Team Secret captain Clement “Puppey” Ivanov revealed his thoughts on the format of this year’s Dota Pro Circuit (DPC), calling the system “very unforgiving” in a post-match interview on the official stream for the DPC’s European regional league.
“This DPC system 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 following Secret’s dominant win over rivals Team Nigma on Thursday (4 February).
With the DPC’s transition to regional leagues this year, competition has been split into an upper and lower division across all regions.
The upper echelon of Dota 2 teams, like Secret, will compete in the upper division for spots in the Major events that follows each season of the league as well as the all-important DPC points that can secure them a direct invite to The International (TI). Meanwhile, teams in the lower division will be battling for a chance to move up to the upper division.
Dota’s competitive scene has previously been criticised for being neglectful of the non-tier one teams and too difficult to penetrate for newcomers. The implementation of the DPC’s lower division was devised to address those problems.
However, with one of the biggest personalities in the scene and the captain of arguably its biggest team calling it “unforgiving”, it remains debatable as to whether the new system resolves the issue.
That Puppey — from a team far removed from the perils of the lower division — would touch upon this subject also highlighted the challenges smaller teams faced.
The lower division of each regional league has a US$75,000 prize pool, with the top two teams earning US$17,000 and US$16,000, respectively, as well as promotion to the upper division.
All things considered, this part of the system is good, but where things get unforgiving is what happens to the two bottom teams of the lower division.
After six weeks of competition, the two worst teams of the lower division will get nothing for their efforts, and will have to re-enter the DPC through the open qualifiers of the next season.
Things get bleaker when considering that most, if not all, of the teams playing in the lower division are not supported by an organisation and receiving salaries. Instead, lower division players often have to juggle competing in the DPC and working a full-time job to support themselves.
Puppey said he’s “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.
While the biggest apparent flaws in the system can be seen in the lower division, it also doesn’t mean everything is fine and dandy in the upper division.
As Puppey said, they have to win every game. For upper division teams, the league’s single round-robin format means they will only face every other team once across its six-week duration.
Therefore, a middle-of-the-pack team losing just one or two series can mean they won’t ever sniff a Major or worse, will be facing relegation to the lower division.
This is especially apparent in the North American and South American regional leagues, where only the top two teams can make it to a Major.
For teams with TI championship aspirations, like Secret, the system requires them to be at the top of their game for each and every game. Doing so is not easy, especially when considering factors like constant changes in the metagame, natural day-to-day variances in player performance, and the like.
Playing only one or two matches a week may seem like less of a workload for teams, but it may actually be the opposite. One also has to account for the added importance of these matches due to the league’s format and the probable increase in practices and scrimmages by teams to better prepare for them.
With all that said, then it should be apparent why Puppey thinks the DPC system as it is now can be unforgiving for teams in both the upper and lower divisions.
“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,” said Puppey.
Of course, the system is only newly-introduced, and no system can ever be perfect from the start. Improvements will likely have to be made to the system in future seasons to make Dota 2’s competitive ecosystem better for players, no matter which division they play in.
The first season of the new DPC is still only in its mid-way point. For now, we can only wait and see how the system works out.