The Importance of Character Design – Part 2

By Brian “i am guitar” Cordry, Player Manager for Evil Geniuses (See Part 1 of this article)

So how do each of these titles approach some of the non-standard fantasies that they both share? Let’s take a look first at the gorgon, or “medusa” character that both games include – she’s Medusa in DotA 2, and Cassiopeia in LoL. The typical medusa imagery depicts a beautiful woman with snakes for hair – her gaze can turn anyone to stone, her hair turns to snakes. In both games, the medusa is given only the upper body of a woman, while her legs are relegated to a snake’s abdomen and tail. DotA 2 stays true to the original imagery of snakes for hair, but drops the ravishing beauty. LoL on the other hand, ditches the snake-hair for a crown, but retains the original beauty of the medusa. Even in their in-game lore, DotA 2’s Medusa is a vengeful, power-hungry monster; while the Cassiopeia of LoL is a deceptive seductress. One game chooses the grittier path, the other the more sexualized. In terms of gameplay, both retain the ability to turn their enemies to stone.


Another shared idea between the two games is the Scorpion King. In DotA 2 we call him Sand King, and in LoL he’s Skarner. Now, the most easily-noticed feature that both share is a humanized face. A look at a real scorpion shows nothing that we humans would be able to relate to – no eyes or nose, no teeth. But when we look at the designs in both games, he’s been given readily-identifiable facial features: eyes, teeth, a flat face. He retains his arachnid leg count, skittering on 6 legs with 2 claws to attack with in both games. In terms of lore, Sand King is the physical embodiment of the magic of the desert, while Skarner is the defender of land filled with crystals and old magic. Both are considered ‘guardians’ of a sort.


Certain character tropes can lead to extremely narrow visions of what the character is able to do in-game as well. In the first part of this blog, I mentioned a “small, mischievous, energetic creature that traverses this fantasy land in some sort of advanced (but not-too-advanced) mechanical walker” as an example of how each of these games used very similar ideas independently of each other and came up with nearly identical (and very specific) character ideas. Why, in this land of fantasy, magic, and forests, do we find League of Legends’ Rumble, and DotA 2’s Timbersaw? In both of their lores, they disappear into seclusion and frantically build their mechanical walkers as an act of revenge – Timbersaw against nature and Rumble against humans and yordle-doubters. Rumble was released on April 26, 2011, before Timber’s release date of December 13, 2011. This is important to note – it marks the first time that the games released similar characters, but that Riot’s version came first.