Riot Games’ new Dublin venture is taking e-sports to the cloud

25 Jul 2022

The Project Stryker centre based in Swords, Dublin. Image: Leigh Mc Gowran

Through its AWS partnership, Riot Games said its sites around the world can virtually access the infrastructure of the Project Stryker broadcast centre.

A new facility by Riot Games aims to revolutionise the way e-sports events are broadcast globally through a streamlined, cloud-connected approach.

The Project Stryker facility in Dublin is a state-of-the-art facility designed to handle all elements of an e-sports broadcast such as production, audio, editing and graphic design.

Riot Games said the centre can manage six live broadcasts at the same time and there are plans to build two more sites in the near future.

Speaking to some of the main people behind the project at its launch event on 20 July, it is clear that Riot Games sees Project Stryker as its new standard on how e-sports events will be broadcast worldwide.

The company has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to turn the first Project Stryker site into a cloud-based facility. Riot Games aims to easily connect the site with its regional e-sports locations, while having all three sites operate as a single digital hub.

Getting ahead of growth

The company’s director of infrastructure engineering, Scott Adametz, told that the idea for Project Stryker began three years ago when he saw two engineers playing an early “pre-alpha” version of the video game Valorant.

Adametz said it was “both an exciting moment and a very scary moment” as he felt the game had the potential to create a new e-sport, similar to the company’s flagship title League of Legends. At the time, however, the organisation’s infrastructure was “solely focused” on League events.

“We had built capacity to support one game with an e-sport,” Adametz said. “Suddenly, we might have two and we knew there were more games in the pipeline at that time as well. So that got me started on a project to add capacity, but in a smarter way”.

Adametz said Riot Games had early examples of underestimating the amount of views its e-sports events would have, such as “anticipating 20,000 viewers on stream and getting 2m”.

“No one was thinking five years out, because we couldn’t, we had to think about the show at hand. Stryker is a chance for us to think for the next 10 years.”

Riot Games e-sports president, John Needham, said he had been discussing the idea of “scalable infrastructure” when he was inspired by broadcast facilities in Asia, which has a very “evolved” e-sports ecosystem.

“When we looked at our infrastructure around the world, we have 12 regional e-sports offices, it was all very bespoke,” Needham said. “It was infrastructure that didn’t really scale for multiple games, wasn’t connected in any way. And we wanted to push the boundaries of technology.

“So it only made sense for us to build these facilities and centralise our infrastructure, build them in a way that all the regions had access to the power of these facilities and anywhere that we did international events around the world, we had a centre that we could plug into.”

Initial success

Three years later, the first facility is able to receive live broadcast feeds from competitions around the world and edit content in real time, such as key moments in a game. The content is also stored so it can be used in the future by other facilities for various purposes, such as highlight reels or perspectives from specific players.

Allyson Gormley, the head of Project Stryker, started her journey with Riot Games nine years ago as an executive assistant.

“I’m kind of a testament to, if you’ve got the right attitude and want to get involved, it’s very much the door is open for you in Riot and those opportunities will come,” Gormley said.

While the facility officially launched last week, Gormley said it had its first test beforehand as it broadcast a 32-day e-sports event called Icons that took place in Singapore.

“We approached the launch for here in a crawl, walk, run approach and Icons was our run.” Gormley said.

She added that there is “no rest for the wicked” as the event overlapped with another e-sports competition taking place in Denmark. Despite this, the facility only used two of its six broadcast rooms for the Icons event.

Remote access from anywhere

One of the major goals of Project Stryker is to be able to handle e-sports events from anywhere in the world. When all three centres are built, they will each be active at different time zones to “follow the sun”.

This is so at least one of the facilities will be staffed at any time, to support e-sports events 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The fact that the facility is accessible through the cloud means that other Riot Games centres can access and use the infrastructure remotely, even if the facility isn’t currently staffed.

“That’s really powerful because we produce a lot of regional leaks around the world with partners. If we can hand them our master control suite, they can use the capabilities and capacity that we have here as well,” Needham said.

The facility also aims to cut down on costs by making it cheaper and faster to process and store larger amounts of data. Adametz said in 2021, it took 3.2 petabytes (or 3,200 terabytes) of data to remotely produce the Mid-Season Invitational e-sports event.

“That was across 114 games, almost a month of show, we now do that same amount of data traffic and transfer in this building in less than half an hour,” Adametz said. “So from 30 days and 114 games to less than half an hour and we are doing the equivalent amount of data, just in this building alone.”

Future expansion

Gormley said there are a variety of e-sports competitions that the Dublin facility will be participating in. She added that a couple of offices within the Dublin facility are being used for R&D by AWS, to continue to push forward the limits of the “bleeding edge technology”.

The first Project Stryker facility has also been used as an example for future facilities, as Riot Games has taken what it has learned for the design of its US building. This facility will also have XR and AR rooms, allowing the company to produce different forms of content.

Gormley described the facility as a “big strategic bet” for the company. She said the facility will need to prove itself to see how the project as a whole will be shaped in the future. The second facility is currently being constructed in Seattle and is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

While the Dublin facility is expected to house around 120 staff, Gormley said the staff number will grow as needed based on the demand, so its unclear when the Project Stryker facility will reach full capacity. This view was shared by Needham, who said the company wants “staffing to flex with utilisation”.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic