TI3 One rule to rule them all

On August 7th, the world's best Dota2 teams will converge on Seattle, Washington.

VALVE's The International is touted as the most sought after accolade in the world of Dota2 eSports, and for good reason. This year marks the third installation of the game developers' tournament, which boasts having the largest prize pool of any tournament in eSports history. Is there any wonder why teams from around the world would kill to be a part of making history?

The first 13 teams to be invited to The International 3 (TI3 for short) came with much fanfare as VALVE trickled out the teams over the course of a week. When all was said and done, the final list came as little surprise as it fit with JoinDOTA's current team ranking perfectly. But this led to much speculation with regard to the qualifier invitations. Sure, the top 13 were obvious picks, but when you broke it down further, it became less and less obvious.

When the final lists for both the Eastern and Western Qualifiers were announced, there were a few highly skilled teams who felt abused they were not included. However, overall the community seemed fairly content with the selection and were eager to see who would come out on top. That is when tragedy struck., easily a top five team in the world for Dota2, lost one of their key players, Huang 'LongDD' Xiang. In addition, according to VALVE's strict rules and regulations, they would revoke's invitation. Once again, speculation rose within the community to who would replace in the list of 13 invited teams. Eventually, TongFu would get the invitation, as they had a solid performance at last year's event, TI2, where they placed 7/8th. That said, many community members were unsure of TongFu's form, having recently undergone roster changes, and not having performed particularly well in G-1 Champions League Season 5 where they failed to qualify for the LAN finals in Shanghai later this month.

These rumours would be put to rest as TongFu would go on to slaughter each and every team they came across in the first season of the AMD Premier League. They even defeated Team Zenith, fellow TI3 invitee, 3-0 in the grand finals. If there were doubts before, TongFu did well to put them to rest.

TongFu, formerly one of the teams invited to participate in the Eastern Qualifiers now moved back up to the big leagues. This left a gap in the qualifier competitor list that needed to be filled, and it seemed as though VALVE took pity on for their sudden roster changes and slotted them into the Eastern Qualifiers. A decision most looked at as fair, seeing as how they are one of the heavy favourites to perform well in Seattle in August.

But this was not the last time we would hear of roster troubles crippling hopeful Dota2 teams participating in TI3.

Neolution International would suffer a similarly devastating roster mishap. One of the players they had been having issues with for some time, Michael 'ninjaboogie' Ross, would leave the team. From a statement that came out today, Neolution expressed their deepest regrets over what went down. The team claimed there were issues leading up to when they would submit their final roster, and they had a team discussion in order to come up with a solution. The team agreed to work out their issues, and submitted their current roster instead of making changes. Eventually Neolution would find out that was the wrong decision, as the problems continued to amount, and the discontent between Michael and the rest of the team hit critical mass.

Neolution Internationals full statement can be found here.

Citing the same rule that forfeited's invitation, Neolution International was now out of the Eastern Qualifiers. It is unclear why would ultimately be allowed to stay in the tournament and Neolution would not. Perhaps the rules for the teams who were directly invited to TI3 are different from that of the rules for qualifying teams. Whatever the case may be, it raises an interesting question about stability of teams and the livelihood of professional Dota2 players.

eSports has always suffered from unstable team rosters and less than ironclad contracts. It seems every other day we bear witness to teams changing rosters or entire squads changing teams/companies. It goes to show the general lack of job security professional gamers actually have - skilled or not.

One would argue that the rule(s) VALVE used in both the and Neolution International cases were made in hopes of creating more stable rosters, if only for a few months of the year. That said, teams do trade players, some retire, and some quit. Is it fair to punish a team by removing them from a competition they have trained for all year long, simply because of one individual's actions? Some would argue not.

However, just as in the case with, Neolution International's departure from the tournament meant a slot had opened - this time for a completely new team. That team would be Dreamz, a professional Filipino Dota2 team. Many other teams took umbrage to this decision from VALVE, one going so far as to challenge Dreamz to a $1,000 show match to prove who the better team was. Netolic, the company that recently picked up Singaporean Dota2 team, AprilFoolsDay (AFD for short) would publicly challenge Dreamz on their Facebook page. It is unclear whether the show match would have been for the slot into the qualifiers, or if it was, simply a show match to assuage Netolic.SG's bruised egos.

Ultimately, Dreamz would decline, citing the team's secret strategies as the reason they did not wish to accept the limited time offer (they until the 19th to accept). Fans would take sides, claiming Netolic was bitter after not receiving the invite themselves. Whereas on the other hand fans thought it was cowardly for Dreamz not to accept the offer and put rumours to rest that they were indeed, the better choice.

All of these teams are now seemingly deeply affected by one rule, which only shows up once in the official rules for the Western Qualification. We assume that the same rule set is used for both qualifiers and the invited teams during the months leading up to the grand finals. That said; the punishment for breaking rule 3.2 is not clear. At the end of the rule set published, there is a chart delineating the various degrees of punishment, which are solely up to the administrator's discretion. A simple and easy solution to clarify the severity of the rules would be to include an explanation of what warrants which level of punishment.

Which begs the question - should Neolution International have received the maximum punishment for one person's actions? One would presume that VALVE's rules are in place to ensure stable, long-term rosters in order to benefit both the players and their teams. However, it is the same rule which just cost a team their chance at qualifying for the biggest tournament, not only of the year, but in eSports history.

Additionally, this brings up the point of having a sixth man on a team's roster. Many Dota2 teams do have backup players, and this is exactly why. With a sixth player on the roster, should anyone wish to retire throughout the season, be forced to take an extended leave, or simply quit - the team will still remain stable and able to compete. Having a sixth person would also solve various latency issues, which plague online tournaments. There is no downside to allowing teams have a backup. If the goal were indeed to make a more stable professional scene, this would go a long way to making that a reality. As it stands, we are left with teams who have their dreams crushed and livelihoods threatened for something that is ultimately out of their control.

VALVE has done a remarkable job by offering teams additional incentives and substantial amounts of prize money. Amending the rules to benefit teams who ultimately do this for a living and take this seriously would only improve matters.


famsytron  says:

1 like(s)

May 16, 2013, 7:57 pm

I think (based on Reddit comments) that a lot of people missed one of my final points at the end of the article. Teams should not be penalized so viciously for a single rogue players actions. By allowing a 6th player on a teams roster (which would be submitted early just like always) teams could avoid these problems. That 6th would also travel to Seattle and earn prize money. If a team does not want a 6th player, they do not need to register one, but the option should be there. If two players leave the team, then this kind of action should be taken, as that is difficult to fix. But with just one person quitting, retiring, or being unable to play for whatever reason, it is very unfair to the other players/team to be disqualified.

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