For those out there that may not be privy to esports or Dota 2, can you explain why The International is so important?
The International is basically the Super Bowl of Esports. Competitors battle for life-changing amounts of money, with the first-place team taking in over $10 million USD in prize money (nearly $2 million per player pre-taxes). For those familiar with Blizzard's Blizzcon, TI is not only a Dota 2 tournament but the closest thing we have to a “Valve-con.” Major announcements including improvements to Vive VR, Artifact (Valve’s new card game), new heroes in DOTA 2, etc. have all been made during the International.
This was your sixth TI! What's the biggest change from TI3 to now?
So much has changed since TI3, but I'd say the biggest changes are expectations for the event from all stakeholders in the community: the fans, players, talent, sponsors, etc. With each passing year, the TI prize pool grows and Valve's visible revenues along with it. As a result, everyone naturally expects more and more. At the same time, because Valve has continued to improve the event so dramatically from year to year, it becomes harder and harder for them to surpass the bar set the previous year, which in turn can lead to community disappointment.
As far as the event itself, the biggest change is definitely the venue. Benaroya Hall had a very intimate, home-y feel and felt like a community event, while Key Arena feels like a giant sporting spectacle.
Is there a specific team you enjoy casting? If you don't get those games how does Valve determine which ones you do get to cast? Do you have any say in that?
To this day, I'd say Wings is probably the team I’ve enjoyed casting the most. Nobody was more unpredictable or exciting. At this TI, I really enjoyed all of Liquid's games, mostly because they ended up being crazy as hell and going super clown mode. Valve assigns games, usually before they even know which teams will be playing the matches for the main event. Casters don't generally have any say in who they cast.
Out of the six Internationals that you've casted, which is your favorite match that you've been a part of?
Nothing can top Na'Vi vs Alliance at TI3. The Grand Finals went to five games with the most memorable finish in the history of Dota 2!
Even though we're at the final day of TI, coming into this which team did you have winning in your bracket and was that different from the team you personally wanted to win?
I had LFY winning this TI, but I didn't have a team I was personally rooting for. I'm friends with a lot of the players and I also have roots with the Southeast Asia and Chinese scenes dating back to the origins of Beyond The Summit, even though I don't personally know most of those players as well. Basically, I am happy for whoever wins and honestly just want to see crazy awesome Dota.
They changed the format a bit for this TI. If they were to make any further changes, what would you like to see at TI8?
The International is tricky when it comes to format. The sheer amount of prize money at stake is so enormous that you really have to prioritize fairness and eliminating randomness over providing the best viewer product. From a fairness standpoint, I don't think you can really do much to improve TI aside from making all group stage games BO3 and eliminating the BO1 games in the Lower Bracket Round 1. From an entertainment standpoint, I would love to see Valve completely mix up the format. Give us a world-cup style format and fully broadcast or showcase every game — give us Swiss groups, do something fresh! I don't think you can really argue with the way they did it this year, though.
What are your thoughts on the new Major/Minor system?
I'm excited to see how it works out. There are a lot more Majors and Minors than most organizers expected and I think privately quite a few are concerned about their ability to draw viewers as well as attract sponsors with how crowded the calendar is. At the same time, all official Valve events will be directly linked to TI and this should ensure more consistent participation by teams as well as create storylines throughout the year, weaving all events together as the Road to TI8 unfolds.
I’m cautiously optimistic!
Who is your favorite co-caster and why? Is there someone you wish could cast with more or someone you have yet to cast with?
I don't really have a single favorite co-caster. Godz, Merlini, Winter, and Lumi are probably my best co-casters, and I love casting with all of them for different reasons — humor, hype, analysis, energy, and so on. SirActionSlacks and PyrionFlax are also great folks to duo with for a more humor-oriented cast. I always enjoy casting with Synderen, but I haven't gotten to partner with him in a long time.
I believe my biggest strength is my ability to bring out the best in my co-casters. I view myself as the most adaptable or "chameleon-like” out of the top play-by-play casters. At the same time, that also means I don't necessarily have one partner who I work better with than all others.
Do you have anything that you would you like to say to all the LD and Beyond The Summit fans out there?
Thanks for all the support these last six years. What I lack in hair I promise to make up for in energy! Thanks to Monster for supporting Beyond The Summit and the Summits over the last year and I am excited for what the future holds!