Late 2013, we gave a super early preview of an eastern-inspired, serpentine storm dragon named **Ao Shin** that was in the first phases of champion creation. Then, in the two years that passed (aside from a few comments in low-key conversations) we went silent. Totally a mistake on our part, and the mystery around this dragon has only increased over time. We’ve seen the question of “Ao Shin where?” pop up all over the place, including being one of the most asked questions in our recently hosted preseason Q&A in China.
Now that 2016 is upon us and production schedules are being finalized for early this year, we finally have an update: the dragon that we previewed in 2013 has evolved tremendously over time. As such, we will ***not*** be releasing the champion that you know as Ao Shin, but in the first half of this year we ***will*** be releasing a dragon champion. His name is (tentatively) Aurelion Sol.
We can’t say much more about Aurelion Sol, but we did want to share some of the challenges we faced and lessons we learned. While the major news is out of the bag, you can still read on if you want hear how the dragon formerly known as Ao Shin evolved over the course of two years.
First: Ao Shin’s kit just didn't pass muster. This is a pretty common problem we run into in the initial stage of champion creation, and while sometimes we can adjust on the fly (a usable ‘paper kit’ might have two or three core abilities that make things click), other times we need to shelve the entire concept and take a step back. Internally, we call this ‘ice boxing’ a champion until we can revisit with a fresh perspective.
Second: delivering on the unique shape of a serpentine dragon’s body - long and powerful - in a game where instantaneous turning is key presents some unique technical challenges. Given enough time, we were confident we could solve the turning problem, but because Ao Shin’s abilities weren’t coming together we were reluctant to commit to engineering work that might just end up scrapped.
Finally - and this was the big one - we committed too early to Ao Shin’s premise without really developing his thematic roots. Around the time we announced Ao Shin, we were in the process of slowing down our champion pipeline to figure out how to continue delivering resonant characters that feel unique to the League universe. We learned a lot during this time (still learning!) and when we examined Ao Shin with these new lessons - Why was he in Runeterra? What were his motivations? - we unearthed a fresh thematic that really set us off running.
So in the end, while we’re sorry to have hyped up the idea of a serpentine, storm-wielding dragon for so long, we’re still very excited to deliver a dragon champion this year that we hope you’ll love. Aurelion Sol’s got some big shoes (claws?) to fill, but we still like surprises so stay tuned - any of our next few champions could be him!