Pre-TI3 analysis: A tale of narrowing margins and increasing difficulties for China

Looking towards TI3 (less than 50 days away now!), Chinese esports man Felix has a writeup of some fears he has for Chinese teams at TI3 in Seattle this year…

TI3: A tale of narrowing margins and increasing difficulties for China — by Felix

I think lots of readers will be hesitant and doubtful upon first reading the title here. But have no fear, I think it’s better that the ire be directed towards people like me who write this kind of stuff, rather than be directed at the teams and players in case they fail to win at TI3. I absolutely believe that they will all give it their 357% effort, but it must be acknowledged that what faces them at TI3 is much more dangerous and challenging than TI2.

1. I want to note that in the matchup between RattleSnake and Quantic for the Wild Card spot, RSnake has to be seen as the underdogs here. You can go to Gosugamers and check their match records, and compare the two teams recent results. You should see a definite trend. What this means is that, from the outset, the number of Chinese teams present may well be 4 versus 12 non-Chinese teams, as opposed to last year’s 5 versus 11.

2. Ageing. If we take a detailed look at the 4 guaranteed Chinese teams present, apart from TongFu’s Banana, all the other 19 players participated in TI2. In contrast, before G-1 Season 5, how many people knew of Admiral Bulldog, or EGM? Who was NaVi’s Funn1k? What about Fnatic’s players’ names, their roles, their preferred heroes? I’d guess that not many Chinese players would be very familiar. After TI2, with the exception of VG who brought out a few new faces, there have been no other newcomers. The likes of CDEC can’t be expected to bring immediate results right now, and thus our Chinese teams must accept the circumstances as they are currently… yet we should still question what brought this about.

3. Understandings. After their respective losses at TI2, foreign teams and players have spent the year analyzing and learning Chinese teams. In particular, Orange, who have participated in three different large-scale Chinese events since then, LGD.int who have been living and training in China, as well as the Alliance that came to China and stomped, not to mention NaVi, who will be coming to China to train soon. Across these teams, there has been a dramatic increase in understanding of the Chinese for them, while in comparison, Chinese players and teams have incomplete understandings of European and American players and teams. Chinese styles are no longer mysterious to them, while our opponents remain unfamiliar to us.

4. Gap in competitions. This is a point that I think most everyone can recognize. I roughly counted all the events available between the the end of G-League in January to the closing of G-1 League in May of 2013, and not a single Chinese team played more than 10 matches in that timespan. If you go look at Steam’s event ticket calendar, you find that in that same timespan, there were at least four significant events taking place in Europe and America. To be able to use competitions as training is a luxury for any team, and in this respect, foriegn teams havee had over five times as much experience in the past months as Chinese teams. What this brings about is a falling behind in playing style and strategies, and this is something that has already been seen at G-1.

5. The offline advantage is gone. Alliance, coming from faraway Sweden to China, showed us that the gap in offline skill from older days was no longer to be seen. Over the past half year, iterations of ESL, DreamHack, StarLadder, and other competitions have all come and gone, and with them the idea that foreign teams are “fierce online, weak offline” is fading away.

6. Mental burden. After NaVi took TI1, Chinese teams approached TI2 with a nothing to lose, everything to gain attitude, in which they all strove to be the ones to win TI2 for China. This ultimately helped iG overcome all kinds of challenges in terms of stamina and determination, and allowed them to complete the impossible mission in the end. At TI3, however, it will be completely opposite, as not only is it not a given that iG will be able to approach the competition with the ease with which last year’s defending champs NaVi did, but they will also have the entire nation’s hopes and expectations upon them. As such, all participating Chinese players and teams will simultaneously feel that they want to win, yet they’re afraid of losing. Chinese Dota stands as the world’s best, so winning is to be expected, while losing is letting the nation down.

These things, while they may seem small or inconsequential to some, will be taken to heart by others that understand the nuances of competition. Me bringing these things up here is absolutely not to be a naysayer for our Chinese teams, instead, it is to bring a word of caution. Even though the Chinese Dota 2 servers are nearing open beta, even though Dota 2 has just been featured on CCTV, the trip to Seattle for all our teams is definitely not just a vacation, it will be a game of increasing challenges and difficulties compared to prior years.

After TI3, Chinese Dota is primed to flip to an all-new chapter; close to half of the currently active players may retire one after the other. They are not only your gods and legends of Dota when underneath the spotlight, they are also competitors in esports, and they’ve worked and sacrificed for years just for the few chances they get. So no matter what results they achieve, they should be worthy of your understanding and respect.

I’ll just say this much in this piece, next up I’ll write more specific analysis of the teams. Less than 50 days now, add oil.

Source: http://fight.pcgames.com.cn/285/2854049.html

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“G-League through my eyes” — a post-finals writeup by 17173’s Felix

Original: http://dota2.sgamer.com/news/201303/149412.html

Writer: Felix菜刀刃 of 17173

Foreword:

In this writeup, I’ll only talk about the actual competition at the finals, those that are here for gossip can turn away now.

A few days ago I was able to visit the Mercedes-Benz Center as a representative of a media organization. In name, I was there to report but in reality, I learned and saw more than anything. From the newsroom, to the various nooks and crannies of the venue, to the outer stands, backstage and player/team rest areas, media areas, I saw it all. More importantly, I was put up in 4 and a half star level accommodations, and with it came foreign waitstaff for breakfast, direct rides to and from the venue, and unlimited fruit and salad in the media room. So, okay, I guess you could consider my words below to be ‘soft’ for a reason, but I swear that all of it is the truth.

This is my response to that trending “7 best” piece written by a fan about G-League earlier this week (Dotaland note: this is referring to a satire piece written by a fan that criticized everything at the G-League — will summarize the criticisms in italics for each point)

Ticket pricing

First let’s talk ticket pricing. 100 RMB to go watch G-League, worth it or not? The fan piece compared G-League with StarsWar, WCG, and while this is certainly a legitimate angle from which to look at things, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to look at it. First off, the venue for G-League is none other than the Mercedes-Benz Center. To be able to attend an event at a world-class facility such as this one, no matter if the event is a concert, or a sporting match, or a performance, 100 RMB is the absolute bottom line, or close to it. Secondly, the total investment towards G-League has topped 1 million RMB, and unlike other competitions, G-League does not have Grandpa Samsung, or Papa Tencent — ticket sales are a precious income stream. Third, live attendance at G-League was around 70%, so the argument that the tickets had been incorrectly priced seems to lose its strength based on that figure alone. Ticket pricing is one of those things where each person has their own limit, so let’s just recognize that and move on.

Service (no service at all, bad food, extortion pricing, long lines, everyone went hungry, made worse by the fact that spectators were not allowed to come back in if they went out to get food, and were not allowed to bring food in on their own in the first place)

The fan piece sarcastically pointed out the lack of food and refreshments, this is something that I also felt similarly on. I experienced a 15 RMB combo, which consisted of a piece of pure bread, and a cup of heavily watered down cola, what a rip off. For me, luckily I got to eat and drink as I pleased in the media room in back. Clever fans in the stands would have all snuck their own food in, but those that were too honest would only leave the night feeling famished. On this problem, even if Gamefy wanted to do soemthing, they’d face difficulties. For one, a venue like this wouldn’t ever allow events to freely hand out food and drink and thus affect the venue’s own food and drink business, and for another, it’s not as if Gamefy has the resources and manpower to feed some ten thousand spectators. If you think about it, this kind of thing is pretty common at all events of this size, and the real issue that caused this to be magnified was the fact that the finals competition took too much time, and I’ll address this next.

Competition schedule (long, tedious scheduling from 9am to past 10pm)

Four best-of-5s in a single day has never happened before, as the fan piece claims? In actuality, it happened at TI2. At TI2, for three days straight it was competition from 10 in the morning to 11 at night, for a total of 8 best-of-3s, 14 best-of-1s, and 1 best-of-5. All in all I counted 40 matches, averaging out to 13 matches a day. G-League was four best-of-5s, for a total of 16 matches, and in addition, I’m sure we all realize the difference in time required for an average match in SC2 or Warcraft3, compared with Dota2. So, like this, if the fan piece suggests that those who went to G-League should win an iron-man award, they should only get second place, as the fans in America for TI2 deserve first place. The scheduling was one of TI2’s few weaknesses, and we hear that this next time Valve will make improvements on it. In the same vein, BBKing has promised on weibo that G-League will compress their scheduling in the future as well.

Commentators (poor sound quality, poor hype and excitement, shallow)

This one I mostly agree with the fan piece. The sound quality in the venue had some problems, in some positions (such as where I was sitting), things were hard to hear because of echoing (I paid attention in middle school physics, ha). In most other places it was alright. Another issue was that at certain times, the commentators would be drowned out by the live crowd. Apart from raising the audio level, the commentary was also lacking in excitement and hype compared to Western and Korean counterparts, this has been a long-standing problem in Chinese commentators. As someone who has occasionally made cameos as a commentator, however, I understand that without 100% commitment and talent, it’s very difficult to do, so I won’t say more.

Interaction (weak, forced, lack of interaction and viewing of actual players and teams)

First of all, compared to WCG, the lack of interaction and close-ups with teams and players is something that comes down more to the venue itself. If you’re attending an NBA match, unless you’re at the players’ tunnel or you have courtside seating, you’d also lack any chance to get to see players up close. This is the same with G-League; with the situation at G-League, it would’ve been quite a disaster to attempt to allow ten thousand fans to go up and approach players for autographs. Here I want to make a small suggestion, perhaps we can arrange in the future a day before or after the event itself for player-fan interaction — for example a signing session, to allow room for interaction between players and fans? This could be something to consider in the future.

VIPs (live audience didn’t appreciate the singers, awkward)

It must be noted, our VIP performers were really very gracious. Their final performance was delayed by an hour, yet they still came out and performed all their songs very professionally. Maybe it was because I was in the lower stage and closer to the performance, but it seemed to be pretty good atmosphere down there. I could see outer stage spectators having trouble getting into it though. It has to be said though, Gamefy displayed some bold vision in combining big name performers with a finals event like they did. Additionally, the choices were fitting and suitable, and their styles seemed to match the kind of mentality that ‘esports’ displays — one of independence and chasing one’s own dreams, and the two worked together excellently. Overall, this try at a new thing was quite successful, and other competitions could learn from this.

Promotion (unrealistic, false advertising, exaggerated)

Not much to say about this one — the claim of “ten thousand” wasn’t off at all, no exaggeration there. My own estimate is that at the peak, attendance was around 15000, of course this might not be accurate. But those fans that I spoke with at the event all felt that it was over ten thousand. Considering max capacity of the venue was 18000, and the report was that it awas 70% attendance, these numbers all line up. As for forum fans claiming that only a few hundred people showed up: the inner stage alone held over a thousand people. I believe that the other at least 9000 people weren’t all planted there by Gamefy, nor were they holographic premonitions.

Conclusion

In the past I’d written pieces criticizing ACE League. Even though it wasn’t directed at the organizers, GTV, thinking back on it now I realize that that wasn’t the nicest of things to do, so here I extend an apology to those affected. The other thing was Gamefy’s daily show criticizing WCG. Nonetheless, no matter if it’s ACE or WCG, or G-League, everyone is working hard to advance esports in China, so let’s think from each other’s points of view.

If I were to give G-League a score out of ten, from a competition organizer’s perspective, I give it a full 10. The reason being, for an event like this, execution is much harder than it seems on paper. G-League not only brought to reality an unprecedented level of production, they also went beyond and managed things I had never even thought of before. There’s a slang saying that “if your steps are too big then you risk failure”, and G-League’s accomplishments here have been amazing, so I hope we can all give them more time with the weaknesses.

I don’t know if you all have this feeling, the one where you’re full of hope and energy and ready to chase your dreams, only to find that those around you have succeeded in doing so first. When I stepped into the Mercedes-Benz Center and looked up to see everything on the giant LED screens in the air, that was the feeling I had. It was joyous, envy, and a sense of loss. (Dotaland note: the writer of this, Felix, works with 17173 and G-1 League)

Competition organizers don’t need consolation, nor do they need sympathy, but they cannot lack the support of fans. Players and fans are our true deities, our god.

 

Top 10 Stories in 2012 Chinese Dota

Original: http://dota.sgamer.com/201301/news-detail-160432.html

Dotaland note: Written by Felix菜刀刃, friend of Dotaland, and translated at his personal request — this is a look back on the last year of Dota in China, where so many things have changed, grown, and in some cases, disappeared… Looks back on teams, controversies, achievements, and a hint at Perfect World having their own ‘International’? This and more, read on below!

10 — Disbandment

Nirvana, sponsored by Loveen, winners of prestigious titles such as G-League in 2010, WDC, WCG China, once upon a time stood amongst the three giants of Chinese Dota, alongside EHOME and LGD. WDC, the World Dota Championships, catalyzed in part by Loveen, was a top three competition in Dota. Going into 2011, Nirvana and the WDC both entered a turning point, where Loveen, citing a new marriage faded out of the scene. In the beginning of 2012, Nirvana officially announced their end, with WDC being their swansong.

PanDa, sponsored by a Hang Yu (this was PanDa’s second iteration), with Efeng as manager, established in 2012. Players under their tag included Hao, Mu, Yaobai, PanPan, 830God, and Sansheng. Their results were not bad, but then the boss disappeared, Efeng quit, three core players transferred to TongFu, and that was that — the team disbanded.

WE’s Dota team was established in 2011. At one point or another, they had new at the time, but now-familiar names such as Sylar and Veronica. After TI2 ended, their Dota players left one after another.

CLC’s Dota team, after a short existence including players like 357, ultimately disbanded after 357 returned to EHOME. Afterwards, the remnants of CLC merged with LOH to form Noah’s Ark. Following investors pulling out from NA in 2012, the team ceased to exist.

DT Club, once 3rd/4th placed finishers at ACE League, suffered an unexplained resignation from their manager, a loss of financial backing from their boss, their players floated off to other teams.

9 — Rebirth

“A thousand sails drift past the sunken ship, a thousand trees flourish upon the dying stump” — in 2012, though quite a few teams left us, new teams appeared to fill their spots and bring with them a new wind of hope. The most inspired of these is none other than LGD.int, where we must give credit to LGD.RuRu’s eagle-eyed wisdom for her skill in building another super-team in the hyper competitive Dota scene. And LGD.int’s performances so far have shown us all that Western players do not necessarily lack talent, they only need an environment to focus and train better.

Post-TI2, the biggest dark horse newcomer should be ViCi Gaming. Mostly comprised of new players, they first took the GosuCup by storm, only losing to Zenith and ending up third place. And then it was in the G-League group B, where they escaped death by eliminating MUFC, pushed LGD.cn to the limit, ending the year in a satisfactory manner.

Apart from that, there’s still the new as-yet-unnamed team led by ZSMJ and Ch, as well as a potential new team with LaNm. And then, there are rumors saying that former DT Club players have re-convened to fight anew in this new year.

8 — Perfection

After a seemingly neverending wait, Perfect World finally was confirmed as Dota2’s official Chinese partner. Despite many fans and industry people alike eagerly and impatiently awaiting this news, Perfect World played this to their own leisurely pace, perhaps with confidence in a long-term approach. While they prepared a new Dota2 official splash page and beta signups, Perfect World has also been ramping up recruitment in preparation. There are reports suggesting that Perfect World also has plans to hold independent large-scale events a-la Valve’s International, and perhaps this act could serve to disrupt the current balance between third-party events. Either way, no matter what comes from Perfect World, it will greatly influence the Dota2 scene as we know it.

7 — Reputation

For WCG, its name recognition is matched only by its controversy. As one of the key forces in early Chinese esports development, WCG holds an almost mythical reputation amongst Chinese fans. Yet, recent developments in gaming have almost left WCG behind, with WCG attempting a shift towards mobile games. And plus, as a modern-day esports giant, the new generation of Chinese gamers have the ability to look beyond what the Koreans can provide. Increasingly refined experiences and production from domestic competitions, plus huge moves from American gaming companies have left the Samsung-led WCG by the wayside.

This year’s World Cyber Games was held in Kunshan, China, and its production fully catered to the host nation’s tastes. Dota2 became a main competition, with its predecessor Dota included as an exhibition event. In Warcraft3, Ted’s Undead had a classic come from behind victory, and the Sky-Moon rivalry played out another emotional chapter; the whole of it meaning that viewers got more than enough. But still, the worries were apparent underneath the surface at WCG, and its future remains unknown.

6 — Surprises

G-1 League’s 4th Season quietly snuck up on us, and it brought with it China’s first Dota2 competition, a first for Chinese and English simultaneous broadcasting, the first Chinese competition with an in-game Steam ticket. Out of many firsts, what it served to do most was to set an example and kick off the future of Chinese — and even Asian — competitive Dota2. Even so, of course, there were many places for improvement; wonder what surprises the next iteration of G-1 League will have for fans?

5 — Breakout

As China’s longest standing and most well-known esports media organization, Gamefy’s 2012 wasn’t a typical one. In fact, it could be said that their summary for the year is a long list of achievements. The first season of G-League in 2012 managed to put on an exuberant celebration of a Grand Finals, despite being trapped between a spectacular ACE League debut, and a certain million-dollar tournament in Seattle. And speaking of TI2, Gamefy also successfully acquired broadcasting rights to the competition. Yet, not long after these successes, Gamefy commentator SnowKiss resigned controversially, leaving in her place a long series of accusations leveled at Gamefy and former coworkers there. Although Gamefy successfully cooled the situation down, the storm clouds from this incident remain difficult to disperse. Afterwards, Gamefy’s Daily Report show negatively reviewed WCG, and Chinese WCG media partner NeoTV responded, causing another wave of arguments and controversy in the public eye.

So it was in this atmosphere that the new season of G-League began at the end of 2012. Unprecedented production quality along with unpredictable and exciting matches seemed to sweep away the haze of past disputes, finally helping Gamefy to break out from a series of negative events. In 2013, a reformed SiTV (parent company of Gamefy) thus must continue their role as one of Chinese esports forces.

4 — Professionalism

The ACE League, as a collaboration between the ACE Esports League and GTV Channel, provided Dota competition in its debut event. In the roadmap of Chinese esports development, the ACE League holds a milestone-like status. In terms of production and packaging, it’s erected a new standard for other competitions. But an awkward reality cannot be ignored, that is that half of the original participating teams have by now disbanded, and a second season of the league never materialized in 2012. In what way will ACE re-appear in 2013, all is still unknown to us now.

3 — EHOME

EHOME is (or was?) China’s oldest esports name. In many different events and games, especially Dota, they at one time or another represented the top China — or even the world — had to offer. In 2011, BurNing and KingJ left the team, and DK and iG arose, and EHOME’s kingly aura faded as it never had before. In 2012, EHOME made high-profile roster changes: DC as a coach, ZSMJ et al recruited to compete, yet no goals were achieved. Afterwards, old EHOME veterans 357, Dai, and LanM were recruited back into the fold, and because of rule-breaking in these transfers EHOME ultimately were excluded from the new ACE Esports Alliance — EHOME became the ‘Horde’ to ACE’s ‘Alliance’. After TI2, 357 and Dai joined DK, team lead 71 left, and EHOME once again fell apart. Rumors say that EHOME’s been bought by iG owner Principal Wang, but no one knows if we’ll see EHOME make another return.

2 — Royalty

As we review the Dota scene of 2012, we come to find that unfortunately, ‘mess’ is still a word closely associated with everything, to the extent that the China Esports Magazine of 2011 below can be used again for 2012 with little changes. Paid smurfing to boost Dota 11 platform account ladder rankings, Dota2 keys and profiteering, the “100% focused” statements, Taobao’s antics… from one side to another, insults, maneuvering, and politics covered everything from fairness to profits and everything in between. The end result of all this being, for better or worse, we saw many more sides of players, commentators, organizers, tournaments, and clubs than we would have otherwise ever known about. Interestingly, all of this seemed to die down quite a bit after TI2. Perhaps it was because everyone saw first hand that there’s a quality in professionalism, and there’s a power behind a million dollars.

1 — Crusade

Because of Valve’s million-dollar injection into The International 2, the competition was seen as a ‘crusade’ of sorts by players. The first International in Cologne was not particularly important to Chinese teams, with seemingly only EHOME taking even a week of time to prepare for it. But then, EHOME’s $250000 prize for second place had everyone waking up. CCM, who finished outside the top four last time had turned into this year’s iG. Equipped with the best training environment Beijing could provide, and having just taken a G-League championship, with a lead in the on-going ACE League, it could be said that they had all the forces of nature alongside them. In the end, they didn’t disappoint, and successfully planted the Chinese flag on the greatest stage of Dota2.

This TI2 also served to completely rewrite the order of the worldwide Dota scene. China’s iG began their dynasty, Chinese competitions transitioned to Dota2, and the former big three Dota competitions faded away, all while Dota2’s gravity shifted ever so much towards the East. All indications point towards the fact that with TI2 and iG’s title, a new age has begun.

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