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League of Legends: How the snow came back to the Rift

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The wintry version of League of Legends’ [official site] Summoner’s Rift map was a welcome sight for fans when it returned for season 6. The snow had previously been curtailed after the map was given an overhaul because the newly hand-painted environment could no longer be reskinned with festive tiling textures. Now the devs have posted a bit more insight into the process behind the winter wonderland and, as someone interested in game artwork, it was an interesting read.The big thing for me when reading about it (and the key to the map being viable rather than a horrendous, business-unfriendly time sink) was that the snowy effect wasn’t actually about “adding” snow but about playing with the tones of the existing artwork.

“the artists started experimenting on a small corner of the Rift using a new filtering process that was prototyped just months earlier. The technique involved isolating the lightest and darkest tones of all the textures on Summoner’s Rift. With the light, dark, and midtones separated, they could be individually altered using layers and filters in Photoshop. When the modified textures were laid back over the Rift, it created a cold, wintry hue. Every tree, stone and blade of grass maintained the its structural base, but the effect was an illusion of snow.”

I think I get stuck halfway between the real world and digital art sometimes. By that I mean that I theoretically know that you can alter so much about an image just by playing with layers in Photoshop. But snow is something I can’t help but think of as an additive process because in the real world it creates a physical layer and in art projects or bakery projects I’ve tended to represent it by adding material over the top of something – cotton wool, for example, or thick icing. So even though I know I can add all manner of filters to make something look far colder and paler than it really is, snow is a weird mental stumbling block.

From that point it was a case of repairing any bits that looked iffy and adding all of the visual effects and items the team wanted.

I like that this tinkering, combined with the eerie lighting and accoutrements of a previous event’s Doom Bots of Doom map seems to have opened up more possibilities for the Summoner’s Rift map. I love it when games change up the default environment to mark particular seasons or events, so anything on that front – from weather effects to tree changes – is exciting for me to poke around in.

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Philippa Warr

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