With mega Dota 2 [official site] competition The International 2017 on the esports horizon, Valve have gone into more detail about what fans can expect from the tournament. There’s a new host in the form of Sean “Day9” Plott (you might know him from his work in the pro StarCraft scene, the Hearthstone scene, or the pro Dota 2 scene, or for hosting cheery fanzine PC Gamer’s E3 event) some scheduling details and HOLLER TO ALL OF YOU WHO WANTED IT BACK because the newcomer stream is happening again.
It sounds like it’s not taking on the 2014 form of talking players through every match from first principles. I think that was genuinely stressful for the casters because it was the same info every time and with Dota that makes you’re explaining lanes and creeps for half an hour and not actually able to even discuss what’s on the screen right now properly.
“Once the event begins, you can help any friends interested in learning more about Dota by sending them to the Newcomer Stream, which features the main broadcast enhanced with contextual overlays that call out information helpful for understanding the intricate world of Dota during the most exciting time of the competitive season.”
At the risk of sending you away from RPS (so only click this if you promise to come back) I spoke about newcomer streams and the general accessibilty/lack thereof of esports broadcasting on the Crate and Crowbar podcast. It’s from about the 101 minute mark and (together with Tom Senior of PCG and Chris Thursten formerly of PCG) covers off some of the problems both in terms of assessing what a viewer even knows at a given time and how explaining a MOBA hamstrings you in terms of how fast you can get anyone up to speed and start talking about the game. We also talked through a few potential solutions.
I think one of the MOBAs did this overlay thing in a previous year, having a map you could hover your mouse over in order to find out what a fountain was or a tower or a creep. I want to say it was Dota. Was it Dota? HIVEMIND, HELP A FRIEND OUT HERE!
I’ll be interested to see how in-depth the information on this year’s overlay gets and how non-players actually fare with it. I think I’d ideally pair it with a newcomer stream in terms of casters explaining why particular heroes synergise or breaking down team fights in slow mo during the lull after the action. In that scenario the overlay would do the heavy lifting of “what even is game?” and then the casters would go a tier up explaining how to piece the elements together and how to read the rhythm of the game.
I don’t have evidence for this but I’d assume Dota 2 – specifically The International – gets more drive-by traffic from curious folk outside MOBAs or outside esports because the prize pools are so big it makes the mainstream media as a curio. League of Legends is slightly different in that its huge player base often makes mainstream outlets feel like they should try to get a piece of that pie or at least figure out what’s going on and their World Championships is a point around which to ground that effort rather than the curio itself.
This year The International has another record-breaking amount of money at stake – $22,169,818 at time of writing* – so it’s natural to want to pop by and see what that’s all about. I’d say it’s obviously worth seeing if this version of the newcomer stream is the level of information you’re after. But if not I’m a big advocate for watching things with a knowledgeable companion, so maybe seek out a friendly esports Discord channel or see if anyone’s going to a Pubstomp near you (those are the live watching parties). That way you can ask questions and have the experience a bit better tailored to what you need to know.
Maybe if you know of anyone setting up a little RPS watching party for newbies or where they would be welcome to ask questions drop the info in the comments.
The International 2017 main event will take place 7-12 August at KeyArena in Seattle. We’ll have our usual primer to help you understand some of the context closer to the event!