INTERVIEW: coL.DotA, Pre-The International 2

BY Andrew Miesner / August 15, 2012

compLexity DotA: Getting Ready for The International 2

The entire compLexity DotA team has been in Lynnwood, WA for almost a week. They have been bootcamping at the GameClucks LAN center from sunset to sundown each and every day, getting ready for the biggest DotA event of ever: Valve’s The International 2. TI2 will feature the top sixteen Dota 2 teams in the world and has a total prize pool of $1.6 million. It will take place in Seattle, WA from August 31st to September 2nd. We sat down with a few members of coL.DotA to talk about TI2, the overall NA scene, and of course, the game itself.

With The International 2 looming, how do you feel preparations are going for the team?

Brian “FLUFFNSTUFF” Lee: Preparations have been in effect for many weeks now. Our team has been practicing long and hard hours to improve our gameplay and strategy. Moving into the bootcamp we have been able to continue with our methods, while adding in more routines that we couldn’t do online.

Tyler “TC” Cook: We have had a bit of a slow week right before we travel to Seattle, but overall preparations are going well.

Michael “ixmike88” Ghannam: I think preparations are going well, we start scrimming very early in the morning each day and our results in practice are quite stable.

There are many reports of other teams currently bootcamping or planning to bootcamp, how does compLexity stand in that regard?coL.DotA at GameClucks

FLUFF: We started bootcamping on August 9th in Seattle. In this time, we feel like we’ll be able to prepare without any limitations.

TC: We’ve been bootcamping at the GameClucks LAN center. We had a few tournament matches as soon we got here that have given us some experience competing together in a tournament in a LAN setting before TI2.

ixmike88: Personally two weeks is not as long as I would have liked, but I think it will be enough time to be prepared for the event.

Dota 2 is currently an ever-evolving game with new heroes introduced on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. How do you feel about this style of updates, and a rapidly evolving metagame?

FLUFF: Dota 2 is just porting in established heroes from the original DotA at the moment. I feel that the slow introduction of heroes has given teams the opportunities to look closely at heroes they may have overlooked in the original game. Already we have seen more tournament-played heroes, from the pool, than ever before in DotA 1.

TC: This style is necessary in order to get Dota 2’s hero pool up to date, while keeping the game fresh. The addition of just a couple relevant heroes can have a significant effect on the metagame. Even just recently with the addition of Naga Siren, teams are required to adapt during the draft or come up with new ways to deal with heroes. Currently many teams deal with the addition of Naga by choosing to ban her, as she is very powerful.

ixmike88: I like this style a lot, it doesn’t allow the game to get stale and always keeps you thinking about how to use and counter the newest heroes. At the same time, it can be very frustrating losing a lot of games to something you haven’t figured out how to deal with yet.

ESWC announced that their North American Championship will be at PAX Prime also in Seattle, taking place during The International 2. How do you think this affects the teams involved?

FLUFF: It hasn’t been made very clear how we will be able to participate in overlapping events, but I hope that Valve can work with ESWC to make this as painless on the players as possible. We would, of course, like to participate, but TI2 will be our priority no matter what.

TC: If the time overlaps directly with TI2, but obviously TI2 obviously comes first. It would be nice to be able to compete in both events, but it will be difficult due to the timing of the events.

ixmike88: I think this is a very poor decision by ESWC for both viewership and competition. Both coL and EG are still planning on competing in ESWC, but we will have to see about the scheduling conflicts. On the other hand, it would be nice to meet some of the other American teams who will also be in Seattle for ESWC.

The International 2 will be the first major LAN for the team, is this something that worries you?

FLUFF: We’ve been a team for such a long time and I feel that we know enough about each other to transition into an offline interaction. I don’t know what kinds of challenges await us on LAN, but I don’t feel very worried. We’ll just play our game and prepare ourselves as best we can.

TC: Hopefully with our bootcamp starting relatively early, we will be able to adjust to playing in a LAN setting. There is an incredible amount of pressure with the large prize pool of the tournament, but being a bit of an underdog in the event does relieve some of the pressure.

ixmike88: It’s something that we all keep in the back of our minds, but we can’t let it affect us.

In your opinion, what is it that makes a DotA team truly remarkable?

FLUFF: A DotA team requires a huge amount of dedication and collaboration. Not only do DotA players need to maintain top mechanical form, but they also need to act as a unit. The quote, “You’re only as good as your weakest player” is entirely true in the realm of DotA. Aside from all of this, I think that the most important factor in determining a remarkable DotA team is stability. I believe that every DotA team goes through massive amounts of grief and frustration paired with certain doubts. Many teams will crumble around the time that they begin to experience turbulence of any kind. The best teams will make it through the storms of emotions and come out a better team for it.coL.DotA training at GameClucks

TC: What’s really impressive is when a team is able to analyze their own mistakes in a game properly. Not just blaming a loss on random things, but really looking at how to improve. All teams have their high points and low points, but the best are able to bounce back quickly after a slump.

ixmike88: I think the most important factor to a successful DotA team is a lack of egos. A lot of teams will flame each other (often in private) and get very upset and impatient when results are not going their way, but the best teams will overcome this through communication instead of trying to quick-fix the situation through player replacements.

What do you think is the largest benefit of offline practice in a bootcamp environment compared to online scrimming?

FLUFF:  For me, it will be the ability to violently wake my teammates up for practice. Getting five players to wake up early in the morning is a difficult process, although we’ve been good about it. From a training standpoint, I would say that offline practice will offer us a couple new options. For example, we will be able to watch replays together through a centralized point of view. This will allow us to streamline the process a lot more and learn from our mistakes in the most efficient way possible.

TC: Being able to watch how your teammates play and see common mistakes they might make in order to correct them, as well as being able to study replays as a team to see how we can improve and how the other teams play.

ixmike88: I think the largest benefit for us will be the experience of playing in a LAN environment together, and getting to know each other. In general, the best part about bootcamps is the fact that there are no outside distractions which will often take away from your focus when you’re at home.

The North American DotA scene is considered one of the weakest scenes in the world, do you think this is a large detriment to you and do you have difficulties finding good domestic practice partners?

FLUFF:  The North American DotA scene was facing a crisis of sorts for many years. Early on in the process, we had a lot of trouble finding scrims. Even if we had dedicated 5-8 hours of time to practice, we were never sure if we’d get more than two games on average. The way that it affected our team is that we always had to build our schedules around Europeans. We often times had to play on Europe servers which affected our precision, due to lag. However, we were well aware of the heavy benefits of practicing with strong European teams. Now, we regularly wake up at 8 AM in order to play at peak Euro times. There are many more options nowadays, but Europeans still offer the best practice.

coL.DotA training at GameClucks

TC: NA DotA has always had strong players, but many teams were unable to stick together for long periods of time. As soon as things inevitably got rough, teams would just disband or replace players instead of trying to work through issues in their play. It usually isn’t too hard to find an American scrim vs EG or Quantic, but most teams practice in the mornings, during typical American times people would rather MM, IH, or do something else after playing all morning.

ixmike88: It is difficult to find good domestic practice partners which have resulted in our team adjusting our schedules to accommodate for Europeans, since there aren’t very many American teams to play. However, I do not think this is a large detriment to us since waking up relatively early is not a big problem for us and also that our main competition in tournaments are Europeans anyway.

Do you think there is a chance to see the North American DotA scene grow larger any time soon? What do you think would be necessary for that?

FLUFF:  In an interview with GosuGamers earlier this year, I talked a little bit about my predictions for the NA DotA scene. It seems that players in our community are finally taking steps towards competitive DotA. I often advocate the necessity for patience for long-term success. I believe that NA DotA players need to just stick together through thick and thin. Teams often times disband or recruit new members at the slightest hint of mild distress. Time can do wonders and I really hope that up and coming players understand this principle.

TC: I think in order for the scene to grow in a significant way, Dota 2 would have to be released so that the playerbase could expand. An increase in North American tournaments/prize pools could also entice more people to play competitively.

ixmike88: I do think that the North American scene will get larger; after all, 4 of the top 9 rated teams are Americans! Popularity and publicity are necessary for the DotA scene to grow in North America. DotA 1 was very closeted and unheard of to a lot of gamers, but if there is support from event organizers like MLG, WCG, ESWC, and other international events it will gain popularity very quickly.

What drives you to compete in DotA at the highest level? It is a very old game that has been thoroughly explored, do you still derive enjoyment from finding previously unknown things? 

FLUFF:  I’m really passionate about DotA. I love the nature of the game and how it constantly changes. I love the small intricacies and nuances that separate great players from good players. Most of all, I enjoy the competition. I am driven by the idea that anything is possible and that everything can be counteracted. The game is constantly being innovated in ways that no one thought possible years ago. DotA has never had any time to shine in the eSports world and I’m so happy that Dota 2 will finally get the recognition it deserves.coL.DotA at GameClucks

TC: DotA is appealing to me because of the vast number of possibilites with all of the heroes and items. What drives me to play competitively is the desire to win, even in more casual games I always try to play my best. Although it is an old game, the way Dota 2 has evolved in terms of hero drafts is very different from DotA 1 because of the order in which heroes were added. Many teams and players are open to experimenting with less common heroes and item builds and it’s always interesting to see how they work out.

ixmike88: My love for DotA is my motivation for competing. The prize pool and hype of TI2 are exciting, but even if it was worth only $10,000, I would train equally as hard. Even with all of the exploration and findings, there is always something to be learned. One of my favorite examples is Warlock’s Upheavel, which went completely unused and untouched since the creation of the hero for about 2-3 years, however around map version 6.64, people discovered how powerful the spell really is, which was immediately responded by IceFrog with a cooldown nerf. Even in a more general sense, you could always look back a year from any point in time and see how primitive everyone’s game knowledge is just a year earlier. Fundamentals such as pulls and maintaining creep equilibrium are unheard of just a few years ago, but they are things that you will see in pub games now.

Lastly, thanks for the interview, any shoutouts you want to give?

FLUFF:  On behalf of my team, I just want to thank the compLexity Gaming organization and the GameClucks LAN center for letting us bootcamp here. Also huge thanks to all the compLexity sponsors: SoundBlaster, Gamma Gamers, QPAD, PNY, Creative, and Origin.