At the beginning of July, Valve announced vast changes to the competitive Dota 2 landscape, introducing Minors and qualifying points, adding more transparency and clarity for invites to The International 2018. About a week ago, Valve added further details surrounding the new system, with an exact breakdown of qualifying points per tournament and even a rough overview of the upcoming events in this season.
The initial announcement in July had understandably little information and few details, as Valve still had to iron things out. Regardless there were valid questions to be asked about the potential for abuse of the new system, by both tournament organizers and players. The additional details revealed last week don’t exactly address those issues either. If anything, there are now more questions to be asked and once more it is on Valve to act. Though before we can get to that, we need to break down what the system actually looks like and why this system was introduced.
Thus far, invites to The International have been anything but transparent. Teams were left guessing until the very end and were never sure whether or not a tournament’s performance was worth an invite or not. In fact, in 2016 Fnatic did not receive an invite, despite placing well at the Manila Major, but their performance at ESL One Frankfurt, in combination with Na’Vi’s strong performance, seemed to edge them out of an invite for TI6. The lack of clarity and transparency needed to be addressed, as this directly affected the livelihood of many players and teams.
Now, teams can earn qualifying points and the requirements to participate at The International 2018 are straight forward: the eight teams with the highest point totals will be invited to TI8. There’s even a public leaderboard for fans to keep track of which teams and players currently hold sufficient qualifying points.
The breakdown of those qualifying points is quite simple as well: per $1,000 prize money, a Minor gets to award 1 qualifying point, meaning they award a minimum of 300 qualifying points, as there is $300,000 prize money minimum for Minors. Majors award 1.5 qualifying points per $1,000, thus a minimum of 1500 qualifying points ($1,000,000 prize money minimum).
For fans, players and organizations, the system seems much easier to follow, as every tournament has a clear purpose and adds to a bigger, easier to follow storyline. If Team Secret get invited to the next International, fans will be able to look back and see which tournaments and performances allowed them to get the invite.
The Major system thus far, which saw Valve organize huge, $3,000,000 events, largely overshadowed third party events and teams that had secured invites for such Majors had only few incentives to participate in other events. Similarly, viewers would focus largely on those Majors as well and elevated standards at Majors forced third party events to invest more to compete with Valve Majors.
Now, organizations such as ESL, MarsMedia and DreamHack can run Majors themselves and players have to play in their events if they wish to earn qualifying points. While top teams can still choose to ignore Minors, those smaller tournaments still get a significant boost in importance for teams and viewers alike.
As great as the system may be in theory, there are questions left unanswered. When the changes were first announced, we highlighted that invites needed regulations, as several events would favor certain regions and potentially even teams. Perfect World Masters has now not only invited two Chinese teams, but also has two qualifier spots for them.
Naturally, an invite or additional qualifier spots don’t secure qualifying points, as only the top 4 teams receive those, but the more events a team gets invited to, the less qualifiers they have to play and the more qualifiers they can choose to participate in.
OpTic Gaming’s captain Peter ‘Peterpandam’ Dager, formerly of EG, highlighted in a Twitlonger that “realistically if we qualify for all of these tournaments in October we will not have the time to play the qualifiers for tournaments in November because we will be attending these tournaments in Europe. 2nd/3rd/4th weeks of October”. Indeed, teams like The Dire or Natus Vincere that make it far in qualifiers have had long days, Na’Vi recently finished a bo3 at 02.30 am local time after having played for 10 hours, whereas TI7 runner-up Newbee has already been invited to four events, TI7 champion Liquid have been invited to 3 thus far, both of which have yet to play a single match since the finals.
While tournament organizers naturally look to provide the best entertainment and most intense competition they can, thus inviting the established teams, they ultimately also have a large impact on a team’s chances to qualify for The International. “Any team who is directly invited has a huge advantage of not only skipping the competitive qualifier but also allowing them to compete in other qualifiers for future tournaments”, so Dager, though he also admits to not have a direct solution for the problem.
A solution could be to impose requirements on the amount of teams necessary to host a Major. Currently, the only requirement is to run qualifiers across all six regions, leading to many 8 team events thus far. If events were forced to have more slots, that would allow more teams to fairly compete at LAN for the qualifying points.
At the end of the day, the change to a more structured competitive circuit was long overdue. Esports organization Immortals already entered the Dota 2 scene and it isn’t unlikely that more brands with big investors could enter the space, as, from a mainstream perspective, the scene has become much more attractive. Teams can compete all year around and results have a meaning, something that was very difficult to gauge before.
Yes, there still are issues. The point system is still open for abuse, especially with the stand-in rule, tournament organizers can seed teams as they see fit and the qualifiers have proven to be a scheduling mess for non-established teams.
All of these issues however can and likely will be ironed out as the season progresses and witnessing the season progress has become a lot more exciting, as teams like OG, EG, LGD and more are forced to play more games than ever before. There's a reason why "El Clasico" remains the single most noteworthy rivalry in Dota 2 history thus far, as no other teams have any significant history of playing against one another. This could and likely will change as the season progresses.