Pip is currently in Seattle to cover The International 2015 - Valve's six day Dota 2 [official site] tournament. There's over $18m on the line and a rich tapestry of professional gaming to enjoy (or unpick) - we did a cheat sheet to explain the basics. There was also a virtual reality secret shop to be visited and a game of "cornhole" to be played. Here's what happened on day 5...
The day began with a trip to the HTC Vive trailer which was parked up outside KeyArena. I'd say this was a step up from day 4 which began with me slamming my hand in a door. The Vive demo I was there for had several elements I'd heard Graham talk about before and one new one - a rendition of the Dota 2 Secret Shop! I think I'll talk about my experiences with the other bits of the Vive experience in a Supporter post but let's talk about the Secret Shop.
The Secret Shop demo isn't really in one of the secret shops of the Dota 2 map, it's more what I imagine the shopkeeper's house to look like. You meet him as you spawn into a hut crowded with knick knacks and familiar Dota treasures. Before leaving he passes you a light which you catch with one of your controllers, turning it into a torch. Pointing the torch at objects and squeezing the trigger on the controller lets you interact with them. Some are obvious points of interaction - four glowing glyphs around the room which let you shrink and appear at that location in order to explore or experience little set pieces. A glyph on the windowsill lets you peer out into a dark forest peppered with sets of glowing eyes, one on a piece of parchment puts you on a desk, stamping about on documents. You spy a crack in the wall through which you can see more space and you bend down or step forward, craning to explore, in competition with the physical boundaries of the space to try and find the spot which affords you a better look at the tantalising gap. I was also menaced by a frog and squeaked when a Jack-in-the-box suddenly flung Axe's face at mine. On one shelf is an Oculopus - possibly the first courier I fell in love with thanks to his backstory:
Long-thwarted in their astrological studies, Octopi have since time immemorial sought to better understand the world around them and their place in the larger universe. The breakthrough came when a powerful piece of divine technology drifted down from the gods above, an anointed gift, that the secrets of the world be unlocked. Thus did Oculopus rise to prominence, the greatest underwater astronomer that the world had ever known.
It was actually the lack of tactile feedback here which I found most disconcerting. Vive is very good at encouraging you to immerse yourself in the world and that falls away when you reach out to touch an object or creature which appears to be responding to you and it doesn't react. I wasn't expecting to be able to physically touch the Oculopus but I was expecting it to react to me trying, if that makes sense? I thought it might recoil or indicate curiosity but there wasn't anything other than the existing animation loop.
Padding about on the floor and looking up at you with puppydog eyes was another courier - Drodo the Druffin - who was made for The International 2012. I was wondering if you could maybe throw his fish and somehow play fetch with him but that wasn't an option. He did respond more to your presence and your movements, though. The level of detail in the demo and the little touches - a blink dagger that blinked to another location when you tried to interact with it, a Smeevil which climbed out of a grate, growled and left and then the endiung - Roshan looming overhead and smashing through the roof...
Meanwhile, outside were people playing a game where you throw a beanbag into a hole. I was talking to a man by the queue for the Vive and he told me people called it "Cornhole" as if he couldn't quite believe it either.
"Is that not a butt thing?" I asked.
"Well, it makes me think of Beavis and Butthead so I'd thought it was but people seem to know what you mean when you say it."
Then a guy walked past and said to his friend, "Oh cool! They've got Cornhole!"
So I guess it is called Cornhole.
LGD and Virtus.Pro was the first match of the day. Despite a strong performance earlier in the tournament which saw off the favourites Secret, Virtus.Pro were outplayed by LGD twice in a row. The second match was noteworthy for the drafting; Leshrac - that overpowered disco goat - finally got a game. Neither team banned the hero so Virtus.Pro took him for Illidan. Virtus.Pro lost and exited The International so I asked analyst and caster, Austin "Capitalist" Walsh what the thinking was, letting the Leshrac through and whether his defeat marked another shift in the meta.
"Leshrac is still an incredibly strong hero," said Cap. "He should be first ban. LGD maybe just felt so confident with that first game that maybe they wanted to show the other teams that they could beat a Leshrac. That gives you a lot of drafting viability. If you can leave a hero out there that everybody else is banning away that means even if you have second pick you don't need to ban away the Leshrac and it gives you a lot more options."
Does it pave the way for more Leshrac?
"Maybe. LGD may leave it in the pool against one of these future teams and that game will really determine if we see any more Leshrac at all. Yes, LGD beat VP who had a Leshrac in this game but LGD was also very much the superior team. If they go up against a stronger team - CDEC or EG and if they leave the Leshrac and they beat them then yes, we'll see a lot more Leshrac picks because LGD will have the confidence to leave it in the pool but I think that's a little unlikely. I think everyone agrees Leshrac is a little overpowered. He's just all-round strong."
While I had Cap on hand I asked what was going on with Cloud9's draft in their final game of the tournament a while ago. It was a draft which everyone around me in the audience had seemed puzzled by and which had failed so hard I'd not been able to work out exactly what the team had been aiming for.
"It's this crazy aggressive pushing draft where you put Bloodrage [one of Bloodseekers abilities which amplifies the damage a hero gives and takes] on Pugna when he goes to Netherblast towers but you have to have an incredibly good laning phase and be really confident in your teamfight because Pugna's the squishiest hero in the game, then you put Bloodrage on him and force him to approach a tower so he's naturally going to be targeted and blown up really quickly. I felt like they were trying to go for this push strat. It feels like one of those drft's that's very precise and maybe wasn't cleaned up enough for a main stage match or they've run it well in practice but it's main event and there's nerves and everything else."
Coming off the back of a drawn out loss a precise draft is a hard thing to pull off and that's what, I think, we saw with Cloud9.
Evil Genuises (the home team here) were up against wildcard dreamteam CDEC to compete for an assured spot in the grand finals. CDEC proved more than capable of dealing with EG's teamfight setup in the first game, countering a number of Naga Siren song setups (it holds nearby enemy heroes in place while you set up your abilities and positioning for a beatdown) and turning the tables on the North American squad.
In the second game it looked like EG were trying to stop CDEC gaining a gold advantage by taking a Treant Protector in order to heal up units and prevent them dying while tracked and thus feeding a gold bounty to Bounty Hunter and other nearby heroes. It didn't work and EG lost fight after fight and trade after trade. They're not out but they will need to fight their way through another match via the lower bracket if they hope for a Grand Final rematch against CDEC.
The last match of the day was the penultimate lower bracket fight between LGD and Vici Gaming. I put Vici as coming second overall so they were probably screwed. On the plus side they took the first game, but the second went the way of LGD. Vici tried a Sniper pick again but overall their lineup lacked initiation power and relieable stuns, they also struggled to teamfight if LGD moved away from the Undying's tombstone and its attendant zombies. After a short game LGD were victorious. The third game also went to LGD with my highlight being Xiao8's performance on Earthshaker. Such beautiful Fissures!