League of Legends forced to immediately redesign its new dragon champ after fans point out its alarming similarity to an actual human child

Splash art for Smolder, League of Legends "audacious dragon cutie" champion.
(Image credit: Riot Games)

You know how it goes: sometimes you aim for Spyro and land on Boss Baby. At least, that's how I assume Riot arrived at the initial design for Smolder, League of Legends' newest champion. Announced last week, Smolder is an "audacious dragon cutie" whose design was intended to evoke a kind of mascot-ish, Pixar/Dreamworks-style cuteness that fans and fan-artists could latch onto. 

But it didn't quite work out. Riot announced a Smolder redesign pretty much immediately after the announcement because fans found the little guy's face off putting: less like an adorable dragon and more like someone had used the LA Noire face tech to apply the face of a human baby to a hairless cat. The comparisons to Sonic the Hedgehog's original movie design and its worryingly human teeth were immediate and free-flowing.

Which is why, soon after the official LoL Twitter account invited us to meet Smolder, the game's champions team lead Lexi Gao took to the platform to assure fans that Riot had "heard your feedback on Smolder's face and are making some adjustments to highlight his dragon features," attaching a gif to showcase the precious boy's draconic transition.

I have to say, the new Smolder is less likely to pursue me into my dreams, and all it took was the addition of a few dragon-ly ridges and scales on that smooth, smooth face. Fans seem to agree, with plenty of people chiming in via Gao's replies to remark that Smolder "looks worlds better now," and that his new design represented an "absolute glow-up" for the little tyke.

I mean, some people would still like him to have a more definitive snout, and I imagine the people drawing disquieting fanart of the original Smolder are probably peeved, but you can't have everything.

LoL has form for troubling character designs it later brings up to date. Who among us could forget Poppy, whose terrifying splash art still occupies a full 10% of my brain at any given moment? That change wasn't as speedy as the Smolder redesign, mind you, and if you want to see how LoL's newest champ actually handles in the field, you can find out when he arrives as part of patch 14.3 on February 7. 

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.