Nothing we have ever built can ply water as efficiently as the humble jellyfish. This video shows the pressure systems created with each of its thrusts, with vortices of low pressure (blue) rolling from the front of its bell-shaped body that meet up with the bulge of high pressure (red) that forms behind it. This pressure gradient pulls the jellyfish through the water with little exertion. Research on jellyfish propulsion over the past 2 years revealed a key design feature that makes this translucent beast so efficient: bendiness. (This was confirmed by building robotic jellyfish—the bendy models left the stiff ones behind.) But are jellyfish the only animals to have discovered the magic of bendiness? A new study examined the propulsive limbs of 59 animal species, from the flukes of killer whales and the wings of moths and bats to the winglike feet of sea slugs. Not only is bendiness ubiquitous, but it is finely tuned. No matter if a creature lives in air or water, whether it propels itself with skin, feather, or gelatinous flaps, the propulsive limbs of all animals seem to have the same bendy design constraint: About one-third of the length of the structure flexes during steady motion, and the bending angle ranges from 15° to 40°. This narrow “morphospace,” described online this week in Nature Communications, can’t be the result of shared genes. The same solution was reinvented countless times. Instead, the finely tuned bendiness of fins and wings is just good design, discovered again and again by evolution. Being stiff is literally a drag.
League of Legends is known for a several things, popularizing the MOBA genre, its free-to-play business model, and its horde of outlandish playable characters. It’s also known for an army of hardcore fans that include a legion of enthusiastic cosplayers. Any video game convention will be awash with foxgirls, guys in 8 foot tall armor, and fallen angels wearing oven mitts. These costumes can be utterly baffling to people who don’t play League, but they are instantly recognizable to fans. League’s developer, Riot Games, partnered with Tribeca Games at an event in New York City last month, where fans could meet the designers and mingle with each other. We spoke with some of the developers, and a select group of League cosplayers to see how League cultivates this form of fandom.The day-long event was called “Tribeca Games Presents the Craft and Creative of League of Legends.” The team from Riot Games was there to present panels on topics that ranged from character design to community management. We discussed designing for cosplay with Evan Monteiro, a Splash artist at Riot Games.Monteiro described how the same features that make a character recognizable in-game will also make them well-suited to cosplay. According to him, cosplaying fans are “…definitely a factor that we consider very heavily, but I would say that it is actually a secondary factor to the primary priority we have when creating champions, and that is to have an iconic silhouette. And have something about that character that immediately, when you look at them, you can tell that is a League of Legends character… That priority naturally makes it easier for cosplayers to be recognizable when they are cosplaying as these characters.”He cited the character Bard as an example. Bard is a champion whose face is concealed behind a mask, and he wears bulky clothing, but he still has distinctive features that Monteiro pointed out, “The horn pulls back from his head, the wind chimes that fall back down there. The flute that he uses when he is using abilities… We think that having those there benefit the game itself, for the in-game read, as well as for cosplayers in general.”Montiero’s work as a Splash artist is often seen by players before an upcoming character is available to play in the game. This gives hardcore cosplayers a chance to start sewing before they even see the character in game, “As a splash artist we definitely try to make it clear what the materials are on all of the skins and champions. We try to get the brass around Bard’s mask, and the wood bits. We put detail into the leather that he’s wearing.”Aside from attending panels with the designers, people who came to this event could socialize in a lounge where several of League’s more dedicated cosplayers were showing off their costumes. There are 128 playable characters in League, and all of them have multiple “skins” that change their appearance. This means that fans have hundreds of outfits to choose from when cosplaying.Among the cosplayers was Michelle, who goes by the cosplay handle 9Lives Armory. She has been playing League of Legends since it was in beta six years ago. She was dressed as the angelic champion, Kayle, in a suit of plate armor with wings and a five foot long sword. “I’ve always had a secret love for Kayle,” she said, and immediately talked about the in-game skins that she owns for the character, including the rare silver skin “I always debated redoing her silver. She’s always been my baby.”Many of the fans at this event said that they felt a special connection to the developer, and Michelle said that Riot Games stands out among other developers because “…They try to bring themselves into the community themselves, they get right in there. I think that separates them from other game companies. [Other companies] try to build for the fans, they’re not in the community themselves.”Another featured cosplayer was Sofia, also known by the handle Orboras Cosplay. She was dressed as the Night Hunter Vayne. Although she had been cosplaying since 2007, she said that she took a huge break until League got her back into cosplaying in 2013. When asked why League brought her back into cosplay, she said “It was a combination of things, enjoying the game to begin with, and then finding characters that I could identify with, and characters that I would like their outfits as well. League has such an abundance of dynamic and different types of female characters – even their male characters, I genderbend cosplay as well. There’s so much to explore there, that I couldn’t not do it.”Cosplay can bring fans together by advertising their shared love of a particular character. Orobas told us about an experience she had with another fan that day “…it’s fun to be able to put on that costume and become that character, and people who love that character will come up to you. I had a fan come up to me and give me a bottle, and it said ‘Black Magic’ on it because one of Vayne’s lines in the game is ‘I smell black magic.’ And he was like ‘So that you can smell the black magic.’ Had I not cosplayed this champion I never would have met that person and had that interaction.”League of Legends has been out for over six years, and the developers are constantly releasing new playable characters, and skins for the existing one. This leads to a cycle where the developers make increasingly flamboyant characters, even as the cosplay community hones their skills. “They keep coming out with Ultimate Skins” exclaims Orobas, “The more complex the characters get, the more of a challenge it becomes for a cosplayer to bring that to life. It’s a good challenge.”But all the hard work from fans is noticed and appreciated by the developers. “I hope that our players, and people who participate in cosplay, I hope they know how much we value that,” says Montiero. “We love, love, love, after we’ve put so much effort into creating and crafting these characters, to see that resonate through our fans. Seeing them attempt to pull that costuming into the real world for us is really rewarding.”Riot is now wholly owned by Tencent, check out the news above.