Riot Games and its partners on how they are incorporating XR streaming technology into Worlds 2020

2020 has been an unusual but painful year for the global entertainment and sports industry due to an unpredictable pandemic (COVID-19) that has plagued the world since February. While esports has the benefit of getting online and continuing to operate, there have been numerous competition cancellations and no large-scale offline events that have disappointed esports enthusiasts and gamers for the past eight months. Thankfully, after overcoming various pressures and difficulties, the world embraced the League of Legends World Championship (2020 Worlds), the only large-scale international offline esports event this year in Shanghai. The final few weeks of Worlds 2020 offered significant moments in esports broadcast history, as Riot Games applied a technology called Extended Reality (XR) to the Worlds 2020 broadcast. XR is a term referring to combined virtual and reality environments, and computer-generated human-machine interaction. It is simply a combination of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) technology. XR is typically used in high cost movies or TV series, such as Disney’s Star Wars: The Mandalorian. In order to better present a movie-grade XR viewing experience to audiences in Worlds 2020, Riot Games teamed up with longtime partner Possible Productions and Lux ​​Machina, who was also part of the team behind The Mandalorian. “Riot Games has assembled a team of more than 40 specialists, content creators and artists to enable the mixed reality components of the broadcast.” Wyatt Bartel, senior technical director of Lux Machina, told The Esports Observer. In previous editions of the World Championships, the event applied a “city-to-city” strategy to promote the event and compete in the region. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions in China, the previous strategy has become impossible this year. “The decision to use XR as it is deployed in broadcast today was an evolution of conversations dating back to May 2020.” Nick Troop, executive producer for the 2020 Worlds at Riot Games, told TEO, “We have recognized that this technology allows us to bring fans closer to the action and allows them to dramatically increase their engagement with the broadcast. photo: XR technology in Disney’s Star Wars: The Mandalorian. Credit: Lux Machina Troop also mentioned that Riot Games has been integrating XR technology into shows since 2016. More specifically, Riot Games has applied AR technology to introduce the Elder Dragon character , which flew around Bird’s Nest Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2017 Worlds Grand Final. The design helped Riot Games win the award for Outstanding Live Graphic Design at the 39th Annual Sports Emmy Awards in 2018. Although XR was applied to every match at the 2020 Worlds, it caused challenges and a greater workload for the XR team. The Worlds XR team did. t built a 360-degree virtual space around the stage so that the audience could see Shanghai landmarks such as Oriental Pearl, as well as the effects of four game element dragons. “The hardest part of the process was that many of the tools and technologies we needed to achieve the vision did not yet exist. Never before has XR used live game data to expand the audience experience and generate on-screen effects, ”Bartel said,“ Combined on a scale never seen before, live streaming and several cameras, we went to work every day. we define the limits of what is possible. “Under the hood of the XR Stage, there are many custom software elements and hardware combinations running on the Stage that have been designed by Lux Machina over the past few months,” Bartel added. Credit: Riot Games Additionally, Bartel also detailed how the XR Operations Team created special practical effects at times like Ban & Pick and Death of Players. “I don’t think any team has achieved such a deep integration between technologies as the Riot production team did this year at the 2020 Worlds.” Bartel said. “The special effects you see at Ban & Pick are powered by more original code that we developed,” Bartel said. “This code allows game data to flow back and forth between the Lux Machina modified Unreal engine that powers the stage and the battle that takes place on the Rift. Certain moments will trigger the scene to automatically launch our special effects, dynamically transforming what’s happening in the game into the real word. In the traditional film industry’s special effects process, actors normally perform behind green screens. Although players are not professional actors, it could be a strange place for players to influence their in-game performance. Pictured: Special effects during Bank & Pick. Riot Games “Due to the nature of XR, gamers can actually see a lot of what the audience sees at home, which wouldn’t be possible with a traditional green screen. It allows them to experience the elements on stage in a natural and engaging way, ”explained Bartel. “We’re helping to give League of Legends players a sense of ‘place’ by integrating physical and digital elements into the player environment. Anything below a certain height on our stage is a physical construction. After European team G2 Esports won a 3-0 win over South Korean team Gen. G Esports in the knockout stage of the 2020 Worlds, G2 Esports celebrated their victory by trying to throw one of the his players Rasmus “Caps” Borregaard Winther in the virtual pool. This moment has become one of the iconic League of Legends esports memes this year. After another South Korean team, Damwon Gaming (DWG) beat G2 Esports in the semi-finals, the team did the same to celebrate the victory. Bartel clarified that it was not planned and that it was a really fun time for the production team. “It was a natural response from the players to the realism that our mixed reality environment was able to bring to the competition. It also shows how important it is to have a production design that can be engaged to bring out people’s creativity in ways we never imagined, ”Bartel said. “When done right, an XR set becomes a sandbox in which to play and interact in entirely new ways every day.” Now that all of the production work leading up to the final is complete, Bartel and Troop’s production team will tackle the most difficult part of this 2020 World Cup – The offline final at the Shanghai Pudong Soccer Stadium on October 31. Around 6,312 live on-site spectators and millions of online viewers will witness the most important of the top five match between Chinese team Suning Esports and South Korean team DWG. Credit: Riot Games “We wanted to make sure that every viewer, as soon as they joined the stream, was blown away and felt completely immersed in Worlds, the same way they would if they were physically in the audience” said Troop.

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