It is fair to say that The International 6 will go down as one of the greatest esports tournaments ever. The venue was incredible, the production was some of the best we have ever seen and, of course, the in game action was on another level.
Wings may have come out as eventual winners but there were so many other stories that played out on the biggest stage of the year. DC’s incredible run, the rise of SEA Dota, the collapse of Team Secret and OG and Europe failing to make the top four yet again.
To guide both veteran fans and newcomers to Dota through the many stories of The International there was the stellar group of broadcast talent. Kevin “Purge” Godec provided in depth analysis with his weatherman segments, Chan “WinteR” Litt Binn, Dominik “Black^” Reitmeier and a ton of other analysts broke down the drafts in incredible detail and the likes of Owen “OD Pixel” Davies and Austin “Capitalist” Walsh provided the hype in game.
Bringing it all together was the main host of the event and veteran esports broadcaster Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner.
“It was amazing,” says Chaloner when recapping his experience Dota 2’s The International 6. “It was the single best event I have ever worked on, which says a lot I think, as I have done about 180 or 190 events. It was marvellous from many points of view, the people we worked with were amazing, honestly they were the best talent I have ever worked with and there was a lot of them as well, which always helps because it means we don’t have to push everyone to do every segment and every game.”
With years of esports broadcasting under his belt Chaloner has a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t more than most. Valve realised this and brought him in, not only to host the event itself but also work on some of the pre-event planning, in order to bring in some new ideas to the broadcast.
“I helped with some of the producing and directing of the show, which Valve asked me to do a couple of months ago, and they implemented all of the changes that I asked for, which was amazing,” says Chaloner. “I think that contributed a small amount to the success of the show which I am personally quite proud of, but I wouldn’t take credit for the success of the show.
“It was a lot of really original ideas from the creative people at Valve who got together to do some amazing things, like the puppets, and the AR was incredible and there was so much more.”
One of the biggest changes that Chaloner was at least somewhat responsible for was the mobile analyst desk. This saw Paul and his trusty analyst panel roam around the arena, and at times the wider Seattle area, showing off more of what The International has to offer.
This is rarely seen in esports, with most events having a single analysis desk location that remains the same throughout the event. But this new idea worked incredibly well during The International 6, and hopefully will be copied by other tournament organisers in the coming months.
“I didn’t think we would get up on the Space Needle but we did, which was kind of crazy,” recalls Chaloner when talking about his roaming desk. “We also did lots of stuff outside, in the venue, at the secret shop and in the VR tent as well as moving around the arena a lot. That gave people a much better idea of what the whole event is, what the venue is like and what it is like outside. It was just a better flavour all round.
“In previous years we have very much gone with the standard esports desk to caster back to the desk route, but we changed it up,” continued Chaloner. “Then the addition of Jake “SirActionSlacks” Kanner alongside Kaci Aitchison was the perfect foil for each other and having Purge’s segment with the weatherman was absolutely brilliant.”
This mobility combined with the different teams of broadcasters really helped make the down time in between matches entertaining. For perhaps the first time ever you felt as though you were missing out if you went to make a cup of tea in between games, and that came from the amount of content the team produced.
When the talent roster was first announced some questioned how Valve would manage to use all of them effectively, due to the sheer amount of people they had invited. But new segments such as the draft panel gave more personalities a chance to show off their skills, while adding to the broadcast at the same time.
“The show itself felt better I think, because we utilised people’s skills a lot better,” says Chaloner. “If you are an ex-player maybe you aren’t quite as charismatic as the guys like Pyrion or Shane or Sheever, but you didn’t have to fit into that panel, you could talk about the nerdy stuff like picks and bans and hero choice and itemisation. That is your strength and that is what they want to talk about, so we put those people on the draft panel.
“Likewise the personalities that much prefer to talk about the stories and explain the games and the tournament and like to have some fun, such as Sheever, Shane, Pyrion and Charlie, are much more comfortable on a panel where we could banter and have some fun.”
Of course there is only so much a top broadcast team can do for a tournament. If the actual matches themselves aren’t interesting people will quickly become bored and stop watching. Fortunately The International 6 delivered on that front as well, with a meta that was the most varied we have ever seen and many incredible plays from the pros. A ton of games for TI6 have gone down as instant classics, but for Paul one stood out from the rest.
“There were magical moments in many of the games, but the EG vs EHome game one will live with me forever as one of the greatest games I have ever personally watched of any eSport,” says Chaloner. “People talk to me about the xPeke backdoor, I was in the front row in Katowice when that happened and for me that is another one of those iconic esports moments, but game one of EG vs EHome is up there with that.”
With a combination of exceptional broadcasting, a game that was in its best state ever and all of the best players in the world competing, TI6 became what is perhaps the best esports tournament ever. While the grand final may not have been as exciting at TI3 and we may not have got a moment such as the $6 million Echo Slam, the event as a whole was simply outstanding.
“When you combine everything we have spoken about, and the $20 million prize money, the amazing crowd and fans and then a brilliant tournament, it’s hard to match that now,” says Chaloner.
“I spoke to Eric Johnson from Valve afterwards and he just said to me ‘that’s it, no more TIs because how do we beat that?” Obviously he is joking, I should point that out, but he is right in a way – how do we top that now? That’s the challenge, in 330 days time we have to do better. It’s going to be tough but we will see.”