A growing number of professional Dota 2 players have shared their opinions about new format of the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC), including T1 captain Carlo “Kuku” Palad, who made his thoughts known in a video for the Lunar New Year with Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia.
“I think my wish for 2021 would be for them to change the DPC system for the next Major [cycle],” said Kuku.
The 2021 DPC introduced a new regional league format to Dota 2’s competitive circuit, with leagues being established in Europe, China, Southeast Asia, CIS, North America, and South America.
Competition in the regional leagues are also split across two divisions of eight teams each, with teams in the upper division fighting for spots in the Majors while the lower division teams battle for a chance to join the upper division.
The new system also splits the DPC into six-week long regular seasons followed by Majors, with a strict schedule being followed for both divisions across all regions of the circuit. The regular season features a single round-robin format, where the teams in each division will only play each other once over the span of six weeks to determine who gets to go the Major.
Long breaks between matches
Kuku cited the length in between matches and the lack of a playoff segment under the new system as the two biggest reasons why he isn’t enjoying playing in the new DPC as much as he previously expected.
“The breaks are too long for the teams, so the preparation is also too long. And then there are no playoffs for the Major slot. I just wish that they can change it to make it more fun,” said Kuku.
Kuku’s team, T1, played the opening match of the upper division of the DPC’s Southeast Asian regional league on 20 January. Their next match in the second week of competition came a full ten days later on 30 January.
In Week 3, Kuku and T1 played two matches on 4 and 6 February, with their next match on Week 4 coming a week later on 13 February. They will then wait four days for their Week 5 match on 17 February before playing their last match of the season eight days later on 25 February.
On average, T1 has to wait six days in between matches under the new DPC system.
It’s a far cry from the general format used by the DPC since it was first established in 2017. In previous years, the circuit was split into ‘Major cycles,’ where teams played in a set of regional qualifiers to make it to the Majors and Minors. There, they would battle for money and all-important DPC points to earn a direct invite to the be-all, end-all event of pro Dota: The International (TI).
The new DPC will still culminate in TI, of course, but with its implementation of the lower division, it also made it easier for teams to survive and grow in the competitive ecosystem even if they don’t have much of a chance of making to Dota’s annual marquee tournament.
The new system may have solved a long-lingering problem in Dota 2’s competitive scene, but it may have also inadvertently created new ones, with Team Secret captain Clement “Puppey” Ivanov saying last week that the new DPC format “is very unforgiving”.
“I would say, especially for the ones that are not in the DPC right now. It’s a do-or-die basically in these [regional] leagues that we have,” said Puppey.
One of the consequences of the single round-robin format is that teams in each regional league will only face other teams in their division just once. Therefore, after this season a given team can only face one particular opponent again should they both qualify for the Major and somehow meet there. If that doesn’t happen, then they will have to wait until the next season, which starts in mid-April, for a rematch.
There is also the added importance of every match given how they are in a season, with one unlucky loss or two essentially costing a team a spot in the Major or even their chance of making it to TI.
Puppey said he was “not a big fan” of how everything has been set up thus far.
“Looking at what I’m seeing, you have to win every game. No playing around,” he said.
“You have to win all these games, and just try your best in order to do so and figure out the meta and all that stuff. There’s no room for failure.”
Late, late matches
What has been complicating things of late — thus making the margin of error even smaller for teams — has been the less than ideal scheduling of matches for both divisions in some regions. This has been an especially apparent issue in Europe, where Tuesday matches have repeatedly gone past midnight in Central European Time (CET).
Things came to ahead this Tuesday (9 February), when all three matches in the region across the upper and lower divisions for the day were full best-of-three series. The last match of the day between Alliance and Tundra Esports ran until 2am CET, which prompted players, casters, and production crew alike to call out this particular flaw in the system.
Alliance carry player, Nikolay “Nikobaby” Nikolov, was not pleased that he and his team had to play well past midnight.
Getting our games delayed to watch Division 2 in prime time , good shit
— Nikobaby (@NikoDOTA) February 9, 2021
Team Liquid coach and part-time caster William "Blitz" Lee as well as observer Jonathan "PimpmuckL" Liebig also went on Twitter to air out their concerns over the scheduling.
unsure what the viewer perspective is, but feels weird having games consistently go past midnight. would be nice to have games in EU start around 16~
— William Lee (@Blitz_DotA) February 9, 2021
I'm really glad everyone seems to enjoying the broadcast so much but I just can't help but wonder how much better it could be with a better schedule and more rest for key production roles and fewer unreasonable match times for the players.
— JJ - PimpmuckL (@JJLiebig) February 10, 2021
With the schedule of matches having been implemented by Valve, it is expected that it will be followed for the entirety of the 2021 DPC.
If a change in scheduling were to occur, we may have to wait until after TI10 and for the next iteration of the circuit before any changes can be implemented.
Of course, this year’s DPC system is only newly-introduced, and no system can ever be perfect from the start. Improvements will surely have to be made to it in future seasons to make Dota 2’s competitive ecosystem better for both the players and the fans watching from home.
While the first season of the new DPC has only just passed its halfway point, there is ample cause for concern when more and more pro players and personalities around the scene have voiced their displeasure for the new system.