Jul 15 2014 - 2:21 pm

The International: What we know now

Seattle has unknowingly become the nexus of one of esports most prolific clashes: Valve's The International, a Dota 2 championship with a prize pool of nearly $11 million
Ian J. Barker
Dot Esports

Seattle has unknowingly become the nexus of one of esports most prolific clashes: Valve's The International, a Dota 2 championship with a prize pool of nearly $11 million.

Half the field of 16 is already home for good, and the remaining teams must somehow differentiate themselves from the pack, dodging upsets, mistakes, and self-doubt along the way. With the field narrowed, the main event of The International is taking shape. Here’s what we know so far.

The field is set

If you’re a betting person, avoid this tournament at all costs. The matchups and mind-games alone are enough to render bracket prediction nearly impossible. But while we may not know who will lift the Aegis of Champions at the end of the tournament, we do know who’s still in contention.

After a grueling pool play that broke the backs of even the strongest teams, and an equally taxing elimination bracket to narrow the field, the last remaining teams include Chinese powerhouses Vici Gaming, Newbee, Team DK, Invictus Gaming, and LGD Gaming, Europe’s last hope Natus Vincere, and the North American upstarts Evil Geniuses and Cloud9.

This field is, for lack of a better word, tough. Every Chinese side matches aggression with brilliant drafting in a way that’s both dazzling to watch and infuriating to play against. Cloud9, the innovators from North America, can take a game from virtually any side in the world. Natus Vincere, the 2011 champions and 2012/13 runner’s up always seem to find a higher gear when it matters most. Finally, Evil Geniuses is a force to be reckoned with, and probably the West’s greatest hope for a championship. Each team is a force, and every game will be hotly contested.

No one is invincible

Each of these names carries weight to the seasoned Dota 2 spectator, but arguing that one team reigns above any other is questionable. Evil Geniuses, the North American hope, dropped a pool play game to the now-eliminated Team Liquid, while showing remarkable poise and execution en route to a 2nd place finish.

Invictus Gaming looked the part of champions headed into the tournament, but accrued five losses in pool play and ultimately landed in the loser’s bracket of the main event. Most remarkable: Last year’s runaway champions, Alliance, failed to even make it out of pool play, despite impressive form leading up to the event.

The International is looking more and more like that paragon of parity, the NCAA Tournament. Whoever shows up, whoever matches up well, and whoever has the most grit on any given day can find themselves ascending the summit, regardless of the prestige of their opponents. There’s absolutely no doubt that once Key Arena is filled and the crowds are cheering, drafts, towers, and kills will merely personify the ambition and brilliance of the players involved.

The East has come to play

Last year’s International was a European affair. Ukranian team Natus Vincere and Swedish side Alliance clashed in one of the most memorable grand finals in history. With that came questions of China’s waning strength, despite their long track record as kings of the original Dota.

However, 2014 has proven that 2013 was a wake up call for the beasts from the east: 75 percent of remaining winner’s bracket teams are Chinese, and 50 percent of loser’s bracket sides hail from the world’s most populous country. Newbee is primed for a fight, DK looks innovative and hungry, and Invictus Gaming looks to prove that their 2012 International championship was just a start.

Evil Geniuses is legit

Oft-maligned and frequently doubted, Evil Geniuses entry to The International was met with mixed reviews. While pundits from major esports sites pegged them as a top four team, the spectator community at large remained unconvinced that the quirky, sometimes volatile, and often brilliant quintet would make it happen once pool play started. A day one that ended with a 3-2 record nearly confirmed that suspicion.

But the “Boys in Blue” would not let speculation do the talking. Totaling an 8-2 record over the ensuing three days, Peter “PPD” Dager and his merry men would ply their patented style to near perfection, losing only to two top Chinese sides during that stretch. Now, their work is rewarded with a direct berth into the winner’s bracket semifinals and a guaranteed placement of no worse than sixth, locking down $644,000 in the process. Obviously, EG won’t accept this result, and anyone that doubts their abilities against truly top-level competition is either living under a rock or completely unfamiliar with the game of Dota.

Every decision counts

In the end, The International will be decided in the game, not in forums, dreams, or predictions. With the release of a new patch, modifying character abilities and strengths, prior to the tournament, playing the game in the best way possible has become a real and recurring challenge.

During pool play, less frequently selected heroes Razor and Skywrath Mage became overnight must-picks. This left teams reeling. However, just as Razor appeared to be an essential to any team composition, the hero netted his team 0 wins in 6 games in phase three.

If nothing else, this shocking shift in draft priority shows just how delicately The International is balanced. The Rikki selection in Evil Geniuses’ game against now-eliminated Team Liquid led to an early deficit and, eventually, a loss. The margin by which EG missed the No. 1 seed? One loss.

With half the field already sent home, the margin for error is officially zero. Teams with deep pools of talent and multiple weapons at their disposal will still need to deploy those weapons in the best way possible to take home the grand prize. To call the International's remaining field a meat-grinder is an exercise in understatement, but with nearly $5 million on the line, every moment is a chance to separate, rise above, and breathe truly rarified air.

Image via Valve

Today - 8:14 pm

You’ll be able to watch DreamHack and ESL in virtual reality this year

A total of 14 events are set to be broadcast through the rapidly evolving technology.
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports
Image via Valve

Two of the world's largest esports tournament organizers are looking to integrate virtual reality in their tournament broadcasts for 2017.

ESL and DreamHack will air a total of 14 events through Sliver.TV, a virtual reality platform that allows viewers to immerse themselves fully in a 360-degree rendition of live tournament matches. This can be done on computers and mobile devices via the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Google Cardboard.

The platform was field-tested last year at ESL One New York and IEM Oakland, with the Oakland event attracting 130,000 unique viewers to its VR broadcasts. A result that appears to have convinced ESL and DreamHack that the demand for virtual reality in esports is growing in tandem with the increasing popularity of the technology itself, which is predicted to generate $30 billion in revenue by 2021.

The partnership between Sliver, ESL, and DreamHack will provide "360 virtual reality, live replays and stats technology to millions of esports fans worldwide," according to Sliver CEO and founder Mitch Liu, and that the company's vision is "to forever transform the esports spectating experience by providing new perspectives and insights into live esports streams."

The events that will feature broadcasting through Sliver's platform are:

  • DreamHack Masters Las Vegas - Feb 15-19
  • Unnanounced DreamHack Masters stop
  • DreamHack ASTRO Open Austin - Apr 28-30
  • DreamHack ASTRO Open Atlanta - Jul 21-23
  • DreamHack ASTRO Open Montreal - Sep 8-10
  • DreamHack ASTRO Open Denver - Oct 20-22
  • DreamHack ASTRO Open Winter - Nov 30-Dec 2
  • Intel Extreme Masters Katowice, Poland - Feb 25-Mar 5
  • 3 Addtl IEM Global events
  • ESL One Cologne - Jul 3-8
  • ESL One New York - Sep 1-15
  • Unnanounced ESL One event

While virtual reality may still be in its infancy, the billion-dollar industry looks to continue growing in the coming years, and it will be interesting to see its potential influence on esports.

Today - 7:48 pm

Build the next SKT in this LoL manager game

LOL GM gives you the chance to manage a professional League of Legends team.
Connor Smith
Dot Esports
Photo via Riot Games

For many League of Legends fans, debating the latest roster changes and managerial hires is almost second nature.

The tongue-in-cheek idea that redditors are the real experts became so popular it spawned an ill-fated attempt to buy and operate a team based on the community’s whims. “Team Reddit” failed due to the logistical nightmares of crowdfunding an actual esports organization. But the initial progress showed many wanted to be more involved with the managerial side of esports.

They might not be managers of a real team, but now fans have a chance to play as one. LOL GM, a free general manager simulator where players pick a team, assemble rosters, and balance budgets in order to further their esports dynasty. Reddit user /u/MyCoder, who asked to keep his real name off the record, developed the game—along with several other sports management games—with help from the source code of a Basketball GM simulator.

MyCoder began developing manager games after he asked the creator of Basketball GM if he could create similar games for other sports. After he created games for baseball, football, and college basketball, a Reddit user came to him and suggested League.

He reached out to the League subreddit in September 2015 and gauged interest. His post received 1,000 upvotes and a lot of interest. Although this wasn’t MyCoder’s first GM project, he understood an esports management game would bring its own unique challenges.

“When you first think about it, you have to wrap your head around it because it's kind of a new thing,” he said. “The first thing I did was just think of the attributes that mattered. Once you got those down, you started thinking how those feed into performance in the game to create the simulation. Once you have that down, it pretty much flows like any other sport.”

These attributes became the core of the game, like overall skill, potential, and how a player can invest in analysts and coaches to maximize the team’s abilities.

The developer had lots of help from the community. Reddit user /u/AvenirGG, who convinced him to develop the League-inspired game, made a subreddit for the game, which drove discussion toward improving it. The first release came in December 2015, but the community helped push constant updates every day.

MyCoder, who by his own admission was "relatively new" to MOBAs, said the subreddit was essential in helping make sure he didn't miss "obvious things."

“When people are playing, things just jump out at them that are really crucial and that you can fix,” he said. “I ended up polishing everything... I made the game simulation more accurate and polished the free-agency aspect and the game in general.”

The player begins by selecting a region, team, and adjusting the patch settings. The base game uses imaginary team names like “Faith Gaming” and “Sky10.” But several users helped create custom file packs for players to modify the game with actual LCS team names and pro players.

According to the developer, team insiders also helped shed light on actual team’s expenses, losses, and profits, in order to improve the realism of the game.

While the goal for a manager is to win every year, MyCoder says the difficulty varies based on the starting team.

“In League of Legends, it's very top-heavy,” he said. “The best teams usually get the best players, so it should be extremely difficult to be a bad team and get good. You don't really have an advantage over the good teams. Why would these teams want to play with you when they can go to the team that just won the championship that's missing a player?”

MyCoder says the key to a successful future is investing in young players with high potential scores and develop them in the years to come.

“Keep (young players) with you for three years and hope they turn into something good,” he said “That's the general approach. You can do some trading around that to try and speed up things.”

The refined engine works well, and the game often rewards calculated strategies. Still, the developer does see ways to improve it.

“The main roadblock is user interface,” he said. “The game itself, if you compare it to other ‘manager’ games that are actually on Steam, is probably better than anything that's on Steam right now. It's just the user interface that needs an overhaul.”

Better UI could also include a tutorial or advisor, which would make the game easier to digest. The developer also wants to improve the “game” inside the game.

“The general manager is primarily with roster construction,” MyCoder said. “Free-agency, trading and the draft—if you had it. Then there's also a coach that handles the game-to-game management. The whole coach side is what could really be expanded. Give a lot more control over the actual game and the strategy. That's just the natural progression of where it would go.”

Whether you want to forge the next esports dynasty or are just looking for something to pass the time, LOL GM is a fun and free way to explore the endless possibilities of esports management—without the scams and financial risks of the real deal.