The full pageantry of Valve's whopping great Dota 2 tournament The International won't kick off in Seattle until Friday, but already it's seen a few upsets. Seven days of playoffs ended last night, whittling nineteen teams down to eight--with last year's champions, Alliance, notably knocked out.
We haven't seen all the fun and dressing Valve plan to fill the 17,000-capacity KeyArena with as teams fight over a $10 million prize pool, but we have got a fair look at how they're trying to welcome newcomers, not to mention the state of the game. It's a bit mixed, really.
While Valve do have videos of everything to watch, you should at least try the in-game game-watching stuff. Dota 2 has by far the best spectator system in video games, allowing viewers to choose from different commentary streams, follow streams' cameras or jump around as they please, pause and skip around the timeline, and loads of other things I'm astonished other games aspiring to be digital sports don't copy. Dota 2's free to download on Steam so go on, even if you don't care about the game itself.
One big addition to the show this year commentary stream for newbies, which is supposedly intended for people who are either new to Dota or don't play it at all. It is certainly more friendly than the regular commentary. However, the bits I tuned in for focused too much on carefully explaining skills and items, the intricacies of which are perhaps less important for the uninitiated than high-level themes and movements of the game. It did improve over the week, though.
As for the Dota 2 itself, well, it's been a bit wonky for my liking. Far too many matches have dragged on with little action, only teams poking at other then running away and setting up camp outside each other's bases, slowly chipping down towers. A lot were dull to watch, and I don't fancy an International filled with these sorts of games. Teams began adapting to this conservative play over the week, mind, and may have a few tricks up their sleeves for the main event.
Many games have brought murders galore too. A remarkable match last night between Titan and Newbee saw Newbee going for Roshan before kick-off then snowball into pushing Titan's barracks after 12 minutes (I realise this sentence is gibberish to many). The controversial 'rat Dota' style has brought some great moments too.
The International's prize pool is up to $10,764,294 as I write this, with $4,951,575 earmarked for the first-place team (teams are five players). Even 14th place will get at least $21,529. These numbers will all go up as people continue spending money on the Compendium, The International's virtual sticker album thing.
I suppose recommending a game to watch is the sort of thing one does in these situations, so sure, go watch that Titan vs. Newbee game. Skip to about 2:30:00 in the stream replay to see it or, better yet, go to the in-game viewer (it's match ID 776170591). Or here's where another level 1 Roshan attempted ended very badly (poor old Alliance):