Transparency in Dota 2 Events

Recently, I bitched about some stuff. Well, a lot of stuff — but the bits most relevant for this article are about the group stage of tournaments (in the case at heart — Starladder/iLeague Season 3). One of my two key concerns was actually totally based on flawed information — the two Chinese Qualifiers never had a playoff for 1st/2nd, but the other point I brought up still remains legitimate — there is a lack of transparency in how groups are determined for professional Dota 2 events, and this has a serious impact on the outcome of the tournament and the earnings for the teams.

In all my time, I’ve only ever seen groups drawn “live” in 3 events: at The Frankfurt Major (it could have been at the Manila Major, I’m a bit hazy here), during one season of The Defense, and at some past Starladders (very early on — when V1lat was still casting at them). At the Valve-event draws, some draws are done in front of a few players/captains — but in the events where that happens (non-TI Majors), it’s never for the group stage — just for the playoff bracket. The groups are determined beforehand, and announced when all the teams arrive.

This means that in all other cases, the events are either decided randomly behind closed doors, or by a person or group of people. In the cases where it’s done entirely randomly — for true transparency, why not make the draw public so that teams (and external parties) can see everything is being done in a fair way. In cases where the draw is being decided by a bunch of people (or an individual), my feeling is that this is mostly unreasonable…

First up, some tournament organizers are affiliated with, or directly associated with teams. This isn’t to say that the tournament organisers are intentionally putting ‘their’ teams in favourable situations (hey — maybe they are!?), but the possibility exists — there are no checks or balances.

Secondly, why is the list of people involved in the decision making not disclosed. No committee, no set of people responsible for the decision-making?

Thirdly, the rationale behind making groups behind closed doors is that somehow attempting to create “fair groups” — and yet this very very rarely happens. Often the goals here are noble — you want to keep the invited teams in separate groups so they don’t all knock each other out of the event, or you want to ensure that teams from the same region don’t meet very early on. The FIFA World Cup, the Rugby World Cup, and countless other team events have draws which have similar limitations — the key difference is that they are up front about these limitations (as in, the teams/public know what they are and we can discuss/debate them in a public forum). If the groups are decided by someone who has literally no esports credentials, or consistently makes shitty groups then the teams deserve to know this up front when agreeing to play in a tournament. If there are external rating sites that people use — then these should be publicly listed. (I’ve looked at historic Joindota and Gosugamers ratings for this purpose — they’re way worse than any of the metrics I used to publish on at determining winners [#minorbrag], and always screw up cross-regional matches between non-tier-1-teams). In any case — this should actually all be announced along with the prize money and prize distribution, before the teams accept the tournament.

If tournaments are truly committed to growing esports, then added transparency is something they absolutely have to focus on. How teams are directly invited, how the groups and playoffs are drawn — these are fundamental aspects in almost every traditional team-based sport, and with good and comparable reasons to justify their inclusion in esports. Some of the minor teams shouldn’t be shuffled around between groups just to allow storylines/hype matchups such as Secret vs DC, or EG vs Secret, Team NP vs Secret, Liquid vs Secret, {pretty much anyone who Puppey has kicked} vs Secret; coL vs EG, B)ears vs Liquid, etc etc to occur. Direct invites based purely on team affiliation or marketing shouldn’t at all be used as a proxy for skill and hence provide an easier group for some of these directly invited teams. When speaking to some professional players in preparing for this article, one thing remains universally agreed upon: recent LAN form should be the only undeniable truth for top-seed decisions. In my eyes, everything else should be disclosed or live drawn.