I was going to write about my experience at The International 7 then thought against it. Not because I have nothing to say, on the contrary, I could not shut up about it given the opportunity, but because it goes without saying how appreciative I am for such an opportunity, just like any other person. To me, The International 7 is like my favourite soup – it fills me up with a warmth and satisfaction that cannot be measurably described, yet the feeling is straight-forward enough for anyone to comprehend. Nevertheless, as I sit on this flight back to Berlin, my mind could not quite let go of wanting to at least attempt to write about this event or at least how it brought to me a self-confidence I pretended I had during my teenage fucked-up years.
I was first working on The International three weeks prior to the start of the event. At the time, the work was mostly behind-the-scenes involving writing helpful strings for the newcomer stream. Purge, Valve and myself wrote about 1,400 strings combined. Skrff and Weppas did the ability movies and Valve wrote the broadcaster UI that tied it all together in an easy-to-use platform. You can see our two separate excel sheets of strings in the game files under the scripts folder: one is KG for Kevin (Purge) and the other is mine: TDL (Torte de Lini). It was a great collaborative project that is available and accessible to any tournament organizer (or user for that matter, just use the console commands to access it). I hope I get the opportunity to improve and expand on it as it is a good foundation to do more. It wasn’t until later that I received a message from Bruno about coming to the event itself. After getting ESforce’s permission to attend, I was flown out a day before the group-stages.
The city of Seattle is beautiful, a relatively modern-looking city surrounded by so much green, life and nature. Down the road is the river, followed by mountains wrapped beautifully in green and sunshine. Within the bustling streets are leaning skyscrapers, peering over as you find something new around each corner: restaurants, nightlife, winking luminous streetlights and laughter and fun ringing throughout the evening. I could see why living here was so expensive when life is so balanced with the youth of the city mixed with the remote natural privacy to escape from our daily worries.
From Berlin to Seattle, I finally arrived jet lagged and tired. The jetlag didn’t subside until my last days at the event. Overall, I would say the process to arriving and getting settled was pretty smooth – they had a hospitality desk that was around until the evening that answered all your questions (they were so lovely to talk to) and the catering was varied, mixed and usually delicious (I’m a picky eater, so don’t mind me). Everything was taken care of:
- WiFi? They gave you a portable hotspot that connected you to the internet no matter where you were.
- Stipend for food during off-days
- Laundry service every so often so you don’t have to wear any dirty clothes.
My work at The International 7 consisted of managing the Newcomer Stream with Gabe/Lyrical. If you’ve never met Lyrical, he’s an incredibly sweet and all-around great guy. He’s someone you’d have a beer with even if you don’t like beer (like me). I would define his work ethic as upstanding. During the group stages, my workload was small compared to the casters: it was merely practice for the newcomer stream where I got to know the broadcaster UI more intimately as well as Valve’s expectations and work. With testing, we set up common practices, protocols, fixed bugs and improved the UI so it made sense for the user. Working with Valve was as smooth as it can be. I was already working with a very talented person at Valve for awhile for some in-client stuff but working with new people in-person was a different beast. Naturally they were unsure of me, I was an unknown and I didn’t exactly advertise my event organization work (I worked as an event organizer and commentator during my years in StarCraft II). So they warned me A LOT about being discrete and to avoid XYZ common pitfalls – better safe than sorry. Since they saw me as being very active in the community, they were acting especially careful as they could not know my ability to be discrete. I’m not sure what they thought of my work during the event but I hope it met expectations though my return also depends on their decision regarding the newbie stream.
This was essentially my station. You can see the UI on the right, two TVs in the center to display what the stream looks like with and without the newcomer toasts integration and my Surface Book for everything else I needed. In the middle are Rice Krispies because we don’t have those in Europe and they’re addicting to eat. I also ate a shitton of Airheads – pure sugar.
On a day-to-day basis, hanging out with the commentators was a lot of fun. Day  is exactly like when I met him 5 years ago (NASL Season 3 Finals), it’s incredible. He was charming, hilarious, relaxed and loose. He made everyone around him so at-ease and it’s almost too painful that we can’t be closer as friends. Machine is similar, incredibly charismatic and smooth like Jazz. I’ve run into him already 4-5 times at different events due to my work in CS:GO and every time, he’s just an awesome guy. This paragraph is going to turn into how I met and loved everyone so I’ll just say that it was a huge enjoyment to be around everyone. Even meeting Bruno for the first time was fantastic (though next time I’ll try not to fuck up playing a very simple board game…). Another strange moment was playing the game, Love Letter (?), with Pajkatt and Matumbaman a day AFTER TeamLiquid had won The International 7. Chill guy, he didn’t seem like he changed at all. It’s fascinating that no matter how much money these players win, they seem all the same – maybe a bit more confident or at-ease but all-around the same. I connected with Ioannis (Fogged) and his girlfriend, Ben (Merlini) and his girlfriend (Grace), Ted (PyrionFlax), Tobi (who enjoys some classic songs that I like), Owen and Sheever, Synderen (thanks for showing me Gwent) and Austin (Cap) and his girlfriend (Ellie) and so many more people. I got to meet most of the Moonduck guys and even GrandGrant briefly. I even met some fellow Quebecois and got to practice my franglais which is a rare treat. I think people already know of my adoration for Jake/Slacks. To me, he represents everything fun not just in Dota 2 – but playing with fellow gaming buddies. He’s genuine, authentic but for all his passion in Dota, there is an untold amount of effort that goes into not only making himself seem shamelessly comedic, but also in the stuff he produces which is chock-full of inside jokes, knowledge and fanaticism for the game we all love. He represents everything we love about Dota 2 but expressed in a way that we can all smile and enjoy.
I had already seen the stage previously, but it was a different feeling being so close to the players, the audience and the action.
I used The International 7 to try and create a better dimension of myself. I tried to be a bit more outward, self-confident and comfortable taking pictures. It’s the reason why I took so many selfies with fellow community members, as practice, smiling and showing my face in public. In turn, I learned a lot about myself during this event, I learned to reduce the self-depreciating jokes as it was an obvious social signal to determine if someone tolerated me (as it often had averse effects), I learned to do my own thing instead of trying to be a tag-along to friendships that were already established and I focused on doing a good job – in whatever capacity that was. Being invited and attending The International 7 was a revelation to me. It made the praise I received online into a reality as people stopped to tell me how much they enjoyed my work. No one knows who I am or what I do for work or what kind of person I am and yet they already liked me for what I did. What more could I ask for? I didn’t have to risk showing my awkward personality (a projection of my insecurity) to get the approval from my peers. When I first started getting mentions for my Hero Builds, I told myself unhappily that no one cares who I am, just what I do. That sentiment remains, but my outlook is more positive – that what I do reaches enough people without having to put myself out there. As I read some of the criticism talent received before and throughout the event, I realized that I had it easy – the worst I would get is always in view of my guides, never about how I am as a person, just the quality of my project (which can always be improved). When it went public that I was invited to The International 7 – I got so much inquiries about what I did to ‘deserve’ an invite. Those kinds of questions put a person in an awkward situation. It’s not their place to answer and it’s not your place to ask them. Not because it’s not within your right to question decision-making, it’s just directed at someone who didn’t make the decision in the first place. For me, it’s not “why” I got an invite but rather “how” can I redeem their decision, with all its risks and rewards. Hopefully I answered that question and if there are future iterations of a newbie stream (or otherwise), that I can still provide help, in whatever form that is.
Loved the idea of being able to watch the event even if you didn’t have a ticket. So many people came out on this beautiful sunny day and got to check out Dota 2. As a kid, this would have been a dream come true and if I ever have this kind of throw-away money in a lifetime, I would 100% do this for an event.
During the main event, I had a lot of free time to walk around and meet people. Valve ensured that our workload was not too strenuous as I often alternated with Lyrical between each set. The challenge in the Newcomer stream was that it was not coordinated with the main stream in that you had to focus heavily on everything in the game, commentators AND broadcast. If the broadcast showed a player’s came at the top-right corner, we had to dismiss whatever toast we were showing. The only issue is that we had no idea what the broadcast was doing so we had to ‘sense’ when/if it would come. If the commentators spoke about an item, you had to search and execute the prompt in-time so it made sense, otherwise it would be a missed timing. Lastly, we had to heavily interpret each moment in a match to determine which item or ability would best suit the questions new viewers may have. It was draining as you were constantly thinking back to which item/ability would be best for the moment and which text out of 1,400 strings would be worded exactly as you wanted (and sometimes it wasn’t, so you had to make do with what you had).
Meeting so many people who loved my work was such a joy and will always be a reminder for who I am doing these guides for (besides to improve my own playstyle).
To me, there’s two chapters of my life: life as a fuck-up and life in esports. The first chapter was filled with misery, manipulation, casual racism, suppressed expression and projected self-hate. From having a forced catch-phase be “Ta yeule, negre!” to “thank you for your work” is a massive step that took a decade+ to reach. People think I do the hero builds as a charity but in actuality I’ve always been dependent on the guides as a reminding bedrock that as long as I remain disciplined and consistent, I’ll find some form of personal quiet success. The guides are among my first step in this current chapter of my life. It meant a lot to me when several Valve employees literally stopped me to say how much they enjoyed my work and how they even recommended it to their family and friends to get them into Dota 2. The very makers of this event and of this game, were trusting me to help them further enjoy the game. One time, I was at their office and I saw some play-testing Dota 2 on one screen – with my guide opened on the second montior. That was too wild for me!
In the coming months, I’m going to try and stream, purely for practice, to be more expressive and articulate rather than shy and insecure. I’m pretty average at Dota 2 so that goal to be more expressive will be even more emphasized. My friends at Twitch (thanks Raphael and Conrad) is getting me set up with whatever’s necessary to do this (https://www.twitch.tv/tortedelini) and after 11 months without a proper PC, I’m finally buying a beast of a machine (thanks Pimpmuckl). I still have no goals for the Hero Builds Project, it’ll always be a passion-project of mine but the recent influx of publicity has lead me to thinking more ambitiously for the future. For now, I’m working/trying to figure out how to use a Discord channel (https://discord.gg/UMGHSXQ) to be able to coordinate times where I can play with people as well as a dedicated website for Dota 2 Hero Builds and Artifact as well. In the coming months, I’ll be traveling a fair bit: Paris for the LCS EU Finals (Sep.), Moscow for work (Sep.) then Montreal (Sep.) then October events like ESL One: Hamburg but I’m hoping to have a semblance of a schedule to do everything I want to do.
End of the final day – I smile for the camera but saddened I may not get to experience this again. Here’s hoping future experiences come close to shadowing this one.
All in all, great event, unforgettable experience. Glad I got to meet so many fellow community members at the event and I hope to meet even more of you throughout.