Torte De Lini

A Sociocultural Analysis of Gaming and eSports
Torte De Lini

Torte De Lini

Competition Shift: The Live-Streaming War

In 2010, the emerging of the esports market lead to an interesting power struggle of branding in terms of player and team representation. Comparison of a player’s value was upon who would bid the highest and which teams had the most authentic sponsors; legitimizing their brand. As new games emerged such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike and Dota 2, it became clear which team brands withstood the test of time. Similarly, tournament brands also competed throughout the years for top-tier player attendance, sometimes overlapping with one another in scheduling and fighting for the best reputation in terms of prize-pool, accommodations and consistent quality production.

Now it is the turn of live-streaming companies to compete. With the international circuit becoming consistent in scheduling and player and team brands establishing presence, content-value is improving. As Twitch starts to wrap up their exclusive contract with ESL in 2016; new live-streaming platforms such as YouTube Gaming, Azubu and Hitbox will be looking to bolster their audience numbers through these competitions. An open war is starting – to win an ever-growing audience in gaming and esports – but only the service that incentivizes both the viewer and empowers the broadcaster can outclass their adversaries.

Winning an audience and broadcasters is beholden to one key area: features/exclusive incentives. This is what sets traditional television, and its divide between content and passive viewers, different from live-streaming – which has a more active audience who can become your content (broadcasters). Incentives not only create reasons for communities to visit a platform, but a justification to return, despite alternatives readily available. With Twitch being the early bird into this market, their ‘incentives’ has become their core service: a unique community culture (Twitch chat/TwitchCon) and broadcasters (LIRIK, summit1g); distinctive brands that bring in tens of thousands of viewers monthly. Since then, they’ve continue to build features and opportunities that achieve two areas: to create a viewer’s customized experience and enable their broadcasters to a personalized production.


On top of homegrown popular broadcasters on their platform, Twitch also hires many front-facing talent from games like Hearthstone (Dan “Frodan” Chou), StarCraft (Sue “Smix” Lee) and Street Fighter (Mike “Honda4Life” Ross) to serve as relation pillars for their largest esports titles and for events or in-house segments with key partners (from launch events to weekly discussions)

(see the article: Community Engagement: Identify Yourself for further detail on Twitch’s ability to rapidly establish a trusting identity per a game’s community base)

Platforms purchasing exclusive streaming rights of teams are creating initial reasons to visit a platform but not the necessary tools to retain their audience. In essence, they create a passive, divested audience that are not a part of a platform’s community, but a following borrowed from the signed professional team. A live-streaming company can continue purchasing exclusive rights to bolster their initial numbers, creating a forced viewership, but that cost will rise each year with marginal results and few converting into organic broadcasters. As the event calendar for 2016 starts filling up, the gaming and esports scene will start to see those same initial reasons to visit live-streaming websites, as events, ranging from all ESL esports events to traditional gaming conventions, start to become simulcasted. It will be up to those companies to find innovative ways to retain that audience. For example, in June 2015, Twitch allowed all broadcasters and users to ‘co-stream’ the event; bringing more eyes to the event, but customized for the viewer (meshing the E3 brand with their favourite personality) and the broadcaster who could supply their own graphics and commentary to it. Alternatively, Hitbox had an exclusive AMA with their sponsored team, OG, who had just recently won a Valve-sponsored Dota 2 Major in Frankfurt, Germany. Although the Frankfurt major was not live-streamed on Hitbox, they meshed their brand with a sponsored team, bridging a borrowed following of a professional team to their site.


Another example is where Azubu tapped into those with limited internet connections by providing audio-only broadcasts to reduce bandwidth usage. This allowed users to still enjoy some of their favourite content without necessarily depleting their data plan.

The importance of being able to grow and engage your audience is crucial for companies, especially when talking to advertisers. Having returning individual broadcasters and levels of viewership means winning your third party: advertisers. With large corporations jumping into esports, from FanDuel to Turner Broadcasting to ESPN, advertisers are cluing in on this new, soon-not niche market. As the big names clue in, everyone holds out; hoping for their big break, akin to Twitch TV, or to maintain territory, notably YouTube Gaming (and YouTube Music). Despite the amount of money raised from these companies, including Hitbox’s new funding round from Wargaming or Azubu’s new debt-financing of 59 million from Sapinda, competitors need to consider how best to distinguish themselves from each other. Hitbox, for example, expanded their revenue share program to all live-streamers whereas Azubu opted for customizable modules to better personalize a user’s channel with key information – both companies empower or incentivize the broadcaster, but don’t do enough for the viewer. This is where they consider exclusive programming as a bid to attract viewers. But exclusive programming should be considered a compliment (not a complement) to your product. That is to say, it is better to use exclusive programming, whether it is an event or individual talent, to showcase what your product has to offer. For example, Azubu used a featured called “Live Overlay Statistics” during their LCS World’s broadcast, an event that was on both Twitch, Youtube Gaming and Azubu. The response about it were positive, highlighting Azubu’s uniqueness and even spurring discovery of its other great feature: “Live Rewind”. This kind of momentum can lead a platform to stride past its competitors, so long as they keep the momentum up. That momentum can be in the form of any opportunity: showmatches, Q&A with a developer for a game launched (either indie or AAA), exclusive surrounding content of an event or receiving item drops from watching an epic play if you join your game account with your broadcasting account. It’s a question of leveraging your relationships with other company entities and providing something unique for a curious audience. These incentive-based invitations need to be unique, but also consistent to remind an audience. What can a platform do to better fulfill a viewer’s desire to be there, whether playing a game or attending an event? What can a live-streaming service facilitate to broadcasters so they can be a part of this moment?

Taking advantage of what makes live-streaming unique: being immediate and thus enabling engagement between broadcaster and viewer – empowering both – will lead a platform above others and ultimately win the streaming war. As esports and gaming moulds itself as content to play and watch, the platforms to establish themselves as networks will become the default places for gaming entertainment.

2 Years, 100 million: Dota Builds Project Overview

This is a continuation of last year’s article: “1 year, 40 million: Dota Builds Project Overview”

It’s been two years, well, actually two and a half year as this project started by in February 2013. But the project has been collecting data of its growth since October 2013. A lot has changed since the 40 million mark/1-year anniversary and where we are today. Growth has skyrocketed, my understanding of the game has expanded but my time has also shriveled; straining updates and ability to stay on top of changes.


For those new to some of Valve’s Dota 2 features, back in February of 2013, Valve announced a feature called Hero Builds: guides that can be accessed directly in-game and during a match, you are suggested what items to buy and what skills to level. For each selected hero, you were given explanatory prompts that made learning a hero or the game incredibly easy, accessible directly during matches without pausing or needing another window open. Overall, it was a part of Valve’s approach towards approaching Dota 2 easier alongside their other features, such as coaching and their tutorial.

Today, we celebrate reaching over 100 million subscriptions across 145 guides (101,613,471 as of October 14th, 2015) and a full of year of statistics to inspect and analyze.



As a summary for this portion, we’re still growing. In fact, consistently 4 million a month since Late-May 2014 (19 months consecutively). Total number of Hero builds have remained smaller in expansion (5 new hero builds compared to 34 of 2013 to 2014). Reasons for this will be explained further.


After the initial growth to Oct. 2013, there has been a steady growth rate throughout each month of 4 to 5 million new subscriptions a month. Individual guides hitting 1 million unique have skyrocketed in 2015


Not including the 5 new hero builds planned (Arc Warden and Pit Lord minimum), we’re expecting an additional 109 million (2.1 million minimum unique) new subscriptions in the next coming full year (210 million total). It is assumed that Valve intends to implement a more robust guide system, potentially expanding the subscribing userbase (estimated currently at 1 to 2.7 million depending on the hero).

As opposed to last year, fluctuation of new subscribers is relatively unchanged regardless of a new patch release or a major event. Monthly growth has not risen beyond 5 million or dipping below 4 million. Largest growth seen is when a new hero is released such as TechiesWinter Wyvern or Oracle. What is more remarkable is both the average subscription number per hero build has risen from 300,000 to 700,000 – further emphasizing consistent growth for the past year.


The average number of subscribers has shifted from being around 300,000 to now 700,000 in a year’s time.


In addition, specific hero builds hitting their own unique 1 million active subscriber base underlines that consistent growth across the board; heightening the average and displaying a regular consistent group of users relying on all builds within the project; not just one in particular. From 2014 to 2015, over 23 new hero builds have hit 1 million unique subscribers; something unseen from 2013 to 2014 (only 1 hero build has reached its million unique). 14 more hero builds are looking to hit 1 million before the end of 2015, bringing the total to 28.

Without accounting for any future hero builds, we can hope for over 200 million total subscriptions; about double of this year’s current total.


That consistent growth is met across the board, but at a slower pace as the leading competitors: Greyshark, Purge and eXplosion still show signs of doubling their user-base. This is both a good thing and an issue as these hero build creators have not updated their builds (with the exception of Greyshark, who continues to just create new guides) since 2014 at the latest. This is an inherent flaw with the system that neither rewards nor punishes users for not creating/updating their Hero Builds. Another flaw with the system is that it still promotes guides that were ’early enough to get the worm’, deterring new guide creators from putting in the effort to support their work (since it may never receive enough exposure/ratings to be integrated within the Dota 2 client).

On the subject of ratings, user ratings have been marginally on the decline from 30% last year to 27% this year (despite the average nearly doubling from 99,000 to 200,000).


Both eXplosion and Purge are inactive, however Greyshark has recently restarted in creating new builds, never updating his old ones. His growth has matched our own.




When I first started this project, it was both for educational purposes and frustration with the current player base. 7 years ago, I relied heavily on the PlayDotA Guides to break into the scene and now the project is taking that mantle and ensuring a consistency that is reliable; as reliant as I was to the PlayDotA community then.


It remains a strong motivator to read past and new comments about how the project has helped people get into the game, Dota 2.


As of late, it has been difficult to find time to keep up with all that is changing with the game and how it affects heroes both coming into each new meta and those who get left behind. With my career still taking a good portion of my time (incl. travel and day-to-day expectations), the guides have taken a backseat unfortunately. Thankfully, there are still proactive members in the community giving me feedback and reminding me when things are becoming dated or flat-out wrong, but the changes and initiative is still spear-headed myself; both due to how hero builds can only be changed by the original author, but also a lack of consistent help to share the workload.

In terms of challenges, it remains the same. Valve’s lack of attention to key bugs within the guides makes updating them a real chore. From having to publish and confirm each hero build individually, to having specific guides completely bug out, making them impossible to fix (e.g Beastmaster, until a user created a script to correct it thankfully). I have been trying to keep this dev.dota bug report up for visibility for the past five months (with issues dating as far back as Feb. 2013) but Valve’s inattentiveness to the system continues to bog down following-through on interest (for both current guide creators as well as new ones).

In terms of work load, the hero builds have expanded to the point of it consuming either my evenings or mornings. To break it down:

  • Daily: 2-3 hours for feedback collection, evaluations, application and, if possible, testing.

  • Weekly: 28-35 hours demanded if a crucial part of the project becomes dated: for example, updating hero text for all heroes/items/abilities, approximately: 188,500 words to be rewritten in a month).

  • Patch Release: 9 to 24 hours (within two days) depending on its size, the work ranges in a two-day period, with the following two weeks’ time reaching up to 28 to 35 hours as the meta rolls out and standardizes.


Time constraints remains a challenge in my life since 2014 and also a reason why the system keeps the “Lane/Jungle/Middle” categorization to reduce the number of builds created. I am also hard-capping the number of hero builds under my account to 150 to avoid being overwhelmed.



Last year, we underlined expectations from our targeted audience ranging from “trusting and appreciating their ability for choice” to “mixing popular playstyles into expected builds”. The project has expanded on that and has incorporated key polices to ensure consistency in quality and direction. They aren’t necessarily rules in that there is as much flexibility and consideration in them as the heroes’ playstyle themselves. Overall, I try to maintain and execute them when receiving conflicting feedback that needs a definitive direction.



  1. General descriptions must outline a hero’s role/strengths and one line for their weakness.


  1. Tooltips are currently being updated to almost always include a “cheat-sheet” in the ability’s pop-up textbox to help players learn how to be effective with a hero.



  1. Tooltips avoid repeating anything written from the item itself and aims more to explain the overall goal of purchasing X/Y item or ability.



Skill and Item Builds:

  1. Initially, hero skill builds were accounted for how difficult a hero was played, thus their skill build would be leveled in a way that was easier to understand or execute for the hero (Storm Spirit, Meepo, Invoker). That’s been changed to how a hero is just traditionally played instead of the best entryway to play a hero. The balance between deciding what new subscribers wanted and what purposes the hero build were for made this an especially difficult decision.


  1. Different tabs of an item build have different purposes and order:
    • Early Game and Core Items are placed in sequential order of purchase.
    • Situational Items are items intended to be bought before, during or after the Core Items sequence.
    • Situational and Extension Items are ordered by cost and not by priority due to too much difference in opinion and fluctuation in how fluctuating matches end up being. Users are to read Extension Items as choices depending on what’s needed.
    • The Luxury Items tab seldom appears in a guide, only when a hero is especially diverse late-game and there is a dual-stage priority in the items suggested.


  1. ‘Safety items’ are always promoted (Stout Shield [for melee heroes], Black King Bar and Magic Wand). This is due to the common issue of players often skipping smaller items to go for their Core. It’s important to instill good practices when choosing which items to purchase.



  1. All hero builds are built under the assumption that the player is doing well (and if not, an item in the Situational Tab should alleviate initial challenges faced). The assumption is based on confidence and reassurance that the player is playing more comfortably thanks to relying on a guide as well as the instructions concisely written out both in the order of item-purchase sequence as well as the helpful text that pops up.
  1. Dual builds that was promoted last year, have nearly all been removed and a singular build has been kept in-place.
  1. All hero builds are updated immediately within 48 hours of a patch released despite the patch going relatively untested throughout the public. The reason for this is two-fold:
    • I want to remain consistent in being prompt with updates.
    • I want to avoid users going to other highly-rated builds when there is no guarantee the build creator accepts outside feedback nor may continuously update their builds as the patch further evolves.
  1. In that same vein, I create guides for newly-released heroes that can be played in multiple positions, despite only one being traditionally played. This is a question of covering all my bases to avoid losing
  1. If a hero build is in a position that is no longer played or is suboptimal, we either repurpose the build, swap it with what is currently being played or simply delete it. Examples of this include:

Some guides are maintained despite being dated in terms of playstyle (Ancient Apparition – Middle). A reason very few guides are removed, despite low numbers or being suboptimal in the current meta, is because it is difficult for newer guides created to gain any ratings, thus will not be found in-game. For example, the Leshrac – Middle guide has been around since late September 2014, but did not gain popularity until June 2015. That’s a challenge with the system and removing a guide only to have it be potentially played in the future makes deleting, then returning, guides an annoying process.

Another example is the Lifestealer – Lane guide which has been around since February 2014, but has not remotely reached popularity of its Jungle counterpart (230,000 to 1,600,000 respectively). We have not swapped the two builds because their difference in numbers is far too great and may alienate subscribing players. A final policy I try to ensure is not to force players in telling them what is the ideal way of playing a hero, but redirect them to the most suited. For some previous hero builds, it was simply unplayable or contrary to how a hero is played (e.g. Legion Commander – Jungle), for others; it is just a question of preference (both for the player and his matched teammates).



As always, the project remains a prideful part of me. No matter my situation in life, I think about this project every day and it fills me with a satisfaction that I’ve completed something and followed-through with it. This initiative started small and ambitious, but has now exploded as a beacon of trust and reference for newer players. Whether it was meeting professional players who recognized and commended my work (which was a huge boost of confidence) or day-to-day talks with public players who reach out to help in any way possible, it feels good to remain an integral part of the community and a direct contributor to a game that’s been with me through some real alienating parts of my life.

Pro Gamer using Guides

Arteezy trying out Hero Builds for the first time to play Pudge. He did not like the distraction of ability icons flashing when leveling up


Of course, this project would not have succeeded with as much reverence without the knowledge and feedback from these users and more (if you have made a suggestion in the past and did not receive credit, please let me know). These users come on a near weekly basis to give their thoughts and opinions on how a build is structured, build and communicated to hundreds of thousands of new users and without their instruction, this project would not be as accepted as it is now.

Thank you – TheYango, Doomblaze, Dead, Sn0_Man, maru~, a slow decay, lazyfailkid, ChrisXIV, Synapse, Cragus, Chaosquo, Vaelone, Jetaap, Rayeth, Comeh, Nevuk, Firebolt145, CatNzHat, Skamtet, Whole, Pokebunny, cecek, idonthinksobro, Tobberoth, LonelyCat, Coil1, Decency, LuckoftheIrish, SpiritoftheTunA, Alurr, BluemoonSC, tehh4ck3r, Logo, Buckyman, BluemoonSC, Belisarius, LemonWarlord, SKC, CosmicSpiral, Laserist, Evilfatsh1t, Nevuk, ahswtini, Velzi, nas, Get In The Robot, Harbinger_of_Llamas, eieio, Thetwinmasters, DoctorjokePankra.

Sincere thanks to the following communities and its staff: Team Liquid/LiquidDota/r/Dota2 and /r/LearnDota2Steam Community
Dota 2 Hero Builds Main Hub
Twitter: @TorteDeLini
Steam Profile: Torte de Lini

Go – The First Generation of Competitive Gamers

When critics look at how to improve the conditions of esports, such as player treatment, they often compare them to the practices of professional sports. It’s a convenient comparison to make, one that’s made all the more easier by the term esports itself. “Esports” evokes images of traditional sport and easily conveys the concept of competitive gaming.

That recognizability has helped esports gain mainstream acceptance and fueled an explosive growth in interest. But there’s an argument to be made that the sports parallel is far from perfect, and that esports could learn a lot from a culture that shares many more characteristics with esports than traditional sports do. And that is the culture that surrounds traditional board games in countries like South Korea, Japan and China. Practitioners of games like Go, Chinese chess and regular chess have a lot in common with esports teams and players.

Go is played professionally, and is seen not only as a legitimate game of mental strength and strategy, but as a tool for teaching life values to children and adults alike. It’s likely that Go has contributed to China and South Korea’s stance on the culture of pro (video) gaming, and the game could be a predictor on the future value of esports as more than just entertainment.


The Encircling Game

Go, also known as Baduk in Korea, is a game of strategy and foresight. Played on a simple 19 by 19 board, Go is similar to the Western game known as Reversi or Othello where one must trap and surround their foe’s stones. It is a game of territory with relatively simple rules, with the goal of capturing and holding more territory (areas of the board with no stones) than the opponent. The opponent will typically try to contest areas a player starts forming by engaging and surrounding stones that establish the area’s outline. A game is concluded typically by resignation, and then the points are counted based on captured stones and uncontested equal points. Komi is also added (points to the score of the player who plays second – typically white).


Courtesy of (Hiroki Mori) 

In Go, the goal is to capture your enemies stones (white), gaining more points and securing key spaces (territories). In both diagrams, by playing your black stone to the right of white, you surround your opponents and can remove them; freeing more secured territory, thus points.

In comparison to chess, Go is less sophisticated by nature. All pieces are the same and there is no setup phase. Players can place stones at any intersecting position they like and begin playing. Despite its simplicity, the variety of games that can be played out surpass that of chess, both due to the size of the board and depth of strategy involved. As for rules, there are two main ones:

  1. A stone or groups of stones must have one “opening” or liberty, otherwise they are removed from the board. As you can see in the diagrams above, white currently has one liberty available to the right. Once black plays in that spot (F5/E6), the white stone must be removed and points are awarded.
  2. You cannot play positions that were just previously played. This is to prevent endless circles or capturing and re-capturing of stones.


Unlike most current esports titles, Go is a game of open, perfect information without chance elements. The idea of open communication of past moves, as well as equal information presented to both players, leads to a spiraling level of mental strength, self-confidence and foresight of both the foe’s strategy and one’s own approach. The beauty of Go is the mix of both global influence and big-picture consideration while also focusing on a variety of skirmishes. It’s a clash of global struggle to maintain dominance on the board while also ensuring, defensively or offensively, that local battles are won. Go is subtle, layered with in-depth sequences and scenarios that come with experience and practice.

A game like Blizzard’s Starcraft also incorporates a big picture/little details perspective, where one must maintain global control of the map through vision (holding Xel’Naga watchtowers, spreading creep, scouting, and scanning) and keep up one’s macromanagement. But that is also in addition to the local battles of either defending ones bases against harassment, or engagements at their base – to diminish their economic pace, ultimately lowering the rate at which they can comfortably attack with the right unit composition. Whether you’re playing Starcraft or Go, the balancing act of remaining consistent in your strategy and goals while contesting your opponent’s plans is a question of self-perfection and execution in the art of war.


Go’s Unknown Beginnings

Go’s origin is unclear. Written history of it is recorded as far back as the Zhou Dynasty (between 1000 and 250 BC). Legend has it that the game was devised by Emperor Yao 4,000 years ago in an attempt to correct his son’s lack of discipline. As the story goes, Yao’s son, Danzhu, was a no-good slacker who ignored his father’s orders and wouldn’t study. Yao invented the game for his son to play, and Danzhu became so interested in the game that he dedicated himself to it, getting rid of distracting thoughts. By studying Go, Danzhu changed the way he thought, learned many valuable lessons, and got onto the right path.

Regardless of its origin, the game’s initial growth has parallels to esports. The famous Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote about the game, although he didn’t necessarily speak well of it. He cited it as being, comparably, better than being idle or doing nothing it all: “The Master said, hard is it to deal with him, who will stuff himself with food the whole day, without applying his mind to anything good! Are there not gamesters and chess players? To be one of these would still be better than doing nothing at all.” That sentiment probably sounds familiar to many gamers:



As betting was very popular in Go, it was initially considered a game for the common people rather than aristocrats. It wasn’t until its popularity grew and spread to Korea and Japan that its acceptance as a game of intellect and strategy came about. Go’s ability to persevere as a relevant game in today’s era, despite remaining unchanged in its rules, is due to its timeless elegance and depth.  It’s intellectually challenging and can teach one qualities that can be applicable at any point of their life. While certain esports titles will lose their popularity over time, the genres (MOBA, RTS, FPS) and their competitiveness will remain a part of the industry for years to come.

That sentiment probably sounds familiar to many gamers. As it should, as esports still faces many generational differences of perspective. Watch as CBS’ Sunday Morning panelist, Luke Burbank, demonstrates his inability to understand the appeal of esports as a “spectator sport”. He’s no Confucius, but his need to dismiss and degrade something that’s becoming so massively popular among a large group of people sounds familiar to those 3,000 years ago.


The Current Professional Scene

Go, as a competitive game, is incredibly popular. The International Go Federation estimates that over 40 million people play Go, and the federation currently encompasses 74 country members around the world. The core ranking system in online Go is a lot more direct than those of League of Legends or StarCraft II. Only two grades are attributed to players. Amateurs/students are typically graded from double-digit kyu to single-digit kyu (30 to 1k) and masters are ranked ascending from 1st dan to 7th dan. Professional players have their own dan rank, ascending from 1st dan to 9th dan. Ranks help determine a person’s ability of play while also figuring handicaps for players who play at different levels. In order to reach dan rank, you must compete in tournaments and complete exams, making the professional scene of Go regulated and official.

Becoming a professional Go player is a question of commitment. Those who are committed begin studying the game at a very young age. In Japan, student professionals are referred as insei, and are sponsored by a professional player. The professional supports and tutors the insei so they can pass their exam in becoming professional. This tradition continues to this day, and the hand-me-down ideology of older players passing their knowledge to younger players to improve their technique is a core reason for the game’s longevity and popularity.

Commitment and learning is paramount to a person’s overall improvement. For an aspiring StarCraft pro gamer, to join a pro gaming team-house in Korea, they typically have to give up their personal practices (hotkeys, creative strategies) and adopt ones that the team uses, which have been heavily researched by the coach to be the most efficient. Joining a team house is a statement that the player is willing to take his ability to the next level and to commit to the highest levels of efficient play. Go has a similar sign of commitment by a person studying at a Go school. At some of the most elite Go schools, students dedicate hours every day to the game – similar to the dedication pro gamers practice their respective esports titles with. Students who enroll in these classes typically aim to go pro before the age of 18.

Professional Go tournaments can have prize pools of up to half a million dollars, and are highly regarded in local mainstream culture. Go enjoys a wider respect and understanding in China than esports, with regular broadcasts of Go matches on television – something esports doesn’t have in China. Go is even incorporated with children’s education, as a tool for teaching dedication, patience and thinking ahead. Similarly, some Korean universities have departments dedicated to Go, where one can achieve Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Go studies.


The Culture of Teaching in Competitive Games

With Go making the leap to online play, services such as teaching games (where the teacher and student play a match for learning), tsumego (life-and-death Go puzzles) and analyze mode all become readily available via the browser. Esports offers similar services for analysis and support, like Dota 2’s coaching mode which allows a player to enter a matchmaking game with a team to better instruct them on the ins and outs of the game.  To add, commitment in Go is a decision someone makes at life. Very few pros make their living on tournament winnings while others teach amateurs, similar to paid coaching in Counter-Strike, Starcraft, and other esports titles.



Similar to someone analyzing your match in StarCraft, League or Dota, online Go offers an ‘analyze mode’ where higher-ranked players can review your match, suggest better moves and add notes explaining their suggestion. In this diagram, we see a complete Go match and annotations at the top right, reviewed by community member, nimbim, who holds the rank of 1Kyu online.


The hand-me-down attitude in Go, where older players are open to review and teach newcomers to play, is surrounded by the variety of devices that summarize how much of a lending hand they can offer. These institutions and infrastructures place a hierarchal responsibility for professionals to always seek and assist newcomers to the game they are professionals in. This helps ensure the continuation of the game and its viability as a leisure activity, but also embodies the ingrained Eastern culture of sibling relationship, respect and etiquette. In short, Go etiquette and manner branches from the traditionalist culture of the East, which has ensured its survivability and the passing of its wisdom, strategy and respect. Despite their similarities, Go and esports are worlds apart in terms of public perception and even in atmosphere within the game. While Go is intertwined with a national culture, esports faces the stigmatization of video games as a whole. Both are enjoyed by spectators that understand the game, but the entryway for traditional games and video games are in stark contrast to each other.
Go and esports both focus on self-improvement, mindfulness, and gauging the application and execution of learned capabilities. Virtues such as diligence and patience can be learned from these games and are applicable to the real-world. Simply put, the ability to develop your dedication to Go, regardless of your desired level, mirrors that of esports, but with much better regulation, balance, and institutions.

The age and simplicity of traditional board games have given them a wide mainstream acceptance that esports has yet to grasp, due in part to its higher sophistication of initial knowledge, making it esoteric as a spectator sport. For Go, the drive to that mainstream peak has ripened a variety of attitudes such as respect, patience, and diligence in addition to tools to pass down higher knowledge to new players.

What both iterations of gaming can offer are two sides of the same coin: applicable life virtues and self-improvement through leisure. One is acknowledged by the public while the other is still facing mixed views. The perspective of games being used as educational tools isn’t new, and has become even more widespread than ever before. The values of a game like Go are mirrored in our everyday life, either through final papers, remedial work or chores around the house. They impart a sense of responsibility, communication and diligence to perfect, whether in the context of wording of our arguments or the washing of dishes. Incorporating those persistent attitudes in an addictive way, such as progress in ladder ranks or mastering a layered depth of strategy in a game, is unique to gaming; board or video. Emphasizing the values of gaming in a mainstream context, such as working with others in the office and communicating problems among teammates, will open up promotion and acceptance of esports.

With Go having initiated the idea of a professional scene surrounding gaming (alongside international Chess), the imitation of many of Go’s establishments can hasten the benefits yielded to esports. Those benefits stem from a positive public reception that leads to resolving a variety of issues, such as the processing of visas for international travel or initiating leagues for all ages and levels, including national leagues, high-school and college leagues as well as national circuits. That acceptance can also lead to government support from departments of culture and sports. Potentially, current esports businesses could get better regulation and playing could start towards becoming upheld and recognized as a legitimate career, thus offering players an easier transition in to or out of the scene.

With Internet live streaming becoming more widely used by esports fans, television is no longer an essential part of esports; however, it is symbolic to a mainstream cultural relevance. It’s arguable whether TV is important right now, depending on who you ask. But for Go, it helped sustain a competitive scene and cemented its value as a cultural identity for many parts of the East. The applicable lessons one can learn from Go can just as easily be achieved in esports titles. This is especially true as technology becomes an integral part of our everyday life. Using esports as a tool to emphasize real-life attitudes such as communication, dedication and the desire to self-improve, is useful for all environments and ages. Incorporating those persistent attitudes in an addictive way, such as progress in ladder ranks or mastering a layered depth of strategy in a game, is unique to gaming; board or video.

Despite its explosive growth in popularity, one of the major challenges faced by esports is the relative lack of accessibility. The rules of Go are simple, whereas the rules of Dota 2, for instance, are almost impossibly complex to newcomers. Looking to Go, and the culture of teaching and embracing new players that surround the game, could help overcome that challenge. Esports has raised prize-pools to the millions in its climb for establishment and business opportunity, and has gained wider acceptance as a fortunate side-effect. But only looking to traditional sports for inspiration is a misunderstood parallel when we could also look to an even more relevant and, arguably, equally interesting board game that’s survived for thousands of years.

A sit-down with Esports Career, an interview about working in esports




Recently, I have been interviewed by job-hosting website: about my career in esports and transitioning from a community member into a proactive member of the scene. The interview elaborates on my work doing production at events, shows at a movie studio as well as producing a digital magazine with a 140-year old publishing house. In it, I talk about the adversities you face trying to get into esports, the pros and cons of working in the scene and the perseverance you need to be constantly producing work, regardless its popularity or lack thereof.

If interested in knowing my past roles and insight on how to move around in this industry, click on the image above. I am very honored to have esports career take a closer look at my history and take an interest in what I have to say.

1 year, 40 Million: Dota Builds Project Overview

Back in 2012, I started writing this site with the interest of covering topics that I always felt were under-represented. My latest passion project, the Hero Builds project, started back in late February of 2013, were about collecting an agreed version of standard play for each Dota 2 hero. As opposed to this opinionated site, I was coming from a place without confidence in my opinions and with much to learn. In many ways, I’ve grasped more than just playing better and also much faster than if I had just kept this project to myself. I am much farther in grasping the ability to not only discern how heroes are to be played but also just how flexible their roles and item/skill builds can be. This is what makes this project continuous, endless and, for the most part, an enjoyment for me to pursue.

This topic will be an overview about this project; the motivation, smaller nuances and statistical achievement. As stated, it’s been about a year and a half since I started this ambitious idea but it’s also been a full year (since October 30th 2013) that I’ve collected statistical data for each and every created guide and its growth. We’ll examine how much we’ve grown, how it still grows and the varying issues from the enlarging time-consumption to the dying competition.

Dota 2 Hero Build Inclient
For those new to some of Valve’s Dota 2 features, back in February of 2013, Valve announced a feature called Hero Builds: guides that can be accessed directly in-game and during a match, you are suggested what items to buy and what skills to level. For each selected hero, you were given explanatory prompts that made learning a hero or the game incredibly easy, accessible directly during matches without pausing or needing another window open. Overall, it was a part of Valve’s approach towards approaching Dota 2 easier alongside their other features, such as coaching and their tutorial.

Today we celebrate reaching over 40 million subscriptions across 140 guides (44,774,270 as of November 15th, 2014) and a full year of statistics to inspect and analyze.

From 3 million to 40 million – A year of Statistics

A few things to note:
1. A user cannot subscribe to more than one guide per hero. There are a total of 108 heroes released, thus a total of 108 guides can be subscribed per user.


2. The subscribers per guide are unique, but users can subscribed to several guides, creating overlap in total subscriptions.


3. Users subscribed are still using that guide in-game with all its prompts and suggestions which is different from a subscription to a youtube channel.


4. Data is readily available for those willing to cooperate in retrieving further relevant statistics (please contact me privately)

The short answer to all this is, we’re consistently growing. As Dota 2’s popularity expands, so does the project’s impact. Originally starting at 3 million, after only 8 months since our start (106 total guides), we’ve managed to attain 40 million subscriptions and multiply our average subscription numbers from 30,000 per guide to about 300,000 per guide (106 guides to 140+ total).

Total Subscriptions Growth

The blue indicates the total subscription numbers of that month while the orange indicates the difference in totals between the month prior and the current month it sits on top. To simplify, The orange is how much more from the previous month’s total to today’s total are new subscribers (which is 1.7 to 2 million every 15 days)

Without including any new guides to be created, we’re expecting 115 million (1,064,815 minimum unique) total subscriptions in the coming years (12 months to 18 months), presumably more as new heroes are released and new patches open up new ways to play old heroes.

Typically, the highest growth comes from weeks just after a new patch releases (1.55 to 2.04 million) and soon after The International 4 concluded (2.248 million subscription jump). This is typically due to both the influx of new users after a major event (The International) and how patches either remake some heroes, rendering previous outdated guides even more blatantly outdated or promotes our own guides through their consistency in updates and title indication (all guides in this project are titled with the current patch it is updated on).

Subscription Growth

In terms of the project’s impact, we typically are within the top 3 to 5 with an average of 300,000 subscriptions per guide. So although we have high subscription number for all guides, we are not leading in as many guides as we’d like, just consistently popular overall. We estimate a minimum of 12% of the total Dota 2 player base are subscribed to our guides (~1.12 million out of 9.7 million) to up to 20%/optimistically 34%). The data set below is our attempt at grabbing the majority population of subscribed users per hero and then seeing what our take is (~21%) and then projecting it onto 108 guides (maximum number per user).

[Estimated Population Percentage]

Not 100% accurate as per the issues stated prior to this section. This is a ballpark estimation with 12% being the minimum unique subscribers.

The current issues with the guides’ scene is both the decline in competition of other guide creators as well as the disparity between total subscriptions and lack of ratings. We found that on average, only 30% of the total subscribers actually bother rating the guide they’re using which is quite low. This is a significant issue for newly-released guides as those who remain on top, despite not being updated since 2013, continue to collect a small portion of ratings and newer guides are not rotated in for exposure and ratings. At the moment, 16 guides out of 140 of this project still lack enough ratings to be included in-game.

Ratings vs Subscribers

Another issue is the decline of other guide makers, offering little variance or consistent quality work across all heroes. Against the current top 4 guide creators in the world, only two are currently active: myself at 42.3 million (now 44.7 million/140 guides) and greyshark at 13.7 million and 102 guides. Both Purge and eXplosion maintain high ratings, but no longer actively update their guides or create new ones (and GreyShark rarely updates his guides, making nearly the majority of them outdated).

Comparison Against Other Guide MakersMotivation

I’d be lying if I said I was doing this solely for the good of the community. In many ways, the silent dependency of current subscribers, the pages and pages of appreciative comments and the dying scene of in-game Hero Build creators motivates me to keep going. It’s an inflated view, but nonetheless I thrive on this feeling to persist. I like to joke and sternl state that I do use this entire project to also improve myself as it gives me a utilitarian reason to poke my better friends into giving me tips and advice without them thinking less of me (though I’m not sure if that’s any more possible!).

My initial motivation when creating guides was my frustration with the random players I get matched with (we all like to judge others) and you’ll find that common frustrated motivation in many passionate people today. In turn, I also removed any frustration on myself and the project has pushed me into getting more involved in the competitive scene, the strategies and evolving metagame as well as watching many, many public matches from some of the highest rated players around the world. Even when I’m the least interested in Dota 2, either due to a losing streak, straying curiosity of other competitive genres, I stay in touch through these guides, with the scene and with the community. So as long as there is a dependency and interest in my work, I will stay involved.


The most challenging part of this project is two-fold: 1. Keeping up with the changes both in-game (balance-wise) as well as the metagame and 2. Maintaining the direction of the project; being restrictive in what items to include and not include (as you know, in Dota 2, there are so many situations for each individual hero that calls for specific items) and continuing to serve an audience that expands rapidly (roughly 2 million new subscriptions every 15 days).

1. Keeping Up – Guides can be as grueling as a typical desk job or as time-consuming as summer school.

This project has its ups and down, at the moment, with how the current patch is; there is constant task of keeping up with builds, emerging popular items and the coming of new heroes (Oracle should be released momentarily, two new guides to rapidly draft, publish and improve). A key thing to note about newly-released heroes is that the first guides to be released and receive a sufficient amount of ratings will also be the ones to establish the most subscribers and, subsequently, keep those subscribers no matter how wrong or misrepresenting they can be (from this contributor’s perspective).

A little more challenging and time-consuming are pre- and post-patch releases which can take up to 22 hours of elapsed work time in a very short period of days (3 days typically). As an example, the most recent 6.80 patch required an initial 20-hour work schedule across three days and then an additional 4 hours to not only receive and judge newcoming feedback, but to also follow gameplay changes via Dotabuff, professional matches, cross-matching with the top 10 public players per hero (thanks as well as downloading the replays, watching live matches and talking to some friends who are at a higher skill level than myself to get their opinion. This doesn’t include the amount of time it takes to also create new guides for emerging new ways to play a specific hero that was previously not possible or remotely viable.

Data Sheet

For patch 6.80, we only had to apply 370 changes and create 8 new guides. For a complete overhaul, which is an inspection of all hero guides, general descriptions, item descriptions and builds in correlation to the highest competition that’s taking place, The International, it can take several days to complete and over 2,500 rewrites, changes and note-taking.

In short, keeping up with the guides is a continuous affair that has its ups and downs, sometimes it can take up all of my time equal to a full-time job and at others, between those blips of updates, new heroes and a transitioning meta: it slows a lot down; consuming perhaps 4 hours a day reading feedback, watching matches/checking Dotabuff, and testing the builds myself in-game.

2. Key Framing – knowing your audience and trusting their prior knowledge is key to making accurate and to-the-point instructional builds.

Setting up how you want your guides to be perceived, how much and in what ways you trust your subscribed player base is key to achieving guides that are very fixed in expectations, but flexible in their range of information and abilities. Here’s a basic list of things I keep in mind both in detail to each guide and specific hero as well as overlying points about the audience accumulated audience.

+  Trust your audience and assume the appreciation of player’s choice:

We offer the idea of “Dual-Core” builds. Two core ways to play a hero that are different in approach and/or role (example: late-game carry Tiny and ganking Tiny). One may be the more standard and expected way to play but we don’t dismiss other also viable ways to play, especially if your allied team needs that role specifically.

+ Restricting the amount of information in a guide:

To keep things simple, I restrict the number of items per section of a guide (situational, extension, etc.), we also categorize them by price and typically priority and/or frequency of that situation arising that calls for an item.

+ Adding additional information that sets yourself apart from others:  

Most subscriptions come from in-game, so they cannot see when a guide was last updated or other guides I have made, so we provide that information as a separate tab in the Suggested Items prompt in-game for users to be aware and interested.

+ Incorporating popularity within your target’s range of play while also leading them into better suggestions:

Another balancing act is both incorporating what’s currently popular for public players while also leading them into the right suggestions. For the image below, you can see Bane does not have the most typical items usually found in public games:  Aghanim’s Scepter and Soul Ring. They are among the top items bought in the game according to Dotabuff. We instead opted for Urn of Shadows because at higher levels, it is generally much better for how Bane is played overall (through all phases of a match) than the advantages of, say, Soul Ring, early-game.

Tiny and Bane

The image above shows Tiny’s item build split into two core roles to play the hero and Bane’s guiding direction in avoiding two commonly bought items in public matches.

Why does your title include which lane/area the hero to go rather than its role?

The initial reason was because I felt that was more relevant and useful for newcomers than stating how the hero should be played and the other is for the sake of conciseness. If I were to include a guide for every single role a hero could be played or is played by standard, I’d have about 200 guides rather than the current 140-150. With how time-consuming it is becoming to update guides, especially with each new patch, I would not be able to do it with the consistency and pace I can now.

As our audience expands, so becomes the flexibility and range of expectancies. What I set today as the standard and goal of these guides is not necessarily what it may be a year from now.

[No] Support

The overall gain from this work mostly stems from pride and self-fulfillment from having a historical dedication to a project for a long-time. I get a lot of satisfaction in being a part of something and consistently striving to keep its quality up to a high standard. There is no monetary gain and usually it isn’t talked about when I place it on my CV but nonetheless, it is simply an enjoyment for me, even during those times of chaos and time-crunched moments.

I’ve been asked on occasion about my interest to funding the continuation of this project through Patreon or Kickstarter or to simply allow donations. Unfortunately, it’s not something I am comfortable with doing. Despite how time-consuming and draining this is, it does not consume the entirety of my week. It’s still something I can do on the side while working full-time and I am very much qualified both in gaming and in eSports. When the project becomes too overwhelming on a daily or weekly basis, I may seek assistance (not necessarily financial), but at this present time, we’re doing al’right and the service continues to help new players get comfortable with Dota 2. Valve’s Hero Builds system is free and available for anyone to use to either create their own guides or to take my format and modify it to their own interests. Since the system is free and I’m more than happy doing it for free, I don’t feel relying on Patreon or Kickstarter fits into my moral compass nor current line of motivation.

To add, a lot of recurring community members and friends give a lot of their time to talk with me and give input/feedback and even explain some misconceptions I have. For me to take financial advantage of the situation would be to discredit their involvement and to place my own above all. It’s not something that’s fair when it’s not only knowledge/experience going into the guides, just the legwork (and obsession haha). Simply put, in the future, it something we may have to consider if it consumes all of my free time consistently but for now, you can support me by either rating the guides, providing feedback or spreading awareness to your friends you want to convert to Dota 2!

Lastly, however, if I could pitch ideas to Valve Software and collaborate during my free time to improving their newcomer systems to both Dota 2 (improving the guide system, workshop, new tutorials, etc.) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (I have a few ideas too as someone who’s at Silver Elite), that would be a real honor and something I am passionate about.

On a side-note, if you’re interested in my other pieces of writing or in myself, you can follow me on Twitter (@TorteDeLini)read my other articles and give feedback (! Otherwise, continuously providing feedback and rating my guides (whether in approval or disapproval) is very much appreciated.

Thank Yous

In short, thank you to those who trust me and even skeptics who constructively told me I’m improving (but still suck)! Information regarding changes made and the subsequent discussion following can be found on

Lastly, there have been a variety of users who have been supportive of this project and consistently provide insight, good or bad, that helped shaped these guides.

TheYango, Doomblaze, Sn0_Man, maru~, a slow decay, ChrisXIV, Synapse, Chaosquo, Comeh, Firebolt145, Whole, Pokebunny, Cecek, idonthinksobro, Tobberoth, LonelyCat, Coil1, LuckoftheIrish, Laserist, SpiritoftheTunA, Alurr, BluemoonSC, tehh4ck3r, Buckyman, Belisarius, SKC, CosmicSpiral, Laserist, Evilfatsh1t, Nevuk