TABLE OF CONTENTS
Across The World
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In Search of IceFrog
IceFrog, the only name we have to identify the person responsible for the continued existence of everything DotA. IceFrog, the centre of our little universe, the name of that invisible force that holds us all, players and fans alike, together. IceFrog, the phantom, the spectre of our corner of the gaming world, a man that has hitherto avoided detection.
How could someone so famous stay hidden for so long? Was he just one, or many people? These are the questions that we asked ourselves as we headed into this investigative piece. After months of sleuthing and hours, sometimes days of waiting in vain, we have for you today an interview with the man himself. First, however, our very own George "Flamewheel" Zhao takes you behind the scenes in TL's search for the frosty amphibian.
We hope you enjoy this piece of investigative reporting from Team Liquid, and as always, we'd love to hear what you think of our work. Look forward to more news features from TL in the weeks to come!
Across The World
In the past seven months or so, I've been to The International 2012 in Seattle, Washington; Dreamhack Winter in Jönköping, Sweden; and most recently, the G-League grand finals in Shanghai, China. Beyond the automated matchmaking, the updated graphics, and
But traveling is exhausting. I don't understand how traveling salesmen, consultants, and journalists do it. You know how some companies will ask you if you are willing to relocate? That's generally a one-time thing. But to be everywhere, always on-scene... Well, that's dedication.
All this had happened before, and all this would happen again. (Photo by Valve)
Friday, August 30, 2012. Heyoka and I are in Seattle. We've seen the venue, and a friend at Valve, Andrew Kim, is taking us on a tour of their headquarters. Through Thursday and into Friday morning, hundreds of workers, Valve employees and otherwise, have been swarming about, transforming the Seattle Symphony's stately Benaroya Hall into a temporary center for eSports. I have other goals besides just taking photos and playing with inflatable Axe axes. I'm looking for Dota's most mysterious man, a man who is stealthier than Riki and more amorphous than Morphling. I am, of course, speaking of the one known as "IceFrog."
"Yeah, of course he's here. It would be criminal of him to miss this, wouldn't it?" quips Andrew. Makes sense, after all. I question him further about IceFrog.
"I've never met him, but I know he comes into the office probably three times a week." Andrew pauses, and walks over to one of the many well-stocked pantries stationed all over Valve's office. "I've heard he has a penchant for white chocolate Toblerone."
Thinking ahead, I take a few bars.
The games start on Friday afternoon. Between interviews, I scan the crowd, searching for him. The internet has not been helpful either. The one thing discussion forums seem to agree about is that he is named Abdul Ismail, which suggests to me that IceFrog is of Middle Eastern descent. Of course, this may very well be fabricated, but it is the only piece of information I have. Unfortunately, the crowds are too large. There are thousands of people in and around Benaroya Hall.
Icefrog was no doubt somewhere in this crowd. (Photo by Valve)
"You think he'd be watching from the VIP boxes."
"Nah, he said he'd prefer to be just one of the people for this weekend."
"He'll be back here after this game is done to check up on the latest data pulls."
Well, that's something. I decide to lay a trap. Taking one of the Toblerone bars, I place it in a relatively inconspicuous spot on top of a table crowded with electronics. To make it seem like I'm not just milling around for no reason, I talk with people about the weather, their jobs at Valve, and whether or not there's been any technical mishaps. You know, small chat. However, I get a bit too immersed in one conversation involving Luna. Realizing my lack of vigilance, I hurriedly glance back at the table upon which I had placed the chocolate.
The bar is gone. And with it, the two technicians. Thinking back now, I can't remember what either of them looked like. I think one might have seemed Indian.
The same uneasy feeling stuck with me the rest of the weekend. You know when you feel like somebody's watching you, but you can't tell from where? That one. Hint upon hint was dropped. On Saturday, Eul said that he and IceFrog had just grabbed lunch together. A few of the players we interviewed, such as SingSing and 430, said they'd heard that IceFrog was at Valve HQ during the group stage games. I spotted a Valve employee's son holding a mousepad with a shocking autograph. When questioned, he said that IceFrog had signed it. Even stranger, every time I went backstage, those two technicians were nowhere to be found.
In the end, I left Seattle with very little new information. Besides the soft spot for Toblerone, a preference of Qdoba over Chipotle, and being seemingly left-handed (as the signature would suggest), IceFrog remained as mysterious as before.
Saturday, November 24, 2012. TL member grnp and I have arrived at the hockey arena in quiet little Jönköping, where the Dreamhack Winter LAN is to take place. While I have a press pass, this time I'm here more as a regular user. I suppose it wouldn't have mattered in the end. I'd forgotten to bring the SD card for my camera.
While we walk around waiting on the Dota games to start, I get a Skype message from riptide. He tells me that TL administration had received a tip-off that IceFrog was at the LAN in person. It seems my quest was not yet over.
Again, the hints piled up. The most poignant one: after the game where Bulba decided to get Shadow Blade on Bounty Hunter and Tobi freaked out over it, I talked with Bruno. I mused to him that the backstab damage stacking with crit was an unintended change, and that it would be fixed soon enough. Surprisingly, he agreed with me, telling me that he had just talked to IceFrog about it.
Keep in mind that this was the same Bruno that was already being accused of being IceFrog. My head began to hurt.
And again, another tournament passed, and no sighting of him. Of course, perhaps he was not there to begin with; the tip-off could have been a false alarm. Upon getting back to Denmark, I write to Andrew, inquiring as to whether or not IceFrog actually went.
"He was definitely there," came the reply. "He told us that he's made it his mission to attend every single major offline tournament."
Well, if you can't trust a Valve employee's words regarding DotA, whose can you trust?
Icefrog was here. I could feel it.
Saturday, March 9th, 2013. The G-League Finals. Just like in Seattle and Sweden, from the moment I enter the arena at 9 in the morning that uneasy feeling comes back. If I can't find him here, then I'll never be able to find him. Besides the LGD.Int players and one white guy walking around with a camera, there are no non-Chinese people in Shanghai's Mercedes-Benz arena. And yet, the internet notes, overwhelmingly, that IceFrog was amongst the crowd, spectating the first major clash of East versus West since Seattle. But from the fifteen hours from 9 AM to midnight, I can't find anybody that seems to even remotely fit the profile that I've built of him.
Maybe the search for IceFrog is futile. Maybe IceFrog is not so much a person, but a movement, the combined force of those that love this game and are prepared to do anything to see it prosper. There are still plenty of theories that Shakespeare was not one man, but many. Perhaps there is truth in that here.
Maybe IceFrog is you, maybe IceFrog is me. Maybe there's a little IceFrog in all of us.
After so many failed attempts at finding IceFrog, we called flamewheel back home, and admitted defeat. Getting on Skype, I left IceFrog an offline message, saying that we tried but were outplayed by him. "I can answer some questions, if that helps," he answered. "But it must be now."
Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity!
Good evening, IceFrog.
Can we begin the interview?
First of all, we want to admit defeat. We tried to find you. We really tried.
The taste of defeat has its own richness. You can learn a line from a win and a book from a defeat.
Do you really exist?
Ask youself, that question. Ask the IceFrog inside of you.
Are you happy?
If you wish to be happy, be it! Everything is up to you.
But are you? Even with people calling you Icefraud?
Happiness is realizing that nothing is too important.
What's the best skill and item build for life?
That's for you to decide.
What's your opinion on gaming in general?
The human being is a gaming animal. It's always trying to get better in something or the other.
Why do you have a weibo and no Twitter?
Er... Okay... What are your favorite heroes?
The ones I still haven't made.
Come on, you must have a favorite hero, stop dodging.
Ok... Treant Protector.
How do you balance this game?
... You don't? You realize a lot of people are going to shout at you because of this answer, right?
Balance is the arch-enemy of art and creativity. Creativity comes from a conflict of different ideas. Controversy is a natural part of creativity. Accidents like Blink Dagger + Epicenter would never surface in a "balanced" game.
Think about it. One hero is an army that outnumbers the enemy. Another hero has the same reach of heaven. You can't run from him. Another one can wipe a team out with one swing in favorable conditions. How would that be possible with balance in mind? Creativity takes a leap and only later looks to see where it has taken him.
So, who balances it?
The players. That's how games like basketball are balanced. Each generation has its necessities, so the rules are always evolving. It's the same with Dota.
Are you happy with the current state of the game?
Happiness is brief. It will not stay. Time batters at its sails.
What do you think about the current metagame?
Ok... I won't continue this line of questioning. You watch a lot of competitive DotA, right?
Who's the best competitive player right now?
A good Dota player plays where the fight is happening. A great Dota player plays where the fight is going to be happening.
What is your favorite position to play?
Freedom is the recognition of necessity. I do what my team needs.
Were you there at TI2? Did you ever appear on camera?
It is not what you see, but what you don't see that matters.
Why so much secrecy?
Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence. It's the hardest argument to refute, the ultimate weapon. Well-timed silence is the most commanding expression. It's also wisdom's best reply.
I must confess, it was Dota that kept me sane when I was doing my masters. Thank you.
You're welcome, but it is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.
What would you wish for the community?
More friendship. Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself - and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That's what real love amounts to - letting a person be what he or she really is.
Yes. Play hard! It energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities. And be kind to each other. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
Writers: flamewheel, shostakovich
Gfx: Shiroiusagi, Hawaiianpig
Editors: TheEmulator, riptide, Firebolt145
Gfx: Shiroiusagi, Hawaiianpig
Editors: TheEmulator, riptide, Firebolt145