Longtime viewers of European League of Legends will have noticed all the changes to the broadcast since the transition to the LEC. But how exactly has everything changed, and what goes into creating a brand new look – and feel – for fans?
While the League of Legends European Championship might have a new name, it’s still hosted in the same Berlin location as the old European League of Legends Championship Series. However, you may have noticed with this season’s broadcasts that the studio doesn’t just look very different – there’s a new atmosphere too.
That’s part of our new LEC ethos. We move the game forward, proudly united by our passion for world class competitive play and incredible spectacle. That’s what we do. And to do that we needed a new space, one not just meant to sit and watch others play, but for fans to as well, to meet pro players, chill out with friends over a board game or checkout the latest cosplay. We needed to create a home for LEC fans, and since home is where the heart is, we started there.
So, what’s changed? On a physical level: a lot. No-one knows better than Esports Events Coordinator Alexandra LaPlante. Sacrifice from staff went into realising an environment in which players and fans alike could share their passion, all in time for the hardest of deadlines.
“It was a long process that started with the exploration of the new LEC brand way back in mid 2018,” says Alex. “There were multiple iterations of the design, and the build lasted all the way through Christmas and New Year. The incredible team in charge of the build sacrificed a lot of their holiday time, to ensure we would have the new stage, analyst desk and front of house finished on time for the first attendees on January 18th.”
Most longtime viewers will have noticed the brand new stage, which was designed from scratch for the new season, which Alex says has “tons of fancy LEDs and things to discover,” and it’s certainly different from how it used to be. “EU LCS went through a lot of iterations, from the metal design in Copenhagen to the watercolor style of Paris, but the studio, when I first joined, had a distinct ‘Berlin’ vibe to it, a lot of grey, industrial grey brick and kind of unpolished in some areas.”
SUMMONING THE MAGIC OF THE RIFT IRL
It’s changed on an emotional level too, however. This isn’t just a venue for elite competitive play. It’s an experience for fans, some who travel hours each week or more to watch their favourite teams play in person.
“All of our regulars, they know each other, and for them, coming to the studio is like seeing family, and seeing close friends, so it’s a very emotional experience for them to come in and see these people,” Alex says. “Not all of them live close by, some of them travel from all across Germany or other countries to come and see the LEC, so when they reunite it’s really nice to see.”
There’s now much more to the LEC studio than what you get to see on the stream, with parts that only the visiting fans get to experience. The large statue of Baron Nashor towers over everything, and is one of the first things fans see when they enter the arena, having followed special LED signs from the nearby train station so they don’t get lost in the urban jungle of outer Berlin.
“It creates this home base where fans can live out their fandom; it’s a regular experience, it’s always in Berlin, it makes it easy for people to plan around, and it’s easy to see all of the teams, and it helps create more diverse fandom,” Alex says.
“The studio is such a small space, so they can directly interact with fans of all teams, and the teams themselves. Fans might discover a new team that they didn’t like two Splits ago, and now, since they’ve had a chance to interact with the players, or meet the coach, or meet some of the fans in person, they might change their perspective.”
We still do swag toss and fan meets, of course, but we also offer so much more now. The front of house area also features a merchandise shop and concession stand before fans go into the main arena. They may even spot the Rift Scuttler made by Corroder Cosplay Props roving the arena floor. The Scuttler has also recently found fame as StatsBot on LEC broadcasts.
“Way back when we were still pretty new in the Berlin studio, the experience was very different than it is today,” Alex says. “Just like the branding, it went through a few different versions, before reaching the look and experience we have today.”
Space and emotion are connected, of course. To change one, you tweak the other. Giving the fans more room to explore and enjoy meant improving the experience, so it’s what we did.
“Before, the entrance was at our ‘graffiti wall’ (2015 – 2019 RIP). That’s now the back of our studio,” says Alex. “Everywhere except the bleachers it felt a little cramped for fans.”
“When we made the switch to dual stream and best-of-three in 2016, massive changes were made to the studio, the original stage and the bleachers were turned 180 degrees and upgraded, and on top of that we built a second stage. The two stages were connected by our new and improved front of house area, located at the opposite side of the building, which served as the entrance for fans. It offered a lot more space for us to play with.
“When we switched back to best-of-one and one stage and studio, we retired the original stage and moved the ‘new’ stage into the old studio space. The Analyst Desk received an awesome upgrade and was relocated to the now empty spot of the former new stage. Around the same time, Baron moved into the front of house area, where he now terrorises our guests.” Which was exactly our intention: to get you excited as soon as you arrive.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS TO CHANGE THE MOOD
With the mood change came a face lift – a whole new aesthetic for the LEC. We knew that base materials would be our foundation. Perforated steel, concrete; these were our foundation building blocks. Bold lines with recessed pixel adjustable LED lighting. This mix of raw and bright and clean lines with base raw materials and bold colour treatments and moving graphics would help evoke something refreshing and new. If it’s not joie-de-vivre then it’s at least a whole lot of fun.
Not everything is seen on the broadcast, and some of these details are only seen by our live audience. To be able to celebrate the LEC with in-house fans and allow them to share this with the world as we’ve done this past month feels good.
We knew that with the new brand we needed more digital displays to truly tell our brand story. The sheer amount of screens and pixels is mindblowing, and has seen a huge increase since last year, going up from 57.8 million in 2018 to 117 million in 2019. Ours wasn’t a static world anymore. We required a dynamic set that could digitally change graphics, colors and messages as our LEC brand evolved, as teams progressed and the game and competitions unfolded. The capabilities of our screens and integrated scenic lighting was teased during the LEC opening ceremony. They can do so much more.
Our Producer Kevin Bell, Director Jak Schneider, Lighting Director Arnold Serame and Lighting Board Operator Valetin really killed it with pulling out everything they could from the lights and studio.
We’re marvelled at the amount of people and the teamwork that gets put in to bring the LEC to life. From players to backstage staff, there are about 120 people on any given matchday pulling the strings. It’s seen in every little detail. I can see each of our efforts in everything. All of the decisions and questions and pushing we did to do more than we thought we could do.
But of course, the majority of our thanks go to the fans who keep coming out to the studio, after all these years.
“For me, the most interesting thing has been the incredible passion that fans have embraced the LEC with,” says Alex. “Our shows are selling out very quickly and the waiting list to get tickets for any given day is longer than my solo queue loss streak.”
“Having this very European style of having all the European teams in one spot, and having fans from all over Europe flock to this one centre, gives them a huge opportunity to meet each other. There is a lot of interaction between fans – a fan who comes here from France, Italy, or Spain; they’re never alone,” Alex explains.
“Even if they make the trip alone, they’ll always make friends, and meet people, whether that’s through the team, or by sitting next to someone who gets just as excited as they do about something. So it’s a great experience for them to come in and meet a diverse group of friends and fans,” she says.
Our fans are the extra element that brings this studio to life, and we hope the new studio and new attitude will keep them, you, coming back.