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GlitchCon 2020: How Twitch Created a One-of-a-Kind Virtual Experience for Fans in Place of TwitchCon


GlitchCon 2020: How Twitch Created a One-of-a-Kind Virtual Experience for Fans in Place of TwitchCon Multiple virtual stages, 425 creators attract 6.7 million viewers to 12-hour live stream By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor

Friday, December 4, 2020 - 1:22 pm

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Each year, content creators and fans from across the globe flock to TwitchCon, the world's preeminent convention for gamers and streamers. However, with the pandemic continuing, Twitch was in search of a way to bring its community together for a singular experience that didn't include a large public gathering. Enter GlitchCon.

The virtual replacement for TwitchCon Amsterdam in May and TwitchCon 2020 in September (both canceled due to the pandemic), GlitchCon was a 12-hour marathon live-streaming experience offering 425 Twitch creators across four separate virtual stages - /twitch, /twitchpresents, /twitchgaming, and /twitchrivals - live-streaming a wide variety of content.

Twitch has relied on tools like NewTek TriCasters, VMix, OBS, and Discord to produce GlitchCon.

The goal was to create a special experience for the core Twitch community, and we achieved that, says Steven Flisler, head of esports and content production, Twitch. The problem we were solving for was, how do we create four separate virtual' stages with different entertainment experiences but still unify them to have a common beginning and ending with a theme stitched together. We needed to mimic what our community knows and expects in person at TwitchCon but reimagine it for the Glitch of the year that 2020 has become.

The Concept: Five Teams, Three Production Approaches To achieve this goal, Twitch split its team up to focus on five areas: the four content channels and a fifth team responsible for the overall hub, keynote, and musical after-party. Each team was led by a senior Twitch Channel producer: Erin Schmalfeld, Callum Hanlon, Chris Ambrosio, Sean Keegan, and Cyrus Ghahremani. And the teams were supported by the Twitch Original Content production arm: Mitch Rosenthal, Matthew Lamos, Farnoush Ansari, Sean Sullivan, and Alex Solomita.

Twitch Rivals used a physical stage to implement the Virtual Arena.

The team combined three production approaches to balance out the effort: well-known TwitchCon favorites like the Cosplay Contest and Artist Alley, existing formats from large content franchises of Twitch Gaming and Twitch Rivals, and new formats -each with a glitchy twist - developed specifically for GlitchCon.

I often joked that we took eight months of work and fit it into eight weeks, says Flisler. The overall theme and content plan took some time to come to life to make sure it was perfect. Designing and executing the production plan happened incredibly fast, and we didn't have time to pause.

Twitch also was forced to secure key production partners and studio facilities while simultaneously building show segments.

All the elements of the flow of the show and how we were promoting across the shows and feasibility testing happened back to back, with some show mechanics being seen only during our dress rehearsal, Flisler says. We moved fast to ship a cohesive event experience, which forced us to right-size a lot of elements and, of course, make quick decisions to execute.

Creating New Experiences: Twitch Rivals, Twitch Gaming Lead Out-of-the-Box Thinking Caleb WavePunk Simmons hosted the Twitch Rivals live show at GlitchCon from the Rivals Arena stage.

In addition to its in-house team, Twitch tapped existing partners Vindex/NGE and Butcher Bird Studios, along with new partners ADVNCR UK and ADVNCR Done & Dusted (AD&D) for a number of production services.

When moving TwitchCon to an online experience, says Flisler, we saw an opportunity to test and learn with different partners and thought-leaders in the virtual-event and technology space to help deliver the most unique, immersive, and entertaining experience for our viewers. With such a high volume of content, we sought out different companies to help bring our vision to life for each of the marquee moments.

For the Twitch Rivals esports channel, Flisler and company were looking to create a more immersive experience for the viewer and player. They built a Rivals Arena environment using extended reality (XR), which has seen exponential growth in esports, including the League of Legends World Championship earlier this year. The Rivals Arena included a Verizon 5G super suite with fans live-streaming into the arena, hundreds of fans as audience members with prerecorded reactions, and various video surfaces used for live gameplay, scoreboards, or other explainers.

The XR technology has become more prevalent as of late, says Flisler. By partnering with AD&D, we were able to achieve a larger-than-life experience and elevate the bedroom' caster backdrop to a presentation that matched the magnitude of GlitchCon.

Twitch created a unique Rivals Arena environment deploying extended reality (XR).

On the Twitch Gaming front, the production team worked with Warped World to build a custom top-down shooter game leveraging Unreal Engine, with key game-design decisions determined on-stream by fans via Twitch Chat. This game is set to be released for the Twitch community to download and play for free.

In all, Twitch had 20 content segments across the entire GlitchCon event. According to Flisler, in a normal world, one of those shows could be considered a full day's work and a single production team's focus.

Dealing with so many different creators across different time zones and languages was a Herculean talent-logistics effort, he explains. Coordinating so many different vendors, some of which we worked with for the first time, takes a lot of trust. And there were a number of new technologies that were unteste
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