Recently, the League of Legends Nexus writers put out a new piece entitled “Origins: Azir.” The Origins series seems to be something that will be recurring and focus on the development of some of our favorite champions. This first one focuses on Azir and sprawls all the way back to the League of Legends beta.
Back in the prehistoric times of League of Legends, before dinosaur’s like Kog’Maw roamed the earth, a champion named Well, the Hydrosoul, was in development. A giant being made of water, Well was able to manipulate water to destroy his enemies with rainstorms and vortexes. Sadly, Well needed too many particles to work at the time, so he was scrapped.
Well may have been lost but he was not forgotten. Eventually, he was reborn as Seth, trading out water for fancy sand effects. Seth would spread sand across the battlefield in a similar way to the Zerg spreading Creep in Starcraft. This sand would alter his abilities, empowering them in all sorts of ways.
But just as it had with Well, tragedy struck and Seth was too intensive for lower end PCs. The team attempted to remedy this problem by removing mechanics and duration until it seemed like Seth had been hollowed out entirely. The identity that made Seth cool was entirely gone, scattered among the low-poly sands of Shurima.
Around this time, they renamed Seth as Azir and set him up as the long-lost emperor of Shurima. Along with Azir, the rest of Shurima took on more of an Egyptian theme. Azir was based on Ra, the Egyptian sun god, just as Nasus and Renekton had been designed after Anubis and Sobek respectively.
Azir had more of an identity when it came to look but was still missing a fun gameplay loop. The Nexus article attributes the team’s breakthrough to Gem, the concept artist for Azir. In a moment of brilliance, Gem drew a singular concept image that showed Azir summoning soldiers made of sand. And thus, our bird-boy was born.
Azir then went through some awkward phases. While the soldier idea had been picked up, it was not yet central to his kit or identity. Instead, he had some other weird abilities like a “windmill of death,” and these creepy-cool sand-hands.
As things were still being figured out for Azir, the champion design team shifted a new lead onto the project, friend of The Rift Herald: Daniel “ZenonTheStoic” Klein. Klein, who has also been behind champion like Lucian and Tahm Kench, would become the man who gave Azir life after so long.
In order to find a stable kit, Klein broke the team up into small groups and had them create kits on their own. When everyone returned and shared their results, it was easy to see that soldiers was the most interesting idea. Everyone had them in their individual kits.
Azir’s sandy nature was almost completely abandoned and he became what the team calls a “minion-mancer.” With this design in mind, they looked towards other minion-focused champions like Zyra, Malzahar and Heimerdinger.
There were a few good things here, but the team was mostly focused on avoiding past mistakes. As such, it was determined that Azir’s soldiers would not be targetable, would not be able to block skillshots and would only act when given an order by their commander. Once they locked in how his soldiers would auto-attack for him, everything else began to click.
At the end of the article, the team begins to lament Azir’s release. For those who weren’t around, Azir was pretty buggy when he was first released onto live, in the later half of 2014. Seeing Azir bugs being fixed at the end of patch notes was a fairly frequent occurrence for a long time after his release. It wouldn’t even be that surprising to still see them today.
This video was released over a year after Azir became available on live servers.
They attribute his quick release to the Shurima event that was going on at the time, stating that this was the perfect moment for the emperor’s return. While the team claims that Azir has taught them not to rush champions, they also lamented the fact that he was too difficult. They exclaimed that Azir was too hard for basic level players and too powerful in the hands of the pros. At the end, this Q&A was linked where developers discuss a possible ability rework for the emperor.
This first Origins piece was a incredible look into the design process for one of League’s most interesting champions. What did you think? Whose story would you like to hear next?