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~!

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