I first wrote about Riot’s intention to add Ao Shin, a dragon character, to League of Legends [official site] back in September 2013. That was so long ago and and the character so continually unreleased that on two separate occasions I thought I had dreamed the entire thing. I hadn’t! But alas Ao Shin is still not getting a release.
INSTEAD he has morphed into a different character over time – still a dragon-themed champion – and is tentatively named Aurelion Sol. [Sidenote: I feel like Aurelion Sol is the sort of name you give a private detective who also happens to be an animal. It roughly translates as “golden sun” but I’ve also seen speculation about links to the cult of Sol Invictus.]
In case you were curious, Ao Shin was initially intended as a storm dragon and a kind of guardian of the natural world who would descend from the sky when Ionia (an island in the world in which League of Legends is set – Runeterra) faced its greatest crisis. From what they announced at the time I pictured a character built around buffs and debuffs “capable of raining good fortune on his allies and, in the very next breath, bringing stormy, thunderous ruin upon his foes.”
Anyway, Riot have shared a bit more information about the evolution away from Ao Shin over on their Dev Corner messageboards. From my reading of it: Riot announced Ao Shin way too early (the dragon idea was a big community wishlist thing so it was a crowd-pleaser) and then couldn’t deliver on the concept technically without devoting a disproportionate amount of resources to the project.
The basics from the Dev Corner post are that the champion’s kit (his set of abilities and the way they work together) just wasn’t working out and that a character with a long, serpentine body was a problem:
“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.”
The last point they make is about character motivations and presence.
“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.”
There’s not much in the way of detail about Aurelion Sol but post concludes by saying “we still like surprises so stay tuned – any of our next few champions could be him!” So I guess SOON™.
Let’s all take a moment to pay tribute to Ao Shin by listening to Imagine Dragons: