If Covid is annoying, innovative solutions must be found for the Worlds – the World Cup in League of Legends. And so Riot Games bought the technology and crew of Disney’s hit show The Mandalorian, built a huge mixed reality studio in Shanghai that renders in 32K and staged the Unreal Engine 5, probably the most bombastic stage show the world has ever seen has seen.
The Worlds 2020 were a mixture of CGI fireworks, dance performances and K / DA – Riot’s in-house pop stars.
© Riot Games
The Cyberpunk skyline looks massive, wrapped in bright orange and neon, as if it had sprung from Cyberpunk 2077. Suddenly the city is flooded with light, red and blue lines meander through the streets to the skyscrapers that dominate everything here. Speed bikes race through Shanghai, put in a few power drifts, do the mega jump and fly into the studio – over the heads of the athletes who are about to take part in the Grand Final
League of Legends World Championships
will play out. The most prestigious eSports tournament in the world, accompanied by the next song from K / DA – Riot Games in-house K-Pop band. When the athletes take the stage, they surf in on a monster wave without getting wet. Because Worlds 2020 is what happens when you give a production team an infinite amount of budget, ring it through briefly in Hollywood and borrow the technology from The Mandalorian.
32K screen and The Mandalorian technology
The Mandalorian is not made on green screen the way you normally make Marvel films. And not in the real desert either, as JJ Abrams filmed Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But in a high-tech studio with 360-degree screens that render the desert in native 32K, i.e. 32,000 horizontal pixels or a resolution of 32,000 x 17,280 pixels. The magic behind it: actors feel in the desert, have the same lines of sight, even the same horizon at sunset with a level of detail that would hardly have been possible a few years ago. Everything is crisp, but without being exposed to the extreme weather of a real desert shoot. You can imagine that 50 degrees in the shade can push not only actors but also cameras to their limits.
That’s right: the little figures under the colossus Galio are the players. And Galio just a crisp projection.
© Riot Games
For Worlds, Riot uses the technology from The Mandalorian, albeit in a larger studio, because the production uses many more effects and scenarios than the TV show needs: a gold-plated opera house, an arena of the gods, given to Asgard from Assassin’s Creed Valhalla remind. A gigantic stadium with thousands of fans, all of whom are virtually there – as avatars. A completely virtual world in which rivers run between the capsules of the teams. Where GenG eSports want to throw their coach into the cool water with swing, which looks like an infinity pool. In truth, it only consists of pixels and 900 LED tiles.
When Covid is annoying, innovative solutions are needed
Nick Troops, Executive Producer of the Worlds had to completely reinvent the show within six months and decided to stage the World Cup bigger than ever before.
“It is a tradition in the world that each tournament takes place in a different city in the host country. Whether we were restricted by Covid, we had to do without fans in the stands and thought: Okay, then we’ll deliver the largest and most complex worlds that have ever existed, “says Nick Troop, Executive Director Worlds at Riot Games. “Our goal from the start was to bring the flair, architectural highlights and DNA of these cities back to life in mixed reality.” This XR technology enabled Riot Games, for example, to show the game from a new camera angle City skyline in the background. It also allowed impressive CGI tricks: sea kites, for example, caused gigantic waves that seemed to roll through the studio towards the audience. Hell dragons turned the whole set into an erupting volcano.
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Every day we come to the set and say: Okay, crazy. Nobody has ever done that before. Can we do this? Is that possible?
takes a while to think about it.
Built with Star Wars technology, this stage looks like the stage is in space, but also features some of Shanghai’s iconic buildings.
The feat is all the more impressive when you look at the compressed schedule. Normally, producers on Riot and Possible spend well over a year planning worlds, but that wasn’t possible this year. It was only in May that the decision was made to use this technology in a studio without fans – after all, Covid couldn’t foresee Riot either. The 900 LED tiles, which dissolve in 32K, are played with a modified mixed reality version of the Unreal Engine 5. The same one that was used at Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert. The team consisted of 40 designers, set artists and technicians in total. Nick Troop, Executive Producer for Worlds 2020 at Riot, describes it as “a creative tool that gives us practically infinite possibilities to create stages and flood them completely. In other words, flood them completely digitally.” Which is still used for various films like Titanic If you needed gigantic water tanks, almost everything can now be done digitally.One of the most important elements of the entire setup is the way objects are married to the background – a job performed by four special cross-reality cameras.
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Instead of only having a single projected camera perspective, two are actually running at the same time and effectively all the time, ”explains the Executive Producer. This allows the broadcast team to work more traditionally. You can switch between the two simulated perspectives as you wish and record the action on set with four cameras. “That means the broadcast team can do what feels right to them, which is to produce a match show, which feels like a ‘normal TV show’, which other teams put into this beautiful, sometimes really epic series of Environments and sets being embedded, “says Troop.
For viewers watching on Twitch or YouTube, the LED stage is transformed into a spacious fantasy world in which the images are expanded beyond the actual screen with the help of AR technology. You still see athletes sitting at desks and playing, but their surroundings are magical and the stage is huge. Alluding to the current status of
League of Legends
, in which four elemental dragons are of crucial importance, each of the four preliminary rounds of the worlds was designed with a different element. Exciting: Mixed Reality also allows League of Legends to be staged from an unprecedented perspective, for example with mega zooms into the action, where individual units then march across the battlefield in life-size.
How do you build magic without irritating the players?
It is a tradition that the worlds travel to different regions within a country. Exactly this tradition should be transmitted virtually by the Worlds, but without irritating the players.
That was the biggest challenge, as all of us at Riot Games confirm. They wanted to build this magical world, but the many screens, the countless CGI elements would have greatly distracted the players, after all, everything was in flux and they were playing in a capsule in a virtual world that was built with the technology of The Mandalorian . Even though the athletes don’t have the full experience that the audience gets, it was still important that it felt special to be on stage. After all, this is the World Cup that teams from all over the world work hard for all year round. Unlike The Mandalorian, where a lot of the set and effects are projected directly onto the screens and help the actors work their way into the atmosphere, Riot opted for an elaborate live post-production.
It is difficult to show in pictures, but basically the extremely high resolution of 32K makes it possible to build a set that is purely virtual, but creates a lot of depth via visual effects.
Primarily because the overflowing elements such as sloshing waves or blazing fires could have greatly distracted the players. In fact, the immersion was broken one or the other time, for example when players ran in the water because they ignored the color-coded LED panels in the crowds of victory. These marked a bridge that connected different stages and distinguished them from the water that virtually flowed through the entire studio. It will be exciting to see whether we will see shows like The Mandalorian in games in the future. You could then work with real actors, whose real facial expressions and gestures, instead of their 3D scans and enormously elaborate full-performance capture, whereby Hollywood stars such as Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Mads Mikkelsen (Star Wars: Rogue One) and Léa Seydoux (James Bond: No Time to Die) were brought to life in Hideo Kojima’s award-winning masterpiece Death Stranding.