Total Defeat at TI 3: Whose Fault Is It? A Discussion of ACE’s Counterproductive Policies
On August 11, 2013, Chinese Dota experienced its most painful failure ever at The International 3. The five Chinese team have all been eliminated, with the highest placing 4th. Compared to the three top foreign teams, the Chinese teams through this tournament showed many problems: inflexible BP, lack of innovation, lack of players at the highest level, and flaws in team execution. Chinese teams were simply weaker; there is nothing more to say.
But why did Chinese teams, which just last year were at the top of the world, experience such a fiasco in so short a time? We all foresaw that Chinese teams were going to have issues in TI 3, but no one thought we were going to lose this badly. In 2013, there have been few new players, fewer new teams, and next to no tournaments. While Europeans were playing their big local tournaments, our own players were playing pubs and streaming, having had no tournaments for several months. The result was TI 3, where Chinese teams were like a bunch of domesticated zoo tigers facing wolves in the wild.
The culprit behind this crime is ACE. From its February 2012 inception, the goals of ACE were to manage contracts, improve the treatment of professional players, organize the ACE League tournaments, and grade eSports teams/clubs. Look at these benefits one by one. EHOME has already dissolved, so I won’t talk about that issue further. Organizing the ACE League was indeed beneficial, but where is the ACE Dota League today? I only see LoL competitions. The remaining three: “manage contract, improve treatment of professional athletes, and grade eSports teams/clubs” seems OK on the surface, but deep down they were only counterproductive.
“Manage contract, improve treatment of professional athletes, club team grading” These three developments in mature sports leagues (such as football and basketball) are beneficial, but in the current state of Chinese eSports they are not. Economic base should determine superstructure, and presently the Chinese gaming industry economic output is not enough to support ACE’s superstructure.
Trying to force this sort of superstructure on Chinese Dota might result in temporary gains, but in the long term it is counterproductive. For example, with a monthly salary of over 10,000 yuan, a villa-style training base, and a variety of other lucrative treatments, IG and other Chinese teams did well in TI 2. But in just over a year, problems began to appear: an increase in faulty players, a reduction in the amount of eSports clubs, less tournaments, and the end result where Chinese teams were only able to get a 4th place finish at TI 3.
Standardizing player contracts and enforcing them prevents malicious poaching, and is conducive to the stability of eSports clubs. But at the same time, it places great obstacles for new talent. In times before, clubs recruited new players to try out with them at the club’s headquarters. When these tryouts were successful, these players joined. When it did not, at the minimum these players received free room and board. Although this was hard going for the players, it kept the dream of playing pro Dota alive.
But today, for eSports clubs, both recruiting new players and kicking old players requires tremendous capital. Within an immature industry, the result is not the maintenance of stability and the protection of clubs’ rights, but becomes a shackle for team development and necessary player changes. In the turbulent environment of 2011, an Ehome that was poached to death was still able to get 2nd place at TI 1. Yet in the ultra stable environment of 2013, Chinese Dota was only able to get 4th at TI 3. This is no longer stability, it is stagnation.
Improving the treatment of players: to be honest treatment of players is now too high. I’m not saying it’s bad to improve player treatment, but too much improvement becomes abnormal development. Look at the treatment of players a few years ago and you will find a very steep curve. With this level of player treatment, we’re able to maintain already successful clubs. But at the same time, we make it so that new clubs cannot survive. Previously, five students with a few hundred yuan at a crappy PC cafe are able to form a team. But how are they going to do that today when the standards have risen several hundred fold?
Besides, you want to talk about how these well treated pros in China are behaving? Purposefully throwing games, playing mahjong all day, trying to be stylish and fashionable, etc. Without new talent to challenge their positions, do they still even remember the pro Dota dream?
Grading eSports clubs and teams: S-Class teams cannot participate in tournaments below 25,000 yuan. Sponsors don’t have the capital and are not able to sponsor >25,000 yuan tournaments, yet tournaments below 25,000 yuan have no S-Class participation and so generate no publicity. End result: the total amount of tournaments in 2013 was just 5, and on top of that two of them were won by foreign invites. Here’s a list of previous years’ tournaments available to Chinese teams:
2005, Chinese Dota just got started, still no tournaments
2006, 6 Tournaments, OG, U9, RN all sponsor tournaments
2007, 9 Tournaments, including an ACG victory, Chinese Dota takes over Asia
2008, 12 Tournaments, ACG and SMM victories, G-League begins
2009, 13 Tournaments, including a SMM victory, East West rivalry begins
2010, 25 Tournaments, EHOME10 takes over the world
2011, 31 Tournaments, the most turbulent period of Chinese Dota, yet huge amounts of star studded tournaments
2012, 22 Tournaments, IG TI 2 champion, again take over the world
2013 up to July, 5 Tournaments, are you fucking playing with me?
The amount of tournaments in 2013 wasn’t even as great as 2006. Although the average prize money rose a hundred times, a thousand times, the amount of tournaments players are able to participate in is pathetic. If it’s just about the money, then sure, this is great: ten games and you’re set for the year! Don’t play for half a year, and when you do play, earn enough for the rest of the year! But in this sort of environment, what road is there for new players? What road is there for new teams? What road is there for Chinese eSports?
Comparing TI 3 to TI 2, our line ups improved. Yet why did we get so much worse results? Because last year we were being artificially inflated. This year, it looks that our teams are stable, but in fact it’s because we’re unable to absorb the nutrients of the environment, and are thus not only unable to climb higher, but are slowly withering. By contrast, European Dota keeps on growing, and so it’s no wonder that they’re sweeping Seattle.
Now look at the ACE that artificially inflated us in 2012: on the problem of having no new talent, no new teams, and too few tournaments – not a word. Instead, they’re concentrating on LoL tournaments. When Royal Club was disbanded, its manager said: “There is no future in Chinese Dota 2.” This is not the case. Rather, what he needed to add was “There is no future in a Chinese Dota 2 controlled by an ACE controlled by a LoL boss.” In case ACE does not change its policies, then only destruction remains: be it ACE destroying Chinese Dota 2 / Chinese Dota 2 destroying ACE.
To conclude, I want to talk about the cornerstone of Chinese Dota. ACE is not the cornerstone of Chinese Dota. The cornerstone is the amateurs, the pubbers. The fundamental cause behind Europe’s victory over China in Dota is because European amateurs and pubbers were more advanced than Chinese amateurs and pubbers. China’s amateur scene is underdeveloped mainly because of this: 一码难求(Getting a Dota2 beta key is not something easy), Dota 1 players not willing to transfer over, PC cafes being monopolized by LoL, PC requirements for Dota 2 being too high, and Dota 2 server problems. Lastly, I hope everyone supports DOTA2, support Chinese teams and players, to battle again next year.