Dota 2: Manila Major Succeeding Where Shanghai Failed

Now that we’re a few days into the Manila Major [official site], and given how unimpressive the Shanghai Major was in terms of showcasing professional Dota 2 [official site], I wanted to say how much I’m enjoying this event and how much better of a production it is.

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.


    1. yogibbear says:

      Plus, 93 different heroes picked so far. INSANE!

    2. BooleanBob says:

      I think you’re spot on with all your observations, Pip. The spring weather effect and terrain gives a unique flavour to the Manila Major, like watching the tennis Opens transition from clay to grass to hard court.

      The tournament has really benefited from a serendipitous meta. This seems to be a pretty good patch, pick diversity has been as good as it’s ever been and the mixture of old veterans and fresh blood in the scene has made for so many interesting match-ups and story-lines. The production value at this major has just sky-rocketed in comparison to the last one.

      The battle pass is also pretty great. It doesn’t feel too grubby, completing quests and placing wagers is fun. The absolute top tier rewards would require an frankly unhealthy amount of play to obtain without further spending, but you do get a generous amount of stuff for just the basic seven quid outlay. And of course it’s all just cosmetics at the end of the day.

      With the International hot on the heels of this tournament, it’s looking like a pretty sweet time to get into playing or watching competitive dotes!

    3. Orontes says:

      Bringing in Maut as a caster and Fogged as an analyst are also good moves, Maut with his authoritative voice and Fogged with his knowledge.

      The atmosphere has also been brilliant, especially with DJ’s Enigma bringing the crowd to their feet shouting his name. It gave me goosebumps.

    4. Herzog says:

      Nice event. Still I guess everybody agrees that the Clanbase Eurocup III Quake 3 LAN finals 2001 in Amsterdam is the pinnacle of esport events! Any objections? No?! Guessed so…

    5. Horg says:

      The split screen cam and picture in picture mode are genuinely excellent, but I am glad they decided to ditch the ‘team fight overlay’ they were using on day two. For people who didn’t see it, whenever a 5 man fight broke out the camera would pan back to maximum distance, a new portrait box with a health and mana bar for each hero would be displayed on the side of the screen, and a team total health bar appeared up top. That meant that there we no fewer than 32 health bars on screen at the same time, 10 above each hero, 10 along the portrait boxes at the top of the screen, 5 down each side from the overlay, and the two team health bars below the portrait boxes. Information overload : | Don’t do that again Valve, the standard UI is already one of the best in e-sports and doesn’t need cluttering. Apart from that, the tournament has been great so far. Filipino crowd is hype.

    6. Gurrah says:

      There’s no rebroadcasts though which even Shanghai had, for a 9to5 European it’s not that convenient to catch up this time round.

    7. davethejuggler says:

      I hadn’t even realised the major had started till noticing this post … thanks! There goes my weekend. Just finished watching day 1 and it’s been great so far. Still boggles my mind how they screwed up shanghai so badly, but maybe they needed to fuck it up that badly to learn the lessons to make this and future ones even more awesome.