If you want proof that the technology which surrounds us is changing every aspect of our lives, look no further than E sports. Unless you’ve buried your head in the sand for the last couple of years, you know that E sports has evolved into a massive industry with attendance that rivals other major sporting events. The Riot Games – 2016 League of Legends World Championships had 20,000 attendees; that’s a rock concert sized crowd. Riot Games understood early on that this event was going to be unlike anything seen in E sports previously, which is why they contacted Troika whose status is iconic in the sport graphics industry. The tech minded fans of E sports are hard wired to be aware of the most cutting edge presentation and Riot Games rebuffed any notion of disappointing them. Troika partnered with Riot Games to develop a broadcast package and live projection mapping, both built and designed together as a cohesive story for the 2016 League of Legends World Championship. The unique, game-driven visualization showed which teams had the advantage, built anticipation for crucial moments, and celebrated spectacular achievements. All of this was designed to enhance the live game experience and bring to life this virtual sporting event on a massive scale.
The intention of Riot Games was forward thinking and far from short sighted. The young and emerging E sports industry is set to take over the world. Riot approached Troika to help them innovate and cultivate a style not only for their band but to change the perception of the overall industry itself. Tim Smyllie was at the heart of that innovation. His designs were both the basis and set the style for the final piece. Tim was brought in due to his bold and unique design aesthetic. A native of the UK, Smyllie brings a decidedly European uncluttered clarity and personality to his work that is streamlined and timeless in its restraint. The purpose being to have impact through a bold use of typography and color without being brash or shouting. The influence of those Tim has worked with in the American industry has left subtle impressions on him leading to an even more original character to his sensibilities.
Though he had been a gamer in his earlier days, Smyllie’s unfamiliarity with this particular game required some education prior to contemplating an approach. League of Legends is a team game which pits rival teams against each other. The vast and expanding professional league is part of the phenomenon of E sports. The finale for the world championships of League of Legends (LOL) was held at the Staple Center in Los Angeles. Riot Games tasked Troika with creating all the graphics for the live finale. The graphics would be played on vast screens in the center of the arena and projected on the huge floor where the players were seated. Tim’s role on the project was that of lead designer/art director. Leading the creative development stage, he would manifest a brand new identity from scratch. This required Smyllie to work closely with the client to ascertain exactly what they desired. Part of Troika’s process is to involve the client early on in the creative development stage to produce a truly collaborative experience. Once Tim established the look, a team of animators executed the package using his designs as the basis. Tim worked closely with Gil Haslam, Seton Kim, and Mark Lee on the project. Troika Creative Director Seton Kim remarks, “Tim’s creative development on Riot’s LOL was outstanding! He always tries to push the boundaries and his determination to think outside the box on this project was inspiring to the rest of the team. This was an amazing opportunity for us to innovate. I was determined for us to experiment and challenge the client with what was possible. Tim was very much the experimental progressive part of our team. When we presented his work to the client, we had a few ‘wow’s’ and they were clearly impressed by what he had created. Riot Games came to us to help them see what was possible and help guide them to something new and exciting. Tim clearly wanted to lead this challenge that the client sent us and that attitude was exactly what I was looking for.”
League of Legends varies greatly from traditional sport, making it much more challenging in terms of creating the proper sensibility. It was essential that what Troika created was authentic to the game and the tonality was true to spirt of the genre. To understand this, the team brought in avid LOL fans as reference points. LOL is incredibly detailed and complex. There are many aspect and layers to the game. Players can completely immerse themselves in the gaming experience, spending very long periods of time playing. Learning the principals, essential details, back story, and spirit of the game were essential for Tim to convey the proper attitude in his work for LOL. As a designer/art director working in branding, getting the tone right is the core of every project to connect with an audience. Fans have a very deep connection to the game and anything that doesn’t feel authentic will be rejected immediately.
While the work of designing, presenting, and creating these visuals can be arduous, it’s only by witnessing the public’s reaction that they are truly judged as successful or not. Luckily for Tim, the League of Legends World Championships took place at the Staples Center during a time when he was able to attend. The experience was impactful. Smyllie recalls, “Having never been to anything like that before, it was a very interesting experience. Seeing and interacting with the fans was very rewarding and gave me invaluable insight into the industry itself. I learned so much about the sport from seeing it firsthand. In my line of work, to get an immediate first hand response from your audience is rare and there is nothing more powerful than having 20, 000 people screaming a response right next you! To see the work on the big screens is also very valuable. There is no way of testing out graphics on a huge screen so getting to see it play out in real time meant a lot.” Mark Lee (Art Director, Troika) adds, “I loved Tim’s ambition on this project. The success of Riot owed a lot to his drive for excellence. Out of anyone on the team, Tim was driving the innovation. His relentless desire to push the envelope on this project was inspiring to myself and the rest of the team. Working on a new phenomenon such as E sports is when you need the best and most experienced heads to be on the team because we need to make the most of this golden opportunity. Tim seized the opportunity with both hands and I loved that.”