We’ve blogged about the awesome nature of eSports crowds, and in that spirit how they rarely miss the chance to see them live in person, whether it be attending LCS Wembley, at ESL One Frankfurt, Katowice or in this case flying to Seattle to check out this year’s International. With the goal of checking out the crowds, doing some interviews and seeing what kind of show Valve put on this year, our Dota 2 reporter Kevin Tocao flew over to this year’s international Dota championships in Seattle.
Day one blog: entering KeyArena
Having not got a lot of sleep thank to general excitement, I made my way to this year’s venue - Seattle’s KeyArena - extremely early, and despite the wee hour of the morning at which I arrived there were already droves of fans lined up to grab their passes and swag bags. The line itself wrapped around the main entrance of the venue and around a corner - until the long wait was broken up by the arrival of buses carrying players and personalities much to the delight of the sleep-deprived fans.
A group of ‘Muricans waiting to get inside KeyArena
After making my way through the line, we were able to pick up our swag bags. Within these drawstring bags, every attendee received a blind luck pin, an Aegis pin, water bottle, a notebook, TI4 program, a Dota logo patch, Secret Shop catalogue and order form. After a quick security check, my pass was scanned and we entered the arena.
When first entering KeyArena, fans are met with banners of the eight teams competing in the main event of The International, a huge Juggernaut statue in a lounge area, and a quickly growing line to the Secret Shop. In terms of setting the mood, just as in previous years, Valve was pretty dead-on with its decorations.
But the first thing I wanted to see was the arena itself, where all of this weekend’s action would be taking place. Entering through drawn back curtains, it was immediately apparent why Valve chose this as this year’s venue. The stage was set on one end: two sound-proof booths separated by the Aegis of Champions itself. To its left, the English casters table. On the other end, tables for Russian, Chinese, and Korean casters as well as the analysts' desk. Team and player suites lined the second floor of the arena, while animated digital banners showed where each team sat.
A view of the arena, analysts' desk, casters' tables, the main stage, and the three huge screens
It’s hard to believe it was only last year when The International was held at Benaroya Hall, which has a seating capacity of only about 3,000. KeyArena, on the other hand, can hold upwards of 17,000 Dota fans. What an upgrade! As someone who has played Dota for eight years, this proves to me how amazing the community is and how much further we can all take this game in the coming years.
The Secret Shop
Undoubtedly the most popular attraction of The International, the line for the Secret Shop wrapped around the entire second floor of the KeyArena. At its peak, it took fans over four hours of waiting to collect their goods. Sadly, the only televisions near the line were located in the section closest to the Secret Shop itself, leaving many fans with only the sounds of the crowd to let them know what was going on in the games. Despite the long wait, everyone seemed to enjoy their loot - I asked a Secret Shop worker what the most popular items were and apparently mousepads sold out less than halfway through day one, with many contributor shirts also quickly selling out.
Fans eagerly awaiting their chance to throw money at Valve - at this point, fans in the line had been waiting for almost three hours
Another returning attraction is the contributors' workshop, this year seeing the addition of numerous panels and demos led by some of the most popular Dota artists. With an actual seating area, many budding artists could attend workshops and even seek out one-on-one help. Later in the day, it was also the spot where Fnatic’s BigDaddy (or should I say n0tail) was interviewed by Kaci Atchinson, TI4’s lead interviewer and sideline reporter.
Workshop contributor Thiago Vidotto speaks with Workshop visitors
Day one featured three upper bracket games and allowed one of the teams to secure a top two finish. The showdown of the top four teams featured none other than NewBee vs. Vici Gaming and EG vs. DK, followed by the upper bracket finals. Of these, EG vs. DK was arguably one of the most anticipated series of the main event, and it didn't disappoint as the games were some of the best of the whole day. The back-and-forth action made the arena erupt every few minutes, but EG was spurred on by USA chants and took the series 2-0.
The true highlight, however, was the amazing streak of dominance displayed by Newbee, who after having been forced into tiebreakers to stay in the tournament, battled their way straight up into the upper bracket by means of consecutive best-of-three victories. They continued where they left off and finished their first match against the #1 seeded group stage team Vici Gaming in under 15 minutes. Although Vici would come back strongly in the second game, Newbee ultimately came out on top and faced Evil Geniuses in the winner bracket finals. Once again, Newbee showed that, despite their 7-8 record in the playoffs stage, they are the team to beat. Throughout both games, the Chinese controlled the tempo and the map. EG’s strength cannot be denied either, as they stayed in the game through clever decision-making, but in the end the USA chants were silenced as Newbee won their fifth best of three in a row and took their place in the grand finals of The International 2014.
Day one reflection
After a long wait, the year’s biggest eSports tournament final began, and it truly did not disappoint. The venue was impressive, and the setup made good use of KeyArena’s space. Despite a few technical hiccups such as projectors breaking down during the first game and incorrect graphics occasionally being shown on stream, it was a great day for Dota and eSports in general.
Almost everything about last year’s international has been improved upon. However, as the scale of the event has grown, Valve has a few more challenges to address. The wait times for the Secret Shop are unbearable, especially as you can't watch the games while waiting in line. The food in the venue was somewhat overpriced and also subject to long lines at times (something which is probably hard to avoid at any kind of stadium event), but Bite of Seattle was taking place just next door, which gave attendees more choices for lunch and dinner.
Anyway, there’s much more Dota to be played, and today was an almost perfect start for Valve and The International. I’ll try to bring out more blog posts on the happenings here as well as some videos including a KeyArena and Secret Shop walkthrough in addition to a few interviews with players and personalities!