League Of Legends Changes Champion's Looks, Fans Flip Out

League Of Legends Changes Champion's Looks, Fans Flip Out

Changing a playable character in League of Legends runs the risk of offending at least part of the online multiplayer game's tens of millions of players. But I'm not sure development studio Riot Games could've predicted what set off fans this week: a slight alteration to a woman's cheekbones. Oh, and her bangs.

The owner of the offending cheekbones is Fiora, a duelist champion who looks sort of like a high fantasy version of a fencer -- only people actually die in her fencing matches. Until a few days ago, this is what Fiora looked like in League of Legends:

League Of Legends Changes Champion's Looks, Fans Flip Out

On Tuesday of this week, Riot put out one of its increasingly common character reworks -- visual and mechanical updates to a champion who's been around for years and has started to seem dated compared to all the new stuff popping up around him or her. Fiora's gameplay qualities were overhauled in this redesign, a change that most vocal players seem to be excited about. But when it comes to her visual update, fans sound aghast and disgusted. Some just don't like her new look, but there's a subtext that she's just not that hot now that she looks older, more middle-aged.

Here is what the new splash art for Fiora's character looks like:

League Of Legends Changes Champion's Looks, Fans Flip Out

Many outspoken fans recoiled in horror when Riot first posted the new Splash art in an announcement of Fiora's rework, seeing the changes to her hair and facial structure as a massive "downgrade," to quote one critic on the League of Legends forums. Just as quickly, they began editing the new splash art on their own to try and give Fiora her old face back. Like this one

League Of Legends Changes Champion's Looks, Fans Flip Out

Or this one:

League Of Legends Changes Champion's Looks, Fans Flip Out

Or this one from Reddit:

League Of Legends Changes Champion's Looks, Fans Flip Out

You get the idea.

Other angry fans, meanwhile, just implored Riot to toss the visual update entirely, saying that Fiora didn't even need to get a makeover since fans already liked her the way she was.

A champion's face is difficult to see and pay much attention to when you're actually playing League of Legends, given the game's birds-eye view of the battlefield. People got pissed at Fiora's makeover anyway. The game's official message boards have been acerbic in their response to Riot. Scanning through the front page of the League of Legends boards as I write this, there are a dozen different threads complaining about Fiora. One of them is actually complaining about having so many posts complaining about Fiora. The uproar has been intense enough that Riot developers have started appearing apologetically in these same forums to say they're going to continue "iterating" on the champion's design.

What's so upsetting about Fiora's rework? The specific answer changes depending on who's explaining their grievances, but they all have one thing in common: the new Fiora has been slapped "with the ugly stick," as one person described her on the League boards.

One common criticism I've seen is that people feel she looks old and frumpy in comparison to the old Fiora. Some have compared her to Cruella de Vil, saying the original Fiora is a young and spry swordfighter, not some evil old crone.

Others don't feel the same way about her age, they just say she's ugly. One popular meme has compared her unfavorably to the female love interest in Pixar's Ratatouille.

League Of Legends Changes Champion's Looks, Fans Flip Out

I can empathise with player frustration about character changes in League of Legends in theory. Fiora first came out in February 2012, meaning some people could've easily spent three and a half years playing with her at this point. They have grown attached to her, studied the granular details and rough edges of her silhouette over countless hours spent staring at her in games.

Then, suddenly, all of that changes. And unlike a lot of other games that came out at the beginning of 2012, League of Legends players have no ability to just keep the game and their favourite character the way they want them to be. If they want to keep playing with her at all, they have to accept this bastardized version of the thing they once loved.

I get why people would be frustrated, very frustrated when the changes to a champion seem extreme. I've also found part of the blowback to Fiora's rework alarming. It seems conservative and even retrograde.

Fiora is one in a long line of League of Legends women champions who've helped cement the genre's ubiquitous "sexy MOBA lady" aesthetic. Her base character skin (the original model) is actually the tamest of her appearances in this regard. There's also the sexy schoolteacher Fiora, who coyly plays with a ruler instead of a fencing sabre:

League Of Legends Changes Champion's Looks, Fans Flip Out

...or sexy "nightraven Fiora":

League Of Legends Changes Champion's Looks, Fans Flip Out

As you'll notice, both of these character skins play up the fact that Fiora has a lot of cleavage. She hasn't gotten all of her new splash art yet, but the redone in-game appearances of her other skins show a character that's more noticeably different because she isn't salaciously dressed, not because she looks older.

League Of Legends Changes Champion's Looks, Fans Flip Out

Her breasts are now covered, her waist is wider. Some detractors on Reddit took to caller her "social justice warrior Fiora," the implication being that Riot's caved to feminist criticisms of the way League of Legends hyper-sexualizes the vast majority of its women champs.

You might jump to the conclusion that this is what all the complaints are really about. The majority of vocal fans who've been taking Riot to task over the past few days, however, haven't fixated on Fiora's breasts, and how much of them we get to see. They have been focused on her face, and maybe the bulkiness or frumpiness of her clothes compared to their once skin-tight fit.

It is nevertheless hard not to read into players' charges when they blast her for now looking like "a 50 year old cosplayer," and "not even like MILF 40-50." Or when they decry the fact that she doesn't look like someone they'd want to have sex with anymore. Or when they say that her in-game face"looks like the nightmare child of Michael Jackson and Bruce Jenner."

It's also hard to dismiss the lingering feeling that the outcry against Fiora is a tad overblown considering, once again, that the entire upset is about some changes to her facial features...many of which don't relate to how she actually plays in the game itself directly. Other prominent women champs have gotten similar makeovers in recent months, and none of them have put the League-playing Internet on hold like Fiora's rework has. Is tamping down on a character's sex appeal the one thing that really gets people up in arms?

Pretend, for a moment, that Riot Games had set out to make Fiora look like Cruella de Ville. If they'd delivered a champion who actually did look substantially older than her previous incarnation, they would have instantaneously diversified the game's pool of women champions. As one fan smartly observed on Twitter, the accusations that Fiora suddenly looks like she's hit middle age reveal more about League of Legends' total lack of middle-aged female champs that anything about her character specifically.

Diversity is a value that Riot constantly promotes in its game -- telling fans that they keep balancing and rebalancing champions' abilities and stats to help keep the champion pool as lively and welcoming as possible. This week's backlash is a reminder of the strong social pressures that may slow League of Legends from actually diversifying itself.

To contact the author of this post, write to [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq.


Comments

    Urgh, it's like Mirrors Edge all over again. People are annoyed that she's not young and hot.

      I always thought Faith was a young and fairly attractive woman..

      I don't think that's why people are annoyed about the Fiora redesign. But hey, it's about a female champion so obviously everyone complaining just wants her to be as attractive and sexualized as possible, right?

      Seems reasonable that people that have become accustomed to and paid for a champion, would have an objection to that champion going from "young and hot" to not so. Maybe Riot could keep the re-skin as separate purchase option for those want this version and for the sake of diversity. Something tells me that Riot wouldn't have had this kind of feedback if it was a newly proposed middle-aged female champion. But maybe Riot knows something about the commercial viability of this type of champion that I don't, and hence it's lack of representation.

      Last edited 25/07/15 5:11 am

      To be fair, I think Yannick has strayed into the realm of the 'tut tut' a little indulgently in his article. Whatever reasons people have for disliking the change, who are we to judge? People think the revision is ugly? Dislike the hair? Dislike the clothes? Nothing wrong with any of that. The conspiracy theories about SJW Fiona are a bit laughable, but in today's socio-political climate, you can understand how they might think that.

      (I actually like the new Faith. I liked the old one as well. I am worried they are going to retcon Merc and Kate out of the story though).

      Wait... wha? What's wrong with Faith?

        Some people thought she was too old and ugly. So they gave her triple D breasts.

    Damn, that's horrible.

    Riot has been making some questionable changes of late, I'm glad I stopped playing when I did.

    More gold to appeal to the Asian market? (no offence meant)

    Speaking as someone who has about 0.0000001% interest in LoL (that amount is only because I have friends who are obsessed with it), I think the new design is a bit silly really...

    Just look at that first image comparison (I assume that's the default skin), the old style is clearly dark - black, grey/white and red colours, the hair colour/style, etc. Then compare that to the new version - Gold, bright green, bright pink/purple.... what? Shouldn't part of a character's core design be their style/colour palette?
    As someone who does enjoy Heroes of the Storm, I'd be pretty pissed off too if they suddenly made Sylvanas a pregnant woman with rainbow armour (just a random example) - I wouldn't complain about that being a new skin or new character but there are lore reasons Sylvanas is how she is...

    As to the 'older woman' thing in general, does the game need more older women champions/more diversity in general? probably, I wouldn't really know (I don't play it) but again, do that with NEW characters, don't change characters people love just for 'diversity.' It's the whole female Link BS all over again.

      I can kind of get where you're coming from, especially about how silhouette and colour palette are important for identication; it shouldn't even matter that players have to learn a new colour:silhouette association when new skins come out. Then you lose me, quickly, oh so quickly, when you prance off across the fields, breadcrumbs of "gah, spurious pregnancy" and "irrelevant gender whatevers" trailing behind you.

      A cool feature of note is that character stance and silhouette are conserved in the new design, according to the comparison pictures. Pretty much looks like the character has a new set of skins, or really just a new set of colours for players to learn.

    I play Heroes of the Storm, my two heroes of choice is Nova and Sylvanas...

    I am used to playing Nova the redhead (basically Kerrigan pre-zerg look achieved with red colour unlock) and Sylvanas in elven-commander/general outfit and colours (this one costs money).

    The girls kick butt and I like their looks... I would be taken back if Blizzard removed them or change them as well, probably not to the point that I would complain on the forums but still.

    I have a feeling that this, at least in some cases, has a lot to do with character ownership and ability to relate to him/her, often seen in role playing games. Now I know that HoTS is not a role playing game but at the same time I still appreciate an ability to customise a hero just the way I like them because I actually am passionate role player myself...

    Furthermore I go out of my way to role play those characters...what does that mean? In non ranked or against AI matches as Sylvanas I will always go for Arthas as a priority target and kill him if/every chance I get, as Nova I will go after other StarCraft heroes first... especially Zerg and Protoss. So I guess this is my way of enriching my game play :)

    Nothing wrong with developers letting people do their own thing from time to time, unless of course you play Destiny where Bungie tells you how you should play and you just take it.

    Last edited 24/07/15 8:27 pm

      I get you. While it seems ridiculous at the surface level that people seem to be so fixated on the appearance, facial features and clothing of the new Fiora look, it's more to do with the fact they've just completely changed a champion who is iconic to those who play her. It's like if suddenly Master Chief became an ex SAS commander and wore a old school 60s space suit with kevlar on top. Or if Sylvanas suddenly becomes some haggard witch archetype. Outfits, I honestly don't mind, but to suddenly and so abruptly change the character's facial features is akin to unannounced plastic surgery on a prominent actor or actress whom you only realise have changed when you see their new movie. It just seems off.

      Last edited 25/07/15 11:19 am

    I can understand the outrage.
    It's not a case of "they covered her boobs, they ruined her character".
    It's basically a new person by the same name.

    Though personally, I've never been a fan of the cheekbones, so I agree with the "downgrade" comments

    As long as anyone doesn't have a problem with the bangs, it's whatever.
    I really do love that whole dark-hair+purple/red/pink-dyed bangs look. Thumbs up on that part. New armour colouring seems garishly tacky, though.

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