The Summit 3 in my view

After having gone to The Summit 1 last year prior to TI4, it seemed fitting that this year, somewhat before TI5 I’d find myself at the third iteration of the event: The Summit 3. I mean, there aren’t many other parallels on paper… the teams are all vastly different, the participants quite different, and even the tournament itself very different – in good ways, but more on that later (EE also had a good writeup to a similar effect here). Even as things changed so much after TI4, a lot of things remain the same. Everything… and everyone, felt familiar and real.

So here’s TS3 in my view. Who will even read this after my having been inactive here so long? No matter, I just want to get thoughts on paper again…

May 12 2015

Tiffany (the gf) and I flew out bright and early on May 12, the day that BTS had scheduled as their media day. I’d be needed to help with that, where they were to shoot some fun promo video bits, along with interviews. Having tagged along with me to various events in the past, often helping teams out as a friend when I was busy elsewhere, I think BTS made a good call in having her come along too given the three Chinese teams being present meant that there would be times where just having me may not be enough. I may be biased but this was by far not the only good call BTS made – TS3 ended up being one of the most organized and generally best events I’ve been at. Anyway…

Upon landing at the Ontario airport, we walked out to find a person gesticulating wildly at us through the windshield of a van. “Remember me?!?” he’d half shout, half laugh through the open window. I remember you SirActionSlacks, you’re the guy

Buggatis and stuff

that almost died of dehydration while interviewing people after the last day of TI4. Well, that’s not all you’re known for but I remember anyway. A short car ride later, we were again at the top secret BTS lair, where things were already in full swing in preparation for TS3.

credits to BTS flickr

Interviews were done, laughs were had, and somehow things felt like they’d never changed. I felt like I got back into the rhythm of things fairly quickly… Perhaps it is because of the casual atmosphere of the various Summits, perhaps it is players becoming more carefree, but when the BTS guys told the Chinese players to goof it up on camera — many of them were very receptive. Even players who traditionally project a very serious outward appearance such as BurNIng, xiao8, and Sylar got in on it. Even MMY — who is renowned for being awkward on camera — played along. This alone is an achievement of TS that I have not seen any other tournament manage.

Around noon, having a break in the action, I grabbed some food and joined VG on the couch in the fun stream room. Knowing that they counted many football (soccer) fans amongst their midst, I put on the Champions League semi-final matchup between Bayern and Barcelona. Support for the two teams seemed roughly split, even as old man 357 went on tangents about Batistuta and Rui Costa: “Where’s Rui Costa? Batistuta would have scored that!” accompanied by Hao and the VG manager JaL laughing at him.

VG watching FCB vs FCB

SSDs for everyone

There was some other stuff that happened on the pre-tournament day – BTS covered their bases in having everyone fill out tax and payment forms. For LGD, xiao8 took care of all their team’s stuff like the captain that he is, while Maybe had questions about everything (but not in a bad way). Afterwards, teams got scheduled time on the practice rooms and PCs, while teams with no scheduled time either went back to the hotel for the practice room there, or in the case of VG went to a nearby LAN cafe.

May 13 2015

This was the first match day of TS3. The day before, there had been a Hotbid interview with Super of VG with iceiceice doing the ‘translations’. Needless to say, certain meanings were distorted purposefully, and they enlisted my help to make subtitles to reflect the true meanings. That was fun.

On this first match day, VG registered – for lack of a better word – two fairly casual victories. They’d win their games, come out looking not too fussed, and then head downstairs to get food and play Pro Evo Soccer on the fun stream. There was an interview with Hao, always happy to talk and share his thoughts, and there was an interview with Fenrir who has come a long way from his early days of declining interviews back at D2L in January 2014. A long time ago, but not so long ago either… After his interview, Fenrir looked at me, and proudly went, “That was a pretty good one, eh!? I gave lots of good answers and stuff.”

At some point today the other Champions League matchup between Real Madrid and Juventus went down: Fy seems to be a Real Madrid fan, and more specifically perhaps, a Luka Modric fan as he’d asked about whether Modric was playing for Real Madrid and seemed a bit disappointed when told that he was out injured.

When dinner arrives for the night, Hao quickly returns with food, sits down and declares “This chicken is so fucking good!” in front of the 14-odd thousand viewers who are all tuned in to watching VG eat. After most of the day was over, VG decided to play poker in the fun stream room. Half of the stream seemed to be up in arms over this as it wasn’t their idea of fun (I hold no opinions on this matter). I attempted to interact with the BTS2 stream chat somewhat, to varying effect. Either way, it was fun for me as I’m not actually a twitch chat regular and don’t even have a twitch account. So to anyone on that chat: I had a good time, hope you guys all did too!

Later that night, I get word from iG that someone on their team is sick. It turns out it’s Luo, so with the help of BTS peeps I go about gathering some cold medicine and vitamins from the BTS house to bring back for him. Finding iG at the hotel, Faith and ChuaN immediately notice me and say hi. I hand them the medicine, and more concerned with making sure they know to relay the correct medical advice along, I go into the directions for how to take the each different item. Faith cheerfully repeats what I’ve told them and I’m satisfied that the information has been successfully relayed. Ferrari appears from the hotel practice room, notices my Wintersun shirt and wonders what it is.

credit to BTS flickr

The night is late so we all head together to the elevator. In the elevator, ChuaN bursts out laughing at BurNIng as he sees the picture from earlier of BurNIng grinning like a madman. BurNIng tries to explain himself, “they were doing all kinds of dumb stuff in that room so I laughed and got caught on camera, it’s not what it looks like!” But ChuaN is having none of it as he laughs his way out of the elevator and all the way to their rooms.

May 14 2015

Hao and the Newbee boss at an NBA game

Day two of TS3 matches brought a more serious atmosphere, as teams hunkered down into the competitive tension. The exception here being VG, as they would have multiple days between their appearance on day one of the event until their next match. Taking advantage of the lull in activity, Hao went with the Newbee boss (son of one of the richest dudes in China) to an NBA playoff match. Watching the actual match later, I tried to keep an eye out for them but someone else got a much better cap of them in sideline seats. Some people wondered how Hao got there – the Newbee boss arrived at the BTS house around 4pm (in a Rolls Royce) and took Hao with him through the LA traffic.

Throughout the duration of the event, there was a team from the GQ magazine on-scene filming stuff for what they told me would be an online feature into the world of competitive gaming. For this purpose, I tried to spend some time talking to them about the Chinese side of things along with just sharing some general information and advocate for Dota some, so to speak. They actually put me on camera and filmed me talking to them a bit about Chinese Dota, and since LGD was in the house that day they asked some questions about LGD.

LGD-Gaming

I wonder if that’ll make it into the feature, but it was interesting nonetheless that GQ would send a team to film for multiple days to get a story on esports. Pretty cool; I’m looking forward to see what they make of it. We did suggest to them to get Fy for a photoshoot because it’s GQ, and this is Fy, but I don’t know how that went. 😛

Around this time is also when I first discover the wonder that is Gang Beasts. Somehow I end up dominating everyone else at this game, which is interesting because I’ve literally never played the game before. It’s a hilarious game though.

May 15 2015

1v1 CS:GO

The first half of the day was rather laid back, as LGD and iG successively showed up at the house to prepare for their matches on the day. LGD hung around in the fun stream and out back on the patio, as the weather had finally gotten a bit better (it had been raining the past few days), while iG went upstairs to the practice room. They were spread around the room relaxing: ChuaN watching the games and joking around with people, BurNIng playing pubs, and Ferrari_430 casually challenging S4 to a 1v1 in CS:GO.

S4 asks, “What’s your rank?” And Ferrari’s response was that he had no rank, he’s never played ranked. S4 laughs a bit, because apparently S4 is really good at CS:GO. We all expected Ferrari to get rekt but he held his own, at least partially due to S4 going easy on him. The highlight of the 1v1 came when S4 jumped down from the area above the CT spawn (is it called the catwalk? Or A-short? I only know these nicknames in Chinese…) while Ferrari was below and knifed him for the kill midair. The whole room exploded in cheers at that point, but ultimately Ferrari_430 held his own and only lost by a couple kills.

People were passing around a notepad having pros draw their favorite heroes. I came across BurNIng struggling to draw not Anti-mage, but Faceless Void, which I think he chose because it was slightly easier to draw. Ferrari specifically looked up an ‘easy version’ of Shadow Fiend and practically traced it off the screen, while ChuaN spent many minutes researching his ideal Rubick look and had it ready on his phone for when the notepad finally came his way. His Rubick thus was one of the more impressive drawings of the day, and he even asked for green pen to color in the green highlights of Rubick, but was unfortunately denied as there was no green pen handy anywhere.

Later on today iG was eliminated. I think. I’m pretty sure it was this day. One truth of working at events is that you hardly have any time or energy to really sit down and watch games and follow the tournament as a fan might. Sometimes, when you finally have some downtime you just want to relax and not stare at a game. Anyway, I think iG was eliminated on this day, by LGD I believe it was. After losing, iG were in no real mood to hang out and left the house in record time — understandable as despite The Summit’s casual approach, the competition is serious and so is the prize money and glory on the line.

Blurry practice room look

In the evening word gets to me that iG wants to reschedule their flights and leave LA early, to which I tell them that it’ll cost probably hundreds of dollars each, and they would essentially only be leaving a day or so earlier. Despite their bugattis and whatnot, a couple hundred dollars is still money and while these guys see handsome salaries and steady prize money, I’ve never known a Chinese player to be wasteful and so they ended up staying for the original duration. By the time I encountered some of them back at the hotel again this night, their spirits seemed to be much recovered and Faith brightly confirmed again to me that they would indeed not be leaving early. My next order of business was to try and convince some of them to try their hand at casting or otherwise hanging out at the house, and I spent a good hour or two on this. ChuaN said “I’ll cast if BurNIng casts with me,” but BurNIng got away without doing it and in the end ChuaN would come hang out and cast the next day anyway.

May 16 2015

I don’t know how he always sits like this

The competition is really starting to heat up and people are actually watching the games in the fun stream room. Watching EG vs LGD, VG’s guys talk about Aui_2000, “His carry was really good, and he was really good on that D-team… Dignitas? And that PotM team he was on was good too!” Then game 2 comes and ChuaN has arrived. Sitting down with everyone else, including the LGD manager and coach, we witness LGD buying back somewhat haphazardly and ChuaN nods in understanding, “I can relate. By the time it gets to this point, you just can’t stay calm anymore, you just have to buyback!!”

In the end LGD loses to EG and that’s the end of their Summit 3 journey.

Watching…

Sometime during this day we’ve introduced VG’s Fenrir and Hao to the wonder that is Crossy Road. Some of these guys are really into mobile games as a time filler (which makes sense since they are constantly on the move). Somehow this particular game caught their attention especially, and Fenrir and Hao spent at least an hour competing with each other. They both got near 200, but I think Fenrir did better. As Fenrir plays the game he makes sound effects for his chicken crossing the road, declaring as he dies a hundredth time “I’d rather jump in the water than watch my little guy get hit by a truck!!” Moral victories, I suppose.

And then it’s time for VG versus Secret, and they go with their team back out on the patio to discuss their approach for the matchup.

Aui won but had to go so forfeited his next round

VG versus Secret would see the result of ChuaN volunteering himself to join a cast on stream. A bilingual cast for an international game. It went alright, I guess. I’m under no illusions that it was unanimously loved, nor do I think it was executed perfectly, but it was pretty cool just because of what it was. I wrote out some of my thoughts on the general matter on reddit here if you’re interested.

Later on in the evening there was the Smash Bros tournament, but by that time most players are gone or leaving and everyone left at the house is running on fumes. I win one match as Game and Watch then lost the next round to the eventual champion, and I’m ready to call it a night too.

May 17 2015

This is the last day of the tournament, and just as things are reaching a crescendo you’re also becoming acutely aware that, well, this is it — the finals are coming. Win or go home, and… go home anyway. Because the tournament is drawing to a close. Everyone always has a good time at Summits, and even though VG loses to EG and ends their tournament third in what can be considered an upset, spirits seem to remain relatively high. They spend a solid two hours discussing as a team in the back patio but then they’re back in the house, hanging out upstairs in the practice room. Iceiceice and 357 set up to play some pubs together, even BurNIng shows up and hangs out for a while.

Secret win woooo

It’s almost like the grand finals are a sideshow, and perhaps to a great many of the players at this point it is. I get the last open seat in the room, and it’s next to FATA, who has his desktop background repeating an image of some dude. When I ask him who it is, I learn from him the “legend of kebap”. Later on Puppey comes and sees the desktop as well and for a few minutes it is kebap story time – apparently he was a player on mTw and loved cheese. Or something.

Iceiceice is playing Doom and has eaten the new rock golem creep, which causes mini versions of Doom to spawn whenever he dies. Every time he dies, he laughs like a maniac while trying to throw rocks at the enemies with the mini Dooms. BurNIng’s in the corner pubbing, but when I go look closer, he’s streaming… And he’s streaming on ZhanqiTV, and it’s lagging, and he’s constantly trying to make it less laggy but in the end it never really improves. We get him and some of the VG guys some In-N-Out, then BurNIng weighs himself on the scale in the bathroom and apparently he’s only 65 kg.

first time Super ever smiled

Fenrir, Fy, and Super hang out with us a bit and we chatter for a while. We talk about life and stuff… it was kinda deep. Then they want to go, but Fenrir keeps chatting, and Fy just stands there kind of blankly. He says, “I thought you guys were having a good time chatting so I was just gonna wait.” But we let them go, but not before I get a picture.

At some point Secret wins and the after party starts. Certain individuals get drunk and stumble around dangerously, doors are torn off walls, more people are on the floor than not at certain points in time.

see you

SmAsH smashing us all

After sending them off, I come back inside and there’s an impromptu game of Smash 64 going on. Except it’s not really a game, because it’s a massacre, and the massacre is coming at the hands of SmAsH of Not Today. Somehow I think we may have figured out the origins of his ID… Anyway, he’s coming out of a 4 player FFA with 3 out of 4 lives intact and 8 KOs on average per round. I try to 1v1 him after the others give up, the best I get is down to his last stock but it’s clear he is an excellent Smash 64 player, the best in the house, and he’s done it all with a giant grin on his face.

As the chaos swirls around us, BurNIng makes to leave in the night. He goes to find LD to express his thanks and bid farewell, then he’s off too. I go back upstairs to watch iceiceice play his pubs, and PPD comes over. He’s a funny dude when he wants to be and briefly sarcastically commentates on SumaiL’s pub game from over his shoulder. He also notes to iceiceice that “I was surprised when we beat you guys” and everyone just generally hangs out and exchanges pleasantries in a way that a shared interest allows. I find Kuroky and Zai at some point and say hi, then bye, because it’s getting quite late…

Eventually it’s sufficiently late that I feel like I should go too, and I run around the house trying to find and bid farewell to everyone I can, the BTS guys and gals, the people running camera and sound (for some of whom this is their first esports event), other personalities and whatnot, players… but I’m sure I still missed people. Regardless, this is a big thank you to everyone at the event and everyone working tirelessly to make the event what it is.

Thanks lastly again to BTS for having me here. As I mentioned in the short mini interview Toffees did with me on stream, it’s a privilege, and it’s always been a privilege, to be able to see all this at the ground level over the years and actually be a part of it too.

You can follow Dotaland on Twitter for occasional updates: twitter.com/Dotaland

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The International 2014 in my view

The International 2014 in my view

This is The International 2014 from my point of view. I tried to share thoughts, insights, and generally give a feel for what it was like during two weeks of the greatest esports event the world has ever seen. You can also check out the full album of pictures here: http://imgur.com/a/u7okG#0

And follow DOTALAND for more updates: https://twitter.com/Dotaland

Saturday – Sunday – Monday July 7

Hi again…

Over the weekend before everyone had arrived, we went early to meet up with DK — who had also arrived early — and get some dinner. BurNIng had been out shopping, MMY and LaNm were doing who knows what, so in the end it was Mushi, iceiceice, and we went out for some Japanese food. It was okay. Mushi was still jet-lagged, and loudly exclaimed on a few separate occasions, “I’m dying!!” On the way back, they picked up a pizza for the others.

On Sunday or Monday evening, just after coming to say hi, Basskip noticed a phone on the floor. I took a look at it and upon seeing the lock screen, I knew whose it was, and went to return it to xiao8. Xiao8 thanked me, explaining that he’d just run into Bulba by gesturing at Bulba who was still nearby, and in their excitement at seeing each other in what one might imagine to be quite the physical greeting, his phone dropped out of his pocket and had been missing for a few minutes. The first few days before anything officially started went on like that, with old friends greeting each other, and new friends being made.

Tuesday July 8

The summer of 2014 has been one I’ve looked forward to for a while now, with TI4 only being one major part. The other part, of course, was the World

Another year

Cup, and this day was Brazil versus Germany in the World Cup semi finals. My ideal outcome would have been, I guess, the German in Black advancing in the Wild Card matches, and Brazil advancing in the semi finals of the World Cup. The reality, as it often is for me, was the opposite of my hopes. It was always going to be hard, of course, with CIS having had so many troubles before finally arriving in Seattle, and Brazil missing vital players — and so even as the Germans on the green grass of football demolished their opponents, the German and his Chinese comrades fell on the digital fields of Dota.

Afterwards, Black found some solace in the company of DK, who were making their way by foot to a nearby secret HQ they had established. They kindly offered us a look in — it would be an apartment nearby, provided by a friend, with full PC setups. I’d known of DK’s plans for doing this, but seeing it all still left me impressed at just how much work they’d put into TI4.

Yes, yes, we’ll pick that…

On the way over to the apartment, DK commandeered a set of cards that each had a Dota character printed on them. They took turns drawing cards until they got five, saying that the five would be their picks for their next matches. Though the cards were randomly shuffled, LaNm still kept getting a hero he is quite familiar with, Enchantress. Every time that happened, he’d throw his head back and laugh loudly. That transitioned on to them each drawing five and theory-crafting whose lineup might win, which quickly devolved into shouting and jesting on the sidewalk as we waited for some of the others to get their Starbucks orders. The sun was shining on a warm Seattle day, and things were casual, if only for one last day.

On our way back from checking out DK’s secret base, Black and I stopped by a nearby restaurant, where some Valve people and some players, including Fata and Kuroky, were watching the remainder of the Brazil vs Germany match. Asked how he felt about the then 0-7 scoreline, Kuroky smiled wanly and replied, “It’s okay, I don’t really care about this though.” I was meant to meet him there earlier to watch more of the match together, but since Black had previously expressed a desire to watch the match, I had waited a bit for him so

“Reporter Kuroky on the scene with iceiceice here after he’s just lost his defense of the solo title”

he could come along too.

The Solo Championship was also today. After iceiceice crashed out early and S4 eventually won, iceiceice sagely said, “The winner of the solo championship cannot win that year’s International. Lose solo championship, win TI4!!” He cited his solo title from last year alongside his team’s performance, and after Mushi also lost, he was even more convinced in this theory.

Ping pong DK

430 vs Dendi ping pong

There was a ping pong table set up in an area of the Westin Bellevue, where players from pretty much every team played some ping pong at some point over the week. Some legendary matchups were seen here, such as Ferrari_430 vs Dendi, Mushi vs BurNIng, XBOCT vs the world…

Later in the evening, I took Lumi over to an Asian supermarket so he could buy some lemon honey nectar for his voice. At night, I also came across Fenrir playing a pub game as Earthshaker. Not having any earphones in, he had no sound nor sound effects, obviously. We chatted about the goings-on on screen, with me calling jokingly gg for the other team as his team suffered wipe after wipe, and him happily chiming, “No, we will win!” Since he had no sound, he created his own sound effects for his Earthshaker. Every time he’d use Enchant Totem, he’d go “dooong!” in a sing-song voice, and then he’d add in “baang!” in a similar way with Fissures or the occasional ultimate. In the end, he lost, but it felt like a happy pub game nonetheless.

Wednesday July 9

DK coach 71 has taken to calling me “Two bro”, explaining that, “In each of the two times you’ve been present at our events the past year, we’ve placed number two”. And I’d answer each time, “I don’t wanna be two bro!” He’d grin, sometimes respond that he was just kidding, and we might meander off into some other topic if he wasn’t needed elsewhere.

To dinner… and a better tomorrow

After a tough first group stage day, DK planned on going to get dinner at nearby Boiling Point, a Chinese restaurant serving individual-style hot pots. I came along for the short walk over, planning on leaving to head back after they arrived at the restaurant since I’d already eaten. When we got there, BurNIng pulled me in with them, saying “Come!! Just come!” and even though I didn’t plan on eating… who can say no to BurNIng? So I sat with them while they ate, we talked around about the day’s matches, life, girlfriends… stuff like that. When BurNIng’s food came, he dropped a chopstick and asked for a new set. After the new set came, he had grabbed them in his right hand, yet began looking around and asked, “Where did those new chopsticks go??” He looked around confused for multiple seconds. “What about those in your right hand?” I gestured at him. He looked down slowly, looked back up slowly, rolled his eyes with a big smile on his tired face, and went to work eating a much-needed meal. LaNm was hungry too, having immediately called for a second bowl of rice after the first had arrived, stating that “I have already decided that this will not be enough!”

Sometimes swings his player badge behind him, and walks in a wobbly fashion

Later at night, a few of us are playing some pubs in the now-deserted practice area. Nighttime is essentially the only time the practice area is open — during the day it is always full of players, coaches, and occasionally other casters/etc. Around midnight, Mushi arrives, sets himself up in a corner, and watches replays, not leaving until well past 3 AM.

Thursday July 10

I helped with some interviews on this day. The Sylar interview was pretty alright, I think, since he doesn’t get interviewed too much. At the end of the interview, there was a question asked on what he’d do with 1 million dollars if he won. Thinking about it for a few moments, he then answered that he’d help his mom achieve her dream of being able to visit Macau on a vacation. Heart-warming, and I feel like I keep saying this, but Sylar is really much nicer than his stone-cold veneer suggests. After the interview concluded, we walked back to the main viewing room, and he explained to me again, “Before I left home this year, my mom asked me to do well so I could help her take this trip to Macau, it’s been her dream vacation…”

LGD contemplate

Since they won all four games on day two of group stage after having eaten at Boiling Point, DK decided to go to Boiling Point for dinner again this day. All about not changing what works, or something like that. Incidentally, NewBee, VG, and LGD all decided on this place for dinner at various times as well this evening — whether their results would match DK’s after eating here would remain to be seen.

On LGD’s way over to dinner, I ran into them, and walked with DD for a bit. He quietly sighed, looking contemplative after some poor results for them thus far, “Beaten almost into tears…” Some quietness ensued, but true to his more out-going personality, he perked up a bit as we talked about the upcoming VIP and players’ Secret Shop day prior to the main event. He’d been excited about the Secret Shop since before arriving in Seattle, having asked me about details of the catalog already, and sharing with me his plans to exchange for over a thousand dollars in USD in order to buy things at the Shop. Later on after the Shop day, I ran into him again as he activated his codes — of which he had gotten many Genuine Golden ones — and he had looked quite pleased with himself indeed.

The teams, after winning or losing, would mostly all spiritedly debate and discuss things.Even LGD, who could be said to be having a pretty tough time at TI4 thus far, seemed to be in okay spirits — well, as okay as you can get after some hard losses — and mostly spent their time together. Later in the night, Yao came down to check out some replays and play a

“I’d beat you in Starcraft 2”

pub or two to switch things up a bit. He’s always got a big smile on his face when he sees me, but it was clear that as captain of his team at TI4, the pressure was immense, and he walked with a certain weight around his shoulders.

As the evening wound into night, a few of us set up shop once again in the now mostly-empty practice area to play some Age of Empires 2. Near the end of the game, which we played 3v3 against bots, iceiceice shows up, with his team having finally wrapped up their day. We briefly debate some of the qualities of the Age of Empires, things move on for a short time to Starcraft 2 where iceiceice asserts that he’d beat Black handily, and then Black runs off to play ping pong. Iceiceice then goes on to watch some replays, and I watch iceiceice watch replays. “I dunno why I watch replays… I just look at people run around” says iceiceice as he has the camera centered on one hero with replay speed on max. “I just watch replays ‘cuz everyone else does,” he shrugs.

Friday July 11

There was a really long interview with Ferrari_430 today that the Russian interviewer morf asked me to help with. I’d had no idea it was going to be that long, and even though Ferrari was a good sport and the interview itself wasn’t bad, by about 25 minutes in he was starting to get antsy. When we ended, he grinned a bit and asked if all Russian interviews are this long… to which I responded that I have no idea, because, well, I have no prior experience in this realm either. Later on in the All-star match at the TI4 main

Like this!!

event, Ferrari might have given himself a reputation as a tryhard no-fun type, but in honesty he’s pretty far from that. Sure, he definitely has a tryhard gene in him, and that’s because he finds fun in trying hard, but he likes playing games in general. There’s something carefree about the way he conducts himself — some might call it aloof, but in his own words, “I’m really bad around strangers but once I get to know someone, I can’t shut up.”

After the day’s matches, in which DK manages to achieve a decent result after an early 0-2 start on the day, BurNIng declares that he needs to go next door to the bowling alley/arcade to relax. So he disappears. Shortly afterwards, upon hearing that BurNIng is there, Mushi follows suit, and we had some DK.BowLIng. BurNIng claimed it was his first time playing, and the way he held the ball and sent it down the lane supported this assertion, yet his ending score of around 130 suggested otherwise. Beginners’ luck, perhaps. Mushi clearly has bowled before, and his bowling stance looked quite professional to my untrained eyes, but even his score didn’t beat BurNIng’s beginners’ score of 130.

Saturday July 12

There was another interview with the Russian guy — I think by this point I’ve figured out that he’s from Prodota — today, with BurNIng. I don’t really recall what the interview covered, and I don’t really recall what I was talking about with BurNIng while we waited for the interview, but apparently it was okay.

Waiting around

LGD stay alive

Today’s LGD, after winning to get into tiebreakers, were buoyant, and shouts could be heard from in their room. As the game was called, DD burst out of the doorway shouting, scaring

A coin flip

DK’s coach 71 who was sitting outside the room watching their game on a screen. Yao came following out, still shaking with an electric adrenaline, and he hugged each of his team’s players. Before the next tiebreaker, Yao and xiao8 came together for a short time, and they shook hands and shared some words in the way long-lost brothers might, “Good luck, I hope we may both advance.” There was a steely resolution in the words, and though the words held hope, there was also a tentative caution that both sides shared. They both understood fully well that this TI has been one of surprises and upsets and that nothing was guaranteed.

Later in the afternoon, iceiceice wanted pork belly and the only place I could think of that had it was ramen, so we went to nearby Santouka to get ramen. It was good, he said. I agree, but I don’t think I’m as picky about food as he is. Later on, Mushi, Black, and ohaiyo wanted food too so we went with them again, where the ramen was also said to be very good by them. Ohaiyo in particular noted, “I will bring my team here to eat!” After that, Mushi wanted to go bowling again, so Winter, Black, Mushi and my girlfriend played while I watched (because I don’t really like bowling, it feels awkward to be on the lane, and then walk back to a watching group of people). Winter and Mushi are very serious about bowling — which is apparently quite the popular activity in Malaysia — so I think they mostly won. Black was really bad since it was his first time, but improved with each gutterball.

Going to ramen…

Sunday July 13

After winning to secure winner bracket privilege, DK did not have much to do the rest of the day. First they wanted to get some early dinner. Iceiceice once again suggested ramen at Santouka. When Mushi

DK.Basketball

said that he didn’t really want ramen, iceiceice became desperate, and immediately went to his knees to beg. In the end, 11 of us went together to ramen. Some of DK, some friends, and some Chinese casters. One of the tables got some orders of gyoza, and when the gyoza was all eaten, an argument broke out over just which fucker ate all the goddamned gyoza. Fingers were pointed, and MMY ended up having to defend himself adamantly, saying that he’d only eaten his own plate of gyoza. Still, others weren’t convinced, and the casual ribbing continued for a while at their table.

In the evening, I was making a trip back across the water to Seattle, and some of DK wanted to tag along. Coach 71 and Mushi came to shoot some hoops at the basketball court near where I live; even though Mushi is pretty good at basketball, he got tired quickly, and went to lie down while loudly exclaiming again, “I’m dying!!” On the other hand, 71 ran around shooting hoops for a good hour while the evening went on.

Afterwards, we went to a nearby restaurant and got some refreshments — iced tea and the like. Mushi reflected, “I really like this kind of lifestyle, the quiet and calm.” As the sun gradually infused the sky with ember tones, we began to make our way back. The sunset was reflected off the downtown buildings which we could see across the water, and for a brief moment, the horizon glowed in the same purple hues as the theming of this International. “Good observation,” 71 noted it too.

Earlier on the ride over, while going through the Battery Street tunnel in Seattle, 71 quipped, “This is a sexy tunnel.” It being a relatively run down, narrow tunnel, I’d asked why, and his answer was that it just was. On the way back, across I-90, going through the tunnel back towards Bellevue, I asked him whether this one was sexy as well. “Nope,” he replied very matter-of-factly.

“I feel like I’ve spent a very fulfilling day now,” Mushi said as we pulled back into the Westin Bellevue parking garage. “I really enjoy that kind of lifestyle.”

Monday July 14

In the afternoon, I sat with VG for a while, where rOtk, Fenrir, Fy, and 357 were playing some pub games. Fy was on Invoker, and at one point he called everyone’s attention to himself, “Who wants to see something cool?” as he used Sunstrike near the opposing fountain, trying to hit a low-hp escaper. As is the case when you call things out like that, he missed, everyone laughed at him, and as a cascading effect

The PC area commonly looked something like this through the day

of fail, shortly afterwards rOtk’s Naix died somewhere near the enemy T4 towers while most or all other towers were still up.

In a lull of action, I sat with LaNm, who was eating some lunch. He questioned the authenticity of the Asian-style food provided at the Westin Bellevue, “This is weird!” he said. I pointed out that at least “It’s better than last year…” and he nodded a bit. In truth, the food was generally pretty alright, but perhaps only to more ‘internationally’ acclimated tastebuds.

We talked a bit about the bubble race games going on on-screen at the time. LaNm always talks loudly about games, and he tends to find humor in a lot of things. If someone makes a funny play, he’ll laugh loudly. Earlier he was reflecting on watching another team’s replays, “And their support, he’s barely got brown boots, and he’s already put Sheepstick in his quick buy area! Such huge dreams for a lowly support!!” he’d exclaim happily. I asked him if he was really retiring, even though he’d stated as much personally in an interview, even though I knew enough about him that it seemed likely…

“Yeah.” came the answer, clear and concise.
“What do you plan on doing afterwards, then?”
“Do some commentary, maybe coaching.” he replied, and even though he’s shown that he can be a brilliant commentator, and shown that he has an excellent strategic mind, there was a small sense of loss in that moment. And perhaps another sense — one that added a feeling of true finality to this year’s DK. It would be win or nothing in a lot of ways for them.

At night, I hanged out a bit with Hao and Sansheng, who were, of course, going out back to smoke. They offered me a cigarette, which I politely declined, but the point is that they’re both really friendly people. Both of them are quick to smile, quick to laugh, and are rarely seen without either a smile or a laugh on their face. They chattered on about some happenings in their earlier matches on the day, joking and making fun of things. Night had fallen and a light breeze blew across the area — fresh off some gruelling matches, with a few days of break before the next set of high pressure challenges, this was the eye of the storm and the hot summer weather of the past few days had given way to a refreshing coolness this evening.

The foosball table set up near the ping pong table also regularly saw visitors, and for a little while, DK looked as lighthearted as I’ve ever seen them, joined by noted football (soccer) fan Banana.

They say Sansheng is the guy that everyone loves, and a bit later he was back out with 357. Smoking, again, of course, and we were joined by Puppey and Kuroky. Puppey learned how to say 357 in Chinese, while 357 told Puppey what one of his Chinese transliterated nicknames is after Puppey had asked. The nickname was an uncouth one, as nicknames often are in Chinese, yet 357 said it in an endearing way and Puppey sportingly laughed. Soon, a group of somewhat drunk Russians came out with a boombox and began playing their music. Puppey smirked in his unique way, and said “Time to go,” and we headed back into the building.

Tuesday July 15

Not much really happened on this day. Most of the players hung out on the third floor playing pubs, watching replays, or otherwise whiling

“This thing is bigger than my head”

the time away. The eliminated players had mostly gotten over their sadness, while the players still in the tournament were enjoying some last moments of breathing room… it felt like an ‘eye of the storm’ kind of moment.

At night, a few of us made another of our late night Safeway runs (walks, really — and Safeway is only five minutes away by foot). Iceiceice got another of the iced teas that he’d come to like, while FATA and I settled on splitting a rather large sandwich.

Wednesday July 16

This was the day that the Valve HQ tour was scheduled. Players, production, and VIPs were apparently all invited, and it’s possible that Valve did not expect the turnout that, well, turned out. Hundreds of people made the trip over from Westin Bellevue to their offices, and after a short walk, the lobby of their building looked a little frightening. In the end, things were figured out, and we were shuttled up from the lobby to their offices in small, manageable groups of 10-12 each.

The meet and greet at Valve HQ

Though I’d been to Valve offices and gotten the tour before in the past, it’s always a treat to see and hear again the inner workings of one of the most fascinating (and productive, arguably) places around. Prior to the tour beginning, Valve handed out small stacks of cards to all of the players present — upon further inspection, there were the player autograph cards that became hot commodities during TI4. Following

Some player autograph cards

the tour, the meet and greet session held in one of Valve’s common areas would see players, staff, and VIPs from all over the world mingling and greeting each other with these autograph cards as an icebreaking point.

Through the course of TI4, I only went for cards from players that I either know, or otherwise have some sort of affinity for, figuring that it would be most fair if I left the cards from other players to people who were bigger fans of those specific players. After all, in addition to the couple dozen that players were given at this meet and greet, each player would have only 1000 additional cards. Almost everyone ran out of their small stack of cards during the Valve meet and greet, and for a while there was an impromptu line formed for people to get photos and cards with Dendi. Not wanting to abuse any privilege, I lined up as well, and after hitting the front of the line, Dendi grinned and said, “I know what you want!!” He handed me a card, either he gave me a hug or I gave him one, and I quickly left him to get back to his real work in greeting all the other fans with VIP access.

Though many of the Chinese teams and personalities chose to skip this meet and greet in favor of getting more rest or otherwise hanging out elsewhere this afternoon, there were also plenty of Chinese players that did come along (some of them due to my encouraging). Ferrari_430 was like a kid in a candy store with his player cards, except he was the candy store boss, and the candies he was selling he was giving away for free instead. To put it simply, he seemed enormously happy to be giving cards out, and he’d somehow figured out where to get more stacks of his own cards, and managed to sneak in to get more of them on at least one additional occasion. When DK finally arrived towards the end of the meet and greet, Ferrari_430 eagerly went up to them to propose a card swap. When hearing that DK had yet to get their own cards, he brought them over to me, and eager as I was as well, I went with them to go secure some of their own cards.

You can only imagine how popular DK were at this event, and they were soon swarmed by people looking to get their cards. It was a novelty, and somehow even I got swept up in it even though usually I

T_vidotto, BurNIng, and LaNm

couldn’t care less about these things. It’s something about the fact that they are cards, collectible, and personally attached to specific players, I guess. Amongst the chaos that swirled around wherever DK happened to be, I managed to connect Thiago Vidotto with BurNIng, and they chatted a bit about the BurNIng Anti-mage set that had been made following TI3, where I had originally made the connection for them. Also present was LaNm, whose original request for a Tiny set last year has yet to be fulfilled due to Workshop model process, but nonetheless this year we discussed other options, so there may well still be a LaNm hero item set coming sometime…

As the event wound down, so did TI4’s time in Bellevue. Starting with this night, everyone would be moved from the Westin Bellevue to the Westin Seattle in preparation for the main event at the nearby Key Arena. This would be a more efficient setup than in previous years, where everyone remained at the Westin Bellevue even as the main event was held in Downtown Seattle (relying on shuttle buses to fight through the area’s traffic). Transportation over to Westin Seattle was arranged to pick people up right outside of Valve’s offices, so everyone gradually milled out to the sidewalks. These are some of my fondest memories of the entire event — the weather was warm and welcoming in the late evening, and because this was the only way for everyone to get over to Seattle to the new hotel,

everyone — and I mean everyone — was present in one big outdoor setting. For the moment, there was nothing pressing, and loud choruses of conversation and laughter rang out from all around the massive gathering of teams, casters, analysts, and staff.

EHOME

It was here that I got a chance to improve on my previous EHOME picture. Catching most of the suspects at just the right time, I grabbed each of them and pulled them all over. 71 asked, “Huh, what’s this all about?” then he looked around at the assembly, a small smile came to his face, “Ahhhh, I understand now. I understand.”

As the sun went down in the mountains to the west, the next page of The International 2014 would approach.

Chilling

Thursday July 17

This day was pre-event secret shop day, with access for VIPs, players, and production. I showed up around 11pm and got to go through the line once. I’d only spent $50 on the secret shop last year due to never having any time to line up during the event itself, so this opportunity was much-welcomed. Even so, the line took about an hour to get through (much better than the estimated 5 hours people were waiting on subsequent days, still). I didn’t really buy much, just stuff that I personally liked. All around me, players were lugging around their third and fourth bags of goods, and people with four digit receipts were common.

Out of the three demiheroes I got, the only one that was golden was the Vengeful Spirit, and I think the reason for it being golden was because this was the one that iceiceice volunteered to open for me. I guess one of three isn’t too bad, anyway.

Lights on the stage

Later in the day was a scheduled ‘rehearsal’ day for production staff at Key Arena, and it would be my first time being inside. Things were being set up and tested, and an air of something grand was beginning to permeate.

Friday July 18

This was the first day of the main event. Honestly, I felt a lot of pressure at TI4. People were saying, “Oh come on, you’ve done this before, you’re fine…” but somewhere in my mind, I kept thinking to how this is quite literally the largest esports event in the entire history of gaming. So the entire main event weekend came and went, and I don’t think I ever really found a rhythm. It was one moment at a time, and now thinking back, the images only return in a slideshow fashion — bits and pieces.

The first day of the main event held what was arguably some of the more enthralling encounters, as Newbee closely defeated a VG that looked to hold their group stage form over, and DK agonizingly lost to EG in what many thought would be a previous of the eventual Grand Finals. At the end of the day, Newbee were confirmed Grand Finalists.

Saturday July 19

Each of the 8 teams at the Main Event were assigned a private box room on the 4th level of Key Arena, complete with room service food and drinks and private restroom. Interestingly, the different teams’ rooms and their respective atmospheres seemed to reflect the personalities of the teams, at least somewhat, and from the attendees within each room you could also glean an idea of who was closest with whom.

Invading the Newbee room

As a translator, I spent a large amount of my time over the main event running back and forth between backstage and the various Chinese team rooms, making sure people were where they needed to be and had what they needed in general. Therefore I was in and out a lot…

I’d expected to see more banners and posters this year, but in the end the only impressive one I saw all event was the one that a DK fan had made and hung up in front of the DK room.

DK and iG’s rooms were next to each other, yet the two teams rarely — if ever — interacted. Both teams seemed to be taking things relatively more seriously compared to many of the other teams, and largely kept to themselves. DK’s room in particular would often have its door shut, with the team’s invited guests inside, sitting, quietly supporting their team. Newbee and LGD were often seen mingling — with Newbee already having qualified for the Grand Finals and thus essentially having little to nothing to do for two days, their room transformed into somewhat of a gathering spot for Chinese personalities and players alike. This atmosphere seemed to suit the likes of Hao just fine, as chances were whenever I visited their room, he’d more than likely have a huge smile on his face while loudly shouting or laughing about something. VG also seemed to keep to themselves a bit as well, with a sort of quiet determination.

On this day, we saw two former International champions — NaVi and iG — eliminated. Prior to the LGD vs iG match, the two Chinese teams’ players had been hanging out together, chatting and joking. When the match admin arrived to summon them to their respective waiting rooms, they walked together, with conversation gradually dying down as they arrived at the elevator down into the bowels of competition. These two teams and their players have a lot of history with each other, and it felt like there was a sense of foreboding that replaced the lightheartedness — they knew that at the end of the day, one of them would knock the other out. With long-standing veterans of either team now retired in the post TI4 landscape, this moment becomes that much more engrained in the teams’ histories.

Either way, at the end of the day, all past International champions had been knocked out, perhaps signalling that from now on, it would indeed be a new order in the storied world of Dota.

I also met Kunkka of loading screen fame sometime on this day. Quite the awesome guy, really, I was quite honored to meet him. He tried to explain who he was, and I was all like “Dude I know!” We hung out for a while, got some food, and he gave me some key cards for his in-game item sets.

The night ended for viewers and attendees with the All-star match, and interestingly, of the 10 players present that night in the match, something like 7 of them had been eliminated from the tournament already, the 2 DK players were coming straight off a tough loss in game 1 of a best of three. So I think it was pretty cool that even despite this, the All-star match still kept up that fun atmosphere… That aside, the match featured the debut of none other than Techies, played by none other than Arteezy, who may or may not have played the hero much before. I don’t know how this decision was come upon, but I think would have been a lot of fun to have given Ferrari_430 Techies in the All-star match — he’s mentioned Techies being his favorite hero before in the past. And that might have cured him of his tryhard syndrome; two birds with one stone.

The All-star match from the floor seats

The night, for me however, would go on, as ESPN were present to film a segment featuring the Grand Finalists. Newbee were already confirmed, so xiao8 had been recruited to represent his team on national

xiao8 is intense

television. Tammy Tang, AKA furryfish, had been recruited to be the translator since ESPN wanted a sense of continuity seeing as how she had been featured in Free To Play. I don’t actually like being on camera, so I was fine with that, and instead I just made myself present at the filming for support. EG were also present, filming their part for ESPN. Afterwards, I offered xiao8 a ride back to the Westin Seattle as it was quite late, and once again he thanked me with all his directness and sincerity before striding off through the doors of the building. Long day, late night, with more to come.

Sunday July 20

This would be, perhaps, the most difficult day for many fans. With Newbee having successfully secured their Grand Final spot days earlier, the reality has always been that the so-called Dream Finals between EG and DK would never — or at least, in this reality — materialize. Still, both of these fan-favorite teams remained alive. If barely, in the case of DK, who arrived this morning one game down against LGD in a best of 3.

Ultimately, DK found their footing, if only for a fleeting moment, and made it out alive against LGD.The sense of relief amongst DK was palpable, but perhaps inevitably, with VG looming on the horizon, they closed off again in an emotionally all-in kind of way — win or nothing. LGD, valiant underdogs of this tournament, finally bowed out — but a team that had been surrounded by negativity and doubts since successively losing Sylar and xiao8, had finally redeemed, or proven, themselves once again against the world’s best.

After VG knocked DK out in what some might label a fight between lost brothers, after walking DK back from backstage and witnessing the sudden crowds that had gathered outside their room, there to chant “DK, DK, DK” even as tears and spirits fell alike… After watching them depart Key Arena and TI4, I quickly rushed back to VG. Congratulating rOtK and his team, there were smiles and laughs shared. The pressure remained, and it contorted their laughter a bit, as the Grand Finals of an International can only do. Sylar stood quietly on his own; I said to Sylar, “You won.” He smiled, maybe a bit wistfully, and asked “Are they sad?” Yeah, they’re sad. He seemed sorry about it, but at the same time there was a smile on his face, because, well, he’d just fought his way into the Grand Finals of the International.

This morning, I had dreamt that it would rain later in the day; an image of cloudy skies floated across my mind. Seattle is well-known for rain and rain itself is not abnormal, but July in Seattle is actually historically quite dry, and for weeks it had almost entirely been sunshine and blue skies. So when I awoke in the morning, I wondered what rain might mean. Later in the afternoon, just as DK left the stage and their TI4 dreams behind, those gray skies from my morning dream materialized, and a light rain fell. I sometimes find patterns in life and nature, but this must have been no more than a coincidence. In that one interview with rOtK, the emotions coursed through the entire interview room — or maybe just me and the ‘old captain’, rOtK.

Walking him back to his team after the interview, “I must hold this energy in, keep it all to release tomorrow,” he declared to no one and everyone in particular. He wanted to win, strongly.

The TI4 Grand Finalists

At the end of this day, ultimately we would see neither DK nor EG in the Grand Finals, with VG and Newbee instead being the ones who made it furthest. Since VG won, the ESPN segment needed to film a portion featuring someone from their team. ROtK, ever the big man, stood up for it. And when they asked him to do the entire interview, to be played on ESPN, in English, he only paused for a brief moment before I told him I’d coach him on the English needed — and he nodded enthusiastically. The interview went well even as rOtK needed to learn quite a bit of new English vocabulary.

Monday July 21

As Newbee and VG made their way down the aisles of a packed Key Arena, amongst the fanfare and acclaim of thousands of spectators, I watched from above in an empty DK room. With at least some hours guaranteed in which I would not be needed, I went where I knew it’d be empty — because none of them would be coming to the venue, at least not until later in the day. Because in their words — and perhaps in words that echo the sentiments of many teams who had come to challenge for the title — “I don’t want to watch someone else win.” Of the 8 teams that made it to the main event, I saw maybe one quarter of the players present at Key Arena in the morning.

There can only be one victor. As VG quietly departed the stage after losing and taking second place, you saw Super turning his face one last time to look at the crowds in the stands, you saw Sylar peering at the screen, you saw rOtK finding it within himself to wave at fans screaming their encouragement from above… Fenrir’s tears and Fy’s solitude in defeat; all in contrast, or maybe not so different in the end, from Newbee’s somewhat stoic acceptance of their victory.

As some of Newbee later went on to say, “I hadn’t really realized what just happened at the time…” But one person who seemed to truly be caught in the moment was banana. When I went on stage after walking with VG out from backstage, banana found me, “Give me a hug man!” and he grabbed me over and hugged me tightly, shaking a little bit from the energy of a thousand lights shining and flashing upon his head, the energy of glory.

What could have been?

Aftermath (random thoughts, occurrences, and quotes post-TI4)

Normally I’m not a super huge fan of any specific team over any other specific team, but this year’s DK had something different about them, and through the course of TI4, I found my heart being pulled along with their results at various times through the event. It was inevitable, perhaps, for someone like me who has been an EHOME fan, a LaNm fan, and always appreciated the likes of iceiceice and more recently following TI3, Mushi. In a few of the moments of clashing din and noise as the Grand Finals kicked off, it was hard to not imagine DK instead being the ones in the booth, on stage, on screen. ‘Dream Finals’… I can relate, but the contradiction comes when I wake up from these daydreams and find that I’m equally as happy for the likes of Newbee and VG as I am sad for DK — and iG, LGD, even NaVi, EG, C9… and everyone else who came to chase a dream and left unfulfilled.

It’s always hard to see people lose, but the converse is that when there’s a loser, there’s always a winner — and it’s fun to watch the winners celebrate and be joyous. In the end, whomever wins I’m happy for, whomever loses, it’s a shame, because you can really, truly, see and feel how much people care about these things. And for me, growing up in Beijing in a similar internet cafe-based gaming youth, it’s hard to describe but easy to relate even more closely to the backgrounds that a lot of Chinese pros have.

Fan favorites

After all the dust settled and the venue cleared out, Dendi and iceiceice remained for over two hours signing autographs. Iceiceice told me, “I’m just gonna sign for everyone,” gesturing towards the relatively large crowd that had gathered. Go for it, I told him, I have nothing else to do now anyway.

Fans

Over the course of the main event, for some reason there was a decent amount of fans stopping me for an autograph or photo. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’m anyone special, and I really don’t even know how to sign an ‘autograph’ (versus a normal signature — is there a difference?). Either way, though, thank you to those fans, your passion is contagious and your smiles vibrant. It was a pleasure meeting each and every one of you, chatting and hanging out in some cases.

Mu

At the afterparty, I ran into Newbee, who had had their fun for a few hours there and were preparing to make their exit. Mu came up to me, hugged me, “See you next year, yeah?” he grinned.
“I dunno.” I shrugged back at him. He looked exasperated, grinned some more while pointing at me, and said again, “I want to see you here again next year!”

ddc

Talking to ddc later on, he would reflect, “If we’d gotten to play the entire best of three that night…” he trailed off as he puffed on his cigarette.
“You might have won.” I offered.
“We might have won,” he nodded, looking off into the late night sky. Such is the nature of competition, however, and what-ifs are always prevalent, always there beckoning for you to pour your thoughts, and then hopes, and emotions into them. It’s easy to get caught in the whirlwind of daydreaming in this case, thinking, what if… what if…

iceiceice

“I want to win TI5 for DK,” he mused. “This year’s DK, I mean.”
“Even if you have to beat whoever is next year’s DK?” I questioned.
“Yeah. I’m going to beat next year’s DK to win TI5 for this year’s DK,” the logic made perfect sense.

“I wish LaNm wasn’t retiring so we could fight for another year.” he looked at LaNm, who wasn’t paying much attention. “LaNm! TI5 fight another year!!”

LaNm

“LaNm means hero…” he trailed off a bit, looking at me.“Hero? In what language?” I was curious.
“In my own dreams,” LaNm smiled even as nearby iceiceice made fun of him for what he’d just said.

“I don’t want to accept that I am a four-eyes,” he declared. Noting that several of us present were four-eyes, he also added, “You guys are fine, but just not me. I plan on improving my natural vision back to where it was by doing eye exercises, looking at faraway things often, and the such. I look bad in glasses.”

rOtK

I found rOtK in the hotel lobby, playing Mafia with other Chinese players and commentators. Mafia has been a game they’ve been very passionately playing at TIs since last year. Even though this year they added the Uno card game to their repertoire, Mafia was still a go to. I sat next to him for a few moments in a lull in the action, and asked him, “Are you coming again next year?”
“Yeah! And what about you?”
“Don’t know!”
He laughed, and said “I’ll be here, let’s meet here again next year!” in that characteristically enthusiastic manner of his.
“Good, you can be the translator next year,” I joked, “Your English has been excellent this year!”
“Yes! Hahahaha,” he threw his head back and roared in laughter.
“And I’ll come as a competitor.” I concluded.

Faith

I’d been missing his player card for the entirety the event, and at long last, on the final day, I tracked him down. I literally ran him down, and he looked a bit frightened, as I’m probably a good foot taller than he is.
“Player card please!!”
He laughed, pulled out the last two he had in his pocket, and said “Here, have them all!”

BurNIng

“There was this guy, I remember, he was pretty good, played solo mid. He joined our team, back then it was just a couple hundred in salary a month, we just played. One day, he said he needed to go back home, his mom was doing surgery,” there was a pause in the story as he looked around.
“Well, shit, surgery! That was all our reactions, so we told him to take the time he needed and get back home as quickly as possible to be with family.”
“Later, we learned that his mom’s surgery was cosmetic surgery.” The table burst out in laughter. “He never came back after that, might have felt like it was too hard,” he continued on, “But really, that kid was really good. Quite good. He left for home, told us some days later that his mom’s cosmetic surgery was very successful, and never came back,” there was a bit of wistfulness in his tone now. Everyone clinked their glasses again.

See you next year, perhaps…

This being my second International — with no guarantees of there being another one in my future (because who can tell what the future holds?) — it was a bit harder to sort through my thoughts and memories. It’s possible that the sheer size and scale of this year’s International also played into it. So this is why this writeup is over 8000 words, took over two weeks, and probably still isn’t that great, and doesn’t truly do justice for just how interesting the event was, and just how much you could see it meant to everyone involved.

Nonetheless, hopefully I’ve conveyed some of the feeling in what it was like to be present.

Thank yous

Valve
IceFrog
the players
the teams
all the various media outlets and personalities that I met (and even sometimes worked with — I want to help everyone)
the fans!! both at the venue, and online (in English and Chinese language communities alike)
staff, my fellows, and anyone and everyone else that I met during the event

The Summit 1 – point of view

I recently returned from helping out at BeyondTheSummit’s first event — The Summit (June 5-8, 2014), hosted in a fashion inspired by Starcraft II’s Homestory Cup, wherein players and organizers mingle in a close, casual atmosphere with little to no live audience. Here’s the event from my point of view…

Wednesday

A mountain on the flight there… heading BeyondTheSummit. Ha.

We arrive late at night at the Ontario airport (making sure many times during the trip that we weren’t mistakenly flying to somewhere in Canada instead), get to BTS house for a short greet, and see iceiceice and Mushi still there playing pubs. Iceiceice and Mushi say hi. “I didn’t know you would be here,” says ice. “I didn’t either, not until a few days ago,” I reply.

“I don’t know if I should hug you or what, to say hi,” he offers, deadpan. Me neither, but I suppose that’s the beauty of it. Am I here as a friend, a helper, a translator, or all of the above?

Merlini drives us to our hotel after stopping by a drive-thru for us to get some food — we hadn’t eaten most of the day. By the time we check in to the hotel it’s past 1am, and the matches start around 8am which means we have to be ready before 7am. LD and some of the other BTS crew get even less sleep — no sleep at all for some of them, and the night is short.

Thursday

Easy life… for now

It’s a 6-something am start in the morning, and we get to the BTS house around then. I take a quick look around the entire house and get acquainted with the surroundings. There are a couple lounges set up for players to just relax in between things (some had cameras and others did not), and it is here that I discover DK, having already arrived bright and early.

After some of VG’s matches on this day, we did an interview with Fenrir. The easy and perhaps obvious VG player probably would’ve been rOtK, but I’ve been trying to get Fenrir to take a proper interview since D2L in Las Vegas earlier this year, so I was determined to make it happen… It took some convincing, but Fenrir is well-spoken and organized in his thoughts, so I knew it would be good. In his own words, “I feel awkward in front of a camera, I don’t know where to look.” But it ended up going pretty well, I think.

Early in the day, we’re chilling with DK in one of the lounge rooms (we were on stream at some point), and BurNIng is playing a mobile game that Mushi introduced to him. It looks like a fighting game, but BurNIng is just button mashing, and winning easily.

Still easy

“What is this? Boring!” he exclaims with a grin on his face. Shortly after that, “I could play this with my feet and still win. I’m gonna delete this.” Mushi laughs, BurNIng keeps playing it for a bit, and then they want to get on the wifi. BTS didn’t want people just getting on the house wifi due to concerns of Skype and leaking the IP, but Mushi is desperate. “Please LD!!! I love you!” After some convincing, LD smiles and agrees, but in the end it doesn’t matter anyway as for some reason, Mushi and BurNIng’s iPhones can’t connect to the BTS network at all no matter what was tried.

As the other teams play, I manage to catch a pretty rare — and special — agglomeration of former EHOME members. It was a pretty cool moment, or nostalgic at least, and for those of us prone to nostalgia, it had a lot.

EHOME…

Later in the day, the BTS guys also wanted to get someone from DK for an interview/chat. Not being able to get the players at the time, I suggested we get their coach 71 instead. Honestly he’d been a ‘target’ of mine to talk with regardless, so I’m really glad we got this one. It seems like viewers enjoyed it too. The answers were long and a serious challenge for my sleep-deprived brain, but I’d say I did… okay with the translating. Not great, I know I could’ve done better, but it was alright I guess, and hopefully his insight was at least somewhat shared.

While I had met and knew both VG and DK from before, their two coaches — 357 and 71 respectively — I had not met before. It turns out both are quite nice, approachable, and generally jovial people. 357 is soft-spoken but seems easy to get along with, and both the VG and DK players (some of whom were his former teammates on both DK and EHOME) get along well with him. 71 jokes and makes fun of and with players, says what’s on his mind, and is generally very conversational.

DK Racing

Late in the afternoon, Mushi, my girlfriend Tiffany (who had come along on her own cost to support me and help a bit with the event), and I played some Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros Melee. Mushi hadn’t played either before, but he does well in Mario Kart. In SSBM, he unplugs both our controllers, takes a bunch of kills whacking away on our defenseless characters whilst laughing maniacally, and declares himself the victor when the round finally ends.

Around 4pm it was time for DK to play Fnatic. I’m sure this game was talked about plenty and needs no further description. Regardless, the loss against Fnatic was one they took very seriously and according to sources, they spent lots of time and energy having a detailed and somewhat impassioned team meeting after getting back to the hotel later this night. Thus perhaps setting up their choice of Fnatic again after…

Friday

……VG lost to Fnatic, and DK subsequently secured top spot in group by defeating EG.

Prior to the match against EG, DK were setting up when Mushi noticed that LaNm had special purple effects in-game. Asking what it was, LaNm explained that they were TI4 effects from the Compendium, specifically by upgrading the Compendium’s levels. Mushi wanted them, and made his desires known. Declares BurNIng, “win this event and I’ll upgrade your Compendium to level 300.” So the game loaded, the draft went, and Mushi got QoP and the rest was history, as they say.

This is the back outdoor patio… where many meals and hangouts were had

At lunch, Mushi and I talked about playing basketball when rOtK walked by. We invited him to potentially play basketball some day in the future, as Mushi explained that even though they were all based in Shanghai in previous months, Mushi and rOtK had not been able to play as they were far apart on opposite ends of the city. Mushi also suggested soccer, to which rOtK laughed his big laugh and said, “None of us know how, basketball is okay but definitely not that!”

Afterwards, before DK’s upper bracket match against Fnatic, I came across Charlie the Monolith of EG chatting up DK coach 71 in the afternoon sun out in the back patio of the BTS house. As Southern California is, it was sunny and warm, but in the shade it wasn’t hot, and as 71 smoked, we sat around and chatted in a meandering way for some 30 minutes. There was some really insightful conversation, where the two esports managers shared experiences on topics ranging from salaries, to club structure and sponsorship, to Twitch streaming, to the difference between the different scenes, to other things that I shouldn’t share… I sat and helped communicate and even became part of the conversation. That was undeniably really cool.

After he finished his second cigarette, 71 noted the time and excused himself to get back with his players prior to their upcoming match against Fnatic. Kuroky then sat down next to us and remarked about 71, “He’s one of the best people in Dota.” Evidently the respect for the coach remains from his EHOME days. “He’s a straight talker and good guy,” Charlie and I agree. Kuroky nods and pensively puffs on his cigarette as I take my exit as well; the Southern California sun is finally getting too warm for me.

Throughout the event I would hang around different hotspots where players gathered to view matches and just try and listen in on what people were saying. VG and DK often debate various merits of things spiritedly, making bold predictions. They’re funny — BurNIng predicted Sylar’s Weaver to not die a single time after seeing the draft in a game (spoiler, he died something like 7 or 8 times), while Mushi disagreed and offered to a wager (bragging rights, it turns out). BurNIng declined, and soon Mushi’s prediction came much closer to the truth than BurNIng’s.

After DK played Fnatic, we tried to get MMY or LaNm for an interview, but neither of them are prone to agreeing to interviews — not really for any specific reason, but just as a matter of habit/preference. LaNm in particular is a Chinese forum fiend and his reasoning was that whenever any of them says something in an interview, it gets blown out of context by Chinese fans and their words ‘get taken for a ride’, so to speak. MMY is, well MMY. Maybe at TI4? So we got BurNIng instead, who is always so professional in the way he is willing to accept interviews, and the way he approaches said interviews with his answers, as well as in the way he’s able to stand up and do interviews for his team when the rest of them don’t want to.

Then my girlfriend roped BurNIng into playing some Smash Bros with her, apparently. And BurNIng picked Pikachu, they went to Hyrule Castle, and BurNIng died because he didn’t know how to jump properly with Pikachu and fell to his death repeatedly. So she beat BurNIng in something gaming-related; impressive.

Saturday

I managed to play a pub with BurNIng in the morning — we had a five stack, BurNIng, some friends, and myself. I played Skywrath Mage (free Compendium hero challenge win) as a hard support. It was an honor to support the B-God, who played a typical pub Razor that dived, got kills, and died. “Raahhh I want to kill people!” he’d exclaim as he dove tier 3 towers. We won fairly handily in the end, and now I can say I’ve warded for BurNIng.

Getting into the World Cup spirit…
B-god lost at FIFA, I think

After lunch, VG found a PS4 newly set up in one of the lounge rooms, and they played some FIFA. Kuroky and Puppey came and sat down to hang out and watch, and KKY took the next game against Fy, with Kky using Spain and Fy using Portugal. VG’s players watched intently, shouting out suggestions to Fy, while laughing at his mistakes. Everyone cheered loudly when Fy scored to take the lead, then cheered some more after Kky equalized in the second half. The match ended 1-1, with the two sides shaking hands and showing good sportsmanship. At some point this day, even BurNIng got in on some of the footballing action, in which he looked much less in control than he does in Dota — but he had a good time as well, just like everyone else…

rOtK wants MMY’s nuts ;o

Prior to the match between DK and VG, MMY and rOtK were hanging out in the back patio, with rOtK begging MMY for some of his betel nuts. MMY gave him two, but rOtK wanted more, eventually going as far as trying to bargain by offering to feed kills for each additional betel nut MMY shared, including first blood. When MMY quipped back that there was no guarantee rOtK would be able to successfully feed first blood before iceiceice potentially fed, rOtK replied, “I’ll TP straight to mid and meet you there, no way someone can feed faster than that!” We all laughed, in the end rOtK got no more betel nuts from MMY, and soon afterwards DK vs VG was under way under normal circumstances.

Sunday

Breakfast on Sunday

This morning I picked up Mushi and iceiceice early as Mushi had wanted to get breakfast with us at some point. We went to a diner-style place somewhere quite nearby, and true to his Twitter profile, iceiceice got ribeye steak, plus pancakes and some other stuff. He did not finish his food, remarking that “This is a bad habit of mine,” whereas Mushi neatly cut his meat and eggs into proportional matching pieces and ate everything, one piece of meat for each piece of egg.

I’ve always thought that the teams people prefer playing with in soccer (football) games reflects on the person’s style and personality. Fy would always pick technically adept teams, first it was Portugal, and then eventually he stuck with Argentina. He’d try tricks and flashy moves and more often than not, it paid off — he won most of the games that I could see, including a 8-0 trouncing of 357’s Manchester City. Conversely, the one time Fy used Germany, he did not like it.

Apart from rOtK and Super, who were both arguing for different games (NBA 2k and Tekken respectively) to be played on the PS4, all the other Chinese players seemed to have some experience with the soccer simulation genre. Specifically, Pro Evolution Soccer (Winning Eleven in Asia) — I found myself with something in common with them, as we all initially struggled with FIFA’s control scheme, until we set the controls to mimic that of Pro Evo Soccer, and then it was game on. According to 357, he’d played Winning Eleven 4 way back in the day, while others in VG said that Winning Eleven 8 on PS2 was the best, and I agree.

Noms

One thing that should be noted and applauded enthusiastically is the amount of preparation and organization BTS had for the event, especially involving food and general hospitality. They had a team of people making sure refreshments were always available, the house was always tidy and accessible, and lunch and dinner would be handled in full with a variety of food — both Western and Asian style. Quite the hospitality and from the conversations I had, more than a few of the Chinese players were very appreciative of both the accommodations as well as the casual and relaxing venue and style itself.

After VG were eliminated and while DK were preparing for their upcoming finals showdown with EG, rOtK was lured off to the pub event viewing party thing, and that was the last I saw of him for the weekend. I heard he had a lot of fun there. In the next hour my attentions were focused on asking — or pestering, depending on your viewpoint — the VG players for at least one of them to play in the 1v1 mini-tournament. In the end, Fy’s own desire to shine — despite his initial declines, I could see it in his eyes — combined with the promise of a cash prize played into my coercion, and he agreed.

Of course, after DK lost, we joked with VG that “At least Fy has won something for China.”

Following a fairly intense post-mortem kind of team discussion out in the back patio after their finals loss to EG, most of DK — sans iceiceice — made to leave and head back to their hotel. One thing I noted — and I don’t really know whether this was something or it was just something I’m overthinking — is that while DK sat out there for over half an hour, Sylar wandered outside after sleeping for most of the afternoon. He’d been sick, feverish, even, and his reasoning for coming outside was that it was warmer outside than inside where the air conditioning had been on blast all day to try and keep things cool with all the computers. He and I sat peacefully at the table next to where DK were gathered, and part me wants to think that Sylar was out there in silent support of BurNIng, his self-confessed idol and the player he models his own playstyle after. Anyway, I’ve always liked Sylar — he’s a sincere, polite kid, very considerate of others while quiet and unassuming. We chatted a bit, then his team were ready to leave the BTS house for the last time, and we said our goodbyes.

Victorious celebrations

As night fell on Sunday, things wound down at the BTS house, with various teams either heading back to their hotels and getting ready for their flights out the next day, or teams and players going to the pub event for appearances with fans. EG went, and from all indications, were appreciated by the fans and seemed to enjoy themselves there as well. Good job to them — and DK and the other Chinese teams will need to work hard to figure out EG, and specifically RTZ, who always seems to give them problems.

Soon after that, DK were ready to go as well. Iceiceice convinced them to allow him to stay back, as he wanted to hang out, relax, and stuff like that. In BurNIng’s words, “Just let him have fun tonight, we’ll have to discuss things together when we get back home anyway.” So iceiceice ended up coming with us to check out the pub event for about half an hour, where he was mobbed endlessly in a way that simultaneously makes you appreciate the passion of fans, but also want to sit back a bit and hide. Or at least, that’s how I think I would feel if I were him. Pro players in this day and age really are celebrities of a sort, and the public scrutiny can be tough for some, I’m sure.

Hanging out at the pub event for a few minutes…
They’re playing Munchkin. I think Dendi was behind at this point

The night ended off for me after we headed back to the house and hung out for a while. Puppey and Kuroky had come back and iceiceice wanted to spend some time chatting with Puppey, and by this time it was quite late. Dendi and Fly and XBOCT and a few others were playing Munchkin, there were dozens of pizzas on the kitchen counter, and the atmosphere was light hearted mixed with some fatigue. I said my goodbyes and then off I went back to the hotel as well, for the first real sleep in quite a few days.

The Summit was, as BurNIng said in his interview, the most unique event I’ve ever been to. And it’s not that I haven’t been to many events… Well, I haven’t, but that’s not really the point. The point is that this was a really chill event. Stuff like contributing at events is fairly stressful, and I can only imagine how much more stressful it is to actually compete, yet the players and I all seemed to share the sentiment that this event was more relaxing than it was intense even though the quality of competition and prizes at stake were quite impressive. So good job to BTS and all the awesome people helping — most of whom I met.

Shoutouts to all of you there, and everyone supporting and watching on stream near and far away! Lastly thanks to BTS for having me there. See you all at TI4…

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.

Everyone

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……

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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?
820:
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?
820:
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?
820:
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?
820:
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?
820:
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?
820:
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?
820:
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?
820:
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:

“不出圣剑怎么对得起我们的粉丝”
“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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