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/

Follow DOTALAND on Twitter: twitter.com/Dotaland

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LGD pre-TI3 documentary

Set on the eve of TI3, this mini documentary takes us to visit LGD’s team house in Hangzhou, and we get to hear about the team and club from perspectives and sources that may not have been considered before…

Follow DOTALAND on Twitter for instant updates: twitter.com/Dotaland

 

 

ACE Alliance’s King makes statement

Ever since Chinese teams’ losses at TI3, and even before that, fans and insiders alike have blamed the Association for Chinese Esports for vaious failures and draconic restrictions in Chinese Dota. Finally, earlier today, ACE’s top person, King, made a personal statement and response.

An interesting bit near the end is that ACE League will be inviting the top 3 at TI3 for a 3-month stay in China. The rest of the piece is very thorough and interesting. Give it a read and see what you think…

Source: http://p.t.qq.com/longweibo/index.php?lid=4260234213311849153

“Regarding ACE, I want to share some of my sentiments”

Recently, due to Chinese teams’ losses at TI3, the ACE Alliance has as a result been put on a spotlight. I hadn’t responded or explained anything until now, the reason being that these losses haven’t been easy to accept for anyone. Chinese teams failed to achieve good results, the Dota-ACE Alliance (the ACE Alliance has a D-ACE and an L-ACE, for Dota and LoL respectively) must also bear responsibility. With the spotlight now on myself and ACE, this could actually be a good thing for players and Dota 2 clubs, because in this process, we can make gradual steps towards more stability, and continue our work in the future. Here, I want to talk some of my own thoughts as well as share some realities.

Everyone has been questioning my devotion to esports. I can tell you all right now, since I helped form the Lion team in 1999, and then with YolinY, then to WE, it’s been 14 years. Perhaps the current me does not have that same kind of fervent love for esports as many other people, yet esports has already seeped into my blood itself, and so my relation with esports is a more personal, intimate one. So, compared to many esports fanatics, I might see things more objectively and logically. Even though when I’m chatting with friends, I might joke that if I’d gone to work in online games (like MMOs) or some other industry, I’d be better off right now. But I am clear on this fact: without esports I am nothing, or it could be said that I had always, from the start, planned on making this my life’s work, because I like to relate with fellow games, I enjoy collaborating with fellow gaming people. Because we’re all the same, straightforward, without ulterior motives, so please, I ask everyone to not doubt my passion for esports. It is merely a difference in opinion in many things, and thus people have a different starting point in discussions, so let me explain things point by point below.

First of all, I want to talk about the format and structure of D-ACE (Dota ACE Alliance).

1. D-ACE exists without any governmental backing. Its leadership consists of representatives selected via vote by all member clubs, and all major decisions are also determined by way of votes. For example, my role as leader of ACE comes by way of being selected by voting.

I was selected unanimously, and I appreciate the trust everyone has placed in me. Even though, before taking the position, I knew there would be many difficulties, I was determined to not let everyone down.

After coming into the position, my first challenge was addressing the poaching of players between clubs — if this issue was addressed inappropriately, I ran the risk of insulting the clubs. The second question here was, when it is players themselves organizing and forming their own ideal rosters, and ACE comes in and places barriers, then the players can become annoyed with us. Thirdly, events and tournaments at the time were relatively random and non-standardized, with many events not paying for travel and accommodations, delaying prize payments, etc — in handling this issue, I needed to be wary of offending event organizers. Fourth, for the fans’ point of view, the alliance equals an organization that holds power, and the word ‘power’ often in the current climate is equated with negative meanings, because a common sentiment has formed in which any organization with power is bullying others, and thus, any mistake from ACE causes widespread dissent.

Overall, at the time I had these and many more concerns. Everyone knew that the position was one with lots of challenges and little reward, and people around me all advised me to not take the role, they all said to me that I shouldn’t risk my years of esports reputation on such a position. After all, such a role has influences over the interests of many, many, people, and they could all come out and critique you at any time. I understood these things at the time.

Then why did I still take the role up, knowing all this?

In 2003-2004, I went with the team overseas for competition, and we achieved pretty good results. Foreign media wanted to interview me, and they asked me, “You guys actually have computers and internet in China? How much effort did it take to get that set up for you guys?” Back then, it would seem that foreign ideas of China were still stuck in the past, so my thought was that, by competing in esports events, we could not only achieve results and win titles, but also prove to the world that China is growing and developing, and that at least in terms of computers and internet, we aren’t lacking.

I found that esports was very popular amongst young people overseas, and at the same time those who misunderstood China the most were also young people, so I wanted to show them through our hard work that China can compete, and is excellent in esports. So, my dream at the time was to help the team take a world championship title, and prove to the world that we Chinese can do it. In the heyday of Warcraft 3, we achieved quite a few world titles, and many foreign competitors visited China in order to participate in events here. We had many large events broadcasted to the world, and we showed to the West that esports is strong in China, and it is popular. I was very proud then, because to be able to find so much glory, and help those around me gain recognition across the globe, this meant that I had also achieved my own dream. I should be satisfied.

After we had gotten so many world championship titles, I made a plan. From Beijing, to Shenzhen, to Guangzhou, to Chengdu, and many more places, I went and visited businesses and companies, hoping that they would sponsor us, recognize us. Even though I had lots of numbers and statistics to back myself up, that esports as an industry outstripped many other realms that they traditionally sponsored, that it provided greater returns, I was still rejected. Their response was that esports was not highly recognized throughout mainstream society, and that they were not willing to take this risk. I was young and headstrong at the time, and this was a big hit to me.

From these two examples, I began to realize, even though we’d taken some world titles, our industry was still not mature, and thus we had been losing out on many things of value. At the club level in Chinese esports, there lacked a standardized set of regulations for the market, and so all outsiders could see was that it was a mess, and thus frighten away potential investors, regardless of how much potential the market may have.

So, what could be done to standardize things? How to achieve mainstream acceptance for esports? This became my new goal.

Thus, even though I knew that taking my role at ACE would mean lots of sacrifice for little personal gain, that I would potentially make many enemies, and that there was the possibility of even ruining my reputation within, I still went straight in to do it.

It’s been nearly two years now, and I swear that every single action I’ve taken while with the alliance, I can answer for to my own conscience, and I can answer for to esports as a whole.

Next, allow me to address some issues one by one.

I have always felt that, in this industry, people who can talk far outnumber people who can actually do things. In fact, esports truly lacks people who can really do things. So in 2007, I closed down my personal blog, and it’s been some six years since then where I haven’t written anything — my writing might be awkward in places, I hope everyone can be understanding.

Regarding the most-debated ACE club tier system, and prize pool regulations

Around April and May of this year, ACE held a very important meeting. This meeting had not only club managers present, every club also sent a player representative to participate. At the meeting, I explained the current situation with Dota 2 to all of the managers and players. In this we talked about the lack of events, future events and their timing, and I went around and collected all of their opinions. At the time, some players said that China currently lacks tournaments — top tier teams can achieve top three at these events, they still have TI3 where top 8 is in the money, so top tier teams, relative to lower teams, still have prize money to earn. The lower tier teams, thus, have a lot less room to work with, since there’s a lack of events and those few events that exist will largely be dominated by the top tier teams, meaning that basically for many lower tier teams, all they had was their salaries. They were very concerned over the possibility of players at smaller clubs simply retiring and leaving the scene, especially because the Chinese Dota 2 scene currently lacks new talent. The threat of a growing gap in Chinese Dota was present, even the threat of a few clubs disbanding, things which would negatively impact the overall scene. At the time, we confirmed four different large events: 2 DSLs, and 2 ACE Leagues, so based on this, we determined that we should try to allow the smaller clubs to participate in more of the smaller events. This was how we came upon the club tier system, as well as the prize pool regulations, but we did not announce this publicly at the time.

A month later, we held a second meeting with managers and player representatives. The players felt that, prior to TI3, it would be best if they had more events in which to practice and prepare. We considered the reality at the time, and recognized that there indeed should not have been restrictions on events for teams, so we canceled that rule. This is why we saw these teams at Alienware, ECL, and NEST. I feel that the previous rule was a mistake by the alliance, one which D-ACE should take main responsibility for. We failed to consider what the teams and players needed most, and then we failed to communicate the change with the public afterwards, and thus caused a lot of commotion.

Why the tier system?

Locked in events for this year are: DSL (500k RMB for champions), ACE League (1m RMB for champions), and TI3 (1m USD for champions). Due to time restrictions, there will only be one iteration of the ACE League this year. Next year, there will be two each of DSL and ACE League, and what this means is that there will be a total of at least four events with half-million RMB prizes throughout the year, with another International in between.

As these events are improved upon and polished, we will also continuously re-evaluate the tier system involved.

1. Due to the fact that the aforementioned events (ACE and DSL) are all top-heavy prizepools, with top 3 getting most of the money, we must consider the smaller clubs. Thus, we think we should leave a reasonable amount of smaller events to them, in order to make sure the industry as a whole grows.

2. To our sponsors, having a tier system is more fair.

For example, a sponsor puts out 1 million RMB to hold an event, and they see that in the daytime the teams and players are playing in their big money event, yet later in the evening they’re playing in small prize online matches, then the result can only be one of two things. The first is that this sponsor decides to lower future investments, they will feel that the players’ aren’t worth as much. If they can invest 100k and get the same players, then why pay more? The second possibility is that the sponsor feels deceived, and completely pulls out of future inviestments. Of course, there’s a third option in which the sponsor continues on as if nothing has happened, and in this case then it is due to either the event is very profitable for them, or that they are directly involved with the game, as the game’s developers or such.

So, when determining tiers for teams and events, we must consider the long term, we must consider the industry’s growth as a whole. Should be focus on quality or quantity? Where is the balance? These have been things that we’ve been considering lately. As for what events top teams should partake in, we will continue to hold monthly meetings with club managers and player representatives, and come to conclusions collectively.

The lessons from TI3 are deep and extremely important. Many people concluded that, in order to win big titles, there must be enough events and matches normally. Of course, I have no way of countering this point of view, because after all, results are what speak loudest, and we lost. Indeed, we lacked events, this is the truth. But here, I want to say, from March to June of this year, D-ACE did not reject or refuse any Dota 2 event. Instead, D-ACE has worked to facilitate scheduling and timings for various large events.

Dota 2 Chinese servers are not fully open to the public yet, and many sponsors are still observing the situation.

At the end of last year, I think I may have been the only one who had a plan in hand and was out and about searching for sponsors for large Dota 2 tournaments. Even still, I was met with plenty of closed doors. Luckily, I still managed to get a large sponsor in the form of a real estate company, and I thought that this would bring me some appreciation, yet in the end I’ve been accused of taking money from Tencent in exchange for putting Dota 2 down, I feel pretty sad about that.

Regarding clubs, players, and contracts

When the ACE Alliance was formed, contracts between players and clubs were not guaranteed.

It was very possible for a club to bring up a new talent, grow them, and then have the player poached away once the player showed some results. If this becomes the norm, then no club would risk training newcomers anymore, a club’s investors would lack any kind of protection, and players would lack any kind of security. After the alliance was formed, much was done regarding malicious poaching of players by way of contract regulations, and nowadays there is hardly any poaching going on. This year, before TI3, the alliance specifically went to each club and had them each pay a deposit – 50k RMB per team. As deposits, the money is only temporarily with ACE, and if the clubs need the money back, then it is still theirs. This was in order to prevent, post-TI3, clubs disbanding and not paying players, or to address the potential of clubs kicking players without following their contracts. In doing so, the purpose was to at least guarantee the short term interests of the players.

Regarding the recent drama over players leaving teams, and players being replaced, I feel that the base reason is that competition prizes still far outweigh the salaries of players, and thus the players’ desire to build stronger teams to compete internationally is very normal. At the same time, this can cause rifts to form between players and between players and their clubs. This shows that there still lacks a systematic approach to things, an approach in which events and clubs work closely together. It also reflects that the clubs themselves haven’t unlocked the full potential of the market, they haven’t fully released their business potential. Players cannot possibly compete on their own, they must rely on their teammates as well as support staff behind the scenes of the club. Esports consists of many parts, and we must take into account the even growth of all its parts, and not only focus on any single part, because doing so will only bring failure.

In an interview in the past, I said, even if esports gets on mainstream television, this may not be a good thing for esports presently. Because things are still too disorganized, we aren’t ready yet. At least from my point of view, things are still all over the place at the club level. If the product itself is lacking, then no matter how much promotion you do for it is useless, maybe even negative. I think that clubs currently are still too non-standardized, and in the eyes of those who work in traditional industries professionally, they would laugh. So in order to have clubs become more standardized, to fully develop their market potential, these are things that we esports people must work towards.

Regarding WE.Dota

Ever since WE formed a Dota team, we’ve been developing fresh talent for the scene. No matter what else is said, WE has not done anything to harm Dota. Even if you think WE has not contributed to Dota, there still hasn’t been anything WE has done to harm it. As for why WE does not have a Dota portion any more, there are two reasons. First, after taking on the ACE role, I have lacked the time and energy to manage another Dota team, and so the management was lacking, the team’s results thus suffered, and so on. Second, Dota 1 is transitioning to Dota 2, and at the time, Dota 2 still lacked an official Chinese partner, there was no sponsor that was willing to sponsor our Dota 2 team. Without a sponsor, for a club such as WE that does not have any rich people propping it up, we couldn’t do it, so we regretfully let the Dota 2 team go.

Regarding myself, LoL, and Dota 2

One of the main points that I’m being flamed on right now is actually the fact that WE has no Dota 2 team, yet has an LoL team that has achieved some results in the past. This is the point that I most want to address, yet I’m least happy to talk about, because I’ve always felt that those who play games are all part of one big family, and had never previously considered the relations between games.

At the beginning of this year, I was reminded that I should be cautious regarding my role and place, that I should be wary of doing something that would bring negativity to myself. I was too naive at the time regarding this, I thought that as long as I concentrated on doing my best, people would understand, and within the alliance itself, I thought that if I had no Dota 2 team of my own, I’d be more able to objectively handle things.

Yet, before TI3, there was an incident in which doubt was casted upon ACE due to my own background with LoL, and I realized that things weren’t so simple anymore. In order to clear the doubts, I decided that I would no longer be directly involved with Dota 2 event decisions, that I must find someone whose club managed a Dota 2 team. Thus, I shifted my focus towards standardizing club and player regulations.

Once I got an ACE office in Shanghai at the beginning of the year, basically whenever I haven’t been away on business, if I was in Shanghai then I’d be in the office dealing with alliance things. Regardless if a club had matters of great or small import, I’d handle them as soon as possible, I never once dodged an issue or put things off.

In actuality, I do feel a bit ashamed in the amount of time and effort I’ve been able to put into my own club. To this day, I do not know where the new WE and PE team house is, because it’s been around eight months since I last visited, and back then they hadn’t moved yet. So here I want to apologize to these kids who are playing for their dreams, you’re all excellent, and I haven’t been much help to you guys. Yet it is what I have agreed to do that has brought upon you all a lot of trouble and pressure. I also want to thank Sky and Zax at WE for their support, for understanding my dreams, and for helping share the load of a lot of the club’s duties.

I’ve said so much, and everyone can see, ACE’s development hasn’t been all that smooth. We are all a bunch of esports lovers and fans, and without any governmental support, without any investment money to work with, without even sponsors’ support at times. We’ve met a lot of strong opposition and challenges, and I know, the alliance’s many regulations have been less than perfect, and cannot even be compared with the level that traditional sports has achieved, cannot even be compared with KeSPA. For the clubs’ survival, though, ACE must go on.

Here I also want to tell everyone D-ACE’s plans for the upcoming future. First, we will standardize club management as well as player regulations, then establish a D-ACE website upon which we will publicize these things. We will establish a system from which amateur players will be discovered, and given chances to grow, and thus promote Dota 2 in amateur player realms. In this first iteration of this, over 200 teams participated, and we selected two of the best teams and invited them to Shanghai, where they had the chance to play and train with professionals, and we worked on helping them find sponsorship. We will collaborate with colleges and universities in holding LAN events on campuses, and have professional players interact at these events with collegiate players in order to promote esports on campuses. We will establish offline training and bootcamp facilities, and provide every member club these types of facilities, where each Chinese team can gather to train before large events. Our ACE League will also invite the top 3 foreign teams at this year’s TI3, and if accepted, these teams will come to China and train and compete against Chinese teams for a period of three months. During the competition, we will hold promotional events for players to interact with the public, and thus promote esports to society.

Perhaps as I’m writing this, clubs around China are still undergoing a big shakeup of which even I do not know. Perhaps many fellow professionals are still laughing at the alliance. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said all the things I have. Esports as an industry is still one that needs everyone’s help and support collectively. In the past few years, it is perhaps the club development aspect that has held the rest of it back, but those of us that work on the club level really do hope that we can quickly standardize and professionalize things. Of course in this we need the understanding and support of all kinds of esports personalities and people — it isn’t time to laugh and marvel at the mess. The once-a-year million dollar International, perhaps our losses there still weigh heavy, but we need to start on a clean slate. Whether we go and build a dream team or we focus on steady growth of the industry as a whole, and thus win based on a stable foundation, and thus prove ourselves through our wins to all of society… this is a question that is worthy of consideration for every esports person.

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The International 2013 in my view (part 2)

This is part 2 of my restrospective on TI3. Part 1 can be found here. Fair warning, this is really long, like 4000 words for part 2 alone. Hopefully it brings some insight into additional things.

8/6/2013 – Pre-show day

I showed up at Benaroya to get my bearings, clarify on some things, and make sure I wasn’t needed for anything else. Double checked with the video guy that the subtitles for the 5 Chinese teams were good and done (we had just wrapped those up the night before). I had rented a car to run some non-TI related errands, so in some downtime in the evening, I took Black to the beach over in West Seattle. Then we took him to go eat some Northern Chinese style food. Dumplings and whatnot.

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

Dumplings in Chinatown.

8/7/2013 – Elimination day 1

Being able to see the team intro videos before each team’s first appearance on stage at Benaroya Hall was really cool. I’d been helping to work on all the Chinese team videos throughout the group stages, and the final versions of the subtitles on those videos were the result of my contribution. So that was really fun to see — my work on the big screen! And the screen this year was really big, something like twice as large in terms of area compared to last year. Of course, the team intro videos themselves were way amazing. I especially liked the DK one, with the TongFu one being my next favorite. I felt that all the videos did a great job at capturing the essence of the teams, but the DK and TongFu ones did that especially well. RattleSnake’s was pretty cool too, especially with LaNm making the effort to speak English. We often joked with him during the group stages that his English was quite good — and in truth, it is actually pretty decent. He scoffed at us, though.

TongFu: For the first interview post-game interview I would be involved in at TI3, originally we wanted to grab Hao, but he disappeared (turns out he was ambushed by Chinese media before we could get to him). We spent a few minutes running around up and down the stairs looking for Hao, before learning that the rest of the team was in the players’ lounge and thus deciding to run up there to snag one of them instead. After the players pushed the responsibility onto each other a few times, Banana was finally the unfortunate one. They almost gave us SanSheng again, but he got himself out of it by telling them, “I’ve done an interview with them already today!” This was true, but the interview with SanSheng might actually not end up getting played at all…

Also, is it just me, or do TongFu’s SanSheng and Banana look very similar, especially with their facial structure and the glasses they wear? They must be brothers. They even have the same surname. (spoiler: they aren’t brothers)

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

Later that evening, I ran across mouz Black again. After they unfortunately lost out in TI3 at the hands of LGD.int, apparently, Black’s stuff got stolen too. He had left his stuff in a Dota 2 drawstring bag up in the team booths (where they hung the flags). When he got back, the bag was still there, but the stuff inside was gone. He had a few things, including some plushies, one of which was his Earthshaker, which he was sad about losing… The first day was strange, in that any random people were getting into the team booth areas, including people with green passes. In fact, when earlier looking for his stuff, Black had come across some green pass people sitting in the mouz booth, and when asked, they just said, “Sorry man, my friends are coming back, they were sitting here.” Haha? Like, these dudes had decided that an actual Mouz player isn’t welcome in his own booth… We didn’t know whether to laugh or what, so I just said that I’d go talk to some people, and we ended up getting Black a new bag of goodies. No replacement Earthshaker plushie, though…

With that being one of the major events for me on day 1, I looked forward to day 2, where more Chinese teams would be playing, and as a result I’d be far busier with interviews, and being on standby for interviews… I also took some crappy camera phone video of the main backstage area, including what it would be like for players walking onto and off of the stage.

8/8/2013 – Elimination day 2

DK: After the DK vs iG upper bracket match, after the record-setting game… we pulled BurNIng into the interview room immediately after they won; BurNIng was still visibly shaking and wired. “So excited.” I asked him if he needed a minute to collect himself before we began the interview, but he took a deep breath, smiled, and said that he was ready. Utmost professional. “We lost to iG after taking the first game against them last year, I was so afraid that was going to happen again…” was what he told me as he gathered himself.

Yes, the game may have been grinding or meandering at various times… But certain casters crossed a line: writing swear words, directed at a competing team no less, on screen, really? It shouldn’t matter how serious or joking you are, that kind of disrespect should not be acceptable, especially not as such a large event with such respected teams and players involved. Sure, it’s true that the record-breaking game was only punctuated by action very sparsely, and that fans are free to have whatever reactions they want, but that does not mean that the teams and players on stage should be so blatantly disrespected as they were by supposedly professional casters. These players are people who have given their youths, dreams, and years of their lives to get here, playing and competing for the right to go home and show their friends and family that it was not all for naught… BurNIng didn’t even look at the timer until 70 minutes in, is what he told us. They’re all focused, and this interview and the minutes leading up to the interview itself showed me that at least for BurNIng, Dota really means the world to him.

And then we were on standby, the camera was running, so off we went into his interview. He gave the answers in typical BurNIng fashion: calm, introspective, yet easy to relate with, and ever the professional, they were good answers. “I felt that if we hadn’t forced the last fight, the game could’ve easily gone on like that for another 30 minutes.” Afterwards, he was waylaid by a mass of some 10+ members of various Chinese media groups for another 10-minute interview. “I feel like I just ran a marathon,” he told them as he stood in front of a dozen cameras. I held onto his jacket for him — he almost left without it at the end, but I ran and gave it back. With another small smile, he grabbed it and turned to go find his team.

The legend’s very own TI3 jacket.

For me, BurNIng has undoubtedly cemented his place as the legend of legends. He’s the biggest professional, polite, yet he’s passionate, and beyond talented at what he does. He holds himself with an air of quiet authority while maintaining a very sincere and approachable persona.

LGD.cn: Sadness after their elimination. Some sympathy from iG members, who had just emerged from the waiting room for their own match as LGD.cn left backstage. The LGD.cn members were broken… As iG gathers for standby for their upcoming match, YYF says, “It’s gotta be such a huge gap in expectations and reality for them, after all, they made top 3 last year…”

Apparently, that night, Sylar sat alone in the hotel lobby in the middle of the night… brooding? Thinking?

8/9/2013 – Elimination day 3

A long day of fiercely fought matches, and no Chinese team remains in the upper bracket. Even still, three Chinese teams remain, and hopes remain high for their fans. TongFu nearly defeated NaVi, but fell to a combination of weak decision making and insane fountain hooking from NaVi. Notably, Loda of Alliance spoke out against this tactic — he said he talked to Valve people about how it’s a truly cheap tactic, and reiterated his position on this in another interview with Chinese media backstage. Regardless of what the wider sentiment is regarding the fountain hook mechanic, I think Loda’s stance on this earned him and Alliance some more fans amongst Chinese viewers, and at least at the live finals later on, I anecdotally noticed more Chinese fans cheering for Alliance than NaVi.

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

Mu is a quiet dude, in contrast to the flamboyant, boisterous, and always smiling Hao. It’s quite interesting that TongFu has built around these two, and that they seem to get along as if brothers.

I think on this day, when I went to get a temporary pass to show my girlfriend around at the venue, two dudes approached me at the entrance. They must’ve thought I might be able to get them in, and asked, or practically begged, me to get them in. One dude was ostensibly offering his iPhone to me as payment in getting them in?? Like, he held it out and said that I could have it. Weird… I obviously turned this down and said sorry. Sorry dudes. I don’t know if you were legit Dota fans or just looking to get in and buy thousands of dollars of the Secret Shop to resell (there were definitely people getting in doing this), but either way it’s not something I could do!

8/10/2013 – Elimination day 4

DK fades out. Usually when DK comes backstage after a win, you hear rOtk shouting fiercely, excited about things that had happened earlier in-game, yelling about how he got that kill, or how they took that fight. You see BurNIng walking next to him, standing tall, shaking a little bit from the leftover adrenaline. You see the rest of DK, sometimes quiet, sometimes animatedly responding to rOtk… DK’s departure from the stage, and from TI3, after their loss to Orange was silent, without fanfare, and perhaps the last time we’ll see BurNIng.

I’m glad I at least pushed to get BurNIng for the pre-interview, reasoning that fans all love him, and that there was the chance that it would be the last time we see him… We would normally try to get at least each member of a team for a pre or post-game interview at least once before we did repeats, but BurNIng… is, well, legendary.

TongFu reverses on iG, but then falls to Orange anyway. IG, before the reversal against TongFu, had been showing increasing amounts of confidence and form. They walked onto the stage and into the booths with an air of confidence… and they returned, defeated, but unbowed. Perhaps that is just iG’s nature — through the past week, they and TongFu were the two Chinese teams that seemed to react the same way regardless of a win or a loss. In iG’s case, perhaps it is, or was, an unassuming sort of self-confidence. A belief in themselves, that in their hearts, they were champions. And maybe it was also mixed with a silent fear of acknowledging a disturbing weakness that viewers could all see. Nonetheless, iG seemed to grow stronger as the tournament went on, and YYF and Ferrari both seemed quite relaxed in between. Ultimately they went tranquilly as they lost, and as ChuaN typed out ‘gg’, followed by a simple “tongfu jia you”, all the hopes of Chinese fans fell upon their conquerors, TongFu.

TongFu.KingJ’s similarly simple “ok” in response might be interpreted by some as him being dismissive of ChuaN, but that is far from the truth. What KingJ’s response represented was an understanding that, by knocking out an iG that was growing stronger with the tournament, TongFu, as the sole remaining Chinese representative, took on an almost unspeakably enormous amount of pressure, and responsibility.

Somewhere during this day, TongFu’s Mu also went missing shortly at a time when the team should’ve been on standby. We ran around looking for him for a bit before I said to Hao, “Don’t you have his phone number?” Hao replied that yes, and in fact Mu had activated global roaming on his cell phone service, so I called him, Hao yelled at him to come back, and all was good. Apparently, Mu was out having some lunch nearby. Also, the interview with Mu in which we asked about his popularity with female fans was one of my favorites (my absolute favorite being the post-game interview with BurNIng after DK vs iG).

Before game 1 against Orange, TongFu added a ‘CN’ after all their IDs, to represent the fact that they were the last hope of a nation of hundreds of millions of gamers. Pressure. After the loss in game 1 against Orange, TongFu’s Hao, during their brief intermission between games, says to his teammates backstage in his typically carefree fashion, “It’s alright, we’ll play properly now.” And thus, Anti-mage. TongFu brought the series back to 1-1, but ultimately the Orange wave could not be stopped, and the last Chinese team at TI3 crashed out. The pressure overwhelmed TongFu — maybe the added ‘CN’ brought a weight of millions that impaired the typically carefree and mildly flamboyant players of TongFu… or perhaps it was simply that Orange would not be denied this year.

Chinese casters forlorn, as TongFu.CN fall.

Three Chinese teams in the top 6 might seem to be an excellent result, but for any fan of the Chinese scene, it is a disastrous, despairing, and devastating end to the tournament. It is almost certainly worse than in 2011, when the EHOME juggernaut fell short in the Grand Finals.

So, as a light summer rain began to fall from the skies of a Seattle evening (melodramatic background music), with scenes of the despondent on-site Chinese commentators’ tear-streaked faces streaming live across the Pacific to a once-proud nation of fierce Dota fans, TongFu, with their .CN, in their bright red uniforms, the last Chinese hope, crumbled…

8/11/2013 – Elimination day 5

In previous days at Benaroya Hall, I’d tried once or twice to get Chinese teams out onto the main floor to do some signings, meet and greets, stuff like that. But invariably, my approaches were politely but firmly declined, with various reasons being cited. For some of the teams, such as RattleSnake, they didn’t even know where each other were, and for them, the tournament was by and far over so it seemed like they were ready to just go home. For LGD.cn, they were disraught and disappointed and were in practically no mood to even come to Benaroya Hall the first two days after their disastrous end. Other teams such as iG, TongFu, and DK were all in it until day 4, and it seems that Chinese players prefer to largely keep to themselves and amongst each other when they’re still competing, and then need some time to collect themselves after losing. For them, this is a game they love, but also one that they take very seriously as their job. Expectations are always sky high for them, both in terms of self-expectations as well as expectations from viewers back home.

On the last day at Benaroya Hall, I did manage to get some of the players out and about into the main hall area before the Grand Finals started. YYF and Ferrari, while walking with me to head out to the main area, were still debating the game in which Ferrari’s Storm Spirit died twice in quick succession against TongFu. YYF was talking about how a BKB was needed, very adamantly (but in a friendly fashion). Ferrari nodded in agreement, perhaps a little sheepishly. “And you told us you were feeling great! What use does feeling great about your play have if you don’t have a BKB there?” Funny interactions between teammates. I laughed and they did too. The losses at TI3 were tough for any of the Chinese teams, but life goes on.

Anyway, I got quite a few players to talk with some of the workshop creators, and we’re currently in preliminary talks to have player-specific hero sets made. BurNIng’s Anti-mage set anyone? Hao’s Spectre? Ferrari_430’s Invoker? Nekomata’s Huskar (this one is more for Chinese fans)? This and more may be in the pipeline within the next few months… (if you’re an awesome workshop creator and want to get involved, get at me. I talked to some of you guys at TI3).

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

I recognize the fact that the Chinese teams tend to be more reserved, private, and conservative in the amount and manner of the interactions with fans at events, so hopefully at least some of their fans managed to meet them during that half hour they ventured out. There’s also the language and cultural barrier, and I think some of them are just apprehensive about wandering around too much into completely unfamiliar social situations. Those of you that got pictures, autographs, and other mementos with them should post them up and share them with us all, such is the rarity! If I get the chance next year, I’ll try to schedule more in terms of bridging that gap between East and West for the fans and players.

Other notes

All of Orange are really nice, polite, and invariably quite shy. They put up a valiant fight, but in the end, they fell against NaVi. Coming backstage, Mushi quickly walked alone and left, while kyxy and the others sort of mingled aimlessly for a few minutes before collectively leaving to the condolences and applause of Valve backstage staff. A few minutes later, Mushi would be found in the players’ lounge, nearly inconsolable. But all the Chinese teams, as well as his fellow SEA players, one by one came to him to offer a hug, or a pat on the back. After a while, Mushi got up, walked across the room to where the other Orange members were sitting together, and shook each of their hands, gave them a hug and shared some quiet words.

In the ensuing hours, Orange players sort mingled around in various places, the main hall, up and downstairs, etc. Before their match against NaVi, I had given them my support, and afterwards, I congratulated them on a valiant, amazing effort. They’re really nice people, all so humble and polite. I really hope that they’ll realize that, while they nearly had one foot into the door of the Grand Finals, third place is still spectacular. I hope kyxy comes back even stronger, because he’s still very young, but so talented. In the Orange vs NaVi match, despite the fact that Orange knocked out two Chinese favorites, Chinese fans seemed to largely support Orange anyway. Perhaps it was a simple East vs West dynamic, but I like to think that we could also all see Orange for the great players and nice people that they are as well.

Alliance dudes are all quite polite and well-spoken as well. People say Loda is arrogant, but I think it’s really just confidence that comes with having been around for so long. I fist-bumped AdmiralBulldog after their win, cool guy, seemed genuinely happy and humbled to be in such a position.

Of NaVi, I only really directly interacted briefly with Dendi, Puppey, and XBOCT. All three of them are funny and relatively approachable. Puppey has a thing where he won’t give interviews or really speak to outsiders immediately before games/matches. I guess lots of players would probably prefer this, but Puppey is very strict about it. Good on him, he takes his job as captain very seriously.

A major attraction, or distraction, perhaps, of the Chinese teams and players was the card game Legends of the Three Kingdoms. And apparently the Chinese casters/media people tended to play a lot of Mafia (yes, that party game). In a post-TI dinner hosted by Perfect World, the players were playing the card game, the casters were playing Mafia, and it was hilarious seeing and hearing Haitao and DC get into it regarding the game. I wouldn’t want to play against them — no way to out-talk them, they talk for a living. Hah.

Lastly, I tend to not ask for photos and autographs as a rule, and since I was there in a backstage access kind of way, I made that an even firmer rule, thus I hardly have any pictures and no autographs, etc, at all. The stuff I’ve shared in these two parts is basically everything I have!

Afterparty

TI3 after party

The afterparty was pretty cool as well. It was at a venue just a few blocks away from Benaroya Hall, and was open to anyone with a TI3 pass (I think there was some sort of limitation regarding being age 21 or not due to alcohol laws in the US, of course). There was a VIP area where players, staff, and whatnot mostly hung out, and the rest of the venue was open to anyone. The VIP area had some food, and drinks were open bar and free. I don’t drink at all, so I just got some food and hung around.

After a while, NaVi showed up. Or at least, Dendi and XBOCT did, that I saw. Dendi mostly just sat in the VIP area with some other players, and had a constant stream of people walking by to say hi, etc. XBOCT was XBOCT (as I’m sure most people have seen by now). One fan tried really hard to get Dendi to get on the floor and dance later on in the night, but Dendi would not be swayed, and smilingly declined. In his smile, though, it would seem to have a tinge of sadness — understandably so.

None of the Chinese players came to this, which is not surprising at all. I honestly couldn’t see many of them really being comfortable in an environment like this — they’re mostly low-key kids that keep to themselves, and I’d be surprised if any of them even occasionally went to bars or clubs back home in China, much less in the US where customs and language differences would make social experiences like this one even trickier for them. There were, however, a lot of SEA players — Zenith, Orange, I think even MUFC. And then ChuaN, of course, hanging out with his SEA buddies.

IXMike in the crowd

About halfway through the night, Alliance arrived, and the DJ got on the mic to herald their coming. “Give it up for Alliance!” The champions, holding the Aegis, strutted into the VIP area to a chorus of cheers and fanfare. This would have been the perfect time to start blasting Basshunter Dota. Because Alliance are from Sweden, Basshunter is from Sweden, it would’ve been perfect. Sadly, despite the fact that some of us went and asked specifically for this song, and despite promises that it would come, it never did. We were fully aware of how cheesy it would be, but at least it probably wouldn’t have been worse than the chiptune-style Mario theme that they blasted halfway through because we’re all “GAMERZ”.

Complaints about the music choice aside (it wasn’t actually all that bad, I’m just not a club/bar person), the afterparty wasn’t awkward at all, the Valve staff there were having a great time with everyone else, the fans present made a good showing in terms of being able to move about the floor, and I didn’t see anyone embarass themselves alcoholically. And even though it was really freakin’ loud (I guess clubs and stuff are supposed to be loud like this), I also met and chatted with some more people, including SeleCT of Starcraft 2 (and brief Dota 2) fame, Lumi, and Sheever. It was also great to get to meet some fans that approached me about my work at TI3. Thanks for the support, guys and girls!

To cap it all off, thank you to Valve for the amazing tournament, for having the trust and faith to place in someone like me whom you guys have never met before and giving me the chance to learn and try to not make a fool of myself in what is the biggest event of every year for you guys. I hope I have not let anyone down horribly, and will truly treasure the experience, memories, and friendships formed. Thanks to the fans that approached me during the event, I really enjoyed meeting and speaking to each and every one of you. Some of you had great words of encouragement and advice. Thanks to the players for accepting me as I am, and for being who they are in making such an amazing event be possible from a competitive point of view. Thanks to the viewers and community at large for being part of making TI3 one of the largest, most spectacular events in competitive gaming history. And thank you, reader, for reading my rambling and meandering thoughts and restrospectives.

The International 2013 in my view (part 1)

This is part 1 of “The International 3 from my view”. Stay tuned for part 2, describing thoughts and events from the elimination stages at Benaroya Hall, in the next day or two!

This is a semi-diary, semi post-competition gathering of thoughts and recollections, from group stages at the Westin Bellevue to the elimination stages at Benaroya Hall. I’ve tried to focus on giving a view into what the players are like, as well as some of the casual, random events that happened that I saw or was a part of, that can serve to bring behind-the-scenes stuff closer to normal fans. It’s a long read but worth it, I think, if you’re a fan at all of Chinese teams and players. I’ve not only written about Chinese teams and players, however, and there’s some other stuff too.

I have to apologize in advance, because I am not the type of fan to take a lot of pictures with players, or to really intrude at all. I’ll chat with them if they make themselves available, and offer myself up to assist if it looks like someone needs it, but that’s about it — no autographs, no photos, basically nothing else. So, apart from my words and descriptions, I generally lack stuff to share with fellow fans. Hopefully you’re up for some reading, because there are a lot of words below!

Day by day recollections

7/31/2013 to 8/1/2013 – pre group stage prep time

My first day involved was July 31. Met Hippovic, who showed me around. Then I just hung around at the Westin Bellevue while teams did their photo shoots and promotional stuff. Met various players.

The next morning, Puppey sat down at the table during breakfast where Erik Johnson and I were sitting, and Puppey talked briefly with Erik Johnson about the infamous all-chat incident between xiao8 and Dendi… Then after breakfast, they had me translate for the players’ meeting that outlined some rules, expectations, and a general idea of how the event would go. That went… okay. I am not good in front of large groups of people. A camera is different because even though there are lots of people on the other end, I don’t actually see them.

At the players’ meeting. So much talent in one room.

Later on during the day, Dendi sat down next to a fellow translator, Tracy, and began watching her play, as she was playing a pub match on a laptop. Tracy dismisses this, thinking it was Mouz Black, who had been hanging out with us earlier. Then I tell her to look over, and then she’s like, “omg it’s Dendi”. And Dendi sits there with an innocent look on his face. Then she got a kill, made another nice play, and both were met with Dendi getting up and dancing about nearby. Shortly afterwards, the meeting room internet at the Westin cut out (as it often did), Tracy got an abandon, and Dendi strolled off to entertain (or be entertained) elsewhere.

Coach Dendi

Speaking of Mouz Black, who had made fast friends with a couple of us: We had taught him a few phrases in Chinese. He wanted to meet some of the LGD people, including LGD’s manager Ruru, but was apparently too shy to do so on his own. We taught him how to ask for a team jersey in Chinese (since he wanted an LGD set), and later on I taught him how to say the name of his favorite hero, Anti-mage, in Chinese. Much later on, some other Chinese kids must’ve taught him some not so savory words, because by the last day of the main event at Benaroya Hall, he was slinging them around until we told him that he should save it for when he really hates someone or something. Below, Black is saying 我想要一套队服, which means “I would like a team uniform”.

8/2/2013 – Group stage first day (Wild card)

RattleSnake: LaNm is one of my favorite players. He was the one that I chose as my favorite player in my compendium. He’s a funny guy, brilliant player, and casually approachable in person. After their wild card win, I waited behind with Kabu, who was waiting for the rest of his team to go to the players’ dinner. I knew where the dinner was, they didn’t, so I wanted to make sure people weren’t getting lost on the way (these players had missed the Valve-led delegation over earlier). Incidentally, Quantic were also late and so I told them to follow us too. Was that a bit awkward? Maybe… Quantic looked a bit low energy and hardly ever appeared downstairs for the rest of the group stages afterwards…

Anyway, I tell LaNm, “When I saw you guys pick Storm Spirit, I knew you’d already won. LaNm responds curiously, “Why? I think it was because they didn’t have much in terms of disables.” But my opinion was simpler, “I just think you’re awesome on Storm, haha.” And he grinned.

RattleSnake team interview after Wild Card win

iG: Ferrari_430 was up to play the solo mid matches, so during the players’ dinner at El Gaucho, Erik Johnson grabbed me over to translate to get his picks for heroes, and to make sure he knew the rules. He hadn’t checked the rules before and was surprised that runes were allowed. This revelation in part caused him to change his initial pick from Lone Druid to Templar Assassin. He was sitting with his team and chatted a bit with them before deciding on his hero picks. Ferrari is a really friendly person in a really unassuming manner. I already admired his play and style, and after meeting him, I like him as a person too.

After his and Mu’s first solo match, the TA match, which took over 40 minutes, they looked to me to ask if they could simply do the SF match next. When told that SF had to be third game, they decided to do Shadow Demon instead (whereas originally it was going to be OD as second match) to save some time. When I went downstairs to grab some water for 430 and Mu, I ran into XBOCT at the bar. He was seated, looked over to me, said “I like you”. I don’t think he really knew who I was then (or if he even really knows, now), but his friendliness had me asking him which of the Dota-themed drinks he’d had. He looks at the drinks menu and starts pointing. “All of them?” I ask. “Yes,” is his reply. Cool guy.

During Mu’s solo match against Ferrari, Hao stood behind his chair for much of the time, joking and making suggestions. Hao even brought Mu a drink of some sort. He had two of the same drink, one for himself, one he gave to Mu. Aww. TongFu’s players seem to be the friendliest with each other (this is not to say that the other teams aren’t all quite friendly with each other). While the Ferrari and Mu match went on, several other matches came and went. Iceiceice versus s4 was funny in that iceiceice giggled whenever something happened, especially whenever he used his coal.

The solo mid competition room at El Gaucho. Ferrari_430 vs Mu, Mushi vs xiao8

8/4/2013 – Group stage day 3

DK: rOtK is just as fierce in person and out of game as he is in-game (and at LAN events). He also seems like a very sincere person, and he’s got an amazing sense of humor and quick wit, more than once causing uproarious laughter in the Chinese section of the viewing lounge at Westin. He wears his heart on his sleeve, a rare specimen amongst your average Chinese player.

Here we see DK’s rOtk, in green, animatedly discussing something with the other players

iG: The iG players tend to be more quiet, though YYF can really talk, and talks quite fast, when he has something to talk about. Ferrari is very thorough whenever you ask him about something; in the mini-series with Soe where we asked players for their ID and what it came from, Ferrari_430 was by far the most thorough in explaining. He also likes to hold the mic himself when he’s talking (he was the only player with this preference). I’m not sure why his part was cut out from the final player ID video that was posted online, though. But his ID is pretty self-explanatory anyway: he likes that car, and the name of it was what he went with when registering himself on a gaming platform in the past, and it stuck.

Speaking of player IDs, I wish we could’ve gotten more, especially more of the Chinese players, but unfortunately it was not to be. In the final two days, I did some interviews with Perfect World, helping to translate Chinese questions to Western players, then translating their answers back. Additionally, I worked on the final versions of all the subtitles for team intro clips that they played before each team’s first appearance at Benaroya Hall this year. That took a while, because I needed to fix up the translations, the grammar, and then the timing of the subtitles as well. A lot of fun seeing my work up on the big stage later on, though. Anyway, player IDs. The teams and players were in and out as well, playing matches, going out for dinner, etc. Maybe there’ll be more chances in the future for this.

The player ID vid, as posted, is below. Whenever I’m not on camera, I was the one running the camera! ;P The Orange players were all so polite, and seemed a little bit shocked that anyone would want to ask them anything.

LGD: I think it was on this day that xiao8 was recognized in the lobby of the Westin Bellevue by a visiting group of Chinese tourists. An older Chinese man and his wife are walking out of the elevators while xiao8, his friend, and a few of us are waiting to go up, and the man turns around, peers at xiao8 and goes, “Aren’t you that guy on the TV? The dating show? Were the scenes in the show real or staged? Xiao8? …You’re here to compete!” Xiao8 confirms that the show and its result were not staged, and then just nods a bit, not sure how to respond. The man and his wife grin widely and wish him luck as we walk into the elevator. In the elevator, I remark that he’s a superstar now. Xiao8 smiles lightly in a way that suggests he doesn’t necessarily embrace it, and goes back to whatever he was doing on his phone.

I don’t remember which exact day this is from, but here is xiao8 with two bananas during the group stages. Sorry it’s blurry, camera derped

8/5/2013 – Group stage final day

RattleSnake: LaNm needs glasses. He had trouble seeing the screen while watching matches on the screens in the players’ lounge at Westin and constantly had to squint.  So I told him to go get some glasses. “Yeah, it’s indeed time to get glasses,” he replied.

You can sort of see LaNm straining himself to get a clear view of the screen from where he’s sitting. He’s leaning forward with his arms folded underneath his head in the center of the picture.

As seen in some of the panoramic photos so far, the teams and players mostly mix pretty freely. There’s a pretty clear divide between Western and Eastern, and then within that there’s another less clear divide between Chinese and SEA, and between Russian and non-Russian. But by and large, the players are friendly and cordial with each other, and most every player is willing to meet and get to know another player. A rare few players have the talent of slipping almost seemlessly between all the different groups (though they still have their own preferences). The Chinese teams seem to especially be friendly with one another, and when they weren’t competing, there would be intermingling to the degree that, to an untrained eye, you wouldn’t be able to pick out which players were on which teams at all.

Also, Black^ and Bulba partook in an activity they called ‘Ghost Ship’, in which they would ambush unsuspecting fellow players, pick them up, then put them down unceremoniously whilst shouting “ghost ship!!!” I saw them do this to two or three different people, and I don’t think anyone much enjoyed it. I am also wondering if they meant ‘Torrent’, as in Kunkka’s Torrent, which gushes someone up then drops them down.

LGD.cn and Dignitas played a tiebreaker, a close one. Afterwards, the two teams seemed to be pretty cheerful, even gathering together briefly to chat a bit.

After the tiebreaker: Aui_2000, DD, xiao8’s back, Yao, Waytosexy, Sneyking, Universe, Sylar

TongFu: I’d earlier offered to help the Chinese teams arrange for some Chinese delivery from a local Sichuanese Chinese restaurant located in Bellevue. On the last day of group stages, after everyone had finished playing their matches, there was some time, and TongFu’s manager CuZn came to get my help. We got some menus printed out and I had them go around and mark down what they wanted, then we ordered the food. They got nearly $200 of food, and TongFu’s manager paid for it. When it all arrived, it came in a large cardboard box, and word spread quickly amongst the Chinese teams. Pretty soon, members of every team were gathered in a big circle around a table, eating. Quite a happy sight. With the normal hotel food, the Chinese players would hardly ever look excited about the food, nor would they rush to it. In contrast, this time, they all rushed over eagerly. These players are amongst the best in the world, but in the end they’re all kids and young adults, far away from home, and I was truly happy to be able to bring them a little bit of that comfort…

The players descended upon the delivery Chinese food like… hungry Chinese players

Throughout the group stages, there was an on-going joke amongst the Chinese players that whenever someone stepped out for a smoke break, the Chinese team currently playing would lose. Hao in particular would come back inside after a break outside, and exclaim, “What? Lost again???” This is another reason to not smoke, kids. It was just a joke, but later on in the group stages I did hear comments at least once or twice about waiting to go smoke until after the game had ended. Haha. Either way, the Chinese teams in general seemed pretty loose and relaxed, joking amongst each other, chatting about the games going on and other things. It was cool to see the players in a more casual environment.

In the afternoon, with the group stages finished, there were Valve tours scheduled. A group of 13 of us got stuck in the elevator going up for nearly an hour. Amongst us were Black and Synderen from Mouz. Both of them can be pretty funny. The PC Games reporter that was stuck with us in there was also a funny dude. I think they contributed to keeping morale high in there. It took an hour of rising temperatures in the elevator, and a call to the fire department after the original elevator tech never showed up, for us to finally escape. When we ended the Valve tour, Synderen and I both, on two separate occasions, actually joked to one of the Valve people that “some of the guys got stuck in another elevator”, which brought a momentary look of shock and worry. Sorry to the Valve lady, it was probably not the best joke to make again given the earlier events.

Stuck in the elevator

They did give us some extra stuff in our goodie bags at the end of the tour. It was probably worth getting stuck in the elevator. I won’t bother posting pictures from Valve offices because, well, I didn’t bother taking any, and other people have posted plenty of pictures already anyway.

All in all, the group stage at Westin Bellevue was quite an intimate, low-key kind of event. Players would just sit and hang out in the lounge with the games on screen for hours on end. Food would come and go, Valve admins would come in and shout for the next team up, the team that just finished would come back in and sit down and grab some food and drinks… It would be such a huge contrast to the high pressure, high energy atmosphere at Benaroya Hall and the elimination stages.

This was part 1 of “The International 3 from my view”. Stay tuned for part 2, describing thoughts and events from the elimination stages at Benaroya Hall, in the next few days!