Opinion: Valve's weird lineup policy
posted by HolyMaster, 1 year ago
Spring has come and the hype train for The International has left the station. There's no doubt that the creator of Steam has done a tremendous job so far, but there is one topic where their regulations just seem illogical and crude: roster changes. We break down some of the tricky situations Valve has faced so far, and how they can tackle them in the future.
The overly strict team composition rules along with insufficient communication during the critical stage before the invitation announcements, have brought trouble for multiple candidates, and are slowly starting to hurt the competition's almost untouchable reputation.
Revenge! And also uG?
This was a shock yesterday: Revenge Gaming, one of the few real contenders to prevent Team Liquid's walkover in the American qualifier, has decided to quit after being denied a roster change. They wanted to bring back iwo (currently in uG) instead of Benjaz, but were not allowed to do so. To be fair, the team itself takes a fair share of the blame here. Their change was requested really late, and they could have still just played the match with their recent lineup, and that includes Benjaz. Nevertheless Valve could have prevented this drama with a decent information flow. When Revenge decide to switch a player, they didn't know that it was too late to do so. After already making this tough choice, it's not so easy to take it back of course. In the end everybody suffered here, because the team, that used to be South America's number one for a really long time, will be missed in those qualifiers. The team loses, the viewers lose, Valve loses. A little cooperation could have worked wonders here.
This also raises the question of Union Gaming's participation. The second Peruvian representative is also the team that was supposed to lose iwo towards Revenge, maybe even take back Benjaz in return. Since that switch is not possible, the only way for uG to still play the qualifier is using the lineup they were invited with, knowing that one of their players might have prefered to play for another team. At the moment it look like uG will take part nontheless, and that is good. But it's not a perfect situation for them either.
The ridiculous hehe case
Now it's getting really crazy. Because what happened to hehe turned out to be one the weirdest decisions I have ever heard of. As far as I know there was no direct contact between Valve and the invited qualifier teams before it was all announced. When the decision for a particular team was made, this team never had any opportunity to submit a lineup or anything towards the organizer. Instead Valve itself chose the five players they have to use! This was simple in some cases, e.g. Fnatic who had a stable lineup for a long time and have their players listed on their official website. But for other teams it was more complicated.
So how did Valve define the lineup of hehe, a relatively new team that is not on high viewer streams every week, a team who has switched some players around from time to time, a team that has no contracts at any organisation, a team that has no official website? It turns out Valve just looked at hehe's most recent match at joinDOTA (ESL One against Goomba) and took the five players listed there: hwa, chipshajen, nihis, kaibutsu, reelo. Yes, that is really what happened.
hehe has recently changed its lineup though with Quix and Arise being new members. They replaced Kaibutsu and b.b.claudiu. claudiu? Oh right, he wasn't even in the lineup from Valve - reelo is. But Reelo quit Dota three months ago according to hehe's manager Ezalor. The reason he was listed was a simple mistake of the joinDOTA matchticker (it is fixed by now, it was b.b.claudio instead of Reelo who played the ESL match). Nevertheless Valve stood by its decision and seriously forced hehe to use a player they haven't used in months.
Looking at the amount of roster changes hehe has made this month, especially with the recent additions of Arise and QuiX, it would be a legit choice from Valve to take back the invite and get somebody else in. So it's not like hehe should stay completely unharmed from this instability. Inviting them with an outdated lineup however is unreasonable. Either give them a chance to attend with a proper squad, or don't invite them at all. By now, hehe as decided to attend the qualifier anyway. But I don't expect them to be a good contender under these circumstances.
Potential trouble for EG?
If you have a close look at the lineups of the eleven invited teams on the official TI website, there is one player you might want to equip with a question mark. The first player listed for Evil Geniuses is Fear who hasn't played an official match in almost two months. As opposed to hehe, where the (allegedly) most recently used lineup was taken, Valve went with an older one for EG. Sure, Fear is still officially part of the clan, and they might plan to play with him after all. But at the moment, they are not completely sure about his health just yet.
A lineup 'change', even if it means going with Mason, would most likely mean being dropped down to the qualifiers. That's exactly what happened to LGD last year. When LongDD was released, and DD returned into the main roster to take his place, the Chinese lost their direct invite - even though DD has been part of LGD all this time. But more than five players cannot be part of a team in Valve's world. I didn't understand that decision last year, and I wouldn't understand it now, if the same happened to EG. Give their invite to Liquid (or somebody else) just because they want to attend with a player who has been part of most of their official matches this year?
You have heard some (not all!) examples of where the current invite and lineup system has problems. But more importantly, here is what I suggest to do in order to fix those. All of those steps are actually pretty simple, but solve so many issues.
1. Allow lineups to contain more than five players
Narrowing it down to just five persons three months in advance makes no sense. There is no team sports in the whole world that does that. Allow teams to submit a squad of max 7 or 8 players. After that, nobody from outside the lineup can be added in any case. But those players can be swapped around at will. Professional sports teams, and that is where Dota 2 is headed, need to have substitutes! Nobody should be allowed to bring in someone completely new right before the main event, but the option to select from a small pool of additional members should be natural.
2. Announce a deadline for the teams to finalize their rosters
... and announce it early on! Not just inform the teams without any warning, that they're suddenly not allowed to change anything from the present point and onwards. Give them at least a one month heads up. And preferably also give them a few weeks to play with that confirmed lineup before deciding the invites. Example: To be an invite candidate all teams have to announce an official lineup until March 31st. No changes may be done afterwards until the TI grand final. The invites get announced on May 1st, so the teams can be observed with stable lineups for one month before a decision is to be made.
3. Define an official place where the rosters are to be submitted.
This could either be Valve itself, or a third party website like joinDOTA. All teams have to submit their lineup to that one specific person or organisation before the deadline. That way it's clear to everyone where it needs to be announced. Do not take one official lineup from a clan website, and another one from a neutral matchticker. There needs to be one consistent method of finding out the roster of each team, when the deadline hits.
It's probably too late to change anything for the current edition, but I really hope Icefrog and Co will reconsider their approach to this topic going into next year. Giving the teams both clear regulations as well as a little more freedom, of course without letting them do whatever they want, would greatly improve the fairness of the competition and raise the skill level to spectate for all the viewers out there to the maximum.
There is a fine line between being strict and professional, and just being completely unreasonable. At the moment, Valve seems dangerously close to being the latter.
Sources: TI4 invites announced, Revenge drop out, Official tournament page