With the LEC Spring Split Playoffs kicking off on Friday, the top six teams from the region will be locked into a series of best-of-five matches in order to decide who will be representing Europe at League of Legends MSI 2021.
Earlier this month, Riot surprised us all by revealing that the Spring Playoffs will see its participating teams return to the LEC studio for the first time since the end of the 2020 Spring Split.
The ongoing pandemic made it unsafe for Riot to continue hosting offline events throughout the past year, forcing regional leagues like the LEC to pivot to an online format. However, due to China’s efficient handling of the pandemic, Worlds 2020 was successfully produced on LAN. This has evidently sparked a renewed confidence for Riot, which has now organised offline events for not only the LEC Playoffs but the LCS Mid-Season Showdown and MSI in Iceland.
In order to find out more about Riot’s decision to bring the LEC back to the studio, as well as the safety precautions being taken while a surge of new cases is sweeping through mainland Europe, we spoke to the head of LoL esports in Europe & MENA, Maximilian ‘MAXtheX’ Schmidt.
The Loadout: Are you as excited as we are to get players back in the LEC studio after more than a year since they were last there?
MAXtheX: Absolutely. I think I can speak for everyone at our office here in Berlin when I say that we really missed the teams being at the studio on a weekly basis as it generates excitement on a whole other level. That is also why we are so very much looking forward to being able to bring the teams back for Playoffs in a safe and controlled environment.
Even with the more manageable schedule of Playoffs (just two teams a day) what challenges will there be to keep everyone safe?
With health and safety precautions ensuring the safety of our players, I would want to highlight a separate challenge: some of these players have never been to our studio. To mitigate the impact of that, we are organising tech check days during the weeks before Playoffs to ensure all teams and players are familiar with the studio environment, all their gear is working perfectly, and that everyone understands the various health and safety regulations we enforce at the studio.
Related: Our 2021 LEC Spring Split Playoffs predictions
We’ve seen multiple TOs approach COVID safety in different ways. PUBG Corp, for example, made players wear temperature patches during their games. Are there any extra measures you’re taking that weren’t mentioned in your blog post?
I think the most important one I want to highlight is that we are not allowing anyone into the studio without an up-to-date negative COVID-19 test. This – on top of all the other measures we have outlined we will be taking – will ensure that the safety of the teams & staff is the number one priority.
Should it be necessary, we may see some teams forced to play online if their opponent can’t attend in-person. Has there been any concerns about level playing fields and competitive integrity around this, or are teams generally happy to change from online and offline if needed?
While ideally the environment of course stays the same for all teams throughout the entirety of Playoffs, the pivot to online play is something that has already been a back-up solution for emergency cases like the one you are outlining. E.g. if there are serious issues with our LAN, we already had regulations in place to move to an online server (even if the teams were physically at the studio).
You’ve already said that Summer Split will return to online. Is that a definite decision for the entire split, or with the experience you gain running Playoffs, could offline play return at some point in the Summer Split regular season?
We are definitely targeting a return to online play for Summer to guarantee the safety of everyone involved in creating the show – teams & staff alike. That being said, we will of course keep a close eye on how the pandemic develops over the next months and reassess in case there are unforeseen changes for the better.