turnaround. When I entered Riot it was actually the very first thing I worked on as it carried over from my freelance term. However, within a day it was interrupted by being tasked to work on the lady of my life, Leona. Sejuani was put on hold for a while. Volty, who worked on Sejuani was also diverted to Leona at that time I believe.
It wasn't until.. I'd have to check my file dates.. but I'm pretty sure not until I finished working on Talon or Xerath that I returned to Sejuani when we had planned to resume work on her. At that point I finished out her turnaround, at least the greyscale version. Another artist filled in the color work. It wasn't until a while later, at a review, where I learned about her backstory. At that point I learned she was Ashe's sister, was from Freljord, hailed from the tundra and... wait... why did we put her in a bikini?
Needless to say that was a bit of a red flag. At the time though, we were pretty deep into the production process for me to give any well-timed feedback. This was very much a crunch time and the last thing I wanted to do was to make anyone’s life more difficult by insisting we change a ton of stuff. The team as a whole had decided to move forward and I am always and will always be 100% with the team in supporting its decisions. We’re all grownups, we all make well-informed decisions. Even if I have concerns I know darn well the team will execute to the best of its ability. This is where my fault lies. I think I should have voiced my concern a little louder and/or earlier. So, I am absolutely responsible if indeed I did not share feedback appropriately if it was a big concern to me. A well informed opinion never falls on deaf ears here, so I fully accept responsibility for not pushing what I felt was important.
Regardless, Sejuani continued into production and was released. She was difficult for a lot of people considering how much work went into her. I will stand by the fact that despite some initial visual choices I find her quality to be good when it comes to polish and animation. I think she’s a neat character where we had to do some interesting things to overcome certain obstacles. It was also a very hectic time as we had a number of things on our plate simultaneously with upcoming champions. Sejuani was one of a few champions which I think could have marinated a little longer.
This is all the story of development though. We iterate, attempt, analyze and learn. It’s all a learning process with its share of successes and failures. Sejuani works in certain regards. In others I think she falls short. Visually, if someone were to give me the assignment today with the lore context, I’d have probably come up with something very similar to what you’ve suggested. Maybe an elegant but armored fur coat, or more selectively bundled up appearance that still shows she’s a strong, beautiful woman. Instead of a boar I’d have probably gone with a snow leopard, or maybe some other crazy beast more suited for a frozen wasteland. These are things we can indeed try in the future with skins. I think she might benefit for an overhaul in this way that could serve the fantasy we’re trying to communicate with her. This is where I emphasize that I think Sejuani works in concept but not in context. Right now, I agree that her current base visual design doesn’t work when you contextualize it with her background story. If she was in the desert, maybe. From the frozen north, not so much.
I think a lot of the artists feel similar to the way I do about Sejuani in retrospect. We’ve brought up the subject when looking back on her as we ideate skins. We think about the design when we’re developing look in conjunction with story,. That’s what’s great about development at this cadence. We get to learn from our experience so that we can iterate differently next time and use our arsenal of design appropriately.
I hope that was informative.