The International 2015 in my view

The International 2015 (TI5) took place from late July 2015 through August 8 2015. Like previous TIs before it, it broke existing records for being the largest tournament in esports history. Once again, I had the unparalleled privilege of being behind the scenes and involved in many ways. I’d like to share the experience, or at least slivers of the experience as I can remember and write down.

This is TI5 from my point of view…

July 22 (Weds)

The entirety of TI5 group stages and media days took place at the Westin Seattle this year. In previous years it had been a combination of either moving from Westin Bellevue to Seattle after group stage, or simply shuttling teams from Bellevue to Seattle each day (as was the case at TI3). The pros of this were that it was easier logistically, and it also seemed that more

Info booklet for 2015

space was available at Westin Seattle as we took over practically three entire floors during the group stage. The cons were that it seemed like most players I spoke to preferred Bellevue a little more – either due to closer proximity to what they deemed to be better shopping (Bellevue Square, etc), or somewhat quieter surroundings.

Walking into the hotel building that morning a wave of familiarity washed over me – hotels tend to have a distinct smell and ‘feel’ and having spent much time at the Westin Seattle last year for TI4, I was immediately brought back to some of those moments. Running into BurNIng in the lobby, talking to rOtK late at night… but this was 2015 and as much as things felt the same all of a sudden, things would be different.

July 23 (Thurs)

Equipment set up day. LaNm has spilled coffee on one of his keyboards, but Helen, I think, has manged to fix it with some canned air. EHOME’s carry YJ (zyf), in his rush to get his settings straight for recording onto the SSDs that Valve uses, speaks in Chinese to a

non-Chinese speaking Valve staff. Not just a bit either, but a couple full sentences, and then he pauses waiting for a response before his team makes fun of him “This guy is real talent” “I bet when he sleeptalks tonight, he’ll be wondering why the guy didn’t understand him”

The other part of the story being that YJ is a prolific sleeptalker, and his topics are quite specific as well: He’s playing Dota in his dreams and his sleeptalking is making shot calls in game. According to their coach 71, once he shouted, “I’ve ulted them! I’ve got 4 of them in my ult! 5 actually!!!! I have Mask of madness, I’m going in!!” 71 then told me that the next morning he asked YJ whether he was playing Void in his dreams, and YJ incredulously asked how?? How did you know?!

Very helpful schedules in the booklet

And that’s when it became apparent to him that he’s got a sleeptalking problem.

Anyway, the EHOME team policy since then has been to room the member of the team least likely to be affected by a loss of sleep with YJ – and at TI that meant their poor team manager.

The rest of the day went similarly, as teams got around their jetlag, became settled in their settings, and went for their scheduled equipment setup times. In between, people ran around asking each other for scrims – I helped Newbee and a few other teams coordinate a couple times, but at the same time teams declining scrims were nearly as common as teams working to set them up. I won’t pretend to understand the reasoning/logic behind all this though; I only tried to help as an intermediary on occasion.

Being someone who’s lived in Seattle for quite some years, I’ve become a ‘local expert’ as people are asking me where they can buy certain things, where they can find X type of food, how to get to places, etc. Through the event, two places in particular in Chinatown became heavy favorites with the Chinese players: Hong Kong Bistro, and a Sichuanese restaurant called Seven Star Pepper that was praised as being ‘very authentic’.

Having had their visas slightly delayed, iG only arrived this morning. Yet by the evening, two of them had still yet to get a room arranged at the hotel. BurNIng appears in the lobby alongside ChuaN, who quickly spots me and shouts out “Hi!” I figure out their purpose for being downstairs, and we finally get BurNIng his room and room cards, he’s obviously a bit tired and walks back off to the elevator with a thanks and a “I’ll be heading upstairs, then.” The Westin Seattle is beyond booked out for most of the duration of TI5 so I suppose the room that had been assigned to BurNIng hadn’t yet been cleared when they first arrived in the morning.

July 24 (Friday)

Newbee having some fun before the serious business begins

This is the first day of real TI5-related stuff happening for Chinese teams: media day. Interview material is filmed in bulk today, with Kaci doing the interviews with Western teams, while long-time Chinese commentator BBC handles the Chinese side of things. For each player profile video or interview that was aired during the main event, there was probably 5-10 times more in terms of raw footage shot and worked with, maybe more.

Anyway, it’s another relatively light-hearted day as the Chinese teams arrive down at the media room one by one for their scheduled time slots. Compared to previous years, it felt as if the Chinese teams had loosened up somewhat, especially players that had had reputations for being introverted or closed off. Everyone seemed to have a good time in general. Perhaps with so many TIs having gone past already, with many of these players having experienced them, this would be normal – because as for many Chinese players, familiarity breeds a kind of comfort where they feel more at ease loosening up.

In the end, things go so smoothly that I’m able to work with the media people to move the schedule forward by over an hour and a half for the Chinese teams.

Which is all the better, because with the footage shot and ready for processing, one of my biggest projects during group stages was yet to come: subtitling for the videos of the Chinese teams and players. We have a small team of Chinese-English speakers available – one that seems to grow by a little bit each year (but probably not at the same rate that the content increases).

The only hiccup in the day was that xiao8, who was originally scheduled for an in-depth interview with BBC, had run off to grab lunch. I manage to get in touch with their manager Nicholas to reschedule, and it all works out. When he comes back to do his interview, I’m at work on subtitling videos already, and xiao8 sits behind me for some time watching and commentating my work. He’s with some LGD and CDEC players and they take turns trying to pronounce the English words I’m typing out for their subtitles. It’s an interview with BurNIng that they’re watching me work on, and they’re all like “wooo Big BurNIng!!”

Newbee.Banana admires their rings from TI4

Xiao8 asks me if I’ve done the one with him in it, “They came to my house to film! But I want to see it, you have it?” He’s enthusiastically asking about it, but before I’ve shown him it, it’s time for his interview and he’s whisked off to another floor.

At 7pm this night, it’s the traditional player’s dinner Valve holds each year before everything kicks off in earnest. This year it’s at Aqua on the Seattle waterfront. Once again it’s a chill atmosphere, and year-on-year there are more Chinese players coming compared to last year (while last year had more than the year before that), though the larger part of them still do not come, either preferring dinner elsewhere or whatnot. Some of Newbee come, and see their champions’ rings from the previous year. Apparently no one from iG makes it to the dinner, where their player jackets with IDs printed were distributed, and as I learn later, someone has stolen the ones with BurNIng and Ferrari_430 on them…

At the dinner, iceiceice keeps eating ahi tuna crisps, which are admittedly very good. Between him and myself, we probably eat a third of the crisps brought out. I chat with people randomly – Fly, Pyrion, Kotlguy, LD, Winter, Cyborgmatt, Merlini… Kotlguy asks me if I’m

At the player’s dinner, TI5

doing a writeup again, and here it is! They have some really old arcade machines setup at the restaurant set to free play mode: San Francisco Rush, some Simpsons game, some pinball machines.

The sun sets in a glorious blaze of red and orange as sunsets commonly are at this time of year in Seattle, and by 10pm I’m back at the hotel doing more subtitles. This time for a piece shot with CDEC’s shiki, who is decently well-spoken and quite laid-back for a first-timer at TI.

July 25 (Sat)

This is the first of two scheduled media days in which Valve requires every team to show up and make themselves freely available to gathered media outlets for around 1 hour during their timeslot. This year, media access has been very much limited compared to previous years, with media passes not being granted access to any of the areas that players would typically gather. Perhaps this is a reaction to the drama last year, characterized by one infamous incident in which a Chinese media outlet recorded and then posted, without permission, a video of DK’s draft and discussion during the

iG hang around during their media day slot

draft. A worthwhile consideration, if this was indeed what Valve had in mind – and the group stages were cleaner and less crowded/messy with fewer people milling around, I think.

The media day is essentially all day, so I am essentially there all day as well coordinating with the Chinese teams and making myself available to help with interviews as needed. As it turns out, only about a third of the media that would be present at TI5 were there at this media day as it was so early in the event, so things were very quiet with some teams arriving and leaving all within half an hour as there were no interviews to be had. Nonetheless, I had a good time as it was my first real chance to catch up with people – the media day requirement practically brought them all to me one by one, and so I could say hi one by one. 🙂

EHOME interviewed by Chinese media

July 26 (Sun)

It’s Wild Card day, and CDEC prevail as most people thought they would. Chatting with others, though, I went one step further – my predictions for best Chinese teams at this TI were LGD, EHOME, and CDEC, with VG possibly figuring things out and making a good run later on. Not necessarily in that order, but even I was amazed at how the following days would turn

Ramen with Fnatic

out.

It’s Johnny of Fnatic’s birthday and for dinner I show them a nearby Japanese place. In Asian culture it is really customary for everyone to share everything that is ordered, practically, and they each help themselves to each other’s food as it arrives one by one. Ohaiyo orders an udon and keeps calling it ramen. Since it’s Johnny’s birthday, I put an extra gyoza on his plate and wish him “Happy birthday!” and he eats the gyoza and everyone laughs. Mushi asks for a wireless hotspot, then gets on his phone to play Hearthstone, while the rest of us chatter about random things. Of course, Black^ has tagged along.

It’s the last of the casual atmospheres, as the next day Group Stage for TI5 would officially start and by the time we’re back at the hotel, everyone has more serious faces on as they prepare to pack in for the night and get ready for the most important morning of their year.

July 27 (Mon)

It’s day one of Group Stage. One particularly noteworthy matchup was seeing LGD and Cloud9 play. After long, back and forth games, LGD comes out 2-0. As the teams come out of their respective rooms, EternalEnvy approaches xiao8, and they

Fucker!

shake hands and then hug. Envy shouts “fucker!!” but he has a giant grin on his face, they laugh and then it’s off to the next set of games.

Fnatic drop game one against Secret, but win game two in a convincing fashion. Mushi and the rest of the team come out of their room and head downstairs buoyantly. As they disappear down the escalator to the first floor, Mushi suddenly turns around, smiles at me and flashes a ‘peace’ with his hand.

Newbee plays their games, surprising perhaps some people in that they didn’t actually lose everything and looked like they belonged – but the truth is that they’ve been very hard at work and in the days leading up to TI from what I could tell, were probably in the top third of teams in terms of time and effort spent training.

VP and Newbee awaiting their respective matches

Later at night, EHOME comes to play their match against Empire. They’re early – and LaNm is raring to go even as their match room hasn’t been cleared from the previous round. Pre-game, their coach 71 drills them on key points, and then a team which features two of Chinese Dota’s brighter newcomers is once again on the big stage, carrying one of the most storied names in esports.

Finally, in MVP.Hot6 vs VG, the two coaches of the teams fighting it out come together – or perhaps, back together, as Black^ and 357 sit on the floor watching, at times practically rolling with laughter joking about the game. Even as the VG on-screen was much different, things off-screen felt like they may have just half a year prior – if only for a brief time. Before the match ended, the coaches were back off to their teams.

Old times

July 28 (Tues)

It’s another day of Group Stage, and things get a little more tense each day as results come out and stakes rise with each additional game. Still, after each day’s matches there is that tiny bit of time for loosening up, recharging, and strategizing for the next day.

Tonight I go to dinner with EHOME. In typical fashion – one that is standard to these two who are, and have always been

EHOME

leaders of their teams – LaNm and rOtK are shouting with each other about their latest matches. Note, they are shouting with each other – not against or at each other. The topics they agree on, their opinions largely match, and they are mostly supplementing each other as the other three players listen rather quietly while eating. They are essentially two trains heading in the same direction, but on different tracks, and the EHOME journey is picking up speed. Afterwards, EHOME decides to walk back to the hotel from Chinatown.

After I make absolutely certain they know the way and have people with them that can help if need be, I let them go and then head back to the hotel, as there is more work to be done with subtitling.

July 29 (Weds)

iG lose badly on this day. They leave together, but it is deadly, deadly quiet.

On the interviews and subtitling front, I’ve finished subtitles for all the pieces I’ve been working on and moved to reviewing other subs.

One of the few Chinese interviews with Hot_bid this year, we got Newbee’s Banana around lunchtime. It’s relatively more difficult to get Chinese players for these interviews due to various reasons, but I think a major goal of mine if I’m back next year is to try and work with them beforehand to set up more of these more fun interviews. They’re receptive to them nowadays – at least much more so than, say, in 2013 – but it’s all about actually having someone to work with them on it and make them comfortable, I think.

Banana is a big football (soccer) fan, and his favorite teams are Barca and Bayern. He’s supported Barca since he was little. Back in China in the late 90s and early 2000s, the only things on TV were Italian and Spanish leagues, with some German league games here and there. We chat football a while, as I also follow and play the sport a lot. His idol is Batistuta, has been since childhood, and his Steam profile picture has reflected as much since pretty much forever.

VG

CDEC rising, and I’ve started a mini CDEC fan club as we watch their games. Agressif is impressive, I say, and various pros all agree. EHOME do well, remaining one of the few teams to not have had a Best of 2 defeat yet.

Dinner again with EHOME, as they’ve invited me to come along. Later on, VG appears at the same restaurant and sit at the table next to us. Worker at the restaurant wonders – what are these teams? Upon being told they are Chinese teams playing at an international tournament, he raises his thumb and happily says “Go China!”

I don’t stay long, though, as there’s still work to be done back at the hotel with subtitling stuff. On the way out, I catch coach Mikasa of LGD and say hi. He’s here with just a friend, as LGD and CDEC have opted to simply get burgers from across the street from Westin, as they have matches early in the next day.

July 30 (Thurs)

It’s the last day of Group Stage, and the crunch for finishing player profile videos and content for the main event is here. Having finished making raw subs, I’m on subtitle review duty and spend half the day going through various things.

EHOME confirms upper bracket after an impressive Group Stage showing with a rising trajectory, while VG continue their struggles and barely fail to avoid lower bracket.

iG play early in the day against NaVi, a meaningless match at this point in time, but iG seem more relaxed and to be having more fun. ChuaN does the coin toss, and cheerfully comes back after winning it, announcing that “We won! The coin toss, I mean! But that means we also won the match!”

BurNIng gathers himself before iG vs NaVi

BurNIng sits quietly until suddenly, he exclaims, let’s do a cheer! But the other players point out that it’s not yet time to start the match, so BurNIng instead moves himself in the lobby to the top slot when he’s usually not, declaring “It’s time for a change of scenery.” A brief fight for the other slots ensues before BurNIng quickly rules, “Alphabetical order! Get in line!” Then he carefully counts the letters down in the alphabet, pausing slightly to separate Faith and Ferrari properly, and off they go into the match against NaVi.

This night we have dinner with Fnatic again, all the way off at Din Tai Fung in University Village. It’s an hour-long wait for a table there, so Mushi and Ohaiyo take the opportunity to buy some jewelry for their girlfriends all the way back home in Malaysia. At dinner we realize that 4 out of 5 of their players are the youngest in their families, and the remaining one, Kyxy, is second youngest. An interesting coincidence, I suppose.

July 31 (Fri)

Not much is planned for the day, as Group Stage has ended and the Main Event is a few days away with Valve carefully having planned some days of rest time in between. Some players are raring to go at it, but others appreciate the rest time – and I think all the staff working the event so far do too. I’ve been exhausted thus far with the long days of helping teams before, during, and after matches and then doing subtitling stuff in between (often into the late night) so I appreciate the rest time too.

Newbee Bugattis

After the intense, and somewhat unpredictable, Group Stages, the days in between always feel like an eye of the storm. Still, it’s a reprieve and almost everyone shows up enthusiastically to go to the scheduled Secret Shop early access day today. I’m one of the last to get through the early access Secret Shop line. Heading out, I find rOtK who is mysteriously standing by himself by the streetside, double fisting some Starbucks coffees. He’s got the Dota 2 sunglasses on, with a whimsical look on his face. Seeing me, he shouts “Hey Josh!!” and rushes over and hands me one of the coffees. “For you!!”

I ask him where his team is, and he shrugs casually and takes a sip of the coffee. Then he sits down and declares, “This coffee sucks! It’s bitter!” Apparently he’s ordered some straight up coffee when he was trying to get frappuccinos, and in the process his team has deserted him. Not one to let unfortunate circumstances get the best of him, he stands back up and asks me to take a picture of him on his phone with the coffee and sunglasses against another shining Seattle sunset as backdrop.

“Okay, let’s go then!” he gestures towards the last shuttle bus back to the hotel and the last few of us climb in.

Aug 3 (Mon)

The red carpet at TI5

After some peaceful rest days in which I try my best – and fail – at recovering from a pretty bad cold that I’ve caught during the Group Stage, the Main Stage arrives like a storm and the first day is hectic as everyone is getting to know their roles. I’m floating around helping the Chinese teams, not being needed just yet to do interviews with players. It’s a similar story to previous TIs for me, but the sheer scale of this TI means that things are just that much bigger, and I’m binging on vitamin C and cough medicine just to keep from being overwhelmed. Nonetheless, the cold is something I fight for the entirety of TI5.

LGD watching, and making fun of xiao8

LGD beats Empire, and CDEC take down C9. We’ve taken to calling CDEC ‘mini-LGD’, not because of their styles, but because they’ve both been so reliable this TI in results, plus they’re sister clubs. In Chinese they call CDEC ‘xiao-Gan Die’ which is practically the same meaning, but more clever in terms of pronunciations.

VG beats NaVi in a do-or-die situation, one which VG having been early favorites were unexpectedly found in. I’m backstage before the game begins and Fenrir looks back at me, smiles, and says “Come give me some energy!” and hugs me, nods, and a little bit later they’re off to compete with their tournament lives and hopes on the line.

Jeremy Lin is at the venue most of the day, and apart from appearing on stream in various capacities, he’s also just been hanging around watching the games. Towards the end of the day I catch him on the VIP suite level (shared with all the teams) and catch a picture with him – basketball is the most popular sport in China and I played through my middle school and high school years, so it was pretty exciting to meet an actual NBA player like that.

Jeremy Lin

Aug 4 (Tues)

I’m with EHOME while waiting for their match. ROtK is playing some Chinese rock music and singing along, “Let’s rock together~!!” and CTY joins in for a bit. After a while, they get hungry…

EHOME waiting

The delays mean they get to go hang out at the Valve lounge. LaNm and rOtK sleep for a while, the others mess around and try out the yogurt down there. After a while, LaNm wakes up and tells me, “Who can tell IceFrog to hire some Chinese chefs for the main event!??!” in a somewhat joking manner. “The food is always Western!!” Even though the food variety has been vastly improved since TI3, I suppose he means that even the Asian-inspired food is kind of Westernized, and he’s not completely wrong. I tell him he can, and he thinks about this knowledge before going back to making fun of 71 for something or another. The food today is Mediterranean and I suppose not to their tastes. Soon it’s time to head back to the waiting room for them, and back in the room even though the players seem relaxed, the pressure builds as Complexity falls closer to losing game two. Eventually the room becomes more quiet and they’re all gathering their wits and focus, and then they’re ushered to the stage entrance where 71 shouts some last-minute advice and instructions.

rOtK and Kaci

EHOME beats Secret 2-0, convincingly. 71 has been asked to an interview after the win, and he’s clearly emotional – “they asked me, you must’ve heard the EHOME chants? What was it like? when was the last time you heard those chants?” He continues, “three years, I said to the them” and then he pauses and the topic drifts away.

At the end of the day the two strongest Chinese teams seem to be EHOME and LGD, reminiscent of days from half a decade ago.

After the win, rOtK is electric, buzzing with energy. He’s asked to do an interview with Kaci, and I tell him, we’re going to try without me on screen. Just off-screen, I’ll help, but it’s mostly you. And he shakes his head, hesitating, and then he’s like okay! So off he goes. When he’s pausing on camera he’s looking to me to help him out, and I do my best and the interview goes decently, but then at the end I’m told to step in and help out anyway, because it seems like he’s gotten stuck. So I do, and it all ends in fun and laughter. I hope the same came through for those of you watching on stream!

Afterwards, rOtK and I walk back to the EHOME suite, and he’s talking, talking about the games and how he feels. “I am so excited. I am so hyped. This is amazing.” There’s a clear edge to his voice and he is intent on continuing the winning. His team’s hard work has paid off as they’d told me they’d been up to 3am the previous night making preparations…

Back at the EHOME suite, LaNm walks over chewing on something. He’s chewing on a mouthful of ice cubes, very satisfied

Fy God

with himself. “They say old people like to chew ice cubes,” I tell him. He says he knows. I say I like to chew ice cubes too. We laugh.

VG takes C9 down. Fy comes out from the stage, to the backstage area, supremely confident with a grin on his face. It’s a huge burden off their shoulders and VG feels like they’ve found themselves again. Super is wanted for an interview, then he isn’t anymore as they cancel the interview due to the night being very late – then VG is mobbed all over for autographs and pictures, and the night ends in positivity for Chinese teams at a TI where not many of them were predicted to be very successful.

Aug 5 (Weds)

I meet Kunkka again, along with some other workshop artists – T_vidotto, Yi, ike_ike, Danidem, etc. I forget some names but everyone was, and always is, really nice and in a lull for my duties some of us catch one of the matches today together. It’s one of my few experiences as a ‘fan’ at TI where I can just sit back and watch, and it was the BurNIng Anti-mage game.

Prior to going on stage, BurNIng had been watching games backstage in the waiting room. Remarking on Anti-mage play at the event thus far, he said “The AMs here have brought shame for all AMs!” So, the biggest impression I have of this day was watching BurNIng’s Anti-mage against Secret. A nearly flawless game, it was classic 1v9 from BurNIng and I think half the venue hoped for another Anti-mage in game two. It was not meant to be, however, and iG ultimately lost and ended their TI run.

CDEC win again, continuing the greatest fairytale run in recent sports, electronic or not. The team has maintained a

Agressif and CDEC

composure and calm, almost aloofness that belies their age and experience. Others say that the lack of any expectations has boosted them, and I think it’s some of both for this team – they have a confidence that cannot come from a team with zero expectations for themselves, but also a lack of overwhelming pressure weighing on their shoulders. Agressif has a habit of swinging his player badge around his finger whenever he’s excited or happy about something, and coming out from backstage he’s again chattering loudly with his teammates while making a virtual windmill with his badge.

EHOME finally meet their match as they fall 1-2 against EG into the lower bracket. It’s a close series, and rOtK doesn’t accept the loss lightly. Walking with him while heading back to the hotel, he’s again brimming with energy, but this time anger as well. He wants to win, and he doesn’t want to lose – but more so he just wants another shot and can hardly wait until tomorrow. He jumps and swats at a tree overhead to release some of that energy, and that seems to calm his emotions somewhat. The moon is close to full and the night is a cool, breezy one – a refreshing change from the hot days of Seattle this summer.

Aug 6 (Thurs)

VG continue their run in the lower bracket today, getting the 2-0 result against MVP.Phoenix, who were on their own run of sorts. Iceiceice and Nutz are good friends, and we could all see this in their interactions on stage. On Facebook, the two of them had been talking shit to each other in the lead up to their clash and it was kinda funny.

Some of us watched Secret lose to VP and thus end their TI5 campaign, and the air surrounding the happenings were mostly of a faint sense of disbelief mixed with some inevitability: after seeing DK lose last year, everyone understood that being favored doesn’t mean being strongest come TI time, and there was nothing to be said against VP’s win; they earned it.

After losing against VG, EHOME were mostly calm. The 6th place result seemed acceptable to them, and I heard them talking: LaNm and 71 reflected “If we’d beaten EG then I think we could have made it to the finals. Don’t know what would happen in the finals, but we could have made it there this year. Once we had to face VG in the lower bracket it all became that much harder.” They agreed and it seemed they were at peace with the loss, though one of them remarked that they hadn’t seen rOtK since coming off the stage, suggesting that he was a bit more upset about it than the others.

Regarding the lower bracket, teams this year agreed that it was a treacherous place to be: “Indeed, the waters in the lower bracket are much deeper and murkier. It’s full of sharks waiting to eat whoever drops down!”

It’s the All-star game tonight, another ever so brief ‘eye of the storm’ moment within the blistering intensity that is an International. Backstage: Mushi and BurNIng chat around after the game. BurNIng tells Mushi they played on the same team in a pub game the other day. “Really?!” Mushi is surprised, but

Old friends reunite briefly

BurNIng shares the details and Mushi recalls. “Ah, yes!”

TI5 all-star night

“You were quite good on Alchemist that game,” BurNIng continues. Mushi wants to know which player BurNIng was, as he says he wasn’t paying attention. “I was the one who said I’m your fan!!” Mushi laughs, hearing this. BurNIng goes on, “But I also said that BurNIng is better.” Mushi laughs even louder as he remembers the scenario.

Ending the day earlier than usual, we go to dinner. I’m with a SEA contingent again, as most of Fnatic along with ChuaN have come along. It’s jokes and laughter all around. At one point the talk goes to the little stars next to players’ names. Chuan loudly declares that even though he has no star, he has an Aegis next to his, suggesting that he is the pride of SEA. The others point out that, what if iceiceice wins TI this year? Then he’ll have a star and an Aegis. The talk rotates around the table many times, and the SEA boys all seem to genuinely enjoy each others’ company as food is shared, plans are made to gather again back in Malaysia after the tournament. They talk about CDEC vs EG in the upper bracket briefly, and everyone thinks CDEC can win. “CDEC, CDEC, CDEC” the answer rings out repeatedly around the table. Later, on the topic of Agressif, Kyxy puts his thumb up, saying “He’s so fucking good.” The rest of the evening goes quickly with food and loud, boisterous jokes, Ohaiyo being the butt of many from ChuaN. I even catch the reserved iG.Xi, who has come along for dinner, grinning at some of the jokes, though most of the time he’s absorbed in his phone, mostly watching old-school Starcraft Brood War streams.

Aug 7 (Fri)

CDEC after making it to the finals

After CDEC beat EG to make it to the grand finals, LGD are readying up for their upcoming match against VG. xiao8 shouts to CDEC, “See you in the finals!!” and the hallway briefly erupts in cheers from the two teams. They’re under the same organization and management and the players share a pretty close connection as a result.

After LGD follows suit in victory and takes one more step to the stated goal of meeting CDEC in the grand finals, the two teams again come together at the end of the day, chattering and laughing loudly. First during the rehearsal for finals day, then in the afternoon sun as they waited for the bus back to the

Agressif on CCTV

hotel. Garder and Maybe are at one point talking some friendly trash at each other: Garder says to Maybe, “I hope you make it to the finals so I can beat you into a pulp!” Maybe responds with fake shock, eyes wide open.

Garder continues, “I can’t even count how many times I’ve been hammered by you. You’ve been beating me for years, since the fucking Dota 1 days damnit! It’s about time I hammer you back once!” and they laugh.

Fans are approaching them for pictures, Agressif for one seems to be enjoying his success and strikes various poses in pictures after openly agreeing to every single person who approaches him. Asked earlier by a Chinese reporter if he’d ever won an event before, he asks “Does a local internet cafe tournament count?” with a big laugh. Then he says, “Nope!” happily and walks off with the rest of his team, who are getting ready to leave after a series of interviews, including one from CCTV, the Chinese national media.

Last thing of the day at Key Arena was a rehearsal of the finals day for each of the three teams that were in the final or may make it to the final: LGD, EG, and CDEC. In the evening after a relatively early end to the day, I hang around at the Westin for a little while. There are many fans milling around hoping to catch their favorite players for autographs and photos. At one moment I see zai going into the elevator, and when he turns around as the doors are closing he sees me, waves, and I wave back too because zai is chill and I think I’m chill too and chill people just do that kind of thing, I guess.

LGD and CDEC on the day before last, TI5

Aug 8 (Sat)

In the end, the storyline of LGD and CDEC meeting back in the finals was not meant to be, but in its place was another storyline – one perhaps far more favored by the live crowd – of EG getting their rematch against CDEC in the match to end TI5. In defeat, some of LGD’s players looked crushed: Sylar was quiet as he often is; Yao just looked tired, but in an emotionally drained way; Maybe looked plain upset, and MMY looked like the saddest duck ever. Xiao8 took on the captain’s role and went about consoling each of them, telling Maybe, “Hey, look! Your first TI and you’ve got third place already. Not bad!” The thunderous roars of applause coming from the stage just on the other side of the curtains felt like a world away at that moment… Spirits weren’t high, but the team spirit was strong and after some reflective minutes backstage, they left together.

Then I watched the finals, and in the games we saw a CDEC that fought their absolute hardest but came up just short against an impressive, organized, resourceful, and prepared EG.

After losing, CDEC were remarkably unfazed, or at least not outwardly. After all, they’d just made it to second place in the finals of the greatest tournament in Dota 2 when originally, according to their mid player Shiki, their goal was to simply make it to the main event so they could experience Key Arena once. Or according to Agressif, to even get to play at a TI at all.

An empty Key Arena marks the end of another TI

This is a team whose attitudes throughout, from the Group Stage when I first came in contact with them, all the way through the finals, maintained a calmness that suggested they were simply playing another LAN game, another ladder game. Leaving the noise and cheering of the main stage, Agressif was again swinging his player badge around his finger, and some of the CDEC players joked around a bit on the way back to their team suite. Shiki was quiet and contemplative, while Garder was the only one that looked in a way one could describe as ‘sad’. Perhaps it’s because he’s the oldest on the team, and perhaps because of that he alone really felt the pure magnitude of it all in the kind of way that only age can bring – after all, it’s not every day you make it to the TI finals and losing means you may not get another chance, young as you may be with the world of Dota ahead of

At the afterparty

you.

And then amidst the din of deadmau5 and the smoke of pyrotechnics on the stage, TI5 was over, and the wait for the majors, or TI6, or whatever comes next in life for everyone began.

Of course, there was still the afterparty. We went with iceiceice and EHOME coach 71, and we quickly found LaNm at the venue – somewhat unexpectedly as it is rare for Chinese players to make appearances at the afterparty at all. LaNm was having fun, however, and danced somewhat haphazardly to the loud music and at times mused on how the accompanying light

Me and Kuro

show was just so damn awesome.

Later in the night, I find Kuroky who is always someone I look to at least say hi to at events. He wonders if I’m writing another one of these for TI5. I say yes, and he responds “Good. I read all of them! I see myself mentioned and I’m like, awesome, he remembers me.” Of course I remember you, Kuro. And we got another picture taken together, and it seems it’s becoming a tradition to take pictures together after events, even though Kuro has a policy on not taking many pictures at events.

Post-TI

Then it’s all over, the group stage, the main event, the afterparty… and everyone is floating back off to the four corners of the world. In the last day or two before everyone has left – some have left early already having changed their flights – we have some final get togethers. Iceiceice, Nutz, Black, and Eric and Kecik from Fnatic go to have some ramen, another seemingly emerging TI tradition, before they leave the next morning. The next night, some of EHOME have dinner with us, hot pot, and during that time Black^ has taught LaNm some insults in German, which the two of them are chanting nonstop for the next two hours at anyone that will listen. Then we decide to emulate Earthshaker’s abilities, complete with sound effects and we establish the Earthshaker Fan Club in which we talk about Earthshaker’s qualities as one of the best heroes in Dota 2.

Hot pot for dinner was exceptionally filling, and the very last of the last things for my TI5 experience was a long midnight walk with 71 and Black^ down along the Seattle waterfront. LaNm originally was going to come, but then he needs to duck out at the last minute because he’s on a video call with his newborn daughter, and of course that’s important for any parent, much less one that has been halfway across the world for half a month.

Ramen team

“The waters in the darkness have a scary quality about them,” 71 says. We muse wanderingly just as we wander through the streets of Seattle, but before we know it it’s 2am and we’re back at the hotel and it’s time to bid our final farewells, until next time they all say, until next time. “It’s fucking rained in Seattle the last two years we’ve been eliminated from TI,” he says with a smirk, “See you next time.”

I attended TI2 as a spectator, then TI3, 4, and 5 as translator, or whatever it is that I do. I guess I don’t only simply translate, at least not anymore. In that time it’s been four years, and in that time I’ve gotten to meet people from all over the world, all walks of life, in various stages of their careers and lives and involvement in Dota 2. People have come and gone just as in anything else in this world – it’s all transient. One of these days there will be no more TI, or perhaps there will no longer be me at TI, or perhaps the people I’ve come to know and build relationships fade out of the picture… People are getting married, having kids, thinking about life after competition.

TI5 was probably the most exhausting one I’ve been a part of. Maybe I’m getting older, or maybe it’s something else, but at the same time it went by the fastest of any. I’d looked forward to it for months – and then, it’s past. I’ve made some great friends, met again old friends, been a part of some amazing – no, historical – happenings, yet it’s the great and the small things alike that make it all worthwhile. This is the kind of thing you tell younger generations about when you’re old, or at least it’s what you might imagine. “Ahhh yes, in the old days of Dota 2…”

Congrats to EG. Shoutouts to everyone who said hi, fans, teams, players. Thank you to all at Valve, the venue and other production staff, and everyone involved in making it happen. Thank you to every single person that cheers, laughs, cries, and watches alongside the rest of us.

The gears are in motion for teams and tournaments in the next months and years. Let’s see together what time will bring to us!

The Dota 2 logo on a cupcake represents the temporary nature of all that we have in this world… Nom nom nom.

Follow Dotaland on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Dotaland

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The Summit 3 in my view

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

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

May 12 2015

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

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

Buggatis and stuff

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

credits to BTS flickr

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

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

VG watching FCB vs FCB

SSDs for everyone

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

May 13 2015

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

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

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

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

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

credit to BTS flickr

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

May 14 2015

Hao and the Newbee boss at an NBA game

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

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

LGD-Gaming

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

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

May 15 2015

1v1 CS:GO

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

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

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

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

Blurry practice room look

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

May 16 2015

I don’t know how he always sits like this

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

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

Watching…

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

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

Aui won but had to go so forfeited his next round

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

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

May 17 2015

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

Secret win woooo

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

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

first time Super ever smiled

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

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

see you

SmAsH smashing us all

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

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

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

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

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

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

iG officially announces new roster on their Weibo

iG Dota 2 roster change announcement

Former iG Dota 2 player Hao has officially transferred away from the team. The well-known ChuaN returns to iG’s first team roster. Banana continues on with iG as a substitute player. After friendly negotiations with Speed Gaming club (formerly RattleSnake), their player Luo as of today joins iG under a loan format, and he will be on trial with iG. During this trial period, he will represent iG in all competitions. We hope that iG’s Dota 2 team can create new glories upon playing together in this new year!

iG Dota 2 roster:

Ferrari_430
YYF
Faith
ChuaN
Luo
Banana

As a sidenote, the previous ‘Luo interview’, posted across Chinese webspace, was fake.

Source: iG official weibo

 

New iG lineup rumored has 430 at carry, ChuaN solo mid…

According to SGamer, who are quoting ‘sources’, the rumor is that Ferrari_430 will be making the move from solo mid to carry for iG. This is to replace Hao, who looks to be leaving to the long-rumored ‘dream team’. Additionally, the sources claim that banana will be either retiring or moving to a ‘backup’ role with iG. While Ferrari_430 has often in recent times been a pseudo-carry for iG regardless of his actual role, the biggest rumored change comes with the news that ChuaN will take up the solo mid role for iG. Rounding out the changes, the source says that Faith, who was rumored to be going to the dream team as well, will instead be staying with iG. Former RattleSnake mastermind Luo rounds out the new iG roster as the other support player, while YYF continues on as the offlane player for iG.

Source: http://dota2.sgamer.com/news/201402/154867.html

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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…

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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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