This is part 2 of my restrospective on TI3. Part 1 can be found here. Fair warning, this is really long, like 4000 words for part 2 alone. Hopefully it brings some insight into additional things.
8/6/2013 – Pre-show day
I showed up at Benaroya to get my bearings, clarify on some things, and make sure I wasn’t needed for anything else. Double checked with the video guy that the subtitles for the 5 Chinese teams were good and done (we had just wrapped those up the night before). I had rented a car to run some non-TI related errands, so in some downtime in the evening, I took Black to the beach over in West Seattle. Then we took him to go eat some Northern Chinese style food. Dumplings and whatnot.
8/7/2013 – Elimination day 1
Being able to see the team intro videos before each team’s first appearance on stage at Benaroya Hall was really cool. I’d been helping to work on all the Chinese team videos throughout the group stages, and the final versions of the subtitles on those videos were the result of my contribution. So that was really fun to see — my work on the big screen! And the screen this year was really big, something like twice as large in terms of area compared to last year. Of course, the team intro videos themselves were way amazing. I especially liked the DK one, with the TongFu one being my next favorite. I felt that all the videos did a great job at capturing the essence of the teams, but the DK and TongFu ones did that especially well. RattleSnake’s was pretty cool too, especially with LaNm making the effort to speak English. We often joked with him during the group stages that his English was quite good — and in truth, it is actually pretty decent. He scoffed at us, though.
TongFu: For the first interview post-game interview I would be involved in at TI3, originally we wanted to grab Hao, but he disappeared (turns out he was ambushed by Chinese media before we could get to him). We spent a few minutes running around up and down the stairs looking for Hao, before learning that the rest of the team was in the players’ lounge and thus deciding to run up there to snag one of them instead. After the players pushed the responsibility onto each other a few times, Banana was finally the unfortunate one. They almost gave us SanSheng again, but he got himself out of it by telling them, “I’ve done an interview with them already today!” This was true, but the interview with SanSheng might actually not end up getting played at all…
Also, is it just me, or do TongFu’s SanSheng and Banana look very similar, especially with their facial structure and the glasses they wear? They must be brothers. They even have the same surname. (spoiler: they aren’t brothers)
Later that evening, I ran across mouz Black again. After they unfortunately lost out in TI3 at the hands of LGD.int, apparently, Black’s stuff got stolen too. He had left his stuff in a Dota 2 drawstring bag up in the team booths (where they hung the flags). When he got back, the bag was still there, but the stuff inside was gone. He had a few things, including some plushies, one of which was his Earthshaker, which he was sad about losing… The first day was strange, in that any random people were getting into the team booth areas, including people with green passes. In fact, when earlier looking for his stuff, Black had come across some green pass people sitting in the mouz booth, and when asked, they just said, “Sorry man, my friends are coming back, they were sitting here.” Haha? Like, these dudes had decided that an actual Mouz player isn’t welcome in his own booth… We didn’t know whether to laugh or what, so I just said that I’d go talk to some people, and we ended up getting Black a new bag of goodies. No replacement Earthshaker plushie, though…
With that being one of the major events for me on day 1, I looked forward to day 2, where more Chinese teams would be playing, and as a result I’d be far busier with interviews, and being on standby for interviews… I also took some crappy camera phone video of the main backstage area, including what it would be like for players walking onto and off of the stage.
8/8/2013 – Elimination day 2
DK: After the DK vs iG upper bracket match, after the record-setting game… we pulled BurNIng into the interview room immediately after they won; BurNIng was still visibly shaking and wired. “So excited.” I asked him if he needed a minute to collect himself before we began the interview, but he took a deep breath, smiled, and said that he was ready. Utmost professional. “We lost to iG after taking the first game against them last year, I was so afraid that was going to happen again…” was what he told me as he gathered himself.
Yes, the game may have been grinding or meandering at various times… But certain casters crossed a line: writing swear words, directed at a competing team no less, on screen, really? It shouldn’t matter how serious or joking you are, that kind of disrespect should not be acceptable, especially not as such a large event with such respected teams and players involved. Sure, it’s true that the record-breaking game was only punctuated by action very sparsely, and that fans are free to have whatever reactions they want, but that does not mean that the teams and players on stage should be so blatantly disrespected as they were by supposedly professional casters. These players are people who have given their youths, dreams, and years of their lives to get here, playing and competing for the right to go home and show their friends and family that it was not all for naught… BurNIng didn’t even look at the timer until 70 minutes in, is what he told us. They’re all focused, and this interview and the minutes leading up to the interview itself showed me that at least for BurNIng, Dota really means the world to him.
And then we were on standby, the camera was running, so off we went into his interview. He gave the answers in typical BurNIng fashion: calm, introspective, yet easy to relate with, and ever the professional, they were good answers. “I felt that if we hadn’t forced the last fight, the game could’ve easily gone on like that for another 30 minutes.” Afterwards, he was waylaid by a mass of some 10+ members of various Chinese media groups for another 10-minute interview. “I feel like I just ran a marathon,” he told them as he stood in front of a dozen cameras. I held onto his jacket for him — he almost left without it at the end, but I ran and gave it back. With another small smile, he grabbed it and turned to go find his team.
For me, BurNIng has undoubtedly cemented his place as the legend of legends. He’s the biggest professional, polite, yet he’s passionate, and beyond talented at what he does. He holds himself with an air of quiet authority while maintaining a very sincere and approachable persona.
LGD.cn: Sadness after their elimination. Some sympathy from iG members, who had just emerged from the waiting room for their own match as LGD.cn left backstage. The LGD.cn members were broken… As iG gathers for standby for their upcoming match, YYF says, “It’s gotta be such a huge gap in expectations and reality for them, after all, they made top 3 last year…”
Apparently, that night, Sylar sat alone in the hotel lobby in the middle of the night… brooding? Thinking?
8/9/2013 – Elimination day 3
A long day of fiercely fought matches, and no Chinese team remains in the upper bracket. Even still, three Chinese teams remain, and hopes remain high for their fans. TongFu nearly defeated NaVi, but fell to a combination of weak decision making and insane fountain hooking from NaVi. Notably, Loda of Alliance spoke out against this tactic — he said he talked to Valve people about how it’s a truly cheap tactic, and reiterated his position on this in another interview with Chinese media backstage. Regardless of what the wider sentiment is regarding the fountain hook mechanic, I think Loda’s stance on this earned him and Alliance some more fans amongst Chinese viewers, and at least at the live finals later on, I anecdotally noticed more Chinese fans cheering for Alliance than NaVi.
Mu is a quiet dude, in contrast to the flamboyant, boisterous, and always smiling Hao. It’s quite interesting that TongFu has built around these two, and that they seem to get along as if brothers.
I think on this day, when I went to get a temporary pass to show my girlfriend around at the venue, two dudes approached me at the entrance. They must’ve thought I might be able to get them in, and asked, or practically begged, me to get them in. One dude was ostensibly offering his iPhone to me as payment in getting them in?? Like, he held it out and said that I could have it. Weird… I obviously turned this down and said sorry. Sorry dudes. I don’t know if you were legit Dota fans or just looking to get in and buy thousands of dollars of the Secret Shop to resell (there were definitely people getting in doing this), but either way it’s not something I could do!
8/10/2013 – Elimination day 4
DK fades out. Usually when DK comes backstage after a win, you hear rOtk shouting fiercely, excited about things that had happened earlier in-game, yelling about how he got that kill, or how they took that fight. You see BurNIng walking next to him, standing tall, shaking a little bit from the leftover adrenaline. You see the rest of DK, sometimes quiet, sometimes animatedly responding to rOtk… DK’s departure from the stage, and from TI3, after their loss to Orange was silent, without fanfare, and perhaps the last time we’ll see BurNIng.
I’m glad I at least pushed to get BurNIng for the pre-interview, reasoning that fans all love him, and that there was the chance that it would be the last time we see him… We would normally try to get at least each member of a team for a pre or post-game interview at least once before we did repeats, but BurNIng… is, well, legendary.
TongFu reverses on iG, but then falls to Orange anyway. IG, before the reversal against TongFu, had been showing increasing amounts of confidence and form. They walked onto the stage and into the booths with an air of confidence… and they returned, defeated, but unbowed. Perhaps that is just iG’s nature — through the past week, they and TongFu were the two Chinese teams that seemed to react the same way regardless of a win or a loss. In iG’s case, perhaps it is, or was, an unassuming sort of self-confidence. A belief in themselves, that in their hearts, they were champions. And maybe it was also mixed with a silent fear of acknowledging a disturbing weakness that viewers could all see. Nonetheless, iG seemed to grow stronger as the tournament went on, and YYF and Ferrari both seemed quite relaxed in between. Ultimately they went tranquilly as they lost, and as ChuaN typed out ‘gg’, followed by a simple “tongfu jia you”, all the hopes of Chinese fans fell upon their conquerors, TongFu.
TongFu.KingJ’s similarly simple “ok” in response might be interpreted by some as him being dismissive of ChuaN, but that is far from the truth. What KingJ’s response represented was an understanding that, by knocking out an iG that was growing stronger with the tournament, TongFu, as the sole remaining Chinese representative, took on an almost unspeakably enormous amount of pressure, and responsibility.
Somewhere during this day, TongFu’s Mu also went missing shortly at a time when the team should’ve been on standby. We ran around looking for him for a bit before I said to Hao, “Don’t you have his phone number?” Hao replied that yes, and in fact Mu had activated global roaming on his cell phone service, so I called him, Hao yelled at him to come back, and all was good. Apparently, Mu was out having some lunch nearby. Also, the interview with Mu in which we asked about his popularity with female fans was one of my favorites (my absolute favorite being the post-game interview with BurNIng after DK vs iG).
Before game 1 against Orange, TongFu added a ‘CN’ after all their IDs, to represent the fact that they were the last hope of a nation of hundreds of millions of gamers. Pressure. After the loss in game 1 against Orange, TongFu’s Hao, during their brief intermission between games, says to his teammates backstage in his typically carefree fashion, “It’s alright, we’ll play properly now.” And thus, Anti-mage. TongFu brought the series back to 1-1, but ultimately the Orange wave could not be stopped, and the last Chinese team at TI3 crashed out. The pressure overwhelmed TongFu — maybe the added ‘CN’ brought a weight of millions that impaired the typically carefree and mildly flamboyant players of TongFu… or perhaps it was simply that Orange would not be denied this year.
Three Chinese teams in the top 6 might seem to be an excellent result, but for any fan of the Chinese scene, it is a disastrous, despairing, and devastating end to the tournament. It is almost certainly worse than in 2011, when the EHOME juggernaut fell short in the Grand Finals.
So, as a light summer rain began to fall from the skies of a Seattle evening (melodramatic background music), with scenes of the despondent on-site Chinese commentators’ tear-streaked faces streaming live across the Pacific to a once-proud nation of fierce Dota fans, TongFu, with their .CN, in their bright red uniforms, the last Chinese hope, crumbled…
8/11/2013 – Elimination day 5
In previous days at Benaroya Hall, I’d tried once or twice to get Chinese teams out onto the main floor to do some signings, meet and greets, stuff like that. But invariably, my approaches were politely but firmly declined, with various reasons being cited. For some of the teams, such as RattleSnake, they didn’t even know where each other were, and for them, the tournament was by and far over so it seemed like they were ready to just go home. For LGD.cn, they were disraught and disappointed and were in practically no mood to even come to Benaroya Hall the first two days after their disastrous end. Other teams such as iG, TongFu, and DK were all in it until day 4, and it seems that Chinese players prefer to largely keep to themselves and amongst each other when they’re still competing, and then need some time to collect themselves after losing. For them, this is a game they love, but also one that they take very seriously as their job. Expectations are always sky high for them, both in terms of self-expectations as well as expectations from viewers back home.
On the last day at Benaroya Hall, I did manage to get some of the players out and about into the main hall area before the Grand Finals started. YYF and Ferrari, while walking with me to head out to the main area, were still debating the game in which Ferrari’s Storm Spirit died twice in quick succession against TongFu. YYF was talking about how a BKB was needed, very adamantly (but in a friendly fashion). Ferrari nodded in agreement, perhaps a little sheepishly. “And you told us you were feeling great! What use does feeling great about your play have if you don’t have a BKB there?” Funny interactions between teammates. I laughed and they did too. The losses at TI3 were tough for any of the Chinese teams, but life goes on.
Anyway, I got quite a few players to talk with some of the workshop creators, and we’re currently in preliminary talks to have player-specific hero sets made. BurNIng’s Anti-mage set anyone? Hao’s Spectre? Ferrari_430’s Invoker? Nekomata’s Huskar (this one is more for Chinese fans)? This and more may be in the pipeline within the next few months… (if you’re an awesome workshop creator and want to get involved, get at me. I talked to some of you guys at TI3).
I recognize the fact that the Chinese teams tend to be more reserved, private, and conservative in the amount and manner of the interactions with fans at events, so hopefully at least some of their fans managed to meet them during that half hour they ventured out. There’s also the language and cultural barrier, and I think some of them are just apprehensive about wandering around too much into completely unfamiliar social situations. Those of you that got pictures, autographs, and other mementos with them should post them up and share them with us all, such is the rarity! If I get the chance next year, I’ll try to schedule more in terms of bridging that gap between East and West for the fans and players.
All of Orange are really nice, polite, and invariably quite shy. They put up a valiant fight, but in the end, they fell against NaVi. Coming backstage, Mushi quickly walked alone and left, while kyxy and the others sort of mingled aimlessly for a few minutes before collectively leaving to the condolences and applause of Valve backstage staff. A few minutes later, Mushi would be found in the players’ lounge, nearly inconsolable. But all the Chinese teams, as well as his fellow SEA players, one by one came to him to offer a hug, or a pat on the back. After a while, Mushi got up, walked across the room to where the other Orange members were sitting together, and shook each of their hands, gave them a hug and shared some quiet words.
In the ensuing hours, Orange players sort mingled around in various places, the main hall, up and downstairs, etc. Before their match against NaVi, I had given them my support, and afterwards, I congratulated them on a valiant, amazing effort. They’re really nice people, all so humble and polite. I really hope that they’ll realize that, while they nearly had one foot into the door of the Grand Finals, third place is still spectacular. I hope kyxy comes back even stronger, because he’s still very young, but so talented. In the Orange vs NaVi match, despite the fact that Orange knocked out two Chinese favorites, Chinese fans seemed to largely support Orange anyway. Perhaps it was a simple East vs West dynamic, but I like to think that we could also all see Orange for the great players and nice people that they are as well.
Alliance dudes are all quite polite and well-spoken as well. People say Loda is arrogant, but I think it’s really just confidence that comes with having been around for so long. I fist-bumped AdmiralBulldog after their win, cool guy, seemed genuinely happy and humbled to be in such a position.
Of NaVi, I only really directly interacted briefly with Dendi, Puppey, and XBOCT. All three of them are funny and relatively approachable. Puppey has a thing where he won’t give interviews or really speak to outsiders immediately before games/matches. I guess lots of players would probably prefer this, but Puppey is very strict about it. Good on him, he takes his job as captain very seriously.
A major attraction, or distraction, perhaps, of the Chinese teams and players was the card game Legends of the Three Kingdoms. And apparently the Chinese casters/media people tended to play a lot of Mafia (yes, that party game). In a post-TI dinner hosted by Perfect World, the players were playing the card game, the casters were playing Mafia, and it was hilarious seeing and hearing Haitao and DC get into it regarding the game. I wouldn’t want to play against them — no way to out-talk them, they talk for a living. Hah.
Lastly, I tend to not ask for photos and autographs as a rule, and since I was there in a backstage access kind of way, I made that an even firmer rule, thus I hardly have any pictures and no autographs, etc, at all. The stuff I’ve shared in these two parts is basically everything I have!
The afterparty was pretty cool as well. It was at a venue just a few blocks away from Benaroya Hall, and was open to anyone with a TI3 pass (I think there was some sort of limitation regarding being age 21 or not due to alcohol laws in the US, of course). There was a VIP area where players, staff, and whatnot mostly hung out, and the rest of the venue was open to anyone. The VIP area had some food, and drinks were open bar and free. I don’t drink at all, so I just got some food and hung around.
After a while, NaVi showed up. Or at least, Dendi and XBOCT did, that I saw. Dendi mostly just sat in the VIP area with some other players, and had a constant stream of people walking by to say hi, etc. XBOCT was XBOCT (as I’m sure most people have seen by now). One fan tried really hard to get Dendi to get on the floor and dance later on in the night, but Dendi would not be swayed, and smilingly declined. In his smile, though, it would seem to have a tinge of sadness — understandably so.
None of the Chinese players came to this, which is not surprising at all. I honestly couldn’t see many of them really being comfortable in an environment like this — they’re mostly low-key kids that keep to themselves, and I’d be surprised if any of them even occasionally went to bars or clubs back home in China, much less in the US where customs and language differences would make social experiences like this one even trickier for them. There were, however, a lot of SEA players — Zenith, Orange, I think even MUFC. And then ChuaN, of course, hanging out with his SEA buddies.
About halfway through the night, Alliance arrived, and the DJ got on the mic to herald their coming. “Give it up for Alliance!” The champions, holding the Aegis, strutted into the VIP area to a chorus of cheers and fanfare. This would have been the perfect time to start blasting Basshunter Dota. Because Alliance are from Sweden, Basshunter is from Sweden, it would’ve been perfect. Sadly, despite the fact that some of us went and asked specifically for this song, and despite promises that it would come, it never did. We were fully aware of how cheesy it would be, but at least it probably wouldn’t have been worse than the chiptune-style Mario theme that they blasted halfway through because we’re all “GAMERZ”.
Complaints about the music choice aside (it wasn’t actually all that bad, I’m just not a club/bar person), the afterparty wasn’t awkward at all, the Valve staff there were having a great time with everyone else, the fans present made a good showing in terms of being able to move about the floor, and I didn’t see anyone embarass themselves alcoholically. And even though it was really freakin’ loud (I guess clubs and stuff are supposed to be loud like this), I also met and chatted with some more people, including SeleCT of Starcraft 2 (and brief Dota 2) fame, Lumi, and Sheever. It was also great to get to meet some fans that approached me about my work at TI3. Thanks for the support, guys and girls!
To cap it all off, thank you to Valve for the amazing tournament, for having the trust and faith to place in someone like me whom you guys have never met before and giving me the chance to learn and try to not make a fool of myself in what is the biggest event of every year for you guys. I hope I have not let anyone down horribly, and will truly treasure the experience, memories, and friendships formed. Thanks to the fans that approached me during the event, I really enjoyed meeting and speaking to each and every one of you. Some of you had great words of encouragement and advice. Thanks to the players for accepting me as I am, and for being who they are in making such an amazing event be possible from a competitive point of view. Thanks to the viewers and community at large for being part of making TI3 one of the largest, most spectacular events in competitive gaming history. And thank you, reader, for reading my rambling and meandering thoughts and restrospectives.