August 30, 2017

Back from The International 2017

Just got back from a long, exciting weekend in Seattle. Specifically, it was a trip to check out the TI7 finals (and wow, what a story–more on that below). But it was also a time to catch up with friends, check out some breweries, chow down some chowder, and tourist it up a bit.

A second trip to The International

After having a blast last year, I was determined to visit the event again this year. It wasn’t easy; tickets are sold out insanely fast, and cross-country airfare can be difficult to afford. Luckily, it all panned out in the end, and we had two finals tickets lined up.

Last year, I went with Alex. He’s a friend (and former roommate) from college, as well as a queue-buddy in Heroes of Newerth (or, simply, HoN”). We played a lot of HoN together in college. We never got into DOTA 2, as the release was poorly timed for us–we’d just graduated college and didn’t have the hours that every MoBA requires as tributary.

However, Alex follows DOTA 2 more closely than I do, and at the very least knows what all the heroes do. It’s a useful resource (and some would say a requirement) to enjoy watching DOTA 2 — there’s just so much going on; you need someone to ask questions to really get much out of it.

Esportin’ with the boys

While I have long been involved with esports, for a lot of people it’s a completely new experience. This year we were joined by our mutual friend who flew out with me: Matt Yates. Matt is from the same era in college, that saw too many late nights sacrificed to cheap beer and HoN.

Matt, unlike me and Alex, doesn’t follow esports at all. He plays Rocket League with us every couple of weeks; that’s about it. The world of esports, DOTA 2, and The International were all new to him. And bringing along someone you want to have a good time to TI who doesn’t play the game or follow the teams? That’s a challenge.

Alex quickly secured a third ticket, and we were off for a cross-country visit… and an entire esports event to take in. I was just hoping we could suck Matt into it.

Thankfully, it was easy to have a blast at the event. Our shared knowledge of HoN (which itself was a port of the first DOTA game) made it easier to explain what was happening. And by the end, Matt was tossing around predictions, questioning draft picks, and yelling during every teamfight along with the rest of the stadium.

Any nervousness I had at bringing a new friend into the esports realm was quickly squashed, and by the end of the weekend we were excitedly talking about who else we should bring next year.

Who would have thought a group of college buddies who don’t even play DOTA (I’ve uninstalled the game on four separate occassions) would create a yearly tradition around an esports event? Just goes to show that esports is in a pretty exciting (and growing) time.

The International 2017

Going into the event, our goal was essentially to cheer on teams that had players from HoN. Alex and I also had a few favorite players we wanted to see. In the end, we were rooting for OG, Team Secret, Cloud 9, Team Liquid, and EG. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived for the final two days, it did not look good for our HoN brethren.

But, let’s talk about the event itself.

The International 2017 (“TI7) was an absolute nail-biter this year. Despite projections, Chinese teams did exceptionally well, crushing fan favorites and dominating EU teams with little problem. Teams like EG, OG, and Cloud 9 were all out of the tournament fairly early on, with Chinese teams such as LFY, LFG, and Newbee kicking them to lower bracket without much difficulty.

Quickly it dawned on us that our dreams of watching a HoN teams in the final two days was not going to play out. However, the unlikely rise of Team Liquid was fun to watch. And more than that–it was incredibly exciting to see them play in the stadium itself. A very tense run all the way from the lower bracket, rising back and eventually winning the Grand Finals 3-0.

For more about the winners and the games themselves, I’d check out this article from RockPaperShotgun that digs into the details.

That special something

It’s hard to explain just why The International is such a cool event. It’s clear to see why DOTA is Valve’s baby. From the live orchestra and music performances to new hero announcements to dozens of emotional and humorous videos, there’s just so much put into it.

In a way, it feels like Valve just taking yet another victory lap around the track. They bask a bit in their successes with the game, as an esport, and as a company that cares about it’s community. It’s not really structured as a convention, like Blizzcon. Instead, Valve pours their effort into TI, and as a DOTA fan you leave with plenty of swag, announcements, and a newfound appreciation for the game. It makes me jealous that I’m not more of a DOTA fan myself.

Part of the draw is certainly the crowd. Being able to witness it all in-person, and with the roars and gasps during every team fight, it’s something pretty cool. Hell, it’s memorable. But there’s more to The International than the crowd…

What that is, I’ve yet to find out. I’ve been to a few other esport events, but there’s some extra special about TI. And it’s that magic that wants me to gather my friends and make the cross-country trip year after year.

Biggest disappointment? No visit from the man himself, Gabe Newell, though he did make a cameo in one of their perfectly crafted videos.

Actually, wait, no. Biggest disappointment: when I setup a meet-and-greet with the man himself: BreakyCPK. My idiot friends got too distracted to go and grab a beer with him. Alex, Matt, if you guys are reading this, y’all fucked up hard.

Next year, BreakyCPK. We’re coming for you.

hontrash squad out

July 11, 2017

This time, we’re going all in. #2017

Alright, ladies, and gentlemen, and basically anyone listening to this echo chamber of near nothingness. It’s 2017, and that means some awesome new resolutions.

I’ve got a boat load of new ideas, projects, and side-projects I’m working on. We’re talking podcasts, stories, blog posts, video series, some of that old-school, legit-as-hell game reviews that everyone has been demanding. Movie breakdowns. Maybe even a short film. I’m a god damn wild card.

So much content you wouldn’t even believe.

This time, we’re doing it up. 2017 is my year. I AM DOING THIS.

… Wait, it’s July already? Fuck.

July 10, 2016

ESL One Cologne 2016 comes down to SK Gaming and Team Liquid

The finals here at ESL Cologne have come down to Team Liquid and SK Gaming. The two powerhouse teams did not have an easy road to the finals here on Sunday.

esl one stageesl one stage

SK Gaming had to reach new depths against Virtus.pro (VP) in the semi-finals, scrapping together a 2-1 win over a VP that seemingly put everything on the line and had a nearly god-tier performance.

And Team Liquid had to performance in match after match that they were predicted to fail. Defeating Na’Vi and Fnatic to get into the finals was an absolute triumph, and they’ve had to beat two of the top three teams in the world to get where they are.

To everyone’s surprise, there seems to be a huge amount of teamwork, synergy, and trust in Team Liquid, and they’ve got a legitimate chance to overthrow the current favorite: SK Gaming.

The only question is, can Team Liquid keep this unbelievable streak alive and beat the current world champions in CS: GO? A lot of factors will need to line up: s1mple needs to continue his dominant performance, EliGE and nitr0 need to continue to show up, and Hiko needs to bring a few more match-changing performances.

It’s going to be a hell of a match, I’ll tell you that.

A quick look at the live production, event setup, video productions, and game observing is all overly positive. PGL has brought a lot of great production values into CS:GO, and the matches are always fun to watch. The various videos sprinkled around are incredibly well done, and it’s always a pleasure to see how seriously ESL presents CS:GO. It never feels like they treat it as just a game”: it’s a sport to them, and something with a lot of passion and excitement.

The only real complaint is there’s some obvious mixups in the observer feeds here and there, something you don’t see as often in ELeague or MLG. And when casters talk budget, you don’t normally see the money of players (opening player tab). Favorite tweet on the matter:

However, the mistakes are very minor compared to the overall kickass production values. Seriously, hats off to all the people behind the scenes, and of course to the analysts and commentators who bring yet another awesome event under their wings. The tier 1 talent pool in CS:GO is a very sharp, funny, and engaging crew: always a pleasure to watch.

Being here in Cologne has been an awesome experience, this is the first CS:GO Major I’ve attended in person, and have had an great time watching the games with the rest of the crew at DOJO MADNESS.

We’ve also had a chance to chat about our new, upcoming CSGO statistics toolset with a few people around the industry, and we’ve gotten some awesome feedback (and some very positive reactions) about what we’re doing. It’s a very innovative, interesting project, which I’ll be writing more about in the future.

The games are about to start here in Cologne, and look forward to watching the matches. In the meantime, keep an eye out for this exclusive drinking game.

Matt Mattc0m” Richards, reporting live from ESL Cologne, rooting for that American dream. Let’s go USA!

June 23, 2016

Quick trip to Toronto, got passport, took photos

I’ve just made a quick trip to Toronto, with no other purpose than to get a passport. I figured I might as well explore the city, its food, sights, brews, and everything else. And I was not disappointed.

Check out the gallery.

June 22, 2016

Colorado Roadtrip

Back in April, went on an amazing cross-country roadtrip from WV to Colorado. Wow, what a beautiful state. Had a ton of fun (minus a brief run in with the lovely state police of Kansas), and look forward to returning next year.

I grabbed some photos of the entire trip. Check em out here! You see plenty of landscapes, friends, brewery tours, and just some good times.

Colorado Roadtrip 2016 - album by matt richards

Embed isn’t great, but you can check em out on Imgur