Once second year of University ended for me (about May, that thread was made a year ago), I've put DotA 2 on my highest priority. I would like to share my experience and talk about the struggles as a DotA 2 pro in regards to getting better, finding a team, practice, and income. Think of it as a guide to becoming a DotA 2 pro. This thread is not aimmed at casuals, and may be detailed/long! Perhaps it is still too soon for me, a new pro to be posting such a thing, but not many pros have shed light on many topics, and I think this will help the people trying to pursue gaming.
Getting Better: It's nearly pointless to scrim unless your individual skill is near the same level as a tier 2 team (3DMAX, etc). What separates pro teams to random teams isn't just the individual skill, the understanding of line ups, and the flow of the game is completely different. Playing seriously with a low level team may harm your understanding and is very inefficient. The only benefit of playing for a low level team is learning to deal with your teammates in losing games (which is important I guess). But generally low-end teams take the game less seriously so learning how to deal with these teammates may be completely different than dealing with high skilled players.
Anyway the point is: GET BETTER FIRST THEN SCRIM!
Now how do you get better, well first off, if you don't have the time don't even bother. Finding pub games is probably the single most important thing. DotA is a very complex game, and trying to understand it on an instinctive level requires a lot of games. Although a lot of pros treat public games as a joke, you are not allowed to do so. You must try your best to take these public games as seriously as possible. Taking a moment to think about how to improve your game with every loss and even win. Trying to keep your teammates together to achieve the goal of winning. Practicing the same heroes over and over to master them even if its boring. There's a lot of things to consider when going over your mistakes, but it would take too long for me to write about it, perhaps another time.
In DotA 1, playing in-house leagues was the best way to improve individually. Sadly in DotA 2, there aren't many of these leagues, and the pool of players in the current in-house leagues are weaker in comparison to DotA 1. Even if the pool of players are strong, the seriousness of the game may be low with some players literally throwing on purpose.
When trying to learn a hero or a role, studying a pro player in-depth can be very useful. There is usually a reason in how a player lanes, moves, or for the decisions they make. Depending on your current level of understanding and your ability to focus (watching replays can be very boring!), what you get out of a replay may differ. You can watch a replay, then watch it again in a month and you may learn something new.
There are some traps in watching a replay though, unlike SC where things are done optimally, many things in DotA are not done optimally even by pros. I remember trying to learn invoker so I watched Pajkatt play it. I got so confused because his invoke was always off CD but he wouldn't invoke his new spell (inefficient spell casting) or he would run home at lvl 25 with 3 orbs of exort (runs way slower). Not trying to flame him, I rate Pajkatt very highly but I'm trying to point out that are things that pros don't do optimally and it's up to you to improve on that yourself.
Watching casts can sometimes help your game as well, but most casters don't go too in-depth about the game, which is what you need. I recommend synderen/Luminous/Godz/Drayskyl if you still want to watch some for learning.
Watching tryhard streams is probably better than the above two options. I suggest either my channel or Merlini. Most streamers don't really try, but I haven't watched too many streams so I might be wrong.
A large number of things can be learned by playing single player or playing practice mode in general. Things like last hitting or practicing 1on1 with a friend/bot. Using multiple units to stack ancients etc. When you get an idea, spend some time on single player trying to develop it!
Networking is very important in DotA 2, simply by ringing for a top team (AdmiralBullDog), or playing a pub with a strong stack may increase your chances of finding a team.
It's important to make a lot of friends with strong players, you really never know when you might become teammates with them. I honestly didn't care which country my players were from when recruiting, but who would of thought I would end up playing with 4 Swedes.
In this fragile community where any small bad blood may lead to many players hating each other, it's important to try to be friendly with everyone. Even if people hate you, it's probably for no real reason anyway, so who cares.
Well, I'm pretty awful at these things, I suggest FluffnStuff's blog for more on networking.
Finding (creating) a team:
Finding a team is one of the most difficult things in DotA, even more so if your new to the scene. A team must consist of 5 skilled players, where their roles fit, their schedules align, they must all be dedicated, be able to communicate, and their personalities must fit.
When considering players for a team, the 6 things mentioned must all be looked at. There is probably a decent pool of players in NA alone (50?) that are able to play at the top with training. However, you can't just magically find 5 of these players. And even if you do, its not like any combinations of the 5 will work out, perhaps only 1 or 2 combinations will work out only.
The first problem lies in the difficulty of even finding these 5 players. This problem lies in the DotA 2 system and community. In SC2 where it is easy to spot a good player by playing directly against them or looking at the ladder rankings. Sadly, in DotA 2, there is no such thing as a ladder system, and I wouldn't even know how it would work with things such as friends stacking even if there was one. Also DotA 2 is very complex, you can't tell someone is good or bad even if you play against them or with them. Because the decisions of other players affect their game, and its also hard to keep track of everyone. Also people mess around.
The community also makes it very difficult to find players. There's a lot of nonsense going on in DotA. For some reason if one person thinks the other is awful, the other will automatically think your awful as well. Dendi could go on a smurf and call some random low MMR player awful, then that person would consider Dendi awful. That's one problem with DotA 2, there's so much hate! I was very much hated by so many people for just simply just trying in pubs, for my voice, or other random things, when I've never been personal with any of these haters. I had random beef with Blitz because some of his viewers claimed I said "Blitz is awful, he should quit playing DotA." when I've never said such, although I've never called Blitz a great player when asked about him, I've always said I respect him and his team for practicing daily and doing well in scrims. Especially since he takes time off from streaming, his income, just to practice. That's dedication. Also, I was considered awful by many players before winning DH, now all of a sudden a lot less people think I'm awful. I'm pretty sure I barely improved during the event. The hatred can be pretty random.
It's like every known player hates each other. This scenario was repeated when considering players: "lets get X player, I think hes pretty good." "Nope, we hate each other." Another frequent scenario: "I think X player is pretty good" "Are you high, that guys awful." How can our judgement be so off? It was so difficult finding the suitable players for the team, and I haven't even gotten into the rest of the problems yet.
The roles on the team must match the players. There are rare players such as AdmiralBullDog who is willing to learn every role (study replays, spam the heroes), but most other players aren't willing to do this.
Usually there is a large pool of players that claim they can play the Solo or Carry role, but for some reason they can't play anything else. These players either refuse to learn another role or give it a day or two and claim "its not for me." They even threaten to leave the team if they are given any other role. I think this issue is primarily due to the casters giving too much credit to the mid/carry players. Players try their best to avoid playing these roles. As I've said before, casters in DotA lack competitive understanding, and even if they give credit to the supports its always vague like "oh don't forget about the supports its not a solo game!"
Although a player may claim they can play a certain role/hero, many times they cannot. For example, someone is unable to last hit under the tower, or they don't play Invoker optimally. Many of these players are unwilling to learn and claim "X famous Player doesn't do this, so I don't have to do it either! or do you think your better than X player? Arrogant!" and things can get out of hand. In my experience, there were situations were I was able to play a certain role, but because the incompetent player claims they can't play any other role, we were stuck. We couldn't just simply replace the player as decent players are hard to come by. Well, originally I was a mid player in HoN, but I switched to support to better fit my team's roles.
I personally think that a DotA player is capable of playing any role if they put time into it. I think people who claim they can never play a certain role are just lazy or delusional. If your really serious about becoming a pro, you should try to learn every role.
Of course the team members have to be able to communicate. I wouldn't recruit KSI to my team because he can't speak fluent english. Well this is obvious.
Sometimes personalities may conflict, and I don't mean just straight up hating each other. A good example would be Loda and Pajkatt, two good friends that couldn't work out on the same team because they both had big personalities. I personally was worried about this problem when our new roster began. We actually had a lot of disagreements in scrims but it's gotten a lot better.
When you finally got your team ready, its time to practice! Well, the first problem you'll come across is how exactly do you find scrims? Most amateur teams use #dota2.cw to find scrims but if you want legit practice against good teams your going to have to be invited to the dota 2 pro skype group. If your not invited, the next best thing is to play 4PLs, fnatic raidcall cups, and other small scale $500 tournaments as practice. You will be invited to the group if your team does well in tournaments.
Even if your team is invited to the skype group, its still rather hard to find scrims. Unlike SC2 where you can simply click "find match" and that's your legit practice right there. In DotA 2 its very hard to get your 5 ready, and even harder to find 5 opponents. Even top teams don't scrim much. We were unable to scrim against NaVi/EMPIRE/EG/PB or whoever before DH. Although we were able to scrim against WHA/Fnatic/aL etc, it wasn't that easy to find scrims against them either.
More importantly, my previous teams were unable to find scrims against good teams, and even if we do, we would find them ditching us to play more known teams. It wasn't till we acquired Black^ that scrims were more frequent. Of course after ESWC qualifier, we never came to this problem again.
Practice is most frequent during 17cet (11 am est) till 23 cet (5 pm est) during European night times. Some European teams scrim til 9 pm est but this rarely happens. Passed 6 pm est there are rarely any good teams remaining to scrim. Sometimes EG/Dignitas/coL would scrim but its rare, ROOT is currently the most active at this time. But regardless it's hard to find scrims outside the standard times. This has many implications, the first is that highschool players in NA east will barely have any time to practice at scrim times, and that west HS players can't completely. Highschool NA players can only play during the night scrim times which really isn't enough. More importantly, tournament times such as StarLadder, tpl, etc. all start at 18 cet ish. So even NA players in university will have to miss a lot of class to participate in the tournaments.
Going back to the previous topic, sadly even things such as where your from needs to be considered when choosing players. Players from the west have to wake up at 7am-8am to make full use of the optimal scrim times, not many players are capable of doing this. In my previous team, it was a common occurrence that 2 people would wake up at 8 am to play, and once another team member is late, the practice is called off and they go back to sleep. Once this happens a few times, the seriousness of the team is gone. Missing just one day of scrims can be crucial, people are capable of going to school/work because it becomes a habit. Once you break the habit, humans find themselves skipping their responsibilities more often.
I've personally struggled through many frustrating weeks trying to get teams to even scrim. Sometimes players turn off their cellphones and you wake up and instead of scrimming, you just pray your teammate shows up and later on that your team doesn't disband. Sometimes you have a bad scrim day, and a teammate suggests taking a break, but any sort of break usually ends up in more breaks and the team ends up disbanding. What's important is that the team knows what they are getting themselves into, when they commit to a team. Every member has to understand that there will be rough times, and that the team has to stay together, and overcome difficult obstacles.
Teams constantly replace members, this should only be done if a team member isn't showing the level of dedication the team needs. Things like skill and competence are harder to judge than one would think. Often when one member performs badly, there's a lot of gossip about that player and the team atmosphere becomes awful. That player who performed badly may continue to do so because they feel choked, they are worried that they may be kicked out of the team at anytime, and aren't able to focus. When it comes to judging skill, more time should be given. I wasn't able to perform when playing for a certain team and the same thing has happened to my friends. I think my previous team has done the same to many of our recruits, I apologize for handling the situation poorly.
As I've said before its very difficult to get your 5 ready and to find a team to scrim. This is because it's hard to match everyone's schedule. I know that some teams haven't laid out everyone's schedule together to find the correct times to scrim. Some players think that having just a little bit of practice is enough, and they aren't wrong, it probably is enough sometimes. But when this game becomes more competitive in the upcoming year, lack of practice will prove to be fatal. I personally took a year off university because if I gave the pro scene anymore time it would be too difficult to find my place. I think DotA 2 will become by far more competitive than it is now soon.
Income can from tournaments, streams, twitter, youtube videos, and salary.
First let's take a look at how much one could make from DotA 2 tournaments.
Winnings per tournament = Total Prize Pool * 1/5
Since the team has 5 players, the total prize is split 5 ways.
Assuming First place every single big reoccuring tournament in one year (outside Asia): starladder 2.4k * 3 = 7.2k dh 2.8k * 2 = 6k defense * 2 *1.5k = 3k tpl = 3 * 1k = 3k
Assuming second place gives you half:
Large more randomish tournaments: (ecal/pd2/etc/eswc/thor) Thor = 2.8k pd2 = 2k raidcall = 1k eswc = 2.4k
Assuming second place gives you half:
Of course there are a lot of small random tournaments along the way such as 4PL, fnaticraidcall cup, JD masters, avermedia cup, etc.
However, a top team won't be able to participate in many of these tournaments due to playing for starladder, tpl, or other tournaments.
I'll assume getting first place in every single tournament you can participate in generates =2k
So in total were looking at 2k+8.2k+18.8k = 29k total prize money for playing and winning basically every tournament one can over the course of a year ignoring the international and also ignoring reductions due to the sponsor.
Some sponsors may take as much as 20% of your winnings depending on placement. Some sponsors take money only if you place very high, some only if you place lowish. Generally for small tournaments they wouldn't take anything. Some sponsors don't take anything at all, but these are rare, and there's probably something else going on.
Personally I don't think there's a lot of money in DotA 2, especially since this is for getting first place in nearly every tournament outside of Asia.
Streaming was one of the big things I considered when pursuing this path. I considered streaming a more stable source of income. AUI/Sneyking both got 2k viewers right after their PD2 win. We see Demon/Fear/Maelk streaming and getting the same number of viewers. PGG/ARTSTYLE recently just started streaming a month ago and got 1k-2k. Even AdmiralBullDog was starting to hit 1.5k just starting. Honestly, I thought I would get somewhere along 1k-2k after the DH win, Fogged told me I would probably get about 2k.
Streaming has recently become very competitive.For the last few days, I averaged 200 viewers, and at one point I got 750. I'm still not partnered with twitch yet and at this rate I don't think I will be anytime soon. Even Demon barely gets anymore than me. Koreya who easily had 500-1k a month ago is now getting less than me, yesterday he had 150. With Merlini/SingSing/ and Puppey constantly streaming, it's made it very hard for everyone else to get viewers. I streamed about 11 hours yesterday and the maximum I had was 300.
Some of my friends tell me that in order to get viewers I have to be entertaining, that is, I have to be a clown. I don't know if other people are purposely being clowns or if its just their personality, but I don't think I'll be able to do anything like that. I've also been told to change my music, but I wonder if that really matters. Well, regardless I'm gonna do what I do, and keep my integrity. Life is hard.
Anyways lets look at some stream numbers: -2k viewers (static) -5 hour stream everyday (which is fucking hard cuz i practice 8-12 hours a day) -using twitch.tv ($3.5 per ad per 1000 viewers) -with my soon to be sponsor. -assumes 68% ad blocker in use -assumes 5 commercials an hour
I would make $1100 from stream per month. Some people say you could make it big like SingSing and then stream for a living. However, I don't think anyone can do that, all games get boring at some point. The reason to why pro gamers play is because the competition is fun, it may not have that much to do with the game as one would think. Playing the finals of DH was so fun for me, I would never forget the feeling of the adrenaline running through my body.
Over a year, this would be $13200 a year. Your sponsor may take a cut of your stream money.
Some players make over $1k a month from salary alone. I think these players only exist in NaVi, China, or some players of EG. Most players either get nothing or $500 or less. I think in comparison to SC, the amount a player makes from salary is quite low, I have no idea how much SC players make though.
Some people are telling me that you can make money off of twitter. I have no idea how much. Youtube is another source of income that I have very little knowledge of.
Perhaps some players may get random $ from sponsorships or advertising like Jaedong, but I haven't heard much about this in DotA 2.
Currently, playing professional DotA 2 as a source of income looks extremely hard. DotA 2 is very unlike SC2 where the prize pool is much higher, and doesn't have to split between 5 players. Except for NaVi/China, there aren't many sponsors that could provide housing for players.One simply couldn't avoid paying their own living expenses off DotA 2 unless they placed very highly in many tournaments or have extremely high stream numbers.
Of course there is still one alternative, TI. Simply by placing high in this one tournament will bring you success as a DotA 2 player. There's a reason to why many great teams disbanded after every TI, or even complexity was about to call it quits when they've been top 3 teams outside of asia for 8 months straight. Unless you place high in TI, DotA 2 is out of reach as a career path.
The community frequently blames the pros for showing up late for matches, and for not imitating the chinese, etc. but we can see why it's hard for some players to be motivated. In my reality, DotA 2 is a game where I spend over 12 hours a day playing or analyzing. If I'm not scrimming, I'm scheduling matches, streaming, watching vods, replays, or practicing in single player. And before I was lucky enough to find the players of this team, it was spent agonizing over my own players, whether they have the dedication, and if they don't what do I do about it? Do I kick them, and if so who else is there to replace them, and if I can't find anyone else what becomes of the team?
Don't get me wrong, I'm never going to regret my decision no matter what. What drives me in the game isn't $, I just want to win. DotA 2 is still in the BetA, maybe with its release, stream numbers will increase. Next year I believe some teams in NA/EURO might have their players living in training houses, I know mine will, so that fixes a lot of problems. With China starting to invest a lot into DotA 2, the scene might change entirely, hopefully EURO/NA can keep up or China becomes the next Korea.
That was friggen long, hope I don't sound emo or anything, I'm pretty chill while writing this. Thanks for reading my horrible english :D
Last edit: 2012-12-01 13:17:35
Hell in my head
ZidaneTribal United States. December 01 2012 09:53. Posts 2638
What an incredible read Envy. Thanks for sharing your insight and once again congrats on the DH win. This will definitely help a lot of the semi-pro NA DotA 2 players considering the transition to taking the game full-time. It definitely doesn't seem viable for a living right now but hopefully as the game matures and more tournaments are held with bigger prize pools we can begin to see this as a viable option in NA. Unfortunately social stigma against video games in NA is the biggest problem at the moment and hopefully as this generation matures we will see a shift in that mindset and pro-gaming will become widely accepted as a career, but I guess time will tell.
Xinder United States. December 01 2012 10:12. Posts 1401
Awesome post. Based on this it looks like the best you can probably do right now is to play as much as you can while still going to school/working your normal job. Then hope that you get up to a recognized level when/if Dota 2 gets larger so you can get in on a team and start earning a living gaming.
"Daaayyyy9, King Pussyfoot of NinnyVille"- Day9 while playing Amnesia
Very nice read, I hope they don't delay the game getting out of beta too long, if the playerbase explodes the viewer counts should too. The constantly increasing amount of betakeys that is floating around is pretty promising though.
Zektgn United States. December 01 2012 10:22. Posts 59
Great read. I'm a casual dota player who didn't really get into the competitive scene until watching the international 2. I would like to watch more tournaments but i'm finding them harder to find then the international was.
Firebolt145 United Kingdom. December 01 2012 10:24. Posts 12855
Amazing. So much of this rings true. I spent a short time solely focusing on dota over the summer and got the opportunity to play with you and other top na players quite a bit. Everything about team stigma, networking, dedication, all of it its so true. .I think one of the most telling moments for me (concerning community toxicity) was how many teams refused to scrim us solely because Milkshake played on our team. To make it in dota you can't only be good, you have to navigate the community and use it to your advantage.
Thanks again for the post E.E. I hope I have the chance to play with you again. Your invoker was pretty fucking kick ass. Keep doing well, looking forward to seeing NTH ravage the chinese teams.
I'm not very surprised by the "living off DotA 2 " part, you really just have to think about it for more than 5 seconds and you immediately see that the prize pool are very low compared to say SC2. Very hard to make a living. Well good luck on your future mate.
7th/8th LAN ETS 2012
LongBow United States. December 01 2012 11:14. Posts 201
Wonderful read Envy. While everyone does understand that you are doing this because your passion is for dota, money is still important. I hope you live a financially stable life, and win many championships on the way! Have fun with an awesome sponsorship announcement coming soon!
teapoted Sweden. December 01 2012 11:15. Posts 5621
Very nice read. My friend commended your play by saying you are very versatile player. I got what he meant now and I'm glad that you are sharing your perspective on playing other roles than carry/solo mid only. Also speaking out loud on typical carry player flaws is important to raise awarness for newer players. I'll surely show this topic to many players. Thank you!
Please be patient.
Prime`Rib United States. December 01 2012 11:51. Posts 484
Streaming hasn't become competitive recently. It always has been. But I think you are looking at it from a wrong angle. When Merlini started streaming he averaged 300-500 viewers max. When singsing started streaming he averaged 200 -400 max. I remember when I was watching him and he got really excited because he hit 600 for the first time and was like WTFKJLJ.
You can't expect to turn on your stream and get 2k viewers instantly. You need to spend time streaming and building a regular followership. From nothing comes nothing. After dreamhack you got more viewers but I guess most people are tuning out again because you are not offering something they want. Stream more and try different things. Don't give up that easily.