D2L S4 in my view

Prefacing note: Big thank you to the fans in Vegas who helped out in various ways. Getting food for the teams, helping me out, etc. You guys are great. On that note, same goes for the fans at MLG Columbus last year, who I don’t think I thanked enough either. Thank you. Thanks to all the passionate fans that come out to these events to show support in each of your unique ways. Thank you to D2L and EG for the event in Vegas here and letting me be a part. Below is D2L S4 in my view.

It was another early morning flight out of Seattle for D2L in Las Vegas. A quick two hour flight meant that I’d arrive in Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport before noon on Jan 6. Upon arriving at the hotel we’d all been booked at for the event, Harrah’s across the street from Caesar’s Palace, the first thing I saw was all of VG checking in at the front desk. I’d been in contact with their manager JaL beforehand, so I went up to him, introduced myself, and made sure they weren’t having any problems with anything. We chatted a bit about their stay in Vegas so far — they had arrived a day earlier on their own expense in order to be better prepared.

After we got everything checked in, I got a call from the VG manager saying they were gonna go out for lunch, asking if I wanted to come along. With nothing else going on for the time being, and needing to make sure we got VG to the venue at Caesar’s around 3pm for their sponsor interviews (the one where rOtK told someone to kiss his ass), I decided to tag along. Some Chinese fans who had made their way out to Vegas graciously took us to a Yunnan Chinese restaurant a few minutes away by car, and we had a pretty tasty lunch there.

Lunch with VG

While eating, another completely different group of dudes came into the restaurant to eat, and upon entering, one of them muttered, “Aren’t those Dota pros?? What are they doing here?” To which his friend deduced, “They must be here for a competition!” When we went to get the check for our table, we were told that it had been paid already, with the waitress gesturing towards the back of the room where these guys had earlier gone to sit down. This was after the Chinese fans who took us to this restaurant in the first place were insisting on paying for us all in the first place, and the various camps of fans joked that they were competing for the players’ love at this point. Anyway, Sylar looks to rOtK and suggests that they should send someone over to thank this other group of fans. ROtK agrees, tries to get Sylar to come along, ultimately failing in doing so (Sylar seems to be satisfied at having suggested it), and goes over on his own to meet and greet and pause for a few photos with the fans.


Shortly afterwards, we leave the restaurant and hang around outside for a bit, with the players mingling with the fans and taking a few group photos. I should note here that all of VG were very gracious and approachable with fans. I might be ruining Sylar’s quiet badass image but he’s a nice kid that isn’t afraid to make a joke here and there, and he smiled more than anyone would’ve imagined him to be capable of (if all you see of him is on streams). I’ve liked Sylar since first meeting him at TI3, really, I think he’s misunderstood sometimes. Fy was exchanging cigarettes with a fan (Chinese smokes), rOtK chatting about local attractions, and Super and Fenrir both casually hanging out. 3pm approaches, and loathe as I am to break up what has turned into a pretty relaxed hangout, I herd everyone back onto their respective vehicles, the destination being the Emperor’s Ballroom at Caesar’s Palace.

Hanging out

Caesar’s Palace is freaking huge — most everything in Vegas is freaking huge — and once my vehicle arrives, I know we’ve made a mistake in not clarifying exactly which part of Caesar’s we should gather at. The manager, my girlfriend, and I disembark only to see zero trace of any of the VG players. They could be anywhere, and the only one of them that has local phone service is the manager. We split up in three ways to look for them, and in some dash of luck, everyone is rounded up within minutes. After a fun (as would be seen later), and pretty short and painless, interview session, I make sure VG know their schedule for the next day (room opens at 9AM for early practice, first match at 12PM), they head back to the hotel. Later that night, we would run into all of VG again at the McDonald’s next door, as word got around that this McDonald’s was one of the only places nearby with free wifi. ROtK made plans to go see a David Copperfield show, which it seemed he enjoyed, but the rest of his teammates declined the opportunity.

“Kiss my ass”

During the rest of the afternoon on Monday, EG’s Jay Todorow and I have been trying to figure out the time we should go pick up LGD at the airport. Apparently no one had their exact flight info, and some of what we did have ended up being incorrect. Earlier in the morning, I had seen a Weibo post from ddc saying that they’d been delayed six hours in Shanghai, which meant they would ostensibly be at least six hours late getting into Vegas as well. In the end, I confirmed their flight information by way of snooping Yao’s Weibo, where he had posted a boarding pass, and by confirming this information with LGD’s boss Ruru. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to all, the earliest post I’d seen from ddc regarding the six hour delay was the one with the real information we needed — LGD had been delayed taking off in Shanghai, which meant that they were to miss their connecting flight, which meant that there never was any chance of Jay and me finding them at the airport on the two occasions we went and tried. Eventually, I got in touch with a local contact whom LGD had contracted to help with the team. After much waiting and checking on statuses, we were told that LGD would be taking ground transport from Los Angeles to Vegas due to them not being able to be on the original flight out of Shanghai, with an ETA of around 5AM on Tuesday morning. Crazy, but it actually worked. Big thanks to ReborN, the LGD contact for Vegas, for helping me handle this situation and for all the work he did in helping LGD.

820 and LGD in the house

The next morning, I headed over to the venue around 10am and caught up with VG on the way, who were making their way over a few hours early in order to get set up and warmup before their match against Alliance at noon. The machines provided for the event seemed to have just been used at another event in China, and some of them were loaded with random Chinese software that caused compatability issues all through the event. Additionally, there was no shortage of crashes, lockups, and lag spikes, which hopefully is an explanation for the too many pauses that occurred during the two days. VG get setup, and around noon LGD shows up at the venue to watch the match and get ready for their later match against Fnatic. Accompanying the LGD squad is none other than legendary captain and heart of 2010 EHOME, 820 himself. In the LGD interviews later on, I would get 820 to answer a question as a part of LGD here. Xiao8, as has always been, took the lead for his team in arranging the interviews. Upon first seeing me at the venue, DD waved happily, and I waved back. For the rest of LGD’s interviews, they were professional and down to earth, as has been the norm for this old school team.

Interviewing with xiao8 and Yao

After VG’s match, LGD were up, so I helped them get setup just as I helped VG. Once LGD were on stage, I went and sat next to 820 for a brief while and chatted randomly with him for a bit. Asked about him returning to the scene, his words were, “There’s not really any chance of me coming back as a player, I never said I would, that must’ve been something some editor made up somewhere. It’s definitely possible for me to continue being a coach, but no guarantees yet which team it will be in the future.” We chatted a little bit more about the drafts and games as LGD played, but I was soon called away on some other duty. 820 is a chill, approachable person who isn’t afraid to chatter, very down to earth guy.

While LGD were playing, Twitch.tv’s Eleine came and asked me to invite VG to a dinner paid for by her, so I did, and VG decided they would go back and take a nap so as to be more awake in the evening. Only Fenrir stayed behind, watching the LGD vs Fnatic match. By the time LGD were done playing, I was leaving the venue as no more Chinese teams would be involved for the night, yet Fenrir was still staying behind. I guess he wanted to watch Fnatic vs Alliance as well, and he didn’t come for dinner, instead just going straight to bed afterwards.

Dinner was originally scheduled for 8pm, but got pushed back to 9:30pm due to everyone being passed the hell out and me not being able to get anyone up until then. By then, the original planned destination of Caesar’s Palace buffet was closing up, so we just went to the buffet in Harrah’s. Out of VG, only rOtK seemed to eat much. He looked at my clam chowder and asked what it was, then resolved to go get a bowl of it for himself as well. The rest of the players just sat around after one plate of food and chatted. Sylar ate all of a few pieces of fruit, and then announced that he’d go straight back to sleep after dinner.

The atmosphere was lighthearted and laid back, and we slowly meandered from one topic to another. We asked rOtK if he knew about what ‘DK’ stood for, and he said he had no idea, though theories were thrown out, including ‘Dota Kings’, ‘Donkey Kong’, ‘Dragon Knight’, and ‘Da kuan’ (pinyin for rich guy). We prodded fun at Super, who had just turned 21, and on his first day in Vegas had spent over $300 gambling only to have lost it “within two minutes”. I joked that it was a birthday gift to himself, and we all laughed. Super elaborated, “Manager and I went to the gambling floor and we observed for over half an hour trying to find an easy table (blackjack). We singled out one that we felt was the most noob, I went in, and came out two minutes later $300 poorer.” At one point, Sylar noticed that rOtK and I were amongst the last ones eating, and noted the fact. I said to him, “I haven’t really eaten all day, not even breakfast,” and he was like, “Wow, that bad?” with a look of compassion. Like I said, Sylar’s a good kid.

We wrap up at dinner and the players head back up to their rooms. ROtK and the VG manager take up our offer to come up to the executive suite which Twitch.tv’s Eleine has rented out for the event, one of the only places within the hotel that has wifi, and they come up to get their fix of internet for a while. We chat a bit more about random things, amongst which is the current meta-trend on the Chinese servers. “Alchemist, Slark, Earth Spirit, Doom, and Broodmother,” they explain, are the most imba heroes that are seen in every single game. Looks about the same elsewhere too, I guess. ROtK is playing some games on his iPad, including Clash of Clans, if there’s anyone out there that plays that game (I know it’s popular).

VG’s rOtK and manager JaL hanging out after dinner

The next day it’s LGD vs VG in the upper bracket finals. VG gets knocked down while LGD continues looking strong, and everyone is surprised that Fnatic has taken out Alliance. In the words of Fenrir regarding the last game in Fnatic vs Alliance, “Don’t even know how to lose, yet Alliance lost”. Of course he went on to add, “We have those games too, where we think we don’t even know how we can possibly lose, then we lose anyway.” The day is strewn with technical issues as lag, update problems, hardware issues, and more abound. Between doing interviews (both on stage for the event and off stage for Kingston), helping resolve technical issues, and running after players to make sure they’re on time, I don’t eat nor rest much for the entire day.

View of the stage

In the end, VG crash out at the hands of a Fnatic team that no one rated highly, yet noticeably grew in stature with the event. VG quietly filter out to the side room, where they sit in contemplation for a good half hour, then they all come back into the venue to watch LGD play against Fnatic in the Finals. ROtK sits next to 820, and on and off through the games, they chat about what’s happening on screen. Sylar and Super go back to bantering about things, Fy mostly sticks to his phone screen, while Fenrir eventually heads backstage to get on a computer back there and chat and watch the games himself. During one of the finals games, I corner him in this setting and we have a really nice chat just about random things. Life, what brought us to this spot at this point in time, EMS One, etc. “It’s been really nice having you here this time, in Poland for EMS One it felt as if we were on a different planet. It was like we were back in the Stone Age, we could only communicate by hand gestures,” he offered, after I explained to him why I’d be here and how someone like me might be fluent in both Chinese and English. EMS One was his first time overseas, and Vegas was his first time in the US. “Keep qualifying for international events and you’ll eventually learn plenty of English too!” I suggested cheerfully. He chuckled. He told me about how their team owner gets really happy whenever they win anything, and after their successive first place finishes in the Sina Cup 2 and EMS One, they were all given bonuses and gifts, but their third place finish here might mean they get less Chinese New Year bonuses.

VG watching as LGD fight in the Finals against Fnatic

On stage, LGD are playing the Finals against Fnatic. During this event, between every game, they went off-stage with their coach 820 to discuss tactics and approaches. After this first loss against Fnatic, 820 is forcefully stating his thoughts, “Just take each game one at a time, don’t worry about anything else!” He addresses each player individually, giving them a sentence or two on what he wants them to improve or focus on in the next game. “Xiaotuji, you’re a more fighting-focused carry, remember that for next game!” he says to the carry, then he reiterates to the whole team, “Fnatic are indeed aggressive, but that doesn’t mean you can shrink back in the face of it! You need to increase your own tempo, dictate the pace!” Xiao8 answers this with a shout, “Let’s go! Anyone that still feels drowsy, go splash some water on your face and let’s do it!” LGD head back on stage, 820 shouts one last time at them from below the stage, “Get excited! Get into it!” and as the horns sound across the speaker system, first xiao8, then Yao, answer back, both to their coach and to themselves “Let’s do this! Add oil!” Yao and xiao8 are making calls, shouting, and just generally moving their team along. The rest is history, as LGD takes the series 3-1.

LGD win

The ‘gg’ comes scrolling across the screen, and the LGD team huddles on stage for a quick team celebration. One of them shouts to go grab the coach, 820, and the six of them, ever so briefly, and perhaps for the last time ever, do a team hug. Then, also as a team, shoulder to shoulder, they bow to the live crowd in appreciation, and begin to pack their gear up. After the award ceremony, the team seems a bit muted (though LGD are generally a more reserved group). Twitch’s Eleine offers to buy them dinner as well, but after some debate, they decline and say they’re heading back to the hotel to rest. We end up finding them at the hotel cafe downstairs, and Eleine buys their tab anyway. As LGD are leaving, they find out their tab has been paid for, and they all come back to our table. Yao is saying “How can we accept this kindness, this is too much.” It’s okay, we explain, Eleine wants to do this. They all look at us, and soundly voice their appreciation. Xiao8 looks straight at us in his unique fashion and says the most determined “Thank you!!” I’ve ever heard from anyone.

LGD return victorious…

It’s nearing 2am at this time and after saying our goodbyes with LGD, the rest of us head back up to Eleine’s room for an afterparty of sorts. Everyone shows up, DeMoN, Fnatic, Aui, Merlini, Ayesee, even Alex Garfield. By this point I’m too drained to do anything much but listen. Thundertoss of SC2 fame has come along too, he’s a cool dude, along with a few other esports friends that we’ve picked up. Fnatic are some funny guys and Aui seems like fun to hang around with. Speaking of Aui, the Chinese scene thinks he’s pretty good. Anyway, it was nice seeing everyone again even though I’m 99% occupied with the Chinese teams during these events, one day I’ll do better with really getting to know the Western players and personalities, etc.

That was that for the D2L S4 Finals in Vegas. VG would head back to China on their own after scheduling an additional half day to spend recreationally in Vegas. The next morning as I’m leaving the hotel, I come across LGD waiting outside the lobby to head to the airport as well. Taking the opportunity, I go to them to say my goodbyes one last time. Yao looks at me goofily and says “Good morning!” enthusiastically, a greeting which I return to him and the team probably even more goofily. I make sure with them that all is okay, that they’re ready to head home, then I turn to leave for my own ride… but not before I turn back again. I sit down briefly next to xiao8; I look at him and he looks at me… “You’re leaving?” His reply, eyes unwavering, “Yes.” I’m not sure he hasn’t misinterpreted my question as asking whether they’re leaving Vegas at that moment, so I ask again, “You’re going to a new team?” This time his gaze shifts a bit, but his voice remains steady and straight, and even louder and more determinedly responds, “Yes!”

Blurry morning goodbyes

I pause for half a second, then I reach over and hug him, “Thank you. And good luck.” Standing up, I repeat the gesture, a light hug and a wish for them, with each of the other LGD players. Yao offers his thanks, and ddc offers to give me an Ursa micro-plushie, which I turn down and ask him to keep for himself. Lastly, I put a hand on 820’s shoulder, “Bye!” and that was that.

Out of the three events I’ve been involved with backstage, TI3, MLG, and D2L… D2L has been the only one where the players I’m helping have won the event. Even if for different reasons, this last bit means that D2L may be another bittersweet memory……

Follow DOTALAND: twitter.com/Dotalandt.qq.com/AutumnWindz

Dotaland at D2L S4 Finals

I’ll be in Las Vegas for the D2L Season 4 Finals from Jan 6-9, 2014. Translating and helping with VG and LGD and stuff. If I have random pics/etc to share from the event, they’ll be on the Dotaland Twitter, so check there if interested. Come say hi if you’re going to be attending!

More information on D2L: http://d2l.gg
D2L stream: http://www.twitch.tv/d2l


TDSL Dota 1 League sees a brief return of 820, YaphetS, and more

Streams for the elimination segment of the TDSL Dota 1 league can be found here: http://tdsl.gamefy.cn/

Interestingly, this is a Dota 1 league sponsored by none other than… Tencent. The choice of Tencent to sponsor Dota is strange, but perhaps less strange if you consider the fact that it is Dota 1 and not Dota 2… Prize pool of nearly 10k USD for first place, with a few thousand more split between the next couple places. Also interestingly, the team with 820 and Nekomata (both former pros turned commentators) crashed out early on in the event, so 820’s competitive cameo return was short-lived, apparently.

A brief interview was done with 820, who had a team in the tournament, and is also the lead caster for the league.

Q: 820, hello, very happy that you are able to participate in this as a commentator. What led you to also participating as a player?
As a former professional Dota player, I still have a lot of love for this game. Even though I’ve transitioned into commentating, I’m still very passionate about the game, so I put my name in for the competition.

Q: Regarding version 6.79b, what strategies do you feel are more flexible, and are stronger in pubs?
This version has changed a lot of heroes, causing heroes that formerly had no chance of being used seriously to emerge left and right, such as Venomancer, Clinkz, Bristleback, etc. Lots of strategies still remain to be developed.

Q: There are fewer and fewer Dota 1 events nowadays, how long do you think Dota 1 can continue on, and why?
This is a very normal thing, after all Dota 1 was popular for so many years, so its fading away now isn’t unexpected. But there are still many people playing it right now.

Q: This event will be played on the Tencent matchmaking platform. You’ve also used this platform before, what do you think of it?
A pretty good software, lots of functions have optimized the small details, allowing the whole experience to be more streamlined. I hope they can continue to improve on it.

Q: Because you have a team participating, you became favorites for the event. PIS (YaphetS) and his friends are also participating, what do you think of this old adversary of yours?
PIS is a very good player, and he’s been doing vods and practicing all along so I believe that he will be a threat to us.

Q: What do you do in your spare time outside of Dota?
Watch some shows and make some vods.

Q: If you were given another chance to play professionally right now, would you choose to do so? Why?
I think probably not, because I’ve already experienced life as a professional player, so if I was given the chance again, I would probably choose to go do something I haven’t done before.

Q: Anything to say to those fans that still stick with Dota 1?
There is no Dota without friends.

Sources: http://www.gamefy.cn/nview.php?id=362&class_id=51http://tdsl.gamefy.cn/http://www.gamefy.cn/nview.php?id=393&class_id=51

MLG Columbus 2013 in my view

Going into this MLG, the first Dota 2 MLG, I didn’t really know what to expect. Never having been to Columbus before, that added to the mystique. In the end, I came out of it with a truly unforgettable experience, friendships, and a new-found understanding for why so many pro players are so damn skinny. I apologize in advance for the relative lack of pictures, as it’s a personal thing for me to not abuse my access when I’m invited to an event. This is my point of view from MLG Columbus 2013 as both an invitee to help with DK, and as a Dota 2 fan there for the spectacle, and finally, as a DK fan.

Thursday Nov 21, 2013

I left home in Seattle at 5am sharp to catch a series of flights that would guarantee I arrive in Columbus with a few hours to spare before DK’s plane was scheduled to arrive, the reason being that my first duties for MLG Columbus entailed being at the airport with the hired van driver to pick up DK and get them to the hotel. MLG had rented a big comfy van and a driver for this purpose, and around 9pm I got the call from the driver downstairs of the hotel and we headed over to the airport. Whilst waiting, Sigma and NaVi both went by and Dendi noticed me, got a goofy grin on his face and waved, to which I grinned back and waved probably even more goofily. His team seemed to be like “what you doing bro” and he gestured in my general direction. A brief time later, and the first of DK appeared at the foot of the escalators, coming down from the upper level of the airport to the baggage claim area. iceiceice, Mushi, and MMY, then BurNIng and LaNm. BurNIng smiled, somewhat surprised I was there I suppose, but seemed happy enough. A familiar face after nearly a full day of travel, perhaps? I waved as they approached, greetings were made, and iceiceice asked some random questions. We waited for their checked bags, and then we were off to the van to the hotel.

Team DK at the Columbus Airport

On the way to the hotel, I asked if they were hungry, and hungry they were. After getting them into their rooms and dropping their stuff off, by this time it was nearly 11pm, and so we simply decided on getting them food at the bar on the second floor of the Hilton. They got some pizza and wings, and LaNm wanted a burger, so he got that too. Iceiceice got a single pork belly slider — it was good, he said. While eating, MLG’s Adam happened upon us, and the introductions were made. Awesome guy, super straightforward kinda dude, he made sure that DK were as comfortable as they could be with their accommodations and filled me in on the basics of what to expect for the weekend.

With stomachs filled, the team was ready to rest up. LaNm would room with BurNIng, and BurNIng jokingly asks LaNm if he snores. LaNm exclaims that, no, he doesn’t! Mushi and iceiceice are together, while MMY rooms with the manager Farseer. I update them on the schedule for the next day: venue opens at 10am, teams are free to enter at that time to practice on the many stations MLG had set up backstage, the event officially starts at 5pm, etc. MLG really had their bases covered regarding practice space for the teams — there was never a lack of stations for teams to warm up and watch replays on and players had full access to these stations during all hours of the event — well played.

Friday Nov 22, 2013

Friday started off slowly as only half of DK had gotten up by the time I got down to the venue around 11am. The ones that had gotten down there, however, apparently had woken up at 6am — even after that late night and all the travel. I found LaNm, iceiceice, and BurNIng I think it was at the off-stage area. We were soon joined by Mushi and MMY, and the five of them had some fun playing a few pubs together. At lunchtime, we ventured over to the nearby North Market, where everyone got pho except iceiceice, who got Indian food. LaNm however became distracted by a Thai place and promised that he’d come get that next time… though there wasn’t another opportunity for him to do so over the weekend. As noon passed, they wanted to head back up to their rooms to rest a bit more, as most of them had woken up early due to jet lag and needed some more sleep. Unfortunately this meant that they missed their 4pm autograph session, but hopefully DK were generally available enough over the next few days for any fans to meet and greet with them. Around 5pm they came back down, bleary-eyed but with a bit more bounce in their step, and went back-stage to warm up prior to their on-stage matches against Alliance and Liquid. First they played a pub or two together, then did some analysis and discussion to their upcoming games.

Team DK backstage at MLG Columbus.

And then they were up on stage to play — Alliance, followed by Liquid. Honestly I hardly even remember these games themselves, but DK came out of the games 2-0 victors, showing impressive form. After the games, some passionate local Chinese fans (students from surrounding universities, mostly) came and offered to take us all out to eat. The offer seemed to be well-received by the Chinese contingent of DK, while iceiceice and Mushi apparently had been planning on going to get a burger nearby. Either way, everyone ended up piling onto a couple cars and off we went, about ten minutes away, to a Chinese restaurant.

In the words of iceiceice, “I don’t like Chinese food, I don’t know why they come out here and still want to eat Chinese food.” It wasn’t too bad though, and when Mushi and iceiceice indicated that they wanted a bit of Peking roast duck, our gracious local hosts ordered an entire duck… By the time dinner was over, it was 11pm and at least BurNIng looked tired and ready to head back. Apparently the restaurant’s boss lady is a Dota fan as well, or at least feigned to look like she knew who DK were (maybe she just saw team uniforms and thought they must be important), so everyone gathered up to take a group picture at the end. The only one of these photos I have is the one where no one was looking at the camera…


It had gotten quite cold by nighttime, and BurNIng was shivering at the doorway of the restaurant as we left. I gave him a mini-hug to warm him up a little bit and he was like, “Aren’t you cold? Or you’ve gotten used to it…” Yeah, I guess the difference in weather from Shanghai to the American Midwest in winter is pretty drastic; in a lot of buildings in Shanghai they don’t even have heating, such are the mild winters. It had been snowing a little bit on and off that evening and night, and iceiceice was especially excited about it — he had never seen snow before in his life, this was his first time. So, in between shivering breaths, he’d be exclaiming how exciting it was, and asking whether his breath would frost up in the chilled air, and how he enjoys cold weather more than hot weather, because you can always put more clothes on, but can’t necessarily take more clothes off, and oh my goodness it’s so cold right now, and how he imagined snow might be fluffier…

Saturday Nov 23, 2013

DK’s next match would be their first off-stage match, against Fnatic. I had them down at the venue by around 10:30am so they could have some time to warm up and get used to the setting, and they had some fun playing more pubs together. They started their last pub pretty late before the 11:30am start time against Fnatic, with just around 20 minutes time. LaNm declared, “Pick fast push!” and off they went, with the likes of Shadow Shaman, Leshrac… for an 11 minute victory.

The rest of the day, DK mostly cruised. Right before the DK and Navi went on stage, they were informed of the question that would be asked of each of them. Iceiceice and Puppey quickly decided that they would coordinate an answer between themselves, and hence came the hot chocolate answer. After their off-stage match against Sigma, they had around 2 hours for dinner or a break, or whatever. All of them except iceiceice chose to head up to their rooms to get some sleep, while iceiceice went with us to Five Guys at my suggestion, as he had been wanting a burger. It was snowing again as we made our way by car to the Five Guys a mile away, near Ohio State University campus. I ordered for iceiceice at his request, and got him a bacon cheeseburger with everything, plus extra mushrooms and onions, with A-1 sauce on top. “This is quite good,” he said through big mouthfuls. I’m glad you liked it.

Iceiceice with Five Guys

The light snow continued on our way back to the hotel. “Snow makes everything look nicer,” iceiceice remarked. Yeah, it does. But it was still cold, and iceiceice quickly forgot about his plans to make frosty clouds of air with his breath outside as we rushed back inside the hotel from the car. For the remaining hour, he went up to his room to relax for a bit as well, and so I waited downstairs for the rest of the players to appear at 8pm, half an hour before their scheduled match against Pretty Boy Swag.

Mushi came down first, followed by MMY, but then the rest of them were nowhere to be seen. 8:15 went by, then 8:20, then 8:25. By then I’d knocked on their doors and had begun calling their rooms. Sleepy voices echoed out from the other end of the phone, at least alleviating my fears that they’d somehow gone out and gotten lost somewhere. Instead in its place was a mystifying wait, as it was only 15 minutes later that iceiceice finally appeared downstairs, by which time it was already 8:40. So I went to room 520, where BurNIng and LaNm were staying, and knocked on their door — LaNm came to the door, putting on his jacket, and BurNIng was just climbing out of bed. He looked groggily to me, “We’re late, aren’t we?” I looked back at him… “Yeah, yeah you’re late,” with an exasperated but amused feeling inside.

BurNIng gets up, puts his shoes on, and looks at his phone and bursts out laughing. “I know why we never woke up!” he looks around at LaNm and me, “It’s because I set the alarm for 8 in the morning, when it should’ve been for night.” I laughed, LaNm laughed… Yeah, that’ll do it… that’ll make you late indeed. We rushed down to the venue, a mere 25 minutes late for Pretty Boy Swag. DK was clearly still tired, as their play and drafts were sloppy in both games against PBS and later Speed.

DK drafting in an off-stage match.

Afterwards, we discussed with MLG briefly the logistics of the next day’s semifinals matches, upon which DK eventually decided on playing second, and they went back up to work together on discussing their next challenge against NaVi. BurNIng started discussions that night by saying to his team, “This is one of our great opportunities to win a title… we’ve come so far already…” Even though they were fine with me being there, I didn’t want to intrude any further, and after helping them get a late dinner, I said my goodnights, made sure they knew their schedule for the next day, and left them to their preparations.

Sunday Nov 24, 2013

The next morning, iceiceice, BurNIng, and LaNm were up bright and early as I found them around 9:30am finishing up breakfast at the restaurant on the second floor. After breakfast, BurNIng went back up to get some more sleep, and iceiceice, LaNm and I headed to the venue. We went backstage, and LaNm excitedly exclaimed, “Time to pub!!” I love playing pubs!” and then invited me to play with the two of them. That was pretty fun. During one of the pub games, the other team was convinced they were fakes, but by the end, were wishing DK luck at MLG.

A bit later, MMY, BurNIng, and Mushi showed up, and DK gathered to do some last minute analysis and whatnot.

DK preparing before MLG semifinals against NaVi.

With about an hour to go before their semifinals match against NaVi, NaVi themselves showed up, and the two teams hung out a bit backstage. Iceiceice challenged Kuroky to an arm-wrestling match, and upon beginning the match, iceiceice immediately took both hands to KKY’s one hand, ‘won’ the match illegitimately, and raised his arms in triumph while Kuroky looked on with a mixture of bemusement and non-acceptance of having just lost the arm wrestling match. The rest of the time went similarly lightheartedly, with chattering and trolling and joking amongst the two teams.

I think it was before the NaVi match here that Mushi ended up being the one who had an on-stage question directed at him, thanks to iceiceice volunteering him for it while Mushi was in the bathroom. Mushi came back, heard that he was going to be questioned, and immediately shrank back trying to decline. In the end, I coached him on his answer a little bit after Mushi kicked iceiceice for signing him up in absentia, and Mushi went on-stage with his answers ready.

Discussing strategies.

Then came the semifinals match. The actual games were a blur in my mind, but DK ended up with the win after a game 3 in which BurNIng, perhaps uncharacteristically, took the risk of building a Divine Rapier when he wasn’t absolutely pressed to do so (in fact, not at all needed).

Of course, his Rapier came after they lost a close game against NaVi in game two, where XBOCT built a dominating two Divine Rapiers. After game three ended with a Rapier of his own, BurNIng then said something I’ll never forget:

“How am I worthy of our fans if I don’t build Rapier there?”

Throughout the weekend, DK were regularly mobbed by fans looking to get pictures and autographs, perhaps because DK were unable to make their session. Hopefully they were available enough throughout the event to make up for their absence at the session. On finals day, they had far less time to pause for signings and photos, and even still, they tried their best and often I had to play the bad guy to ‘drag’ them out of a crowd of fans in order to keep them on schedule. Hopefully no one was let down, and hopefully everyone understands the scheduling… BurNIng always had a conflicted look on his face whenever he had to decline.

And then, without much downtime at all due to scheduling delays, DK were up to play against Speed.int in the Finals of MLG Columbus. They’d come so far, and perhaps this was the closest any of them had been to a title in recent times. It was Mushi’s first final ever, in fact. DK won game one after a gruelling back and forth battle, with LaNm carrying the team on his spectacular Earthshaker play. After that game, backstage, LaNm was exhausted. He looked like he’d run a marathon, and indeed, he probably did the mental equivalent. By this time, DK hadn’t eaten since breakfast around 10am. A lot of players prefer not to eat full meals within a reasonable time of a competitive game, so you can imagine just why guys like LaNm are so skinny.

One more win, one step away.

In the end, DK faltered. LaNm was practically asleep during the game 2 draft, and from a casual fan’s point of view (my point of view, that is), his seating in the center of DK’s five isn’t a coincidence. He’s the beat of the team, the rhythm-keeper, and when he’s tired, the team feels it. (For those that are curious about DK playing the second semifinals, refer to this reddit post to learn more) Some of the drafts were questionable too, perhaps another result of the team, and BurNIng, being really tired. After the loss, Mushi sat quietly for a bit, the rest went without talking, and then they waited for each other to head back to the hotel together. It was nearly midnight already, and MMY, BurNIng, and LaNm all went up pretty quickly and fell asleep. Mushi came back down after a while, he and iceiceice hung out with us on the second floor lobby. We ordered some pizza and pasta delivered and the two of them, with me and my girlfriend, we four sat peacefully, eating and chatting into the night until about 2:30am.

BurNIng, MMY, and LaNm were to leave at 6am in the morning for their flight back to China and I was to go with them to make sure everything went smoothly. Originally iceiceice and Mushi were supposed to come along too, but their flight being only at 11am, they decided to head to the airport later. At nearly 3am, we all headed back up to our respective rooms, said our goodbyes. A few minutes later, iceiceice messages on Wechat (instant messaging service) asking what room I’m in… and appears at the door in his boxers. He insists on giving me the stuff from the bag that MLG gave to each player — a Steelseries mouse and mousepad, and a Turtle Beach headset. So right now I have in my possession the headset that iceiceice used live in his off-stage games at MLG. o_O. Thanks ice. Then we say what we think are our last farewells for the weekend… Hotel fire alarm goes off ten minutes later, and we see iceiceice and Mushi again in the lobby. Evidently, the rest of DK has slept through the alarm.

Sometime during the night, we ran into Dendi. He offered a photo op with him, but then added on that it would be ten dollars. Instead, I offered him the photo op with myself, he accepted, and thus I got a free photo. And he gave me a hug too. That made me feel better about the finals that had just ended… Thanks Dendi, you’re cool. I’ll see you next time too.

Hello Dendi.

In the morning, BurNIng and LaNm are downstairs and checked out on time, and after a slight delay, we have the others who are leaving on the morning flight. Spirits seem to be as high as they can be after losing a major final… or perhaps it just hasn’t sunk in yet. I know it hasn’t for me yet at that point. They’re discussing loudly — boisterously, even, what went right and what went wrong for them the previous night. LaNm is confident in what he says, MMY often offers a different perspective, while BurNIng sometimes agrees, and sometimes disagrees with the both of them. I go with them through security check, and after half an hour in which they never stop discussing, their boarding call is heard, and I herd them over to their boarding gate.

MMY smiles wanly before quickly turning away, the manager nods in appreciation, LaNm waves and simply says “See you next time”. BurNIng lingers a little bit, turns to me, smiles, and says “Give me a hug!” And then DK was gone, as quickly as they’d come.

Perhaps it didn’t sink in for them until they got back. It didn’t sink in for me until the trip home. I only then realized that I had so wanted to be able to send them home that day with the trophy, with a major tournament title. I’m sure they wanted it way more than I ever could have imagined.

All credit to Kaipi/Speed, they played to their style and didn’t let anyone or any external factor (of which there were many — all the more impressive for them) stop them, and that’s what winning is about. As for DK, MLG Columbus weekend has given me an unimaginable chance to be close to them, get to know them, and perhaps even help them. I can only thank MLG and Adam for the opportunity, and my respect and liking for DK and each of their players has only increased, if that was possible at all. DK — BurNIng, LaNm, Mushi, MMY, iceiceice… you guys are great.

Thank you.

shout outs to Cyborgmatt, Xixi, LD, Vykromond, Lumi, DPM, Godz, Merlini, Tangeng, Sun-Tzu, Dendi, Valve Chris, Valve Phil and family, and anyone else I missed but enjoyed the company of, for being fun to chat or hang out with at various times during the weekend. You all helped me keep my sanity while I went through with ~14 hours sleep over 4 days.

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Chinese Social Summary: Nov 15 — Nov 26, 2013

Link to previous issue: Nov 1 — 13, 2013

Translations of random snippets from Chinese Dota 2 scene social media… for fun and light reading, etc. This issue includes some posts regarding the MLG Columbus Championship held over Nov 22-24. I also probably missed a few interesting ones from right before and during MLG.

My MLG writeup will be coming in the following days, stay tuned.

ChuaN and DeMoN

Let’s make a team!!: DeMoN posts this at ChuaN, but ChuaN’s response, “RETIRED”, and thus our hopes for a new international super team withered.


Diretide Roshan coordination: “Through farming Roshan, we improve our teamwork :D”


Relationship with CTY (with pics): “Public display of affection”


This is iceiceice with a puppy (with pic): “iceiceice’s son”

rOtk, Faith, and ddc

Response to G-League group draws:
rOtk: “What a nice draw Haitao (Chinese caster with G-League) has given us, oh well, we can only get in and go!”
Faith: “It’s gonna be bloody :o”
ddc: “Holy shit it’s gonna be bloody”


Farming Roshan for weight loss:”I’ve lost 2.5 kg while farming Roshan”

MLG Columbus 2013 posts

BurNIng after losing final group stage game: “Don’t think any team would purposefully try to face NaVi in the elimination stage? Losing to Speed was our own problem, banpick and laning we all didn’t do well, and my own play was very weak as well, with lots of low-level mistakes. As for tomorrow’s matches I can only say: Let’s do this!”

rOtk watching DK vs NaVi: “NAVI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” “Worth staying up all night to watch, 1-1 is a new series. Hope DK comes through next game, this game XBOCT was too scary”
Of course, random people accused rOtk of being jealous of DK, to which he responded that he was purely expressing excitement at a good game, and later on predicted that DK would win the finals 2-0.

Black is a huge DK fan (of course): multiple posts consolidated in one link

xiao8’s prediction for finals: “DK 2-1 takes the title!”

BurNIng after finals: “Champion is not my fate.”
KingJ response to BurNIng: “It’s not that bad, don’t get pessimistic”

KingJ to MMY: “I know you’re really sad… don’t cry!! At worst, just start over again!!!” (MMY re-posted and responded “Yeah”)

Mushi: “The title passes me by. For someone like myself who has never been in a finals before, I can only say thank you to my teammates for bringing me into the MLG Finals. Let’s get back and continue working hard.”

LaNm: “Once again, one step away from champions. In the latter two games of the finals, I’d run out of stamina and my thoughts were a mess. Dota nowadays, unlike in the past, is truly difficult to just win all the way on the back of strong momentum. Tactics are more varied, laning and other elements can all determine the early game. With an early game advantage, snowballing farm with Midases, without a very resilient and flexible lineup it’s very hard to come back. I will focus on working on stamina, it is so important to be able to remain clear-headed. Sorry to my teammates, I tried my best.
DC (retired pro player, current caster) response to LaNm: “The scheduling we can talk about in private, but stamina is indeed something that wouldn’t hurt to look more at. Think about me, look at MMY, and you’ll have plenty of motivation to get out and exercise!”

Zhou: “eesama………..”

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CDEC nationwide league starting up

Some 20000 RMB in total prizes, and a nice-looking format for those looking to get competitive.

Signups currently open for teams: http://www.vpgame.com/egl.html (signup process guide here)


Oct 18 – Oct 24: Signups, teams may have 3-6 players
Oct 25 – Nov 3: First scoring phase (free matchmaking within CDEC — as long as THREE or more players from a registered team are on the same side, the results of the game will count towards the team’s CDEC rankings. If players play solo in CDEC, then their results will count towards their individual rankings.)
Nov 4 – Nov 7: Team roster adjustment period (Team captains may kick or recruit players, but may not remove their registered vice-captain. During this period, individual players ranked within top 20 may be featured with bios and replays. At the end of this period, teams without at least 5 players will be seen as null.)Nov 8 – Nov 17: Second scoring phase (free matchmaking within CDEC — as long as FIVE or more players from a registered team are on the same side, the results of the game will count towards the team’s CDEC rankings. If players play solo in CDEC, then their results will count towards their individual rankings.)


1st place team: 10000 RMB (EGL-CDEC regional finals qualified)
2nd place team: 5000 RMB (EGL-CDEC regional finals qualified)
3rd place team: 2000 RMB
4th place team: 1000 RMB
5th place team: 500 RMB

1st place individual: 500 RMB
2nd place individual: 300 RMB
3rd place individual: 200 RMB

Most CDEC games played: 500 RMB

links: 123

Fengyunzhibo Dota 2 Open, with over 77k RMB (12.5k USD) in prize money for new teams and casters

Recently announced: Beginning in October of this year, Fengyunzhibo will be holding an open tournament that gives a chance for aspiring competitive teams and new casters alike to participate in an open format tournament. The organizers promise a fresh format, open participation opportunities for amateur teams and casters, and an impressive prize pool. Signups are currently open from now until October 7, with preliminary stage competition set to begin on October 18.

Grand Champions: 50,000 RMB, Runners up: 10,000 RMB, Third place: 8,000 RMB
Preliminary winners: 3,000 RMB
Fan voting All-star team: 3,000 RMB
Best caster: 1,500 RMB, Second place: 1,000 RMB, Third place: 800 RMB

Sources: Fengyunzhibohttp://dota2.sgamer.com/news/201309/152745.html

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The International 2013 in my view (part 2)

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.

Alki and stuff. Downtown Seattle in the distance. Black in the foreground.

Dumplings in Chinatown.

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)

I asked Banana what he thought, and he noted that there had indeed been comments during TI3 regarding a certain familiarity.

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.

The legend’s very own TI3 jacket.

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.

TongFu’s Hao and Mu doing a dual interview with the Chinese media.

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.

Chinese casters forlorn, as TongFu.CN fall.

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).

Some of the Chinese players, at my urging, came along for an adventure in the main area on the final day. I really like this picture.

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.

Other notes

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!


TI3 after party

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.

IXMike in the crowd

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.