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?
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.
LGD.cn, 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 LGD.cn's invitation. Once again, speculation rose within the community to who would replace LGD.cn 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 LGD.cn 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.
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.
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 LGD.cn 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 LGD.cn, 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.
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.
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.
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