Understanding the Assignment

Ever since the release of Riot’s Arcane series on Netflix, I’ve been looking at a previously unviewed store of dramatic vids from the people at Riot, and I have to say, I am impressed. Start with the two trailers for the series. This …

and this.

League of Legends has always, to me, been somewhat of a shallow game in terms of lore.  You have 140 heroes, sure, but they have about two paragraphs of lore – each – and that’s about it. Jinx is “the loose cannon” and takes delight in gleeful destruction and explosions. Vi is a brawler, stoic and gruff.  And, well, that’s about it.

Or, so I thought.

Now, I don’t want to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass here, obviously this new series didn’t bloom from “all” of that lore, rather it IS the lore. But a lot has to be said about this new lore; it is a compelling story with a lot of heft to it.

But I’m not really here to praise Arcane, but rather Riot’s efforts to crank up the hype.  We’ll start with this, an actual full-blown music video for the “theme” of Arcane, from none other than Imagine Dragons.

I have a lot of observations here. The production studio, Fortiche, is the same that did the series. But this video is all-original animation, not clips from the series itself. This conveys a sense of massive commitment to the series, as well as LoL itself in proxy.  In the episode “Everyone wants to be my enemy”, the band appears in the story, performing the song.  And in the 2021 “worlds” introduction, they appear, live, performing the song embedded in Zaun in a seamless bit of live action and animation. Riot didn’t leave anything on the table, is what I’m saying.

Production house Fortiche, by the way, is no stranger to LoL.  Here they are doing a video for 2018 “worlds” – which I gather is something like the competitive world championship for LoL – featuring current and past competitors in a  super-hyped fantasy setting.  And I don’t care what universe you’re from, this will get you excited.

The commitment is here once again, with The Glitch Mob, Mako, and The Word Alive contributing (I’d have been happy with just The Glitch Mob, tbh, the rest is frosting).

LoL is no stranger to dramatic intros for its games, either.  Do we have something like this for WoW’s “seasons”?  I think not. Behold, the 2020 Season trailer for League of Legends.

Or the 2019 trailer.

What am I on about?  I’m on about the simple act of hype that is expressed in each of these videos. It’s not like I’m going to play this game, but even as an uninterested observer, I’m excite! These do a great job of bringing excitement and engaging the intended audience.  Go read the comments on these.  The hype is palpable.

I am not here to dis Blizzard’s cinematic chops. Far from it.  Since WoD, they have really upped their in-game cinematics, for example. Show of hands, was there a dry eye in the house when Ysera snuffed it? (or when she unsnuffed in REDACTED)?  Anyone saying otherwise probably claims to not have cried at the end of Ol Yeller either.  Anyway, this is to say, Blizz can rip out a righteous cinematic.

But these all share a similar thing – they’re very much “in the mode” of being part of the game in some way.  And that’s where Riot is eating Blizz’ lunch (or one of the places – sorry, I don’t have time for the whole buffet here). In each of the above vids, Riot has inspired their player base by just whipping out the AWESOME over and over again. In both of the “season” vids, for example, we have three scenarios playing out in front of us, each very much in question even as the vid ends, but all of them awe-inspiring. In RISE we see a continuous backdrop of non-descript epic imagery. What are those statues? Nobody gives a shit – they’re AWESOME. Who are those characters? No idea. But they’re kicking ass!

You maybe see my point here?

There is a lot to be said for functionally relevant cinematics, and something else entirely to be said for exciting the player base. In the latter, I believe Riot has managed to do a far better job of it than Blizzard.  Bringing in outside talent, actual animation studios, and saying to hell with the lore, they’ve managed to raise the bar far above what Blizz can do right now.

In the end it isn’t a matter of how “good” your animation is.  I can animate, with great fidelity and resolution, the mother of all chrome balls floating over a chess board. Who gives a shit. But there are entities out there – Fortiche for example – that could make an animation of that ball that would have me tapping my toes and looking for a sequel.

And Blizz needs to start looking for that now.  Assuming they manage to dig out of the shitshow that is their current labor relations nightmare, turn the truck around on Shadowlands, and basically start on the road of recovery, they’re going to need a few triumphant return videos.   Imagine Dragons is done. But there are a lot of cool talents out there that would love to bring some epic love to the screen, I just know it.  Now’s the time to start looking,  planning, and writing.

Word has it that Riot is working on an MMO.  Right now, seeing the videos above and more (and there are many, many more) I have to say that I’m intrigued.

You might say, they understood the assignment.

Posted on December 18, 2021, in We're not in Azeroth anymore and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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