If Dendi is the face of Dota 2 then Toby "TobiWan
" Dawson is the voice of Dota 2. Arguably the most popular caster in the Dota 2 scene, Toby has had a long and illustrious career and is still going strong.
He's been a part of every The International and has represented the community for the longest time as he has been a staunch advocate of seeing the game grow to it's full potential.
Formerly of joinDOTA, he is working free lance at the moment and has no dearth in being invited as a caster to events. He was, is and always will be the pillar that helped transform this game to where it is today.
In today's interview, I had the good fortune to speak with him where he dwells in detail about what he thinks of DPC, the hurdles it might face and their possible solutions, The International 2018, and more importantly about the casting scene.
In the past, you had mentioned that Dota 2 was rapidly approaching a breaking point where it'd either go stale or reboot the community based on Valve's decision. Are your views still the same after Valve introduced DPC?
I find it is difficult to know how much each change valve announces will effect the future of the scene, mainly for the fact that every change comes with some but not all the details.
DPC was a great idea but the first round saw organisers buying respect, which then created a large quality gap for tournaments with the valve label of respect (being labelled a major or minor). The changes they have made for the next season are also interesting, but again we need to see more details before we can be more confident in the sustainability of the scene.
One thing I do say, and is the reason why I have spoken out in the past about the changes is that with every failed system/change comes damage which Valve needs to work even harder to repair or other games will continue to look more attractive to sponsors/teams/player/etc.. to be involved in
You talked about crowd funding being exclusive to Valve tournaments unlike the old days where it acted as a medium for tournaments to close the gap between TI and their own events. This particular situation still persists and doesn't seem likely to change. What are your views?
It makes sense what Valve has done with the crowd funding being locked to valve only events, they want to ensure that their event is the biggest in the year and there is limit to how much money people will be willing to spend. So they want to keep all the shinny things in the one place that means the most each year = The International.
It is a shame though as great 3rd party tournaments & studios were funded out of such things, and seeing this money being taken away and these establishments limping through the scene is a sad sight.
However, BTS and DC are still organizing their flagship tournaments and in return Valve is directly contributing 50% of the prize-pool. Doesn't this somehow close the gap mentioned in the aforementioned question?
The BTS and DC flagship tournaments used to be the greatest thing in the scene, now they are minors or not even in the DPC because things like Midas Mode fall outside of the system.
I will always say this, you are not helping organisers out by having Valve contributing 50% of a prize pool that is only helping the players and normally stretching organisers even further in order to reach the prize pool creating a sacrifice in other areas to gain the prestige of the major/minor title.
You did mention about workshop artists expressing issues, if not leaving the scene as well. As someone who isn't accustomed to this area of our game, I need to ask you whether the situation still persists or has it changed?
I have not followed the situation close enough to know
Well moving on then, Valve did implement certain changes that you'd suggested; one of them being giving the Major brand to well run events and not just regional partners. While few orgs have been spectacular in organizing their events, others have been on the receiving end of heavy criticism for not paying any heeding to any advice given by the community. Tell us what you think of this!
The never ending comparison, someone will always do something better than others and then that balance will always change when another organizer comes along as raises the bar. We saw this happen with ESL and Epicenter (their first edition), and it will happen again....of course in your question you link it to the Major title being given, every major Valve was involved in you noticed looks really similar even more so after the Shanghai Major when PGL started running most of the majors. Now you go from a consistent world to a 3rd party free for all, of course things will be different.
Invite system has also been abolished and now teams will have to go through qualifiers to earn their place. Is it a step in the right direction? How are the orgs going to attract sponsors especially in minors that'd be lacking in terms of big name teams?
The invite system has to be abolished, the most important thing when The International is your pinnacle event in the calendar is to understand the CLEAR path to attend. Qualification through a points system / tournament progression makes the most sense and is a change very much needed.
How organizers handle not having as many top teams....they way they always did in the past, focus on the story lines of the up and coming teams which is made easier by knowing there is no other DPC tournament in competition to them with the calendar being dedicated to one DPC event at a time.
While many agree that minors will help develop the tier 2/3 scene in general, few are questioning on how or what will teams owning multiple rosters do? As we know, IG, LGD, VG and EHOME house multiple teams in these tiers .. how will it affect them? Isn't that detrimental in a way?
These teams will have more issues with the valve rule about ownership/shares in teams, which I am sure they are all making a solution too and the teams will continue to share their infrastructure to help fast track the development of new teams/talent.
Moving on, since the DPC was announced .. we saw a huge number of tournaments (Minors and Majors) being held in the first season. That was eventually halved due to obvious reasons. I'd still like you to go into detail on this topic; pros and cons.
I actually addressed this issue in a video on my YouTube, quite simply you are effectively cutting the quantity of games during the season which means their needs to be balance by improving the quality of what remains. It isn't like we had this season where an event is terrible but you don't mind cause next week you had the PGL Major.
You will also see a fall out with infrastructure which has emerged in the 17/18 season to manage such a high load of content. An example of this is commentators who were hired for so many events that it gave tier 2 and in some cases tier 3 casters more opportunities some to attend LAN but even more to find a steady income from covering qualifiers. This is now gone, and people should expect there to be cuts......even talent like myself question if we can make enough money to survive in the scene full time, or if we should follow the example of people like Merlini and get something more solid. For now I am not walking away from my passion of casting DOTA 2!
In which ways can the scene sustain itself?
Sustainability isn't just about bringing in new talent, it is ensuring that the talent you have developed remain. You should begin by asking yourself the question why are people leaving in the first place.
Let us talk about TI8. The prize pool is down this time around as compared to previous year. Is this going to be the first TI that would have lower prize-pool as compared to its predecessors?
I learned last year to not assume anything when it comes to the prize pool, you have Valve watching the numbers and this year they even set the goal at 30 million USD. They would have to have a plan to reach that goal, and hopefully it is more than 'let's just do the same thing we did last year'
The teams line-up seems exciting to say the least. The competition seems tougher this year than the previous one. Are you in agreement?
This International is actually so good when it comes to the teams attending, not just for the quality of the play but the story lines. A possible new Wings moment from the Chinese, rivalry between former team mates, the whole China turn to win looks rougher this year. There are just so many good things to look forward to.
A lot of uproar was caused due to slot allocation for regions. Do you think Valve was right in allocating the slots or do you think it could have been better?
It is Valves tournament, and their decision. I still believe the whole situation could have been avoided by being more clear on the path to The International, it is those details I mentioned previously that valve needs to make public and not hold back so they can modify it to suit their needs at a later date.
Which team are you rooting for this time?
I never cheer for any team, the only thing I ever want from DOTA as a commentator is a great game with memorable moments. My only bias is towards teams that give me that, which luckily is normally multiple teams at every event.
What are your views on the recent openAI bots defeating amateur and semi pro teams?
open AI bots are cool, but I don't understand anything about the technology, I know the game conditions are very limited, so their early results are on a slightly bias field. The real question is how will all of this be utilized, what is it all being built for?
Tell us something about the new game you're working on.
It is a secret....shhhhh
You've been playing a lot of PUBG lately, are you looking to make a switch? (sic)
I have already casted multiple events for PUBG, I enjoy casting the game even with its issues and think the whole genre has a lot of untapped potential. But to be clear I have no intention of ever stopping casting DOTA
That's a wrap up. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. Anything you have to say before we sign off?
Hope everyone has fun watching The International, follow all my social media and jazz for stupid stuff I do and thanks for reading until the end
Feature image credits: The Verge
Image credits: Dota Archives
Die-hard Dota 2 lover at heart. Reading and writing are not just hobbies; they're my life. Family man, ardent esports follower and a boring personality. If you would like to know more about my work, you can follow me at KarY.