The International 7 is great, but watching it in the Dota 2 client is not

The International 7 has been excellent so far, and the spectator experience watching on Dota2Ti Twitch stream has also been excellent. The production values have improved year-on-year to the point that it feels like a professional sports cast from a major network. Given the money involved you might expect that, but it's still great to see in-line cams on creep stacks and split screen shots at the start of the laning phase, accompanied by shots of the players and earnest little documentary segments between series. Purge looks right at home in front of his magic television, and the hosts mostly at ease—if only someone would give those poor souls some chairs.

The spectator experience within the Dota 2 client falls significantly short, however. There are a few reasons to watch games within the client. There is a small chance you can pick up rewards for witnessing victories and kill streaks. You get to make predictions at the beginning of the battle, which is fun. As someone who prefers to watch Dota 2 than play it, I enjoy being able to rewind a play, take control of the camera and mouse over every element after a fight to figure out exactly what happened. Also even the best stream can't match the quality of watching Dota 2 at 120 frames per second on max settings on a monitor.

What I really want is to be able to catch up with a day of games as though I was watching them live. That means no spoilers, or even hints of spoilers. I reckon a few minor adjustments would make things better, but I wonder what you think. Here are my gripes.

The time scrubber is visible by default

Knowing how long a match lasts is a spoiler if you're trying to preserve that untainted 'live' experience. If a match is 40 minutes long and the pick/ban phase hasn't started, you can infer a lot about how the game is going to play out. You can hide the scrubber at the bottom of the screen by clicking the little arrow icon to the left, but I'd rather it was hidden by default because I can't stop my stupid brain from automatically reading everything on the screen. 

If I do want to bring it up to skip ahead through the picks and bans, I don't want to catch a glimpse of how long the full video is in numbers. If I've accidentally spotted the 30 minute limit I know that the dramatic high ground push at 28 is going to succeed. I want to preserve the tension.

It takes some navigation to get to the replays

There is a great big link to the Twitch stream on the landing page of the Dota 2 client, so the event is easily accessible. If you're determined to view games in the client finding them is a more arduous process. If I click on the International splash I'd like to go to the most current aspect of the tournament. I don't want to have to pick through tabs to get the playoff stages, then select the most recent date, and then select the series I want. 

This is because I'm lazy, granted, but The International is the biggest event of the Dota 2 calendar, and it should be as easy to follow as possible, via both Twitch and the client. Actually this is an opportunity for the client to be better than Twitch, where replays that force you to scrub through huge videos to find the start of a  game or series.

You can sometimes see how many games are contained in a series

This one is confusing because when I loaded up Dota 2 just now to double check this all of yesterday's games were presented in a perfectly spoiler-free way. Empty boxes represent each potential game in a series. You can click to download or see the details of the match and everything else is hidden until you click on the little 'reveal' command for each series. If the series only lasted two games the third block is unresponsive. It's exactly what I want.

However I'm certain this wasn't the case for series earlier in the week. I remember thinking it was a shame knowing that a series went to a third game, because obviously this makes the outcome of the second game obvious once you know the game one result. Is the spoiler guard something that kicks in at the latter stages of the competition? Am I going mad with too much Dota?

If it turns out everything works as I described at the start of this entry then disregard this moan. Job done.

You lose the arena atmosphere

I don't expect in-client games to match the Twitch stream in this regard. Without video of the arena and the players crowding around their captains you're never going to realise the full TI spirit in-game. However there are ways to bring more of the arena atmosphere into the game, starting with the sound. The roar of the crowd after a massive play is a beautiful thing. You get this loud and clear on Twitch, but it's curiously muted in-client. Dota 2's best moments are always accompanied by the sound of an whole arena of fans losing their goddamned minds; everyone should get to enjoy that.

There is no flow from one match to the next, especially when you watch live

Watching live in the Dota 2 client gives you the action slightly before the stream. I know this because I have had TI7 running on my PC and my TV simultaneously this week to take advantage of the in-client benefits while enjoying the production values on Twitch. When a game finishes you have to back out into the browser menu, wait ten minutes until the next game has been created, then find the game and jump in again. Ideally I'd like to be ushered from one game to the next with as little input as possible.

The same goes for replays. When I reach the end of a replay I'd love a 'watch next game' button that downloads and starts playing the next game in the series.

That's all for now. Of course ideally I'd like to have the video feed integrated into the client in some way—as an in-line video that I can expand whenever I want perhaps. That's getting into pipe dream territory, though. How would you improve the in-client spectator experience? Come to think of it, how would you improve the Twitch show? I really like it, but it could always be better, right?

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.