Sheever Breaks Down the Dota Scene

The popular caster gives Red Bull eSports a State of the Union for the Dota 2 scene.
Jorien “Sheever” van der Heijden
By Andrew Groen

Jorien “Sheever” van der Heijden has casted Dota 2 matches from around the world from the record breaking The International 3 to the recent Starladder Starseries XIII championship in Kiev. But even though she’s been around for some of the biggest moments in the history of Dota 2, Sheever told Red Bull eSports that she believes things are only going to get better and better.

What was the most important story in Dota 2 in 2013?

Ticket-sharing prize pools. That is the biggest thing. We saw it with Starladder (which added over $80,000 to the prize pool by dedicating a portion of ticket sales to the tournament prize) and MLG, and of course it all started with The International 3 and The Compendium. That was an immense amount of money that came from nowhere basically. It came from the community. They threw their money at that.

The biggest difficulty in eSports is the lack of money. That’s why sponsors are so important. That’s why certain organizations can gain a kind of monopoly because they have the sponsors. But now if you have the right following you don’t need sponsors as much because you can get a community-funded tournament running. It’s a great situation for both players and tournament organizers. The players obviously get more money, but tournament organizers also have more certainty because they know tickets are going to be sold.

Ticket sales in general give something to the tournament organizers where it doesn’t all depend on viewership, on Twitch. Normally tournament organizers get their money from Twitch and from sponsors. And sponsors are very dependent on what kind of organization you have, and if for example, your tournament is only South American then the sponsors might not be that big and may not be able to provide very much.

With ticket sales you’re not as subjected to different problems of advertising. You’ll sell tickets. You don’t know how much you’re going to get, but you’ll sell tickets. That’s a guarantee. Especially if you add a unique in-game item like a courier to it.

What do you think of the current state of the push-heavy metagame?

Eastern Dota or CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Dota is normally very kill happy. They have less patience. They just feel like, ‘you know what, we can fight! Where can we fight? We can fight there!’ It’s all about the fighting. That’s why CIS Dota is normally fun to watch.

The meta we saw in Starladder revolved around winning your lanes then taking an early Roshan. Then pushing forward and never giving up on the advantage that you have. And that’s why Starladder only had matches that went 2-0 or 3-0. It was all dependent on who was the best at gaining an early advantage. But overall, the metagame is always, constantly shifting.

That’s the brilliant thing about Dota. There’s a big patch like three times a year, and that’s not that much, but in the period of one patch people make constant discoveries.

They’ll start to discover the patch with the heroes they already play. Then they’ll discover new heroes and new ways to play, and new ways to counter the heroes that are considered very strong. Right now there’s something very strong, but tomorrow someone may discover a counter to it. Then someone will have to find a counter to that, and that’s why it’s constantly changing and shifting.

We’re almost halfway to The International 4. Which region do you think has the advantage so far? Europe or China?

I don’t think Chinese Dota has a big impact right now. They’re good, sure, but they don’t seem to be a team just yet. They seem like just five strong players. Team DK may be the exception to the rule. But there’s going to be a big Chinese shuffle again, and I don’t think they’re going to have a big impact.

But it’s so impossible to say, because there might still be another patch and that patch may be more favorable to a more patient play style. Playing controlled is something that the Chinese teams excel in. If the patch favored a style where if you don’t make any mistakes you’ll be favored, then the Chinese would probably win. But right now, Chinese teams feel like they need to change because it didn’t work out as they intended.

Right now, I’d put it in the hands of European Dota. America is kind of a non-factor. Maybe Team Liquid plays well, but it’s hard to tell because they’re Americans and they don’t play in that many European tournaments.

Can The International 4 possibly live up to the immense hype of The International 3?

I went to TI2, and I thought, ‘nothing will ever get better than this!’ Then I went to TI3 and somehow they managed to improve. I’m sure that they will surprise me again.

Do you think people will be let down if TI4 doesn’t have another amazing Grand Finals moment like we saw between Alliance and Na’Vi at TI3?

You’re still going to have a lot of hype because someone just won a million dollars, but I don’t think there are a lot of games that can top last year’s finals. It’s very difficult to do.

What’s going to be the biggest story in Dota 2 over the next year?

It’s already growing and I’m expecting it to continue to grow. I think the biggest thing is that with more people comes more sponsors, comes more money, comes bigger tournaments. And I think that’s the most interesting thing for me as a caster. I’m really curious to see what kind of tournaments and what kind of LAN events we’ll see.

Dream League is already revamped and is bigger and better, and MLG took its first steps into Dota with MLG Columbus. So that’s going to be bigger and better next time as well. So I think that’s going to be the biggest story. It’s just going to continue to grow.

Right now though in both Europe and China we see two teams that are pretty dominant and are soaking up tons of the prize money. Even if Dota 2 gets bigger, can the scene thrive when all of the prize money seems to go to Alliance, Na’Vi, Team DK, and Invictus?

All of the money going to a few select teams doesn’t help the scene grow at all, but they have recently started to say no to some tournament invites. So if there are more big tournaments then they may start to say no to some tournaments that we consider right now to be big, making room for other teams to win prizes. Then we’ll start to see the rest of the scene bloom. It has to start top-heavy. It’s the only way it’s going to happen.

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