Dota 2 newcomer stream returns to megabucks tourney

The International 2017

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!



  1. that_guy_strife says:

    Not just stressful for the casters, but completely pointless as well. I don’t know anything about baseball, but I don’t expect the announcers to pander to me.

    Watching a Dota game as someone who never played a MOBA or even any video games, you will still make out the basics by simple observation, just like I would by watching a baseball game.

    • flibbidy says:

      i don’t know how true that is.. it’s very complicated!

      I’ve watched multiple International streams before (the standard ones) and i really have a very limited understanding of what’s happening. i don’t want to play the game, but i enjoy the excitement of the tournament.

      so something that can assist me without having to put in additional effort is very much appreciated, and as pip says here and on the podcast, esports have a problem appealing to non players.

      Lastly, if you watch a sport which is not normally shown and is appealing to a wider audience (during the olympics for example) a lot of the commentating covers the mechanics of the sport and scoring.

    • TehK says:

      When I was watching sports which I didn’t know, I kind of got the hang of it after one or two matches. Not so for Mobas. I only got the hang of it after having actually played (quite a bit) of Dota.

      Of course it’s not that easy to provide commentary for all levels. For example, I usually didn’t watch the newcomer stream the last time, because it was too basic for me. Then again on the “normal” stream, there are a quite a few times when I have no clue what the casters are talking about, because they just assume that everony knows what Aghanim’s does for a given hero ;)

      I still like the idea to have a newcomer stream as an option, though. And apparently there’s some demand, so why not have it?

    • that_guy_strife says:

      Oh I’m entirely fine with a noob stream. After all, it might get more people into the game, and gaming in general !

      I was refering to the 2014 bit where casters explained the basic principles of laning, last hitting, shopping, etc, every game. Pro casters should not be wasting time with the core principles when announcing pro games during a multi million $ tournament.

      Another poster mentioned below that in his country, there’s a pre-Super Bowl special every year where the game & it’s rules are fully explained. That’s the way to do it … not during the game.

  2. Horg says:

    Day9 best 9, and sadly there are no pubstomps near me in North Yorkshire :( Forget the newbie stream, how do Valve expect this DotA fad to succeed if they don’t bring it to the regions?

  3. davethejuggler says:

    Yay Day9! Love him. Hopefully he’ll be on the main stream in some manner as well.

  4. Banjohero says:

    In my country they send a single american football match every year on the national tv station, the superbowl.
    Before the match they usually do a 30-60 min preshow where they explain the rules, teams andre how the game work, showing some examples etc.
    Perhaps something like this could be a god idea for the newcomer stream?

  5. Abacus says:



    His Day9 Learns Dota series has been a lot of fun the past few months.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Yes, it’s an excellent series and a superb resource for anyone interested in trying Dota 2 on for size. I’ve learned more from it than I’m prepared to admit, given I picked the game up in 2013..

      Happy for Sean and excited for TI7!

  6. richard says:

    I don’t play at all but I watch all the majors if I can and think Valve could do a lot better than a graphical overlay to make the game accessible.

    The existing mainstream commentary is usually very good, but just full of nonsense words that only mean something to those already immersed in the game. Nothing has a name that tells you anything about what it is, and half the time they use an abbreviation or alternative word for it anyway. Player names, character names, item names, and ability names are more or less indistinguishable (so that covers subject, verb, object).

    I would be very happy to watch a stream where all that crap is cleared out and they just talk about what strategy teams are building towards without having to know what item has what effect on which particular hero. They do this already, but they use an unfathomable language. Then in the team fights, fine, tell us who dropped what ult, but also do it over a replay so that we can see it happen.

    Having said all that, “no tails jug goes eagle song into butterfly” should be parsable by anyone.