This isn’t an in-depth look, more of a pat on the back, but I think there are three or four elements I particularly like:
One is the audio. I can hear the casters and the game clearly but also the roars of the crowd. You might not notice the effect of that so much in a lower stakes game or one which isn’t particularly galvanising, but during Alliance’s hard-fought first main event match against home crowd side, Mineski, with the match swinging from one team’s favour to the other, being able to hear the reactions was nothing short of electrifying. It’s been clear (to my ear at least) and really helped with the atmosphere.
A second highlight has been the visual presentation. Split screens for split pushes or alternative fights, little inset cameras tracking important goings-on which would otherwise be offscreen – it sounds basic, but I’ve seen it either being used badly or not made enough of in other tournaments so I’m just really pleased every time I see it happening here.
Third I wanted to give a shout out in particular to SirActionSlacks – his little between-match segments and interviews have just been really endearing and upbeat. Maybe a little awkward but not in a bad way, just in a nice way. He seems to interact with regular attendees and pros in a way that doesn’t put them down. It’s reminding me of Kaci Aitchison who you might remember as the backstage host for The International the past few years – they’re very different backstage hosts in terms of game knowledge but that friendliness and easy laughter is there.
Lastly I wanted to focus on the fact the broadcasts are using the Immortal Gardens map terrain. The Immortal Gardens is a terrain option for the Dota 2 map which swaps out the normal jungle and buildings and river and so on for ruined classical columns, a brick-lined river, garden fountains and topiary in the form of boxhead trees and lollipops. It has a clear Mediterranean influence but also makes me think of the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – or rather, the Disney adaptation, Alice In Wonderland.
It’s a smart move on Valve’s part because to get that terrain you have to reach level 125 with your International 2016 Battle Pass either by playing lots and earning the levels or just buying them. Having it onscreen the whole time will keep reminding people that it exists and that maybe they want to play or pay to get it. But the important part for me is that it’s a different visual. As a result this particular tournament feels anchored to a moment – a map that’s only obtainable for a limited period and is associated with a particular set of events, the Manila Major and The International 2016.
I find that I really value that shift as an observer. The closest thing I can think of to explain it is like when you put new sheets on a bed and the whole thing feels refreshed and clean. It’s pleasant to be in again. In spectating these matches, the map has added that new sheets feeling and I find myself pleased to look at it. It also gives Dota a sense of existing in time. Perhaps that’s just because I’m so prone to strong visual responses but I got into a rut, watching action play out in a visually identical space regardless of the teams and the outcomes. This has actually helped me get excited again.