The buildup to Manila starts:
This week in DOTA saw some of the first big tournament games played since the post-Shanghai team reshuffles, with a pair of the big pre-Manila Major LANs completing their qualifiers.
ESL One Manila saw Fnatic (SEA), Empire (EU), Mineski (Phillipines), and Complexity (NA) all win their qualifiers in relative ease, as well as lesser-known Wings Gaming out of China putting on an impressive performance to win the CN qualifier. They join EHOME, Liquid, and Secret for what will be a test run for the Manila major itself.
The Moscow LAN Epicenter also completed a pair of qualifiers this week. A reshuffled Newbee, with Kaka and kphoenii joining the core of Mu, Hao, and Chuan, took the finals of the Chinese qualifier with a strong 3-0 over Lanm’s new incarnation of EHOME. Mu’s Death Prophet was the standout across all 3 games, as EHOME had no real answer for his lane domination and group pushing/fighting power. Complexity continued their strong run that started with Shanghai, winning the NA qualifiers 3-2 against Shazam.
In stark contrast to the new energy in the Chinese scene, the top 5 Western teams have not played a single game since the swaps between Evil Geniuses and Secret following the DOTAPit finals on March 20th. We likely won’t get our first looks at new Secret until ESL One Manila on April 22nd and EG will likely debut at Epicenter on May 9th, while the other top tier teams of Liquid, Alliance, and OG will also have their first games in potentially more than a month at those two events (Liquid at ESL One, Alliance and OG at Epicenter). Given how serious the next 2 months will be for teams seeking direct invites to both the Manila Major and the International, hopefully the long break will not be detrimental and that these teams will come out firing on all cylinders. I’m sure none of them want to go through the qualifiers.
All Pick Removal – For better, for worse, for what?
Far and away the biggest thing to happen this week was the temporary removal of All Pick from Ranked queue, leaving only Random Draft and Captain’s Mode for the weekend. Though All Pick has already been returned, the change lead to rampant speculation over the reasoning: Many feel that All Pick lends itself to constant spamming of the most powerful heroes in the meta game, with little reason or incentive to think outside the box or try anything new. Was Valve just experimenting to see how players would react? Were they attempting to gather data on which of the non-AP modes was more popular? Are they perhaps preparing to replace or change Ranked All Pick to a mode more suitable for ranked play, such as Banning Pick, a mode in which all players get 1 ban?
Certainly it made the weekend of ranked DOTA far more interesting than otherwise, despite clear problems with RD and CM when it comes to playing a game with strangers online. RD allows nearly half the hero pool in, with each individual player getting to pick. There might be one or two good meta heroes in the pool, or there might be 5-6: Which team drafts more of them? Which team has the player that drafts the goofy underpowered hero just because none of their standard picks are in the pool?
CM, on the other hand, requires a captain who actually understands drafting and banning strategy. Are you going to get that in a pub? Valve even added in a new twist of ranked CM always choosing the highest MMR player as captain. In theory this seems like a good thing but high MMR does not always equate to best drafter, especially in light of All Pick being far and away the most picked game mode for ranked MMR (note: I can’t find a breakdown of just ranked, but AP is 55.6% of all games played between those three modes and I would bet that the ranked distribution is more skewed in favor of AP).
All Pick is back in Ranked now, but the reasons for this experiment will hopefully be revealed soon. AP certainly has problems as a competitive game mode: Nobody really likes seeing OD or Invoker (or Storm Spirit/Lesh, or whatever OP meta heroes you want) every single game, and not that many people like playing the same hero every game, but if you want to win you’re pretty much forced into it.
Despite Ranked only measuring at 37.1% of total games played, it’s good to see Valve experimenting with it. A more balanced and fun game mode could be a big draw and given the focus of DOTA2 on esports and competitive play it would behoove them to try and attract more players to the more competitive form of pub games.
Virtual Reality? Dota?
This crazy vid of the new VR spectator mode for DOTA2 surfaced today...
While playing DOTA2 in VR is not something that makes any sense given the isometric/top down viewpoint and the kb/m RTS control scheme, this video is an interesting twist. An interactive map, interactive hero models that show player inventory, and a big screen sure look cool, but how practical or even fun is it to watch DOTA this way? Personally I’d rather have Banning Pick implemented (OSFROG!) but if you own a Vive or a Rift this sure seems neat, though somewhat of a gimmick. I’d rather throw a big game on my 60” TV and sit down on my couch to watch. Isn’t that the definition of spectator sport?