This past weekend I got an opportunity to go the LEC (European LoL league) finals in Rotterdam, as the TL office is just about an hour away by train. At first I was hesitant. I've never been a big fan of LoL, I've always seen the gameplay as slow and the fact that there aren't as many kills as in Dota makes the laning stage a lot less interesting. After thinking it over I decided to go, mostly to get to see Rotterdam. While I'd like to say I just decided to ignore my Dota elitism, I was definitely worried I'd spend the day being bored out of my mind. Walking in to the venue I had already prepped a bad excuse about not feeling well, so I could leave after the first game. That didn't happen.
The first sign of me deciding to stay came as we took our seats. We had seats close to the stage and the setup was interesting. There was no sound-proof booths which made the players seem more accessible. While I can see the problem with that, it was also really cool. Booths transport the players to another place as they walk in and, even if they're completely see through, I have to say that this "open air" solution actually made it feel like I was closer to the players. But that's not what I wanted to talk about here. I want to talk about the intro to the show and how it completely blew me away. It made me realize how far behind Dota event organizers are. How much better it could be. I'm going to start off by linking you the video of the intro, so you can make up your own mind:
Before you start saying "cringe" about the "EU, EU, EU" chant, I also want you to check out this video as the stream didn't properly pick up the audio level. Cause holy shit, that was LOUD. Goosebumps were had.
Then it got real crazy. Everything was so well choreographed. From the small details, like the blonde caster turning around with a light in his back, to players literally sprinting across the stage as they had two locations where the intros were filmed. Oh, I forgot to tell you the craziest thing: none of this was pre-recorded! Take a moment to appriciate how crazy that is. They pulled off that entire intro where they had to adapt to the lighting, positions of the cameras, graphics, players turning around at the right time, running around the stage. All of that. Live. That shit would be hard to pull off in a studio and they did it live on stage in front of a huge crowd. And all they had was one small mistake where a player turned the wrong way. And then the finale. The curtains fell and the teams were facing eachother. Oh my lord, just brilliant visual storytelling. That alone had me SOLD.
At the same time, I felt a bit sad. I realized that we're never going to see this kind of production in Dota. A key part of why Riot could pull this off is because they have a different approach than Valve. The players are well taken care of but the understanding is that they are available for this kind of media production. Valve would never demand that of the players which, in turns, means that they won't do it for any TO in Dota. Don't get me wrong, the cards they used for TI8 were very well made and even a bit personal, with players smiling, but it wasn't anywhere near this. Imagine if they would've used this concept for the TI8 finals. Have Chalice line up next to Notail/Jerax/Ana. Or Topson face to face with Maybe. That builds a storyline. Instead of that we got the same intro Valve had been using the entire tournament and a new player would have no way of connecting who would face off with who in the lane. There was no visual storytelling because Valve are scared to ask this of the players. Instead we get the same old "stand in a V formation and fold your arms" in every single tournament. No one is taking risks. And while risks might not always pay off, they push you to your limits.
In the end this past Sunday didn't turn me into a fan of LoL. Or the LEC. But it made me interested in the LEC. And I'll definitely tune in a few times next season.