Special Champion Sneak Peek - The Nine Tails Fox
By Average Gatsby
Occasionally, we debut future champions a bit ahead of time because we're super excited about them and we just can't contain ourselves!
Let us introduce you to our take on the Asian legend of.
We think her combination of strength, beauty, power and grace will yield a fun and amazing champion to play! While she is very early in development, here's a little sneak peek at what she'll be able to do:
Based on the story of a fox who wanted nothing more than to become human, this champion will be a ranged caster who utilizes herto decimate her opponents on the battlefield. She's going to be extremely agile and versatile, using her nine tails to in and out of combat with style and grace. She will also make use of her , where she will summon balls of fire which will seek out and destroy nearby enemies.
She's very early in development, so as always her abilities and artwork are subject to change, but we hope you're as excited about her as we are!
Mechanics Preview - Ahri, the Nine-Tailed Fox
Back in the end of September, we announced The Nine Tails Fox much to the excitement of our community. Well the time has finally come and after much anticipation, we wanted to reveal the gameplay style for Ahri, the Nine-Tailed Fox.
gameplay style revolves around mobility and managing position to aim her spells. When played properly, Ahri darts around teamfights, picking off wounded stragglers and harrying soft enemies.
This is largely accomplished through her, which allows her to dash multiple times before going on cooldown. Ahri can either use all three quickly to chase, burst, or escape, or she can spread out their uses to keep enemies guessing and juke around the battlefield. Combining this with her high magic damage and her ability to lock enemies down, she can strike from unexpected angles or bait enemies into over-committing to disadvantageous situations.
Ahri's major gameplay decisions are based on her assessment of risk/reward. Her burst is high, but must be in short range to maximize it. This creates a dynamic that requires her to endanger herself to reach full potential. Play it safe and have more light damage, or commit and go for the kill? Use your dash for damage, or save it for escape? The choices are constant with these opposed strengths and weaknesses.
Her kit is really designed to appeal towards opportunistic players who prefer characters with a lot of action, and especially players that like to lull enemies into overconfidence, only to capitalize and punish them. Ahri's dangerous, seductive nature is something we're happy to deliver for players who like to toy with their enemies before destroying them.
By Nikki 'Bananaband1t' Brown
- DON'T YOU TRUST ME?
Every champion in League has a unique DNA, and it has nothing to do with biology. In champ design, DNA stands for design (gameplay), narrative (thematic and story), and art (...art). These three elements are the building blocks for every champion, and designers team up to make sure they fit together and elevate each other. Yet it wasn't always this way. Years ago, it wasn't uncommon for one of these pillars to lead the charge, with the others being molded around it. Ahri was one of those champions founded on thematic alone.
The goal for her was simple: Bring the story of the nine-tailed fox to League.
Myths about this cunning creature exist across Asia, and even though there are variations between countries, the core of the tale remains the same. Stories tell of a magical fox who can transform its appearance at will--which usually means it turns into a very attractive woman who uses beauty and charm to lure unsuspecting men to their doom. After killing the poor fools, the nine-tailed fox absorbs their life essence or eats their livers, hearts, or flesh, depending on the version.
Figuring out how to build Ahri's character based on these myths was tricky. For one, devs didn't want to just copy-paste an existing story into League. Ahri still needed to feel unique, even if she was based off of real-world myths.
Plus, there was the risk of potentially upsetting anyone who didn't feel like their version of the tale was accurately represented by Ahri. "Early on, we considered blending these stories into a cohesive whole," says senior game designer Colt "Ezreal" Hallam, "but we believed this would be disrespectful to each culture's individual stories."
Since Ahri was scheduled to release around the time we launched Korean servers, devs focused on gumiho, the Korean version of the nine-tailed fox. When gumiho transform, they maintain some of their fox-like characteristics, such as furry ears or nine tails. After killing their human prey, the gumiho either feast on their flesh or absorb their life essence, depending on the story. Gumiho are often seen as purely evil (sort of like old-school, non-sparkly vampires), so the challenge with Ahri was creating a more sympathetic character. "You want to feel like the protagonist when you play, even if what you're doing is villainous," says narrative writer Alex "Skribbles" Yee. "We had to find Ahri's motivation for killing so she'd feel more relatable."
Ahri's story tells of a clever fox who wished to become human. One afternoon, the fox stumbled upon the aftermath of a human battle and was drawn to a man taking his dying breaths. As the essence of life left his lips, Ahri the fox instinctively absorbed it and was partially transformed into a human. She was ridiculously beautiful--and knew the power that it held. Using her charm, she seduced men to their deaths, consuming more and more life essence in an attempt to become fully human. But with her growing humanity came a moral compass, and she soon found herself unable to kill without remorse.
This tale gave Ahri a motivation for murder that wasn't just in cold blood--she was driven by her desire to be human--while still reflecting the gumiho myths she was based on.
Bonus: Ahri was named by Korean players through a poll on the League of Legends website. She almost could've been Nabi, Danbi, Ruri, Dasom, or Chorong, but Ari won out. "Ari" literally means graceful and elegant in Korean, so the "h" was added to give her a more unique name.
- DEADLY CHARM
From the start, Ahri's abilities included an orb, a charm, fox-fire, and some kind of dash. This consistency is far from the norm in champ development, but because most of Ahri's abilities were directly based on her thematic, nothing drastically changed. Most alterations were subtle and aimed at making her kit feel as satisfying as possible.
Here's a list of Ahri's abilities we couldn't think of a clever subheader for:
- THERE AND BACK AGAIN
Nine-tailed foxes rely on their beauty to seduce victims, so there was no doubt that Ahri should be a very attractive character.
"When I drew Ahri," says senior concept artist Paul "RiotZeronis" Kwon, "my goal was for her to become the most beautiful, mystical, and elegant champion in the game."
At the time, RiotZeronis was a contractor, which meant he received an overview of Ahri's character in an email and then set out to draw the fox-like female. It was a fast sketch because she was moving quickly through development, but it only took one drawing to find the direction for League's nine-tailed fox. "Of all the champions I've worked on, this was most my style," says RiotZeronis. "She'd be my waifu."
Once his sketch was completed and emailed back to the office, RiotZeronis had no other influence or information about Ahri's development. In fact, he didn't even know this was the artistic direction chosen until he saw Ahri announced to players. (...something something, small indie company. But really, Riot was a much different place back then.)
It seems like it would've been a straightforward path from there, but Ahri actually had major art changes right before launch, as seen in the original splash released to players.
Notice anything different, like maybe the red lining on her dress or details on her sleeves or the part where SHE ALMOST DIDN'T HAVE EARS?! And those tails aren't even real--they were a part of her outfit.
Part of it was just tech concerns. It was unclear if it'd be possible to make Ahri's tails connect to her dress in-game in a way that looked natural, so they were redrawn as part of her outfit. Devs eventually found a fix to the tech issues though, so that wasn't the deciding factor.
The main reason Ahri was designed without ears or (real) tails was to try to really differentiate her from the myths she was built on.
There was a lot of concern about Ahri as a champion throughout development, and some Rioters were worried she wouldn't fit into League's universe or that players wouldn't get her. This uncertainty led to Ahri losing her most fox-like features, which made her look more like an "average" girl than a legendary nine-tailed fox.
Even with the mixed feedback, devs decided to go back to her original design. "It's natural to want to make something unique," says Ezreal, "but we found we were doing so for the wrong reasons. Ultimately, we believed players would want the true version of the nine-tailed fox more than an artificially unique one." Ahri's signature tails and ears returned, and she's been breaking hearts and taking lives on the Rift ever since.
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