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Interview: A look back at Midas Mode with SUNSfan, Slacks and Zyori

posted by Malystryx.GDS,
Midas Mode Season 1 ended as a triumphant victory for Moonduck and there are already whispers of a Season 2 in 2018. We spoke to SUNSFan, SirActionSlacks and Zyori about their unique tournament.
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SUNSfan, Zyori and Slacks with the on-camera crew working on Midas Mode (Image: @MoonDuckTV)


MoonDuckTV's Midas Mode may not have been a Pro Circuit event but it brought in thousands of viewers, at one point surpassing 50,000 viewers on the English Twitch stream alone. The tournament format was rather obscure and was focused around a virtual currency called Moonbucks, which teams could spend to buy or ban certain heroes. Teams could also complete "bounties" in-game, proposed by the community in order to earn extra Moonbucks.

Moonduck attracted big names to compete in their $60,000 tournament such as eu Team Liquid, us Evil Geniuses, world OG and ua Natus Vincere. On the day of the tournament it was announced that in the spirit of the upcoming festive season all 8 participating teams would be giving any winnings to charities of their choice. I caught up with SUNSfan, Zyori and SirActionSlacks to talk about Midas Mode and to pick their brains now they've had time to reflect on what was an incredibly successful and unique tournament.

Malystryx: First off, how did you all contribute to the project and what were your expectations or worries heading in?


Zyori: "I worked with Slacks in managing the ad sales and sponsorship fulfilment leading up to the event and worked as the primary producer for most of the broadcast days. My biggest concern was getting all of our new gear set up in time. We added a new video switcher to deliver a true 1080p60fps stream, and it took some doing to get integrated with our stack."

SUNSfan:" I did nothing in terms of prep as I have been swamped in CD4 related business. My worries? None. Slacks is a very consistent figure who has no chaotic tendencies. He’s the rock of the company."



Slacks: "Shut up Sunsfan. I... we all helped out a bit but I was focused on sales, teams, content, schedule and all the other garbage that needed to be done before the tourney actually happened."





SUNSfan: "I learned that online tournaments aren’t dead"
Malystryx: Now you’ve had time to let it all sink in, what did you learn about the Dota community from organising and being involved in Midas Mode?


SUNSfan: "I learned that online tournaments aren’t dead. The community is hungry for unique content, and whether that comes in the form of a Minor or online tournament, they will support it as long as it is entertaining."

Slacks: "Doing tourneys is hard. There is a unlimited amount of work you need to do in the back scenes to make sure what the viewer sees is interesting. I could never have imagined."


Zyori: "I learned that the community is hungry for content that pushes the envelope in one way or another. There’s been a lot of talk about LAN play with the new circuit system, but it seems there are ways to pull off online events."

Shane and Trent on stream. Trent rocking a spacesuit provided by NASA, one of the sponsors


Malystryx: What part of Midas Mode are you most proud of?


Slacks: "That it happened and wasn't a complete disaster. Ok, real answer, that the community actually enjoyed it. I usually dont care about praise or goodwill for work because I feel like it's unproductive, having someone tell you your work was good only makes you feel complacent. But seeing people like a PRODUCT rather than a talent is much different. I got to share something in my head with the viewers, and we experienced it together. So yeah, I was very proud that the community actually enjoyed the vision."

Zyori: "That we took what started as a crazy idea and morphed it into a functional game mode. Midas Mode had way more moving pieces than our events past, and it’s a great feeling to know we can turn dreams into reality."

SUNSfan: "I was most proud of us refraining from constantly talking in a posh British accent while wearing our top hats and monocles. We did fail at this sometimes though..."



Malystryx: Do you think with the current Pro Circuit more Midas Mode type events might spring up on the side? If Icefrog messaged and asked if Midas Mode 2 could be a Minor what would you say?


SUNSfan: "Possibly. With as many tournaments as there are right now, being different has never been more important. In terms of Midas Mode ever being a Minor, it is hard to say. I know most people would instantly say no, but honestly, you never really know what will happen in this scene. I definitely don’t think it’s ready for that jump though. We would need a much longer proof of concept before I would be ready to have that discussion."

Slacks: "Icefrog wont talk to me. As I see it, Dota will never get boring, but it will get repetitive at the end of a patch cycle. In these times everyone knows who will pick what and optimal strategies are typically figured out. So, in these rare times, other tournaments besides Captain's Mode have a place and can be much more interesting than typical Captain's Draft."

Zyori: "I think this definitely serves as a proof of concept that more innovative modes outside of Captains Mode can be viable in the current event landscape. Midas Mode probably has potential to be a truly competitive game mode, but I think it would require a lot of changes- especially to the bounty system. We need to collect more data and spend more time testing before the mode could be Minor ready, though."

Mr Midas himself
Malystryx: What was the biggest obstacle (aside from sponsors) to getting the tournament up and running that the public may not be aware of? Are they still an issue for the second Midas Mode?


Zyori: "It’s really hard to guess what pro players are going to do in a brand new system. We learned a ton from player feedback after this event, which should make the mode easier to balance moving forward. Curating and balancing the daily bounties took a lot more effort than we were prepared for."

SUNSfan: "Play-testing is a serious beast. We didn’t have as much time as we would have liked to play around with the system, but even if we did, a lot of things the players did we would not have anticipated. I’m glad the tournament was a success as we’ll have time to fix a lot of the issues for next time."

Slacks: "Time Investment. I wasn't able to do anything besides Midas Mode work for about 4 months. My stream went to shit, my Youtube videos were non existent, and I had to turn down several events. In the end it was worth it to me because I was doing something new and challenging, but it's hard to see the fan bases and work you have built up for years begin to fade away right before your eyes. Not a big deal though, hopefully the end product was good enough for people to forgive my negligence."

Midas Mode had a $60,000 prize pool and all teams agreed to give their share at the end to charity


Malystryx: How did the players handle learning all the rules such as the daily bounties and which captains were especially excited about the format? Did it take a while for even you to get the hang of it?


SUNSfan: "That’s more of a Slacks question. As for us, it was hard to remember all the bounties every single day. There are definitely some tweaks we can make, such as having more consistent daily bounties. I think using 10 fresh ones everyday is a little hard to manage."

Slacks: "They varied, which was the main goal. I wanted to see which teams embraces the system and which ignored it, because both outcomes are interesting to the viewer. In typical dota 2 there is only 1 optimal strat, to find the best way to destroy the ancient. In Midas Mode there was a gameplay meta and a Midas Mode meta. “Do we make a lot of money but lose this match?” was one of my favorite questions teams began to ask themselves. Overall, I was very happy with the result.

Some teams focused on gaining a ton of money but lost, some teams spent all their money and still lost, some teams would do all the challenges before the game was over and some teams didn't do a single challenge on purpose. This gave the teams more of a personality in the tourney, and it was much more interesting. As for how specific players handle it? Some teams asked me for the specific market equations, and some asked me after their third game what a bounty was. (laughs)"

Zyori: "Some teams really embraced the bounties and others chose not to; it really varied from team to team."



Slacks on stream during Midas Mode
Malystryx: On about Day 4 or 5 some cracks started to appear when teams started to random heroes.

How did you handle that situation and what possible other solutions were there to the problem? Were you worried the format was about to crumble or had you prepared for it?


SUNSfan: "The randoming was a lot of fun at first, but definitely got old as it continued to happen. We had the market crash planned for quite a while, but had to institute some new rules to combat the mass randoming.

I personally wasn’t worried the format would crumble, as something this unique will always garner attention from the masses. It’s more about using this experience as a learning lesson to be able to make the proper changes for the future."

Slacks: "The random system was originally designed to help teams that ran out of cash, but dota pro players are specifically bred to find flaws in a system and exploit them. That's how dota 2 patches work after all. Naturally, them finding randoming and exploiting it was a fun development, but yeah we had to cut that shit pronto. All Random can be entertaining, but a lot of it comes to the luck of the draw and puts on some truly uninteresting matchups.

It would have been fine if the teams had played to completion on their bad random drafts, but these are pro players not pubbers and they know if their draft is terrible they have no chance at victory, so we saw many of the randoming teams just get effortlessly rekt. Due to this, we did need to develop a solution on the fly. Overall, I now know how Icefrog feels. You want to make players play one way, they find a weakness, and you need to tweak it. Lots of fun."

Zyori: "The 'all random' games started as a lot of fun, but lost their charm very quickly. It took some deliberation but realized that the incentive to random was much too high, and lowering the return helped quell the problem. It wasn’t a perfect solution but it brought some balance back to the mode. The stock market crash helped us reset things to a more level playing field as we got into the playoffs."



Malystryx: The bounty system was a great addition to spice things up. What were some of your favourite bounty memories and what was it like weeding through all the suggestions?


SUNSfan:" Poor poor Trent. That poor boy had the bounty weight on his shoulders for a majority of the event. The first couple days were pretty brutal as arguments amongst the internal team a aplenty. But once we narrowed down the team selecting the bounties, it got easier.

Unfortunately, a lot of the bounties were really really bad. There are a lot of things to take into account when creating a bounty. You somehow have to find a balance between the fun factor + ease of execution + pro’s incentive to actually complete them. All in all, some great ideas were weeded out, my two personal favorites being the Tree planting in base & Trivia night."

Zyori: "The 360 no scope attempts come to mind right away. The SUNSfan-bias’d trivia was also quite memorable. We really underestimated how much time/effort it would take to go through the daily threads and find the good ideas. Trent was the unsung hero that bolstered a lot of the bounty heavy lifting."

Slacks: "Picking bounties was a lot of fun, everyone here is just a grump. The community had some real wacky shit out there and combing through it finding the worst and the best was my favorite part of the event. My favorite bounty was one we never got to see, someone suggested both teams 1 v 1 mid at the beginning. Too hard to actually determine (if one ran away before they died, did it count? If someone killed someone else did it count) but just imagining 10 heros meeting up and making a fight club between PPD and RTZ made me smile."




Malystryx: Finally, ODPixel suggested Midas Mode could be Moonduck’s Summit. Thoughts?


SUNSfan: "I look at it from more of a broad spectrum. I think in the grand scheme of things, our bread and butter is doing unique content. Midas Mode is one example of that. The way that I view it is we’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what competitive Dota can be. It’s also our goal to bridge the gap between casual and competitive, as most Dota players still do not watch pro Dota at all. We started this with Captains Draft, then Elimination Mode, and now Midas Mode. It has always been my belief that tournaments such as this are very important for the scene as a whole."

Slacks: "Nothing can be the summit, the summit is the shit. I think midas mode can be midas mode, something that is interesting and focused on community interaction. It’s a beast of it’s own nature. As for moonduck having a stable yearly event, maybe I dunno. I need to forget how life destroying putting this event on was for me before I do it again. (laughs)"

Zyori: "In terms of events that are unique to our respective studios that deliver unique content, that seems to be an apt analogy; however, I think that fundamentally creating and balancing an entirely new game mode entails a lot of unique challenges other events don’t face."

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