The event, which took place in Paris, featured the debut of a brand-new in-game musical group called True Damage that was revealed earlier this year. (Some of the characters even have outfits designed by Louis Vuitton.) A large, nearly invisible screen on the stage featured holographic projections of in-game characters and other special effects alongside the real-world performers; at times, multiple versions of the performers were displayed, and it was genuinely hard to tell what was real. At one point a giant tornado tore across the stage.
In 2017, Adam Mackasek helped summon a dragon in Beijing. During the annual League of Legends World Championships at the 80,000-seat Beijing National Stadium — better known as the Bird’s Nest — Mackasek and the rest of Riot Games’ e-sports events team created an augmented reality spectacle when a virtual dragon modelled after an in-game monster flew around the stadium.
Last year, the team followed the dragon with an AR K-pop group that became a viral hit. This past weekend in Paris, they did something similar with a lengthy, three-song ceremony that included a virtual hip-hop group. The difference was technology. This time the performance was powered by holograms that helped further blur the line between the real world and the virtual realm of League of Legends.
The three-song performance was a stunning combination of technology and choreography. It ended with a dramatic reveal of the Summoners Cup — League’s massive championship trophy — which, naturally, was housed in a high-tech Louis Vuitton trunk.
“We decided to go with the Holonet tech this year for a few reasons,” Adam Mackasek, associate manager for esports events at Riot Games, told ESPN about the opening ceremony. “This year’s arena is indoors and has controlled lighting conditions, something we’ve not had for the last few world finals. This widened the range of tools we could use to bring our IP to life. We wanted to pick a technology that really fit the aesthetic and feeling of the songs we’re performing this year. We didn’t want to just do AR, aka augmented reality, because we’ve done it in the past. Instead, the team wanted to surprise fans and push ourselves to do something they’ve never seen before.”
The 2018 performance featured a similar fictional K-pop group called K/DA, and it proved to be a massive hit. The music video for the song “Pop/stars” has been viewed more than 270 million times on YouTube, and the characters inspired a deluge of fan art. The song even made it into the hit VR game Beat Saber.
The Paris event was successfully powered by a technology called 3D Holonet, created by a company called Kaleida. Essentially, it’s high-tech metal gauze, which can be stretched out in a translucent screen where you can project holograms and other 3D effects. “The Holonet allows us to do different types of effects that weren’t necessarily possible with augmented reality,” explains Mackasek.
In between the first two songs, for instance, a giant holographic bubble appeared, masking the performers going on and offstage. And when the hip-hop group True Damage performed, the real-world performers were accompanied by their in-game counterparts. (Like K/DA before it, True Damage is a group that includes five real-world performers, who each represent an in-game character that has all been redesigned with a new streetwear-inspired look.) Using some clever choreography and technical wizardry, it was sometimes hard to tell which was real, as both the human and holographic performers warped across the stage in impossible ways.