WePlay! Esports Bukovel Minor 2020 that just wrapped last night was a breath of fresh air, from location to production value and the level of Dota 2 games played on stage, everything was outstanding. 

WePlay! Esports, the tournament organizers, who were at their first venture into the Dota Pro Circuit, exceeded the viewers’ expectations in many ways, but one of their greatest realizations, when it came to broadcast production, was the implementation of Augmented Reality. It was the first time used for a Dota 2 Minor and the first time when the viewers got to see AR used for more than the pick and bans.

We had the pleasure to sit and talk with Maksym Bilonogov, WePlay! Esports General Producer about the benefits of and challenges that such new technology brings to the table for tournament organizers.

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This is the first time when we see Augmented Reality (AR) being used for a Dota 2 Minor and I’d like to ask you when did you decide to integrate such a feature into the Minor production, was it even before you applied for a slot in the Dota Pro Circuit, or was it an idea that popped up when you actually started to prepare for the event?

It was decided before we applied. We have our own AR department, and we already tried to make something new, something creative for CS:GO. We implemented AR on our first and second Forge of Masters WePlay! League seasons, so when we got the Dota 2 Minor we immediately understood that we have to create something new for this discipline as well.

Of course, we had the picks and bans made fully custom in mind already, but we also made the analysts’ table, which we showed for the first time in the playoffs, during the Nigma versus Gambit Esports elimination series. We see that as a new possible tool for the analyst panel. 

I was watching the English stream for that series and I saw Kyle saying that he would have loved to have such a “toy” when he was still a player.

Yes, we want to believe that it makes it very easy to see what’s going on in the game at certain points, chosen by the analysts. You see the heroes map movements, the rotations, the wards, we are able to show instant replays chosen by the panel, all in all, it’s a good analytical tool. We plan to work more on it and make it even more useful. We are open to feedback if anyone from the community understands how AR works and what can be added to this analytical table, we will be more than happy to listen to suggestions.

You mentioned that you have an AR department at WePlay!, are you also using your own in house AR tools or the widely available ones? 

We are using the engines already available for AR, but the staff working with the AR features, the people that build what you see on the screen are our own guys. We have tech and creative departments, motion designers, CG artists, so all the creative work is in-house stuff. 

Is Augmented Reality a big investment production-wise, or is it accessible by most tournament organizers?

It depends on what we want to compare, expensive or not. For me, the AR is important to have in order to improve the broadcast quality, to make the stream more enjoyable, more esthetic. You can, for example, create a whole new dynamic of the in-between games segments by having a ping-pong between the panel and the analysts at the AR table. It’s also extremely important for us to create AR tools that will help the viewers understand the game. 

How much work did it take to incorporate AR in the WePlay! Bukovel Minor 2020?

From the idea stage, to result, it took us about four months. 

Will AR become the standard for esports production?

It really is up for tournament organizers to make a practice from integrating AR in their production. I hope it will become normal to have AR for esports tournaments and I hope that we set a good example with our Bukovel Minor, so maybe the community members start to ask the other TO’s to use Augmented Reality. Again, it’s all about making the esports broadcast better and bring more variety in the broadcasts. 

Do you see a way to engage the live audience with AR in the near future?

To be honest, I didn’t think about it, but it’s a very good homework theme, so I will think about this after we wrap up the Minor. 

Alright, I hope you guys get to host a Dota 2 Major as well, if not this season, maybe in the next one. Thanks a lot for everything that you and the entire WePlay! team delivered at this Bukovel Minor, it was an absolutely amazing experience.

Thank you so much!

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More interviews from WePlay! Bukovel Minor



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