The International 2014 in my view
This is The International 2014 from my point of view. I tried to share thoughts, insights, and generally give a feel for what it was like during two weeks of the greatest esports event the world has ever seen. You can also check out the full album of pictures here: http://imgur.com/a/u7okG#0
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Saturday – Sunday – Monday July 7
Over the weekend before everyone had arrived, we went early to meet up with DK — who had also arrived early — and get some dinner. BurNIng had been out shopping, MMY and LaNm were doing who knows what, so in the end it was Mushi, iceiceice, and we went out for some Japanese food. It was okay. Mushi was still jet-lagged, and loudly exclaimed on a few separate occasions, “I’m dying!!” On the way back, they picked up a pizza for the others.
On Sunday or Monday evening, just after coming to say hi, Basskip noticed a phone on the floor. I took a look at it and upon seeing the lock screen, I knew whose it was, and went to return it to xiao8. Xiao8 thanked me, explaining that he’d just run into Bulba by gesturing at Bulba who was still nearby, and in their excitement at seeing each other in what one might imagine to be quite the physical greeting, his phone dropped out of his pocket and had been missing for a few minutes. The first few days before anything officially started went on like that, with old friends greeting each other, and new friends being made.
Tuesday July 8
The summer of 2014 has been one I’ve looked forward to for a while now, with TI4 only being one major part. The other part, of course, was the World
Cup, and this day was Brazil versus Germany in the World Cup semi finals. My ideal outcome would have been, I guess, the German in Black advancing in the Wild Card matches, and Brazil advancing in the semi finals of the World Cup. The reality, as it often is for me, was the opposite of my hopes. It was always going to be hard, of course, with CIS having had so many troubles before finally arriving in Seattle, and Brazil missing vital players — and so even as the Germans on the green grass of football demolished their opponents, the German and his Chinese comrades fell on the digital fields of Dota.
Afterwards, Black found some solace in the company of DK, who were making their way by foot to a nearby secret HQ they had established. They kindly offered us a look in — it would be an apartment nearby, provided by a friend, with full PC setups. I’d known of DK’s plans for doing this, but seeing it all still left me impressed at just how much work they’d put into TI4.
On the way over to the apartment, DK commandeered a set of cards that each had a Dota character printed on them. They took turns drawing cards until they got five, saying that the five would be their picks for their next matches. Though the cards were randomly shuffled, LaNm still kept getting a hero he is quite familiar with, Enchantress. Every time that happened, he’d throw his head back and laugh loudly. That transitioned on to them each drawing five and theory-crafting whose lineup might win, which quickly devolved into shouting and jesting on the sidewalk as we waited for some of the others to get their Starbucks orders. The sun was shining on a warm Seattle day, and things were casual, if only for one last day.
On our way back from checking out DK’s secret base, Black and I stopped by a nearby restaurant, where some Valve people and some players, including Fata and Kuroky, were watching the remainder of the Brazil vs Germany match. Asked how he felt about the then 0-7 scoreline, Kuroky smiled wanly and replied, “It’s okay, I don’t really care about this though.” I was meant to meet him there earlier to watch more of the match together, but since Black had previously expressed a desire to watch the match, I had waited a bit for him so
he could come along too.
The Solo Championship was also today. After iceiceice crashed out early and S4 eventually won, iceiceice sagely said, “The winner of the solo championship cannot win that year’s International. Lose solo championship, win TI4!!” He cited his solo title from last year alongside his team’s performance, and after Mushi also lost, he was even more convinced in this theory.
There was a ping pong table set up in an area of the Westin Bellevue, where players from pretty much every team played some ping pong at some point over the week. Some legendary matchups were seen here, such as Ferrari_430 vs Dendi, Mushi vs BurNIng, XBOCT vs the world…
Later in the evening, I took Lumi over to an Asian supermarket so he could buy some lemon honey nectar for his voice. At night, I also came across Fenrir playing a pub game as Earthshaker. Not having any earphones in, he had no sound nor sound effects, obviously. We chatted about the goings-on on screen, with me calling jokingly gg for the other team as his team suffered wipe after wipe, and him happily chiming, “No, we will win!” Since he had no sound, he created his own sound effects for his Earthshaker. Every time he’d use Enchant Totem, he’d go “dooong!” in a sing-song voice, and then he’d add in “baang!” in a similar way with Fissures or the occasional ultimate. In the end, he lost, but it felt like a happy pub game nonetheless.
Wednesday July 9
DK coach 71 has taken to calling me “Two bro”, explaining that, “In each of the two times you’ve been present at our events the past year, we’ve placed number two”. And I’d answer each time, “I don’t wanna be two bro!” He’d grin, sometimes respond that he was just kidding, and we might meander off into some other topic if he wasn’t needed elsewhere.
After a tough first group stage day, DK planned on going to get dinner at nearby Boiling Point, a Chinese restaurant serving individual-style hot pots. I came along for the short walk over, planning on leaving to head back after they arrived at the restaurant since I’d already eaten. When we got there, BurNIng pulled me in with them, saying “Come!! Just come!” and even though I didn’t plan on eating… who can say no to BurNIng? So I sat with them while they ate, we talked around about the day’s matches, life, girlfriends… stuff like that. When BurNIng’s food came, he dropped a chopstick and asked for a new set. After the new set came, he had grabbed them in his right hand, yet began looking around and asked, “Where did those new chopsticks go??” He looked around confused for multiple seconds. “What about those in your right hand?” I gestured at him. He looked down slowly, looked back up slowly, rolled his eyes with a big smile on his tired face, and went to work eating a much-needed meal. LaNm was hungry too, having immediately called for a second bowl of rice after the first had arrived, stating that “I have already decided that this will not be enough!”
Later at night, a few of us are playing some pubs in the now-deserted practice area. Nighttime is essentially the only time the practice area is open — during the day it is always full of players, coaches, and occasionally other casters/etc. Around midnight, Mushi arrives, sets himself up in a corner, and watches replays, not leaving until well past 3 AM.
Thursday July 10
I helped with some interviews on this day. The Sylar interview was pretty alright, I think, since he doesn’t get interviewed too much. At the end of the interview, there was a question asked on what he’d do with 1 million dollars if he won. Thinking about it for a few moments, he then answered that he’d help his mom achieve her dream of being able to visit Macau on a vacation. Heart-warming, and I feel like I keep saying this, but Sylar is really much nicer than his stone-cold veneer suggests. After the interview concluded, we walked back to the main viewing room, and he explained to me again, “Before I left home this year, my mom asked me to do well so I could help her take this trip to Macau, it’s been her dream vacation…”
Since they won all four games on day two of group stage after having eaten at Boiling Point, DK decided to go to Boiling Point for dinner again this day. All about not changing what works, or something like that. Incidentally, NewBee, VG, and LGD all decided on this place for dinner at various times as well this evening — whether their results would match DK’s after eating here would remain to be seen.
On LGD’s way over to dinner, I ran into them, and walked with DD for a bit. He quietly sighed, looking contemplative after some poor results for them thus far, “Beaten almost into tears…” Some quietness ensued, but true to his more out-going personality, he perked up a bit as we talked about the upcoming VIP and players’ Secret Shop day prior to the main event. He’d been excited about the Secret Shop since before arriving in Seattle, having asked me about details of the catalog already, and sharing with me his plans to exchange for over a thousand dollars in USD in order to buy things at the Shop. Later on after the Shop day, I ran into him again as he activated his codes — of which he had gotten many Genuine Golden ones — and he had looked quite pleased with himself indeed.
The teams, after winning or losing, would mostly all spiritedly debate and discuss things.Even LGD, who could be said to be having a pretty tough time at TI4 thus far, seemed to be in okay spirits — well, as okay as you can get after some hard losses — and mostly spent their time together. Later in the night, Yao came down to check out some replays and play a
pub or two to switch things up a bit. He’s always got a big smile on his face when he sees me, but it was clear that as captain of his team at TI4, the pressure was immense, and he walked with a certain weight around his shoulders.
As the evening wound into night, a few of us set up shop once again in the now mostly-empty practice area to play some Age of Empires 2. Near the end of the game, which we played 3v3 against bots, iceiceice shows up, with his team having finally wrapped up their day. We briefly debate some of the qualities of the Age of Empires, things move on for a short time to Starcraft 2 where iceiceice asserts that he’d beat Black handily, and then Black runs off to play ping pong. Iceiceice then goes on to watch some replays, and I watch iceiceice watch replays. “I dunno why I watch replays… I just look at people run around” says iceiceice as he has the camera centered on one hero with replay speed on max. “I just watch replays ‘cuz everyone else does,” he shrugs.
Friday July 11
There was a really long interview with Ferrari_430 today that the Russian interviewer morf asked me to help with. I’d had no idea it was going to be that long, and even though Ferrari was a good sport and the interview itself wasn’t bad, by about 25 minutes in he was starting to get antsy. When we ended, he grinned a bit and asked if all Russian interviews are this long… to which I responded that I have no idea, because, well, I have no prior experience in this realm either. Later on in the All-star match at the TI4 main
event, Ferrari might have given himself a reputation as a tryhard no-fun type, but in honesty he’s pretty far from that. Sure, he definitely has a tryhard gene in him, and that’s because he finds fun in trying hard, but he likes playing games in general. There’s something carefree about the way he conducts himself — some might call it aloof, but in his own words, “I’m really bad around strangers but once I get to know someone, I can’t shut up.”
After the day’s matches, in which DK manages to achieve a decent result after an early 0-2 start on the day, BurNIng declares that he needs to go next door to the bowling alley/arcade to relax. So he disappears. Shortly afterwards, upon hearing that BurNIng is there, Mushi follows suit, and we had some DK.BowLIng. BurNIng claimed it was his first time playing, and the way he held the ball and sent it down the lane supported this assertion, yet his ending score of around 130 suggested otherwise. Beginners’ luck, perhaps. Mushi clearly has bowled before, and his bowling stance looked quite professional to my untrained eyes, but even his score didn’t beat BurNIng’s beginners’ score of 130.
Saturday July 12
There was another interview with the Russian guy — I think by this point I’ve figured out that he’s from Prodota — today, with BurNIng. I don’t really recall what the interview covered, and I don’t really recall what I was talking about with BurNIng while we waited for the interview, but apparently it was okay.
Today’s LGD, after winning to get into tiebreakers, were buoyant, and shouts could be heard from in their room. As the game was called, DD burst out of the doorway shouting, scaring
DK’s coach 71 who was sitting outside the room watching their game on a screen. Yao came following out, still shaking with an electric adrenaline, and he hugged each of his team’s players. Before the next tiebreaker, Yao and xiao8 came together for a short time, and they shook hands and shared some words in the way long-lost brothers might, “Good luck, I hope we may both advance.” There was a steely resolution in the words, and though the words held hope, there was also a tentative caution that both sides shared. They both understood fully well that this TI has been one of surprises and upsets and that nothing was guaranteed.
Later in the afternoon, iceiceice wanted pork belly and the only place I could think of that had it was ramen, so we went to nearby Santouka to get ramen. It was good, he said. I agree, but I don’t think I’m as picky about food as he is. Later on, Mushi, Black, and ohaiyo wanted food too so we went with them again, where the ramen was also said to be very good by them. Ohaiyo in particular noted, “I will bring my team here to eat!” After that, Mushi wanted to go bowling again, so Winter, Black, Mushi and my girlfriend played while I watched (because I don’t really like bowling, it feels awkward to be on the lane, and then walk back to a watching group of people). Winter and Mushi are very serious about bowling — which is apparently quite the popular activity in Malaysia — so I think they mostly won. Black was really bad since it was his first time, but improved with each gutterball.
Sunday July 13
After winning to secure winner bracket privilege, DK did not have much to do the rest of the day. First they wanted to get some early dinner. Iceiceice once again suggested ramen at Santouka. When Mushi
said that he didn’t really want ramen, iceiceice became desperate, and immediately went to his knees to beg. In the end, 11 of us went together to ramen. Some of DK, some friends, and some Chinese casters. One of the tables got some orders of gyoza, and when the gyoza was all eaten, an argument broke out over just which fucker ate all the goddamned gyoza. Fingers were pointed, and MMY ended up having to defend himself adamantly, saying that he’d only eaten his own plate of gyoza. Still, others weren’t convinced, and the casual ribbing continued for a while at their table.
In the evening, I was making a trip back across the water to Seattle, and some of DK wanted to tag along. Coach 71 and Mushi came to shoot some hoops at the basketball court near where I live; even though Mushi is pretty good at basketball, he got tired quickly, and went to lie down while loudly exclaiming again, “I’m dying!!” On the other hand, 71 ran around shooting hoops for a good hour while the evening went on.
Afterwards, we went to a nearby restaurant and got some refreshments — iced tea and the like. Mushi reflected, “I really like this kind of lifestyle, the quiet and calm.” As the sun gradually infused the sky with ember tones, we began to make our way back. The sunset was reflected off the downtown buildings which we could see across the water, and for a brief moment, the horizon glowed in the same purple hues as the theming of this International. “Good observation,” 71 noted it too.
Earlier on the ride over, while going through the Battery Street tunnel in Seattle, 71 quipped, “This is a sexy tunnel.” It being a relatively run down, narrow tunnel, I’d asked why, and his answer was that it just was. On the way back, across I-90, going through the tunnel back towards Bellevue, I asked him whether this one was sexy as well. “Nope,” he replied very matter-of-factly.
“I feel like I’ve spent a very fulfilling day now,” Mushi said as we pulled back into the Westin Bellevue parking garage. “I really enjoy that kind of lifestyle.”
Monday July 14
In the afternoon, I sat with VG for a while, where rOtk, Fenrir, Fy, and 357 were playing some pub games. Fy was on Invoker, and at one point he called everyone’s attention to himself, “Who wants to see something cool?” as he used Sunstrike near the opposing fountain, trying to hit a low-hp escaper. As is the case when you call things out like that, he missed, everyone laughed at him, and as a cascading effect
of fail, shortly afterwards rOtk’s Naix died somewhere near the enemy T4 towers while most or all other towers were still up.
In a lull of action, I sat with LaNm, who was eating some lunch. He questioned the authenticity of the Asian-style food provided at the Westin Bellevue, “This is weird!” he said. I pointed out that at least “It’s better than last year…” and he nodded a bit. In truth, the food was generally pretty alright, but perhaps only to more ‘internationally’ acclimated tastebuds.
We talked a bit about the bubble race games going on on-screen at the time. LaNm always talks loudly about games, and he tends to find humor in a lot of things. If someone makes a funny play, he’ll laugh loudly. Earlier he was reflecting on watching another team’s replays, “And their support, he’s barely got brown boots, and he’s already put Sheepstick in his quick buy area! Such huge dreams for a lowly support!!” he’d exclaim happily. I asked him if he was really retiring, even though he’d stated as much personally in an interview, even though I knew enough about him that it seemed likely…
“Yeah.” came the answer, clear and concise.
“What do you plan on doing afterwards, then?”
“Do some commentary, maybe coaching.” he replied, and even though he’s shown that he can be a brilliant commentator, and shown that he has an excellent strategic mind, there was a small sense of loss in that moment. And perhaps another sense — one that added a feeling of true finality to this year’s DK. It would be win or nothing in a lot of ways for them.
At night, I hanged out a bit with Hao and Sansheng, who were, of course, going out back to smoke. They offered me a cigarette, which I politely declined, but the point is that they’re both really friendly people. Both of them are quick to smile, quick to laugh, and are rarely seen without either a smile or a laugh on their face. They chattered on about some happenings in their earlier matches on the day, joking and making fun of things. Night had fallen and a light breeze blew across the area — fresh off some gruelling matches, with a few days of break before the next set of high pressure challenges, this was the eye of the storm and the hot summer weather of the past few days had given way to a refreshing coolness this evening.
They say Sansheng is the guy that everyone loves, and a bit later he was back out with 357. Smoking, again, of course, and we were joined by Puppey and Kuroky. Puppey learned how to say 357 in Chinese, while 357 told Puppey what one of his Chinese transliterated nicknames is after Puppey had asked. The nickname was an uncouth one, as nicknames often are in Chinese, yet 357 said it in an endearing way and Puppey sportingly laughed. Soon, a group of somewhat drunk Russians came out with a boombox and began playing their music. Puppey smirked in his unique way, and said “Time to go,” and we headed back into the building.
Tuesday July 15
Not much really happened on this day. Most of the players hung out on the third floor playing pubs, watching replays, or otherwise whiling
the time away. The eliminated players had mostly gotten over their sadness, while the players still in the tournament were enjoying some last moments of breathing room… it felt like an ‘eye of the storm’ kind of moment.
At night, a few of us made another of our late night Safeway runs (walks, really — and Safeway is only five minutes away by foot). Iceiceice got another of the iced teas that he’d come to like, while FATA and I settled on splitting a rather large sandwich.
Wednesday July 16
This was the day that the Valve HQ tour was scheduled. Players, production, and VIPs were apparently all invited, and it’s possible that Valve did not expect the turnout that, well, turned out. Hundreds of people made the trip over from Westin Bellevue to their offices, and after a short walk, the lobby of their building looked a little frightening. In the end, things were figured out, and we were shuttled up from the lobby to their offices in small, manageable groups of 10-12 each.
Though I’d been to Valve offices and gotten the tour before in the past, it’s always a treat to see and hear again the inner workings of one of the most fascinating (and productive, arguably) places around. Prior to the tour beginning, Valve handed out small stacks of cards to all of the players present — upon further inspection, there were the player autograph cards that became hot commodities during TI4. Following
the tour, the meet and greet session held in one of Valve’s common areas would see players, staff, and VIPs from all over the world mingling and greeting each other with these autograph cards as an icebreaking point.
Through the course of TI4, I only went for cards from players that I either know, or otherwise have some sort of affinity for, figuring that it would be most fair if I left the cards from other players to people who were bigger fans of those specific players. After all, in addition to the couple dozen that players were given at this meet and greet, each player would have only 1000 additional cards. Almost everyone ran out of their small stack of cards during the Valve meet and greet, and for a while there was an impromptu line formed for people to get photos and cards with Dendi. Not wanting to abuse any privilege, I lined up as well, and after hitting the front of the line, Dendi grinned and said, “I know what you want!!” He handed me a card, either he gave me a hug or I gave him one, and I quickly left him to get back to his real work in greeting all the other fans with VIP access.
Though many of the Chinese teams and personalities chose to skip this meet and greet in favor of getting more rest or otherwise hanging out elsewhere this afternoon, there were also plenty of Chinese players that did come along (some of them due to my encouraging). Ferrari_430 was like a kid in a candy store with his player cards, except he was the candy store boss, and the candies he was selling he was giving away for free instead. To put it simply, he seemed enormously happy to be giving cards out, and he’d somehow figured out where to get more stacks of his own cards, and managed to sneak in to get more of them on at least one additional occasion. When DK finally arrived towards the end of the meet and greet, Ferrari_430 eagerly went up to them to propose a card swap. When hearing that DK had yet to get their own cards, he brought them over to me, and eager as I was as well, I went with them to go secure some of their own cards.
You can only imagine how popular DK were at this event, and they were soon swarmed by people looking to get their cards. It was a novelty, and somehow even I got swept up in it even though usually I
couldn’t care less about these things. It’s something about the fact that they are cards, collectible, and personally attached to specific players, I guess. Amongst the chaos that swirled around wherever DK happened to be, I managed to connect Thiago Vidotto with BurNIng, and they chatted a bit about the BurNIng Anti-mage set that had been made following TI3, where I had originally made the connection for them. Also present was LaNm, whose original request for a Tiny set last year has yet to be fulfilled due to Workshop model process, but nonetheless this year we discussed other options, so there may well still be a LaNm hero item set coming sometime…
As the event wound down, so did TI4’s time in Bellevue. Starting with this night, everyone would be moved from the Westin Bellevue to the Westin Seattle in preparation for the main event at the nearby Key Arena. This would be a more efficient setup than in previous years, where everyone remained at the Westin Bellevue even as the main event was held in Downtown Seattle (relying on shuttle buses to fight through the area’s traffic). Transportation over to Westin Seattle was arranged to pick people up right outside of Valve’s offices, so everyone gradually milled out to the sidewalks. These are some of my fondest memories of the entire event — the weather was warm and welcoming in the late evening, and because this was the only way for everyone to get over to Seattle to the new hotel,
everyone — and I mean everyone — was present in one big outdoor setting. For the moment, there was nothing pressing, and loud choruses of conversation and laughter rang out from all around the massive gathering of teams, casters, analysts, and staff.
It was here that I got a chance to improve on my previous EHOME picture. Catching most of the suspects at just the right time, I grabbed each of them and pulled them all over. 71 asked, “Huh, what’s this all about?” then he looked around at the assembly, a small smile came to his face, “Ahhhh, I understand now. I understand.”
As the sun went down in the mountains to the west, the next page of The International 2014 would approach.
Thursday July 17
This day was pre-event secret shop day, with access for VIPs, players, and production. I showed up around 11pm and got to go through the line once. I’d only spent $50 on the secret shop last year due to never having any time to line up during the event itself, so this opportunity was much-welcomed. Even so, the line took about an hour to get through (much better than the estimated 5 hours people were waiting on subsequent days, still). I didn’t really buy much, just stuff that I personally liked. All around me, players were lugging around their third and fourth bags of goods, and people with four digit receipts were common.
Out of the three demiheroes I got, the only one that was golden was the Vengeful Spirit, and I think the reason for it being golden was because this was the one that iceiceice volunteered to open for me. I guess one of three isn’t too bad, anyway.
Later in the day was a scheduled ‘rehearsal’ day for production staff at Key Arena, and it would be my first time being inside. Things were being set up and tested, and an air of something grand was beginning to permeate.
Friday July 18
This was the first day of the main event. Honestly, I felt a lot of pressure at TI4. People were saying, “Oh come on, you’ve done this before, you’re fine…” but somewhere in my mind, I kept thinking to how this is quite literally the largest esports event in the entire history of gaming. So the entire main event weekend came and went, and I don’t think I ever really found a rhythm. It was one moment at a time, and now thinking back, the images only return in a slideshow fashion — bits and pieces.
The first day of the main event held what was arguably some of the more enthralling encounters, as Newbee closely defeated a VG that looked to hold their group stage form over, and DK agonizingly lost to EG in what many thought would be a previous of the eventual Grand Finals. At the end of the day, Newbee were confirmed Grand Finalists.
Saturday July 19
Each of the 8 teams at the Main Event were assigned a private box room on the 4th level of Key Arena, complete with room service food and drinks and private restroom. Interestingly, the different teams’ rooms and their respective atmospheres seemed to reflect the personalities of the teams, at least somewhat, and from the attendees within each room you could also glean an idea of who was closest with whom.
As a translator, I spent a large amount of my time over the main event running back and forth between backstage and the various Chinese team rooms, making sure people were where they needed to be and had what they needed in general. Therefore I was in and out a lot…
DK and iG’s rooms were next to each other, yet the two teams rarely — if ever — interacted. Both teams seemed to be taking things relatively more seriously compared to many of the other teams, and largely kept to themselves. DK’s room in particular would often have its door shut, with the team’s invited guests inside, sitting, quietly supporting their team. Newbee and LGD were often seen mingling — with Newbee already having qualified for the Grand Finals and thus essentially having little to nothing to do for two days, their room transformed into somewhat of a gathering spot for Chinese personalities and players alike. This atmosphere seemed to suit the likes of Hao just fine, as chances were whenever I visited their room, he’d more than likely have a huge smile on his face while loudly shouting or laughing about something. VG also seemed to keep to themselves a bit as well, with a sort of quiet determination.
On this day, we saw two former International champions — NaVi and iG — eliminated. Prior to the LGD vs iG match, the two Chinese teams’ players had been hanging out together, chatting and joking. When the match admin arrived to summon them to their respective waiting rooms, they walked together, with conversation gradually dying down as they arrived at the elevator down into the bowels of competition. These two teams and their players have a lot of history with each other, and it felt like there was a sense of foreboding that replaced the lightheartedness — they knew that at the end of the day, one of them would knock the other out. With long-standing veterans of either team now retired in the post TI4 landscape, this moment becomes that much more engrained in the teams’ histories.
Either way, at the end of the day, all past International champions had been knocked out, perhaps signalling that from now on, it would indeed be a new order in the storied world of Dota.
I also met Kunkka of loading screen fame sometime on this day. Quite the awesome guy, really, I was quite honored to meet him. He tried to explain who he was, and I was all like “Dude I know!” We hung out for a while, got some food, and he gave me some key cards for his in-game item sets.
The night ended for viewers and attendees with the All-star match, and interestingly, of the 10 players present that night in the match, something like 7 of them had been eliminated from the tournament already, the 2 DK players were coming straight off a tough loss in game 1 of a best of three. So I think it was pretty cool that even despite this, the All-star match still kept up that fun atmosphere… That aside, the match featured the debut of none other than Techies, played by none other than Arteezy, who may or may not have played the hero much before. I don’t know how this decision was come upon, but I think would have been a lot of fun to have given Ferrari_430 Techies in the All-star match — he’s mentioned Techies being his favorite hero before in the past. And that might have cured him of his tryhard syndrome; two birds with one stone.
The night, for me however, would go on, as ESPN were present to film a segment featuring the Grand Finalists. Newbee were already confirmed, so xiao8 had been recruited to represent his team on national
television. Tammy Tang, AKA furryfish, had been recruited to be the translator since ESPN wanted a sense of continuity seeing as how she had been featured in Free To Play. I don’t actually like being on camera, so I was fine with that, and instead I just made myself present at the filming for support. EG were also present, filming their part for ESPN. Afterwards, I offered xiao8 a ride back to the Westin Seattle as it was quite late, and once again he thanked me with all his directness and sincerity before striding off through the doors of the building. Long day, late night, with more to come.
Sunday July 20
This would be, perhaps, the most difficult day for many fans. With Newbee having successfully secured their Grand Final spot days earlier, the reality has always been that the so-called Dream Finals between EG and DK would never — or at least, in this reality — materialize. Still, both of these fan-favorite teams remained alive. If barely, in the case of DK, who arrived this morning one game down against LGD in a best of 3.
Ultimately, DK found their footing, if only for a fleeting moment, and made it out alive against LGD.The sense of relief amongst DK was palpable, but perhaps inevitably, with VG looming on the horizon, they closed off again in an emotionally all-in kind of way — win or nothing. LGD, valiant underdogs of this tournament, finally bowed out — but a team that had been surrounded by negativity and doubts since successively losing Sylar and xiao8, had finally redeemed, or proven, themselves once again against the world’s best.
After VG knocked DK out in what some might label a fight between lost brothers, after walking DK back from backstage and witnessing the sudden crowds that had gathered outside their room, there to chant “DK, DK, DK” even as tears and spirits fell alike… After watching them depart Key Arena and TI4, I quickly rushed back to VG. Congratulating rOtK and his team, there were smiles and laughs shared. The pressure remained, and it contorted their laughter a bit, as the Grand Finals of an International can only do. Sylar stood quietly on his own; I said to Sylar, “You won.” He smiled, maybe a bit wistfully, and asked “Are they sad?” Yeah, they’re sad. He seemed sorry about it, but at the same time there was a smile on his face, because, well, he’d just fought his way into the Grand Finals of the International.
This morning, I had dreamt that it would rain later in the day; an image of cloudy skies floated across my mind. Seattle is well-known for rain and rain itself is not abnormal, but July in Seattle is actually historically quite dry, and for weeks it had almost entirely been sunshine and blue skies. So when I awoke in the morning, I wondered what rain might mean. Later in the afternoon, just as DK left the stage and their TI4 dreams behind, those gray skies from my morning dream materialized, and a light rain fell. I sometimes find patterns in life and nature, but this must have been no more than a coincidence. In that one interview with rOtK, the emotions coursed through the entire interview room — or maybe just me and the ‘old captain’, rOtK.
Walking him back to his team after the interview, “I must hold this energy in, keep it all to release tomorrow,” he declared to no one and everyone in particular. He wanted to win, strongly.
At the end of this day, ultimately we would see neither DK nor EG in the Grand Finals, with VG and Newbee instead being the ones who made it furthest. Since VG won, the ESPN segment needed to film a portion featuring someone from their team. ROtK, ever the big man, stood up for it. And when they asked him to do the entire interview, to be played on ESPN, in English, he only paused for a brief moment before I told him I’d coach him on the English needed — and he nodded enthusiastically. The interview went well even as rOtK needed to learn quite a bit of new English vocabulary.
Monday July 21
As Newbee and VG made their way down the aisles of a packed Key Arena, amongst the fanfare and acclaim of thousands of spectators, I watched from above in an empty DK room. With at least some hours guaranteed in which I would not be needed, I went where I knew it’d be empty — because none of them would be coming to the venue, at least not until later in the day. Because in their words — and perhaps in words that echo the sentiments of many teams who had come to challenge for the title — “I don’t want to watch someone else win.” Of the 8 teams that made it to the main event, I saw maybe one quarter of the players present at Key Arena in the morning.
There can only be one victor. As VG quietly departed the stage after losing and taking second place, you saw Super turning his face one last time to look at the crowds in the stands, you saw Sylar peering at the screen, you saw rOtK finding it within himself to wave at fans screaming their encouragement from above… Fenrir’s tears and Fy’s solitude in defeat; all in contrast, or maybe not so different in the end, from Newbee’s somewhat stoic acceptance of their victory.
As some of Newbee later went on to say, “I hadn’t really realized what just happened at the time…” But one person who seemed to truly be caught in the moment was banana. When I went on stage after walking with VG out from backstage, banana found me, “Give me a hug man!” and he grabbed me over and hugged me tightly, shaking a little bit from the energy of a thousand lights shining and flashing upon his head, the energy of glory.
Aftermath (random thoughts, occurrences, and quotes post-TI4)
Normally I’m not a super huge fan of any specific team over any other specific team, but this year’s DK had something different about them, and through the course of TI4, I found my heart being pulled along with their results at various times through the event. It was inevitable, perhaps, for someone like me who has been an EHOME fan, a LaNm fan, and always appreciated the likes of iceiceice and more recently following TI3, Mushi. In a few of the moments of clashing din and noise as the Grand Finals kicked off, it was hard to not imagine DK instead being the ones in the booth, on stage, on screen. ‘Dream Finals’… I can relate, but the contradiction comes when I wake up from these daydreams and find that I’m equally as happy for the likes of Newbee and VG as I am sad for DK — and iG, LGD, even NaVi, EG, C9… and everyone else who came to chase a dream and left unfulfilled.
It’s always hard to see people lose, but the converse is that when there’s a loser, there’s always a winner — and it’s fun to watch the winners celebrate and be joyous. In the end, whomever wins I’m happy for, whomever loses, it’s a shame, because you can really, truly, see and feel how much people care about these things. And for me, growing up in Beijing in a similar internet cafe-based gaming youth, it’s hard to describe but easy to relate even more closely to the backgrounds that a lot of Chinese pros have.
After all the dust settled and the venue cleared out, Dendi and iceiceice remained for over two hours signing autographs. Iceiceice told me, “I’m just gonna sign for everyone,” gesturing towards the relatively large crowd that had gathered. Go for it, I told him, I have nothing else to do now anyway.
Over the course of the main event, for some reason there was a decent amount of fans stopping me for an autograph or photo. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’m anyone special, and I really don’t even know how to sign an ‘autograph’ (versus a normal signature — is there a difference?). Either way, though, thank you to those fans, your passion is contagious and your smiles vibrant. It was a pleasure meeting each and every one of you, chatting and hanging out in some cases.
At the afterparty, I ran into Newbee, who had had their fun for a few hours there and were preparing to make their exit. Mu came up to me, hugged me, “See you next year, yeah?” he grinned.
“I dunno.” I shrugged back at him. He looked exasperated, grinned some more while pointing at me, and said again, “I want to see you here again next year!”
Talking to ddc later on, he would reflect, “If we’d gotten to play the entire best of three that night…” he trailed off as he puffed on his cigarette.
“You might have won.” I offered.
“We might have won,” he nodded, looking off into the late night sky. Such is the nature of competition, however, and what-ifs are always prevalent, always there beckoning for you to pour your thoughts, and then hopes, and emotions into them. It’s easy to get caught in the whirlwind of daydreaming in this case, thinking, what if… what if…
“I want to win TI5 for DK,” he mused. “This year’s DK, I mean.”
“Even if you have to beat whoever is next year’s DK?” I questioned.
“Yeah. I’m going to beat next year’s DK to win TI5 for this year’s DK,” the logic made perfect sense.
“I wish LaNm wasn’t retiring so we could fight for another year.” he looked at LaNm, who wasn’t paying much attention. “LaNm! TI5 fight another year!!”
“LaNm means hero…” he trailed off a bit, looking at me.“Hero? In what language?” I was curious.
“In my own dreams,” LaNm smiled even as nearby iceiceice made fun of him for what he’d just said.
“I don’t want to accept that I am a four-eyes,” he declared. Noting that several of us present were four-eyes, he also added, “You guys are fine, but just not me. I plan on improving my natural vision back to where it was by doing eye exercises, looking at faraway things often, and the such. I look bad in glasses.”
I found rOtK in the hotel lobby, playing Mafia with other Chinese players and commentators. Mafia has been a game they’ve been very passionately playing at TIs since last year. Even though this year they added the Uno card game to their repertoire, Mafia was still a go to. I sat next to him for a few moments in a lull in the action, and asked him, “Are you coming again next year?”
“Yeah! And what about you?”
He laughed, and said “I’ll be here, let’s meet here again next year!” in that characteristically enthusiastic manner of his.
“Good, you can be the translator next year,” I joked, “Your English has been excellent this year!”
“Yes! Hahahaha,” he threw his head back and roared in laughter.
“And I’ll come as a competitor.” I concluded.
I’d been missing his player card for the entirety the event, and at long last, on the final day, I tracked him down. I literally ran him down, and he looked a bit frightened, as I’m probably a good foot taller than he is.
“Player card please!!”
He laughed, pulled out the last two he had in his pocket, and said “Here, have them all!”
“There was this guy, I remember, he was pretty good, played solo mid. He joined our team, back then it was just a couple hundred in salary a month, we just played. One day, he said he needed to go back home, his mom was doing surgery,” there was a pause in the story as he looked around.
“Well, shit, surgery! That was all our reactions, so we told him to take the time he needed and get back home as quickly as possible to be with family.”
“Later, we learned that his mom’s surgery was cosmetic surgery.” The table burst out in laughter. “He never came back after that, might have felt like it was too hard,” he continued on, “But really, that kid was really good. Quite good. He left for home, told us some days later that his mom’s cosmetic surgery was very successful, and never came back,” there was a bit of wistfulness in his tone now. Everyone clinked their glasses again.
This being my second International — with no guarantees of there being another one in my future (because who can tell what the future holds?) — it was a bit harder to sort through my thoughts and memories. It’s possible that the sheer size and scale of this year’s International also played into it. So this is why this writeup is over 8000 words, took over two weeks, and probably still isn’t that great, and doesn’t truly do justice for just how interesting the event was, and just how much you could see it meant to everyone involved.
Nonetheless, hopefully I’ve conveyed some of the feeling in what it was like to be present.
all the various media outlets and personalities that I met (and even sometimes worked with — I want to help everyone)
the fans!! both at the venue, and online (in English and Chinese language communities alike)
staff, my fellows, and anyone and everyone else that I met during the event
Quite insightful. Hope to see you at TI5! 🙂