Okay, I know I promised Planetside 2 today, but Riot officially released Zyra. And holy crap, “disappointment” doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about this. Zyra looked fantastic in the teaser Morello posted, but her main artwork looks utterly ridiculous and lazy. How bad is it? Well… we need to have a little talk, Riot. Just for a few minutes, and I promise it won’t hurt. Much. I bite sometimes. Sometimes. So sit down and flip a coin while I get started.

Zyra went from being a must-buy to an extreme disappointment in the span of about 12 seconds to me, but not just because she’s naked. Because I know Riot can do better than this. I know you can draw an attractive female character without having to rely on cheap booty-call images to get the point across. How do I know? Simple! Zyra’s own artwork!

Sex Appeal vs. Sexiness/Seduction:

Okay, so what’s the problem? First, the teaser photo Morello uploaded was far and away better than the whole thing. Here’s why- In the photo her entire body is unseen and Zyra’s face is obscured by her hair. This creates an alluring sense of mystery, of speculation that draws a viewer in. I wanted to know more about Zyra. I wanted to see what she looked like. Her “clothing” such as it was gave even more of a sense of appeal, in that it clearly wasn’t fabric or manmade. What kind of clothing style is it? Elegant? Detached? Sultry? The possibilities are endless and serve to increase the mystery about her.

See for yourself. This is as good as it’ll get.

Taking it a step further, her hand coupled with the flowering ‘clothing’ creates a distinct sense of ‘not-human’, a character that has a humanoid form without being ‘human in a funky dress’ because of the mysterious air about her that we just covered. THAT is sexy, that is seducing the viewer through teasing hints and subtle displays.

And all of it is ruined by Zyra’s “full” artwork. All of that mysteriousness is removed because, why should we care to speculate? We know exactly what she looks like now. You’ve removed the allure of the strange and unseen. Yes, her face is still obscured, but now it doesn’t matter. The mystic appearance to her “clothing” is stripped away, because she isn’t even wearing any now. So it’s a naked human female with some off views.

Wait, but didn’t I say she wasn’t human before, just given a humanoid form? Well yes! I did. But that illusion is shattered by showing her full (and almost completely naked) body. Shes lost almost all of the mysterious appeal, and that has removed the sense of other. I’ve seen the image throughout writing this and only just now discovered she has 2 sets of ‘ears.’ And that’s still not enough, the illusion of difference has been scattered. Zyra has turned into a naked human with odd bits of her, not something other that happens to look human.

Now, this is where the old, tired, and pointless phrase “but it’s not flesh! she’s not human!” comes into play. And I’m dismissing it now, because it doesn’t make any sense. You can say whatever you want, if the character doesn’t have the visuals to back it up, no one will care nor will they believe you. After seeing that Riot could tell me Zyra was made entirely of sentient cats that fused together like Voltron to form Zyra and it wouldn’t make any difference. The appearance of non-human has been removed and replaced by “human with weird bits.”

Look me in the eye and tell me she’s anything more than a naked woman.

So what am I getting at?

I’m not going to lie, at this point I feel like I’ve been insulted. Riot has the talent to make and display truly sensational characters across tons of dama… err… appeals. They have the capacity to do so much amazing work, it really does hurt to see a character fall back to the tired and borderline lazy approach of “let’s make a sexy champion. Draw her almost naked!”

Sexiness is not a problem. You can have sexy, sultry champions. Hell, look at Ahri, she’s a great example of allure and charm that’s presented perfectly. She doesn’t have to have two square inches of cloth covering her breasts and crotch like Janna to pull it off, she does that in appearance, speech, and subtle positions in artwork and animations. Drawing a character like that isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work to get everything to work, to display a truly seductive champion, and I think Riot nailed that with Ahri. I think Riot nailed with Zyra too, but went overboard and wound up dispelling most of the magic that was there.

So this is the point of it all, and pretty much a plea to Riot. Please, don’t fall back on cheap and easy “sex appeal” by just having a character (male or female!!) be mostly naked. Give them personality, have them be alive and grow. Plant the idea of a vibrant and living character in out minds and let them expand from that. If seduction and sexiness is supposed to be a part of Zyra, then make it work better than this. Have the character plant a seed of desire in the player.

I’m not going to say “Scrap it and start again!” or “make her wear X style/cothing!” to get my point across. But I am going to ask you keep this in mind in the future. Scantily clad women just for the sake of it are everywhere in the industry. Stand apart from that, rise up to the next level. If you want to make sexy, make it good and make it grow on us. Let those vines of desire dig deep into us as players, not shallow appeal by having more flesh than clothing. That’s all I’m asking. I know it sounds like a lot, but I know you can do it. You’re Riot, one of the best game design companies I’ve seen. Your product is one I’ve spent tons of time and effort in, and enjoy every single game. Go to the next level, make it better. Make it the best you can.

I really want to like Zyra. I really, really do. But I don’t think I can take another “sex appeal for the sake of it” character. Best of luck Riot, I’ll be waiting for the ability details and spotlight. Not to see if you’ve changed anything, but because Zyra intrigues me. She just does so far less than she had before.