3 Lessons Riot Could Take From The International 4
The biggest event in Esports history is taking place right now. The International 4, which is the Dota 2 World Championships, is well under way with 16 teams fighting to claim their share of the massive $10.5M prize pool. There seems to be a lot of animosity between the 2 fanbases of League of Legends and Dota 2, but I think there is a lot our overlords Riot can learn from Valves production of the this grand event.
Anyone who follows Esports in any capacity should have heard of this by now but for those who haven’t, allow me to explain. Valve released an ‘item’ that Dota 2 players could purchase, it cost $10 with the promise that $2.50 would be added on to TI4 (The International 4) prize pool, which was $1.6M before any purchases. http://www.dota2.com/international/compendium/ - As you can see, whenever a target was reached, Valve promised something to be added to the game.
The Compendium is quite a controversial aspect of TI4, as the competition can now be labelled as the largest prize pool in the history of Esports. This seems to have irked quite a few fans of ‘rival’ games, with comments being thrown around on social media about how ‘LoL would have raised 5x as much if Riot had a Compendium’. Firstly, discussing that last comment is pointless, as without Riot doing so there’s no way to prove it, the important aspect is to consider if a ‘Compendium’ is an option for Riot to implement at their own world finals.
Riot already fund the competitive scene heavily, with a prize pool for every LCS split, a large World Championships prize, salary for every single player/manager, and housing or travel costs for every team. This is where the argument against a ‘compendium’ is strongest. In my opinion and the opinion of many others, the key to a stable competitive scene is just that...stability. With a guaranteed salary every week, the chances of an LCS team disbanding are slim to none.
The general feeling seems to be that a ‘Compendium’ style promotion would raise a lot of money for the League of Legends world finals, arguably matching or even beating The Internationals prize pool of $11 Million. See below for a visual explanation of what buying a compendium actually does for the players. Each of these 'goals' will be implemented, because the total reached $10 Million.
The Noob Stream
What a fantastic idea from Valve, seriously genius. Throughout The International 4 Valve have been running various different streams for different matches and languages. By far their best alternative stream is the ‘noob stream’, which features 2 casters breaking down the gameplay in the most basic way possible. For someone like myself who doesn’t watch a lot of Dota it has been extremely helpful in understanding the basics, like champion abilities, items and simple macro strategy behind the team movements.
One could argue that Dota is more complex than League of Legends, the diversity in items, intricacy of the map and the larger pool or viable champions (heroes) forces a steep learning curve onto new players, but with the noob stream, it opens up The International to an audience of casual gamers, or those new to Dota. Throughout Phase 2 of the tournament, the stream was sitting between 5-10,000 viewers during prime time.
Should League of Legends implement a ‘noob stream’? Absolutely. This is by and large the best implementation for a MOBA tournament I’ve ever seen. Granted, League of Legends is prettier to the eye than Dota is to the average newcomer, a stream dedicated to helping the casual viewer understand the gameplay would be a fantastic addition to the the World Championships in Korea later this year.
(Picture taken from wiki.teamliquid.net)
This may be the weakest of my arguments in this article, seeing as the plan Riot have for season 4 world finals looks like it will actually be pretty good. The format for both of these tournaments vary wildly. Riot with the League of Legends LCS, OGN, LPL, SEA and wildcard tournament leading to 16 teams competing in the finals. 3 from Europe, 3 from North America, 3 from Korea, 3 from China, 2 from South East Asia/Taiwan and 2 from the Wildcard. 4 group stages commence with the top 2 advancing to the quarter finals. Similar to the World Cup, with just half the teams.
The International on the other hand features 3 stages followed by the main event itself. In phase 1, the 2nd place team in each of the qualifiers battle it out for 1 final remaining spot in the tournament. Phase 2 consists of a 16 team round robin group. With the top 2 ensuring a spot in the main event, while 2nd-10th place are entered into phase 3, in which 2 brackets of 4 teams are played out. The first team of each bracket enter the main event, 2nd and 3rd enter the main event losers bracket, and the last place team heads home. The main event itself is an 8 team double elimination bracket. Simple really?
While Riot seem to have figured out copying actual sporting events can help create a simple to use, simple to understand format, fans have long complained about the lack of a losers bracket. Riot have never included a losers bracket in any of their tournaments, while many other international events do. Arguably one of the best international events in League of Legends history, IPL 5, included a losers bracket. The addition didn’t impact the tournament all too much, with the grand finals being a remake of the semi finals, but the losers bracket did allow Taipei Assassins to progress from a round 1 loss to Fnatic, all the way to a semi final rematch.
So why are Riot so against having a losers bracket? LCS and Challenger Series caster ‘Phreak’ put it plainly in a heated word exchange with Thorin from onGamers.
“Is TPA not the Season Two world champion? Did Frost not deserve second place because CLG.EU might have taken them out in the lower bracket and gotten revenge? The thing is, no one really holds a grudge there. It's a tournament and the team that performed the best won. That's the literal goal of the tournament. There's no loser's bracket in the Olympics. There's no loser's bracket in the World Cup. There's the team or athlete that played the best winning the gold medal. And everyone goes nuts.
But again, you're right that there's room for error. Maybe Frost was the better team and didn't play up to their standard on the last day. Maybe they should have, and could have, played better. But the fact of the matter is, no one's calling the Season Two World Championship illegitimate. It's fine to go into something saying, "Look, we want to find the literal best team in the world." But the reality is, no competition ever actually finds the best in the world. They actually never do that without getting lucky. Every competition always finds the best athlete/team in the world who qualified on that day. Athletes stumble in the Olympics. Professional marksmen shoot at the wrong target and lose a guaranteed gold medal. Well guess what? They didn't earn it then. That's the reality of pro sports man. It comes down to performance. And the line has to be drawn somewhere.”
His main arguments once again loop back around to wanting League of Legends Esports to be legitimate. With the concept that ‘If we make it as similar as real sports as we can, it’s better’. While Phreak does raise some very good points, especially in regards to the best team having to perform on the day, the debate for double elimination brackets will rage on.