I’ll confess, I’ve never really been one for E-sports. The idea of walking up to some grimy forum with a question on my lips and not the courage to ask it, in the hope that maybe someone will take pity on me and direct me to some other dark corner of the internet where a Starcraft stream glimmers in the blackness put me off. I’m also fundamentally lazy, which doesn’t help when it’s a requirement to actually find these things for yourself. Luckily, Valve have catered to my lethargy, and made watching competitive Dota a doddle.
Yesterday the qualifiers for the International kicked off. Tuning in at about 5pm BST, I, along with what seemed to be just a few hundred others, tuned in using the in game spectator mode, and got to watch pretty much everything that unfolded between Virtus Pro and mTw, their third game in three, with both of them having a win under their belt. The winner goes through to the qualifying finals on Sunday, with a chance to grab one of the illustrious slots in the second International, to be held in Seattle in August.
The match itself (ID: 19305123) was brilliant, a great back and forth between VP’s early game domination, constantly ganking a poorly persecuted Pugna, before mTw fought back with a terrifyingly fed Shadow Fiend, even getting close to actually winning the game when they forced VP to wipe against their Tier 3 tower, but buybacks abound, and VP managed to pull it back right at the end of the game to secure the win.
The thing is, even though the game itself was great, even more interesting was the fact that over five /thousand/ people were watching it from within Dota 2 itself. That ignores everyone watching it on streams, which is likely to at least double that figure. To have that number of people all concurrently connected to the same game, and with only minimal lag (doubly impressive as this is the first major test of the spectator feature), is nothing short of mind blowing. To then have commentator audio and cameras available from a drop down menu, all from within the game made me do a little impressed dance.
As is always the way, Valve are going to carry on iterating on the systems, so even though the spectator mode is already impressive, it’s likely to be even more so by the time the Internationals roll around in August.