It was still Jinx and Vi. These are the sisters at the heart of Riot Games’ hit Netflix series, Esoteric, and they have been selected for the spotlight on a range of over 150 League of Legends champions.
For Esoteric creators Christian Linke and Alex Yee, the stars really couldn’t be someone else from League of Legends traditions. Especially not Teemo. Linke and Yee have been grooming Jinx and Vi for their lead roles in a mature, mainstream animated TV series for nine years, even though they didn’t know it all the time.
In December 2012, Vi debuted and became the first League of Legends champion to receive a login screen with an original and lyrical song. A year later, Jinx joined the ranks of the game and starred in its first character-driven cinematic, a high-energy music video titled Get Jinxed. Linke and Yee worked on both of these versions, exercising their creative muscles in the music and narrative storyboarding, two aspects that didn’t get much attention in the core game development process.
The Jinx cutscene was also the first time Riot has teamed up with Fortiche Production, the studio behind Esotericotherworldly animation style.
“They kind of already received our special treatment because we really loved them,” Linke told Engadget. “And so, when we have had to think about it, which characters do we want to stay with for many years? I think it was pretty obvious.
Yee agreed and added, “Both were a bit of a milestone, I think, for our time at Riot.”
In the game, Jinx and Vi are bitter sisters and enemies, though this story melts into the background of the action, only appearing in short vocal lines and character descriptions. As an online MOBA, storytelling isn’t essential to how League of Legends plays, but Riot has infused his champions with more lore over the years, focusing on expanding their universe beyond the game launcher.
These days, Riot is a hub of creative development across multiple mediums, including short stories, graphic novels, cutscenes, music videos, and a truly fantastic K-pop group. Esoteric is the studio’s biggest push on a mainstream service, and Jinx and Vi carry the story, surrounded by a handful of other champions, including Caitlyn, Jayce and Viktor, and other original characters.
Jinx and Vi still puzzled Linke and Yee. They were founded in a way that the game’s most fantastical champions weren’t, with distinct and opposing personalities and an unexplained rivalry that clearly cut both sisters at heart. Vi was a strong and rigid Enforcer working for the prosperous city of Piltover, while Jinx was an anarchist with a belt full of bombs and no filter. Vi’s hair is short and pink, while Jinx’s is long and bright blue.
“If you just imagine these two characters together in a scene, whatever the location, whatever their debate – you know, what kind of food they’re going to eat at night, or what kind of movie they’re going to watch,” said Linke: “It will always be fun, because they will always have these very different perspectives.”
There’s a question inherent in Jinx and Vi’s shared history, Yee said, and it’s a mystery fans of the game and newcomers to the series could quickly grasp: If they’re sisters, why are they? do they hate that much? Esoteric asks this question and answers it slowly, providing a rich and emotional origin story for Jinx, Vi, and their surrounding champions along the way.
“The fact that Jinx and Vi’s relationship is a bit of a mystery right off the bat allows us to kind of satisfy both audiences,” Yee said.
In Esoteric, Linke and Yee were able to zoom in and focus on the little details that bring their characters to life, showing micro-expressions and all-consuming rage on Jinx’s face, or giving Vi a nuanced nervous tic, like bouncing his leg. . Fortiche Production, the studio that takes care of animation tasks for Esoteric and other Riot projects, has been a central part of this development process. The animators there were given leeway to express themselves in the characters, said Linke, which resulted in a unique visual style that unfolded like a motion capture, even though it was drawn entirely by hand. .
“We also tried to really treat the animators like actors who can find their way of expressing things, rather than just saying, forcing Jinx or Vi to do that,” Linke said. “But instead, just by being like, here’s what’s going on in their head, how do we really make it feel real?”
After nearly 10 years of in-game development and cross-media projects, Jinx and Vi are still able to surprise Linke and Yee. Development Esoteric, for example, marked the first time they saw a League of Legends champion actually speaking, mouth movements and all.
“When we did our first try, or our first animation test for the show, it was the first time we had seen one of our champions speak,” said Yee. “We would never do – their mouths don’t move in the game, you know. So that was a really fun step to take at this point. “
Given how much Esoteric was received by League of Legends fans and newcomers alike, there are many more creative stages to come as Riot continues its rise in mainstream entertainment. Season two of Esoteric is in production as we speak – along with Jinx and Vi.