Blog: Designing Yi-Lin

sashimiaksashimiak Member, Moderator, Robot Entertainment
(October 12th, 2017)

Designing Yi-Lin

Yi-Lin, the Jade Sentinel

“I move with grace, I strike with strength, I fight with PURPOSE!” Yi-Lin, The Jade Sentinel

Yi-Lin is not just any accomplished fighter. This woman out of time was the greatest and most loyal warrior fighting in service of her friend, Chang’E, Empress of the White Tiger Empire. In centuries past, the White Tiger Empire and its allies were threatened by certain destruction as orcs and other invaders poured into their kingdoms from the Dark World. Seeing no other solution, the dwarves of Thuricvod evacuated the stone halls of their home on Centre. Fleeing to the safety of their homeworld and collapsing the portals behind them to cut off the invading forces left the White Tiger Empire with few options for its defense and even fewer allies.

Desperate for a solution to protect her people and preserve her empire, Chang’E forged new alliances and agreed to share her powerful rift magic in exchange for the White Tiger Empire’s relocation into the clouds in a bargain with the Jade Rabbits. But the Empire’s preservation came at a high cost for Yi-Lin. Left behind as the eternal guardian of the final rift to the reborn Cloud Tiger Empire, Yi-Lin transformed into the Jade Sentinel she had previously been in name only and began her watch over the Lotus Temple.

For over one thousand years Yi-Lin stood vigilant, waiting. Now a shadowy figure known only as “Reve” has unleashed unstable rifts on the Lotus Temple, renewing the ancient assault on the White Tiger Empire with the hope of reaching their new empire in the clouds. Yi-Lin, the Jade Sentinel has awoken to defend Centre once more against the hordes of orcs, soldiers, and her old enemies – the Wu Xing Dynasty.

Yi-Lin's Skills

Yi-Lin is a quick, melee hero who uses her twin swords to devastating effect. Her use of combos can deal devastating damage as well as provide regeneration making her a true force to be reckoned with.

Passive: Moon’s Reflection

When Yi-Lin alternates her abilities while attacking, she is blessed with a small amount of healing and energy.

Primary Attack: Stone Lotus

Yi-Lin slashes enemies with her swords.

Secondary Attack: Imperial Reach

Yi-Lin crosses her blades and slashes downwards creating a longer-range attack. This attack deals more damage the lower the target's health.

Third Ability: White Tiger Claw

Yi-Lin cuts deeply with both swords, wounding an enemy. Stone Lotus deals increasing damage to enemies wounded by White Tiger Claw until their wounds heal.

Fourth Ability: Tempest Strike

A vortex pulls enemies towards Yi-Lin's whirling blades, causing her to inflict massive damage on her enemies. Lasts 2.2s.

Fifth Ability: Jade Sentinel

Damage dealt to Yi-Lin is reduced by 50%, and her movement speed increases by 30%. Yi-Lin cannot attack or regenerate energy while the ability is active. Ability costs no energy.

Yi-Lin's Weaver's

When designing Yi-Lin’s weaver tree, we really tried to allow players creativity in choosing their own playstyle. If you prefer to play defensively, there is a build for that. If you are always on the attack, there is a path for that, too. With that in mind, here are a couple example builds that help Yi-Lin excel in different roles.

Defensive Build: Healing Moon > Element of Speed > Aspect of the Shadow > Blessing of Health

If you are prone to a more defensive playstyle, then this build is definitely for you. With these weavers, Yi-Lin is able to soak up tons of damage from orcs, ogres, trolls, or whatever enemy she has to face. The chosen Tier 1 weaver, Healing Moon, increases Yi-Lin’s self-healing ability, greatly increasing her survivability. Element of Speed and Aspect of the Shadow buff Yi-Lin’s Shift ability, which is already a great defensive skill. The two weavers combined provide the ability to disengage from combat and survive sustained damage. Finally, Blessing of Health provides Yi-Lin with a lifeline should she get in real trouble.

Offensive Build: Inspiring Moon > Element of Surprise > Aspect of the Lotus > Blessing of Skill

If you prefer to always be on the attack, then these are the weavers you should take. Inspiring Moon gives Yi-Lin more energy with each passive proc, which allows her to continuously churn out damage with her abilities without worrying about her energy too much. Element of Surprise allows Yi-Lin to hit many more targets with her Imperial Reach, an ability that is terrific at finishing off low health enemies. At Tier 3, both Aspect of the Lotus and Aspect of the Tiger are great choices, but Aspect of the Lotus really synergizes well with the weaver we chose for Tier 4, Blessing of Skill. Blessing of Skill gives Yi-Lin a bit of CC on White Tiger Claw, which means she can get more empowered auto attacks on her bleeding enemies.

We’re excited to see what other builds players find to be suited to different playstyles. Let us know on the forums!

From Concept to Reality

Yi-Lin is a hook sword wielding warrior who, although being relatively fragile, can dish out tons of damage with her dual weapons. When designing Yi-Lin, we knew we wanted her to be a damage heavy, melee hero. But even though we had a vision of what we wanted the Jade Sentinel to be, she still had to go through many iterations, changes, and tweaks until we were happy with the result.

Generally, when designing a hero, we like to think of the passive ability as the glue that holds the rest of the kit together and so, to that end, we try to design the passive first then design abilities that fit with our theme. However, with Yi-Lin, we did things backwards. We designed her abilities, we figured out the playstyle we wanted for the Jade Sentinel, then we designed a passive that matched our vision.

Because we were designing a hero that uses a traditional Chinese martial arts weapon, her hook swords, before we did any implementation, we did a huge amount of research into how those weapons are used and what kinds of attacks can be done with them. This research is really what fueled much of our design for Yi-Lin’s attacks and abilities. Although in some cases we weren’t able to match the exact look of the real attacks with Yi-Lin’s in-game abilities, we still took a great deal of inspiration from watching many hook sword experts.

Yi-Lin’s primary skill (left click) is a relatively basic attack with regards to its functionality. Throughout the design process, we had thought about implementing the combo system for her primary attack in some fashion but, as we will talk about later, it did not end up matching the vision we had of Yi-Lin’s playstyle. For Yi Lin’s primary attack animation, we took inspiration from a hook sword expert who performed a swipe into what is called “monkey stance.” This, along with sequencing the attack from right to left, left to right, etc., allowed us to achieve a nice flow and rhythm in her primary attack. We really feel like we were successfully able to make Yi-Lin’s primary attack feel simultaneously smooth and powerful with the terrific animations by Barry Rooney.

When exploring ideas for Yi-Lin’s secondary skill (right click), we had two main concepts that we thought were really cool. The first was essentially what she has today. And the second was to have Yi-Lin connect her swords above her head, continuously swinging them in a circle, dealing damage to enemies near her. Yi-Lin would be able to continue using the ability as long as she had enough mana. The first iteration of her secondary skill was a combination of the two ideas. Functionally, it was very similar to what she has today but visually it was closer to the second concept. Yi-Lin hooked her swords above her head and lashed out for a long range swipe. However, we quickly realized that the ability was not reading very well and the swiping motion of the attack made it very hard for us to change the cone of the attack while still having it make sense visually. Where we ended up is with a more “magical,” twin fangs attack that is terrific at finishing off low health enemies.

We had several interesting ideas for Yi-Lin’s third ability (White Tiger Claw) but, as we’ve talked about a few times already, most of them did not really fit with the vision we had of her playstyle. One of ideas we had was Yi-Lin hooking an enemy and throwing them behind her. Although a really fun idea, we realized that in practice, it wouldn’t be the most useful ability when facing mobs of enemies. Another idea we had was a sort of “disarm” ability. The idea would be that enemies hit with this attack drop their weapon and cannot attack for a short duration. The original idea for the current ability was simply a melee attack that added damage over time to the enemies it hits. At the time, we weren’t sure if we wanted to theme that as a poison DoT, a bleed DoT, etc. But because of the nature of the hook swords (every edge aside from the handle is sharp), we realized that having a visceral bleed attack would make much more sense.

We had far fewer challenges designing Yi-Lin’s fourth ability, Tempest Strike, than designing her other abilities. Of course, it still went through several iterations. We tried removing the duration from the ability and having it instead cost mana over time. However, we found that giving the ability a set duration gave us a little bit more flexibility in fitting this ability in with the rest of her kit. Tempest Strike also did not initially have its “pull-in” effect. We decided to add that to ability because we felt that, although Yi-Lin had the potential to dish out tons of damage, she sometimes had trouble keeping enemies in range of her. Although the ability has a much longer cooldown than her other abilities, it is an extremely powerful ability that gives Yi-Lin’s kit some much needed hard CC.

We had a several challenges when designing Yi-Lin’s fifth ability, Jade Sentinel. Initially, while holding down the button, we wanted Yi-Lin to reflect all incoming ranged attacks back to her attacker. However, through playtests, we found that the ability didn’t really have enough uses and players weren’t really using the ability during games. The next idea we came up with was to have Yi-Lin literally turn into a jade statue. While in her jade statue form, Yi-Lin would not be able to move or attack but she would be immune to all damage. This idea had the same issue as the first one in that it did not have nearly enough uses in practice. We ended up with an ability that allows Yi-Lin to more easily engage her enemies if facing several ranged attackers or disengage if she finds herself in trouble. We also briefly thought about making her Shift ability a mobility skill but through playtests, we actually found that her current ability fit her playstyle and helped patch up some weaknesses in her gameplay.

Once we had designed her abilities, we needed to come up with a passive to hold her kit together. We decided we really wanted Yi-Lin’s attacks and abilities to feel like they flowed together. We wanted players be able to “combo” the Jade Sentinel’s abilities together and gain an advantage out of that without actually implementing a rigid combo system. To that end, we decided we wanted to reward players for hitting enemies with different skills in succession. You may also notice that I have mentioned mana a few times during the blog. Yi-Lin used to be a mana based hero. However, our programmers at the time were developing our generic resource system to be used for Temper’s Rage and we realized, through playtesting, that Yi-Lin would be the perfect candidate to use energy as a resource.

We then realized that, although players were rewarded for combos and that was creating fun gameplay, it was only doing so for a few seconds. Yi-Lin’s abilities were gated by her energy meaning players were only able to use a few abilities before they would have to wait for their energy to regenerate. And that got really frustrating. Because of that, we decided to give Yi-Lin energy back when her passive triggers. But Yi-Lin’s abilities were still frustratingly gated by her cooldowns. We decided to try a drastic change of completely removing her cooldowns on all her abilities aside from her E ability. We found when we did this, Yi-Lin really started to embody the smooth, flowing gameplay that we envisioned. She really started to feel like a true martial artist.

Yi-Lin Joins the Ranks

Strengths: Yi-Lin excels at dealing tons of damage, has great long-term survivability, and is very quick around the map.

Weaknesses: Yi-Lin is susceptible to burst damage, struggles dealing with swarming minions, and cannot provide very much hard CC.

Yi-Lin is a very good pick in team compositions that have a lot of utility/CC but are lacking damage. If you see your team has picked Hogarth and Ivy, Yi-Lin is probably a great pick in that situation as she can dish out tons of damage while Hogarth tanks the minions and Ivy keeps you topped off on health.

You would not want to pick Yi-Lin in a team that is already full of damage specialists. For example, if your team has already picked Deadeye and Oziel, Yi-Lin is probably a poor choice. That team is very much lacking in CC and somebody to tank tons of damage or help the team tank more damage.

Yi-Lin is a really fun, exciting hero who brings a real martial arts feel to the game with her unique hook swords. Although she can dish out tons of damage and is pretty survivable with her passive and Jade Sentinel skills, be wary of anything that can deal a ton of damage in a short amount of time because they may be able to burst you down before you have a chance to use your defensive skills.

Yi-Lin also excels at dealing with big minions and bosses but tends to struggle a little more with swarming minions like kobolds or satyrs. So be sure to keep all that I mind when deciding whether or not to pick the Jade Sentinel. Be sure to combo your abilities correctly otherwise she will not only struggle with energy, but you will also lose out on her self-healing.  With all that said, we hope you all really enjoy playing Yi-Lin and can’t wait to hear your feedback!

Original Art Design Concepts

Early concepts on the general hero theme by Andrew Olson.

Additional portrait sketches for potential hair colors and styles.

Later concepts on Yi-Lin by Bart Tiongson

Additional portrait sketches for potential hair colors and styles.

Designing Yi-Lin Insider Access

Interested in learning more about Yi-Lin? Tune in to at 3:00 pm Central today for a special “Designing Yi-Lin” Insider Access episode. Harmonia will be joined by Tudd to discuss all things Yi-Lin!

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