Dec 24 2013 - 2:00 pm

How Valve's eSports mastermind shook up the industry in 2013

This was the biggest year ever for eSports
Patrick Howell O'Neill
Dot Esports

This was the biggest year ever for eSports. Competitive gaming has more players, a bigger audience, and a brighter future than ever before. Over a period of 10 days, the Daily Dot will profile people who've fueled this unprecedented growth, from top players to industry visionaries. 

In earlier pieces, we looked at Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn, the 20-year-old StarCraft 2 phenom from Canada, and Rod Breslau, the eSports journalistToday, we'd like you to meet Erik Johnson, an industry legend who's helping turn Dota 2 into one of the most innovative eSports on the planet.

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Erik Johnson is a legend in the games industry. Starting as an internal tester for Half-Life, he went on to positions like project manager for Team Fortress and is now the lead director on Dota 2, the second biggest eSport in the world.

The gap between number one and two, however, is pretty big. Riot's League of Legends leads the way by millions of players, seemingly leaving Dota 2’s team to watch and then play catch up. But according to Johnson, they’re watching anyone but themselves.

"To be honest, we really think mostly about Dota,” he told Gamespot. “We don't spend a lot of time thinking about the broader eSports world."

Maybe that’s his secret. Today, Johnson is presiding over some of the most impressive innovations in eSports.

Johnson conceived and create Dota 2’s annual championship tournament, The International. This year's edition boasted the biggest prize pool in eSports history, despite the fact that Dota 2 is not as popular as League of Legends.

Johnson's ingenious trick was something called the Compendium, a virtual book costing $2.50 and that included collectible cards and fantasy prediction games. Zealous fans, buying these items up at rapid speeds, boosted the tournament’s prize pool by over $1 million to a grand total of more than $2.8 million, eclipsing League of Legends as well as Valve’s grandest expectations.

Much of Valve’s massive eSports successes can be traced back to Johnson. At the very foundation of the game, he’s responsible for the masterstroke of hiring Icefrog, the talented developer behind Dota 1 whose real identity has never been revealed.

The huge success of Dota 2’s unique in-game items, tournament viewing tickets, and powerful workshop have boosted the economy of the game by millions of dollars. Equippable items like pennants allow fans to directly fund the teams they love in a way that’s never been possible before. Johnson sees building a bridge between fans and teams as a big part of Valve’s job, something the company will be focusing on in 2014 in a big way—and something that no other developer has caught onto yet.

Ultimately, there’s only one way to truly tell the worth of innovation. Who is taking what you’ve done and using it for themselves? Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Valve’s sequel to one of the biggest eSports games of all time, has adopted much of Dota 2’s unique takes on eSports from tickets to in-game items. It’s no coincidence that Global Offensive’s popularity has surged at the same time.

Screengrab via GamingLives/YouTube 

Today - 5:28 pm

Combo Breaker announcement may imply the end of auto-qualifiers for Capcom Pro Tour

Capcom may be trying to simplify its 2017 Pro Tour.
Steve Jurek
Dot Esports
Image via Capcom

A big change is coming to the 2017 Capcom Pro Tour, but yesterday's announcement may have hinted at an even larger change—a possible end to players winning automatic qualification into the Capcom Cup through Premier events.

The Street Fighter V tournament at Combo Breaker is being upgraded to a Premier event for the 2017 Pro Tour, Capcom announced via Twitter. The event, which will take place in the Chicago area over Memorial Day weekend, served as a Ranking event in 2015 and 2016. Its spiritual predecessor, the Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament, filled the same role in 2014.

Premier events award more Capcom Pro Tour points to top performers compared to Ranking events. A yet-to-be-announced number of the season's top points earners will earn a spot in the Capcom Cup, the season's championship event. Premier events also offer a Capcom-provided pot bonus. The figure has not yet been confirmed by Capcom, but it is believed to be $15,000.

In previous years, a player who won a Premier event received an automatic berth in that season's Capcom Cup. Thursday's announcement, however, may have implied that this is no longer the case.

An update on Combo Breaker's website stated that placing well at the event "will earn you valuable ranking points that put you well on your way to qualifying for the Capcom Cup!"

Notably, the statement makes no mention of an automatic berth into the Capcom Cup, something that every Premier event winner has been awarded since the Pro Tour's founding in 2014.

The statement does not necessarily confirm that auto-qualification into the Capcom Cup has been eliminated. It does, however, fall in line with statements made by Capcom esports director Neidel Crisan. In conversations with both Yahoo! Esports and EventHubs late last year, Crisan mentioned the possibility of eliminating auto-qualification berths in order to simplify the qualifying process.

A player had three ways to qualify for the Capcom Cup in 2016; winning a Premier event, placing high in the global Pro Tour points standings, or placing high in each region's Pro Tour points standings. The system confused fans, commentators, and players alike.

We may not know how qualification for the Capcom Cup will work in 2017, but we do know that the tour itself will look a bit different than it has in previous years.

Combo Breaker will presumably fill a gap left by Stunfest, a French gaming convention that that served as a Premier event on the Pro Tour in each of the last two years. Organizers of that event announced a "pause" for the convention late last year with plans to return in 2018.

The tour will also be without Cannes Winter Clash, the other French event that was part of the 2016 tour. Organizers of that event, which will take place during the last weekend in February, announced the change last week in a Reddit post. The event had served as the Pro Tour's season opener in both 2015 and 2016.

"Obviously with Cannes and Stunfest out there will need to be at least one French replacement event," Samad "Damascus" Abdessadki, a competitor and commentator who is involved in the organization of the Cannes Winter Clash, told Dot Esports. "[Capcom] can't leave France out of [the Capcom Pro Tour] when it's arguably the biggest community in Europe - and maybe [the] strongest."

France is the only European country that has sent two players to the Capcom Cup in each of the last two years. It is also home to Olivier "Luffy" Hay, the only player from outside of Asia to win a Street Fighter IV Evo title.

One event that will return is Final Round. On Wednesday, Capcom announced that Final Round will serve as the first Premier event of the season for the fourth straight year. That event, now in its 20th year, will take place in Atlanta during the second weekend of March.

Capcom will announce full details of the 2017 Pro Tour in late February.

Disclaimer: The author of this article has worked as part of the volunteer staff at Combo Breaker/Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament since 2014.

Today - 9:49 pm

IEM Katowice’s CS:GO tournament is going to be awesome

The final two invites went out today, and the tournament's guaranteed to be exciting.
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports
Photo via Fragbite

The final two teams to be invited to one of the year's biggest events have been announced.

FaZe Clan and Danish soccer club FC Copenhagen's esports venture, North, will be attending IEM Katowice's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive finals from Mar. 1-5, ESL announced today. The teams, which showed impressive form towards the end of 2016 at multiple international LAN events, will be competing against some of the best teams in the world.

The two teams are also the last to receive invitations to the event, as four teams will be added after a series of online qualifiers. In total, three more European teams will be attending IEM Katowice, as well as one North American team. With an already-stacked ensemble of teams ready to attend, such as Brazil's SK Gaming, Polish hometown heroes Virtus Pro, and Denmark's top team Astralis, the four teams that will be advancing through the online qualifiers will be making an already-competitive event all the more fierce.

In October 2016, the current North roster, which was signed to Dignitas at the time, took home the $500,000 EPICENTER event in Moscow. Aside from being one of the biggest events of the year, it had all the top teams in the world in attendance. Since then, however, North has struggled to live up to the expectations placed upon them, and have recently fallen short at nearly all events they have attended since.

The opposite can be said about FaZe, since the team picked up former Astralis in-game leader Finn "Karrigan" Andersen. Since Karrigan's arrival, FaZe have had their best results since the team's inception, and have looked stronger at each event they have attended.

Taking place roughly one month after the ELEAGUE Major, which begins on Jan. 22, IEM Katowice will likely be the debut tournament of several new rosters—so make sure to keep an eye on what could be one of the biggest CS:GO events of the year.