I recently returned from helping out at BeyondTheSummit’s first event — The Summit (June 5-8, 2014), hosted in a fashion inspired by Starcraft II’s Homestory Cup, wherein players and organizers mingle in a close, casual atmosphere with little to no live audience. Here’s the event from my point of view…
We arrive late at night at the Ontario airport (making sure many times during the trip that we weren’t mistakenly flying to somewhere in Canada instead), get to BTS house for a short greet, and see iceiceice and Mushi still there playing pubs. Iceiceice and Mushi say hi. “I didn’t know you would be here,” says ice. “I didn’t either, not until a few days ago,” I reply.
“I don’t know if I should hug you or what, to say hi,” he offers, deadpan. Me neither, but I suppose that’s the beauty of it. Am I here as a friend, a helper, a translator, or all of the above?
Merlini drives us to our hotel after stopping by a drive-thru for us to get some food — we hadn’t eaten most of the day. By the time we check in to the hotel it’s past 1am, and the matches start around 8am which means we have to be ready before 7am. LD and some of the other BTS crew get even less sleep — no sleep at all for some of them, and the night is short.
It’s a 6-something am start in the morning, and we get to the BTS house around then. I take a quick look around the entire house and get acquainted with the surroundings. There are a couple lounges set up for players to just relax in between things (some had cameras and others did not), and it is here that I discover DK, having already arrived bright and early.
After some of VG’s matches on this day, we did an interview with Fenrir. The easy and perhaps obvious VG player probably would’ve been rOtK, but I’ve been trying to get Fenrir to take a proper interview since D2L in Las Vegas earlier this year, so I was determined to make it happen… It took some convincing, but Fenrir is well-spoken and organized in his thoughts, so I knew it would be good. In his own words, “I feel awkward in front of a camera, I don’t know where to look.” But it ended up going pretty well, I think.
Early in the day, we’re chilling with DK in one of the lounge rooms (we were on stream at some point), and BurNIng is playing a mobile game that Mushi introduced to him. It looks like a fighting game, but BurNIng is just button mashing, and winning easily.
“What is this? Boring!” he exclaims with a grin on his face. Shortly after that, “I could play this with my feet and still win. I’m gonna delete this.” Mushi laughs, BurNIng keeps playing it for a bit, and then they want to get on the wifi. BTS didn’t want people just getting on the house wifi due to concerns of Skype and leaking the IP, but Mushi is desperate. “Please LD!!! I love you!” After some convincing, LD smiles and agrees, but in the end it doesn’t matter anyway as for some reason, Mushi and BurNIng’s iPhones can’t connect to the BTS network at all no matter what was tried.
As the other teams play, I manage to catch a pretty rare — and special — agglomeration of former EHOME members. It was a pretty cool moment, or nostalgic at least, and for those of us prone to nostalgia, it had a lot.
Later in the day, the BTS guys also wanted to get someone from DK for an interview/chat. Not being able to get the players at the time, I suggested we get their coach 71 instead. Honestly he’d been a ‘target’ of mine to talk with regardless, so I’m really glad we got this one. It seems like viewers enjoyed it too. The answers were long and a serious challenge for my sleep-deprived brain, but I’d say I did… okay with the translating. Not great, I know I could’ve done better, but it was alright I guess, and hopefully his insight was at least somewhat shared.
While I had met and knew both VG and DK from before, their two coaches — 357 and 71 respectively — I had not met before. It turns out both are quite nice, approachable, and generally jovial people. 357 is soft-spoken but seems easy to get along with, and both the VG and DK players (some of whom were his former teammates on both DK and EHOME) get along well with him. 71 jokes and makes fun of and with players, says what’s on his mind, and is generally very conversational.
Late in the afternoon, Mushi, my girlfriend Tiffany (who had come along on her own cost to support me and help a bit with the event), and I played some Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros Melee. Mushi hadn’t played either before, but he does well in Mario Kart. In SSBM, he unplugs both our controllers, takes a bunch of kills whacking away on our defenseless characters whilst laughing maniacally, and declares himself the victor when the round finally ends.
Around 4pm it was time for DK to play Fnatic. I’m sure this game was talked about plenty and needs no further description. Regardless, the loss against Fnatic was one they took very seriously and according to sources, they spent lots of time and energy having a detailed and somewhat impassioned team meeting after getting back to the hotel later this night. Thus perhaps setting up their choice of Fnatic again after…
……VG lost to Fnatic, and DK subsequently secured top spot in group by defeating EG.
Prior to the match against EG, DK were setting up when Mushi noticed that LaNm had special purple effects in-game. Asking what it was, LaNm explained that they were TI4 effects from the Compendium, specifically by upgrading the Compendium’s levels. Mushi wanted them, and made his desires known. Declares BurNIng, “win this event and I’ll upgrade your Compendium to level 300.” So the game loaded, the draft went, and Mushi got QoP and the rest was history, as they say.
At lunch, Mushi and I talked about playing basketball when rOtK walked by. We invited him to potentially play basketball some day in the future, as Mushi explained that even though they were all based in Shanghai in previous months, Mushi and rOtK had not been able to play as they were far apart on opposite ends of the city. Mushi also suggested soccer, to which rOtK laughed his big laugh and said, “None of us know how, basketball is okay but definitely not that!”
Afterwards, before DK’s upper bracket match against Fnatic, I came across Charlie the Monolith of EG chatting up DK coach 71 in the afternoon sun out in the back patio of the BTS house. As Southern California is, it was sunny and warm, but in the shade it wasn’t hot, and as 71 smoked, we sat around and chatted in a meandering way for some 30 minutes. There was some really insightful conversation, where the two esports managers shared experiences on topics ranging from salaries, to club structure and sponsorship, to Twitch streaming, to the difference between the different scenes, to other things that I shouldn’t share… I sat and helped communicate and even became part of the conversation. That was undeniably really cool.
After he finished his second cigarette, 71 noted the time and excused himself to get back with his players prior to their upcoming match against Fnatic. Kuroky then sat down next to us and remarked about 71, “He’s one of the best people in Dota.” Evidently the respect for the coach remains from his EHOME days. “He’s a straight talker and good guy,” Charlie and I agree. Kuroky nods and pensively puffs on his cigarette as I take my exit as well; the Southern California sun is finally getting too warm for me.
Throughout the event I would hang around different hotspots where players gathered to view matches and just try and listen in on what people were saying. VG and DK often debate various merits of things spiritedly, making bold predictions. They’re funny — BurNIng predicted Sylar’s Weaver to not die a single time after seeing the draft in a game (spoiler, he died something like 7 or 8 times), while Mushi disagreed and offered to a wager (bragging rights, it turns out). BurNIng declined, and soon Mushi’s prediction came much closer to the truth than BurNIng’s.
After DK played Fnatic, we tried to get MMY or LaNm for an interview, but neither of them are prone to agreeing to interviews — not really for any specific reason, but just as a matter of habit/preference. LaNm in particular is a Chinese forum fiend and his reasoning was that whenever any of them says something in an interview, it gets blown out of context by Chinese fans and their words ‘get taken for a ride’, so to speak. MMY is, well MMY. Maybe at TI4? So we got BurNIng instead, who is always so professional in the way he is willing to accept interviews, and the way he approaches said interviews with his answers, as well as in the way he’s able to stand up and do interviews for his team when the rest of them don’t want to.
Then my girlfriend roped BurNIng into playing some Smash Bros with her, apparently. And BurNIng picked Pikachu, they went to Hyrule Castle, and BurNIng died because he didn’t know how to jump properly with Pikachu and fell to his death repeatedly. So she beat BurNIng in something gaming-related; impressive.
I managed to play a pub with BurNIng in the morning — we had a five stack, BurNIng, some friends, and myself. I played Skywrath Mage (free Compendium hero challenge win) as a hard support. It was an honor to support the B-God, who played a typical pub Razor that dived, got kills, and died. “Raahhh I want to kill people!” he’d exclaim as he dove tier 3 towers. We won fairly handily in the end, and now I can say I’ve warded for BurNIng.
After lunch, VG found a PS4 newly set up in one of the lounge rooms, and they played some FIFA. Kuroky and Puppey came and sat down to hang out and watch, and KKY took the next game against Fy, with Kky using Spain and Fy using Portugal. VG’s players watched intently, shouting out suggestions to Fy, while laughing at his mistakes. Everyone cheered loudly when Fy scored to take the lead, then cheered some more after Kky equalized in the second half. The match ended 1-1, with the two sides shaking hands and showing good sportsmanship. At some point this day, even BurNIng got in on some of the footballing action, in which he looked much less in control than he does in Dota — but he had a good time as well, just like everyone else…
Prior to the match between DK and VG, MMY and rOtK were hanging out in the back patio, with rOtK begging MMY for some of his betel nuts. MMY gave him two, but rOtK wanted more, eventually going as far as trying to bargain by offering to feed kills for each additional betel nut MMY shared, including first blood. When MMY quipped back that there was no guarantee rOtK would be able to successfully feed first blood before iceiceice potentially fed, rOtK replied, “I’ll TP straight to mid and meet you there, no way someone can feed faster than that!” We all laughed, in the end rOtK got no more betel nuts from MMY, and soon afterwards DK vs VG was under way under normal circumstances.
This morning I picked up Mushi and iceiceice early as Mushi had wanted to get breakfast with us at some point. We went to a diner-style place somewhere quite nearby, and true to his Twitter profile, iceiceice got ribeye steak, plus pancakes and some other stuff. He did not finish his food, remarking that “This is a bad habit of mine,” whereas Mushi neatly cut his meat and eggs into proportional matching pieces and ate everything, one piece of meat for each piece of egg.
I’ve always thought that the teams people prefer playing with in soccer (football) games reflects on the person’s style and personality. Fy would always pick technically adept teams, first it was Portugal, and then eventually he stuck with Argentina. He’d try tricks and flashy moves and more often than not, it paid off — he won most of the games that I could see, including a 8-0 trouncing of 357’s Manchester City. Conversely, the one time Fy used Germany, he did not like it.
Apart from rOtK and Super, who were both arguing for different games (NBA 2k and Tekken respectively) to be played on the PS4, all the other Chinese players seemed to have some experience with the soccer simulation genre. Specifically, Pro Evolution Soccer (Winning Eleven in Asia) — I found myself with something in common with them, as we all initially struggled with FIFA’s control scheme, until we set the controls to mimic that of Pro Evo Soccer, and then it was game on. According to 357, he’d played Winning Eleven 4 way back in the day, while others in VG said that Winning Eleven 8 on PS2 was the best, and I agree.
One thing that should be noted and applauded enthusiastically is the amount of preparation and organization BTS had for the event, especially involving food and general hospitality. They had a team of people making sure refreshments were always available, the house was always tidy and accessible, and lunch and dinner would be handled in full with a variety of food — both Western and Asian style. Quite the hospitality and from the conversations I had, more than a few of the Chinese players were very appreciative of both the accommodations as well as the casual and relaxing venue and style itself.
After VG were eliminated and while DK were preparing for their upcoming finals showdown with EG, rOtK was lured off to the pub event viewing party thing, and that was the last I saw of him for the weekend. I heard he had a lot of fun there. In the next hour my attentions were focused on asking — or pestering, depending on your viewpoint — the VG players for at least one of them to play in the 1v1 mini-tournament. In the end, Fy’s own desire to shine — despite his initial declines, I could see it in his eyes — combined with the promise of a cash prize played into my coercion, and he agreed.
Of course, after DK lost, we joked with VG that “At least Fy has won something for China.”
Following a fairly intense post-mortem kind of team discussion out in the back patio after their finals loss to EG, most of DK — sans iceiceice — made to leave and head back to their hotel. One thing I noted — and I don’t really know whether this was something or it was just something I’m overthinking — is that while DK sat out there for over half an hour, Sylar wandered outside after sleeping for most of the afternoon. He’d been sick, feverish, even, and his reasoning for coming outside was that it was warmer outside than inside where the air conditioning had been on blast all day to try and keep things cool with all the computers. He and I sat peacefully at the table next to where DK were gathered, and part me wants to think that Sylar was out there in silent support of BurNIng, his self-confessed idol and the player he models his own playstyle after. Anyway, I’ve always liked Sylar — he’s a sincere, polite kid, very considerate of others while quiet and unassuming. We chatted a bit, then his team were ready to leave the BTS house for the last time, and we said our goodbyes.
As night fell on Sunday, things wound down at the BTS house, with various teams either heading back to their hotels and getting ready for their flights out the next day, or teams and players going to the pub event for appearances with fans. EG went, and from all indications, were appreciated by the fans and seemed to enjoy themselves there as well. Good job to them — and DK and the other Chinese teams will need to work hard to figure out EG, and specifically RTZ, who always seems to give them problems.
Soon after that, DK were ready to go as well. Iceiceice convinced them to allow him to stay back, as he wanted to hang out, relax, and stuff like that. In BurNIng’s words, “Just let him have fun tonight, we’ll have to discuss things together when we get back home anyway.” So iceiceice ended up coming with us to check out the pub event for about half an hour, where he was mobbed endlessly in a way that simultaneously makes you appreciate the passion of fans, but also want to sit back a bit and hide. Or at least, that’s how I think I would feel if I were him. Pro players in this day and age really are celebrities of a sort, and the public scrutiny can be tough for some, I’m sure.
The night ended off for me after we headed back to the house and hung out for a while. Puppey and Kuroky had come back and iceiceice wanted to spend some time chatting with Puppey, and by this time it was quite late. Dendi and Fly and XBOCT and a few others were playing Munchkin, there were dozens of pizzas on the kitchen counter, and the atmosphere was light hearted mixed with some fatigue. I said my goodbyes and then off I went back to the hotel as well, for the first real sleep in quite a few days.
The Summit was, as BurNIng said in his interview, the most unique event I’ve ever been to. And it’s not that I haven’t been to many events… Well, I haven’t, but that’s not really the point. The point is that this was a really chill event. Stuff like contributing at events is fairly stressful, and I can only imagine how much more stressful it is to actually compete, yet the players and I all seemed to share the sentiment that this event was more relaxing than it was intense even though the quality of competition and prizes at stake were quite impressive. So good job to BTS and all the awesome people helping — most of whom I met.
Shoutouts to all of you there, and everyone supporting and watching on stream near and far away! Lastly thanks to BTS for having me there. See you all at TI4…
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