Late last week, Gabe Newell very publicly fired a controversial commentator from the $US3 million DOTA 2 Shanghai Major, calling him an "ass". He also fired the production team. That, however, was apparently not enough to right a sinking ship.
This week has seen all sorts of issues major and minor, from non-sound-proof commentating booths (which could alert teams to each others' strategies), to weird noises on stream, to a lack of private Wi-Fi for teams, leaving their communication and information potentially unsecured. Other
high lowlights include an exasperated broadcast director who, for a while, couldn't even get a pass to the event she was directing, mistreated cosplayers, a VIP room with, uh, some chairs and a lack of transportation for talent after a 17-hour workday.
As SB Nation reports, the week's biggest flub came yesterday, when the Major's organisational staff lost Team Spirit player Roman "Ramzes666" Kushnarev's keyboard.
Game is delayed.
The Shanghai Major's staff has lost Ramzes666's keyboard...
— Team Spirit (@Team__Spirit) March 2, 2016
The event then suffered a delay that left the entire 31,000-seat stadium empty. At an event of the Shanghai major's size, scale and cost, this is basically unheard of. It's also a terrible misstep in the wake of DOTA 2's increasingly professional events and broadcasts (case in point: Valve's debut tentpole major, held in Frankfurt, was great). In the span of a single event, the sport's gone from wowing crowds on the big stage all the way back to the amateur leagues.
It should be noted that the new production team is doing their damnedest to wipe the muck and shame off this event and get it on its feet again. People have apparently been sleeping behind cameras not out of laziness or a lack of dedication, but because of how many extra hours they have been putting in. Here's commentator Jorien "Sheever" van der Heijden talking about that:
On the upside, production seems to be slowly improving, and fans are taking notice:
Still, DOTA 2's Shanghai major will almost certainly not be remembered for its great games (of which there have been many) or even these improvements, but rather lessons in What Not To Ever, Ever, Ever Do When Running An Esports Event and How Not To Communicate With Your Audience: The Valve Story: A Play In Any Number Other Than Three Acts. PC Gamer's Chris Thursten made an especially sobering point about the latter issue that I think bears repeating:
I'm of the opinion that this doesn't matter much if the decision [involving commentator James "2GD" Harding] was the right one. In fact, there are plenty of other instances where I've wanted Valve to take a stronger line — player behaviour being the standout example. In Harding's case I'm not sure that they could have made any other call: he dropped a c-bomb, he made a government censorship joke about porn in arguably the worst country in the world to do that in.
Yet the audience's takeaway from this isn't that c-bombs aren't allowed: it's that humour isn't allowed, that esports should aspire to the mode and manner of traditional sport. This is likely not the response that Valve wanted, but the aggressive and arrogant-sounding way in which they went about handling the Harding situation has driven his fans to his version of events. You're either for humour and with Harding or you're with Valve and you want your esports with a side of golf tournament. The situation has been rendered binary and oppositional — 'ass or them.'
He's not wrong, given the general reaction I've witnessed within the DOTA 2 community. But that's kinda the Shanghai major in a nutshell: it's sent all the wrong messages, and despite the new English production company and Valve's best intentions, those messages will echo in the community's collective brain cave for months to come.
Many fans have already lost trust in DOTA 2 events, both in terms of competent production and a spirit of, you know, fun. This sort of mess isn't just gonna go away after a few not-completely-disastrous days. It's gonna linger. I hope Valve brought a mop.