The International 5

Fell asleep before getting to write about The International. :(

The International is a yearly Dota 2 tournament run by Valve, which brings together the top 16 teams in the world. This year was the The International 5, with the current total prize pool passing $18 million USD ($1.6 million funded by Valve and the other $16.4+ million contributed via a percentage of in-game purchases), and first prize being $6.6 million (split between 5 players). It is the top tournament on the Dota 2 calendar, and the entire thing is completely free to watch, either in the game client, on Twitch.tv, or live-steamed on YouTube (until this tournament, I didn’t even realise YouTube did live streaming).

Since it only finished yesterday, I’ll avoid mentioning any spoilers in case there are people who are still trying to catch up on the games. Instead, I want to talk about the great job Valve did in addressing some of the complaints from last year.

So at TI4, a lot of people considered the grand final a wash, in that the two teams who made it (Vici Gaming, and Newbee) both had a playstyle that made for boring games to watch. However, I don’t think they are to blame, as that was just the best strategy at the time. 2013 was the “Year of the Rat” where the winning strategy was to avoid large team fights while one player tried to sneak around and destroy buildings while the other team is busy elsewhere. While it was also somewhat boring to watch, there were a lot of exciting plays, and it was mainly one team who had that strategy  (though they went on to win the tournament). 2014, however, was the year of the “deathball”, where the main strategy was to group up, destroy buildings, and get an overwhelming lead. Many games were quite short for this reason, and even the grand final felt a bit disappointing (though it was still cool to see the top teams executing their plays so flawlessly).

The other complaint was that Valve puts so much more focus on the popular Western teams, like Na’Vi and EG, so there were many player interviews and background videos on them, and none for the Chinese teams. In fact, before the grand final, they featured a video discussing some of the background on North American team EG, despite the fact that they had just been eliminated, rather than anything about either of the finalists. Although the fact that both teams were Chinese speaking might have been a factor, but it did mean that as a spectator, you found yourself not really caring about either team (though I imagine for the streams that aired in China, things might have been different).

This year, due to quite a few changes in the way the game works, the games were much more action-packed and exciting to watch. One of the changes made it tougher to just steamroll down a lane and take all the towers, as when each of the outermost towers fall, it causes the spell to protect all buildings for five seconds to be refreshed, so it can be used again immediately. Plus, a the way that gold is rewarded for killing enemy heroes made it more advantageous to try and kill players, rather than buildings. Another change was to increase the amount of gold awarded when killing a player on a large killing spree, nicknamed the “comeback mechanic”, it meant that even though your team might be behind, if you managed to get some key kills, you had a chance to improve your position and potentially turn the tide.

The thing that I loved most this year was all the background interviews of the players. rOtk’s interview was so emotional.

Here’s the ones I could find on YouTube on the dota2 channel:

EG.SumaiL
C9.N0tail
EHOME.rOtk
Na’Vi.XBOCT
Secret.s4
COL.swindlemelonzz and COL.zfreek
Fnatic.Kecik Imba
VG.fy
LGD.xiao8
Empire.ALOHADANCE
VP.fng
MVP Hot6.Heen
IG.Ferrari_430
Newbee.Mu

OK, I lied, I guess I spoiled the qualifiers… but they were back in May, and if I had time to watch them while on my honeymoon, you should have as well!

The overall production value was great as well. The all-star match and the great surprise, the amazing cosplay costumes and the fact that there was a cosplay pin for the cosplayers, the awesome stage, with projectors on the floor that played the animation of major spells being cast in the game.

Valve did such a great job this year, looking forward to next year’s International! :)

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