It’s August 2011, I’m 19, nerding out on some Jin Air OSL games, the most prestigious Starcraft One Tournament. The grand prize is $32,000. Then the International was announced, 1 Million Dollars goes to the grand Prize, 30 times more than OSL.
I wasn’t around back then but when I talk to the players who were part of that time, a lot of them didn’t think it was real. You can see why players would think that way, winning a MYM Prime Defending DotA 1 Tournament would net $400 first place. Some western players but mostly Chinese players did not even participate at The International as they thought it was a scam.
I’m not sure how it was back then, but my very first International (TI4), I was paid the day after the tournament was over, the same for TI5, and TI6. You could tell that Valve wanted DotA 2 to be taken seriously, especially its competitive scene. It usually takes 3 months to a year for a tournament to pay out. Sometimes tournaments never pay out even till this day.
Back in 2011, I honestly didn’t even know what Valve was, I’m sure the Chinese teams didn’t either or they would've known they are a billion dollar corporation and TI isn’t a scam. I attended TI3 as a spectator, sharing a room with Luminous (xD). I was amazed at the event, matches always on time, treatment was fantastic (Don’t remember if I was allowed to eat player food but I did). Watching Bulba cry after they beat LGD. For awhile, Valve was some angelic organization and Gaben was God.
Except for some disturbances with Steam 2 and 7.00, DotA 2 has always been growing in both players which goes hand in hand with prize pool. Starting in TI3, the prize pool jumped from 1.6 Million to 2.9 Million, at TI4 it jumped to 10 Million and 20 million by TI6. Starting in Europe, to Benaroya Hall, and now to the Key Arena.
Except for a few exceptions (WCA, etc), player treatment has generally been getting better over the years. A lot of credit goes to the fans for supporting the players when they sometimes complain (mostly RTZ and ME WOOO). But one big factor that people didn’t consider is that tournament organizers simply follow what they think is the best tournament, The International.
Valve has always been upping their standards as the years go by. After the original DAC, Valve flew some players over to their office to talk about our position of power in the scene and what we are worth, and their plans for the future. (I went to hot springs in Taiwan)
Call us players greedy or whatever IDC, we were happy with the introduction of the Major System after TI5. More Valve events? Sick! I love Valve events. Another way to catch up to the TI winners, though apparently S4 won’t talk to you regardless. Things were just becoming more and more legit. Not only did they introduce the Major System, but for Manila Major, the players were even flown over on business flights. It was my first time being on one, and oh my god it was amazing. Basically from TI1 till Manila Major things just kept getting better and better.
Ok, come TI6, no more business flights. Awww man, my whole team was looking forward to it from Turkey to the US. Oh well, no one really cared. We don’t need business flights. Its very, VERY nice, but not necessary at all. Then the next season will have 2 instead of 3 majors. Some people talked about this as Valve starting to become cheap and seeing what they could get away with. I personally didn’t think much about it, I totally agree that things were a bit too rushed towards the end and that’s what Valve said publicly as well.
Then Boston Major came, and we realized that there will be no food support (except for the main event for playing teams). This was a shocker. I don’t remember the last event that didn’t have food. When I talked to some Valve guys, they told me it was an experiment. I mean, for some players, this event might be one of the most important events of their lives. It ain’t an experiment.
Come Kiev Major, the internet was constantly going down again (just like in boston major). Players were antsy about that but what really was worrisome was the food situation. Usually for every event there is a buffet at the hotel or venue. For the Kiev Major there was no buffet and instead every team was to order room service from the hotel (paid by Kiev Major). As expected, the hotel couldn’t keep up with the orders and food arrived extremely late. There are many funny stories about this situation. Some people would order lunch only for it to be breakfast the very next day. For the most part food took 3-6 hours on average to arrive after ordering. I remember on the second day we would order lunch during breakfast hoping that it would arrive in time for lunch. During this time the Planet ODD guys and other players at the event would half joke about how I should write a blog. I probably would have but I wasn’t a player and I’m sure I would just be flamed and not taken seriously so I didn’t. The food situation was changed a few days during the event but I’m not going to go into it.
For both Majors it felt very stressful to deal with the food situation. Of course this is something for the Managers to handle, but from time to time, especially the Kiev Major, it would affect the mentality of the players.
The International 2017
Ok that was just a back story to the main point of this blog. The point was to remind us how seriously Valve took its events, and how it kept growing over time, but in the recent year it has started to dwindle event after event.
Valve provided support for 7 people for Boston Major, and 8 people for The International 6. For this TI7, they will be providing support for 6 people.
Before I start talking about the issue. I want to first address how this situation affects me and my team so we can get it out of the way and focus on the main issue. We will be getting a coach for this TI regardless of whether Valve is supporting him financially. It will probably cost around 3000-5000 USD not sure yet. Does it affect us? Yes, but does it really matter? No. Trust me if I cared so much about money I would have taken the $500,000 Panda Streaming deal instead of trying to divide it amongst the team. Ok to the main problem.
It may sound silly but The International to me is a sacred event where all 18 best teams of the world go fighting at their full potential. I believe that supporting only 6 people for TI when all other valve events and even non valve events have supported more ruins the integrity of TI. There are very strong Sea teams that play for a few hundred dollar salaries at a 50% Prize Pool Cut. That deal may sound insane but those players have no choice but to take it if they want to solely focus on winning. I don’t know much about the SA scene but I’m sure it can’t be any better.
Imagine a group of 6 kids, all 17-19 years old of age. 5 of them players and a coach. They train hard for a year and after failing many times during the year they qualify for their first International. At first they are extremely happy to qualify but they understand that the battle isn’t over yet. They still need to get their visas. Now three weeks before TI they are told that this year Valve won’t be supporting 8 people but only 6 for this TI. Their coach that have always been there for them the whole year will be unable to attend the most important event, and will have to coach them online through skype/steam chat. (Sad KingTeka)
For these players 3000-5000 USD is too large a number for them to cover, especially during the short notice. Their parents have probably been flaming them for not finding a job or doing well in school and now they need more money to play? It would be an extremely difficult time for these players even though they had just qualified for The International. Hopefully their organization can cover it, but usually the owners of the org go as well, and it would get very complicated to send the owner/manager/ and coach over.
The costs can be mitigated if they just have 3 people sharing a room. But trust me, 3 Jet Lagged players who are extremely stressed/nervous sharing a room together will be a disaster. They will constantly wake each other up and without sleep you will simply lose. Also this is illegal at the hotels we stay at, so they would have to be secretive about this. I personally have always advocated for solo rooms and have always been paying for my own room. I also wear ear plugs XD.
I can totally see some player use all their savings to bring their coach in if necessary.
I’m not trying to attack Valve, they have always been doing a great job in supporting the players. However, for most teams more than 6 people are essential to their performance. I hope that Valve will reconsider and send more support to the teams attending the event.
I’ve always advocated for people to speak up when there are problems. But as someone who constantly speaks up, I can totally understand why they don’t. For me the Wings/Ace Drama is probably the most messed up situation in DotA and the truth will never come to light (FeelsBadMan).
Once again this blog isn’t about me or us, we literally agreed on who we were gonna use as coach for TI today. Me and my coach don’t have that emotional bond yet, we should get working on that...
P.S. Please Don’t Flame Me on my Birthday. FeelsOldMan
Double P.S. I’ll write one more blog soon or after TI about tournament conditions. Since Majors will now be run by 3rd party people.