TI9 记忆中心

远在2012年,那时第一次身临TI现场的我还年轻,在当中的某一个瞬间萌生了一个小小的愿望,就是有一天看到一届TI办到中国去。那时候的梦想也只是个小朋友随便在说一说而已,而2019的现在,这个梦想在很多人的努力下不仅成真了,TI2时还年轻的我更是万万没有想到自己还会有如此难忘的一次经历并且能够参与在其中。

上海

TI9开始前的我,已经在上海呆了接近8个月了,目的只有一个那就是直接为TI9第一次在中国举办而献上自己的力量。这也是经过了这么多年后,又一种体验的TI9的形式吧。这次来自各界的关注、以及国内广大玩家观众的期望,都成为了压力,压力也转化为动力~ 挑战是巨大的,在当中协调各种文化和机构方面的差异也一度感到很疲惫,但最终看到这么大的比赛结合在上海这个超级大都市中还是让人感到了一股魅力、魔力。

在一天又一天的邮件、表格、还有后来天天清早拨进的跨越太平洋电话会议的缝隙中,连我睡眠时做的梦都开始有些发紫了。

2019年,5月份

从上面往下看的梅奔内场

从酒店安排到直播设备的规划,从神秘商店和各种平面方面的设计,到测试比赛网络等等各种事情, 就不在这里一一阐述筹备期间的各种细节了,但是清楚的是2019年的5月份当时,我已经充分的意识到了这次比赛的规模远远超出想象。去年的DAC2018可能是我在TI9之前参与最深入并且对自己最有挑战的一次赛事,但是做DAC2018也只花了我两个半三个月的时间投入,而到了2019年的5月份,我其实已经有五个多月参与在TI9的筹备中了。到TI9开赛还有三个月,我也在5月份开始了基本上天天只想TI9的节奏。

当然,筹备一次赛事不可少的一个环节就是多次现场考察,我也多次陪着各方伙伴去梅奔,到最后连天空上的马道都上去过,我也算是从每一个角度都见过梅奔这个场馆的人了。

2019, 8月7日

这是我第一天到小组赛所在的酒店,首先要做的事情就是协调接收一批比赛会用到的货。有五辆大货车,抵达酒店的时间已经是晚上天黑后了,这个工程一直到凌晨才做完。今年也是我第一次参与到TI前期的一些工作,也一次又一次地让我意识到为了能呈现出一个完整的赛事体验,背后所需要的细节和付出。我只是帮忙协调的人,真正辛苦的是帮我们推箱子进酒店的工人,各种各样的箱子和设备要想方设法通过酒店的一些宽窄不定的走道。等这批设备全部都到位后,才第一次感觉到这个TI或许真的要开始了,而不再是纸面上和电脑显示器上的邮件里面的规划而已。运气也算站在我们这边,所有运输进来的设备都很顺利的到了。

各种设备开始就位

2019,8月8日

说到运气,PGL的多数团队成员今天都到了,而之所以运气好是因为他们刚好在台风来袭前抵达了上海。团队当中也有很多个熟悉的面孔,算是我的电竞盟友们了吧。 帮他们领了STAFF的T恤,在酒店的宴会厅层带了他们走一圈熟悉环境后,他们便出到宴会层外的平台,被我称作 “PGL 基地” 的地方,度过了剩余的一点点夜晚。这个平台也是之前好几次比赛中,PGL都会经常聚集的地方。今晚调整时差,准备第二天就要来临的TI9工作。我也和他们聊了聊,算是叙叙旧吧。很多面孔都是在TI8到现在都没有再见过的,那天晚上也感觉到TI8不是刚刚才结束的吗?

我们真的就要马上开始做TI9了吗?

2019,8月9日

台风天

今天,很多昨天没到的比赛设备都到齐了。其中包括一个重量级别的东西:冠军盾,安置在一个没有什么标记的,但是很安全的样子的箱子里面。我们花费了几分钟来找这个箱子。找到箱子之后,我们打开验证了一下里面的东西确实是我们需要找到的东西,感叹了里面的历史,开了个 “万一这个不见了的话,比赛可怎么办” 的玩笑,就把它收好了。

外面,整个上海都被一个强台风所包围,夜晚的降临似乎也为台风带来了更大的力量。风和雨,也打断了很多TI9辅助人员的到来。今晚在我们的酒店小城堡里面只有一些Valve、PGL、和完美的人在等待着后面TI将带来的繁忙,但是我们先要等待的是这场台风的消去。

2019,8月10日

Darkness before the light

台风基本上持续了这一整天,风刮得雨水是横向在空中飞的感觉。上海浦东这边因为街区都属于比较新的,所以没有什么积水的问题,但我在手机上看到了上海的其他区域街头上淹水的情况,上海市也同时发出了各种警戒。街头上没有什么车也没有什么人,平时繁华闪烁的天际线在无灯光的照亮下也显得额外的暗。黄浦江似乎有点生气的感觉,潮水不时地涌到岸边的地面上。平时TI小组赛前的平静,在我这次的印象当中,也被这次台风带得有些不那么平静了。几天后和Newbee他们聊天时,我忘了他们说的是不是这次台风但反正也是某次下大雨,CCnC说Jack在基地楼上光着膀子在处理漏水,下楼的一句 “我们需要更多毛巾!”颇为壮观。

的确,这次台风带来的雨量大到连酒店的窗户都有一点无法招架,有一两次我们也说了那一句,“我们需要更多毛巾!”

2019,8月11日

A TI9 team practice room

早上的黎明带来的是一片晴天白云,台风过去了。PGL和其他工作人员在到处忙碌着,我也在跟着他们到处跑,为了战队的即将到来做最后的准备。这次的训练房,每个队伍有6台电脑,五名选手一名教练都有提供,而配置更是豪华的 i9-9900k 加上 2080ti,显示器华硕 244赫兹的,椅子是Secretlab专门为TI9特制的紫色限量版。这些所有都在各个训练房中到位后,TI9也一点一点地成型了。

(我度过了人生中的第一次台风,但能不能度过后续的TI9风暴呢?)

2019,8月12日

各个战队今天都开始抵达酒店。之所以说酒店是因为,大多数战队都已经在前几周内提前来到上海,调整时差并且开始集训。当天我遇到了国土,当他看到我时他就过来抓了我一把,大声的说着 “哇,你怎么越来越年轻了!” 是那种给我两个老朋友很久没见后第一声打招呼的感觉,其实我们两个岁数也差不多,在这个圈子里也都算是老人了吧。国土最近气色看起来也很不错,听说他也开始健身了,虽然说他人比以前更更更瘦了,但是脸色和整个人的状态都感觉上升了一个档次。

RNG

2019,8月13日

今天早上下楼时就遇到了正在准备做定妆照的RNG战队。他们的教练,曾经的VG和LGD选手Super第一个看到我,我们便打招呼,我也在等其他人就决定陪他们聊一会。聊到晚上睡觉的话题上,Super说 “晚上睡觉都看先手”,这似乎是个很重要的话题。“晚上对方如果先睡着,那就gg了,你被打先手了。” 原来他在说的情况是对方打呼噜的事情,同房就会产生一个每天晚上先后手的情节。“在对方之前先睡着很关键,好吧。” 后来又聊到了往届TI,大家对排名的结论都很相似,只要不是第二名就都可以接受。也在TI前记得哪个采访当中看到过谁说,只要不要第二就行。不知道这样的说法是给自己减压还是多一份动力,但TI9结束后回顾这一幕,有一点铺垫的感觉?

Blurry welcome dinner pic

酒店的各个角落我也遇到了好多熟悉的面孔:液体、秘密、老干爹的人等等。大家都很忙碌地在进行定妆照以及其中素材的拍摄,我也执行着我一贯的规矩尽量不在比赛期间和选手过多的聊天,所以都是打个招呼就路过的。

今晚是每年TI都会有的欢迎晚宴,今年可能也是人气最高的一次吧,因为晚宴就在酒店里面。事情都总要有个开始也要有个结尾,如果赛后派对时结尾那欢迎晚宴就是开始吧,我也很高兴看到大家在高压力的比赛开始前能够有短暂的几个小时可以一起稍微聚一聚。

VP at media day, TI9

2019,8月14日

来到了定妆照拍摄的第二天。今年他们让选手们拍了更多的趣味照片。经过这么多年,看到几乎所有选手都终于放得开展现自己也让我感到挺欣慰的。脑海中还是会浮现出TI4那时候,我得站在选手身边亲自示范怎么摆pose的画面。如今,这已经成为几乎每支队伍每一位选手都能够在较少的指导下自主完成的事情了。

2019,8月15日

小组赛第一天。比赛延了一个小时开,但总的来说还是进行的蛮顺利的。游戏开始后,马上就跟历届TI的现场一模一样:各种不同的声音、团战音效、英雄技能声效等在酒店三楼观看厅那里揉成一团。观看厅里摆设了可同时看四路比赛的电视,方便解说和战队人员能在一个区域中观察一切动态。同时,三楼也是主要的转播制作区域,因此解说也会在场间穿梭于观看厅。今年的中文解说阵仗我认为是所有TI中最星光耀眼也最庞大的一次。从某些角度上来看,重量甚至压过了参赛选手,毕竟阵容中包括了六位以上的TI冠军选手,还有其他名气很响,声望很高的人物。这个现象与西方DOTA对比非常强烈。西方的圈子里,TI全数参与的Puppey和Kuroky及前任冠军选手们都还是以现役选手身份参加这次TI,与大家一起角逐冠军盾。我固然不在这篇文章中深入讨论中国DOTA的现况,但还是觉得单一从这一点就看得出来,世界其他地方的DOTA还在前进,但国内的就是看着前日的冠军渐渐淡出或选择其他出路,无论是在长寿度或竞争性都有一点点被国外领先了的感觉了。

夜晚时刻,在今日的比赛结束后,背景传来Sia的《Cheap Thrills》这首歌曲。我不需要钱~~ 只要我能感受到节奏… 中文解说们在讨论着去哪吃饭,在外面平台抽烟的选手和工作人员慢慢的享受着一点夏天的风。


自从上一次有人把冠军盾带回到中国,已经时隔三年了。TI9便在这个背景下,开始。

430, ddc, xiao8, and Sansheng casting group stage

2019,8月16日

小组赛第二天的成绩看下来,VG 和 LGD 代表着中国战队名列前茅。这或许对他们来说既增加也减少了所背负的压力。毕竟,自从TI8结束以来,让LGD赎回TI8丢掉的盾的呼声就不曾断过,这下还加上了把家门口TI9的盾留在中国的期盼。在这一年中,圈子里的各种宣传、DPC的每一步脚印,似乎都在为了赢得TI9而铺陈。因此,他们截至目前为止的小组赛表现,虽然说不上碾压对手,但是非常稳扎稳打,也足以回应粉丝对他们的期盼,并且可以证明给自己看他们还是有实力再次打回这个主舞台的。很多选手都说过,TI只有打了才知道,但是一个好的开始怎么也是一记很好的强心针。

而KG 跟 RNG 在小组赛的表现有些挣扎,但团队氛围似乎还不错。国土还是面带微笑、沉稳的前进着,不过这也可能因为他是经历过那么多激烈高压的比赛的老手吧。这种只有经验老道的选手才能带来的感觉,在国内战队中已经愈加珍稀了…。老鸡和老十一几乎是不可分开的存在,场间下楼抽烟,不停的讨论着下一场的战略或回顾上一场的经过。有的时候跟他们擦身而过他们还会点头打招呼,其他时候则是专注于讨论到完全管不着外面的世界了。而这时外头的世界还是时有阵雨,也就是标准的上海夏天的天气。

Keen Gaming (pic BLKcross on Weibo)

2019,8月17日

Partway through build at the Mercedes-Benz Arena

作为在筹备期接触过各方面计划的我,也知道这两天在场馆的进度是尤其关键的,大家也对于这个进度有些担忧。在搭建期间去过几次场馆并且亲眼能看到那边的进度一步一步地在进行中,这些担忧也慢慢的被解除掉了。小组赛期间一直都要守候在酒店以便于保证比赛的顺利进行,我在这里还是要向场馆那边的伙伴们致敬:搭建和制作方面的知识是我这次收获最大的一部分。从这次的对战房(新做的)、到舞台设计、到灯光、到各种舞美(很多都是手工和手绘的),这次的所有过程都是真正意义上的国际合作,或许比以往哪一次TI都更加国际化。

一天的比赛结束后,酒店大堂碰到了VG全队在集合准备一起出去吃完饭。大家似乎都到齐了,唯独老队长一个人还没到。我看到Yang做了个鬼脸,说 “他怎么又迟到,总是他!” 不过没过多久,老队长也出现了,他的队友们稍微吐槽了一下,然后大家便带着一股轻松的氛围,一起出发了。

Happy birthdays…

今天的前后几天内,有好几个人在过生日。Ams、Sccc、还有英语解说中的Purge是大家应该都比较熟悉的,另外还有Imbatv和PGL的人也都凑在一起有8月中的生日。因此,应Valve的提议便出现了个较大的生日蛋糕,和它一起配着的是一把较长的刀,用来切蛋糕的。过生日的人各自切过蛋糕后,三个语种的一些解说和工作人员围了一大圈在一起长了生日歌,然后刚刚下解说的Sccc也赶过来,衣着整齐的他露出了一点点惊奇,还说着 “哇,人生中第一次这么多人和我过生日”,我还想着想Sccc这么有人缘的怎么会没有很多人年年要帮他过生日呢?然后 Faith_bian在旁边帮着递蛋糕,解说群里Valve的人推着大家赶紧下楼一起庆祝,围在周边的人拿着手机拍着,甲哥、两冰、还有大家手上都拿着蛋糕吃着,让我感觉这就是一个大家庭吧。

后来想了想,也大概明白了Sccc为什么不会有很多人帮他过生日,因为作为顶级职业选手,生日在8月份的大概率都在奋战TI吧,所以近年内肯定都没办法有什么庆祝了。

2019,8月18日

今年在TI酒店多了一间大家可以用来玩游戏或者开黑的房间,由华硕赞助的笔记本电脑20多台。这个房间很快就成为很多人在空闲时间中的一个避风港。有一天晚上,我也到那边晃了晃,遇到了刚刚下飞机抵达上海的Dendi。看到他,我去打招呼,他也很高兴的说Hi!我就说,你也来啦~ 他就笑一笑,我问他飞过来还行吗(还行),感觉怎么样(有点冷!酒店的空调太足了)。然后他反问我怎么样啊(累,但还不错)。在TI还能经常看到Dendi也是很开心的一件事情,他是多年来一直都保持一样的心态和对待他人的热情。

2019,8月19日

今天又是一年TI的媒体日,各家媒体都挤在一个大房间内,战队们陆陆续续地穿着队服出现一段时间接受采访。今年的媒体日相比于以往,显得拥挤了很多。一方面是空间没有去年大,另一方面是因为在上海,来自国内各界媒体的关注度也很高。今年我没有很多媒体日帮忙做采访的任务,我在这里帮了一会忙之后就前往场馆参加彩排了。

到了场馆,交响乐和舞蹈团队都已经在他们的彩排过程中。台下,舞台导演和我们在和各个战队的领队们解释着明天开幕式的流程,让他们可以把这些信息带回给明天早上要来参加开幕式的选手们。领队们到了场内也显现出了一些好奇,有些人拿着手机拍照收藏这一刻,大家也都开始有点期待了TI9主赛事即将带来的魅力了。

场馆的后台区,在中文解说休息室里面我发现了一位马甲哥与430在一起翻着刚刚买回来的神秘商店宝贝。先是ZSMJ要求430帮他拿着雨伞和手机壳拍个照,很快就决定这些东西其实应该是430拿着效果会更好。“来,你拿着我拍”,就变成430客串了一下马甲哥的商品模特了。

2019,8月20日

今年的TI9门票刚开始卖的时候,我对于自己在八月份现场的参与还不是很确定,也就跟其他人一样线上去碰运气抢了一下,意外的买到了两张票。原计划是邀请亲友来观看比赛,尤其是家人,因为他们一直都对我到底做什么不是很理解(虽然说近年来已渐渐从最开始的反对转变成了接受甚至是支持)。最终这些计划都泡汤了,因为他们结果是在TI前一周就来看过我并且离开了上海,因此我手上就多了张票。最后,就在主赛事开赛前的凌晨时分,在上床睡了两个小时之前,我通过微博把票送给了一位DOTA粉。这位玩家在我凌晨4点发了帖子要求回复中要含照片和一段文字描述应该选择他们的原因后,早上6点被选中。他说他从外地飞到了上海,没有票,原本计划参加VG组织的线下观战,也从来没有去过TI现场。我们约了9点在梅奔门口见,把票给了他,跪求他不要转卖,也请他拍很多现场照片,让我也能透过他的视角体验一次作为观众去TI的感觉吧。

Thanks!

观众视角是我这几届TI都无法体验到的。我当然不会是在抱怨这点,但是作为DOTA迷我也还是会感叹,有的时候会有一点点希望能够抽空到看台上跟一两个朋友好好坐着,讨论要看哪一场比赛,什么时候去逛一下神秘商店,谁的签名去争取一下,在哪个精彩的BO3过后也可以一起刷刷微博和其他媒体,一起轻松的度过一天… 记得上次真正完整地看完一个大场是在TI3的时候,而当时是因为中国队在总决赛前都已经被淘汰了。今年其实一局完整的从BP到gg都没看过,但气氛中都飞舞着,而我也要尽量事后再把片段拼凑成画面。这可能是TI的一种魔力吧,就算没有能够以最完整的形式来体验,TI还是那么吸引大家,所以我也太能理解那些没有票还要前往现场的朋友,因为换我我大概也会做同样的事情。

Anyway, 有点跑题了,这位玩家好像玩得蛮开心的,也让我感觉到虽然这个举动不算什么大事情,但是我能够这样把票送给需要的人也是我能做的一切了吧,对我来说有意义。

红毯环节后紧接着就是开幕式。因为参与了这些的一点幕后规划,我脑海里知道应该发生的是什么,却也没空盯着荧幕确认它的确按照计划走。Gabe一如既往低调的发言,带来的是主舞台上的第一次沸腾。对中国粉丝这或许是TI9开幕中最重要的一个仪式。假如冰蛙是DOTA的神,一个未知又莫及的存在,那么Gabe就像是TI的认证标签,有了他才是货真价实的TI。

“Welcome to the International!”
“欢迎来到国际邀请赛!”

我听粉丝说Gabe的出现才让他们有种 “哇!这真的是TI!在中国的TI!”的体会。我觉得国内粉丝能够在主场的舞台上听到那一句肯定也是很多人期待已久的一幕了吧,反正我是。

The grand stage

It’s more than emotion
I feel I’m never gonna stop

主赛事首日进行的难以置信的顺利,不过要是你在后台你可能不那么感觉,因为大家都极度紧绷。这天的时间拉得很长,要打6场,其中还包括4场淘汰赛意味着有4支战队要结束他们的TI旅程。对于中国队而言,VG和LGD都顺利的拿下了他们的胜者组对阵,是个好的开始。比赛后,LGD显得泰然自若,仿佛肩上毫无压力。或许是因为除了他们还有三支中国队也还在奋斗吧。毕竟如果粉丝的期待、支持、及群众氛围会在无形中成为压力的话,那么在场有多支中国队就能尽量平均分担一些了。

The player entrance floors were hand-painted in fluorescent paint

2019,8月21日

主赛事第二天。我在后台看到BurNIng 在吃饭。我跟他说了声哈咯,他回了声哈咯。场馆里今天特别冷,后勤接待团队替大家买了毯子盖,还有人直接穿了羽绒服,虽然场外是上海的八月天。我也有机会遇到了Mara和他的朋友Kazu,就是日本牡蠣杯的那群人。我们交换了联系方式后,我带他们到处看了一圈。他们是受Valve邀请,以观众身份来看比赛。我问他们是否会上直播流,他们只说了声 “可能吧。” 他们很放松的看比赛,交谈中了解到他们也会在东京电玩展(TGS),而我在TI后也会去,所以我们就约定了在那里碰头。Mara 会参与TGS中由日本电竞联合会举办的DOTA2 比赛。

RNG goodies

我在场馆入口短暂的碰到了国土的两个小女儿,她们和带着她们的大人正等待一些协助进入场馆。后来有空和国土聊了一点点,我觉得他的女儿果真跟他以前在手机上给我看的照片一样可爱。那是2017年左右的事了吧,每次见到我他都会给我看她们的近照,然后如果是在美国打比赛的话,结束后会让我带他去买奶粉。他会问我 “你什么时候有小孩啊?” 然后我会跟他说这不在我的计划内。我也见到了Fy家里的小朋友,应该是姥姥带着,来看Fy比赛。这两三年,从真视界中及冠军上台捧盾的时候可以看出,有越来越多选手的家人亲友都来观赛,支持他们。他们也许不完全了解游戏中发生的事情,但是这个现象还是挺令人感动的,也跟以前那种父母反对孩子进入电竞的情况完全不一样了。突然感觉我们大家还是走过来了。

We’re speaking a language
That no one understands

场馆附近区域,几支中国队都组织了正式的线下观赛,展现了他们对于DOTA的投入。RNG包下了场馆边上的一家餐厅,用来发放应援物。VG租了市中心的一家剧院。LGD不用多说,有他们自己在杭州开的电竞馆。

今年场馆外有个面积很大的广场都被TI9包下来了。除了兑票区,神秘商店( 有很多新货及TI专属商品),还有TI有史以来第一次做的战队商品售卖区。 战队前期通过报名,安排在这个区域售卖战队商品,印象中VG,KG,RNG,LGD,Secret, Alliance,VP,Liquid,以及Newbee 都抓住了这个机会。这似乎是很多战队在很多次比赛中都询问、建议过的。另外,广场上有道很高大的墙,前面树立了所有的队旗,搭配上紫色的灯光以及广场旁的锥形荧幕,我认为这次的外场部分是所有TI中户外元素视觉效果最壮观的一次。

Panorama

2019,8月22日

活动截至目前为止我都还没机会跟熟人见上几面,更别说坐下来聊聊了。但此刻我看到了三冰,他是专程为了去神秘商店而来了现场。因为刚好有点时间,我就带他走了一条能够避开外面酷暑的室内通道。路上,他问了个保安哥们 “你是上海人吗?” 然后在保安大哥还没反应过来之前他就 “哦,OK,酷,拜!”

iceiceice, Sccc, and Faith_bian

回到场馆后,遇到了刚抵达,准备上台解说的Sccc,faith_bian,二冰和跳刀。三冰也在后台等回酒店的班车,跟他们闲聊了几句开了几个玩笑。Sccc几位正要进电梯时,三冰突然说“加油”,“明年见!” Wings 的几位应了一声,而Sccc在电梯门就快闭上的时候冒了一句“你们加油,我继续看!”,大家都笑了。辰哥也要继续加油呀,再次站到大舞台上。

活动进行了将近一半,各种混乱似乎终于平息了。跟往年相比,有很多的不同,却也有很多相似之处。在赛场上是竞争对手的选手们下场后互相间的闲聊胡扯,默契,以及高压环境下悠然的态度……

Faith_bian signing a Wings shirt

我找到了些空档到中文解说休息室待了一下。Sccc 看上去有点累,他在靠后的地方找了张桌子趴着头,试着在下一场次前小睡片刻。Faith_bian 专注的在学一套新的分析系统,有点像新版的FW,全套我一点都不了解的什么数据系统。不过这也再次展现了 Faith_bian 总是抱持着学习上进的心态面对着周遭事物。另一位解说带了一件旧的Wings的T恤给 Faith_bian 签名。衣服的一面是2016年Wings选手们的签名,而反面是他们新的签名。Faith_bian 说他以前签名不太好看,说着就签了个新的,而这个明显让他满意的多,他得意的问了一句“这看起来好多了吧?”

我突然想起TI7 Boboka 练签名练了几乎半个小时的片段。

在中文解说微信群里,有人提到在酒店电梯里看到一个粉丝哭得歇斯底里。似乎是EG粉,为了EG今晚在SumaiL的极力挽救下也还是输了比赛而痛哭流涕。粉丝现象是件有趣的事情,虽然绝大多数的中国粉丝支持的还是中国队,但我发现越来越多国内粉丝开始支持外国队伍了。EG,Secret,Liquid都是明显的选择,因为队上有 SumaiL,Puppey,Miracle- 这些支持者与国内选手不相上下的明星。

Autograph session with Faith_bian, iceice, Blink, and Sccc

2019,8月23日

下了分析台,Faith_bian 又在谦虚的说他觉得自己还有很大的进步空间,比如刚刚这个环节里哪里哪里可以做得更好。Faith_bian 还在努力的操作者那个分析系统,为了让TI9的节目效果更丰富,他在团战之间他在触摸屏上划来划去,寻找可用片段,剪辑素材。一向好学,积极向上,这就是我对这位TI6冠军的印象,他绝对是一位不肯原地踏步的选手。

稍后, BurNIng 跟 Sylar 结束了他们的解说场次,准备前往洲际酒店参加刀塔之夜,走之前 Sylar 得先上包厢接女朋友。沿路上当然被粉丝们逮个正着。尤其是 BurNIng,而他便以他一贯的风格为所有粉丝签名,与他们合照。有几位看起来比较胆祛的粉丝,BurNIng 直接看着他们问他们要不要拍照。不是 BurNIng 变得更溜了或更适应当明星的生活了,而是做为这一代年轻人最受欢迎的明星之一的 BurNIng ,其实出乎意料的平易近人。

BurNIng 2019

下楼路上,BurNIng 跟 Sylar 聊起了冠军盾。BurNIng 问 Sylar 有没有摸过盾。“没有啊,14年他们在前一个晚上就放在我们旁边,有些人摸了我没摸…” 毕竟有个迷信说,赢之前不能碰。 BurNIng 笑了一笑说这不算,他们两个都不是TI冠军,Sylar 呛说 “我好歹是近距离见过冠军盾的男人好吧!” TI4似乎是遥远的记忆了,他们都能轻松的开着那时候的玩笑。

我把两位放到了前往洲际的车上,他们上车前跟我挥了个手,车子就关上门驶入夜晚中。有时我有些难以想象,这些人在这个领域中都是超级巨星,因为私底下的他们是那么的平凡。有的时候,粉丝还比这些明星更能谈笑自若,而其他时候他们只是想做一般人都想做的事情,好比吃饭,睡觉,跟朋友鬼混,等等…然而正是这点更增加了他们的魅力。传统体育中有种塑造英雄的习性,无论是粉丝或是媒体都有,而电竞中这个现象固然也存在,却也有些不同。我们的英雄首先是我们最能够产生共鸣的,接着我们会开始关注并支持他们相关的一切。成绩很重要,但是在国内的圈子里,名人的粉丝团与日俱增。

The scene at Late Game

回到场馆休息室,我坐下来喝口水。Dendi 走了进来,开始煮咖啡。片刻沉默后,他转向我说 “嗨,你好吗?” 我们聊了一下下,我问他明年的计划。“我要打!” 他宣布。他握紧拳头,以Dendi特有的风格说 “我要找几个新的队友,然后灭了大家!” 我回复 “很好,我最喜欢的Dendi就是选手Dendi!” 接着他的咖啡煮好了,他捧起来轻轻的吹凉它,对我眨了个眼,然后出去了。

这天晚上以全明星赛及Dendi的偷奶酪技法伴随着全场的欢呼声收尾。

回到选手和解说下榻的酒店,现场甚是热闹。大概一百多个粉丝聚集在了大堂,见到认识的就蜂拥而上。现场秩序有点乱,对有些战队而言有点困扰,不过这就是中国的现实。在国内,电竞是主流爱好,电竞名人基本上就是众所皆知的明星,尤其是TI9期间关注度更是高涨,而这让部分战队解说难以应付。我觉得电竞未来如果延续这个走向,那么战队、选手、解说为了自己好也都要做好心理准备及应对方式 — 持续坚持着完全避免与粉丝互动也不是长远之计,反而能够做好准备去管理这种情况才是应对之道。

This has become a passion
That is changing me

All-star night

2019,8月24日

一早起来就有朋友发截图给我,说嘿,你在游戏里面了?今年的TI是体验上最不同的一次,或许也不会有再一次这样的体验了,但看到截图就有突然返回了以前的感觉了。今年原来也还要做一些采访呢,我便开始补习一些采访上可能会需要用到的信息。舞台上的结果,在这几天里面也开始变得和去年很相似…

Here I am, there you are
Don’t wanna stop
I know you know it, I can feel it

VG被淘汰的那一幕,在今年的回忆中应该是最心碎的一个瞬间了。也不是因为我有多支持VG,也不是因为我之前作为粉丝也好,观众也好,有多投入到他们这个赛季的故事线中。TI最近几年添加了个败者采访,而今天VG输后,英文流希望来接受采访的VG队员是Fade。因为Fade有一些英语表达能力,我只是跟着英语采访元Sheever一起梅奔3楼包厢层的采访点,以防万一选手不愿意或者无法用英语表达出他想说的意思。一个同时又快又慢的等待后,Fade出现在了我的面前,跟在他后面的便是聚光灯和游记摄像机。他直接走向我,说了声 “Hey Josh”。采访很快就要开始了,我说,要你用英语接受采访,ok不?Fade点了点头,我就退下,说 “没事,有问题的话我就在这”,采访就开始了。

其实说是采访,也不是啦,这种败者采访对于大多数人都很难接受,粉丝、选手、采访员都一样。但是这种内容有时候能够带出来比赛的另外一面,毕竟每届TI有18个队伍参加,能获胜的却只有一支队伍。其他17支队伍都将会是败者,所以他们的故事,TI在近年来也在寻找着不同的方式去讲述,或者呈现。Fade说了一些,采访就结束了,然后他就左右看了看,找到了我就直接… 扑了上来?我有一点措手不及,那一刻的感情很复杂。

我回想到了他TI8输了之后的一次在电梯前安静的 “Josh, 我们输了”,只不过这次更伤心,在更多人的瞩目下,输的更是在自己家门口的TI9… 在等电梯返回后台时,似乎为了活跃一下气氛,或者让自己振作一点,我也不知道是给我们说的还是给自己的话,他用英文和陪同的裁判说着 “我只是想再继续打下去的,但没关系,这就是Dota。这就是生活。” 微微的笑了一点点,而上电梯前我往窗外看了下 –

又下起下雨了,好像每年的TI到了后面几天都会在最奇妙的时刻见到从天空中掉下来的雨水。

Red carpet entry

‘Cause I’m falling deep
I guess the pressure’s built right up

胜者组决赛中,和2018年的结果一摸一样,OG的让一追二,然后赛后的采访中和Ceb聊着。他透露出的自信,以及对队友的信任可能才是最与众不同的一点吧,我从来没有见到过在Dota里面如此有信心的人,或者队伍。或许不只是自信吧,他们还有一项更厉害的技能,就是已经可以完全忽略外界的声音和影响了。至少我作为一个从外观看的人员来说,每次和他们的沟通中都有这种感觉。所以LGD今年是否主场作战,可能根本对于OG来说,没有任何影响。

然后,液体击败了秘密,之后有了个和奇迹哥的采访。从当初的一个比较内敛不善于表达的孩子转变到现在在采访中可以随意谈吐的顶级选手的过程也算是很多人亲眼见证的吧。很多人都说TI有点象个每年的大家庭聚会,我也慢慢有类似的感觉了,粉丝、选手、工作人员都在一届又一届的过程中相互学习,成长着。

晚上回酒店时在大堂再次遇到了Fade,抱了抱,他还一直说着谢谢谢谢给我肩膀,“我当时只是看到了那么多的粉丝,一下…” TI过后的瓜归瓜,但我不觉得这是一位不想好好打比赛的选手,我也觉得大家应该多多包容支持选手。有些人可能真的很在意,表现出来的方式可能要通过几次来回才能做到最合适,那大家在这里的角色或许,我在想,就应该是帮助选手成长。我们都年轻过…

吃完晚饭上楼时,在电梯中遇到了秘密全队。“占领此电梯,此后这台电梯为秘密专用电梯” 有人开玩笑道。我们也都相互点点头打招呼,然后他们继续调侃自己,“败者专用电梯”。虽然输了比赛,他们至少从外观上来看,心态还不错。

First blood, last word

2019,8月25日

VG出局后的另外一个结果和去年也是很相似的,LGD孤军作战。作为DPC上成绩最好的中国战队,大家对VG原本的期望值应该是比较高的。我感觉在他们输了之后,LGD压力就更大了,原本在VG那边的期望和希望也渐渐地都来到了LGD门口。各种媒体上都是铺天盖地的逆转命运,2018的决赛日和2019的决赛日彷佛是一个硬币的两面,两个不同时间线上的同一天。

某一局的bp过后,在舞台上有个短暂的教练采访。357被问到了一个去年就被问过的问题,是个很常规的问题,“你怎么看待这局,打个分?” 我也是个有点迷信的人,那个瞬间我就感觉如果要不同的结局,你要在各个转角处做出和上一次不一样的举动。在我的想象世界中,那一刻的357给出的回答是 “我们肯定会爆锤他们”,紧接着可能在直播上挥挥拳头,表露一下自己野性的一面,从而高歌猛进直到夺冠。蝴蝶效应?

现实中的357的回答也是很常规的一个回答,和去年一摸一样: “五五开呀”。我也只是自己迷信了一下,今年的对手确实比去年强,而虽然LGD也又进步,但比赛是公平的,最后还是输了。

With all this desire
I’ve been carrying around
I’m feeling elated
I don’t wanna come back down

在全场的梦想和期望下,比雷声还响亮的高呼呐喊中,主场作战的LGD又一次战到了最后一天,但是又一次倒下了。场馆里的氛围一度在他们第一局获胜后处于近乎炸裂的状态下,空气中都飘着闪电的感觉,然后就没有什么然后了。是压力还是期望过高?是无法继续承载那么多人的希望和梦想?还是对手太太太强了?反正,输了之后的LGD还是在全场的观众的支持下离场的,fy也是最后一个有一点慢慢地离开,有点不舍,随他而去的是很多观众的热情和呐喊的能量。来年再战。

之前有过采访好像说过,除了第二名其他名词都可以接受,但TI9 LGD的第三名好像把整个场馆都罩在了一个阴影下。老天像是安排好了的,在LGD输了后几分钟内,外面便下去了一场突来的暴雨。败者组决赛和总决赛中有一个一小时的场间时间,我抽空到外场转了转。外面有很多穿着LGD队服的粉丝,有一些明显是在退场,有一些可能也和我一样,还会坚守到最后但是需要到外面缓一缓。

All the tension rising up
So much it hurts

听到了有粉丝在感慨Fy,又一次TI,又一次传奇般的拉比克表现。亚军、亚军、季军。他的TI结束了,很多中国粉丝的TI也随之一起结束了吧。抬头看看四周,有人眼角里似乎飘着一点泪水,还是雨水?我也只能想象这一瞬间的Fy到底是什么感受。

It’s more than emotion
I feel I’m never gonna stop


回到场馆的后台区域,气氛有点冷淡,场馆的空调也使得我感觉意外的寒冷。有工作人员已经在拆除一些不会再用到的设备,为了总决赛结束后的撤场工作开始做准备。做完这次TI全部分析工作的Sccc和Faith_bian在休息室整理这东西准备回去,而在休息室里面的一个问题 “怎么回事呢?” 一直也没有得到什么回复。其实,很多人今年应该都有所预感了吧,LGD不一定能把那个梦想中的结局画到自己的故事中,那这样的话回复可能就很简单:对手太强了。

那天我也短暂地幻想过当时如果是LGD或者VG在最后TI9在上海的舞台上举盾的话,画面会是怎么样的。

对于我来说,应该会在英文分析台那边,因为舞台采访会是主场语言进行的,那国外观众就会需要同声传译。同声传译的工作相当困难,应该比在舞台上寻找一个欢乐到忘掉自我的NOtail难很多。想象归想象,最终的现实是OG成为第一支双冠王,卫冕成功:不可思议,不可想象,但是到了TI9的最后两天,已经不是不可预估的一件事情了。最后在舞台上的冠军采访虽然表达的话语不多,但是画面上我觉得大家都能看明白,也就够了吧。

We’re saying more than words
More than words

2019,8月26日

At the Afterparty

今年的赛后派对我是在凌晨左右才过去的,所以其实已经是26日了。在这里我终于找到了机会和很多人第一次真正的说上几句话,然后因为时间,很仓促的道别和道谢。Puppey、666、Bulba、很多选手也都在。我找到了Jerax并且祝贺了他,问他感觉怎么样啊?“难以置信”,他的脸上也确实还是一种不可思议的表情。和V社的很多人也见到了面,在合作了多月后我们今天晚上的共同语言就是 “我们终于做完了!”,大家都一下子轻松了很多,各种笑声飘在在Afterparty的四处。里面的一个房间里有人在唱歌,现场有个dj放着音量稍微有些过大的音乐,我也看到了一些中文解说来到了现场。xiao8的小朋友,虽然都已经过了半夜,还很活泼,我也是第一次见到。很可爱呀!8师傅坐在一旁看着孩子,有种很负责稳重的感觉。把他联想到TI2干爹连胜时,或者TI4举盾的时刻,但是再想一想其实做了那么多年队长之后,稳稳妥妥的带孩子的这一幕也很符合8师傅吧。

At the Afterparty

Afterparty过后,楼下还有一些人在ktv唱歌。三冰,xNova,Fade还有一些他们的朋友。希希也在,后来有一些英文解说随同这Zai以及Misery一起到来,现场一度有人呈现不太棒的Eminem。虽然说当晚的音乐歌唱能力令人堪忧,但是氛围很好,聊的天也很有意义。我和Fade坐在一个角落,稍微有点安静的一边刷手机,一边聊着一些人生大论。时间到了凌晨三点,然后四点。TI备战期间是否应该那么严格,到没收手机的地步?是不是太早开始集训会让人过早出状态?后来在和国外选手的另外一个对话当中我听说在TI9前的训练中,VG和LGD都基本上是全胜的。

KTV打烊了,但我们似乎都没有想要那么早结束夜晚的意思。离开KTV之前,Zai很关心的问了大家,谁买单啊?当然是不能把账单全部丢给某个倒霉鬼吧?有人说,xNova已经买了单了,三冰跟话说 “TI9第三名!!”

慢慢地走回酒店的路上,聊天的内容从要不要找点吃的,转移到TI过后大家的安排上。xNova说他有家人来上海了,现在这边带他们玩一玩。三冰说他回去东京,我说我也刚好要去,我们时间还有吻合,所以我们就说好了东京见。过了一会,Zai上楼睡觉了,但在这同时从酒店的另一边Puppey和Kuroky走了过来。这种小瞬间是我每届TI最珍惜的时刻,尘埃落定,大家还没要离去的那一个夜晚。

下午睡过一会后,我又到了酒店的训练房层去帮忙整理一些东西,就在那时Dendi又从电梯走了出来,拿着两个小盒子放在了这次帮比赛做一些后勤工作的工作人员面前。”Gift, for thanks!” 是他从乌克兰带来的巧克力,想用来表达谢意,然后他就又很快挥了挥手上了电梯。

最后一个下午,我又一次见到了Kuroky、奇迹哥、还有他们的经理Morad。Kuro在和我开玩笑说怎么在之前都不和他聊天,我就很严肃的回答他说我一般都尽量不主动找选手的,不想影响。最后他对这次TI的总结和他一贯的微笑一样低调, “这届的结果比我想象中要好一些”。

Kuro, I know you hate pictures but thank you for humoring us.

2019,8月27日

大家离开酒店和上海的时候,大堂就在前几天还很喧闹活跃的气氛返回到了平淡,但是在平淡中还会透露着记忆中的声音。这次TI是我做过最有挑战,又是最有意义的一件事情。其实它是很多很多件事情,全部放在了一起。应该可以说我的整个2019都献给了TI9,虽然最后还是不完美,但是我只能希望大家的体验都会在会议中发亮。

Far from the surface
I know this will never end

今年,尤其对那些一起合作和学习数月的伙伴,我更加深入的体会到了做一次这样的比赛所需要的努力和坚持。谢谢你们大家。对广大粉丝、观众、选手、所有工作人员,还有绝对不能忘记的完美世界:谢谢。最后,至Valve,谢谢你们努力的去理解并且踏入到中国DOTA世界中,并且给了这么多人一次机会体验在家门口的TI。从2012年开始的那个小梦想,到2019年看到在上海的TI圆满落幕,真的很难形容这种感觉。这次都不容易,过程也很波折,但是到了最后都值了,对吧?

我今年做了一个很长的梦,而我记忆中的2019年终归会闪烁着梦中紫色的光芒。再见,TI9。

跟踪我:

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The International 2019 in my view

Back in 2012 when I first stepped foot in the live environment of a TI, there was a small seed planted, a dream of what it’d be like to see an International held in China. 2019 saw that unfold, and in ways that I could have never imagined back then.

Shanghai, China

I’ve been here for months prior to this TI, working directly on the planning and execution of the event. It’s yet another different way that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing TI. It has been really challenging to say the least – cultural and institutional differences, and then also the fact that this is again the largest TI to date leads expectations to grow accordingly. Interfacing with different interests and entities, working out the logistics of hundreds of different parts, and trying to make sure everyone is taken care of, it’s been exhausting. Still, there’s a magic in combining this mega tournament with the megalopolis that is Shanghai, where even despite the sheer size of the setting, TI9 managed to fully envelop my impressions of 2019 in its purple and violet hues.

I guess I’ll be writing this from a Chinese point of view. Well, I’ve typically leaned in that direction in writing these, simply due to the nature of the scope that I tend to cover during these events, but for TI9 since I’ve been on the ground in Shanghai for months leading up… it becomes even more natural to have that point of view. I mean, even some of my dreams, in between increasingly busy days full of emails, spreadsheets, and early morning cross-Pacific calls, had begun to develop a particular shade of purple.

May 2019

Looking down from the sky at Mercedes-Benz Arena

I won’t burden you with all the details of the hundreds of hours of meetings I sat in on discussing everything from hotel arrangements, to production equipment shipment timings, to helping review Secret Shop merchandise, to testing internet for the event, and more, but by May 2019 it’s clear that the scale of this operation is far beyond any other event I’ve helped with. The closest analog, for me, is DAC 2018 where I also had a very wide scope, but even then I was only in Shanghai for something around 2.5 months. By May of 2019, I’ve been in Shanghai for 5 months purely working on TI9 already, and we’re still a little less than three months out from the event.

Of course, there are many site visits to ground zero itself, the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. I’ve now seen this venue from pretty much every angle possible, including up in the catwalks above the venue seating.

August 7 2019

This is the first day I am on-site at the hotel where group stage will be held, and the first things that need handling are truckloads of shipments for tournament gear. Midnight deliveries. We are expecting five large trucks worth of gear to the hotel. This is the first time I’ve been really involved in pre-production work with TI. We work out new and creative ways to get gear and crates, on pallets, into and through narrow hallways at the hotel. By the end of the night, we have our first batch of gear and equipment on site for TI-sponsored chairs, PCs, monitors, and some other production-related equipment. It’s all starting to feel more real than emails on a screen and diagrams on paper. Since this is the first TI in China, and indeed the first in Asia, some of us had doubts regarding whether we would smoothly get our hands on all of the gear due to customs and other logistical roadblocks. But credit to all those working on various parts of the equation, plus probably some amount of good fortune, and everything has gone succesfully thus far.

Gear and things beginning to take shape for the production at the hotel

August 8 2019

Speaking of luck, most of the PGL crew for TI9 arrive today – and they are most fortunate to have arrived this day, as a typhoon is brewing. Many familiar faces amongst them, my esports allies. I show them around the ballroom floor where they will be mainly operating, where their spaces are, we get them their STAFF t-shirts, and off they go to the 3rd floor outdoor platform at the hotel which at this point I’ve nicknamed “PGL Shanghai Headquarters.” It’s the outdoor patio where people smoke and catch some sunshine, but every night it becomes a lighthearted center of refuge with music and beers. Having just landed in Shanghai that evening, the PGL guys spend a few hours unraveling from their long flights and I spend some time catching up with them as well. I haven’t seen most of them since TI8, almost a year ago, but it really feels like yesterday.

Are we truly about to put on TI9?

August 9 2019

Typhoon days

Some other equipment and items for the the tournament arrive, including around midnight the Aegis, in a rather nondescript case. We spend some minutes digging around for it in various crates and locate it, and briefly reflect on how we hold so much power over the entire tournament at this moment. Like, if this Aegis gets lost then this event is probably in trouble. I briefly wonder if there’s a backup Aegis somewhere as we lock it back up in its case after confirming that the contents of the case are, in fact, the venerable Aegis of Champions.

Outside, the typhoon is swirling and its energies grow as the night darkens. Wind and rain, and scores of crew and staff are delayed or otherwise have their flights cancelled. So it’s just PGL, a few of Valve, and some Perfect World staff on-site awaiting the onrush of activity that is the opening days of every TI with its arrivals, check-ins, media days, and so on. But first, a typhoon must pass.

August 10 2019

Darkness before the light

The typhoon continues all day. Rain is coming down in sheets, literally sideways at times, and though the area around our hotel is mostly fine as it’s a newer part of Shanghai, I see videos of other parts of Shanghai flooding. There’s a citywide alert to shut things down, basically, and the streets are all pretty much empty, as in the background, the Huangpu River flows – and overflows – angrily. The usually bright skyline is dark, and what I typically feel is the calm before TI is already enraptured by the overtures of this summer storm. For the event, this means that some crew are delayed in arriving, some of our logistical preparations are impacted, and stress levels are a bit high. Talking to some of Newbee a few days later, there’s an image emerging of a bare-chested (or was it soaked?) Jack using buckets and towels to try and stay the flow of water leaking into their teamhouse during a past storm. I forget if the storm in question was this particular typhoon, but let’s not get carried away with details. “He comes downstairs and yells, we need more towels!!” CCnC describes.

Indeed, the rain during this typhoon is so torrential that even a few windows at the hotel are leaking drips of water into the rooms, and we also need more towels.

August 11 2019

A TI9 team practice room

The morning heralds a bright blue sky; it’s calm outside, the typhoon has passed and we’re ready to really get the show going. PGL are rushing around getting the practice rooms set up, I’m running around helping whereever possible, and teams are slated to arrive the next morning. The PCs have i9-9900k and I think the 2080ti in them, the monitors are Asus 244hz gaming monitors, the chairs are these custom purple Secretlab ones straight from the source, and things are looking good.

(I’ve survived my first ever typhoon, but will we get through the upcoming storm that is TI9? Find out on the next episode of…)

August 12 2019

Teams begin arriving. LaNm sees me at the hospitality desk area where I’m chilling on a couch and comes over… “Waow, you’re getting younger!” he exclaims. It’s like the kind of greeting that two old friends share when they see each other again after a while, and aren’t yet quite sure what to say to each other in that moment. LaNm is hitting the gym a bit these days and somehow he’s gotten even skinnier, but looks a bit more vibrant. Various other teams arrive, then check-in, then are off to their practice rooms. It’s all routine at this point, except for the teams with players that have never been to TI before. In general, the atmosphere is pretty laid-back, which somehow feels in contrast to TI8 and other TIs prior.

RNG

August 13 2019

Downstairs I run into RNG waiting for their media day, and their coach, Super of former VG and LGD fame, notices me first. We start chatting, him, flyby, Nicolas… at one point Super starts talking about what it’s like to try and fall asleep with certain players. Specifically, the ones that snore. “You have to fall asleep before them, otherwise you’re fucked. Like teamfights, it’s all about initiation. If they fall asleep before you then you just got initiated on,” he concludes. The sleep meta.

The topic of past TIs comes up, and everyone is in agreement that finishing second is so painful at TI that probably finishing anywhere else is preferable in terms of how you remember it. In an interview sometime before TI, I recall someone saying the same, that at TI9 as long as they don’t finish second, they can accept pretty much anything else. I don’t know if that’s a way of taking pressure off oneself, but looking back now, it’s like if our world is a storybook, then that was some foreshadowing.

Blurry welcome dinner pic

Around the hotel, I run into various other familiar faces: Liquid, the Secret guys, LGD, and so on. It’s such a busy day that it seems no one has any time or energy to really stop and talk, and as is my general policy I don’t really engage anyone in conversation beyond the basic greetings.

Tonight is the welcome dinner, and perhaps the one with the most players present that I’ve seen. Almost everyone comes down and grabs food at some point, and I just sit to the side and allow conversations to wash around me – I’m too tired to really engage in anything, but I’m happy to see that people are enjoying themselves before things really begin.

VP at media day, TI9

August 14 2019

It’s the second day of media days. This year they’ve done a lot more of the ‘funny poses’ thing with players at their respective photo shoots. After so many years, it’s nice to see that almost all players are pretty much on board with loosening up and expressing themselves somewhat. I’m suddenly reminded of moments back to TI4, where I’d literally have to stand next to the players to show them how to pose for media day shots. Nowadays, these are almost self-executing and pretty much every team and player is able to handle themselves with minimal guidance from the rest of us.

August 15 2019

First day of group stage. The matches are delayed by an hour, but overall everything goes smoothly. Once games begin, it’s like every other recent TI – a massive din of noise, teamfights, and hero abilities mashing together into an orchestra of action down on the hotel 3rd floor where there are TVs set up so that talents and teams can track every stream all simultaneously. It all happens on the same floor as the actual production for the group stage, and so casters come in and out of the area in between games as well. This year’s Chinese talent lineup is the flashiest it has ever been, and the largest contingent for any TI as well. In some ways, it holds more weight than the actual players competing – something like six or more TI winners on the Chinese talent lineup, along with various other big names and stalwarts. It’s in stark contrast to the Western scene who field the only remaining all-TI veterans in Puppey and Kuroky, as well as multiple past TI winners still fighting on the battlefield for their next shot at the Aegis. It’s not that I want to debate the merits and health of the Chinese scene as a whole here, but it is some kind of indicator, I think, that while the rest of the world continues, the Chinese scene increasingly sees its past winners burning out or chosing other paths, losing in terms of both longevity and competitiveness.

At night, after the first day’s matches conclude, somewhere in the background, “Cheap Thrills” by Sia is playing. I don’t need no moneeyyyyy, as long as I can feel the beeaaat… Some of the casters are debating where to go for dinner.

It’s been three years since a China TI winner, and it is in that context that TI9 has kicked off.

430, ddc, xiao8, and Sansheng casting group stage

August 16 2019

It’s day two of group stage. VG and LGD lead the pack for Chinese teams, in a way that maybe simultaneously adds to and subtracts from the formidable amount of pressure that is on them. From the moment TI8 ended, the calls for LGD to redeem themselves, to win back what they should’ve had (with that 17k gold lead in game 4 of TI8 Grand Finals), and to keep the Aegis in China this year have been deafening. In every piece of social media, every promotional activity, every step throughout the DPC that LGD took in the past year, the underlying current has always been in a steady march onwards to that ultimate goal here at TI9. And so their group stage performances, just short of dominant but exceptionally solid, serve to both vindicate the expectations that fans and the community at large have held for them, as well as perhaps show themselves that they do have it within themselves to once again truly challenge on this stage.

As many players always say, it’s TI and you never know until you’re playing, but having a good start can go a long way towards calming nerves.

As for KG and RNG, they’re struggling a bit in results, but their team atmospheres seem decent. LaNm still walks around with a smile, calmly, perhaps only possible after being a veteran of so many high pressure tournaments. A true veteran presence, and the type of presence that is getting increasingly rare on Chinese teams… Old chicken and eLeVeN are practically inseperable, coming down in between series to smoke, talking only strategy for the next series or reviewing what happened in their last series. Sometimes they nod in greeting, other times too engrossed in discussion to notice even the outside world, which still flutters on-and-off with drizzling rain; such are summers in Shanghai.

Keen Gaming (pic BLKcross on Weibo)

August 17 2019

Partway through build at the Mercedes-Benz Arena

Having touched on the planning of most TI9 elements, I was aware there was still an undercurrent of worry for progress at the arena. Those worries, after a few visits over there throughout group stage, gradually went away as progress came along. Being stationed at the hotel throughout group stage to ensure the success of the group stage production and the experience of teams, here I salute the crews working tirelessly to put things together on the Arena side in preparation for the main event. This was one aspect in which I learned the most this event, and the one aspect where there is no chance it could’ve happened without the massive team efforts that took place. The processes and work that went into any one element of the production at the Mercedes-Benz Arena were all massive, from the player booths (newly custom-built), to the stage design (lots of iterations), to the sound and lighting design, to all the hand-detailed and hand-painted elements decorating the stage itself – this was a cross-cultural, international effort more than perhaps any International has ever been.

Downstairs after the day’s matches, all of VG are gathering to go out of the hotel for a dinner. Everyone’s there, except rOtK. Yang is exasperated, “Of course he’s late again, when is he not late?” Shortly afterwards, the big man shows up, the rest of the team gives him some shit for being late, and they head out to dinner.

Happy birthdays…

In the days immediately before, during, and after the 17th, there are multiple TI birthdays.  Popular Chinese caster AMS, Sccc, and Purge’s, along with production leads at ImbaTV as well as PGL. So there’s a giant cake, with a similarly giant knife for cutting it. A sword, really. A note is sent out on the talent chats for both English and Chinese to come down and have cake, everyone sings happy birthday, we all have cake… and the night ends. It’s a simple moment, but one that stands out for me this TI. At this point it really begins to feel like a family; a slightly dysfunctional one that changes a bit every year, one that even after seven years I still sometimes wonder how to fit in with. Faith_bian helps cut some cake and also helps distribute a bit. For Sccc, he’s just coming off his final cast of the night, dressed impeccably with his hair crisp and sharp, but a bit tired. I wave him over, tell him happy birthday, and that there are quite a few birthdays to celebrate so he should join in and have some cake too. “This is the first time this many people have celebrated my birthday with me,” he says. I don’t know how that can be true for such a popular and incandescent person like Sccc, but I hand him a piece of cake and we eat cake for a few minutes before he goes up to bed.

Thinking about it now, I suppose I can understand why Sccc wouldn’t have had tons of opportunity to celebrate his birthday with many people in the past: being a ‘TI birthday’, in recent years he would’ve been in the midst of preparing or competing at TI, which leaves no room or time for actual celebrating.

August 18 2019

There’s a LAN room this year, with gaming laptops provided by Asus. It’s free for anyone to use to just play games, hang out, or otherwise, and through the period of the event it becomes just that – a hangout room. Late one night, I’m walking by so I poke my head in and notice none other than Dendi. So I go and say hi. I say hey, you’re here! Like it’s meant to be. But Dendi at TI does indeed feel right, and he smiles in that warm way that he has. I ask him a few questions, how his flight was (not too bad, he says), and how he’s feeling (a bit cold! The air conditioning in Shanghai summer can get insanely powerful indoors). He asks me how I’m doing, and I’m tired, but things are going well – so far anyway – so it’s all good.

August 19 2019

Press day again. This year, the space is a lot tighter, and there are far more press organizations present. Perhaps it’s the China effect, or perhaps it’s just the fact that TI is growing every year. Probably, it’s a combination of the two factors. I’m not really on deck to help with interviews this year at press day, but I hang around to help make sure things go smoothly for part of the day anyway before I have to head to the Arena for rehearsals in the afternoon.

At the Arena, the orchestra and dance troupe are running through their full rehearsal process for the next day as we are explaining to the team managers gathered what will be needed of their teams for the TI9 opening ceremony. Some people are taking pictures while others are just looking around, but for everyone it’s evident that the spectacle of the TI9 stage is starting to become a reality.

In the Chinese talent green room, ZSMJ and 430 are messing about with their latest Secret Shop hauls. First, 430 is taking a picture of ZSMJ at his request, and then ZSMJ thinks about it a bit and decides “I think you’ll look better with this stuff,” takes the phone, and has 430 pose for him with some of the merchandise.

August 20 2019

Back when ticket sales were first on-going, I wasn’t sure of what my actual involvement at the event itself would look like in August. So I managed to buy two tickets via Damai with my own access code. My original plan was to give these tickets to friends and family – especially family, as they’d never really understood what I do (though in recent years, after a period of being opposed to gaming in general, they have typically been either indifferent or supportive). In the end, those plans fell through as they visited me in Shanghai a week prior to TI9, and I had an extra ticket on my hands. I ended up giving my day 1 ticket away via Weibo – before going to bed for all of two hours before day 1 of the main event, I posted a thing at 4am asking for fans to attach a picture and some text about why I should choose them, then at 6am chose a guy that wrote he’d flown in from across the country to Shanghai just to be able to watch TI in the same city. He didn’t have any tickets; he’d planned on going to the VG official pubstomp, and he’d never been to any TI before. So I met him at the front gate around 9am, gave him the ticket, practically begged him to not resell it, and asked that he take lots of pictures and experience TI9 for me from the perspective of a normal fan.

Thanks!

It’s a perspective I haven’t really been able to have at a TI for years now – and I’m not complaining, but once in a while I do wish I could just sit in the stands with a friend or two, plan out which series to watch, when to go to the Secret Shop, fiend social media a bit, and well… actually watch a full series at a TI. The last time I’ve watched a full series at TI was TI3, when all Chinese teams had been knocked out before the final day. This year, I didn’t even get to watch a single game in a series in full from draft to the throne falling. And yet it all swirls around, leaving me to pick up the pieces after the fact. Perhaps this is part of the magic that is TI, where no matter what your experience of it is, or how complete it may be, it’s still more than worth it. Maybe this is what drives those people without tickets to still come forth, and so I can relate with those people – because if it were me, I’d probably be doing the same.

So anyway, the guy had a blast, sent me pictures along the way, and I think this ended up being one of the most meaningful things I’ve done at a TI. Not nearly the biggest, or even something I had to put a lot of effort into, but it was nice.

The Opening Ceremony happened, after the traditional red carpet segment. Having been involved in some of the planning of these elements, I both knew what would happen and didn’t have the chance to watch them actually happen. Gabe Newell gave his speech, which was done in his usual understated fashion, but to Chinese fans this was perhaps the most important part of the TI9 opening. If Icefrog is the god of Dota, an unknowable and untouchable presence, somehow Gabe Newell has become the face in making any TI feel ‘official’.

“Welcome to the International!”

I heard fans saying that his presence really cemented the fact that, wow, this is a TI! In China! And I think fans here truly appreciated that he made the long trip out, because to be able to hear those words on their home stage is really something else.

The grand stage

It’s more than emotion
I feel I’m never gonna stop

The first day of Main Event went unbelievably smoothly, though if you were backstage you wouldn’t have believed it could’ve been that smooth as stress levels were high. It was a long day, with six series and four teams going home, but a strong start for the Chinese side as both LGD and VG went through in their respective upper bracket matches. Afterwards, LGD looked confident and calm, and you’d almost think that there was no pressure on them here. After all, there are still three other Chinese teams in the tournament for fans to also cheer for. Because expectations, support, and just the general fan sentiment can all become pressure, but if the support is split between various teams then the pressure is also somewhat shared.

The player entrance floors were hand-painted in fluorescent paint

August 21 2019

Day 2 of main event. I see BurNIng backstage. He’s eating, I say hello, and he says hello. It is really cold in the venue all day long and hospitality has bought blankets for people to use. I see other people in actual winter jackets while it is August outside in Shanghai. I also meet Mara and his friend Kazu, from the Mara Cup. We exchange contacts, I show them around a bit. They’re here as invites of Valve’s and are basically watching all the games as fans. I ask if they’ll appear on stream and they’re just like, maybe. They are super chill, and I find out they’ll be at Tokyo Game Show which I’m going to after TI as well, so we agree to try and meet up there as well where Mara will be part of a Dota 2 tournament hosted by the Japan Esports Union.

RNG goodies

I briefly meet LaNm’s two little daughters at the entrance as they and their accompanying adults needed some help getting into the venue, and later I tell LaNm that now that I’ve finally met them in person, they are every bit as cute as he used to always tell me when he showed me on his phone. This would be back in 2017 or so, when every time he saw me he would show me their newest pictures, and after tournaments in the US, ask me to go with him to buy them baby formula. “When are you gonna have kids?” he asked, and I told him that’s not in my plans. The other day, I also met Fy’s kids who were with their grandparents in support of Fy. With True Sight this year, and looking on stage at the victors this year and last, and even back to 2017, families of players have increasingly showed up at TIs in support of the players. They may not understand what is going on in-game, but it is endearing to see, and such a huge contrast to the stories of parents not supporting what kids are doing. We’ve come a long way from those days.

We’re speaking a language
That no one understands

Around the area, various Chinese teams have shown their investment into the scene as they are each hosting pubstomp events. RNG have rented out an entire restaurant next to the Arena, where they are handing out RNG t-shirts, banners, and posters. VG have rented a theatre in downtown Shanghai, and of course LGD have their self-owned arena in Hangzhou.

Outside of the Arena this year, there is a massive plaza that has been taken over by everything TI9 related. There’s a Will Call area for picking up tickets, of course, and the Secret Shop with all kinds of new and exclusive merchandise. But there’s also a team-specific merchandise tent that’s never been done at past TIs, where teams could sign up for timeslots and sell their own team-specific merchandise. Off the top of my head, VG, KG, RNG, LGD, Secret, Alliance, VP, Liquid, and Newbee all took advantage of it and it felt like something that teams have been asking about at tournaments for some period of time already. Additionally on the Plaza, there was a massive wall structure with all team flags in front of it, and paired with purple thematic lighting as well as a large beam next to the Plaza, I think the outdoors element of this TI was one of the most impressive, visually anyway.

Panorama

August 22 2019

After not really having any opportunity to catch up with anyone thus far or really even seeing people much, I finally see Iceiceice at the venue as he’s come to check out the Secret Shop. I have a few minutes so I walk him over, showing him the route that best avoids outdoors paths as it is seriously hot these couple days. On the way, he asks a random security guy “Are you from Shanghai?” Before the guy really knows what’s going on, “Oh, okay, cool… bye!”

iceiceice, Sccc, and Faith_bian

Back at the venue, Sccc faith_bian iceice and blink are coming in for their casting assignment. Jokes are exchanged while iceiceice is backstage waiting for his ride back to the hotel after having gone to the Secret Shop. As the Sccc group heads into the elevator, iceiceice is like “good luck” and “see you next year!”. The Wings guys return the greeting and as the door closes, Sccc jokes “and I’ll keep watching you guys compete!” and everyone just laughs. On social media now, fans are asking Sccc to think about playing carry, or at least carry on competing, and I think he really should keep fighting on.

Halfway into the event now, and things feel like they’ve finally settled a bit. There are some differences but a lot of things are still similar. The silly jokes, the camraderie shared between players who are otherwise competitors, the general laid-back approach to an event that is extremely high stakes…

Faith_bian signing a Wings shirt

I at last find some time to hang around in the Chinese casters room, where they watch the games. Chatter ebbs and flows. Sccc looks tired – he’s put his head down on a table in the back to try and catch a nap before his next panel. Faith_bian is attentively learning a new stats system, a kind of successor to the fingerworks of the past, all wrapped up in some integrated stats that I don’t know the first thing about. But it’s a testament to his attitude towards things that he’s always looking to learn and improve. One of the other casters has brought an old Wings t-shirt for Faith_bian to sign: on one side, there are the signatures of the Wings players from back in 2016, and on the other side, their new signatures. Faith_bian remarks that his old autograph wasn’t that good looking, signs a new one that satisfies him much more and admires his work, “That looks much better, eh?”

I’m reminded of Boboka practicing his autographs for nearly half an hour at TI7.

In the Chinese talents chat group for TI9, someone mentions that they came across a fan crying almost hysterically in the hotel elevator. An EG fan apparently, who is devastated that EG lost tonight despite SumaiL’s best efforts. Fandom is an interesting thing, and despite the overwhelming majority of Chinese fans outwardly supporting Chinese teams, I find increasing numbers who latch onto and support major Western teams. EG, Secret, and Liquid are obvious candidates as SumaiL, Puppey, and Miracle- have fanbases rivalling any popular Chinese pro.

Autograph session with Faith_bian, iceice, Blink, and Sccc

August 23 2019

After a panel, Faith_bian again is modest: he remarks that he’s got a lot of improvement to do and points out things that he thinks he could’ve done better. Faith_bian continues his efforts on the new stats system, and in between teamfights he’s scrolling around on a touchscreen and gathering moments and clips for analysis. Always studious, always eager to learn, those are my impressions of the TI6 champion, and this is one player that is not content with just staying still.

Later on, BurNIng and Sylar finish a cast and need to head to the Intercontinental hotel for their Late Game segment, but not before Sylar goes upstairs to suite level to pick up his girlfriend. On the way, of course, the two of them are waylaid by starstruck fans. BurNIng especially, and true to his self he takes pictures and signs autographs for every one of them. For a few of the fans who look intimidated, he looks directly at them and goes “So, want a picture?” It’s not that BurNIng has gotten smoother or more into the life of being a celebrity, but it’s like he’s deceptively down to earth for someone who is amongst the most popular figures for people in this generation in China.

BurNIng 2019

On the way back downstairs, they start talking about the Aegis. “Have you even touched it before?” asks BurNIng. “No, in 2014 they put it right next to us the night before, and some others touched it but I decided not to…” You can’t, it’s superstition. BurNIng laughs a bit, tells him that doesn’t count and that the both of them are officially non-TI winners, and Sylar scoffs, like “At least I’ve gotten near to an Aegis!” “我好歹是近距离见过冠军盾的男人好吧!” TI4 seems like a distant memory, enough that they can joke about it.

I put them on a van to the Intercontinental hotel where their Late Game segment is held, they wave before climbing in, and off they go into the evening. Sometimes it’s hard for me to place together the fact that these are essentially superstars in their realm because the way they are is just so normal. Sometimes, fans are smoother than they are in holding a conversation, at other times they just want to do the things that everyone else wants to do – eat, sleep, hang out, whatever… and yet that fact only serves to add to their allure. In traditional sports there’s a hero-making tendency for fans and media alike, and in esports it’s kind of the same, but also a bit different. Our heroes are the ones that we can most relate to first and foremost, and then we come to love everything else about them. Results matter, but more and more in the Chinese scene, there are fandoms growing around personalities.

The scene at Late Game

Back at the venue break room, I sit down for a sip of water by myself. Dendi walks in, also by himself, and begins to make some coffee. He turns to me after a moment of silence and says hi, how are you? We chat a bit, and I ask him what’s up for him next year? “I am going to play!” he declares. Making a fist, he says “I’m going to find some new guys, and I’m going to destroy everyone!” in that whimsical Dendi way. “Good,” I respond, “My favorite version of Dendi is player Dendi!” His coffee is ready, he cups it in his hands and blows on it lightly to cool it off, winks, and heads off.

The night ends with the All-star match and raucous cheers of for Dendi and his cheese-stealing antics.

Back at the main hotel where players and casters are staying, and it is a scene. Probably a hundred or so fans have gathered in the lobby and swarm around anyone known. It’s a bit disorganized, the sudden crush of action is a bit troubling to some teams, but such is the situation in China: esports is exceptionally mainstream and those involved in esports are essentially mainstream public figures, and with a TI9 magnifying glass applied to the scene during these few days, some teams and talents are finding it hard to handle. I think this is the future if we truly develop as an esport, and it would behoove teams, players, and talents alike to become more prepared for these things – actively avoiding fan interaction isn’t the way forward, but rather being able to expect and manage such situations is.

This has become a passion
That is changing me

All-star night

August 24 2019

In the morning, I wake to people sending me screenshots of me making it into the compendium. It’s the most different TI experience I’ve had thus far, but at that moment it begins to again resemble TIs of past, at least for me. On stage and on stream, the results are also strikingly similar to one other TI, that one from 2018, and I find myself adding on-screen interviews to my mental book of things to think about for these last two days of TI.

Here I am, there you are
Don’t wanna stop
I know you know it, I can feel it

VG lose and it is the most heartbreaking thing I have ever personally experienced. My strongest memory from TI is still DK losing at 2014, but DK losing wasn’t a personal experience. Today, I was on deck for an exit interview with VG and it’s Fade who comes. Before acknowledging the camera, or Sheever (who was amazingly understanding), he walks straight to me and says hey Josh. I ask him if he wants to do this in English as the broadcast hopes he would be able to, he nods and he’s barely keeping it together. I tell him, look, I’m here if you need any help with this.

It’s a one answer interview and once it cuts, Fade glances around, then comes straight to me, grabs me and breaks down. I tried my best to give him a brief refuge from the bright lights, the cameras, and the growing crowds gathering around the spot on the suite level where that interview took place. I don’t think he came to me because it was me, but because he was looking for anyone familiar in that sea of faces in this moment. So I’ll be that familiar presence, if nothing else.

I’m reminded of his sad “Josh, we lost” from TI8, but it’s even more poignant. Waiting for the elevator to take him back to his team, he tries to brighten the atmosphere a bit: “I wanted to keep fighting. But… that’s Dota.” As if to cheer himself up a bit, he adds “That’s life.” And a small smile.

Well… that’s Dota, and today, it was painful.
I glance outside the window –
It’s raining again.

It always rains during the last two days of TI.

Red carpet entry

‘Cause I’m falling deep
I guess the pressure’s built right up

In the upper bracket finals, in a mirror result from 2018, OG beat LGD and an interview with Ceb shows that they are ultimately confident. Perhaps one of the best – and rarest – traits in Dota: true confidence. Or perhaps, an ability to ignore any outside doubts. They are similar, but not quite the same, I think. And then, Liquid defeat Secret and there’s an interview with Miracle, who has become much more well-spoken over the years in comparison to the version of his self back when he’d just made his debut. As time passes, I’ve literally watched players grow from teenagers into adults. I’ve spent more time with some of these people than members of my own family in recent years, and I guess it’s no wonder when a TI starts feeling like a family reunion of sorts. I mean, it’s not that, because I barely have time to talk with anyone or hang out anymore, but at least knowing everyone is in the same place, doing the same things for a period of time, it feels like a reunion.

Later at the hotel I run into Fade again in the lobby. I give him a hug, and he’s saying thanks for giving me a shoulder back at the venue. “I just saw all the fans there, and I…” his smile belied the obviously still fresh sadness of the day’s events. In view of recent events post-TI, I fail to believe that this is someone who doesn’t care, or doesn’t truly want to compete. This is someone who cares, perhaps too much, but that’s not an indictment. That’s just how this game is sometimes, and I think giving people room to grow and make mistakes is one of the best things a community can do for its players.

Going upstairs after finishing dinner, all of Secret invade what was previously an empty elevator. “This is our elevator now,” someone declares. I exchange greetings with the Secret guys. “An elevator for losers,” one of them jokes. But they seem to be in decent spirits despite what must be a somewhat disappointing end to TI.

First blood, last word

August 25 2019

Once VG finally lost, there was only one Chinese team remaining. Having been the most successful Chinese DPC team this year, expectations were strong for VG, and them losing shifted another wave of support – and pressure – onto LGD. History seemed to be repeating itself, and on social media there is a narrative of changing fates. Dueling timelines. Reversing history.

In a coach interview after the draft, 357 answered how he felt about the draft the same way as he had been asked last year, and his answer was the same as last year: “50/50”. In my mind, a little voice said that if you want to change a timeline, if you want a different result, you should take a different process. Well, I’m superstitious too. If you do the same thing, you’ll get the same result, generally. So in that corner of my mind, I thought maybe 357 should’ve said “We will crush them”. Maybe do some jumping jacks, punch the air a few times on stream.

With all this desire
I’ve been carrying around
I’m feeling elated
I don’t wanna come back down

Amidst the hopes and dreams, the thundering cheers of “LGD” from thousands of home fans, LGD made it to the final day of TI9, but their stay on the grand stage this day was short and ultimately ill-fated. The venue was lightning, booming, and then… it wasn’t as much anymore. Was it the pressure of expectations, their own desires, the hopes and dreams of so many others that they couldn’t bear anymore? Or were their opponents just too strong? Nonetheless, as LGD leave the stage for the last time at TI9, there are still cheers of “LGD, LGD” – or am I just imagining it? Last year and this year echo together, and reluctantly, the energies of the crowd dissipate with LGD’s hopes.

Despite stating in past interviews that any placement apart from 2nd place would be acceptable at TI9, LGD’s third place finish seems to cast a cloud over the entire venue and the entire event. As if on cue, after LGD lost and Liquid were confirmed as the other Grand Finalists, denying LGD a chance at changing their timelines, the skies opened up. In that hour in between lower bracket finals and the TI9 Grand Finals, I took a few minutes to walk around outside the venue. A final feel of this TI9 atmosphere, and the masses of LGD jerseys out in the crowds – quiet.

All the tension rising up
So much it hurts

I hear fans lamenting Fy. One more TI, one more legendary Rubick performance. Second, second, third. His TI is over, and for many Chinese fans, theirs is as well. I see tears in some fans’ eyes, but I can only imagine what Fy is feeling.

It’s not about nationalistic pride, and it’s not about disrespecting the other teams. A year of expectations, built on hopes, built on dreams of redeeming that disappointing ending – for them – at TI8, dreams of seeing their heroes stand on that stage.

It’s more than emotion
I feel I’m never gonna stop

It’s about what fans can best relate to. These players are the ones that they watch the most, they’re the ones that they can understand, and relate to. Yes, it’s also about what they represent – LGD being the last Chinese team, but is it so wrong to have a hometown affinity in competitive sport? So some people left the Mercedes-Benz Arena, and some never came back. If social media is to be believed, some may never come back to Dota. The Dota playerbase is an aging one, and the beauty and danger of this game is that it truly drives people to the very extremes of emotional investment – either you love it, or you hate everything about it. The investment has been there from the fans and community into this long-awaited China TI; to want to see their own home heroes hoist the Aegis in the end was a dream, and when reality clashes with dreams, often the result is detachment. We are all only but human.

Backstage, it’s quiet, calm. It’s cold. People are beginning to take down non-essential equipment to get ready for the overnight operations of vacating the venue. Even as the Grand Finals are taking place, the event is winding down. Having finished their panel, Sccc and Faith_bian are gathering their belongings, ready to head home. “What happened?” is a question that rings in the room. “What happened?” the question repeats. But the answer is probably a simple one, and it’s one that the community perhaps already expected, even before today: this year, the other teams are too strong.

I do wonder what it would’ve been like if LGD, or VG perhaps, had been the ones standing up there at the end of TI9 in Shanghai.

For me, I would’ve been on the English panel instead, giving a simultaneous interpretation for the English audience of a home-language stage winners’ interview. It would’ve been a lot more difficult for me than finding and briefly interviewing an exuberant NOtail ended up being at the close of TI9. Perhaps that did happen on a different timeline, but in this one despite the short – and somewhat chaotic – final interview sequence, the scene was there for all to see. It didn’t need explaining, or more words than necessary, really. The first ever two-time TI winners, successfully defending their title: unprecedented, nearly unimaginable, but by the last two days, not unexpected.

We’re saying more than words
More than words

August 26 2019

At the Afterparty

I only get to the Afterparty around midnight, so it’s technically the 26th already. I finally get a chance to say hi, and really, bye, to a bunch of people that I’d been meaning to greet this entire TI. This TI has gone by way too quickly, and too slowly at the same time. Puppey, Ramzes666, Bulba, I catch Jerax and congratulate him on the second win. Unbelievable, and the guy looks like he’s still in a bit of shock. Various people at Valve, some of whom I’ve been working with more closely than at any other TI ever. “We made it!” is the shared sentiment. Drinks, handshakes, and laughs are shared, but like me, everyone has their goodbyes to say and time just isn’t enough.

They’re belting out karaoke in a room at the Afterparty, there’s a dj playing slightly too loud music, some of the Chinese talents are hanging out. I meet xiao8’s kid for the first time. He’s two years old and though it’s midnight, he’s still full of energy, and xiao8 really looks like a dad with his somewhat exasperated yet proud face while watching his son bounce around. A far cry from the xiao8 I watched go undefeated on-stage at TI2, the one that raised the Aegis at TI4, but somehow it all feels like a natural progression in the TI timeline. Stoic and stalwart Dota captain becomes a responsible and steady father to his own child.

At the Afterparty

After the Afterparty, I go and find some other people who are doing their own karaoke downstairs: iceiceice, xNova, some of their friends, Helen, and then a bunch of English talents show up right around when Zai, Misery and a few others poke their heads in. There’s a questionable rendition of something by Eminem. I can’t say I enjoyed the level of musical ability on display that night, but the company was excellent, and Fade and I lounged in a corner chattering about random things – life overseas, healthy approaches to competing in esport, and just general talk as it gets to 3am, then 4am. In conversation, there are questions about the wisdom in essentially locking players in for pre-TI bootcamps by taking away their phones and forcing long daily practice schedules. Are we burning the players out before they’re even set to compete? Later in a separate conversation, I hear that LGD and VG were nearly immaculate in pre-TI scrims. Did they peak too early?

Not quite ready for the night to end though the karaoke place has closed up, the night lingers on. Before leaving, Zai questions who’s going to pay for the karaoke room? Like, we can’t just leave the bill with someone, right? He’s thoughtful. Someone declares that xNova has got it covered, and iceiceice goes “TI third place!” Indeed, he’s the highest placing and has made the most money out of this TI, and with that settled, we all trickle out.

It’s carefree, and topics range from going to find some food to what are people’s next steps after TI (xNova’s family is in Shanghai so he’ll be spending some time with them, iceiceice and I have made plans to meet up in Tokyo in September). After a while, Zai heads up to bed, but at the same time we see Puppey and Kuroky walking through the lobby, and they join us shortly. These are some of my favorite moments at TI, after all the action has settled, but before everyone’s gone their separate ways.

In the afternoon, after finally getting some sleep, I’m back on the practice room floor at the hotel. As I’m helping clear out some gear, Dendi shows up off the elevator and hands a small gift to each of our hospitality staff at the hospitality table. Some chocolates that he’s brought from Ukraine, and it’s such a thoughtful gesture that no one would’ve known about had I not been there at that same exact moment as well. It’s fifteen seconds at most before he’s waving goodbye at us as he steps back onto the elevator.

I come across Kuroky, Miracle, and Liquid’s manager Morad one last time before they’re also all headed home. Handshakes, goodbyes. Kuro is jokingly accusing me of not talking to him at all during the event, and I’m acting hurt and saying come on man, you know I have a policy of trying not to disturb anyone who is still competing. And you made it to the final day! “This TI went a bit better than I expected,” he says with that light smile of his.

Kuro, I know you hate pictures but thank you for humoring us.

August 27 2019

As everyone leaves the hotel, I am amongst the last, just as I was amongst the first there in the beginning of August. There’s a quietness about the lobby, yet in the shadows there’s still some lingering energy. This has been an extraordinarily difficult, challenging, yet rewarding experience. Looking back, I can basically say that I gave my entire year to TI9, and I hope it has been a fulfilling and enjoyable experience for everyone watching and participating.

Far from the surface
I know this will never end

This year, especially to those teams and partners that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and collaborate deeply with, I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for just how much goes into an event like this. Thank you to everyone for being a part of this experience and these memories. As always, to fans, players, everyone behind the scenes, crews and staff, and definitely Perfect World – thank you. Lastly, to Valve, thank you for the understandings and strides you guys made in bridging this gap in bringing a TI to China. From that little dream I had back in 2012 to standing on an actual TI stage in 2019 in Shanghai, it’s been unreal. This was, undoubtedly, hard-fought and the success of this event hard-earned, but from my single point of view hopefully worth all the literal sweat and tears that went into it. Thank you.

My dreams have been colored purple for months, and perhaps my entire 2019 will be remembered in that light. Farewell, TI9.

You can follow me:

twitter.com/AutumnWindz
weibo.com/AutumnWindz

The International 2018 in my view

Chinese version here on Weibo

Sun Aug 12 (arrival day)

Having been in Shanghai prior to TI8, this was the furthest I’d traveled to actually get to a TI. Twelve hours and a dream about becoming a TI champion later, I’m in Vancouver airport where it is a cacophony of arrivals in a nice, modern airport that is probably a little bit too small for the traffic going through it now. I’ve been to Vancouver quite a few times before and have always enjoyed it, and it is a bit surreal that it is being combined with the spectacle of The International this year.

IMG_20180812_175358

Canada!

After we get through customs, everyone is waiting for Ferrari_430 to get through customs and get on the bus to the hotel, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Someone says 430 went smoking before coming to the bus, someone else runs to go look for him. Where could he be? A few minutes later, he strolls up casually, without his luggage. He doesn’t know where it is and doesn’t seem to care a whole lot either. It turns out that Chinese caster AMS has helped him bring it to the bus. I ask 430 what he’d have done if no one looked for him, or if no one helped him with his luggage, and he’s like… “I got this, this is easy!!” Elaborating, he pulls out his phone, “There’s this thing called online translation, once I have that I can figure everything out!”

So I ask him if he’s got internet on his phone yet, and he says nah.
“Easy!”

On the bus ride to the hotel, we talk about random stuff. I ask him what other games he’s playing — on WoW he says it’s the best of its type that has ever existed and probably ever will, but he’s maxed everything out so he’s been playing a new Chinese mmorpg, 逆水寒. With most online games, he says, they’re only fun while you’re putting money in. Then once you’re done putting money in, you feel like a dumbass.

I mention I’d been at Chinajoy previously while in Shanghai, and we talk a bit about that. The games, the gaming culture on display there, and oh boy can he go on about the cosplayers and booth girls (in both positive and negative ways — we’ll just leave it at that). The conversation goes to board and card games, and we both agree that they are boring. “Why play those when you can play video games? With board and card games you have to wait for all the other fucks to finish, and the worst part is, you have to talk to people” is Ferrari_430’s opinion on the matter and I couldn’t agree more.

IMG_20180812_154229

Ch-ch-checkin time

We get to the hotel, and check-in takes forever because there are so many people arriving at the same time (like an hour), but everyone is in good spirits and it’s fun.

That night, I first get the feeling of it being TI again as I come across various teams and people. Amongst the first I run into are some of Liquid and I exchange greetings, but as always before any major tournament ends, I try not to strike much conversation. Late in the evening, I meet with iG manager Zhili for a dinner at a Japanese izakaya, and we cross paths with all of Team Secret who are doing the same thing as we are.

Mon Aug 13 (media day 1)

It’s straight into the TI action as media day begins today. The flow is, by this point, a natural set of habits to me — and along with Vincent and Helen we help with all the Chinese teams to get their photos shot, their interviews done, and the players back on their merry way.

IMG_20180813_111833.jpg

standard green screen pic

With VG’s shoot, Fenrir missed a sponsor logo on his team shirt, he originally had the wrong shirt or something, so they had to redo him, but it was fine because media day was going ahead of schedule anyway. Doing the VG team interview and they rely on Fenrir and LaNm to speak a lot, but that’s the team dynamic — two guys who don’t shy away from leadership.

IMG_20180813_120907

Full team interviews with Kaci

In a bit of downtime in between, I ask LaNm about his kids and he says they’re doing well and his two year old in particular is at that stage where they’re really cute. Talking to Fenrir and he says my haircut looks good, which is different from at Supermajor where he told me I should dye it some other color. But he always talks about my hair, lol. Talking with him about mobile games again (which also seems to be a common topic with him) and he says paying money feels good in that moment, but afterwards you feel like a real idiot, which is almost word-for-word what Ferrari_430 said. But in the end with those kinds of games sometimes you just want to feel good for a while, and what better way than to spend a bunch of money to become overpowered? After all, that sense of power is what we’re chasing after in each successive game of Dota too, at least partially.

The welcome dinner this year is in Stanley Park and a lot of people show up, but lots of people skip it as well. Obviously the EG guys went to RTZ’s house, and that was a bit of a fun topic amongst my group at the dinner as well as we looked at the pics on social media. Cute, endearing in a way. I mostly chill with Evany (OG) and Zhili (iG) and we talk all kinds of stuff, from teams and operations and behind the scenes stuff to just the food and whatnot. People are throwing axes at an attraction setup by the welcome dinner and we’re like, what if someone gets too drunk and throws the axe the wrong way? So we avoid that general area but obviously nothing bad happens, I’m just paranoid and imagine strange scenarios sometimes.

Like at past TIs, champions rings for last year’s winners are there and brightly on

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Liquid ring

display. Unlike past TIs, there are rings from each of the other winners there too, so on a table in a corner of the party, in a place that many people don’t even notice, is one of the highlights of this welcome party.

Lots of PGL people are present and we try to talk and make plans to find time to play a game of football (soccer), but I don’t know what will come of it. By now this is probably the third tournament where we’ve talked about it but haven’t been able to make it happen… but someday. Someday. It’s one of the only things I really miss when I’m travelling for tournaments — being able to just go to the field and kick a ball around whenever.

There’s ice cream at the party, and I’m trying to extol the virtues of rum raisin ice cream, but people are skeptical. I get skrff to try a scoop and he’s just like, it’s okay. I don’t know how these people live with themselves. Rum raisin is really quite good, okay. I didn’t used to like it either but now I do.

Tues Aug 14 (media day 2)

Walking to the Sheraton hotel where players stay, so I can help with the second day of media day and I come across most of Mineski going out for a stroll. They’re going to get bubble tea.

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Spot Sccc, Jack, rOtK, and xiao8

Some more interviews with Kaci and teams. I forget if VGJ.Thunder was today, but during their group interview one answer was funny (they’re a funny team): “ROtK is our coach, our leader, our captain, and the guy that takes all the blame when things go wrong. For everything, ask rOtK.” That was the gist anyway, I’m paraphrasing somewhat.

This was my first serious interaction with Serenity (I’d known of and followed zhizhizhi for two years prior, but that was it), and they are down to earth and relatively boisterous even. Quite at ease in this TI environment, at least outwardly. Perhaps it’s for themselves as much as it is anyone — don’t act like there is pressure and maybe there will be less of it. Not as quiet and understated as the Wings players were at TI6, but full of that ‘newness’ that you only feel from kids at their first ever TI. First ever real large-scale LAN, even. Regarding Wings, who people continue to compare them to (perhaps not entirely on point, but that’s another matter), they refer to them as their teachers (老师、前辈)and also shrug off direct comparisons, noting that they still have a far way to go before becoming deserving of any such comparisons.

Later in the afternoon, I call Ferrari_430 over to help him complete his Workshop submissing for his signature treasure, and then there’s a quick meeting regarding the redzone cast for the Chinese stream, with Mrrr, xiao8, Ferrari_430, and shadow. The idea was to have a couch that they kind of host while giving a more casual cast of games, and rotate guests in and out here and there. I think the idea was really cool and has a lot of potential in the future.

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Doing subtitles on Serenity’s interview, with Serenity in the picture eating lunch

I see Winstrike at their media day, and in the in-between downtime, they have gotten their hands on the scooters that staff use to get around more quickly and are going up and down the hallway like madmen, clearly enjoying themselves. As with Serenity, there’s always a contrast between teams new at TI and those who have been here a few times. The newcomers feel like they want to grasp everything with both hands, give everything a shot.

It’s a once in a lifetime experience until it’s not, but before then you have to treat it like it is.

Wed Aug 15 (group stage day 1)

It’s the first day of groups and the action begins. I’m still doing subtitles. Outside of that I run into various team managers and coaches. Wearing an Inter Milan shirt I’d bought recently, people ask me about it but the only reason I bought it is because I like the way it looks. I’ve never been a real fan of any Italian teams, but the Inter Milan jersey with the black and blue stripes is one that I’ve always liked. As we saw at DAC and Supermajor, basketball is popular amongst Dota people, but football is even more so.

In the lounge at the Sheraton, where all group stage games are also played upstairs in their training rooms, the only time I see teams is for lunch. Teams all eat together, the Chinese teams all ordering Chinese takeout as is the norm. They like Vancouver a lot for many reasons, not least of which due to the fact that there are more food options. Many of the Chinese teams bootcamped in nearby Richmond, which is very convenient if you’re, well, Chinese. In fact, there is a branch of the famed Chinese internet cafe chain Wangyu here in Richmond, and some of the Chinese teams bootcamped there this year.

Thurs Aug 16 (group stage day 2)

There’s a lot more subtitling as we get into working on the Champions Roundtable where past TI finals players come together to just chat. Some truly hilarious and interesting moments in the raw footage, but it’s a lot of time needed and by the time I’m done with my part, I have over 440 lines entered.

The film crew needs to get some follow up footage with Serenity for the opening

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Serenity filming

ceremony, so they enlist my help on that and in doing so, I took to talking to their manager for a bit. They’re a very down to earth organization and seem very approachable, from top to bottom and the players included. I mean, they’re actually just a Dota-only org and their boss is here with them — a guy whose dream was always to make it to a TI in some way, a true Dota fan.

 

Later on I walk to the venue to go check it out having not been able to go there yet. It’s a quick 15 minute walk on the Vancouver streets, and being summer it’s a pleasant one too.

Fri Aug 17 (group stage day 3)

Today I work on more subtitling and so don’t really come across much in terms of interaction with other people. The hotel staff did knock on my door to, in their words, make sure I was still alive because I’d had the do not disturb sign on the door for most of the week. Lol.IMG_20180816_173438

Being locked in my subtitling dungeon and with group stage games progressing normally, I don’t interact with a lot of people today. This year, teams, staff, production, and talents are spread across downtown Vancouver in various hotels, so casual interactions between everyone are decreased as well, a fact that is kind of sad but probably better for my sleep…

We actually have a little bit of free time after the subtitling is finished for the day, so in between watching games on Twitch and Douyu (watching both English and Chinese streams) I get to walk around a bit in the city. Vancouver is nice — I’ve always liked it, and having lived in Seattle for a while I’ve come up to Vancouver to visit for fun in the past. Vancouver’s always felt like Seattle’s cooler brother and this time is no different. Players I talk to all seem to agree. While Seattle is nice and pleasant, Vancouver just has so much more to offer in terms of food, city life, and that unmistakable sense of activity and bustling that only some cities have.

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Poutine

Walking down Robson St, there’s always life happening. At one of the bubble tea stores I see iG getting drinks and pause briefly to say hi — Q of iG exclaims to his manager Zhili, it’s your friend! Anyway, I say hi, then bye and leave them to their adventure.

I also managed to get some real poutine for the first time ever, and I have to give it to Canada — this uniquely Canadian food is definitely worth its reputation.

Sat Aug 18 (group stage day 4)

This is the last day of group stage and it’s the most action-packed. Tiebreakers seem likely at the beginning of the day, and by halfway through the day they are pretty much inevitable. IG are eliminated and a group of players (and team management) that I’ve come to know pretty closely through the years are out of the tournament. It’s sad, and late that night their manager Zhili sends me a simple ‘gg’, I respond ‘gggg’ back and all that needs to be said has been said.

Late that night, Black^ who has arrived a day prior joins up with me to head to the Sheraton hotel (where players stay) for the midnight snack. Outside the hotel we come across Jack, VJG.S coach Clairvoyance, and Mineski manager Orrin. We chatter about a variety of things, least of which is an at-length flame session of Jack, led by Clairvoyance, on his lifestyle habits and lack of general put-together-ness for lack of a better word. Caveman, savage, and disgusting are words rotating in the conversation as Jack is flamed for falling asleep, not shaving his beard, being messy (Clairvoyance and Jack have to share a room), and so on.

Later Jack laments on the general lack of such opportunities to socialize at this TI due to the hotels all being separate, and the midnight snack room’s empty echos seem to ring in agreement as we are the only few people there all night.

Sun Aug 20 (press day)

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LGD

Today’s press day, and as always it’s a hustling bustling frenzy of activity as each team comes down to the room fully decked out in their newest team uniforms, ready to accept the questioning of awaiting media. I run around all day from 10am to 5pm helping with interviews, sometimes in front of the camera but more often behind it (as it is often the more efficient means).

With LGD, I help with some fun interviews with Rivalry Esports. First we get Maybe, who

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an interview with Jerax

is always a good sport with these. It’s a fun piece in which players guess what hero it is based on… questionable Steam Workshop item sets for those heroes. After Maybe, we ask him if he’d recommend another teammate — perhaps Chalice? Maybe enthusiastically recommends his teammate, knowing that he’s just roped him into another interview, and Chalice is duly recruited to partake in the same interview. Chalice proves to be a good recommendation indeed as he has a lot of fun with it, including one quip where he compares a bald-looking Storm Spirit illustration to their coach 357, and and another in which he points out the hero in question is wearing a green hat.

VG come, and despite a less than ideal group stage they seem to be in decent spirits. Fenrir looks over to me and we start talking about haircuts and hairstyles (practically seeming like we’re just resuming our earlier conversation from days ago). He’s saying my new haircut looks good, and I’m asking him — it looks better than the long hair? And he’s like ooh yeah. For sure. And I’m like your haircut looks good too. He looks a bit proud and goes, “yeah and previously I died it this awesome amazing color and it was fucking amazing. But now I’m too lazy to keep repeating that so this is what I have now.” And I’m like, no it looks good now too. No joke, the two of us talked hair styles and fashion for like ten minutes.

The silly casual conversation with some players that I see here and there always stop abruptly, but almost inevitably at this point continue on the next time I see them, no matter when or where it is.

At some point Mineski is here, and iceiceice offers me his long-sleeve Mski jersey, saying that he prefers the short-sleeve one anyway. So that was nice, and after all these years that’s actually the first player jersey I’ve ever gotten.

Newbee shows up to their time slot on time, and they stick around for the entirety of it too — relatively rare as most teams leave a bit early (which is also fine, because most of the time the interview requests have died down by then). At the Supermajor I notice kaka has a patch of white hair in his black, and back then I joked with him 那块白头发是被队友气得吧 “that patch of white hair is because of your teammates”. It’s still there, so I wonder what that means. 😛

Sccc and kpii get pulled for probably over a dozen interviews, but they’re good sports and take pretty much every interview. Sccc in particular with the — expected by this point — fervor and sincerity that has become his signature. At one point he’s asked for an interview, and having just done five in a row, asks if he can give the interview to someone else. The answer is sure, recommend someone! He tries to point at Faith, then Moogy, but none of them are particularly moved, so Sccc grabs kpii who has just finished an interview of his own and the two of them do an interview together with kpii interpreting for him.

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Sccc and kpii in action

VGJ.T are next, and I get to help with an interview with ddc. I mean, the number of interviews I did today probably set a record for me for press days (I even skipped a previously planned lunch because it was so busy at press day), but ddc is another one of those guys where we can kind of just start and stop and start again random conversations, then drift off. Always humble, he says in his interview, perhaps the reason that he’s been to all the TIs but hasn’t put his name on the Aegis yet is simply he’s not good enough. It’s humility, but I also hear a bit of sadness. Keep fighting, my friend! Dreams are worth fighting for.

Then it’s Serenity. I’ve gotten to know them a bit better over the past few days, and this bunch of kids (I say kids because, well at this point I’m older than them for sure) have potential and bright futures as long as they keep their heads on straight. Zyd is an interesting one, and after having watched Zhizhizhi for nearly two years and Serenity since early 2018, Zyd is someone who I think has a lot of potential. That’s not to say the rest of them don’t, because they do. But Zyd, despite his somewhat mischievous-looking persona comes off to me as a dedicated, thinking kind of player. His interview answers, though not as slick as other players’ come across as thoughtful and serious. And one of the most interesting things to me is that when he’s got nothing to do and is just sitting — for example sitting at the interview timeslot waiting for media — he doesn’t spend all his time on his phone. I’m not sure what that means but it’s a bit different.

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Chalice, Miracle-

XinQ seems to get along with everyone and walks around talking to people — Sccc, Chinese team managers, even just walks up and jokes around with me when he’s got no one else to talk to. I’ve done a few interviews with him now and if you ask him the right questions, he answers with this glint in his eye that suggests he could say a whole lot more.

Lastly it’s iG, and though they’ve just been eliminated, they are about as spirited as can be expected in those circumstances. Boboka’s got his earphones in, but otherwise seems to be his usual quirky self. Their manager and coach lpc are hanging out, the rest of the players chill for a bit, and as it’s near the end of the day the media activity is dying down, so they don’t have to face too much of an onslaught of questioning on their recent TI exit, which is probably for the better.

In between interviews with the Chinese players, I’ve also helped with quite a few with Western players — Sumail, Yawar, and Jerax for example. Sumail has grown a lot since the first time I met him at DAC 2015 in Shanghai. Both literally (he started out probably a foot shorter than me and is now probably taller than I am) and metaphorically. My first ever personal interaction with him was in 2015 in DAC in the elevator when I was with some Chinese players who were going to a party, and I somewhat jokingly asked then-15 year old Sumail if he wanted to come. He meekly declined and looked away back then, but nowadays Sumail is brimming with confidence, a confidence that he’s earned.

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His interview answers do not lack in this signature confidence, but he’s added an extra element of thoughtfulness and in the recent year or so it’s become quite a pleasure to hear him talk about things. Via an interview, it’s my first time really meeting his brother Yawar, and they are alike in a lot of ways, but you can also sense that they’re not the exact same person. Nonetheless, top tier mid players must run in the family and confidence is the common ingredient.

Towards the end of the day I catch some of the OG guys that I’m more familiar with — ana and Jerax, and chat a bit. With ana I just fill in some of the blanks on what he’s been up to prior to rejoining OG. He brings up the idea of needing to finish high school, and I’m like yeah, it’s not a bad idea to at least finish school some time. Just as a thing that you can say you’ve done, like a checklist, and ana agrees too. I suggest he perhaps look at zai’s example where he took a year off to finish all his schooling.

After press day, a quick visit to the venue is in order to check out the early access for the Secret Shop, and to pick up the swag bag. The Secret Shop isn’t as large-scale as in previous years so I barely buy anything, but it’s okay as I’ve become more minimalist in the material things I choose to own. So it’s fine for me anyway.

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Outside the venue

A walk around the venue later and we’re back to the hotel, from where I head to a dinner appointment with Evany and Fly at Guu again for more Japanese food. True to her organized and prepared nature, Evany has a table reserved for us which is key as the entire area is swarming with tourists and TI visitors alike.

As we’re ordering food, Fly notices some familiar faces walk in the door behind us: Phil of Valve (whom we’ve worked with for years now), his son, and none other than Dendi himself. While they’re being told that the restaurant has no tables for another hour, we’re exchanging greetings and Dendi is, as always, his bright cheery self. As they leave to find another place, I’m remarking, like if only the restaurant knew who they just turned away! It’s Dendi!! I mean, yeah, reality is the truth and it’s not a huge deal as Vancouver has so many good food options, but still. 🙂

Afterwards, we get ice cream.

Mon Aug 20 (main event day 1)

The opening ceremony sees all the teams gathered together in one place. And then the delay in the morning sees them all go outside, with probably half of them smoking (smoking is bad okay, seriously lol it’s the one thing I dislike the most about esports, is all these young people smoking). It’s a light mood, and I get to talk to a few players in the relative downtime. XinQ of Serenity, iceiceice, Fenrir — the patterns repeat sometimes and it’s not always me seeking them out. As the players enter the stage for the opening, Team Secret are last and have had a chance to watch the other teams enter. Puppey, ever the strategist, sees some teams entering looking a bit disorganized, and tells his team “Okay I’ll go in a bit ahead, and you guys follow” so that it looks better. His team agrees and they enter and look somewhat more smooth than some of their rivals, another tactical success by master Puppey.

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That’s a lot of MMR

This is an all new venue to me (and everyone else), so the mental cruise-control of knowing exactly where to go and the fastest way that was my existence at Key Arena is no longer relevant. I spend some time in the morning walking around getting my bearings, and also because it’s a decent way of ‘settling in’ to the TI spirit.

The first series with Liquid and Optic goes by pretty quickly, and Liquid look dominant, imperious. Could it be the year that all the curses — the patterns — are dismissed?

In between, I run to the video editors to try and help with some of the discrepancies in player ages/nationalities/etc, and also try to figure out some issue with a really big subtitle file that we’d been working on on days prior.

The next series is VP vs LGD and this is the first one where I’m potentially on deck for interviews. LGD ends up winning. Our first choice for the interview was Fy, but he declines, instead suggesting Maybe. Eventually it is xNova, as LGD says it is a bit of a team habit to send him for the first interview of a tournament, for some good luck. I suggest that he can take the interview in English, as I’ve talked with

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on the big screen with xNova

him before way back at the Boston Major in English and remember him being fluent. He instead says he’d like to do it in Chinese, for the fans back in China. A very considerate move I think, and one that should definitely be lauded — despite esports having come a long way, a lot of players could still improve on their awareness of these types of issues. It is the fans, after all, that pay for everything here, ultimately.

Afterwards is, well, the rest of the day and it’s both a haze of action as well as a what feels like a neverending crusade against sleep deprivation. As is common amongst a lot of fellow on-screen people I’ve talked with through the years, the last night before the big event begins is one that often loses sleep and I’m on just a few hours of sleep and as the day goes on, it shows.

Serenity win — against many people’s predictions, but not mine. I’d predicted them to win not because of who they were facing, but because I think they have it in them to go pretty far here. According to many pros I’d talked to, in the scrims leading up to TI group stage, Serenity were amongst the strongest in terms of results.

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Serenity 2018

The interview was with XinQ, who’s a big fluffy guy that seems to always have a laugh in his eyes (Chinese chat flames him for never opening his eyes).

 

Newbee crash out against Winstrike, but I barely catch any of the actual action as I’m not busy, but falling asleep on my feet, and then later in my chair in the interview room. I guess I’m getting old.

It’s sad, as Sccc is — as it is with almost every Chinese Dota fan — one of my favored players. It’s hard not to support the guy, and indeed all five players of Newbee, but there are winners and losers in every match. Earlier in the day when Newbee had arrived, Sccc had in his customary way strode through the hallways, and upon seeing me gave me that assertive yet friendly head nod that only he can really manage, with his hair bobbing up and down with the force of the nod itself.

The last action of the day, or night, by now, is VG vs VGJ.Thunder. In the hallway

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继续加油!

backstage, VGJ.Thunder’s coach rOtK walks by but not before punching me in the gut. As a joke of course and it’s not a real punch, but every year he pulls something on me. I think last year he did the classic tap on the shoulder and walk the other way thing. The guy knows how to have fun, anyway, and doesn’t hesitate to try and keep things light-hearted even before an elimination match.

Seeing a manager of VG a few minutes before their match, he’s saying “No matter which of us wins, we’re going to dinner together later tonight. We’re brothers after all.” and that little bit drives home the reality of how cruel this matchup is in particular, especially coming this early in the tournament. After VGJ.Thunder lose, Fade sees me as they come to (or from, I forget) the elevator and says “Josh, we lost…”

I was unsure how to respond in that split second, and even now it feels uncertain to me, as it’s never easy. But there’s humanity in it all and it’s always these moments that remind me of that fact the most.

The night ends with that, and with LaNm’s desires to carry his VGJ brothers’ hopes along with him on in the rest of the tournament.

Tues Aug 21 (main event day 2)

Group stage day two only sees one Chinese team at the venue, Serenity. The venue this year is somewhat larger than KeyArena, and it’s definitely more modern. There are TVs in most of the elevators that all have the matches on, and even the elevators with no TVs IMG_20180812_163644.jpgwill have audio of the matches piped in. There are also more elevators, and they’re faster. Yeah, I’d say the main difference between Rogers Arena and KeyArena would be the elevators.

I share the shuttle with Kyle on the way to or back from the venue, and we chat about how people in Dota feel like family at this point. Like all these other games are great and all, but when you get back to Dota, it feels like coming home. It does feel a bit like that by now, yeah, and that’s something interesting for me as I’ve never felt a real sense of belonging anywhere.

This is also the second year after TI4 that I have an autographed chest, and even though there’s no way I’ll sell many at all, it’s just mind blowing that my name is in this game that I’ve played for over ten years now. Twice, even! This is also the first year I get my name on my TI badge, so that’s cool too.

Wed Aug 22 (main event day 3)

I’m helping today with a shadow autograph session. He’s got this thing where he looks over at the fan to see what pose they are striking, and then emulates it so they are both doing the same pose in the picture. It’s quite cute actually. After the photos, he signs for

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Giants of TI history

everyone and on one guy who asks him to sign a shirt, he carefully fixes parts of the autograph on a tshirt where it got wrinkled by going over it a few more times with the marker.

I ask him if all this signing is more difficult than playing a grand finals, and he smiles a bit. Then I’m like this has gotta be harder, you play those and you win. And he’s laughing, “and sometimes you’re playing and then you’ve lost” kind of like you don’t even know what’s happening. After he’s done meeting all his fans, on the way back upstairs as we leave the elevator, we cross paths with Team Secret. Just as they’re about to get into the elevator themselves, shadow quietly goes “Oh, my idols.” And his girlfriend and I suggest to him to go and get a picture with them, but he’s hesitant, perhaps not wanting to bother them. In the end he does, and I have this picture of 2 meter-tall Puppey alongside shadow who is much more diminutive, to say the least.

BurNIng is in the venue to cast, and asks someone take a picture of him while backstage, ostensibly for his own social media. When asked if he wants to see it, he’s like no, no, no. “Just make sure it’s from an angle that makes me look skinnier,” he jokes. It’s okay BurNIng, I will be your fan no matter what.

Thurs Aug 23 (main event day 4)

There’s a VG meet and greet session today, and LaNm says if he won, he’d sign things for the whole arena. 我要是赢了,我把整个场馆都签了!eLeVen agrees enthusiastically. But they lost this year so it’s just the one hour session.

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With VG

Serenity have a signing session too, and on the elevator Zyd looks at what I’m doing on my phone and asks what it is (Facebook), then asks what Facebook is. It being their first time at TI they need to do their autographs for the first time, and they’re worried about making sure it looks nice. They practice for a bit while laughing at each other until finally each settling on an autograph that they’re satisfied with, and we pass the papers on to PGL staff. The practice autographs they scribbled they don’t want anymore, so I hand those to some waiting fans — I’m sure to some people somewhere, those have some value. Imagine if someone on Serenity wins a TI in the future!

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Serenity doing their homework

The OpenAI match between the CN legends and the bots sees 430, BurNIng, rOtK, Sansheng, and xiao8 going up. BurNIng is asking the guys “Shouldn’t we discuss a bit how to win?” and rOtK’s like “No need, just watch me perform,” while xiao8 is exclaiming how they’re super fucking noob. I remind them that Secret lost a game in a BO3 against them, and they seem to sober up a bit: rOtK remarks “If we lose to these bots then that’s enough flame fodder for the community for the next year.” His statement seems to hold no fear of such flames, and in fact if you looked at his face while he said it, you’d think he welcomes them. 🙂

They win though, but not before 430 dies over ten times against the bots, a fact that he admits with a small smile after the game.

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The CN anti-bot squad

At night it’s the TI8 All-star match. Waiting in the tunnel, the all stars exchange settings wisdom. Autoattack, right click deny, etc. Do you use autoattack on Earth Spirit? Quick cast? And so on. The Chinese speakers teach the others some Chinese, and Pajkatt shows he knows some Chinese (still? From his LGD days or perhaps he’s still learning).

After the All-star match, Miracle is taking off his yellow Team BurNIng shirt, and he’s like “Where do I give this back to?” and I’m telling him “it’s yours, you can keep it!”

We’re trying to get Sccc to join the Chinese panel, but understandably he feels a bit uncomfortable taking such a role at TI8. Sharon makes sad faces and says he’s hurting her feelings, and Sccc is like, “I wouldn’t want to hurt a girl! Never!” but he still steadfastly refuses for his own reasons and really, it’s understandable. At the end of the night I get a picture with him as he’s mentioned he might be flying out earlier than the last day, and despite not really knowing him that well, he’s one of those guys that I feel like I could get along well with if there was ever more time.

Some of the Chinese teams are looking to change their flights back to China, citing the upcoming season being in just three weeks and needing to rest and figure out future teams. I help some of them, including Fenrir who just buys his own flight but needs me to help him do so. “What would I do without you?!” he exclaims.

On the shuttle back to the hotel, after it offloads people who are staying at the Sheraton, just those of us for the Fairmont Hotel remain. After the shuttle starts moving again, Dendi peers back at me, raises a fist, and goes “For the boys!!”. I respond “For the Horde!” and he goes “For the Alliance!!” A moment of chatter about how we’re enjoying TI8 and we’ve arrived at the Fairmont, where he says good night in the elevator.

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All-stars in shiny yellow All-star shirts

Fri Aug 24 (main event day 5)

Burning everything I know, desperate for a change

A lot of people, before this TI, during the group stages and onward, have been saying that the pattern won’t repeat again. We might see a repeat champion for the first time. We won’t see a Chinese victor. We’ll see someone come out completely unpredicted. Anyone could win.

Liquid eliminate Secret and then are eliminated by EG. OG and LGD play out what many people (correctly) predict as a preview of the Grand Finals. On a different day things might’ve gone differently, but today’s result means LGD will have to fight — and carry the hopes of millions of dedicated Chinese Dota fans — from the lower bracket tomorrow.

In some ways, it felt destined for OG to just keep winning as they pulled off comeback after comeback.

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Under a diamond sky, everyone wants to shine

Sat Aug 25 (main event day 6)

Crashing down the ancient roads, past our yesterday

The day begins for LGD kind of where it ended, the mountain of the TI8 Grand Finals the ultimate goal regardless of what the journey will be. It feels EG are powerless to stop them as LGD brush them aside on their way to a rematch with yesterday’s nemesis, the heretofore unheralded and unexpected OG.

In some ways, their final day of TI8 also begins where every previous TI of theirs has ended: it’s LGD’s first ever appearance in a TI Grand Finals, after having crashed out in various TIs in the top 6. They’d never been this far before. Always close. They’ve already conquered themselves and their past in coming here today, but standing with them backstage, helping them get microphoned up for the filming of True Sight, you can sense they desire more. At this stage, who wouldn’t? Dare to dream, and we’ll chase that future alongside you.

Maybe there’s hunger in my blood, screaming out loud for what I want

Grand finals. LGD players seem calm, confident. But clearly it’s difficult, and they understand that. In the end they lose after a gruelling 5 game series, and despite the narratives and the storylines for the Western point of view, this is a painful loss for the Chinese scene in more than one way.

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Just because you need something to happen, doesn’t mean it will happen. As a long-time DK and EHOME fan, it’s never really been a question of whether I am an LGD fan or not. Those rivalries back in the day were like Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Manchester United vs Liverpool, etc. I respect the organization and their players, but from a pure fandom point of view, I’ve never really cheered for LGD. I don’t cheer against them, but anyway — this TI was the first time I’ve actually supported them.

China needed this win. They didn’t get it, but they tried.

See me running full speed at it, shattering, collide

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That moment

Let’s talk a bit about TI8 Grand Finals game 4. This is the game with the moment that a majority of the Chinese fanbase pinpointed as where LGD could’ve won, but ultimately lost everything. Game 5 was just a formality in some minds. Anyway, LGD are up 10k, then 12k, then 17k as they force multiple buybacks and take two lanes of rax. The Aegis awaits on stage, just as the Aegis timer ticks to a minute on Roshan in game 4.

One of China’s most authoritative stats platforms chimes in, 93% win prediction at this point. I’m on deck with Machine, ready for the winners’ interview, which looks like LGD and has looked like it would be LGD for a while. They just need to force the buybacks, retreat, regroup, take Roshan, and make a final push. Then, in the blink of an eye, Ame’s Morphling goes in, dies, Somnus gets caught too, and what looked for moments like a surefire 3-1 victory for LGD reverts back to an almost even game where Merlini says it doesn’t feel like LGD is up two lanes at all (and by all means it does not matter that they are), and then it’s all over.

A lot of fans blame Ame almost exclusively for the game 4 loss, and ultimately LGD’s loss in the Grand Finals. But having watched that moment over and over today in between writing this, I interpret it differently. He wasn’t throwing, he wasn’t overconfident, he wasn’t arrogant in that split second.

Call me post-traumatic, now it’s do or die

This is a team who has been the sole realistic hope for China for the greater part of a year. Even so, many Chinese fans I’d talked to didn’t hold that great a hope for LGD either. They were just the strongest in a packed field that other Chinese teams could hardly compete in.

The Chinese Dota scene is one of the most dedicated and hardcore gaming scenes I’ve ever encountered, so while I’m not the world’s biggest proponent of fans leaving the momentIMG_20180825_135536

LGD backstage

their team loses, not cheering for the victors, perhaps there is some common ground to be found by looking at it from a different perspective.

Students who spend all their savings travelling 20 hours by train across China for the chance to see their idol, to perhaps see the team they’ve watched hundreds of hours on tiny laptop screens in their 8-person dorm rooms raise the trophy, to meet with that guy that plays support in their stacks… Guys who played Dota 1 coming back to events for Dota 2, having not played in five years but still following that one player, that one team, young child and wife in tow. Using their one annual vacation to make it to Shanghai, hopeful of getting tickets for finals day as they’d only managed to buy tickets for one day. The couple from all the way across China that stood outside the gates, snacks in hand, at DAC 2018 finals day all day, hoping someone would have extra tickets (near the end even the scalpers had mostly sold out).

Yeah, I know, as Dota fans we all have these types of experiences but in China a lot of fans literally define themselves by it. It’s what they’ve chosen as their life and lifestyle. When Chinese pros and personalities say “Dota is my youth,” they mean it. And the fans follow suit. It’s not a question of whether they’ll stay up until 10am watching TI every year. It’s whose apartment they’ll watch at, and what they’ll eat at 5am when they get hungry.

Multiply that by millions and that’s the pressure that consciously or unconsciously gets transferred to Chinese players, magnified by the fact that a lot of Chinese pros share the same exact experiences.

(Maybe, there’s hunger in my blood)

The Aegis is there, if I just run a little harder… a little faster, it’ll be here. And then it wasn’t anymore. I think he just wanted to win. Too much. Is there even such a thing as wanting to win too much? If there is, then why do we compete? What are our dreams made of?

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Waiting for an interview that never came

So, Ame. After the incident with BurNIng at TI7, a lot of people disliked him. Add to that his demeanor, one which expresses nearly no emotion, and people have tagged him as arrogant, egotistic, toxic, whatever.

I took it upon myself to talk to Nicholas, a long-time manager at LGD to learn a bit more before making any conclusions. Ame originally had graduated high school with pretty good grades and had successfully made it into a decent university. Right around that time, he was scouted by inflame, and the LGD organization invited him to join CDEC.Y. His parents were very worried about this turn, and it took quite some convincing for them to allow their son to choose the esports option over university. So he put school on hold, choosing the high risk high reward path, and the day he was to report to LGD, his parents drove him over to the teamhouse themselves. His mom still calls every week to check on him and make sure he eats properly. The only thing he does is play Dota, he hardly plays any other games, and even on dates with his girlfriend he’ll bring his mouse and keyboard in a backpack so they can go to the internet cafe… to play Dota. To me, this isn’t the picture of an immature little flamer that lets things get to his head. It isn’t the picture of someone who feels superior to the world because they’re the carry player for LGD. It’s the picture of me, or any number of us, at his age (minus the general success and prowess at this game). Introverted, just wants to play Dota, not great at expression, parents that worried about him as he grew up, wondering if he’ll ever get past ‘that gaming phase’. And ultimately coming out of childhood still needing to learn a bit how to interact with the world.

Post-TI8 (Afterparty)

Afterparty. There are free hot dogs provided out front. Ramzes666 is having a good time and yelling fuck at coach 71, who seems to be on good terms with the VP carry. They’re all looking to get hot dogs and joke jovially as their turn in line comes. The Winstrike boys are right there in the mix. I see other afterparty regulars, EE-sama, Aui_2000, some of Liquid, a few EG guys in and out. Almost no one from the Chinese teams. I don’t drink or smoke, but I still don’t remember much of the details, because it was loud, and I was tired.

The night breezes along in the cool Vancouver night as conversations float into the billows of cigarette smoke clouding the sidewalk along the front of the afterparty venue. Players and representatives from different teams flit between each other, looking to glean intel and gain an edge in blossoming discussions regarding the next season — the infamous ‘post-TI roster shuffle’ in action, as it were. In between these more serious activities, casual conversation abounds as most of the talent from EN and RU are seen, along with a few from CN even, xiao8 for example who shows up towards the latter half of the night.

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The afterparty scene

Late in the night I see Evany from OG, with Fly (who is obviously not from OG now, yet had been for such a long time). Not entirely sure what to say in that situation, so I just tell her I hope you are good. A few casual ‘feelsbadmans’ are exchanged with Fly regarding his 3rd place exit, but perhaps it’s because of both our personalities that the day’s situations pass by without much more serious discussion of anything. I think we’re both ready to keep looking forward.

They’re headed to Taiwan next and a bit of envious chatter from me about all the good food in store for them, and they’re off back to the hotel as well.

Hanging out with iceiceice at the afterparty seems a tradition now. He always goes to these, and I usually show up to find food, and then we just chat. We talk random stuff, from new teams being formed to whether he wants to go to PAX, which is in Seattle the next week. He’s always wanted to go to PAX, first mentioning it back in 2014, but now that this is the closest TI to PAX time, he can’t because he has a baby at home.

Near the end of the night, we come across OG.ana as we make our way out of the afterparty. He hugs Zhili, who was manager at iG when ana was there. Then he grabs me and gives me a hug too as I congratulate him. Thanks, he says. “You don’t need to worry about finishing school anymore,” I remark, referring to our conversation earlier during TI8 press day. And he’s like yeah, in that Aussie accent, with that Aussie smirk.

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The wishes of a million Dota fans

By this time it’s close to 3am, and instead of heading back to my own hotel, I hang out in front of the Sheraton where it is still buzzing with that energy that follows TI.

Zai’s chilling outside, and we just chat a bit. The front of the hotel is the smoking spot, so we talk about smoking as a bad habit in esports. Snus, betel nuts. Different addictions across the world of esports. Then we talk esports scene and growth or prospects and future stuff. How it felt like, after TI7 with all the new teams emerging and Liquid being these globally accepted winners, there was so much optimism in the Dota scene. And how somehow it feels different, almost opposite now for some reason after TI8. Disbands, shuffles, declining player base, uncertainty for organizers and organizations alike. How mobile games in China have all the girlz and stuff, while Dota is the biggest sausagefest ever. Nightclubs in Shanghai. Missing home.

He asks when this very writeup is estimated to come, and I’m like soon, within a few days hopefully! If I don’t commit a timeline then I procrastinate it, and that’s something I hate about myself. So, thanks to zai for helping keep me accountable on this.

Morad and Charlie are around for a bit too. They talk about how Sumail and Miracle are a bit similar. Morad says he literally has to force Miracle to eat his vegetables at times, and Charlie doesn’t believe it, or maybe he does because the phrase that the manager is also a babysitter is one that I’ve heard repeated through the Western and Chinese Dota scenes.

At the end of my adventure in front of the Sheraton tonight, I finally find kuroky outside the hotel at around 4am. I don’t even recall what the opportunity was for me to meet him originally, but this guy has always felt like he could be a brother in a different timeline. We think and approach things similarly. I like to think I share his quiet determination.

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Vancouver, 5am

We talk a bit — what’s next? What was in the past. TI8. He’s like “I hope you still supported us this year!” I tell him I put Liquid as my favorite team again this year. Because if they were my favorite last year, and they’re still the same five guys playing the same game, then there’s no reason to change it. He says their performance should’ve disappointed but I say nah, as long as you give your best it doesn’t disappoint.

I ask him what he’s still doing up this late, and he tells me he likes to be able to slowly take in the last night of TI. There’s no need to sleep right now. Me too, me too. We talk a bit about Tokyo, as the topic of where we’d like to live or visit comes up. I suggest he visit, and promise recommendations of good (chicken-based) ramen places next. On Serenity, he says they learned really quickly in pre-TI scrims in Vancouver, and were playing well towards the start of TI in those scrims, but then in TI, they kind of went away from what they were doing in scrims. The TI stage gets to you, I guess.

The night ends around 6am for me as I get some food with Reisen (the Korean player) who was here to watch TI. The Vancouver early morning is a bit chilly as the slightest tinge of fall begins to bleed into late summer.

Sun Aug 26 (post TI8 day)

I’ve stayed up until 7am, and there’s an 11am breakfast/post event gathering with a few of the main people I work with at Valve, Ronald and Sharon. Three hours of sleep, whatever — you live once, you’re young once, so it’s a fun brunch kind of engagement but it’s too soon before there are flights to catch and goodbyes to be said again.

In the afternoon, I message iceiceice to see if he wants waffles, at a place I’d recommended to him on Twitter two weeks ago. It feels like an eternity ago, really. We order and eat our waffles and he’s like ooooh these are gooood. They are quite good indeed.

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at Nero Belgian Waffles

Then I show him another place I’d recommended, a pork tonkatsu place that’s recently opened in Vancouver, and he’s like let’s walk back to the hotel, chill a bit, then go eat tonkatsu. So it’s a leisurely stroll back, and a few hours spent in the hotel lobby chatting about the kinds of idle things that you chat about on lazy late summer afternoons.

Interspersed within are occasional fans catching iceiceice for a photo, or someone from a team or sponsor stopping to say hi, and then the rare sighting of LGD who are coming back from some shopping. Iceiceice plays annoying paparazzi on Somnus as he walks in and takes photos of the LGD mid player on his phone, delighted in having done so. It turns out he’s taken video as well, so he’s now got a video clip of Somnus walking through the hotel lobby with his girlfriend, seemingly unawares of being filmed.

We talk a bit more about stuff — his next team, what they should pay, and just general life things. With his wife, we remark on how he used to be more popular back in his DK.iceiceice days. Well, yeah, that was DK. Then we go to get tonkatsu, which he says is really really good, and I was like told ya so! “Should’ve come here earlier, huh?” But he disagrees on the latter statement and says that it’s good to come now, because only now can you really enjoy it.

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With Sir Iceiceice

Food, I guess, loses some flavor when pressure is the only thing you can taste while still competing in a TI.

Back at the hotel again, he has to go pack for a flight in four hours, but no one really wants to say bye just yet, so we go and harass people who are clearly trying to poach each others’ players (no comment on who was involved). He’s already got his own team settled for the most part, so he’s happily saying “I just want to gossip! Gossip!” At one point, iceiceice sees Fy out for some fresh air and waves over at him, pretending like he wants to recruit Fy to his team. Fy knows what’s up though and dismisses iceiceice with a shake of the hand and a smile.

Before we know it, the night is over and so is our TI8.

Post (other)

Feeding frenzies in my brain

I can only imagine how it feels for days, weeks, forever, perhaps to lose a TI grand finals in five games the way LGD did. I can’t really imagine, but in a lot of ways second place is — at least immediately afterwards — worse than nearly any other result. You lose 3-0, it’s probably not so bad, but a close 2-3 loss and you’ll likely be left wondering what if for a long time.

Somnus’s Weibo post brings lament. “It’s as if I’ve just been through a really, really long dream. My journey through the dream was a lot of fun, but the ending painful. How I wish I could wake up and it’s the day we first arrived in Vancouver, we’ll be going to eat and I’d tell my teammates about this dream over food.”IMG_20180825_203753

Incidentally, iceiceice and I were just saying how it’d be amazing to be able to replay life over and over from save points, but with the knowledge gained from each past play. I guess the desire to manipulate time is a nearly universal one.

I’m hopeful every day, gotta get it while we’re still young enough to break

But BurNIng’s response says it all: “You’re still young. This isn’t the closest you’ll come to winning it all, next time grab it with your own two hands!”

And Fy’s Weibo post strikes an optimistic tone. “Actually it’s okay. If you get knocked down, just stand back up. You guys don’t need to send me messages of condolence anymore. The allure of esports is in loss and victory. Getting ready to go home now. The me of the future, will become even stronger.”

We’re finally not afraid

Next (future)

It’s been a really long and tiring season for everyone involved. I’ve helped plan and execute multiple enormous tournaments in China, learned and seen more in one year than I have in any year previous, and been to another TI. For all this I am so appreciative and hopefully there is more to come for me, and from me.

For now, we look forward to TI9. In Shanghai! I never thought I’d see it, but here we are.

Thank you to everyone — for reading this, for supporting the game, the teams, the scene. Thank you to Valve, PGL, fans, teams, players, staff, and everyone that has given something to this world.

Thank you, Dota

You can follow me

on Twitter: twitter.com/AutumnWindz
on Weibo: weibo.com/AutumnWindz

 

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Maybe next time

The International 2017 in my view

The International 2017 took place in Seattle, USA in August of 2017 with a prize pool of over 24 million dollars. By popular demand (well, mostly just a few people who told me they really enjoy these for some reason) this is my experience of TI7. Or at least bits and pieces of it because it is really simultaneously a flash and a long series of events all in one.

Sun July 30

It’s check-in day at the hotel. Well, for most people. Some arrive the day after. I live in the area so I just bus down to the hotel, and every year the first moment in that year’s hotel is like taking a step into a portal leading to another world. It’s not foreign, but it’s so vastly different from everything else — at least the experience of TI for me is.

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View from the hotel

Lots of people in the hotel lobby. I immediately see Vilat and the Russian language people hanging out in the couches, waving hello I find the front desk where I’m told that I’ll have to wait an hour for my room to come ready. Many others are in the same situation, but no one really minds. It’s loud and boisterous in the relatively small lobby of the hotel, and it’s a great opportunity to say hi to people. So that’s what I do. Liquid people, OG people, some LFY and LGD people who’ve already checked in and are casually strolling down to smoke. Synderen comes to sit next to me while we both wait for our hotel rooms, and I think the last time I’ve seen him would’ve been at last year’s TI. Lots of familiar faces, and yet I think this TI has been the one with the most brand new participants.

Mind_control wants to continue playing basketball. We’d played basketball in the light rain in Shanghai, after DAC 2017, for something like three hours along with Black, Nutz, and xy of Faceless at the time.

Kuroky and Miracle quietly nod hello on their way outdoors to smoke. Yao says my new shorter hair looks good. I see Andrey a bit later and he agrees too. I’m not sure — but I’ve kept a counter of what people have said about my hair through the event.

I see Zai in the elevator, briefly, and he remarks on the shorter hair too. I say he was first in cutting the long hair, the original haircut boy. He smiles quietly as he leaves the elevator.

Mon July 31

Players’ dinner is tonight. While waiting for ride to player dinner, we talk with Evany and Fly. We talk about their new logo (sad there’s no more green), I’m wearing my old DK shirt and Evany says she’ll get me an OG shirt to wear so I’m not still living in the past, I guess. We’re all pieces of our past, okay? And DK was Wings before Wings wingsed TI6.

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Wings’ rings

At the player dinner, Wings’ rings are on bright display, but there are no Wings. There will be no Wings at TI7 either. I think that moment, when I saw their rings sitting centerpiece at the dinner, was when it really became apparent how iridescent their TI6 run was — brilliant, varied, and ultimately not to be seen again.

 

iG, LFY, and LGD of the Chinese teams show up. Looking for food, they’re enthusiastically grabbing beef skewers. We order fruit punches (non alcoholic), and order an extra one and give it to BurNIng. His teammates wonder where theirs are as BurNIng sips his drink. Some kind of joke is made about BurNIng being the elder statesman of the team — and the table at which iG sits really has that kind of feel. One older guy with four kids, running around his feet. Figuratively, anyway.

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Dinner with OG in the Seattle sunset

Back at the OG table, we’re eating. Jerax is like “the corn is the best” or something. And it is quite good. I eat two plates of it. Somewhere during the evening, ana wants to meet Gaben, and enlists Notail to make the introduction, to which Notail happily obliges like a big brother and off they go, ana saying something about being nervous. But they come back emptyhanded – it seems Gaben hasn’t come to the welcome dinner this year (or he couldn’t be found at that time). WIth Evany we talk more, about Taiwan, about traveling, about how at DAC I had chatted randomly with ana about upcoming tournaments and he’d wondered about eventual TI7 invites, and how I’d told him that I thought if they win Kiev Major then they’d be invited for sure… Back then there was doubt on his face. But now here they are.

Many hellos and random chats are exchanged at the welcome dinner, a welcome tradition at this point in TI history. With the various language casters and analysts, various players, etc and so on. The food’s nice too, and the location means brilliant sunsets at around 9pm, after which it’s about time to head back to the hotel. I walk back in the still-warm night.

There’s a puppy at the hotel at night and it is amazing how it gets everyone out of their shell. It’s Sharon’s puppy, and it’s magnetic. Eleven, inflame, casters, various players alike — everyone is enamoured with the puppy and the puppy with them. Eleven comes over on a few separate occasions just to pet the puppy, and it’s really cute how this little puppy can make it seem, at least for some moments, that there isn’t a mega event going on with everyone’s hopes and dreams riding on it.

Tues Aug 1

There’s a players’ meeting today, and it’s possibly the most impactful one of these at TI so far. At least, of the ones I’ve been present at. The outline has been seen online in various places so far — Majors/minors system, points for players, etc. Very interesting stuff and everyone is discussing it afterwards, wondering about the details.

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The players’ meeting 2017

Later on today is media day for the Chinese teams. I’m on to help with a bit over half of them – 3 out of 5: LFY, Newbee, and iG.

According to the interview, Newbee Sccc has Centuries by Fall Out Boy as his favorite music at the moment. After the interview with Kaci, walking with him back to the elevator, he asks me if, if they make it to the final, can they have that song played in the stadium for them? Like as entrance music. I say I don’t know, but I can ask. It’d be pretty cool if it was possible, I remark. He nods with a big grin on his face.

Inflame, after his interview and heading up to the elevator asks if I’ve eaten yet. No I haven’t, not yet today I say. Since it’s something like 3pm at that time, he looks a bit concerned then the elevator is here, and he’s going upstairs (or was it down?) and I’m going the other direction and we say bye. I’m fine though — I never eat much in the day during a tournament, and via conversations through the years with others who work at tournaments this seems to be a fairly common thing. Not that it’s exactly healthy, but well, sometimes that’s just how it is.

We also film a bunch of fun pieces with Kaci, and with Slacks. The ones where Kaci has a player draw/paint his chosen hero, and ones with Slacks where players are playing games.’Never have I ever’ with iG is a brutal affair, because the iG players pull no punches when it comes to targeting each other, but hilarious. Come to think of it, I have no idea which of these pieces ever aired and which didn’t, so if anyone knows, let me know.

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iG doing a fun piece with Chinese production

Thinking back to TI3 and TI4 times, this has all been a pretty drastic change. People have all loosened up, and perhaps one unheralded thing that new players to the scene has brought is more of a feeling of fun and carefreeness. For example, Xxs is always enthusiastically participating in things, curiosity being a trademark of his, Sccc is his own brand of bright (or perhaps, a piece of shining steel), and the older players around these guys seem to have a different side of themselves that would’ve been hard to see on stream a few years ago.

Thurs Aug 3

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rOtK + puppy

Echo the puppy is around and frolicking in the hotel again today. Maybe (Somnus) comes to play with the dog. After a moment, he goes and steals rOtK’s glasses and first tries to feed them to the dog (jokingly) then when rOtK comes over, tries to look like he’s making the dog wear the glasses. ROtK swears at him and takes the glasses back while laughing.

LaNm is wearing a traditional Chinese kind of shirt. I ask him what’s up with it, and he puffs up a bit, saying don’t you think it’s cool? Offers to get me one too, and says “let’s go do some taiji.” And then he looks at my hair and goes, “your long hair was fine man, what did you do to it?”

With all the comments on my hair now being shorter than it’s ever been, I kept an incomplete tally of what people thought about it throughout the event:

Shorter hair good/bad

Good: Yao, Andrey, Yaya, Nick (Valve dude), Faith, Op, others
Bad: lanm (criticized it twice), BBC (calls me Arthas – and now I can’t be Arthas anymore)

Maybe people are just being nice, mostly.

We had dinner with a few people from LFY that night, at their invitation. Of course it’s at

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LFY at Boiling Point

Boiling Point, a Chinese/Taiwanese-style individual hot pot place that Chinese players go to literally every night at TI, spanning back many years. Luckily for them there is a location both in Bellevue, and in Seattle. During dinner, the topic at one point shifts to various TI finals. Banana of Newbee during TI4 is currently with the LGD organization as a coach, and LGD manager Nicholas says to banana and LFY player Super, “the worst final in TI history was the fault of you two fucks!” Banana laughs heartily and responds, “Well, I had a great time anyway!”

Fri Aug 4

It’s the middle of group stage and the hotel is quiet as group stage games are all played in the training room floor this year. I split time between Key Arena and the hotel throughout the group stage, working on subtitles for almost all of the content that features Chinese players.

At the midnight snack in the hotel, we run across Matumbaman, and their performance in group stage so far very briefly comes up. He says, “the tournament only starts at the main event…” Also at midnight snack, Mind_control is there and again the topic is basketball: “Basketball!!” he exclaims. But I note that we probably shouldn’t play, because what if you break your hand? “Then I play with my foot” is the reply.

Sun Aug 6

Today is press day, teams come down in timeslots and various media outlets can pick and choose who they want to interview during those timeslots. This year there seems to be fewer media outlets present, and the ones that are present seem to invariably have their own favorites — so coverage doesn’t seem to be very thorough. Most teams leave far earlier than their schedule has them for, and there are no complaints because there’s practically no one asking to interview anyone.

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Boboka and BurNIng

In preparation for upcoming digital autographs, Boboka is practicng for his own signature. He spends some 40-odd minutes practicing it. BurNIng offers to impart some wisdom on the matter to the younger B-god, but pretty soon gives up: “your dumbass id sucks, how about you just change it.”

Interviews are held with some players, but not surprisingly little interest in BurNIng His teammates call him an over the hill player, his popularity is gone. 过气选手!they keep repeating delightedly, which means he’s past it.

Because there aren’t as many actual interviews happening at this year’s press day, I have more time to just chat a bit with players since they all have nothing to do while they wait anyway. Inflame wants to play right away. He’d skip all the break days if possible, of which there’s only one this year already (down from two in previous years) “We want to keep our momentum. but our team has a good mindset right now.”

Dotabuff have brought in a shipment of custom-made whiteboards with the Dota minimap printed on, and handed them out to people. OG are drawing each other on the map. S4 is off the map somewhere. Ana draws an Evany.

Meanwhile, Maybe draws Nicholas, LGD manager, and it’s actually decent — some of the better drawing I’ve seen from a Dota player at this TI.

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Eleven and Maybe

LGD.Yao offers me a t-shirt of theirs, one that says “LGD IS INVINCIBLE”. It is pretty cool. But LFY and LGD share a design, and asked to choose between one of the two, I can’t really. Well, I’m pretty neutral. Their manager nicholas reveals that I’d picked Liquid as TI winners anyway. We laugh about it and the topic shifts as they do on these kinds of days.

Mon Aug 7

Newbee are patient, and ultimately dominant on the main stage today. Sccc shines on the

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Backstage prior to opening the main event

big stage, a big stage player — a rarity. Faith comes off the stage shouting, then he goes for the post-match interview. Afterwards, he’s talking about the games so far. iG did super well. They really did their draft homework, he says. He points out Xxs as the key on Earthshaker especially, perhaps telling in their approach against iG in their next match as it’s obvious Faith as the drafter for Newbee really does his homework.

iG.V are eliminated. It’s a sad performance because it’s not at all a fair represention of their ability, but they fail again to get over the block that is perfoming on LAN.

Tues Aug 8

LFY wins 2-0. Backstage, I have a bag of chips and that is my lunch as I’m there waiting for them to come off the stage after their match. Seeing me, ddc walks up a takes a chip and eats it.

LGD have a stuffed rabbit that’s their good luck charm, but this year the rules are nothing extra in the booths, at all. Fair’s fair for everyone if that’s the rule. And they lose. Superstition strikes again?! Well, not really, but through the years there have been mentions of lucky shorts, not touching the Aegis before winning it, the 1v1 tournament being cursed, lucky underwear, lucky stuffed animals, eating at the same restaurant that you ate at before your previous win, etc… Superstition is an interesting topic if only for the flavor that it can add to the intensity that is a TI.

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Outside of Key Arena

There’s an iG autograph session. Op says my hairstyle looks cool, like someone from Slam Dunk. I dont know who it is though. I’m just chatting a bit with iG manager while his players do their session, and there’s a guy there that has asked for my signature for three years now for some reason. Like I’m not anyone really, but it’s always fun to meet people so it’s cool.

In the evening it’s back down to the media dungeon backstage of Key Arena to work on more subtitles.

Wed Aug 9

iG is backstage, awaiting their match. They’re all watching the BurNIng player profile that we’ve all been waiting for (well, I’ve been waiting for anyway).

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iG watching BurNIng’s profile

When footage of TI4 DK comes up, rOtK, who’s coach of iG at TI7, looks over at BurNIng and laughs. “Feels bad man”. Another iG guy goes, “That year when you got pushed.” BurNIng just has that look on his face.

Thurs Aug 10

Newbee signature session. Sccc, kaka, and Moogy. Kpii is there too, but he had a session already so he’s just with his team, though his presence is far from unnoticed as fans try — to the ire of the line management staff — get photos with him as well after they’re done with the other Newbee players.

Sccc is massively popular. Like, probably top 3 in popularity amongst any Dota player right now, or at least amongst all Dota players present at TI7, and that’s true for fans from all lands. At the signature station at the end of their session, they want some extra autographs of their own to share with friends and Sccc takes his badge and goes “I’m gonna scan my badge here until the sun sets!” and scans a dozen or more times all with a giant smile on his face.

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Newbee signing piles of stuff for fans

Meanwhile in Key Arena, the games are going on. Liquid continue their run through the lower bracket, while LGD’s win against OG means that all of a sudden I am now scheduled to do an on-stream interview where I was previously not on deck for any live stream work this year. The reasoning being that with two Chinese teams playing in the next round (iG vs LGD), there’d be both a winners’ and losers’ interview and both would need an interpreter.

Fri Aug 11

Newbee advance to finals. After his postgame interview, Sccc sees the stats on screen 52% MVP for him. “Wow is that my damage??” The energy from the stage clearly still coursing through him. I explain its the MVP.  Then he’s like cool. “SF is my signature hero!” And he’s off.

I go on to do the one interview that I end up needing to do — with LGD’s Victoria. I’m always a bit surprised by how bright the lights are and how quickly an interview goes by. Before the interview I’m running through potential questions and answers to feel more ready, but truth be told I’m not as prepared this year as in other years because originally it wasn’t planned for me to go on stream at all this year. Usually pre-TI, I sit for hours and watch streams in both Chinese and English and just practice translating everything that is said as quickly as possible, but this year I haven’t been able to do that as much. It’s always nostalgic to be sitting back in that interview room, backstage of Key Arena, awaiting that gg call though. The rest of the crew each year hasn’t changed a lot — I think there’s been one set of changes only between TI3 when I started and now, and it’s been a pleasure working with everyone so it was nice to get to do one interview if only for that.

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Dendi and puppy

Echo the puppy is here at Key Arena, and now he’s famous — he’s been featured on stream. He goes to get an autograph with Dendi, then on the way back he shares an elevator with Liquid, who have just won against LGD. Liquid, even after the stress and in the midst of what were surely adrenaline fueled moments, pause to pet the puppy and are amused by his name, Echo. “Echo slam!” come the responses, and everyone is amused.

Sat Aug 12

It’s Finals day. Before the Finals, I had actually asked if it was possible to play Centuries by Fall Out Boy anywhere on stream as per Sccc’s request earlier — but due to copyright it wasn’t to be. Nonetheless, the lyrics from the song apply: You will remember me. Though he and Newbee did not win this TI, Sccc is a legend in the making.

LFY lose, and they are eliminated. But they’re ok. Ddc rather cheerfully accepts an exit interview, and ahfu, ddc, and inflame are all at the afterparty later. Well, I don’t want to speak for them. But they appeared to be alright. Not happy, but okay.

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Liquid win

Newbee lose too. But Sccc though disappointed, continues to bound with energy. Later at the afterparty, he’s brimming with it. He’s a big game player, and someone that seems to feed off the energy around him, he can’t stop until the whole world knows his name.

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with JerAx and Sccc. I just came in from the rain

At the afterparty, it’s raining outside. It’s rained on the last day of TI finals for what feels like 3-4 years in a row now. Seems like a tradition, no matter what the weather is before or after TI, on finals day it’s going to rain at least a little bit. Inflame at one point asks for a photo with Dendi, and happily states that Dendi has been his idol.

And of course there’s Liquid, who have won TI. I’ve been a fan of this team, so I congratulate all of them through the night… some at the hotel, some at the afterparty. Kuroky especially, as I’ve been following him for years. Not even his teams, but just Kuro, I’m a fan — the quiet demeanor, the seriousness, the determination. Anyway, I’m really happy for him. And the rest of Liquid too. The biggest of congratulations, and the honor is mine to have witnessed it.

Sun Aug 13

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LaNm and entourage, circa 2017

The day after TI is always an interesting one. It’s really the one day that everyone feels free to do whatever and be themselves. Some people stay a day or two longer in Seattle but by and large, everyone is eager to get home quickly — so they just stay the one day after TI and so that’s the day where people go out and have fun, shop, or whatever. Some of the iG guys and LaNm wanted to go to Mount Rainier originally, but having rained in

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idk what my hair is doing

the morning and with it still being cloudy, they decided against it and instead went shopping.

As it’s generally my rule to not bother anyone during the event, I try to use the last day to actually make my greetings and talk to people more, as well as grab a few photos with people to remember by. With BurNIng, it’s almost customary, but still a highlight of every event. I tell him “I’m your fanssss!!” and he responds, “I believe it!”

Mon Aug 14

On this day most everyone is flying out. OG’s Fly has one of the latest flights, leaving only after most everyone so we meet up to have a late lunch — taking him to a Taiwanese place up north of Seattle. That was a lot of fun, it’s always nice to be able to spread interactions a bit outside of within the tournament setting, and these tournaments have blessed me with being able to meet and get to know people from more places and backgrounds than I could’ve ever imagined.

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Yay

In the end…

This year I really missed some of the people that I’ve come to, almost, expect at TIs.

In this world you shouldn’t have expectations like this, and I’ve mentioned it before in that any given tournament could always be the last time I see someone due to the temporal and international nature of all this, but well — this year feels like a transition period in some ways between the old guard and the new blood, and in some ways it felt like an older TI where I had to get to know more people and re-discover my place. At the same time I had a somewhat different role than at previous TIs (though I ended up doing a lot of the same things). So as a general observation, TI7 felt a bit different than other TIs.

Different is not bad, though — and once again huge thanks and appreciation to everyone who has made this event possible. Valve, media and production staff, PGL, fans, teams and players, everyone.

Illuminati

One thing I’ve noticed, or perhaps my selection bias has noticed, is that runes select the victors. That double damage in the grand finals. Invis runes in earlier games that help a team who is in the lead escape from a risky situation that could have turned it around for the other team. Regens that come at just the right time to keep a snowballing mid snowballing. Runes are the illuminati.

With that, thanks for reading and until next time~!

71 talks history, winning, team building

Source: http://www.imbatv.cn/special/xinsheng/10/

In a recent piece with ImbaTV, current EHOME coach and manager 71 looks back on defining moments and memories in his esports journey thus far.

71: Previously I’d always been a coach, there wasn’t any role where I needed to manage the club. Now that I’m a manager of the club as well I’ve taken on this role. I’ve just begun with this work, so right now I can’t speak much about any experience, and additionally I don’t really feel that we’re doing any particular thing very well yet, it’s just that I’ve got some things that I can share with everyone

Recently I just held a meeting with our team leads for our various squads, noting that we need to establish a team captain within each team, whose purpose is to be a connection between team leads, coaches, and the team itself and thus make it easier and smoother for management to do their work. Because I’ve been coach and team lead before, I feel that I was really lucky to have in the past DC and 820. These were two amazing captains – within the hundreds of players I’ve had, there are nearly none that come close to those two. 820 went from player to captain, it was kind of like he was DC’s successor at the time. So our management format is to establish a captain, and to have him play a role in connecting team leads and coaches within the management ladder.

Right now comparing international and Chinese clubs, there is still a massive gap. In terms of management, on one side it’s managing, and on the other side it’s organizing. So in our big team meetings I always say, if you need to organize something then you really need to organize it clearly. Including things like the situation for individual players, like what shirt size they wear, their height, weight, birthday, health, personal problems, any issues at home, etc, you’ve got to be clear on everything. Even their goals for playing professionally, their personal goals, so I always say you have to be really clear on the details and have depth to it all.

From our beginnings, with just one or two squads, we’ve now got eight or nine. We can no longer manage based on individual situations, we have to have a system. First you establish a team captain, and then the captain and team lead work together in accordance with the system to manage things. Once the system’s in place what you need is to establish the instinct behind it – down to details like penalties if the lights and computers are left on after a day’s training. The point is to raise their awareness, to establish the feeling that this is their home and they should care about it.

A few days ago the team lead for our Dota main squad went to get the players up from bed. We had scrims at 2pm, so by 12pm people should really be getting out of bed already. Our team lead and the players aren’t in the same house, so the team lead came over from the other house to wake them up. Old Eleven wouldn’t get out of bed, and our team lead couldn’t get him out so he just left and came back ten minutes later to try again. Eleven, in bed, then said “What do I need to get out of bed for”, the team lead stayed for another few minutes to try and get him out and then gave up. I was in the neighboring room during this and heard it all, originally I thought I might just go over there and drag him out of bed myself, but then I thought that this wouldn’t really have any long term effect. So I went downstairs and sent LaNm an email, telling him to gently but officially speak to this issue in the training room later. Because otherwise, stuff like this makes the team lead’s job too hard to do. In the afternooon I went down to watch them scrim. After they finished the scrim, I asked Eleven to go out for a smoke with me, and he immediately said “I know what the problem is,” and the other players were just sat there laughing at him. In actuality I was only asking him so I’d have a smoke buddy.

Speaking of captains, on the one hand they need to have the prestige and respect to focus the team around him, this is required. But only this is not nearly enough. On the other hand they need to have the ability to develop, and play things to their players’ strengths. For LaNm, in this latter aspect he cannot be considered to be excellent, though he does hold absolute respect.

Over all these years in China, from my point of view, from what I’ve understood there are only two people that meet these requirements in terms of captaining: xiao8 and rOtK. No matter how much people flame them, their results can be seen. Compared to the international scene though, perhaps it’s because Chinese players tend to be more reserved so there are fewer great captains. Internationally there are the likes of Misery, Fly, Puppey, Kuroky, etc. A good team basically will always have a decent captain. As for LaNm, when it comes major tournament time, he’s thinking a bit more about how to allow himself to play to 100% of his ability in order to have 120% of an effect on the team’s play. He can’t really do things like help the team and teammates adjust from a 50% status to a 70-80% status, so compared to some other more established captains he’s still lacking in various ways, though I’ve seriously seen him thinking and improving on these things.

I recall talking with LaNm prior to TI once. I said to him, “LaNm, we’ve been working together for a while up to now, and honestly there’ve been a lot of things that were kind of rough,” I listed them all out one by one. Previously during Manila I’d also spoken with him before, compared to working with you it was a lot easier for me to work with rOtK. ROtK communicates a lot, he uses a lot of affirmative language, and he has a clear sense of direction. This is actually a really important thing, because a lot of details really need you to go and figure them out. No matter how good the things in a person’s mind are, it’s all useless to a team because they’re only in his mind. But even if someone has bullshit on their mind but they manage to convey it to five people and get them to act uniformly on it, that is invaluable. ROtK does really well in this regard.

Talking on the point of good coaches, it depends on what your thoughts and requirements are. Some people just do their job, while others go above and beyond, there’s a difference between the two. Of course, there are also coaches that are just along for the ride. I’ve got my origins as a coach, I’ve led quite a few different teams in my day. I’ve got my own style and understandings, but I also change and adjust based on what I have available to me. For example, when I was coaching DK, no matter the results, I would always ask them to play and strategize extremely aggressively. Yet when I tried to apply this same school of thought to the team with Mushi and Inflame, the results were really poor. When that happened I needed to rethink things. The reason the original style no longer worked might not be because of the patch version, it was because my personnel and what their strengths and weaknesses were had changed, for example in terms of their on-the-fly decision making. And they were yet to fully understand the big picture: when you’re speaking with them about one set of things, and they think they’ve already fully understood and achieved it, yet from my observer’s point of view they’ve obviously done very poorly… so I can’t just complain, I have to find change starting from myself. I think about what changes I can make based on the personnel available, or from some other angle.

The things that a coach can learn are plentiful. Any competitive sport is one that I am interested in. Every good coach is one that I can learn something from, like Phil Jackson with the Bulls, and then achieving the same things with the Lakers later on. How he would manage those superstars. He’d be pretty lackadaisical during the regular season, but once it was postseason he’d have all kinds of defensive schemes, fully utilizing and displaying the effect of every single timeout. On key plays he’d have the team approaching things nearly perfectly. This is what a top tier coach can achieve, he can grasp the team’s current level of performance, he knows when it’s time to save effort and when it’s time to explode, he can control the timing of when the team gets hot. Another example is Mourinho in football, those who love him really love him, and those who hate him despise him to their core. Yet both sides see him as arrogant and loud, but what not everyone sees is that he attracts all the attention after matches because he is redirecting the pressure and criticism away from his players. There’s also Lippi who previously managed Guangzhou Evergrande, his autobiography I’ve read parts of as wll. And then there was the Beijing team in CBA (Chinese Basketball Association), who won the title a few years back. During the finals, no matter whether a game was won or lost, their star player Stephon Marbury’s interviews I watched all of them — he was really honest, the things he said were of value, showed his goals, showed that he took responsibility. They were things that every captain and coach can learn from.

In all my years as coach my deepest memories come from the time I was leading a Counterstrike team. Back in those days the conditions were exceedingly tough. To go to offline events we had to pay our own way, and forget about going overseas to compete. For players in that era, to go overseas to compete was an incomparable honor, it’s not like nowadays with so many international tournaments. My team back then had no sponsor, the team name was one I’d come up with: teAmart. In 2005 we were based in an abandoned elementary school on the outskirts on Nanjing. Within a radius of 500 acres there were just the six of us people. Every day we’d walk 30 minutes in the hills before getting a 40 minute ride on an illegal taxi (read: random guy with a car). Then at the internet cafe we’d play for some ten hours and head back in the same manner. There’d often be no running water, so we would go in pairs to the nearby well to get water so we could bathe. It would be in the open air in the village, bathing in front of other villagers and their cows. That cold, and the scenes, but there was friendship and there was fun. If you had me do that again today, I would still do it. But today’s players wouldn’t. Nowadays if there isn’t fruit in the training room they already want to murder the team lead, forget about having them wash next to a well… just think about how much time could have gone to streaming instead!

For Dota, my most memorable times come with EHOME in 2010, but those memories aren’t of the 10 championship titles. That year we were playing in the WCG Beijing regionals, Zhou and DGC with their team came to compete for a spot too, saying “We’re here to fuck that strongest team (implying us)”. So anyway, their team and ours got dragged into a rivalry, and we even put our money on the line by wagering 5000 RMB, with my players putting in half and me putting in the other half. In the winners bracket when we met, I remember that we got stomped. In those days tournaments were played with the two teams facing each other in a row, their team’s mid player would be flaming us while playing. A youngster, didn’t really understand things nor decorum, and he trash talked me a bunch too. I wasn’t really too fussed about it, but my players were really burning with shame, they looked really out of it while eating later. I said to them, just let me pay the money owed in the wager. KingJ and them wouldn’t accept that, saying that they needed to get their honor back. Things were spoken in that way, but honestly in our hearts we weren’t sure about it. The story afterwards is a comeback story. We ended up winning the regional there, and honestly this title was really important — it established trust and friendship, and it also established a neverending belief of not giving up, it was great. The team thus gained an underlying culture and purpose, so improvement was quick, and communication was easy. I would just say the things I see, and what I want to say in terms of strategy, and the players would go based on that to try and achieve those things. If someone performed poorly individually, I wouldn’t even need to say anything before 820 was already on their case. Players nowadays, you have to baby them, you have to leave them room to save face, it’s tiring.

And then there’s EHOME in 2015, a time when we had peaks and valleys alike. The peak would have been the end of the year. At that time the other teams were all not strong, while simultaneously LaNm had found some understandings of the patch. I remember we won, consecutively, Radiant and Dire Cup, SDO, and MDL. In terms of both form and mentality we were pretty much in the right place. But in reality I knew, these results were temporary, because previously I’d already mentioned that CTY’s style is one that likes to farm, the tempo in that version really suited him. Kaka’s Earth Spirit, Eleven’s Void and Lone Druid, these were all signature heroes for us. You couldn’t really ban us out so it was expected to be able to achieve some results on that. In the ensuing Chinese New Year break, with a new patch version in place it would be expected for our results to get worse.

The most difficult thing was probably TI6 this year. With Old Eleven’s grandfather in bad health, he went home to take care of things, and we moved FaN up to our main team to replace him. But the chemistry wasn’t good. Prior to the open qualifiers we scrimmed with fellow qualifiers teams, and there were at least six different teams where we couldn’t even hit a 60% win rate in training. So I calculated a bit, and at the time I thought our changes of making it through were less than 3%. This meant that we wouldn’t even make it to the main qualifiers, we would only get to watch TI at home, which would be a pretty big problem. The team atmosphere at the time was really bad, emotions were really low. Then in the end we made the decision to make another change, we asked Eleven to have someone else take care of his grandfather, we got him to come back and we had iceiceice go play carry. After this change honestly, it wasn’t really solving our problems either. We trained a few days in this way and then off we went to the qualifiers, and even during the qualifiers we were in a lot of danger. Really, our team has always been kind of interesting that way: oftentimes when the team is not very favored, it can find life in the most difficult of situations and bounce back from the bottom all the way up to a very good spot. But once they’re in that spot, they suddenly can’t do it anymore. TI was like that too, so many people were saying that EHOME were headed for the title, to the point that even I got a little bit embarrassed. Forget about our bans, just looking at our pick stats, our drafts didn’t look at all like a team that could win the title. Against EG we indeed should not have lost. People were saying how in game one we lost after having megacreeps, how that was an epic, legendary game. If you ask me, it was dogshit. At that time EG was noob, we were even more noob, I can’t see what part of that is epic or legendary at all. Mentally overall we couldn’t really get in a good spot either, the team stopped improving in-game, we just put our tactics out there for others to counter. It’s like you play cards with your hand open while the others are playing with their hands hidden, can you possibly not lose? Wings winning the whole thing was really commendable, their tactics and style have a lot of layers to it all. It was varied to the point that you couldn’t counter it at all, and they had such great mentally — playing TI like it was a giant pub, so they truly deserved the title.

This year’s post TI player transfers, I think domestically everyone has just done okay. In comparison I think the big Western teams, like EG, have done excellently in this regard. They’ll definitely be a strong team when the time comes. In China I somewhat favor VG, adding a new player on the original VG.R foundation. The other teams, well, it is what it is. In the very beginning we wanted to go get Maybe to play position one for us. We discussed it with Maybe, but at that time he kind of wanted to go to VGP. Sylar approached LaNm himself, and we felt it was pretty good so we just decided on him. In terms of four position we considered ChuaN. ChuaN plus LaNm we felt would be a pretty good combination, but it didn’t work out. And then Wings were rumored to be disbanding due to players wanting to continue their schooling, with iceice even dropping his team registration for a while, so we went to try and recruit him and have Fenrir and iceice be our support duo with LaNm transitioning to coach, but then Wings decided to not be making any changes anymore. Fenrir spoke to us himself about wanting to leave the team, we really really wanted to keep him, and we communicated many times afterwards to that effect. But in the end Fenrir felt that he couldn’t take back the words that he’d already spoken, so he went to VG.J. As for iceiceice, after TI he’d already told us that he wanted to go back to Singapore to play, and we respected his wish. I feel that the outside world is quite unfair to him, he is originally an offlaner, but in an emergency time of need he took up the responsibility of playing carry. This was a huge challenge for him, and it was a result of our team having no other options. Iceiceice practiced the most out of the team, he is actually really hard working, so no matter how poorly he might play I don’t think the blame can go to him! From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate iceiceice, I respect him.

Why would Wings’ TI6 win affect our methodology for team building? And if you say they are a brand new team I really can’t agree with that. I’ve been in the business of youth training and development for esports for so long, I’m fully aware of just how difficult it is for newcomers to get results. In the very beginning for Wings, they were SPG. That picture that you’ve all seen only of them being subs for DK, that was because I called them there. At the time DK had three people on break, yet there was still WPC that needed to be played. I felt that these three kids from SPG were pretty decent, so I grabbed them over to standin for us. I remember after winning, I specifically sent a note up to Zhou in the analyst room, asking him to choose the MVP for the match out of these three kids, and not from BurNIng or MMY. Afterwards, iceice went to this team and since then has played with them for over a year, so they can’t really be considered to be a new team. Prior to TI they’d won against top international teams, they’d won titles before, and they’d also been eliminated in the first round before. Teams have these kinds of fluctuations. They’ve experienced the things that they needed to experience along the way, their strategy and drafts are really unique yet calculated. Honestly, their style is really similar to that DK team, so perhaps you could say they are an improved and stronger version of DK.

In the end, I hope that EHOME can continue to improve, and continue to learn from the top clubs domestically and internationally in order to become a leading force in the next generation of this industry.

The International 2016 in my view

The International 2016 was from late July to mid August of 2016 in Seattle, and was to date the largest esports tournament in history. My intent here is to try and reflect the sentiment and emotions and moments that stand out throughout the event as viewed and experienced through my own perspective, and write it all down in text, so here goes.

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Gogo TI6

Saturday July 30   

Today is the first official day of ‘actual’ TI stuff in that this is the first day that teams and talents are arriving. It’s a big day, and though this would be the fourth TI at which I’ve worked, it is the first time I go to the airport to help pick people up. Before heading to the airport to swap out fellow translators Jack and Helen who have been there for the morning, I get some lunch at the hotel where Valve has set up the usual lounge room with catered meals and screens to watch for when the games get going later on in the week.

All of Wings sit at my table to eat lunch. Well, it’s not my table at all really, I just got there first. The room’s kind of just filling up around me. Anyway, it’s my first actual time meeting them in person, and they’re an interesting bunch for sure. My first impression is that they’re so small. Like, they’re physically kinda small, or diminutive at the least. And then there’s the age thing: a bunch of teenagers plus bLink (who’s the ripe old age of 24), they act far more mature than their age would suggest, yet at the same time exude some kind of casualness that the many of the more mature players don’t have either. They dislike the buffalo chicken wings, citing a weird taste. On the other hand, most of them like the pulled pork sliders. Normally I like buffalo chicken wings, but this time I tend to agree with their evaluations.

The entire day is a constant flow of arrivals, and every year it’s nice to see old and new faces alike, united in the same spot, by a common passion. I’m at the airport for the good part of the afternoon and early evening, then I’m back to the hotel where there’s plenty more for me to do as checkins at the front desk are in full flow.

The unluckiest of the day are the majority of LGD, the earliest of whom only arrive in the late afternoon/early evening after most everyone else has arrived already, with half of them not landing until much later towards midnight. According to their manager, they’d spent nearly 40 hours travelling at that point due to being delayed on connecting flights, etc.

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First night welcome dinner thingy

It’s a hectic first day, but everything goes smoothly. There’s a bit of an occasion in the lounge at the hotel this night, as there’s an open bar and food for the ‘welcome dinner’ (whereas usually it’s just food) — and pretty much everyone that has arrived in Seattle already shows up to eat and hang out. The room is lit up in some kind of atmospheric pink and for a moment it feels more like a casual party gathering rather than the first day of the leadup to the largest tournament in esports history.

Sunday July 31

With the first day out of the way and everyone mostly situated, it’s time to get into the work of the tournament. This year they have the group stages at the Meydenbauer Center

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Meydenbauer group stage

in Bellevue, which was a short five minute walk away from our hotel. It’s actually kind of nice to have a real reason to walk outside during these days, as from past experience the group stage days can be some of most grindy days, so getting any kind of exercise or fresh air is well appreciated. This year is already not as bad as a few of us have been recruited to start subtitling video content weeks prior, but still — the subtitling and player profile production at the Meydenbauer takes up a large portion of my attention for the next few days.

It’s rewarding nonetheless: if I can’t watch any other TI content, I still try to watch the player profiles because, hey, I help work on some of them, but more importantly they’re always a really cool look into the players as people and not just IDs on a screen… That’s one thing that I think this year has been really good about (amongst many other improvements), the efforts put into humanizing the players and making the entire scene as a whole more ‘approachable’ to the average fan or viewer.

After a full day at the Meydenbauer, walking back to the hotel I come across MMY outside, smoking. He sees me, and somewhat unexpectedly he waves and loudly says HI!! It’s unexpected because that’s not really his personality, usually he’s really quiet and reserved, shy even — and even though through the years of events we’ve both been at I’ve probably come to know him decently, it still came somewhat as a surprise for me. But perhaps with the years that Dota grows, the players — and all the rest of us as well — are growing, or at least changing too.

Monday August 1

It’s mostly more subtitling and background stuff at the Meydenbauer today. There’s also media day where Valve gets the players and teams and shoots the content that they use for the player intros with the hype intro music (everyone loves the fact that they used the

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Media day for VGR

intro music again from last year, plus added a new track too).

Later at night, there’s the official welcoming dinner/party that Valve traditionally holds at a fancy restaurant near to wherever the hotel is that year — this year since we’re in Bellevue again, the dinner is at El Gaucho, which is the same spot as the one they used for TI4. Year on year, I notice more and more Chinese players being at least somewhat interested in coming to check it out. Given that the food is typically quite Western in general style and taste, I think it’s nice. This year I walk over with some of VGR — ddc, END, Nono. They stick around a bit and check out the spot, but pretty soon END is like, “Go go go! As he rushes to the exit, physically dragging ddc along with him, apparently having been convinced by others to go for dinner at a Chinese restaurant nearby.

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El Gaucho dinner

Grabbing food at the dinner with Black^, we note that the food available is nearly exactly the same as in 2014, which isn’t a bad thing at all — more just a thing that popped into the conversation, kinda like a peripheral way of being nostalgic or something, I’m not sure. It’s the same spot where the 1v1 mid tournament took place prior to TI4, and when that is mentioned it’s definitely a bit nostalgic. Midway through all that, we see none other than

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There was an Aegis cake

Gabe Newell coming up the stairs. I’m still a bit intimidated (because it’s Gabe Newell!!), but I say “hi” rather cheerfully, and he responds “hey” back. It’s not really a significant moment maybe, or maybe it is, but it kind of sticks in my mind even now as I write this.

Tuesday August 2

At breakfast this morning, I’m kind of sluggishly digging through a little bit of whatever it is I’ve put on my plate (I forget) when Wings again comes to sit at the same table as me. Or was it the other way around? They’ve come as five again, as expected of them at this point. BLink, I think it was, has put ketchup on his scrambled eggs, and the rest of them are marvelling at how he’s ‘so Western’, because I guess it’s not really a thing to put ketchup on eggs in China…

After a little while, END and ChuaN show up and plop themselves down at the same table. END loves to talk — he’s the kind of  guy that can probably make friends anywhere, anytime. Kind of just a chatterbox, but a friendly one whose first and primary expression is to have a giant smile on his face. Anyway, after a while of him chattering on and on, ChuaN cuts in on the conversation as well, and happily jokes at END, “You guys who are here for a one-round vacation should just stfu!!” It’s a bit savage, and meant as a joke and END takes it as one too, but I guess it also kind of reflects a general lowered expectation for VGR already before the event has begun…

The rest of the day goes by mostly at Meydenbauer as we’re actually managing to get close to finishing subtitling most content, a bit ahead of schedule.

Wednesday August 3

This year Valve has provided teams with a total of 32 passes each to share with friends and family who want to come watch at Key Arena. Upon learning about this, old eLeVeN of

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at Meydenbauer group stage

EHOME is saying, “I’m gonna take all of them and sell them! I’m gonna go to the main event just to be a ticket scalper!!” I ask him how much he’s gonna be selling them for, and he replies “I can get $500 each!!” Then I ask him if he’s gonna be doing that instead of, you know, actually competing, and he laughs. Of course not, and we soon see that EHOME is here at TI6 to play as they’ve not only made it through the Wild Card yesterday, but end today with a solid 3-1 record in group stage day 1.

Talking to iceiceice later, he’s just like “I’m just happy I made it to TI… wooo” But I think he wants more than that… that was just a minimum to achieve.

In some newly found free-ish time, I can actually watch some of the streams as the group stage goes on. I’m tabbing between two official streams, in-game, and when I can, I sneak over to the BurNIng/rOtK stream as it’s actually hilarious.

Later in the night, probably close to midnight, I’m getting some late night food at the hotel restaurant with EHOME, who are discussing — what else could it be — the day’s matches. eLeVeN is remembering the scenes against Liquid, where old chicken ate

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Dinner with EHOME

repeated arrows to the face. “Chicken bro is not one to mind these kinds of seemingly minor details,” old eLeVeN states matter of factly, “I, however, am,” he continues.

Afterwards, Fenrir asks me about anime, and he, old chicken, their team leader, and I chat a bit about anime. Fenrir’s asking me for recommendations, and it’s not like I’m an anime expert or anything. So I’m showing him my MAL, telling him about stuff like K-on, Monogatari, stuff that’s kind of slice-of-lifey (or really slice-of-lifey). He’s recently finished watching Your lie in April and he’s telling me how it’s a series that makes you think about life, and that’s what he wants from his series so I tell him to go watch Garden of Words or 5cm per second or something…

Old chicken’s not really talking, but he’s kind of listening in, and it’s obvious he’s an anime fan too as his Steam profile pic is One punch man. What he is actively doing, however, is stealing everyone’s french fries that came with their burgers — when everyone’s getting up to leave, he happily announces that he is ‘the french fry reaper’ and there is nary a leftover french fry to be seen.

Thursday August 4

It’s group stage day two, and the teams that are in form and the ones that aren’t in form have begun to become apparent.

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VGR

VGR has been doing kind of poorly, and I run across them before they’re set to head into their day’s games. They’re loosely hanging out with some of Newbee, casually socializing and watching the games before theirs. Fy comes over to me and kind of just pokes me a couple times. I poke him back, then as he’s going with his team towards the elevator, I say “win a game, yeah?” kind of just whatever came to my mind at the moment, like a good luck or whatever. And he’s like “Yeah. Win a game, win a game,” kind of to me, but also I think kind of to himself.

Later that night, heading back to the hotel, I run into Fy again at the hotel. This time I go and poke him, “You won a game! Three even!” He smirks a bit at me and goes, “Four, actually”.

Then at the lounge, ddc is there and he immediately asks me where Tiffany is. END, not missing a beat, loudly voices his suspicions of why ddc would be so directly asking about a girl, but all ddc wants to know is how to say “I miss you” in Minnan (a Chinese dialect), and Tiffany might know since her family is from Taiwan, where they speak a version of this dialect — ddc wants to send a message back home to his girlfriend, that’s all.

Friday August 5

It’s the last day of group stage. By this point I’ve spent probably 30+ hours at Meydenbauer either doing subtitles or helping with subtitled content that goes into player profile videos, so it’s hard to remember much else visually apart from a bunch of computer screens. Nonetheless, it’s fine as I actually like subtitling.

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Group stage period lounge for watching games at Meydenbauer

At the Meydenbauer, I find Fenrir again, talking about mobile games this time. There are group stage games on the screens, but he’s playing something on his phone, and I ask what it is. Is it the kind that needs money? “Yes it is. The more you pay, the stronger you are,” he explains. “I’m invincible already.”

Mikasa and Fy come by. They yell at Fenrir, who they’re going to play against later in the day’s group stage games, “Go easy on us later okay!!??” Mikasa threatens him further, adding “I was the one that brought you into the scene!! Remember that!!” Of course, it’s all in a joking manner, and EHOME fairly comfortably 2-0s VGR.

Having finished the group stage top of their group, EHOME is pretty laid-back. Iceiceice is bored, so I show him the game that is agario. He sits there playing with his balls for an hour or so before he decides to go get apple pie at the hotel restaurant, but unfortunately their kitchen is closed by the time he decides he actually wants the pie and tells Nutz to go order it for him. So we go downstairs to the common area where midnight food is laid out to see what’s up. Zai appears and we chatter a bit about stuff here and there — Zai has grown a lot taller and both iceiceice and I make note of that fact, though ice proudly proclaims that “I will always be taller!” Chat a bit more about other stuff, like how Zai did IB (international baccalaureate), two years of it in one year of time, and took a bunch of hard stuff too. Physics and stuff. I say I took IB as well, but I took all the easy shit and didn’t even go for the certificate in the end.

Then we find a bunch of the Chinese casters playing mafia, except they’re way super serious and two of them are streaming it with their phones too. It’s cool but also kind of scary. They spend probably 2-3 hours on average per game, they’re debating everything and everyone. Fy is there, though it seems from what one of the casters is loudly declaring, Fy doesn’t know how to play. Nono is there too but he’s just hanging out, and he comes over to chat for a bit. He asks to learn some English phrases, so we teach him how to say certain things, like how to say hero names.

He was 10 years old when I was graduating from high school, and by the time he was 12 he was playing Dota. We shared some experiences — skipping school to play, thinking of excuses for coming home late after a day at the internet cafe… He said he actually had good grades in elementary school, but then the Dota started… I can relate. I’m sure a lot of people can relate.

Saturday August 6

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Press day TI6

This is Press day. Interviews with lots of people, such as Demon, Swindlezz, Arteezy, Faith_bian, y`innocence. The Wings captain is one I haven’t met before, but he impresses me with his openness to taking interviews, and after each interview he says thank you to the interviewer and shakes their hand.

Iceiceice wants pancakes — he’s apparently been asking to go for pancakes for a while — but I’m busy with interviews so cannot go with him. I point him to a nice place and

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Sharing a look

he goes with Black and Tiffany.

Before he went to get pancakes, though, we gave him a camera so he could entertain himself… or maybe entertain everyone else. I don’t know, I wasn’t the one that gave him the camera. But he takes a bunch of pictures, so here’s intermission: iceiceice’s professional photography debut.

 

 

 

 

Sunday August 7

Rehearsal day, check in at Key Arena. Look at stuff, etc.

It’s ‘rehearsal day’ for casters and on-air people at the Key Arena, where you figure out process flows and where things are. I like to memorize paths and locations as early on as

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Rehearsal day

possible so I have all the information at hand throughout the event so it’s a useful day for me even though the rehearsal is more specifically geared towards the analysts, casters, hosts, etc, who have much heavier burdens to prepare for and shoulder.

Back at the hotel, I’m casually browsing my compendium and lamenting forgetting to set fantasy cards on a previous day when Fenrir invites me to group for pubs — international ranked. He hasn’t finished the necessary games to get calibrated, he explains, and I haven’t even played any. Fenrir, LaNm, and old chicken are in the group and they easily carry me to victory. The only time anyone talks is when LaNm goes on voice chat to laugh at my slow reactions, to which I reply I’m terribad and he laughs some more. In my slightest of defenses, by this point I’m probably averaging 5 hours of sleep a night over a week and a half now.

If TI is a rollercoaster ride, the time in between the end of group stage and the beginning of the main event is like that lull right before you hit the loops and twisty turns and stuff: it’s a calmer moment, but you know what’s coming, and you’re going towards it all at a pace that you sometimes wish would slow down a little bit, if only for more chances at the small moments where you find someone and can have a chat, or a laugh, or anything.

Monday August 8

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It begins

It’s the first day of the main event and the crowds are insane. It’s more packed than last year at the same time; it’s definitely more people than I recall anyway. Valve’s arranged team buses for each team, and the red carpet entrance on day one is, I guess, a tradition now. And it’s a cool one, I think.

The opening and all that ensued was a blur — is a blur — Lindsey Stirling plays an electrifying opener and then, boom, the main event has begun. OG loses to MVP, which not many expected, while Wings beats DC despite losing pretty badly with a Pudge Techies draft in game. Perhaps indicative of how the rest of the tournament might be: upsets of big names, along with infinitely inventive and solid play from the likes of Wings…

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Center stage

In the BO1 elimination matches in the Lower bracket this night, VGR are first up. Backstage, END sees me and grins his wide grin, braces and all, and cheerfully demands, “Don’t forget to cheer for me, oh!” But VGR loses, and coming through backstage again afterwards, he looks at me and he’s still grinning — as if he doesn’t know how to show any other emotion — but he sighs a bit and his shoulders are drooping, so in his smile there’s something else, but I’m not sure what that something else is.

And then LGD’s up and I go over to their waiting room to be on standby in case something is needed. LGD are watching their team’s interview — with MMY this year, who is notoriously difficult to get for interviews — and they’re laughing. Kind of laughing at MMY, who’s standing behind them all, poking fun at him, and MMY’s like “fuck you laughing at”. They win, and it’s a very brief reprieve as they can at least go back to the hotel this night knowing they can fight on.

Afterwards, I’m backstage talking with Conrad of Twitch, and Dendi walks past with his team, about to go on stage for their BO1… Dendi’s still all smiles and puts his fist out for a fist bump, which we gladly oblige.

Tuesday August 9

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EHOME vs Alliance

It’s a day of 2-0 victories for teams as EHOME beats Alliance, EG defeats Newbee, TNC continues their fairy tale over OG, and DC gains momentum in eliminating LGD.

I tell LaNm that I’ve watched all the games they’ve won at TI6 (and when they lost I hadn’t been watching any of those), and he looks at me with a serious look on his face and says, “This is very important. You need to keep watching us then.” Superstition is an interesting topic in sports in general, and I think esports is the same. In the past, I’ve heard of players wearing lucky underwear, there’s obviously LaNm’s red VICTORY sweater, and many Chinese teams only somewhat jokingly refer to certain restaurants in Seattle or Bellevue as lucky or unlucky, depending on who ate there before a major win or an upset. As in, one team hears another team ate at a place before winning today, then that night the first team will actually weigh that into their discussions when deciding where to eat. Of course, I think there are varying degrees of superstition and it probably isn’t that definitive a factor for even the more superstitious, but it’s interesting. Later on, I hear that iceiceice has worn the same EHOME shirt for the entirety of the event for similar reasons.

This year at TI, Valve has implemented an in-game drop system where those who have linked their Steam account to their badge and have been scanned into the venue are eligible for drops whenever first blood occurs. On the first day at Key Arena, I’ve somehow broken all expectations for my luck (I’m not lucky when it comes to anything random) and gotten four drops. Today, after EHOME defeats Alliance, Fenrir is again just chatting with me and mentions he wants a crimson version of the Drow Ranger item and he’ll trade me a golden one for it. I haven’t gotten one from my drops yet, and of course I proceed to get zero more drops for the rest of the day and the entire next day as well.

Another thing available at TI6 is an autograph location with various personalities and

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Autographs

players. Today there’s an Fy signing, and despite losing the day before, he seems to be in alright spirits and pretty happy to meet fans. The autograph booth was really well done this year, I think — people got tokens to be eligible for the time slot first, then just came at the time slot and waited to meet the person. There were digital autographs too that you got by scanning your badge, overall a pretty smooth experience I think.

In the late evening, LGD lose to DC. As I’m walking by their suite on the suite level, they’re shutting the door with everyone inside — seemingly to hold team meeting. What was said in there, who knows, but I think it’s fair to say there were expectations for them to place higher than they did this year. I think they really missed September’s play on that team.

Wednesday August 10

It’s day three of the main event, and things are really starting to speed up, heat up, and just generally get more intense. Fnatic, after a disastrous group stage, have managed to steady the ship and they continue their TI6 by eliminating Alliance. Liquid, in a similar situation as Fnatic, do the same by eliminating Newbee. Meanwhile, Wings makes it look almost easy against MVP, while EG stops EHOME and knocks them down the lower

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EHOME contemplate

bracket.

In all of these matchups, I think, the importance of momentum — and being able to maintain it, and ride it, and harness it — is shown as exceedingly important in modern day Dota. Fnatic and Liquid both were on upwards trajectories by winning their BO1s, while their opponents, having fallen from upper bracket would have been stuttering a bit. Wings, on the other hand, simply maintained what worked for them (which was everything, in an all-around kind of way, I guess). As for EHOME, they lost game 1 in a ‘no one has ever come back from mega creeps at TI’ kind of way, taking all of their momentum out and never looked like winning game 2.

So the importance of maintaining momentum, or being able to manipulate it and stopping someone else’s momentum, seems to be an overarching and important undertone this TI…

The actual atmosphere in Key Arena for TI6 these few days has been intense. Angry? The atmosphere is electric, a silly — or perhaps overused description — but it’s apt? Maybe. There’s an energy, but it’s more of an aggressive one. There’s an edge to this tournament. Not simply electric, but more like… fiery.

After Wings beat MVP, they come down from the stage, and backstage they’re just yelling

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Wings

at — and with — each other. Memorably, there’s an outright joy and brightness about their energy. It’s as if the weight of the tournament, and the expectations and hopes — both their own and fans’ — aren’t there. I’m sure it’s all there, but the way they carry themselves… They’re laughing about the things that happened in the games they’ve just played, they’re making jokes about each other, and for them it’s actually like they’re just playing a game, like they can’t see the cameras all around them, that they can’t hear the fans screaming, the tournament admins’ serious faces, that they can’t feel the ever-mounting pressure from back home in China as more and more people are labelling them “The Wings that protect Chinese Dota”…

End of day, and this is the halfway mark for the main event. Including the group stage, this is more than two thirds of the entire thing, and I realize I have barely really been able to catch up with some old faces. I come across Yao at Boiling Point in Bellevue, a hot pot place, with Nic — the LGD manager. We talk a bit, about streams and whatnot. I ask Yao why he’s not finishing his food, and he’s saying “just look at me!” And he points at his belly. He’s like, it’s time for me to work out. Then we reminisce a bit about when I first saw him… that would be at TI2, when I was only there as a fan. “Didn’t you think I was really good-looking, and really good, back then?” Yeah! Yeah…We share some laughs and it’s a nice way to unravel from the extreme energies swirling in the air at Key Arena.

Later back at the hotel, Sylar is coming downstairs. He’s there to meet someone, who told him he would be there. That person is Yao, who is still walking back from the restaurant — so Sylar stands around a bit and we talk about who’s gotten more Crimson Witness item drops at the venue so far. It’s easily Sylar who’s gotten more (6 in three days). A few minutes later Yao is still nowhere to be seen, so Sylar goes outside to wait for him, and upon not seeing him anywhere he loudly exclaims to the night sky, “This guy is always doing this to me!!!”

Thursday August 11

Fnatic win, eliminating Liquid. I can’t really feel too happy about any result anymore, as I’ve gotten to know a lot of the players on a lot of teams and in the end when one team wins, another loses — so one side continues their dream and the other one has to postpone their dreams to next year, or for some, to another place altogether as TI is never a given for anyone. Still, I see Mushi later and he high fives me, and I’m still happy for him…

Ultimately LaNm’s request that I watch all their games comes to naught as they lose to DC in successive games and end their TI: I do watch their games as I’m on deck to do the post-match interview if they win, but they don’t win.

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Mix of players

Then the All-star match happens, and I have no idea what’s going on and I think a lot of players don’t know either. It’s not bad though — everyone just kind of hangs out and converses, mingles. For some moments, it’s another of those windows where it feels like an ‘eye of the storm’, so many players are gathered together in one spot and ever so briefly they don’t quite need to worry about matches, or reflect on defeat.

All of Wings are at the venue today even though they aren’t playing at all — except for shadow, who is supposed to be in the All-star match. In the end he wasn’t really needed there either, so they all leave together once he’s done.

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Wings unity

I also see lots of LGD at the venue due to the all-star match, and towards the end of the day, Jeremy Lin is hanging out with them in front of their room. They’re chatting in Chinese and it seems pretty lighthearted. Jeremy says to them, if you’re ever in New York let me know and they’re like yeah. It seems like xiao8 is at this point pretty familiar with Jeremy Lin; it’s just a cool scene in general, when stars from different sports come together. Kinda like the Olympics, which are on-going concurrently with TI6.

At night, a bunch of LGD are eating at a nearby Chinese restaurant. We come across them as we’re also searching for a late night dinner. It seems fans are everywhere this night, everywhere we go we see Dota fans — all across Bellevue. It’s iceiceice and us, and we go to eat some ramen/curry instead of waiting what looks like an hour at the Chinese restaurant. It’s okay — better than waiting that long, anyway.

We talk about the games and stuff… I mention that for their second game against DC, they could’ve picked Invoker instead of Lifestealer. Safelane Invoker… iceiceice thinks it would’ve worked too. He suggests Spectre could’ve been better as well. Well, anything better than Lifestealer really. But in that kind of pressure, people lose the boldness to try different things, or something. iceiceice remarks, “Oh yeahhh I’m TI 6th place. I’m better than a lot of people!!”

It’s one of the more eventful overall days, not the least because the main event is more than halfway over, and the majority of participants are actually eliminated. So while some people will be in their rooms thinking about where it went wrong, others will be out ready to forget. The hotel is abuzz with activity as players, talents, and more are milling about, going in and out.

 

Friday August 12

On the way to Key Arena this morning, I sat next to 71. Talked a little bit about the EHOME loss, and this TI. “Sigh, forget about it. The thoughts are all tears” They could’ve gone further, it wasn’t really meant to be, I guess.

Wings win again, giving the best possible response to a tweet that was, to put it lightly, poorly received in the Chinese community.

Without such a tweet, though, the narrative would’ve been a little less intense. So I don’t think of it as a negative. Sometimes you say something and it works out, other times it doesn’t, but it’s all part of the sport — or esport — as a whole.

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Chinese panel during TI6

Either way, Wings wins again and I’m hearing people around me, myself included, mentioning this team as one of the best, and most dynamic teams since Team DK. They’re like what DK would have been if they could’ve conquered themselves. What other team has plain and simply styled on opponents in such dominant fashion, playing their own game and forcing others to not only come along for the ride, but to watch helplessly as the passengers on a one-way trip to their own defeat? DK at its peak, perhaps that month surrounding that Starladder run… and then it’s Wings. But Wings is going further than DK at this point; they deserve their own conversation now, when maybe just six months prior hardly anyone had heard of them.

Saturday August 13

Wings win. They’re the mercurial yet utterly invincible underdog-turned-destroyer that in many minds is the most deserving TI champion ever. In a meta where teams are closer than ever, they manage to look like they’re a level above everyone else.

Wings win. They’re laughing, boisterous. The crowd is insane. In this timeline, the entire world is in this arena, and this arena is the world at that moment. Or at least, all the energy is there, concentrated. If there’s an alien race somewhere out there silently monitoring our little civilization, their equipment is suddenly lighting up with extreme levels of human emotion, energy. And then it releases — with the pyrotechnics and smoke, and confetti and applause, and echoing screams of “Wings, Wings, Wings!” it gradually permeates into the warm Seattle night… into the skies.

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Wings take flight

The Wings players are all smiles, but practically speaking, they don’t seem much different than after any other match they’ve played. Most of them are too young to even drink, so they don’t even bother coming to the afterparty.

DSC09978The afterparty is a blur. It’s a loud bunch of haze and noise, punctuated by meaningful encounters with people I’d been meaning to catch up with. If only for a fleeting moment — Kuroky, Jerax, FATA… I come across Jerax, and we’re chatting about travelling and Finland and Finnish (perkele) when FATA comes over, kicks a cup on the ground so it rolls through Jerax’s legs, and then celebrates. It’s a nutmeg and FATA is now 1-0 up, but Jerax just smiles like ‘look at this kid’. Some of EHOME have shown up, they’re playing on some random Wii Us that are for some reason set up. Fly and Evany are there, as are most (I think all?) of OG. We catch up a bit, but the night is too short and moments are fleeting.DSC09986

Kotlguy talks about the matches and meta of the tournament, seemingly still shining with the aura of the analyst panel that he so expertly anchored. Sylar is there, wandering around, a bit bored but still there, because as I reflect to him, “It just kind of feels right to end the event with something, something like this afterparty. It’s nice to have a start and an end to things.”

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Sylar

Towards the end of the party — which is too long and too short at the same time — I catch up a bit with various people, guys from BTS, random players, production crew people… all appreciated. I grab Kuroky for what I feel like is a tradition post-event now: a picture with him. I don’t really know why or how but it’s just something, and we share the sincerest of well-wishes and ‘see you next times’ and then the afterparty is kicking everyone out.

A few of us, iceiceice, Black, Nutz… we go and get some late late food. The chatter is idle sometimes and at other times irreverent. We’re all tired, probably, but there’s some energy in the way that only happens when you know you’re finally done with a really gruelling task and you can relax again. Everyone agrees that Wings are really strong. More comparisons are drawn to 2014 DK.

Back at the hotel, a small crowd is still outside in the smoking area, hanging out. It’s well past 3AM by now but the energy of the tournament still lingers as I head upstairs. Not to sleep immediately, but to reflect, and to write some of this down.

Sunday August 14

Sharon of Valve, our translators’ main liaison this year, along with Ronald (also of House Valve) takes us out to lunch. We go to Kizuki ramen, which is nice because hot noodles and soup is always nice during or after these events. And it’s also nice just because it’s nice.

Then it’s back to the hotel, where there’s still work to be done despite the actual event being over. I help Wings do tax info, as it’s their entire team’s first time in the US (they stayed after TS5).

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Rings for Wings

Wings get measured for rings. People are chatting about random stuff in their training room, earlier this year Wings were trying to get some media attention for their players. Media outlets in China were saying that Wings would have to pay them to get featured in any interview… 10k RMB at that. Now the same outlet is messaging their manager nonstop, asking for interviews, and he’s like “I’m not even gonna respond”.

The weather outside is a blazing sun, but Fenrir’s out there again just hanging out. It’s his third TI and I think he’s become much more one with the whole tournament life, going with the flow of things sometimes. He asks me to go to a bench and we sit there, just talking about stuff. Nothing really of import. He talks about 3DS games, how he’s been playing Pokemon.

We’re bored so we think to go over to Seattle and do something, so Fenrir, Black, Tiffany, and I go and first we go to karaoke at Fenrir’s suggestion. I’ve heard that he’s a good

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Karaoke

singer, but he’s actually quite good, and he’s like “See, this can be my second job” and I think it’s not implausible.

Then we go to an internet cafe because Fenrir wants to play battle cup, but we miss the deadline so we just play unranked pubs. We lose our first game, then Fenrir says “I gotta get fighting heroes.” he picks Earth Spirit, Black picks Pudge, and the two of them roam the entire map killing people and every time they kill someone or win a fight, they go “wa caoooooo (哇操~)” which is kinda like going “fuck yeaaaaaaa” but in a really silly voice. It’s funny, and we win despite me not doing much of import in any of the games, but it’s cool because Fenrir teleported to save me in lane and gank my lane, and Black left me to die once but he was like “sorrrrrrryyyyy”

Monday August 15

This is the day that most everyone leaves, and I’m down at the hotel lobby in the morning to say bye to people and also make sure people don’t need anything, etc. I think it’s here that I find Matumbaman too, and I briefly chat with him about pesapallo, that Finnish version of baseball, before he’s leaving to the airport too.

I talk with Mind_Control, who’s just sitting around. We talk a bit about TI, how he’s made it here this year and that was his dream, but now he wants to win more. We talk about football (his fav is FC Barcelona), how he used to play, and how Dota came and now he doesn’t play anymore. The old days of Dota, how we got into it and things from the past. It

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This is from the afterparty but whatever

was a really fun chat on that morning in the hotel lobby. As he’s finally leaving on one of the later shuttles to the airport, he goes, “Let’s make a soccer team next time!” Kuro’s getting on the same shuttle and he gives me a hug and then they’re on their way.

A lot of the Chinese teams have left already in previous days — some home, some to a short vacation somewhere.

People are trickling away, each half hour taking another group to the airport on their way to somewhere else. To Finland, Bulgaria, Canada, SoCal, Sweden, Germany, and of course, China. It’s really amazing that a game has brought so many people and so many forces together, and it’s even more amazing what TI manages to achieve and show every year.

Thanks to all at Valve, everyone at the venue, all the teams, players, fans, and really just everyone. This year and always, it’s been a pleasure. If you made it this far, thanks for reading my rambling thoughts.

You can follow me at
http://twitter.com/Dotaland or http://twitter.com/AutumnWindz

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The Summit 4 in my view

Another tournament, another writeup! TS4 took place in December 2015, and was a lot of fun and went by entirely too quickly as as result. Here’s a glimpse into the behind the scenes from my point of view…

Tues Dec 8

After an early morning flight, we’re in Ontario airport in Southern California once again.

Right away we’re shuttled off to BTS house – it’s a new house and significantly roomier, though it is further away from Ontario airport (with the tradeoff that it is closer to LAX, which means everyone flying in

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Southern Californiaaaaa

internationally gets a shorter trip from airport to house, which is nice). Once I get to the house, I’m informed that I’m needed for an interview, done with theScore esports (where I am behind the camera and their guys later transcribe/subtitle things based on what I say) first with LaNm and then with old chicken. LaNm seems to grow, or evolve, with each event I see him at, and he just seems to be more and more comfortable with the camera, media, and whatever gets thrown at him. Kinda the veteran aura, I guess. When he first sees me, he stares me down a bit then grins his big grin when he’s laughing, and then he actually laughs and we greet each other before we go to his interview where I’m translating for him…

Next up is old chicken, whom I’ve never met before, and who hasn’t been to that many events before either. Despite his relative newness, he doesn’t seem nervous, but nonetheless his answers in his interview are kind of short, though it’s more because it seems like he just doesn’t think he needs to say much more. Yet he’s always giving his answers with a kind of smirk on his face like he thinks something is really funny. This was the guy that, after all, made a joke about Chinese Dota being dead on stage at the Frankfurt Major.

After that, media day requirements for EHOME are done and they split off to their own thing. Some of them go shopping, the EHOME coach 71 wants to go get a tattoo of the EHOME logo on his shoulder: “This is something I’ve thought about for a long time now, and it is something I want to do”. EHOME has been his project and, well, home in esports for the greater part of a decade now and his words seem reasonable as I help him figure

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New kids on the block

out the logistics of it all over the phone later that afternoon…

 

What follows is some relatively carefree catching up with various people through the day – KotLguy says hi and we chat about his recent travels and work in Dota: “I do like hosting, but I also like casting because that’s what really rewards me for doing my research on the game and knowing about things.” Winter wants to go bowling again (callback to the time we went bowling with some of DK during TI4…), LD says hey buddy! in his usual friendly way, Slacks already wants me to help him with a completely goofy but somehow interesting interview with kaka and 71 of EHOME, I congratulate Kuro on his Defence win and Fly on his Frankfurt win…

The completely unserious interview that Slacks had me help him with was one where I would marginally ‘teach’ him how to ask certain questions directly in Chinese, and the interviewees would answer to the best of their ability based on what they thought they would be hearing out of Slacks’ mouth. In the end I don’t think this piece aired because it probably doesn’t transition very well at all onto a stream, but it was kind of funny seeing 71 and kaka from EHOME trying to figure out what Slacks would ask. One question was “Do you wanna go to the zoo?” and after some deliberating they thought it meant something to do with food, or something…

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The crown prince and the emperor

Then VG arrives for their media day stuff. While filling out forms, VG’s players do absolutely nothing and leave it all to their poor manager JaL, who to his great credit, has all of their relevant bank and personal information on hand to fill in for them. When he asks them to double check it, even when he warns them that he might have certain things incorrect, they all tell him “no need! we trust you!” Instead, they spend all their free time playing, as usual, free to play mobile games that are more pay2win than they are free to play. Asking some of them how much they’ve spent on some of these games, and the figures are relatively obscene.

Then it’s nighttime and the sun has set, and we head back to the hotel.

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A bright ending

EHOME guys want to eat, and of course they want to find some Chinese food. The only place within walking distance is a Mongolian Grill place, and they have fun putting together their dishes and having the cooks there cook it up, marvelling at the cooks’ skill in sweeping the ready food in one swoop off the grill onto their bowls. At the table, chatter is boisterous and loud as is often is, with LaNm and 71 going at each other with casual banter and insults: “shabi!” rings out frequently and it’s just as well that we’ve gone to the restaurant near closing hour, as their shenanigans threaten to disturb no one else as we are the only customers still there. The topics vary widely but with some guys it seems topics often run backwards in time, and LaNm and 71 spend a good part of the night reminiscing about old players they’ve interacted with: Ksss, xiaot, and so on…

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EHOME eating

Weds Dec 9

VG 2-1 VP, then VG 2-1 OG. Games are close and relatively interesting, where BurNIng in particular plays well. For post game interviews, it’s relatively hard to get them to come out for interviews – VG often plays a game of ‘let’s push the interview onto someone else’ until someone inevitably shouts that everyone will have to do an interview at some point so putting it off today just means you have to do it tomorrow, and then Super gets to do an interview. This kind of thing has been happening to Super since his time with DK at TI3, at the least. (Back during TI3 they even tried to send their manager before finally Super was the one forced into an interview)

After their matches, iceiceice notices the shirt I have on and goes, “whoa. Nice shirt.” It’s a DK iceiceice shirt and it is indeed a nice shirt!

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This pic is from later but that’s the shirt and that’s the iceiceice

Thurs Dec 10

 

EHOME go first against Liquid, and before the match they’re just chilling. Half of them are watching random Chinese streams and the chat. There’s some girl streamer that some of them are currently particularly infatuated with. Kaka is practicing his Wisp and 71 points at him and says “professional wisp”. Hah. They see old chicken’s pose on the BTS stream and all laugh at him for a minute while LaNm and CTY run down to imitate the pose on the camera downstairs by borrowing Tiffany’s glasses for the task.

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Teaching moments

EHOME lose and afterwards LaNm is immediately loading up the replay and gathering his players around him to debrief, pointing out everything he sees as the other players listen… “Come here and watch the replay!” is the command and the rest of them obediently gather around their captain.

 

VG went shopping in the day because iceiceice made his team promise to go shopping with him if they won on the previous day. Fenrir has a Gengar t-shirt on and I say that’s my favorite Pokemon, and he says hey, me too! The rest of them lounge around, except for BurNIng who is apparently shopping some more on his own (shopping addict). Fy and I play some Pro Evo Soccer, but evidently according to Fy, Benzema is imba and after two games Fy calls it quits in the face of laughter from their manager JaL, who finds it funny seeing Fy lose.

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Another Summit, more Pro Evo..

Later there is an iceiceice cast in which he pretends to be muted for the first minutes, but isn’t actually muted.

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Heh

Fri Dec 11

On the way to the house this morning, we’re riding with VG. They are discussing their respective ages, with BurNIng wondering if he should be considered 27 or 28. “My mom calls me and always tells me I’m 28 now,” he says somewhat resignedly. That’s kind of old, especially in esports, but I’m thinking that these guys are all mostly younger than I am anyway so what are they complaining about? I think, honestly, age doesn’t and shouldn’t really matter as much in Dota. As an entire generation of players are growing older, and perhaps finally realizing that they needn’t force themselves to retire (we ended TI5 without nearly any premature retirement announcements, after all), we may see a lot of these players going on into their 30s.

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Captain LaNm

After their match against DC, EHOME present LaNm for the post-match interview on the couch. After that, there’s another interview with theScore esports, and it’s once again LaNm. I comment that he sure does get interviewed a lot, especially on this team. Compared to when he was on DK, it’s a lot more interviewing, but his role in both teams has always been pivotal – it’s just that with EHOME he is much more visible because he’s surrounded by newer players that are still learning to come into their own in the scene…

Late afternoon and some of the VG guys want a snack, so Grace makes them some chicken nuggets in the oven. Fenrir eats, by his own admittance, probably 50% of the entire tray of chicken nuggets and announces that he is the “chicken killer” because

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\o/

he loves eating chicken.

 

At night, it’s the Gang Beasts tournament, which was pretty hilarious even though it had little to do with any of the other happenings at TS4. Tiffany wins it all in the end, and a few of us do in fact go to In-N-Out afterwards.

Sat Dec 12

Kaka wonders how much a house around LA costs, and 71 says, “after you move here I’ll come visit you, and I’ll tell you to come pick me up at the airport but you have to come in a helicopter, cuz I don’t wanna be seeing any plain old car picking me up.” I wonder aloud if kaka has a rich family or something, but it remains unclear whether or not he does, as at first he strongly denies it, but then later thinks that spending 50 euros on a single cigar isn’t necessarily expensive at all. I’m no expert in modern cigar pricing but I think that’s kind of a premium level price for one. Or maybe it’s ‘esports inflation’: everyone in the scene is making a lot nowadays?

The EHOME guys are pretty casually getting themselves into the atmosphere of their big match against OG, or rather, it would seem the match isn’t that much more important to them than an average match. After all, LaNm has said that they still need to grow a lot as a team and their newer guys are still undergoing that process. According to their coach, he already briefed them on what they needed to know last night and so today he isn’t going to be doing anything additional – a pretty large contrast with the high pressure world of an International, for example.

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The King of Fighters

They’re playing classic King of Fighters, LaNm vs eLeVeN, but LaNm loses pretty much every single game yet they continue playing for an hour. Seeing a Lycan in the Liquid vs VP matchup, CTY pipes up that his Lycan would be most excellent in this situation, claiming that he’d build Blink Dagger and Vladmirs – to which the rest of his team laughs at him heartily.

RTZ and 71 chat upstairs on the balcony – RTZ says “why’s CTY so crazy? control your players!!”, specifically mentioning CTY’s TA in an earlier game and 71 laughs and says, “it’s okay, he just wants to play aggressive… mostly”

Later in the evening, after EHOME has lost to OG, iceiceice and Fenrir show up, and seeing some EHOME guys in the kitchen, iceiceice quickly points and laughs at 71. 71 feigns outrage but iceiceice points out that EHOME had done the same to VG when they had lost in Frankfurt, and soon the next match is underway.

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Yes hello

Everyone chatters animatedly while watching the VP-OG matchup. At one point Fenrir is talking about iceiceice’s Night Stalker from the day before: “One minute after the game starts, we hear from his part of the room – oi! I can’t play anymore! Help!!” and 71 points out that every time they put iceiceice solo against Universe, he gets owned, and furthermore laughs at VG’s decision to put a Night Stalker solo against a Brood at all.

Upstairs, the rest of EHOME are on practice PCs just hanging out again, with LaNm feverishly practicing King of Fighters alone while eLeveN has been downstairs watching the games with us. Observing the two of them playing King of Fighters again later, LaNm still loses far more than he wins but his enthusiasm remains throughout.

At night back at the hotel, we’re going again to get In-N-Out and EHOME’s 71 and LaNm decide to come along too after hearing that

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More In-N-Out

In-N-Out is a California classic and staple of the local scene. While waiting for 71 to get ready, LaNm is playing some Hearthstone on his phone – he plays it very casually, he says, and he’s running what he calls an unorthodox deck so if he loses, it doesn’t matter, and if he wins then it’s funny.

 

True to his attitude towards the game, when 71 is ready we leave the hotel right away and thus LaNm loses connection to the hotel wifi and disconnects from his current Hearthstone match without a worry about ranking or record. On the way to, during the meal, and then on the way back the two of them are chattering about Dota and their team. These two are the masters and veterans of the team by far and there’s a steady strategic strand to their conversations as they flutter from one topic to another, never straying far from how everything relates back to their team’s performances and status.

Sun Dec 13

It’s the last day of the tournament, and by the time I’ve found a spot in the house to comfortably watch the first series, VG are already one game down. Before long, they’re two games down – and thus out, and so they head out to the back yard behind the house where they spend an hour and a half wanderingly discussing, and debating what went wrong while Fy kicks a soccer ball around next to them.

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Fy

I join him for a bit here and there, but mostly it’s to enjoy the California sunshine and get some fresh air. Then VG want to leave the house – some want to go back to the hotel, others I hear are going to the stores, or the casino, or something or other. Iceiceice is, almost as always, the only one of them to stay behind… so we hang out for a while in kitchen, bullshitting about this and that, here and there. When VP finally loses a game, ice remarks “VP’s on cooldown now..” and unfortunately for them, their CD ended up being really long and the night ended, again, with EG taking the title.

Iceiceice casts one of the games, but not before he tries to say that he’ll only cast if I cast (???), which came after he said that he would solo cast in both Chinese and English (a much better idea).

The night at the house winds down gradually but happily. Iceiceice and I play some Gangbeasts at some point, where we team up against the two other players and basically wreck them, which was fun because for once I wasn’t going against everyone else in the game. 😛 And then someone turned off the fun stream… so, sorry stream. I hope you guys had some fun when the stream was actually active, which I think it got more active as the week went on.

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Enjoying the end

In the late evening it pours down rain rather uncharacteristically aggressively for Southern California, and after the rain stops we’re ready to head back to the hotel. I make a round around the house to say my thanks and goodbyes – Kuroky wonders if I’ll be at the Shanghai Major, to which I reply “maybe.” He goes, “come on man, don’t give me maybe” I ask him if he’ll be there, and he’s like…. “maybe.” So I point out that “maybe” is a good word and he seems to agree, and he and I and a few others chat for a few minutes before I run off elsewhere in the house…

Back at the hotel, LaNm is enlisting my help to make a late evening trip to the store to help him find things he needs to buy for his new baby. And, well, apart from my ability to read English labels I’m (far) less well-versed than he is in baby-related things so we spend a while looking for stuff at the store but mostly get everything that he needs. On the walk back, he looks up and seems surprised: “are those stars?! I haven’t seen those for years in China.” Thus the conversation lands for a while on the topic of air quality in China, or the complete lack of any sort of quality thereof.

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LaNm buying stuff for his kid

Afterwards the topic changes: “Wow, I think a Chinese team hasn’t won a LAN since D2L Season 5…” I believe he’s right, or close to it. LaNm goes on, “But time eventually changes things, so after a long enough time even the best can become the worst.” Back at the hotel, we bid our good nights and thus another Summit comes to an end.

Mon Dec 14

EHOME and VG are scheduled to leave the hotel at 8:30 in the morning to head to LAX for their flights, so we go down to the lobby around that time to send them off and make sure everything goes smoothly for them.

Goodbyes are exchanged, everyone says “See you in Shanghai!” even though I don’t know if I’m going to Shanghai or not, and it’s a long ways away anyway.

Summit 4 was undeniably a success, amazingly well-run, and overall just a smooth experience. As BurNIng says, it’s an iconic tournament at this point, the fun-filled foil to TI and the Majors in some ways, but in production value and competition it doesn’t lose out at all. All in all, I have to once again send my thanks and appreciation to everyone at the event that made it happen. Every Summit is the best yet but somehow you guys manage to keep upping the standard. So thank you to everyone at BTS for putting on another great show, and thanks for having me at these events.

Thanks for reading.

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