71 talks history, winning, team building

Source: http://www.imbatv.cn/special/xinsheng/10/

In a recent piece with ImbaTV, current EHOME coach and manager 71 looks back on defining moments and memories in his esports journey thus far.

71: Previously I’d always been a coach, there wasn’t any role where I needed to manage the club. Now that I’m a manager of the club as well I’ve taken on this role. I’ve just begun with this work, so right now I can’t speak much about any experience, and additionally I don’t really feel that we’re doing any particular thing very well yet, it’s just that I’ve got some things that I can share with everyone

Recently I just held a meeting with our team leads for our various squads, noting that we need to establish a team captain within each team, whose purpose is to be a connection between team leads, coaches, and the team itself and thus make it easier and smoother for management to do their work. Because I’ve been coach and team lead before, I feel that I was really lucky to have in the past DC and 820. These were two amazing captains – within the hundreds of players I’ve had, there are nearly none that come close to those two. 820 went from player to captain, it was kind of like he was DC’s successor at the time. So our management format is to establish a captain, and to have him play a role in connecting team leads and coaches within the management ladder.

Right now comparing international and Chinese clubs, there is still a massive gap. In terms of management, on one side it’s managing, and on the other side it’s organizing. So in our big team meetings I always say, if you need to organize something then you really need to organize it clearly. Including things like the situation for individual players, like what shirt size they wear, their height, weight, birthday, health, personal problems, any issues at home, etc, you’ve got to be clear on everything. Even their goals for playing professionally, their personal goals, so I always say you have to be really clear on the details and have depth to it all.

From our beginnings, with just one or two squads, we’ve now got eight or nine. We can no longer manage based on individual situations, we have to have a system. First you establish a team captain, and then the captain and team lead work together in accordance with the system to manage things. Once the system’s in place what you need is to establish the instinct behind it – down to details like penalties if the lights and computers are left on after a day’s training. The point is to raise their awareness, to establish the feeling that this is their home and they should care about it.

A few days ago the team lead for our Dota main squad went to get the players up from bed. We had scrims at 2pm, so by 12pm people should really be getting out of bed already. Our team lead and the players aren’t in the same house, so the team lead came over from the other house to wake them up. Old Eleven wouldn’t get out of bed, and our team lead couldn’t get him out so he just left and came back ten minutes later to try again. Eleven, in bed, then said “What do I need to get out of bed for”, the team lead stayed for another few minutes to try and get him out and then gave up. I was in the neighboring room during this and heard it all, originally I thought I might just go over there and drag him out of bed myself, but then I thought that this wouldn’t really have any long term effect. So I went downstairs and sent LaNm an email, telling him to gently but officially speak to this issue in the training room later. Because otherwise, stuff like this makes the team lead’s job too hard to do. In the afternooon I went down to watch them scrim. After they finished the scrim, I asked Eleven to go out for a smoke with me, and he immediately said “I know what the problem is,” and the other players were just sat there laughing at him. In actuality I was only asking him so I’d have a smoke buddy.

Speaking of captains, on the one hand they need to have the prestige and respect to focus the team around him, this is required. But only this is not nearly enough. On the other hand they need to have the ability to develop, and play things to their players’ strengths. For LaNm, in this latter aspect he cannot be considered to be excellent, though he does hold absolute respect.

Over all these years in China, from my point of view, from what I’ve understood there are only two people that meet these requirements in terms of captaining: xiao8 and rOtK. No matter how much people flame them, their results can be seen. Compared to the international scene though, perhaps it’s because Chinese players tend to be more reserved so there are fewer great captains. Internationally there are the likes of Misery, Fly, Puppey, Kuroky, etc. A good team basically will always have a decent captain. As for LaNm, when it comes major tournament time, he’s thinking a bit more about how to allow himself to play to 100% of his ability in order to have 120% of an effect on the team’s play. He can’t really do things like help the team and teammates adjust from a 50% status to a 70-80% status, so compared to some other more established captains he’s still lacking in various ways, though I’ve seriously seen him thinking and improving on these things.

I recall talking with LaNm prior to TI once. I said to him, “LaNm, we’ve been working together for a while up to now, and honestly there’ve been a lot of things that were kind of rough,” I listed them all out one by one. Previously during Manila I’d also spoken with him before, compared to working with you it was a lot easier for me to work with rOtK. ROtK communicates a lot, he uses a lot of affirmative language, and he has a clear sense of direction. This is actually a really important thing, because a lot of details really need you to go and figure them out. No matter how good the things in a person’s mind are, it’s all useless to a team because they’re only in his mind. But even if someone has bullshit on their mind but they manage to convey it to five people and get them to act uniformly on it, that is invaluable. ROtK does really well in this regard.

Talking on the point of good coaches, it depends on what your thoughts and requirements are. Some people just do their job, while others go above and beyond, there’s a difference between the two. Of course, there are also coaches that are just along for the ride. I’ve got my origins as a coach, I’ve led quite a few different teams in my day. I’ve got my own style and understandings, but I also change and adjust based on what I have available to me. For example, when I was coaching DK, no matter the results, I would always ask them to play and strategize extremely aggressively. Yet when I tried to apply this same school of thought to the team with Mushi and Inflame, the results were really poor. When that happened I needed to rethink things. The reason the original style no longer worked might not be because of the patch version, it was because my personnel and what their strengths and weaknesses were had changed, for example in terms of their on-the-fly decision making. And they were yet to fully understand the big picture: when you’re speaking with them about one set of things, and they think they’ve already fully understood and achieved it, yet from my observer’s point of view they’ve obviously done very poorly… so I can’t just complain, I have to find change starting from myself. I think about what changes I can make based on the personnel available, or from some other angle.

The things that a coach can learn are plentiful. Any competitive sport is one that I am interested in. Every good coach is one that I can learn something from, like Phil Jackson with the Bulls, and then achieving the same things with the Lakers later on. How he would manage those superstars. He’d be pretty lackadaisical during the regular season, but once it was postseason he’d have all kinds of defensive schemes, fully utilizing and displaying the effect of every single timeout. On key plays he’d have the team approaching things nearly perfectly. This is what a top tier coach can achieve, he can grasp the team’s current level of performance, he knows when it’s time to save effort and when it’s time to explode, he can control the timing of when the team gets hot. Another example is Mourinho in football, those who love him really love him, and those who hate him despise him to their core. Yet both sides see him as arrogant and loud, but what not everyone sees is that he attracts all the attention after matches because he is redirecting the pressure and criticism away from his players. There’s also Lippi who previously managed Guangzhou Evergrande, his autobiography I’ve read parts of as wll. And then there was the Beijing team in CBA (Chinese Basketball Association), who won the title a few years back. During the finals, no matter whether a game was won or lost, their star player Stephon Marbury’s interviews I watched all of them — he was really honest, the things he said were of value, showed his goals, showed that he took responsibility. They were things that every captain and coach can learn from.

In all my years as coach my deepest memories come from the time I was leading a Counterstrike team. Back in those days the conditions were exceedingly tough. To go to offline events we had to pay our own way, and forget about going overseas to compete. For players in that era, to go overseas to compete was an incomparable honor, it’s not like nowadays with so many international tournaments. My team back then had no sponsor, the team name was one I’d come up with: teAmart. In 2005 we were based in an abandoned elementary school on the outskirts on Nanjing. Within a radius of 500 acres there were just the six of us people. Every day we’d walk 30 minutes in the hills before getting a 40 minute ride on an illegal taxi (read: random guy with a car). Then at the internet cafe we’d play for some ten hours and head back in the same manner. There’d often be no running water, so we would go in pairs to the nearby well to get water so we could bathe. It would be in the open air in the village, bathing in front of other villagers and their cows. That cold, and the scenes, but there was friendship and there was fun. If you had me do that again today, I would still do it. But today’s players wouldn’t. Nowadays if there isn’t fruit in the training room they already want to murder the team lead, forget about having them wash next to a well… just think about how much time could have gone to streaming instead!

For Dota, my most memorable times come with EHOME in 2010, but those memories aren’t of the 10 championship titles. That year we were playing in the WCG Beijing regionals, Zhou and DGC with their team came to compete for a spot too, saying “We’re here to fuck that strongest team (implying us)”. So anyway, their team and ours got dragged into a rivalry, and we even put our money on the line by wagering 5000 RMB, with my players putting in half and me putting in the other half. In the winners bracket when we met, I remember that we got stomped. In those days tournaments were played with the two teams facing each other in a row, their team’s mid player would be flaming us while playing. A youngster, didn’t really understand things nor decorum, and he trash talked me a bunch too. I wasn’t really too fussed about it, but my players were really burning with shame, they looked really out of it while eating later. I said to them, just let me pay the money owed in the wager. KingJ and them wouldn’t accept that, saying that they needed to get their honor back. Things were spoken in that way, but honestly in our hearts we weren’t sure about it. The story afterwards is a comeback story. We ended up winning the regional there, and honestly this title was really important — it established trust and friendship, and it also established a neverending belief of not giving up, it was great. The team thus gained an underlying culture and purpose, so improvement was quick, and communication was easy. I would just say the things I see, and what I want to say in terms of strategy, and the players would go based on that to try and achieve those things. If someone performed poorly individually, I wouldn’t even need to say anything before 820 was already on their case. Players nowadays, you have to baby them, you have to leave them room to save face, it’s tiring.

And then there’s EHOME in 2015, a time when we had peaks and valleys alike. The peak would have been the end of the year. At that time the other teams were all not strong, while simultaneously LaNm had found some understandings of the patch. I remember we won, consecutively, Radiant and Dire Cup, SDO, and MDL. In terms of both form and mentality we were pretty much in the right place. But in reality I knew, these results were temporary, because previously I’d already mentioned that CTY’s style is one that likes to farm, the tempo in that version really suited him. Kaka’s Earth Spirit, Eleven’s Void and Lone Druid, these were all signature heroes for us. You couldn’t really ban us out so it was expected to be able to achieve some results on that. In the ensuing Chinese New Year break, with a new patch version in place it would be expected for our results to get worse.

The most difficult thing was probably TI6 this year. With Old Eleven’s grandfather in bad health, he went home to take care of things, and we moved FaN up to our main team to replace him. But the chemistry wasn’t good. Prior to the open qualifiers we scrimmed with fellow qualifiers teams, and there were at least six different teams where we couldn’t even hit a 60% win rate in training. So I calculated a bit, and at the time I thought our changes of making it through were less than 3%. This meant that we wouldn’t even make it to the main qualifiers, we would only get to watch TI at home, which would be a pretty big problem. The team atmosphere at the time was really bad, emotions were really low. Then in the end we made the decision to make another change, we asked Eleven to have someone else take care of his grandfather, we got him to come back and we had iceiceice go play carry. After this change honestly, it wasn’t really solving our problems either. We trained a few days in this way and then off we went to the qualifiers, and even during the qualifiers we were in a lot of danger. Really, our team has always been kind of interesting that way: oftentimes when the team is not very favored, it can find life in the most difficult of situations and bounce back from the bottom all the way up to a very good spot. But once they’re in that spot, they suddenly can’t do it anymore. TI was like that too, so many people were saying that EHOME were headed for the title, to the point that even I got a little bit embarrassed. Forget about our bans, just looking at our pick stats, our drafts didn’t look at all like a team that could win the title. Against EG we indeed should not have lost. People were saying how in game one we lost after having megacreeps, how that was an epic, legendary game. If you ask me, it was dogshit. At that time EG was noob, we were even more noob, I can’t see what part of that is epic or legendary at all. Mentally overall we couldn’t really get in a good spot either, the team stopped improving in-game, we just put our tactics out there for others to counter. It’s like you play cards with your hand open while the others are playing with their hands hidden, can you possibly not lose? Wings winning the whole thing was really commendable, their tactics and style have a lot of layers to it all. It was varied to the point that you couldn’t counter it at all, and they had such great mentally — playing TI like it was a giant pub, so they truly deserved the title.

This year’s post TI player transfers, I think domestically everyone has just done okay. In comparison I think the big Western teams, like EG, have done excellently in this regard. They’ll definitely be a strong team when the time comes. In China I somewhat favor VG, adding a new player on the original VG.R foundation. The other teams, well, it is what it is. In the very beginning we wanted to go get Maybe to play position one for us. We discussed it with Maybe, but at that time he kind of wanted to go to VGP. Sylar approached LaNm himself, and we felt it was pretty good so we just decided on him. In terms of four position we considered ChuaN. ChuaN plus LaNm we felt would be a pretty good combination, but it didn’t work out. And then Wings were rumored to be disbanding due to players wanting to continue their schooling, with iceice even dropping his team registration for a while, so we went to try and recruit him and have Fenrir and iceice be our support duo with LaNm transitioning to coach, but then Wings decided to not be making any changes anymore. Fenrir spoke to us himself about wanting to leave the team, we really really wanted to keep him, and we communicated many times afterwards to that effect. But in the end Fenrir felt that he couldn’t take back the words that he’d already spoken, so he went to VG.J. As for iceiceice, after TI he’d already told us that he wanted to go back to Singapore to play, and we respected his wish. I feel that the outside world is quite unfair to him, he is originally an offlaner, but in an emergency time of need he took up the responsibility of playing carry. This was a huge challenge for him, and it was a result of our team having no other options. Iceiceice practiced the most out of the team, he is actually really hard working, so no matter how poorly he might play I don’t think the blame can go to him! From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate iceiceice, I respect him.

Why would Wings’ TI6 win affect our methodology for team building? And if you say they are a brand new team I really can’t agree with that. I’ve been in the business of youth training and development for esports for so long, I’m fully aware of just how difficult it is for newcomers to get results. In the very beginning for Wings, they were SPG. That picture that you’ve all seen only of them being subs for DK, that was because I called them there. At the time DK had three people on break, yet there was still WPC that needed to be played. I felt that these three kids from SPG were pretty decent, so I grabbed them over to standin for us. I remember after winning, I specifically sent a note up to Zhou in the analyst room, asking him to choose the MVP for the match out of these three kids, and not from BurNIng or MMY. Afterwards, iceice went to this team and since then has played with them for over a year, so they can’t really be considered to be a new team. Prior to TI they’d won against top international teams, they’d won titles before, and they’d also been eliminated in the first round before. Teams have these kinds of fluctuations. They’ve experienced the things that they needed to experience along the way, their strategy and drafts are really unique yet calculated. Honestly, their style is really similar to that DK team, so perhaps you could say they are an improved and stronger version of DK.

In the end, I hope that EHOME can continue to improve, and continue to learn from the top clubs domestically and internationally in order to become a leading force in the next generation of this industry.

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The Emperor and the King bid farewell

BurNIng has been referred to, at various times and in various contexts, with nicknames such as “Universe B”, “Emperor B”, “B-God”, and so on — all in respect to his status as perhaps the single most legendary player and carry of the Dota and Dota 2 scene.

rOtK’s ID, in his own explanation, stands for ‘Return of the king’. His loudness and charisma has indeed solidified his image as a dominant personality and force in the scene, one with the ability to dictate not only his own team’s tempo, but the emotions of those around him too.

The Emperor and the King have ascended from their terrestrial roles as competitors into the pantheon of Dota — today, these two important figures announced their respective retirements from professional competition in Dota 2 within a minute of each other. And the stage grows a bit emptier, or perhaps it opens up space for the next rulers of the scene.

Their retirement announcements are translated below, with care –

BurNIng’s announcement:

“For me, today is an important day. I’ve decided to bid farewell to the professional scene, and end my professional competing career.

Seven years of Dota, six years of professional play. Going through countless version changes, I’ve been very lucky to be able to come into and become part of it all. It has taken me along the path of a professional esports competitor, and allowed me to achieve countless honors and glories, fulfilling one goal after another. Dreams are destined to be the luxuries of the few, and even now some past results leave me with remorse. Remember who you were when you first set out, and you will find yourself successful in what you desire. All along this journey, I’ve only striven for a clear conscience and no regrets.

What there is more of, is thankfulness. First of all I must thank Dota, it brought me up onto this magical stage, allowing the introverted me another way of expressing myself. Next I must thank those teammates who have fought alongside me, and the opponents who have driven me to continue improving. Without you all, I would not be who I am today. Lastly I want to thank the fans and friends who have watched me and supported me all this time, your encouragement gave me confidence, your criticisms helped me grow.

Today my Dota competing career has come to an end, and I hope this is only a pause and not a full stop. No matter how much I am reluctant for this day to come, it has still come. Just like in that question they asked me last year, ‘What has your youth been?’ My answer at the time was, ‘My youth has been Dota.’ Now, it’s as if my youth has been taken away alongside this retirement, but nothing can take away those shining memories carved into the lifelong recollections of my heart.

After retiring, I will continue to be active in and around this scene. Early plans are to stay with the club and help train new talents, using my accumulated experience and methods to help them mature. I will also partner with rOtK to commentate, as well as attend some offline events to interact with everyone. I hope those interested will come support.”

rOtK’s announcement:

“Through a period of consideration, I’ve decided to retire. Perhaps it has been the four or five years of competition, my body has shown some signs of wear and desires a period of rest. Three years with DK; joy, success, and loss, have all been imprinted upon the path of my youth. In the one year with VG I felt that I matured quite a bit, I’ve been more able to assume responsibilities. Thank you to the club and my teammates for your confidence in me, you will always be the best! The second of my only two sons (Sylar) has finally had the chance to fight with me for a year, there is nothing else to regret. Super has been a teammate for four or five years now, we need not say much between ourselves, and I will never have truly left you. What we said before whilst drinking, ‘Wherever you are, I am there as well.’ Sylar, your drinking ability is so low. We haven’t exchanged much in terms of heart to heart talks, but what has been, has been enough. In many things I can only say that I’ve tried my best, there’s nothing else I can do. No matter what, though, I wish everyone happiness in the future, because that is most important.

I also want to thank our big Dota academy (joke referring to a previous rOtK appearance at a university where he gave a talk on Dota), I still have many classmates, and I hope that you all will accomplish your goals in life. In the future if someone asks me, I will say I graduated from the Dota Academy, and I am proud of it!

Even though it has only been one year, but I will still never forget our VG five-man group. The strongest newcomer for the future, a future Rubick fun-name competitor, what you need is a tranquil heart, and more experience. The most professional and hardworking five-position Fenrir, you are the Ah-K of my heart (I believe this is referring to Hongo Kanata, who bears some resemblance), every victory cannot be separated from your selfless play and sacrifice. Strongest mid player in the world, second to none, you have a hero pool worthy of fun-names beyond mention. Morphling’s fun-name contender Sylar, steadiness is your longstanding style, I hope that you can bear more responsibility in the future, and play more aggressively. IamHunter (VG CEO), JaL (VG team lead), 357 (VG coach), and everyone at the club I send my wishes for you all to have smooth success in the future.

And all my teammates from the past, MMY, longDD, zippO, 357, and many many more, thank you for the understanding you have shown me and my weaknesses, thank you.

This one year at VG has been very happy, and it has gone by in a very fulfilling way. From our first international title, to our lows, to our unstoppable force at TI4… I won’t say more, because tears would come.

Whether it is my unwavering support of my teammates, or my fiery passion for Dota, I am still the same me as before ^_^

After retiring, I will team up with BurNIng to commentate, and I will go to some offline events to interact with everyone. Those interested can look out for these and come to support, and it’s possible that we will still form a fun team in the future to play and keep ourselves busy. There are also many more surprises, so please look forward.

For example, “Hello everyone we are BB, I am xB (rOtK), I am BurNIng (big B),” will you all watch a show where we are the hosts?

I will focus my energies on promoting esports, so esports can truly become hot!

Lastly I want to thank all those who have supported esports, loved esports. You have accompanied me on my career path, allowed me to have more confidence, and brought more excitement to my journey. Now that I’ve retired, I will have more time, so I will frequently organize in-houses and groups to play together in my fan club, keep fighting!”

LaNm post-TI4 short interview

China Electronic Athletics Magazine recently did a short interview with LaNm, the recently-retired DK support player and long-time veteran of the scene.

CEA: Since joining DK, your performances have been quite good, so why would you decided to retire now?
LaNm: I actually decided long ago on retirement. As for the reasons for retiring, the reasons are many, and in the memoir I am currently writing, I will share the specifics.

CEA: Speaking of DK, rumor has it that one of your conditions for joining DK last year was for BurNIng to agree to fight another year?
LaNm: Yes, as a professional player not having played alongside BurNIng up til then would have been a regret.

CEA: Let’s look back at this past year with DK then. From your sweep of Chinese and international teams in the beginning, to the undefeated championship victory at SL9, to ultimately falling into poor form, and finally your unfortunate exit from TI4… Will there be lots of regrets?
LaNm: There will definitely be, life can never be that smooth. But I’ve already emerged from the shadows of defeat, and this year’s competition has held huge meaning for my life.

CEA: Before TI4 began, your team was favored by a large amount of fans, yet you were sadly eliminated in the end. What do you think were the reasons for this loss? Form? The game version? Changing game tempos?
LaNm: Mentality.

CEA: Can you speak more specifically?
LaNm: Very complicated, I will talk about it in my memoir.

CEA: Many players choose to stream or commentate after retiring, yet you seem not to have plans in this direction? What do you think you’ll be doing after retirement?
LaNm: I am currently settling some things. I hope to commentate to share my experience with more fans and audiences, and I’ve also considered becoming a coach to prolong my dreams. But everything is still in the works, I still haven’t made a decision.

CEA: Your career hasn’t been the easiest. From your point of view, has your experience as a professional player given or taken more overall?
LaNm: The setbacks I’ve encountered have also been a part of my growth, so I’ve definitely gained more.

CEA: Looking back on your entire career, what has left you with the deepest impression?
LaNm: Two things. One is the moment when we won WPC, the other is after elimination my teammates embracing me and consoling me.

CEA: You mentioned a memoir just now, and previously you have revealed related details through your Weibo, so when can we expect to see this memoir?
LaNm: Around one month’s time, I’ve already begun writing.

CEA: Finally, say something to the fans who have supported you all along.
LaNm: Thank you to each of your for your support, I will continue to be active in the esports scene.

Source: http://user.qzone.qq.com/1095789385/blog/1407400976
Follow DOTALAND: twitter.com/Dotaland

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…

Some cool G-League Finals pre-match interviews with iG and DK

First we have Hao talking about his career and his thoughts of BurNIng and BurNIng reflecting on his storied experiences with G-League through the years.

Then we have the rest of iG and DK chatting and sharing some thoughts and jokes…

Follow DOTALAND on Twitter: twitter.com/Dotaland

 

 

2013 in review from a Chinese point of view

UUU9 had a pretty cool editorial writeup on 2013 Dota from the Chinese point of view… I took some small liberties and added a little bit to make things read better in English when translating here and there.

Foreword

The long-awaited Dota 2 servers came, competition domestically and international grew ever fiercer, new players emerged, old players persisted, viewers’ tears and players’ tears mixed as results pulled all our heartstrings. DK finally escaped two years of no wins, VG saw a meteoric rise, and the scene witnessed five strong teams fighting it out on the path to TI4.

This past year has been memorable, with sadnesses and triumphs, sweat and tears. We haven’t given up, we’re still moving ahead — where there is Dota, we are there, if only for a belief, a passion, we strive together.

Dota 2 servers, finally

The original and unadulterated (mostly) Dota 2 experience finally comes as the successor to DotA. A top tier esports experience, million-RMB prizes, Perfect World’s Dota 2 has finally taken off… The servers officially went fully free and open to play on Sept 25, 2013. This also marked the beginning of a new wave of a people’s esport movement, as internet cafe events, city-based events, media-sponsored events, and fan events all came together to kick things off on a national scale.

Long-awaited, ranked matchmaking comes

On Dec 12, 2013, the matchmaking system that fans and critics alike have been clamoring for finally came to Dota 2 along with Winter’s Wraith Night promotional event and new hero Legion Commander. With split matchmaking queues for solo and party, the system brings another level of self-improvement and engagement for players.

Events

G-1 League Season 5, the fall of China

Led by Loda, Alliance came and conquered, leaving as true winners after storming through the likes of DK, iG, and LGD, the traditional top three teams in China. In doing so, Alliance took away the G-1 title, a first for a Western team on Chinese soil. This was the early beginnings of a trend of weakness for Chinese teams through the latter half of 2013, and questions were raised regarding the drastic drop in competitiveness, with concerns aimed at ACE, a lack of offline events, and the falling behind of Chinese strategies.

The world celebrates TI3, as China laments

At TI3, Alliance showed to the world what their abilities were capable of. Undefeated in group stages, defeating three-time finalists NaVi in the Grand Finals, their outstanding performances earned them plaudits the world across. Just prior to these amazing Grand Finals, China would see its worst showing in an International to date. Only TongFu, who kept decent form throughout, managed to squeeze into the top 4. But still, as TongFu were eliminated, our hearts shattered. For everyone Chinese team this was a massive blow, and the losses still linger within. After these losses, the scene has seen much encouragement and work to improve on perceived weaknesses, with various players expressing their determination in fighting another year in hopes of redeeming themselves at TI4. We wish them well.

A historic WPC-ACE inaugural season

The 2013 WPCACE League was held in Shanghai in collaboration with the Shanghai Sports Bureau, Jingruis Real Estate, and ACE. Eight top teams from wtihin China, plus two qualifier teams partook, becoming part of this piece of esport history. LGD, iG, DK, VG, TongFu all participated, and in three months’ time starting in September 2013, they fought for a total prizepool of 1 million RMB. In the end, DK fought back from 3 games down in a best of 7 to win 4-3 against iG, and not only was history made in the results and the fashion it was achieved, but also in DK finally breaking their two year streak without winning anything.

Teams

DK — The winless finally escape their fate

The galacticos, the team that countless fans put their hopes and joys on, the team that let those fans down over and over again. Yet always there in the end, always a challenger to be feared. Ever since DK moved to Dota 2, it had been two years without any titles. After TI3, LaNm, Mushi, and iceiceice brought their star power to the team and thus created what some called a ‘dream team’. In the WPC-ACE League group stages they exhibited dominating form against other Chinese powerhouse teams. Ultimately they took the WPC-ACE League title, and thus escaped their two year nightmare.

iG — The meandering of a former world champion

iG, once king of kings, TI2 champions and dominating presence on the Chinese scene. They entered 2013 with a relative dearth of domestic events to compete in, and iG eventually could not escape the low tide in form that Chinese teams suffered in general throughout the year as a result. Their losses at TI3 led the world to doubt this once-proud championship winning team, and after TI3, iG brought in Hao, while banana found a rebirth here. In WPC-ACE they went toe to toe with DK, and ended up with a more-than-respectable second place finish. 430’s outstanding plays, YYF’s steadiness, Hao’s aggressiveness were all on display as we look forward to this juggernaut getting back on track…

VG — The fierceness of the newcomers

VG was founded in 2012, and they first entered our view in March of 2013. They first started with newcomers Fy, sydm et al. After TI3, they brought in Super, rOtK, and Sylar to create a mixed old and new roster alongside Fenrir. Amongst other good results, they went to Poland and won a major title in EMS One, proving that their choices thus far have been justified…

RisingStars — For the glory

Founded in January of 2013, Rstars consisted of former Noah’s Ark and DT Club players. Yet not much came of this team as they constantly looked to be on the verge of making the next step. A dismal showing in the latter half of the year, however, meant that eventually the club was disbanded. To this, their owner expressed dismay, because try as he might, it didn’t work out this time; we wish him strength in trying again for his dream in the future…

RattleSnake — Waiting to strike

In the beginning of 2013, various domestic events were all making the switch to Dota 2. Luo, along with former WE teammates Icy and Kabu, with LaNm and a new face in FAN, formed RSnake. After making it to TI3 but not doing much more than that, RSnake made changes to the roster yet saw little result, and currently the club retains no domestic roster for events in China…

LGD — The team of teams

With xiao8 as their heart, and the old Dream setup as their core, LGD has always been recognized as the strongest Chinese team in terms of execution. This has allowed them to hold on to their position within the traditional top three Chinese teams. Yet, their strong showing at TI2 did not transfer into 2013 and they failed to win any large titles, earning themselves the only title amongst Chinese fans as “forever number two”. Their TI3 performances were even less satisfactory, and after TI3, it was xiaotuji — a more aggressive fighting carry — that joined to replace Sylar. In relatively short amount of time since then, they have seen results with the new setup, with a good showing at WPC-ACE League (and a title at D2L S4 in the very start of 2014)…

TongFu — The sleeping tiger

With Hao, Mu, and KingJ as cores in 2013, TongFu achieved much in the first half of 2013. Because of LGD losing their direct invite to TI3 due to roster change, TongFu received a direct invite instead, and their fourth place finish at TI3 proved that they deserved it. As the best-placing Chinese team at TI3, TongFu were still unable to avoid changes, and Zhou, ZSMJ, and xtt joined after TI3. The two big-name Z carries have yet been unable to see TongFu emerge from a low ebb in form, and Zhou has even expressed a desire to retire if things don’t change, yet we still wish them luck and strength, add oil TongFu porridge…

Players

CTY: A bumpy path

CTY first entered our view as a wonderkid in 2009’s solo mid tournaments. With dreams of playing professionally, he joined VG, yet weak performances led to questioning of him as a player. After jolting around and ending up with RStars, we may have seen the last of him in Dota 2, as rumors abound that he will make the move to LoL. Things are never easy for newcomers to the scene, and we truly need them here…

Fy: Best newcomer aura

Fy’s first appearance on the main stage of our consciousness was perhaps him on Rubick. He lit the game up, and quickly earned a title as “Best Chinese Rubick player”. Afterwards, his career saw some bumps and ups and downs in a short amount of time, but he stuck with VG ultimately and has so far been rewarded with an EMS One title, accomanied with recognition as the year’s best new player…

ZSMJ: Dreams of the top in my return

ZSMJ’s original retirement left many fans with a sense of loss. One of the biggest anticipations for early 2013 was ZSMJ’s rumored return to the scene. From VG to TongFu, from carry to 4 position, his goal has only been to play to his utmost in hopes of one day standing again at the top. We can all see his hard work and his improvement, and perhaps the most reliable player on TongFu right now is none other than ZSMJ…

BurNIng: A thirst to prove himself by winning

B-God, ever since transitioning to Dota 2, had not won any major titles. In his heart of hearts there was nothing he desired more than a championship title. In this period, there were rumors around that he was thinking about retiring. Their faltering at TI3 was heavy and hard; in his tearful moments, fans empathized with his sadness but pleaded with him to play on for another year. After making changes to the team, DK seems to have found a new self, and the end of 2013 finally saw a smile visit BurNIng’s face…

Zhou: Searching for life within darkness

Zhou-god’s poor form has been bound to him since 2013 began and never left him. Still, he’s been featured on the loading screen seven times, and he holds weight as a player. After TI3, he joined TongFu alongside ZSMJ to redeem himself. We hope Zhou doesn’t give up, add oil…

MMY: Rebirth

Joining DK in early 2013, Dai officially became MMY and made the move to support. No matter what position MMY plays, his talent shines through. His Wisp, Rubick, and Visage are all shining examples, especially his Wisp, which could be the best in China. Following TI3, MMY’s play with DK has been a central pillar to depend on for the rest of his team, and within Chinese hard supports, he has been one of the most reliable, most outstanding ones…

LaNm: A legendary talent

Before he became a pro player, he was the king of pub players. After he became a pro, through all kinds of hardships and challenges, he has finally proven himself in this stretch of 2013 with a title. In the beginning of the year, RSnake with him and Luo had been well-regarded by people around China, but unfortunately they fell short. Post TI3, he joined DK to partner with MMY in support, reuniting with two other former EHOME players. This setup did not let us down, and after settling in with the team, LaNm has gradually displayed more and more flashes of his brilliance…

Bonus — a few top Chinese comments in response

1. Dai possesses the most natural talent, but the weakness of these tyeps of players is that typically they don’t work very hard. Back then he was playing WoW all day, but I think he’s gotten better nowadays. After losing LaNm, we finally saw how important he was as a player, RSnake went directly from competing at the TI3 level to barely being a semi-professional quality.
2. Why does LGD have such strong execution? Because what xiao8 says is what happens. So if they win it’s because of this, but if they lose it’s also because of this. LGD’s other four listen to xiao8 to a point of blindly following. I forget which competition it was, but xiao8 was initiating and dying instantly, and his other four teammates would just follow in one by one and die too. Sylar perhaps hadn’t yet completely bought into this, he tends to play it safe and just straight up bails if he thinks things aren’t going right, so ultimately he was replaced due to not matching up. This type of team execution has its good points, and its bad points. If it works then it results in perfect counter-plays, if it fails then it’s feeding. Even if the others have their own thoughts, in-game they all unconditionally listen to xiao8. Yet nowadays, this kind of execution perhaps has greater weaknesses than strengths.
3. Zhou, I think was a victim of iG’s recent styles. He’s been forced to play carry under a style where the carry has to face heavy pressure on his own and doesn’t get much protection, this has gone on for so long that perhaps he has lost some of his original carry senses. This is why 820 once said, if you’ve played too much 5 position then you end up forgetting how to play carry, your thoughts and your mechanics are focused on a completely different area.

The importance of team execution isn’t determined in just one competition. LGD, ever since 2009, has been one brain leading four obedient teammates, this has been the LGD style. This is also why LGD has been steady and stable no matter how their roster has changed. Honestly speaking, LGD with xiao8 has been greater than the sum of its parts, this is where we see the power of execution. You can question the captain’s decisions, after a match you can go and discuss, but on the field you just go and do what he says. Losing a match isn’t that important, it’s losing that collective heart. Right now DK is truly a dream team, at least in terms of its roster. But just as they are each great individual players, they will also each have their own thoughts, and this might be DK’s greatest problem in the future. If addressed, DK will certainly win over the entire world. Every strong world-class team, at their peak, has always had two things: strong execution, and a soul. EHOME had 820, Alliance has Loda, NaVi has Puppey (not Dendi).

Source: http://dota2.uuu9.com/2013/

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