There’s a lot of storylines at MSI 2022. Riot is trying to give each team the space to tell them all in hype videos and features. However, the process from shooting to sharing is intense. We went behind the scenes with them at MSI 2022 to understand why it’s important for LoL esports to have these stories out there.
It’s May 18, a smidge after noon. North America’s stars Evil Geniuses have arrived at a place reminiscent of home — a New York pizza shop.
Except it’s not deep in Manhattan. It’s thousands of miles away on the shore of Haeundae Beach in Busan, South Korea. It’s a little slice of home, away from home, and the setting Riot is using to start building up the storylines for the MSI 2022 Rumble Stage.
There’s a crew of more than 20 all with various jobs. There’s camera operators, producers, directors, photographers, player handlers, and health and safety staff. In the background, the staff at Gino’s Pizza are working, bringing out fresh pies as Riot methodically rolls through takes. Some fans linger around, one asks for autographs at the end of it all.
The crew are under plenty of pressure. They have to be wrapped up by 1PM — giving them an hour to piece together Evil Geniuses’ journey to the Top 6. Then they’re off to another location for Saigon Buffalo. Then another, until all the teams have said their piece.
The deadlines don’t stop there. After they stop rolling tape, they have less than 48 hours to turn around a hype video to show off to the world. There’s a strict deadline of 4PM local time on May 20 to give it a bit of breathing room on socials before games start.
It’s an amazingly fluid process, one that takes months of planning but culminates in a sprint. However, for Riot, it’s necessary to keep the stories of League of Legends esports alive, and ultimately build the narratives you see on broadcast and articles surrounding the event.
So, what goes into making a hype video? And what’s changed in Riot’s storytelling across the last two years that has fans feeling goosebumps every time? Let’s go behind the lens to find out.
Carrie Dunn is the Global Head of Creative in Riot Games’ Esports division. Since taking on the role two years ago, there’s been a drastic change in the storytelling the developer has put out around their premier titles League of Legends and Valorant.
“A few years back, esports at Riot used to be an extension of the brand of the game itself,” she said, “so LoL and LoL esports looked and talked very similarly. Over the last two years, we’ve made a push to have these unique brands for the sport itself that always pay homage to the game, but can walk and talk and feel a little different because it is.
“For this content, our aim is always to tell the sports story that’s at the heart of everything — who are the heroes, who are the underdogs on the rise, what are the rivalries at play.
“We’re also trying to dimensionalize the pros themselves and make sure their story as a competitor and as a human is being told.”
As we stand together watching the camera feed, there’s plenty going on around the set. Players are swapping in and out for individual hero shots with a dizzying amount of cameras whirling around. When the video crew swaps out gear, photographers dive in to get some stills for press usage.
The players are just sitting there patiently. Some enjoy the spotlight — mid laner Joseph ‘jojopyun’ Joon-pyun took advantage of all the food by really tucking into a feed (pepperoni pizza was the pie of choice). On the other hand, Kyle ‘Danny’ Sakamaki was as far away from the action as possible without getting in trouble.
Working together with the players can be tricky, Co-Founder and Executive Producer of Good Boy Creative Nick Brown said. However, they’re becoming more used to it.
“We do our best to make the experience of a feature shoot feel less like an obligation, and more like a celebration of a team’s qualification into a specific event or round,” he said. “We’ve found that if everyone is enjoying the filmmaking process, both in front of and behind the camera, it really shows in the footage. Creating a vibe is essential.
“We’ve found it helps to lean into the players’ individual strengths. For the bold and braggadocious, we love creating opportunities for them to get creative and have fun in a scene. While for the more pensive, thoughtful players, we look to curate moments that allow their natural personality to feel equally as impactful.
“For us, the true benchmark for success is how the players feel once they see the finished content go live.”
They move away from the pizza shop to an open area in the middle of the complex. The light drifting in from the windows makes for a perfect group shot — although they had to run takes in between the traffic coming in and out of the lobby.
However, just as quickly as the players rocked up, the shoot was done. It was a bit behind schedule — they packed up and moved to the next location at 1:15PM. One down, four to go. Then, the process of taking hours of footage and condensing it into a two-minute hype video commences.
Getting the perfect shot for the right occasion
The features Riot are aiming for at MSI 2022 aren’t the glory shots you expect to see at Worlds. It’s more humanizing, down to Earth. The level of competition still exists, but there’s a distinct focus on playing into the players’ personalities.
In the words of Dunn, it’s a bit gritty.
“Worlds is always the pinnacle of everything we do. It’s premium, prestigious, intense,” she explained.
“MSI is the more experimental tournament. It’s the first one of the year. It’s a lot more gritty with only one representative from each region, no second chances. That experimental side plus that gritty side that comes from MSI is what we’re channeling.
“With ‘Take Notes’ as the theme, we have this sense that you have to take notes on your opponents, but also use this as your chance to make a statement and let the world know you’re the ones to watch — you’re what’s up next.”
It’s seen when staff at the pizza shop bring in a fresh dish, and the camera zooms out to the players’ excitement — played up a bit. When there’s more personal moments with Evil Geniuses, just chatting around the table, that’s the narrative Riot are wanting to push.
Even while things are getting serious on stage at BEXCO, it’s a reminder there’s more to pros than their skills on the Rift.
The features also provide players with a chance to build their own brands, something that creatively Riot and their partners work around.
“Each production is a unique opportunity to encapsulate such a special moment in a player’s career and for the many pros who have growing social brands of their own, this content only serves to extend their reach and strengthen their individual brand equity within the larger online League of Legends community,” Brown stated.
All of these pieces add up to weave the narrative and ultimately build the hype for MSI 2022.
When fans saw the two-minute teaser during the first day of the Rumble Stage, showing the five hopefuls trying to come for Faker’s crown with all the effects, it was a special moment for Riot. Those journeys never get old, nor do the storylines.
It’s a little part of the esport that might go unappreciated by some, but given the effort put into this production it’s little wonder why the memes of Riot being everything but a game studio hit close to home.
“League of Legends esports lives and dies by the pros and the competition at the heart of it all,” Dunn said. “What we’re doing is we’re creating the story in real-time for our fans everywhere to enjoy.”