One recurring theme when we spoke to our players was their battle with burnout, a very realistic consequence from the non-stop action of the DPC. In the latter stages of the DPC we saw several players take a break, one of the highest profile ones was Team Liquid’s Miracle, who felt after the Bucharest Major in Romania, that he needed time at home.
“It was really overwhelming,” said Miracle, a winner of the The International 7. “When I took my break at the Dreamleague Minor I couldn’t play anymore, I felt burned out, I didn’t like the game anymore. We had played so many games, so much Dota, that I actually didn’t want to play. I needed to go back home to have a break.”
Team Liquid’s captain KuroKy agreed. “While playing more tournaments definitely makes you better, at the same time the burnout part is very real, not only for my team I’d say, I’ve talked to some other teams too. This kind of Major/Minor system most teams have trouble actually managing their schedule, and a lot of teams are starting to feel very tired, burned out, it’s just hard for us.”
Natus Vincere’s Dendi put it also down to a lack of break days, something all of the players we spoke to felt was crucial for next season. “It is very hard mentally to stay in shape and to not get burned out because you need to work very hard,” said Dendi.
“We Dota players have free days only at New Year and after TI. And we play every single day between that. It's super hard and I think some changes should be done to make more free days for teams and players,” added Dendi.
Compared to traditional sports the non-stop nature of the DPC has undoubtedly taken its toll on players, and many are calling for Valve to have designated breaks on next year’s DPC Circuit, should Valve decide to continue it.
Fear of falling behind on the DPC was another big concern on many players’ minds, which was a motivating factor in them continuing to compete. Although many players feel burned out, they also feel they cannot afford to skip events.
“We don’t know if we want to skip tournaments or not,” said KuroKy back at the DAC Major. “If you have the choice to play a Major, you really don’t want to skip it.”
“It feels wrong because your scared you’ll fall behind on points and fall behind in terms of practice you get in tournament games. It’s just confusing for me.”
Lack of practice has been an inevitable side-effect of teams who receive direct invites, with Miracle saying Liquid were at one point on the road for three months straight. “I could feel nobody wanted to play the game after that, it was just too much,” said Miracle.
However, Miracle is a strong believer in the positive impact of Regional Qualifiers. “Whoever plays the qualifiers and qualifies is actually well prepared. They played a lot, they learn about each other, their trust grows, it's all connected,” said Miracle.
“Since Liquid is getting invited to everything, it’s good and bad at the same time, especially since there is no time practice. Actually playing qualifiers is a very nice practice,” said Miracle.
Although Sumail had quite a different view — “Playing qualifiers is basically bull**** at this point, it’s not fun. I think I’ve played more qualifiers this year than in my entire life,” said the Evil Geniuses’ player when asked his thoughts on Regionals.
In order for teams to compete fairly in their Regional qualifiers they need to play from their home region. This has meant certain teams have been forced to fly back home, sometimes even between back-to-back events, simply to compete in a Regional Qualifier.
The fact the DPC locations have jumped between regions so frequently this year has resulted in jet lag and fatigue. Whether this is something Valve needs to address or whether teams simply need to be selective with which tournaments they attend is up for debate, but based on our conversations it seems a middle ground will likely be found before next season.
Travel and Regional Qualifiers aside, the precious DPC Points are what the Pro Circuit is all about, and the Monster family players had several suggestions of what route Valve should take going forward.
“For the next season of the DPC, I’d like to see a more defined Major/Minor system where there will a clear difference between the teams in majors and minors,” said Alliance’s Loda, who has kept a keen eye on the Pro Circuit.
“As it’s been this past year, the best teams have just been invited to every single tournament. To me it would make more sense to make games like VP vs Liquid rare and hype, rather than see them face each other in every major and minor throughout the season. It's not a good solution to put this decision on the teams and players in my opinion.”
“It's extremely important for Dota to get a more clear ‘tier two’-level, where you will actually see who is the best up and coming team. A team that qualifies for a minor should not have to risk getting kicked out in round one by a team that is bet to win TI.”
Sumail on the other hand is keen for invites to be based on region as opposed to skill, to make for a more even playing field, given the locations of the DPC events. Of the nine Majors in the 2017-2018 season, five took place in Europe, three took place in China and one took place in the CIS region. Of the 22 Pro Circuit events, only two took place in North America, and both were Minors.
“Every region should have one team invited. If it’s a Major there should be at LEAST two teams from each region, no doubt,” said Sumail. The EG offlaner went on to say he was not a fan of tournament organizers for Majors inviting four or five teams from their region, due to the disparity between the numbers of Majors each region received. “NA did not get a single Major this year,” he added.
Should tournament organizers be allowed to invite teams based on their popularity or locality?
“I think it should be allowed, but it has to be clear as to WHY they invited certain teams,” said Loda. “Every region should have its own feel, and if that means that some Chinese tournaments have a high percentage of Chinese teams that's fine by me. Obviously it's hard to say where the line should go, but I suggest something like maximum 1-2 teams invited by tournament org and the rest by ranking/qualifiers.”
This suggestion was one which echoed VGJ.Storm’s manager Jack Chen’s. “The DPC is a collaboration with sometimes contrasting incentives which all need to be taken into account,” said Jack Chen when quizzed about invites based on popularity. “Organizers, like everyone else, need to attract fan interest and pay the bills, and that's usually going to favor regional or globally popular and successful teams. Like all things, we need more understanding and empathy and concrete guidelines to find the right balance.”
The final and perhaps most important change some players have been pushing for is how DPC Points are acquired. As things stand only top four teams at a DPC event receive DPC Points, and the players with the three highest points on each team contribute to their team’s overall DPC ranking. Many Monster family players hope next season that could change.
“Since there are eight direct invites, Valve should consider giving out points for the top eight of each event,” said Vici Gaming’s Ori. “There are sometimes going to be outside factors that knock a team out of the top four, and this really hampers them.”
This was an opinion echoed by among many of the members of the Monster family, who said that if the DPC Points were extended to Top 6 or so, it would allow teams the option to rest and not attend every tournament, while also giving room to other teams. This suggestion could also feasibly alleviate burnout of players, increasing their motivation to play and potentially their performances.
“I think you have to reduce the DPC points for the first few tournaments, at least for the same year the TI ends,” suggested Sumail. “So for example, all the tournaments held directly after TI in 2018 should give less points.”
What Sumail alluded to was the idea that DPC events should progressively increase in value, taking into consideration teams take time to adjust to new rosters and the major balance changes post-TI. Having the DPC points per event progressively increase over the season could also ensure teams would not qualify too early, and as a result top 8 slots would be more hotly contested in the latter stages of the season and more indicative of which teams are currently at the top.
Dendi on the other hand offered another possible avenue to explore, one which focuses on reducing the DPC point gap between Minors and Majors overall. “The point of the system is to get strongest players to TI. Majors are more valuable but it's often the same level of competition in the Minors,” said Dendi. “Maybe the difference in points shouldn't be that big between Minors and Majors next season.”
As things stand Majors carry 1500 DPC Points compared to Minors which have 300, a difference we could well see change next season.
The Monster family definitely proved there is still work to be done on the Pro Circuit to make it more manageable for players. Valve has recently announced that they would be making changes to the DPC next year in order to make the players and teams happy. Some of the ideas that our players had come up with were cemented into the new rule book, there are still many questions to be answered as we get closer to the new season. Until then, however, we have our sights set on TI and some of our players have paid no mind to the structure of the DPC, such as KuroKy who, when asked about the circuit, said, “I just take it naturally, it’s just how it is.” Classic Kuro.