Dota 2’s The International 2018 preview

The International 1

The International 2018 (TI8), the biggest tournament in Dota 2 and arguably all of esports, is almost upon us. Read on for a preview into one of the grandest tournaments in all of esports.

THE INTERNATIONAL

The International (TI) has always stood in the center of the world of professional Dota 2. It has long been a monolith and a tradition for the community, as everything that happens every competitive season leads up to it. It’s the end goal for any and every pro, for a chance to compete in it, let alone win, would easily be the summit of their careers. For good reason too, TI has always boasted the single-highest prize pool of any esports tournament, far exceeding even that of most other traditional sports tournament. With its prize pool growing bigger each year, TI winners walk off the podium both as world champions and multi-millionaires.

However, things have changed this year. Seattle, where Dota 2 publisher Valve Corporation is based, had been hosting TI since 2012. But now, the tournament has headed north to the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada, the first time TI would be held in a country outside of the US since the very first TI in Cologne, Germany.

Aside from a change of venue, the format of the season leading up to TI8 was also changed. Valve introduced the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) system, dividing up events into Majors and Minors, with each giving away DPC points to determine who will receive direct invites to the tournament. A number of teams would always receive direct invites to TI, with the rest having to earn their place through regional qualifiers. Valve’s reasoning for giving this or that team a direct invite had always been unclear, if not questionable, so the DPC system provided a clear ladder towards qualification for each and every team.

For a summary of what happened in this year’s DPC, you can check out Valve’s recap:

THE PRIZE POOL

As of August 13, TI8 boasts a prize pool $24.1 million, according to the Dota 2 prize pool tracker. With over 13 days left for it to continue growing, it’s safe to assume that TI8’s prize pool will exceed that of TI7, which gave away a total of $24,787,916. Following Valve’s format for distributing the prize pool, the winners of TI8 will take home a whopping $10.6 million and counting. The runner-ups will get almost $4 million while 3rd place will net you over $2.5 million. Heck, even the teams getting lowest placings will receive over $60 thousand for their troubles.

For those unfamiliar with the Dota 2 competitive scene, it’s almost unimaginable how its marquee tournament could reach such absurd numbers for its prize pool. But for Dota 2 veterans, the reason could be summed up in just one word: hats.

‘Hats’ became a catch-all term, and de-facto meme, for Valve’s in-game cosmetics system for its free-to-play games, such as Dota 2 or Team Fortress 2. In Dota 2’s case, players can buy in-game cosmetics to change the appearance of their heroes or UI, or get a new announcer, among others. Or, as those in the community might say, ‘get hats.’

‘Hats’ are the driving force behind The International’s ludicrous prize pools. This one is just an example.

TI prize pools started to reach ludicrous heights once Valve allowed the community to contribute back in TI3. A cut of every purchase of TI-related hats would go directly to fund the prize pool. TI3’s prize pool grew from the starting $1.6 million to $2.8 million. TI4’s prize pool surpassed $10 million while TI5 ended up at $18 million. The previously-unthinkable $20 million mark was first reached in TI6, making it the biggest esports tournament in terms of prize pool. While most doubted TI7 would even come close to that again, it eclipsed $24 million. But now, TI8 is set to get even higher.

But really, it’s these fancy hats that are the actual driving force.

If you wanna contribute to TI’s ever-growing prize pool, then go buy some hats. This year’s ‘Battle Pass’ gives players access to special TI-themed cosmetic items, new game modes and features, and the new Dota+ system, among others.

THE TEAMS

Of course, TI is mostly all about the teams who will be competing for the Aegis of Champions. Aside from all the great Dota, the storied rivalries and colorful stories from the teams are what make the tournament greater than it already is. With that said, this year’s lineup of competitors are as vaunted as they come.

Last year’s champions, Team Liquid, seemed to have avoided the post-championship curse and seem to be in form to be the first-ever team to be two-time TI champions. Meanwhile, last year’s runner-ups, Newbee, are looking to exact their revenge against Liquid after their humiliating 0-3 loss in the TI7 Finals.

Team Liquid became the first-ever team to sweep a TI Grand Final, defeating Newbee 3-0 back in TI7. They now look to also be the first-ever team to become two-time champions.

Meanwhile, Virtus Pro stand as the clear favorites to win it all after it dominated the entire DPC. Mineski are a rising power a rising powerhouse from Southeast Asia, while TNC Predator represent the Philippines once more. The newly-revamped Evil Geniuses are a veritable superteam on paper, but will it be enough to take them all the way?

Stay tuned for a closer look on the participating teams soon.

THE SPECIAL EVENTS

Aside from letting Dota 2 fans watch the greatest teams in the world do battle, another draw that TI always had was it’s when Valve would usually announce things like new heroes or game modes, alongside other spectacles.

Last year, Valve announced two new heroes coming to the game, namely Donte Panlin the Pangolier and Mireska Sunbreeze the Dark Willow, which had Dota 2 fans going wild. There’s a fair chance that a similar reveal could happen in TI8.

Other than that, Valve also held a special event where the research lab OpenAI showcased its bot that could go toe-to-toe with some of the best players in the world. This time, we can expect to see OpenAI challenge a team of pros with its own team of bots, which already defeated a team of former pros earlier this month. Perhaps a preview of Valve’s upcoming Dota 2-themed card game, Artifact, will be shown too. But other than that, we’ll just have to wait and see.

HOW TO WATCH

The International will be split into two phases, the Group Stage and the Main Event. TI8’s Group Stage will run from August 15-18, with a two-day break before the Main Event, which will then run from August 20-25. The Group Stage will be played in a different venue, and as such matches will only be watchable online. The tournament will move on to the Rogers Arena once the Main Event kicks off.

If you’re not one of the lucky ones who can watch it live, you can catch all the action on Valve’s Twitch or YouTube channels. Past TI’s have also been shown on live TV in some countries, although no such plans have been announced as of yet you can expect news on that in the coming days.

(Images courtesy of Valve Corporation)

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