Riot Music Head on Building World anthologies: ‘[Music] not just what you hear’

Riot Games is primarily known for its globally acclaimed video game, League of Legends. However, over the past few years, the developer has built an empire of titles based on League universe, celebrates an important milestone of 180 million players on its games earlier this month.

Teams, champions and legends all helped League has grown exponentially over the past 12 years, but one aspect of the game that’s quickly coming to life of its own is its music. Riot’s music team went from creating themes and background songs for champions to creating a virtual K-pop band Gold certification.

More than 200 songs later, League’Universes has cemented its reputation as one of the most musically diverse worlds in the gaming industry.

The songs created by Riot’s music team set a tradition — namely, the annual World Championship anthem. The reveal of the song Worlds ignited the excitement of the competition and gathered fans around the globe to celebrate. League e-sports every year.

In an interview with Dot Esports, Riot Music head Toa Dunn talked about his approach to Worlds songs, his experience on projects, and what music means to him and his team. he.

“We think music is a very powerful medium of communication,” says Dunn. “It’s not just what you hear.”

“Make it or break it”: Building a World of 2021 theme

For this year’s tournament, Riot has focused the contest’s theme on “make it or break it”.

The band released this year’s World anthem, “Burn it All Down,” on September 29 with PVRIS, who sings the story of an atypical hero. The song’s protagonist has stopped trying to fit into the stereotypical hero role imposed by the system and continues to burn them all down.

As part of the tradition, each Worlds song comes out with a music video. The events narrated in the song are conveyed through beautiful animation that perfectly matches the rhythm and lyrics of the song.

But the song’s story, audio, and music video don’t quite come to fruition overnight.

To create a Worlds anthem, Riot first determines the theme of the year. The music industry partnered with various departments, including Riot’s e-sports team, to come up with the idea of ​​bringing together the teams and regions participating at Worlds.

According to Dunn, the delivery of the World’s song took nearly a year. And even though the music team had a “good process right now” on how to get things done in that amount of time, Dunn said they never had enough time for everything they wanted to do. There’s always been the “railway” of Worlds, a rigid schedule that requires the music department to have a song ready at a certain time of year.

For Dunn and his team, the challenge around the anthems of the World has always been how to make them “different and new”. That doesn’t include what genre of music it has to be or what instruments to use, but more of how it feels to League player. And to create a new song from scratch, the music team looked at the project through a different lens every year.

After the theme of Worlds has been finalized, it is up to the music team to produce a song that reflects the chosen theme. They had to find the right pitches to amplify “emotional harmonies” while considering variables that change year on year.

“Anything that the country [will host the competition], what happened in the past year, what inspired us, new things we saw and heard came to the world,” Dunn said. “We learn what inspires us because we want to inspire our players.”

Finding unique sounds through vocals

Much of the emotion that the music team wants to convey to the fans is through the vocals of the featured artist.

When the music team got together to craft the National Anthem of the World, they considered what the vocals would sound like and which artists might have the unique sound they were looking for. When talking to the artists and their staff, the Riot team explains what they want to do and tries to instill in the artists the emotions they want to convey. League fan. “[We look for] Dunn said.

Over the years, the music team has worked with various artists to find a unique sound that perfectly fits the theme of the year. Some of these artists had heard of Riot and its IP before collaborating.

“What we found was that some of the artists we worked with had heard of video games and some had never heard of it. League before,” Dunn said. “But then you show them our world, the fans, the grandstand, the opening ceremony — and a lot of them get it.”

In some cases, the artists approached by Riot were aware of past musical activities for the Worlds. In particular, Dunn said an artist recalled a live performance in Paris 2019 with a lineup of Cailin Russo, Chrissy Costanza, Becky G, Keke Palmer, (G)I-DLE’s Soyeon, Duckwrth and Thutmose.

Experience the live event

Since 2014, a live performance of the National Anthem of the World has been held on stage during the opening ceremony of the final series of the competition. Over the years, League fans have seen their favorite artists as well as many tech and virtual additions, from the Elder Dragon spawning in 2017 to the disappearing illusions of artists being brought to the stage in Paris 2019.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has shuffled the cards for players, fans, and organizations. New safety rules and international law have since made more regulations for large-scale events like Worlds.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the limitations it brings, this year’s World Championships lacked spectators. In addition, Riot had to change the international competition location due to many obstacles related to travel restrictions. The move from Shanghai to Reykjavík inevitably led to many modifications to the schedule and the way events were organized — even for the music group.

“We have to keep adapting, but our ultimate goal is how we can deliver a great experience for our players,” Dunn said. “Sometimes we have to adapt to something more virtual and digital. Of course, some things had to change, but in a wonderful way, and we learned to do things in ways we never thought possible. “

There’s a lot to learn from these situations, says Dunn. Riot teams have grown exponentially in experience since 2014. “Warriors,” the first song of the World released that year, was Dunn and his team’s first experience with live performance of a song of the World.

“I could talk about ‘Warriors’ all day because it took us what it took to work with a large group like Imagine Dragons and let a very small team learn what it means to have a live performance at a football stadium abroad, when you’ve never done something like that before,” Dunn said. “I ran so many times up and down that stadium and I believe I slept for two days after that.”

For both fans and racing enthusiasts, 2014 was “the year of ‘Warriors’ and Imagine Dragons.”

But “Warriors” is just the beginning of Worlds anthems. Since then, Riot has released a new song with a new artist every year—And almost each of the anthems has its own emotional story to the band.

“[‘Warriors’] Dunn said. “[It] kinda made a mark, because it just made esports a reality on a huge scale from a musical standpoint. ”

Just the tip of the iceberg

Even after years of creating hits, there’s still a lot that the music group wants to discover and say through music.

One of the newest frontiers explored by Riot Music is Arcane, an animated series by Netflix focusing on characters from Piltover and Zaun. To produce the series, Riot teamed up with Fortiche Productions, who created the animation, while the soundtrack belongs to Riot Music. Riot Music had to consider a number of factors when creating the music for this new vehicle, from the type of instrument the people of Piltover and Zaun could use to the ambient sounds of the area.

Related: The head of Riot Music discusses the role Arcane’s background music will play in League Netflix series

“It was amazing,” Dunn said. “But I think when it comes to the future, I’m actually pretty excited. I think we are just at the tip of the iceberg.”

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