Valve's Dota2 Shanghai Major woes continue at the main event

After a remarkable group stages for all the wrong reasons Valve's flagship Major series of Dota 2 tournaments has run into further delays and production issues. In an opening gambit last week, Majors host James "2GD" Harding made a series of jokes about disabled pornography and Chinese government censorship leading eventually to his firing. Gabe Newell, Valve's famously reclusive co-founder, appeared on the Dota 2 subreddit in order to explain that Harding would not be returning to hosting duties, proclaiming "James is an ass, and we won't be working with him again." Today the main event got to a stuttering start as the official English language stream suffered massive bandwidth issues leading to broadcast lag, making the opening ceremony almost unwatchable. The ceremony itself, for what was visible on Chinese streams, was an almost comical event, as the spotlight to highlight teams sitting in their booths in the stand as they were announced highlighted empty seats with a flag draped above them.




The Shanghai Major has quickly gone from being one of the most exciting events in eSports to one of its biggest disasters. Concerns for player safety, poor living conditions, compromised play and a bad viewer experience has turned a jewel in Valve's crown into a piece of coal. There is no excuse for it. The normally standoff-ish Valve made unprecedented moves last week by publicly firing the host of the tournament, James "2GD" Harding after he opened the English broadcast by using the word "cunts," and making an awkward and inappropriate joke about masturbation during the stream. In addition, Valve boss Gabe Newell announced that production team KeyTV responsible for the English broadcast would be fired and replaced. It was a much-needed and welcome sign of a more hands-on approach from Valve to make Dota more professional, but this was just the tip of the iceberg. Main event play began on Tuesday and immediately more problems presented themselves. Players complained about sound-proof booths being not-so-soundproof, which could compromise competition. Reported laundry bills for team facilities are in excess of $500 a day, and there is no access to private WiFi -- with players relying on shared, potentially unsecure connections.According to Kyle "swindlemelonzz" Freedman, a player on American side CompLexity, said the opening ceremony fluctuated between being mandatory for players, to then an optional commitment, to apparently cancelled within around 3 hours notice. Though he still turned up to the ceremony, Freedman says miscommunication among event staff meant he was almost not allowed to take his seat. "For the opening I got directed to an elevator, and then the guy working it didnt want to let me out on our floor," Freedman tweeted. "He tried to stop me." The teams can also hear the in-arena Chinese broadcasters while in their booths, which are usually soundproofed at major events like ESL One, last year's Frankfurt Major (organised by ESL) and The International. In an attempt to combat this, the action on screen is delayed by 5 minutes to prevent Chinese teams from being able to overhear critical information that could give them an edge. Further issues with broadcast bandwidth took the stream offline completely after a severely delayed first match between Alliance and MVP, eventually returning a full 5 hours behind the first day's schedule. Along with his extremely public firing of James Harding last week, Newell insisted the production company, KeyTV, would also be relieved of their duty and another company flown in and instated during the interim between the group stages and main event. KeyTV are the same production company responsible for last year's Nanyang Championships which also suffered a myriad of problems. The tournament had no main stage for teams to play on and Alliance player Gustav "S4" Magnusson was almost hospitalised with a fever before they won the tournament with one of their number under a blanket. The Majors were originally conceived of a way to offer high quality tournaments regularly throughout the year to lend stability to an often turbulent pro scene at higher levels. This Shanghai event, so far, has highlighted the distance which Valve has still to go on several fronts of event management and public relations, while lending further credence against Chinese production values.
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